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Popular fairy tale stories could date back thousands of years

© Disney
The story of Beauty and the Beast - which was made into a feature film by Disney in 1991 - was traced back 4,000 years.
When the Brothers Grimm collected fairy tales in the 19th century, Wilhelm suggested that many dated back thousands, rather than the accepted view of just hundreds, of years. Researchers believe they have now proved him right.

While two of the best-known tales, Beauty and the Beast and Rumplestiltskin, were written down in the 17th and 18th centuries, new research using mathematical modelling has traced them back 4,000 years and they are not even the oldest.

The Smith and the Devil is estimated to date back 6,000 years to the Bronze Age. It is the story of a blacksmith who strikes a deal for superhuman powers with a malevolent supernatural being, only to renege on his side of the bargain. Another popular favourite in Jack and the Beanstalk, from the genre of "the boy who stole ogre's treasure", is from around 5,000 years ago.

The report was put together by Sara Graca da Silva, a folklorist from the New University of Lisbon, and Jamshid Tehrani, from the department of anthropology at Durham University, and was published in Royal Society Open Science.


Genomes reveal English are one-third Anglo-Saxon

© Mandy Barrow
For the first time, researchers have been able to directly estimate the Anglo-Saxon ancestry of the British population from ancient skeletons, showing how Anglo-Saxon immigrants mixed with the native population.

Human remains excavated from burial sites near Cambridge provided the material for the first whole-genome sequences of ancient British DNA. Using a new analysis method to compare these ancient genomes with modern-day sequences, researchers have estimated that approximately a third of British ancestors were Anglo-Saxon immigrants.

What was the scale of the Anglo-Saxons migrations, how did they mix with the native population and how did they contribute to British ancestry? This has been a long-standing topic of debate amongst historians and archaeologists.

Recently excavated skeletons dating to the late Iron Age and from the Anglo-Saxon period gave researchers the opportunity to solve this question with genomics.

"By sequencing the DNA from ten skeletons from the late Iron Age and the Anglo-Saxon period, we obtained the first complete ancient genomes from Great Britain," said Dr Stephan Schiffels, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridgeshire and the Max Plank Institute in Germany. "Comparing these ancient genomes with sequences of hundreds of modern European genomes, we estimate that 38% of the ancestors of the English were Anglo-Saxons. This is the first direct estimate of the impact of immigration into Britain from the 5th to 7th Centuries AD and the traces left in modern England."

Previous DNA studies have relied entirely on modern DNA and suggested anything between 10% and 95% contribution to the population. One such study suggested that Anglo Saxons didn't mix with the native population, staying segregated. However, this newly published study uses ancient genetic information and disproves the earlier idea, showing just how integrated the people of Britain were. The ancient skeletons from Cambridgeshire were carbon dated, proving they were from the late Iron Age (approximately 50BC) and from the Anglo-Saxon era (around 500-700 AD). Complete genome sequences were then obtained for selected DNA samples to determine the genetic make-up of these Iron Age Britons and Anglo-Saxons.


Early Egyptian queen revealed in hieroglyphs

© D. Laisney
The hieroglyphic symbol at top, showing what looks like a rod with many arms beside a building, is the name for a queen called Neith-Hotep.
About 60 drawings and hieroglyphic inscriptions, dating back around 5,000 years, have been discovered at a site called Wadi Ameyra in Egypt's Sinai Desert. Carved in stone they were created by mining expeditions sent out by early Egyptian pharaohs archaeologists say.

They reveal new information on the early pharaohs. For instance, one inscription the researchers found tells of a queen named Neith-Hotep who ruled Egypt 5,000 years ago as regent to a young pharaoh named Djer.

Archaeologists estimate that the earliest carvings at Wadi Ameyra date back around 5,200 years, while the most recent date to the reign of a pharaoh named Nebre, who ruled about 4,800 years ago. [See Photos of the Egyptian Drawings and Hieroglyphics]

The "inscriptions are probably a way to proclaim that the Egyptian state owned the area," team leader Pierre Tallet, a professor at Université Paris-Sorbonne, told Live Science.

He explained that south of Wadi Ameyra, the ancient expeditions would have mined turquoise and copper. Sometime after Nebre's rule, the route of the expeditions changed, bypassing Wadi Ameyra, he said.


The full letter written by the FBI to Martin Luther King has been revealed

© Wikimedia Commons
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my personal heroes. Not just because of his outsized contribution to the civil rights movement, but because of his leadership capabilities and emphasis on non-violent civil disobedience.

It also goes without saying, that this wasn't just a great orator with enlightened tactics, he was also a highly intelligent man with a strong sense of history.

This is on full display in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," which I highlighted in the piece: Martin Luther King: "Everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was Legal."

Here are some of his timeless words.


Memphis police department and FBI release information implicating themselves in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King

Nearly 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the FBI and Memphis Police Department have sparingly released information implicating themselves or members of their agencies in facilitating and directly causing the untimely death of Dr. King. Although the Justice Department officially claims James Earl Ray assassinated MLK, a civil suit later determined that a Memphis cop was involved in a conspiracy to murder the civil rights leader.

During a rainstorm on February 1, 1968, two black sanitation workers in Memphis lost their lives when the truck's compactor accidentally triggered. On that same day, 22 black sewer workers were sent home without pay while their white coworkers received compensation. Less than two weeks later, over a thousand black sanitation workers went on strike wearing placards reading, "I AM A MAN."

