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Researchers discover origins of the "Celtic Curse" upon the ancient Irish 4,000 years ago

© Daniel Bradley
The skull of the Neolithic woman excavated in 1855 in Ballynahatty, Northern Ireland.
While researchers were analyzing the genes of prehistoric Irish ancestors they discovered that the beginning of a "Celtic Curse" (haemochromatosis) probably arose 4,000 years ago with a wave of migration from the Pontic Steppe to the East. This discovery also provides hard evidence for massive migrations that could have led to changes in Neolithic and Bronze Age lifestyles.

When geneticists at Trinity College in Dublin teamed up with archaeologists at Queen's University of Belfast to study the origins of Ireland's people and culture, they could only imagine the possible outcomes. The team successfully sequenced then compared the genomes of a woman farmer from 5,200 years ago (whose remains were found near Belfast) and three men who lived on Rathlin Island during the Bronze Age. When they analyzed these genes they discovered that a disease often called the "Celtic Curse" arose sometime between the two time periods and that it was related to a massive migration into the region.

The results of their analysis were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and show that the Ballynahatty Neolithic woman "possessed a genome of predominantly Near Eastern origin" and that "she had some hunter - gatherer ancestry but belonged to a population of large effective size, suggesting a substantial influx of early farmers to the island."

Comment: For more information on hemochromatosis, see: The iron elephant - The dangers of iron overload


Holly

Io Saturnalia! The Roman roots of 'Christmas'

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, whatever your 'Reason for the Season', most of the December holiday traditions that we celebrate today can be traced back to the Ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia (with a healthy dose of inspiration also coming via the Vikings). From tree decorations, wreaths, ornaments, boughs of holly, carolling (albeit with more clothes and less rude songs these days), gift-giving, and even gingerbread men, most of what we identify as 'Christmas' has roots going back thousands of years.

So what was Saturnalia?

The fact is, the Romans loved festivals, and 'officially', Saturnalia commemorated the winter solstice, as well as honouring Saturn, the god of agriculture, wealth, and liberation. Most Roman holidays were never confined to a single day, and Saturnalia was a week-long celebration, lasting from the 17th to either the 23rd or 24th of December. Described by the Latin poet, Catullus, as "the best of days", it was the most popular holiday of the Roman calendar, attested by the fact that many of its traditions still survive to this day.

Its exact date of origin is unknown, though references to the holiday are made as early as the 4th century B.C. Like other holidays and festivals, at its core, Saturnalia was a religious observance. Albeit, most of the religious aspects were only observed on the first day.

Cross

SOTT Radio Network: Unravelling the 'Jesus' myth - Interview with Laura Knight-Jadczyk


'Jesus' before Pontius Pilate: Never happened!
With Christians marking another Winter Solstice by celebrating the coincident anniversary of the birth of 'Jesus Christ' - a name that has loomed over Western civilization for some 2,000 years - we took the opportunity to talk once again with author and historian Laura Knight-Jadczyk about her latest research.

Despite much scholarly research already providing grounds for doubting the historical accuracy of 'Jesus', most assume that this figure nevertheless had at least some historical basis in fact. Fundamental to this is the pairing of Roman historical data with key elements of the Jesus story.

Laura Knight-Jadczyk believes she has found conclusive evidence that there was no 'Jesus', and that the figure we know by this name is a composite of different narratives woven together to create a new religion. But if there was no 'Jesus', why and how can there today be three major world religions based (or reliant) on one?

Have a listen to the greatest story ever sold...


Sherlock

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.

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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.