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4,000 year-old counting instrument involving the lunar calendar unearthed in Viet Nam

Archaeologists have found a stone tool assumed to be an early calendar dating back 4,000 years in a cave in the northern province of Tuyen Quang. The stone tool, with 23 parallel carved lines, seemed to be a counting instrument involving the lunar calendar, Prof Trinh Nang Chung from the Viet Nam Archaeology Institute told Viet Nam News.
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© Trinh Nang Chung
This stone tool with carved parallel lines is thought to be an early calendar dating back some 4,000 years.
A similar tool was found in Na Cooc Cave in the northern province of Thai Nguyen's Phu Luong District in 1985, Chung said. Similar items have been found in various areas in the world, including China, Israel and the UK, suggesting that people 5,000 years ago knew how to calculate the lunar calendar by carving on stones.

The stone tool was found in a tomb marked with 14 large stones laid at a length of 1.6m. Bones were found under the stones but no skull was found, with Chung guessing that the skull may have decayed due to the humidity in the cave.

A number of other stone tools were buried with the corpse, he added.

Info

'Cult Fiction' Traced to Ancient Egypt Priest

© Istituto Papirologico "G. Vitelli" – Firenze
This papyrus, now in two fragments, dates back around 1,900 years and was written in a form of ancient Egyptian known as Demotic. It records a fictional story that includes ritual sex.
A recently deciphered Egyptian papyrus from around 1,900 years ago tells a fictional story that includes drinking, singing, feasting and ritual sex, all in the name of the goddess Mut.

Researchers believe that a priest wrote the blush-worthy tale, as a way to discuss controversial ritual sex acts with other priests.

"Our text may represent a new and hitherto unrecognized Egyptian literary genre: 'cult' fiction, the purpose of which was to allow controversial or contentious matters pertaining to the divine cult to be scrutinized in this way," wrote professors Richard Jasnow and Mark Smith, who published their translation and analysis of the papyrus in the most recent edition of the journal Enchoria.

Jasnow, from Johns Hopkins University, and Smith, from Oxford, write that evidence of ritual sex is rare in ancient Egypt and the act probably would have been controversial.

"There is surprisingly little unequivocal Egyptian evidence for the performance of the sex act as such in ritual contexts," Jasnow and Smith wrote.

They added that the Egyptians were known to discuss other controversial matters using fictional stories.

Mail

Nazi Goebbels' Early Letters Show Controlling Behavior

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© The Associated Press/Alexander Autographs
This undated photo provided by Alexander Autographs, of Stamford, Conn., shows a pre-World War II document by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Alexander Historical Auctions plans to sell the collection of Goebbels' writings Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in Stamford.
New Haven, Connecticut - The love letters, school papers and dramatic works of college-age Joseph Goebbels reveal a romantic young man beginning to show signs of anti-Semitism and egotistical and controlling behavior, according to a Connecticut auction house selling the pre-war writings of Adolf Hitler's propaganda chief.

Alexander Historical Auctions plans to sell the collection on Sept. 27 in Stamford, saying it may prove invaluable in providing historical and psychological insights.

"It sums up the formative years of the number two man in the Third Reich, who was responsible for motivating the masses in Germany to back Hitler," said Bill Panagopulos, the company's president. "In my opinion, it shows how this rather simple, shy and love-struck college student really just became radicalized."

The thousands of pages include Goebbels' college dissertation, report cards, dozens of poems, school essays and letters from relatives, friends and girlfriends.

"You really get a feel for what's going on in his head," Panagopulos said. "There's a lot of information if somebody wants to dig into the mind of this man who grew into a lunatic."

In an early sign of his ego, Goebbels would sign some of his materials with numerous signatures. Toward the later years of the collection, Goebbels is starting to show anti-Semitic tendencies, Panagopulos said. He added that the auction house has only translated about 10 percent of the papers and has had a tough time with Goebbels' handwriting.

The sale sparked concerns by a leader of a Holocaust survivors group who criticized the auction house's sale last year of the journals written by Nazi death camp doctor Josef Mengele.