Comment: For more on the assassination of Dr. King see:


The Margate Shell Grotto mystery

© DeadManJones
In 1835 a labourer was digging a field just outside the English seaside town of Margate. His work was interrupted when he thrust his spade in to the soil and it simply vanished in to the ground. The master of the nearby Dane House School, James Newlove, was made aware of this strange disappearance. He volunteered his young son, Joshua, for the task of being lowered, candle in hand, in to the void via a length of rope


One of the world's largest dinosaurs, the Titanosaur, discovered in Patagonia

  • The dinosaur has yet to be officially named, but is informally known as 'Titanosaur'
  • Titanosaur stands 20 feet tall, and is 122 feet long, weighing 70 tons in life
  • This is the first fairly complete skeleton found of the newly discovered species
  • Researchers dug up the bones in a desert region of Argentine Patagonia

  • The biggest dinosaur ever to be shown at the American Museum of Natural History will be unveiled on Friday, and its head will graze the ceiling. Known as the Titanosaur, it is one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered, and lived 100 million years ago.

    The biggest dinosaur ever to be shown at the American Museum of Natural History will be unveiled on Friday, and it is so big, it's head will graze the ceiling and poke out through it's exhibition hall.

    Known as the Titanosaur, it is one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered, and lived 100 million years ago.

    Researchers dug up the bones in a desert region of Argentine Patagonia, after a farmer found what he suspected to be fossils.


    Researchers track Wyoming tyrannosaur's trail

    © Scott Persons
    Just outside the tiny town of Glenrock, Wyoming the footprints of a 66-million-year-old monster are cemented in stone. This fossil trackway was brought to light with the help of University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons, who first viewed the tracks as a 13-year-old while visiting the Glenrock Paleon Museum.
    Just outside the tiny town of Glenrock, Wyoming the footprints of a 66 million-year-old monster are cemented in stone. This fossil trackway was brought to light with the help of University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons, who first viewed the tracks as a 13-year-old while visiting the Glenrock Paleon Museum.

    "The Paleon is an unusual place. It's not a big museum, but it doesn't have to be because it's got the badlands for a backyard," explains Persons. The working museum has dinosaurs on display, but also provides opportunities to experience paleontology in action. "Before Glenrock, for me paleontology was dinosaurs in books and their skeletons in display halls and behind glass cases. This was the first time I got my hands dirty in the field and in a fossil preparation laboratory."

    The museum's curator, Sean Smith, showed Scott another first: the fossil tracks of a tyrannosaur. "Sean led me out to a sandstone slope and started brushing away at an indented spot. At first, it looked like a prehistoric pothole," Persons recalls. "But soon, I could see the imprints of three big toes each with sharp claw tips. It was so cool my jaw dropped. Then, Sean pointed up slope, and there were two more!"

    The Glenrock tracks, as it turns out, are one of a kind. Years after his initial visit to the Paleon, Persons—now a doctoral student in paleontology—reached out to the museum and urged them to pursue formal scientific description of the trackway. With his help, a research paper on the rare footprints has just been published in the peer-reviewed journal Cretaceous Research.


    Humans were in the Arctic 10,000 years before they were supposed to be there

    © Pitulko et al., Science (2016)
    Sergey Gorbunov excavating the mammoth.
    More than 40,000 years ago, in the Arctic reaches of what's now Russia, the population of mammoths was at a peak. This was before the last glacial maximum - the last era when ice sheets reached down to cover extensive parts of Asia, Europe and North America - and even in the far north, mammoths would have had large expanses of open landscape in which to roam.

    Astonishingly, according to a new study, published in Science, humans may have followed them there, on the hunt, further north into the Arctic than anyone ever realized humans had traveled that early in history.

    New evidence, of human-made marks on mammoth bones, shows that humans had already populated the Arctic as early as 45,000 years ago, a team of researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences reports in the new study. That would put our species in that region 10,000 years earlier than any previous evidence has shown.

    The latest evidence comes from a single mammoth carcass, first discovered in August 2012, not far from a weather station in Sopochnaya Karga, an area of Russia that stretches further north than the northernmost points of Scandinavia. That summer, a student was walking along the river bank when he spotted bones in an exposed bluff.


    Discovery of artifacts sheds new light on the ancient Meroitic civilization

    Two examples of Meroitic Hieroglyphs - Votive Plaque of King Tanyidamani and a Meroitic stela.
    A team of Italian and Russian archeologists says that they have made one of the most important discoveries connected with the history of Nubia. According to the Sudan Antiquities Service, the hieroglyphic inscription uncovered at Abu Erteila, may be the most important discovery in the last decade.

    AGI reports that the excavations conducted from November to December 2015 by the international team were led by Eugenio Fantusati from Sapienza University of Rome, his deputy Marco Baldi, and by Eleonora Kormysheva, the Director of the Golenishev center for Egyptology, Russian State University for the Humanities, and a Principal Researcher in the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    Around 200 km (124.3 miles) north of Khartoum they discovered the most impressive artifacts, which include a basalt ritual altar, a hieroglyphic inscription, and a sacred boat. This discovery, which is a fruit of eight rounds of excavations, is shedding new light on the Nubian civilization that existed between the 1st century BC and 1st century AC. The temple where the findings were made, was thought to have been most likely destroyed by a fire. The ruins are currently being carbon-dated to ascertain the exact date of the event.

    Comment: For more information on the Meroitic civilization, see these related articles: