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Weapons cache from the era of Ivan the Terrible excavated in Russian dig


Typical equipment for Tsar Ivan's military
An archaeological expedition from the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, while conducting a rescue excavation dig near Zvenigorod (Moscow Region) involving the new Central Circular Highway, has unearthed the private arsenal of a military commander from the era of Ivan the Terrible.

The location of the find was formerly the 16th-century village of Ignatievskoe, once the homeland of the famous Boyar family of the Dobrynins. A member of this family once figured amongst Ivan the Terrible's "hand-picked thousand "—the top brass of the notorious Tsar's army, an elite officer group formed in October 1550. A royal edict ordered that the cities of Dmitrov, Zvenigorod and Ruza should be "brought to heel" by a specially formed unit of "the best officers, sons of Boyars." The "hand-picked thousand" became the new elite officer corps of the Russian army.

The remains of around 60 village buildings were uncovered during the dig. On the western side of the former village, archaeologists unearthed a building with a very large underground timber-lined storehouse, uncovering the remains of a large private arsenal. They found helmets stored in leather boxes, kolchugs (a kind of cuirass), sections of military sabres, belts, and arrows and more. It seems possible that this was a cache of weapons for a military expedition, stored in special boxes, including even sections of camp tents and billy cans. This warlike inventory, along with the status of its owner, probably indicated the existence of a standing army of troops in readiness, who were armed, billeted and fed at the cost of members of the nobility as part of their responsibility as courtiers.

Black Cat

Dark history of UK 'terrorism' revealed as secrets censored for 30 years released

© Cathal McNaughton / Reuters
Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson
Documents censored by the Irish government for 30 years and now released to the public reveal a tumultuous island mired in a decades-long struggle with the UK.

The "30-year rule" allows the government to withhold information from its citizens and will soon be reduced to 20 years, in line with the UK's recent change in its law.

This week, state papers released by Ireland's National Archives and reviewed by RTÉ journalists showed what government officials really thought about the historic Anglo-Irish Agreement signed that year [Sott ed: 1986], described as a "substantial invasion of British Sovereignty in Northern Ireland".

British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Tom King said there had been "a guarded welcome" from the nationalist community and "a hostile reception from the unionist community".

Irish Foreign Affairs minister Peter Barry said he wasn't surprised by the unionist reaction and warned about the future leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Peter Robinson.

"The unionist reaction wasn't any worse than I had expected," the report quotes Minister Barry. "The Irish government is the hate organisation for unionists. I think the steam has run out of (Ian) Paisley, but Robinson is a dangerous man. He appears to be taking over the DUP and is much harder than Paisley."

Some 23 years later his prediction came true as Robinson, a former paramilitary, became the hard-line leader of the DUP and, eventually, First Minister of Northern Ireland.

Boat

The giant squid: Origin of the mythical monster Kraken

The Kraken is perhaps the largest monster ever imagined by mankind. In Nordic folklore, it was said to haunt the seas from Norway through Iceland and all the way to Greenland. The Kraken had a knack for harassing ships and many pseudoscientific reports (including official naval ones) said it would attack vessels with its strong arms. If this strategy failed, the beast would start swimming in circles around the ship, creating a fierce maelstrom to drag the vessel down.

Of course, to be worth its salt, a monster needs to have a taste for human flesh. Legends say that the Kraken could devour a ship's entire crew at once. But despite its fearsome reputation, the monster could also bring benefits: it swam accompanied by huge schools of fish that cascaded down its back when it emerged from the water. Brave fishermen could thus risk going near the beast to secure a bounteous catch.

The history of the Kraken goes back to an account written in 1180 by King Sverre of Norway. As with many legends, the Kraken started with something real, based on sightings of a real animal, the giant squid. For the ancient navigators, the sea was treacherous and dangerous, hiding a horde of monsters in its inconceivable depths. Any encounter with an unknown animal could gain a mythological edge from sailors' stories. After all, the tale grows in the telling.

Magnify

2,700-year-old farmhouse unearthed in Israel

© Griffin Aerial Photography
An impressive 2,700 year old farmhouse and a 1,500 year old church with colorful mosaics and inscriptions in it were uncovered in the excavations in Rosh Ha-Ayin.

Impressive archaeological finds are currently being uncovered in extensive excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in Rosh Ha-'Ayin at the initiative of the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the Rosh Ha-'Ayin municipality, prior to the building of new neighborhoods. So far scores of teenagers from preparatory programs and youth villages have participated in the excavation as part of the Israel Antiquities Authority policy of increasing public awareness of our cultural heritage.

During the excavation an impressive 2,700 year old farmhouse (30 × 50 meters) and a 1,500 year old church with colorful mosaics and inscriptions in it were uncovered.

According to Amit Shadman, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The large farmhouse was preserved to a height of more than two meters. The building is 2,700 years old and included twenty-four rooms constructed around a central courtyard. A large storage compartment (silo) meant to protect the grain was exposed in the courtyard. It seems that carbohydrates were as popular then as now, and the growing and processing of grain were fairly widespread in the rural-agricultural region. This was corroborated by other discoveries in the field that included numerous millstones which were used to grind the grain into flour. In addition, we found simple rock-hewn oil presses used in the production of olive oil". Among the other artifacts that were exposed in the farmhouse remains were two silver coins from the fourth century BCE that bear the likenesses of the goddess Athena and the Athenian owl.

Camera

"Pre-historic" animal shell found in Argentina

© Agence France-Presse
A glyptodont shell found in Carlos Spegazzini, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina on December 29, 2015.
A passer-by on Christmas Day found a meter-long shell on a riverbank in Argentina which may be from a glyptodont, a prehistoric kind of giant armadillo, experts said Tuesday.

A local man thought the black scaly shell was a dinosaur egg when he saw it lying in the mud, his wife Reina Coronel told AFP.

Her husband Jose Antonio Nievas found the shell beside a stream at their farm in Carlos Spegazzini, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the capital Buenos Aires.

"My husband went out to the car and when he came back he said, 'Hey, I just found an egg that looks like it came from a dinosaur," she said.

"We all laughed because we thought it was a joke."

Question

Building secrets lost to the ages: The mystery of Coral Castle


The interior of Coral Castle displays a unique artistry.
How were monuments such as Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids of Giza, Sacsayhuaman fortress and other ancient monuments built? Many scientists believe that in some cases workers numbering in the tens of thousands were needed simply to move the massive stones to the construction site.

However, a small Latvian man insisted that these ancient structures were assembled with much more ease than we might imagine, using a building secret that has been lost to the ages. He even claimed to be able to put these techniques into practice at the mysterious Coral Castle.

At 25, Edward Leedskalnin was engaged to marry a woman 10 years his junior—Agnes Scuffs, who he affectionately nicknamed his "sweet sixteen." Lamentably, the night before his wedding, Edward's bride changed her mind, never to return to his side. Surprisingly, Leedskalnin went on to construct a truly magical castle in memory of his lost love.

Following his heartbreak and a bout of tuberculosis, Leedskalnin departed from his native Latvia, toward the United States. He set up in Florida City, and there he was able to realize one of the more impressive (and enigmatic) construction efforts ever undertaken by a single man: "Coral Castle" or as Leedskalnin called it, "Rock Gate Park."

Comment: See also: The mystery of Coral Castle


Rose

Hurrem Sultan, the cheerful rose and a powerful woman of the Ottoman Empire


Rosa Solymanni uxor. (16th century).
Hürrem Sultan appeared in Topkapi Palace as a slave, but in a very short time she became one the most influential women of the Ottoman Empire. The name Hürrem was given her by the Sultan Suleiman I, and means "the cheerful one"- but in the eyes of many of her rivals she was the most dangerous weapon in Constantinople's armory.

Suleiman Meets Hürrem

From 1520-1566, the Ottoman Empire was ruled by Suleiman I, who many claim was the greatest Sultan in history. He was also known as Suleiman the Magnificent or Kanuni - The Lawgiver. During his time in power, he made an impact on the history of many countries in Europe and the Middle East.

Георгиевская ленточка

The West's containment of Russia is a myth, say US foreign policy mandarins. But is it?


Comment: The following screed was penned by one 'Kirk Bennett', which is probably a nom de plume for one of the US elite's top reality-creators. It was published in The American Interest, a bi-monthly, 'elite' US foreign policy magazine begun by US 'geostrategists' Francis Fukuyama, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Adam Garfinkle 10 years ago to "define the American interest." It includes among its regular contributors the British 'gentleman historian' Niall Ferguson, and NeoCons Dov Zakheim, Robert Kaplan, and Bernard-Henri Lévy. Their focus in this article is 'Russian containment', which is rejected as 'a myth'...



'The Motherland Calls', WW2 memorial outside Volgograd (formerly known as Stalingrad), the tallest statue of a woman on Earth
"There can be no alliance between Russia and the West, either for the sake of interests or for the sake of principles. There is not a single interest, not a single trend in the West which does not conspire against Russia, especially her future, and does not try to harm her. Therefore Russia's only natural policy towards the West must be to seek not an alliance with the Western powers but their disunion and division. Only then will they not be hostile to us, not of course out of conviction, but out of impotence."
These words, which sound like something Russia's President Vladimir Putin might have said recently, were actually penned in 1864 by the Russian poet and diplomat Fyodor Tyutchev. The notion of perpetual Western antipathy runs in strong currents throughout Russian thought over the past two centuries. Indeed this is a well from which Putin has drawn deeply in recent speeches to mobilize the Russian populace and to justify the Kremlin's policies in Ukraine and elsewhere. The West, according to this account, is both envious of Russia's dynamism and moral superiority and eager to profit territorially at Russia's expense. Putin has repeatedly alleged that the West has maintained a containment policy toward Russia since the 18th century; the Western reaction to events in Ukraine is merely the present manifestation of this policy. Indeed, so deep and consistent is the animosity toward the mighty Eurasian colossus that, even without Ukraine, Westerners would have seized on some other pretext, however flimsy, to try to keep Russia on its knees.