Sherlock

Archaeologists have unearthed remnants of a 1,000-year-old village on a jungle-covered mountaintop in Philippines

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© AP Photo/Philippine National Museum
In this March 1, 2011 photo released by the Philippine National Museum, Filipino archeologists measure the dimensions of a limestone coffin at Mount Kamhantik, near Mulanay town in Quezon province, eastern Philippines.
Manila - Archaeologists have unearthed remnants of what they believe is a 1,000-year-old village on a jungle-covered mountaintop in the Philippines with limestone coffins of a type never before found in this Southeast Asian nation, officials said Thursday.

National Museum official Eusebio Dizon said the village on Mount Kamhantik, near Mulanay town in Quezon province, could be at least 1,000 years old based on U.S. carbon dating tests done on a human tooth found in one of 15 limestone graves he and other archaeologists have dug out since last year.

The discovery of the rectangular tombs, which were carved into limestone outcrops jutting from the forest ground, is important because it is the first indication that Filipinos at that time practiced a more advanced burial ritual than previously thought and that they used metal tools to carve the coffins.

Past archaeological discoveries have shown Filipinos of that era used wooden coffins in the country's mountainous north and earthen coffins and jars elsewhere, according to Dizon, who has done extensive archaeological work and studies in the Philippines and 27 other countries over the past 35 years.

Crusader

Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living

Children playing near a hillside gravel mine found the first graves. One ran home to tell his mother, who was skeptical at first - until the boy produced a skull. Because this was Griswold, Connecticut, in 1990, police initially thought the burials might be the work of a local serial killer named Michael Ross, and they taped off the area as a crime scene. But the brown, decaying bones turned out to be more than a century old. The Connecticut state archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni, soon determined that the hillside contained a colonial-era farm cemetery. New England is full of such unmarked family plots, and the 29 burials were typical of the 1700s and early 1800s: The dead, many of them children, were laid to rest in thrifty Yankee style, in simple wood coffins, without jewelry or even much clothing, their arms resting by their sides or crossed over their chests.

Except, that is, for Burial Number 4.

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© Klaus Leidorf (left) and Landon Nordeman
At the gravesite of Mercy Lena Brown, right, sightseers leave offerings such as plastic vampire teeth and jewelry.

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Beeswax Filling May Be Oldest Hint of Dentistry

© Bernardini F, Tuniz C, Coppa A, Mancini L, Dreossi D, et al. (2012)
A tooth found in Slovenia seems to have been filled with beeswax to reduce pain from a cavity. (Shown here, a micrograph of the tooth crown showing the beeswax-covered surface, within the yellow dotted line.)
An ancient cracked tooth repaired with a filling made of beeswax may be the earliest known example of therapeutic dentistry, researchers say.

The tooth is 65 centuries old and was part of a man's jaw found more than 100 years ago in Slovenia.

Definite evidence of ancient dentistry is rare. The oldest examples are 7,500- to 9,500-year-old molars found in Pakistan that had regularly shaped cavities with concentric ridges drilled into them. Other, more questionable finds include a 5,500-year-old artificial tooth from Egypt.

Scientists reported online today (Sept. 19) in the journal PLoS ONE that they found the filling as they analyzed a 6,500-year-old lower jaw recovered from a cave near Trieste, Italy.

The jaw, which once belonged to a 24- to 30-year-old man, included a left canine tooth possessing a vertical crack in its hard enamel and softer dentin layers. The severe wear and tear seen on the tooth was probably due to activities besides eating, the researchers said - for instance, men of the time might have used their teeth to soften leather or help make tools, and the women bit down on threads to hold them while weaving.

The researchers found beeswax had been applied to the left canine at about the time of the man's death.

Question

Mystery Ball Is A Meteorite Claim

Austrian experts are investigating a mysterious metal ball weighing fou
© europics.at
r tonnes after it was dug up during work to build a road at Waizenkirchen at Grieskirchen in Upper Austria.

The discovery has caused heated debate among locals with some saying it was a meteorite, others that it was a religious artefact. It has also attracted the attention of local UFO watchers who believe it may have been left by aliens.

The owner of the lane had filed a claim for the ball with local police sparking an angry row with the man who spotted the object first while walking his dog - and who carved his name in the surface to prove he found it first.

