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John Pilger: Australia's Day for secrets, flags & cowards

On 26 January, one of the saddest days in human history will be celebrated in Australia. It will be "a day for families", say the newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch. Flags will be dispensed at street corners and displayed on funny hats. People will say incessantly how proud they are.

For many, there is relief and gratitude. In my lifetime, non-indigenous Australia has changed from an Anglo-Irish society to one of the most ethnically diverse on earth. Those we used to call "New Australians" often choose 26 January, "Australia Day", to be sworn in as citizens. The ceremonies can be touching. Watch the faces from the Middle East and understand why they clench their new flag.

It was sunrise on 26 January so many years ago when I stood with Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians and threw wreaths into Sydney Harbour. We had climbed down to one of the perfect sandy coves where others had stood as silhouettes, watching as the ships of Britain's "First Fleet" dropped anchor on 26 January, 1788. This was the moment the only island continent on earth was taken from its inhabitants; the euphemism was "settled". It was, wrote Henry Reynolds, one of few honest Australian historians, one of the greatest land grabs in world history. He described the slaughter that followed as "a whispering in our hearts".

Comment: See also:

Australia Day or Invasion Day?

While white Australians celebrate national holiday, aboriginals mark Invasion Day


Cardboard Box

Do the steppes of Ukraine and Russia hold the mysteries of ancient Indo-European culture?

© Bridgeman Images
The creators of the Corded Ware culture, named after this intricate pottery, may have spoken an Indo-European language derived from one spoken by herders from the East.
What do you call a male sibling? If you speak English, he is your "brother." Greek? Call him "phrater." Sanskrit, Latin, Old Irish? "Bhrater," "frater," or "brathir," respectively. Ever since the mid-17th century, scholars have noted such similarities among the so-called Indo-European languages, which span the world and number more than 400 if dialects are included. Researchers agree that they can probably all be traced back to one ancestral language, called Proto-Indo-European (PIE). But for nearly 20 years, scholars have debated vehemently when and where PIE arose.

Two long-awaited studies, one described online this week in a preprint and another scheduled for publication later this month, have now used different methods to support one leading hypothesis: that PIE was first spoken by pastoral herders who lived in the vast steppe lands north of the Black Sea beginning about 6000 years ago. One study points out that these steppe land herders have left their genetic mark on most Europeans living today.

Info

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.

Info

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.

Pyramid

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.

Document

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.

Folder

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:


Question

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

Newspaper

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.

    Sherlock

    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.