Comment: And, of course, the author finishes up with a broadside at folks, like ourselves, who have figured out what's actually going on (and with very little, if any, Russian narrative input).

No, 'Bennett', the major division among Western observers of Russia is between those who see you and your kind for what you really are, and those who still believe the 'realities' you spin from your lie factories.

So then, dear reader, as the author asked above, how accurate is the "tidy little narrative" that the West has sought to (and continues seeking to) contain Russia?

We say it's deadly accurate.

What do you think?


Question

Did Vikings hail from the Caucasus?

© Paul Salopek
Thor Heyerdahl, the famous Norwegian explorer, enjoys a cult following in the southern Caucasus. Kiş, Azerbaijan.
It is freezing in the foothills of the Greater Caucasus range. Rufat Gojayev, my Azerbaijani walking guide, leans into the cold sunlight. He directs his tireless steps towards Kiş.

What is Kiş?

Kiş is a remote mountain village that has preserved what may be the oldest Christian church in Azerbaijan, and perhaps in the whole region: a temple founded, according to local legend, in the first century A.D. Its walls are built of pale weathered stone. Its crypts hold nameless dead. Its garden shines with persimmons that hang like fiery tree ornaments from winter-bare branches. The church features a large bronze bust outside its walls: a grinning Thor Heyerdahl, the fabled Norwegian adventurer. This artifact is puzzling.

"Thor Heyerdahl was a great man," Khatiza Abdulrahman, a local government guide, tells us. "He discovered that Azerbaijanis and Norwegians are related."

And so: The global walk stumbles once again into a bizarre and forgotten back eddy of time and place—into another of the world's obscure mysteries.

Heyerdahl, who is mostly famous for sailing a balsa raft called the Kon-Tiki across the South Pacific in 1947, enjoys something of a cult following in Azerbaijan. Why? The dashing Norseman who bobbed across the world's oceans in antique boats during the latter half of the 20th century, always hoping to demonstrate how ancient civilizations may have contacted each other by sea, developed his final theory of cultural diffusion at Kiş. He believed the blond and ginger-haired Vikings of Scandinavia—his own ancestors—originated from somewhere in or near this nation of Turkic speaking peoples at the edge of Persia.

His proof?

An 800-year-old Icelandic saga mentions that Odin, the Norse god and a mythic ancestor of the Vikings, migrated to Scandinavia from an eastern land called "As-hov" or Aser." Thus: Azer-baijan. Add local petroglyphs that depict ships similar to the longboats used by Norse sea raiders to terrorize Europe during the Middle Ages. (Unfortunately, these rock engravings happen to be immensely older than the Vikings, dating back to the Neolithic.) Throw in some vague affinities between Azerbaijani and Norwegian folk music. Mix in a few scraps of allegedly "runic" script unearthed in both nations. And voila: Vikings came from what is today a secular Muslim oil state that, in 2012, scored its own raid against Europe by snatching the Eurovision Song Contest away from three-time host Sweden.

Info

Irish genome reveals early Celtic origins

© Daniel Bradley, Trinity College Dublin
Excavated near Belfast in 1855, she had lain in a Neolithic tomb chamber for 5,000 years; subsequently curated in Queens University Belfast.
A team of researchers has sequenced the first ancient human genomes from Ireland, shedding light on the origins of Celtic people and their culture.

For their study, geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast studied the genomes of a 5,200-year-old female farmer from the Neolithic period and three 4,000-year-old males from the Bronze Age. Their analysis revealed early Irish farmers were quite similar to southern Europeans, according to a news release.

"There was a great wave of genome change that swept into Europe from above the Black Sea into Bronze Age Europe and we now know it washed all the way to the shores of its most westerly island," Dan Bradley, study leader and professor of Population Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, explained in the release. "And this degree of genetic change invites the possibility of other associated changes, perhaps even the introduction of language ancestral to western Celtic tongues."

It is often debated whether the great transitions in the British Isles, from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one based on agriculture and later from stone to metal use, were due to local adoption of new ways by indigenous people or from the introduction of new people. These ancient Irish genomes confirm the later, suggesting there was a massive migration.