He has already said he wants to sell it to the highest bidder and said offers under a six figure sum will not be accepted.

Meanwhile the local mayor has arranged for an expert witness to head over from Vienna to examine the ball that is already being hailed as the "historic find of the decade."

Expert Josef Rabeder said he had ordered work on the road to be stopped while the historical significance of the find was evaluated.

He said: "There is a lot of speculation going on - now we need to establish some facts and gather some hard evidence."

Gear

Jesus' Wife and Other Bible Rewrites

© Getty Images
A piece of papyrus dating back to the fourth century mention a Biblical character that can't be found in scripture: the wife of Jesus Christ.

Identified by Karen L. King, a historian at Harvard Divinity school, the scroll has the following passage written in Coptic, as reported by the New York Times: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife... she will be able to be my disciple."

King cautioned that the fragment is not proof that Jesus was married, but is reflective of the debates early Christians had in the infancy of the church. After all, this wouldn't be the first time early Christian artifacts have contradicted history as written in the Bible..

As reported by Discovery News' Jennifer Viegas in March 2011, Oxford scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou believes she found evidence that God had a wife based on an analysis of ancient texts, figurines and other artifacts.

God's wife, Asherah, was a powerful fertility goddess, and worshiped alongside Yahweh, as God is known in Hebrew. Strict monotheism, however, gradually diminished Asherah's importance in the religion of the ancient Israelites.

Changes to scripture itself can not only include omissions, but also additions as they're copied and translated from generation to generation. A project led by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary catalogues hundreds of versions of the New Testament written in early Christendom to document changes that crept in over the years.

Although many of the alterations they discover are trivial, some changes can be much more significant, as reported by the Times-Picayune.

Info

Ancient Baby Graveyard Not for Child Sacrifice, Scientists Say

© Dennis Jarvis, Flickr
Carthage burial grounds called Tophet holds urns with the cremated remains of thousands of babies. While some say Tophet is a site of child sacrifice, others contend it was used to bury babies and fetuses.
A Carthaginian burial site was not for child sacrifice but was instead a graveyard for babies and fetuses, researchers now say.

A new study of the ancient North African site offers the latest volley in a debate over the primary purpose of the graveyard, long thought to be a place of sacred sacrifice.

"It's all very great, cinematic stuff, but whether that was a constant daily activity ― I think our analysis contradicts that," said study co-author Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh.

The city-state of Carthage was founded in the ninth century B.C., when Queen Dido fled Phoenicia (along the eastern Mediterranean shore) for what is now Tunis, Tunisia. The empire became a powerhouse of the ancient world and fought several wars against the Romans.

When archaeologists began excavating the ancient civilization last century, they found urns with the cremated remains of thousands of babies, young goats and lambs at a graveyard called the Tophet, which had been used from 700 to 300 B.C. At its peak, the Tophet may have been bigger than a football field and had nine levels of burials.

Based on historical accounts, scientists believed Carthaginians sacrificed children at the Tophet before burying them there. For instance, the Bible describes child sacrifice to the deity Baal, worshipped by a civilization in Carthage. A Greek and a Roman historian both recount gory tales from this time period in which of priests slit the throats of babies and tossed them into fiery pits, Schwartz said.

Sherlock

Archaeologists launched a bid to uncover the site one of the most famous battles in Scottish history: Battle of Bannockburn

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Archaeologists launched a bid to uncover the site one of the most famous battles in Scottish history -- in the grounds of a police headquarters.

Central Scotland Police's headquarters at Randolphfield, Stirling, is named after Sir Thomas Randolph, one of the commanders of Robert the Bruce's army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The first major skirmish of the two-day battle occurred on Sunday 23 June when Randolph routed around 300 English cavalry, who were attempting to relieve Stirling Castle.

A pair of small standing stones near the entrance to the current police headquarters is believed to mark the site of the fighting, but until now there has been no other physical evidence.

Stirling Council archaeologist Murray Cook said ground-penetrating radar would be used to locate the Roman road on which King Edward II's army marched on Stirling and the famous spike-filled pits that played a crucial role in the outcome.