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Justinian Plague and Black death: Review of evidence for comet impact in 536 AD

Abstract

A global climatic downturn has previously been observed in tree-ring data associated with the years AD 536ȓ545. We review the evidence for the explanation of this event which involves a comet fragment impacting the Earth and exploding in the upper atmosphere. The explosion would create a plume, such as was seen during the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter. The resulting debris deposited by the plume on to the top of the atmosphere would increase the opacity and lower the temperature. We calculate the size of the comet required, and find that a relatively small fragment of only about half a kilometre in diameter could be consistent with the data. We conclude that plume formation is a by-product of small comet impacts that must be added to the list of significant global hazards posed by near-Earth objects.

The Earth is bombarded every day by debris from space. The majority of this debris takes the form of very small particles of dust. These objects are known as meteoroids which, as they run into the Earth's atmosphere, produce meteors − also known as shooting stars. Such objects are rarely hazardous. However, there are also much less frequent collisions with larger objects ranging in size from tens of metres to kilometres across, which may be asteroids or comets. Asteroids are primarily rocky or metallic in composition, whereas comets are composed mainly of a variety of ices with some rock. Objects of this size are generally more of a hazard. In fact, the UK government even set up a Near Earth Object Task Force to evaluate the risks of impacts from such objects (Atkinson et al. 2000). Depending on the size and strength of the material of the meteoroid, it may explode in the atmosphere before reaching the ground. Such an event is known as an airburst. An airbursting object releases energy in the form of a shockwave, which can devastate large areas and trigger forest fires. Airbursts can also produce a high-altitude haze of particles, such as was seen in the 1908 Tunguska event.
Sherlock

Earliest example of human with cancer discovered in northern Sudan

cancer in ancient skeleton
© Press Association
The sternum of the skeleton, believed to have belonged to a man aged between 25 and 35, pictured, shows evidence of cancer, highlighted by the arrows
British archaeologists have found what they say is the world's oldest complete example of a human being with metastatic cancer and hope it will offer new clues about the now common and often fatal disease.

Researchers from Durham University and the British Museum discovered the evidence of tumors that had developed and spread throughout the body in a 3,000-year-old skeleton found in a tomb in modern Sudan in 2013.

Analyzing the skeleton using radiography and a scanning electron microscope, they managed to get clear imaging of lesions on the bones which showed the cancer had spread to cause tumors on the collar bones, shoulder blades, upper arms, vertebrae, ribs, pelvis and thigh bones.

"Insights gained from archaeological human remains like these can really help us to understand the evolution and history of modern diseases," said Michaela Binder, a Durham PhD student who led the research and excavated and examined the skeleton.

"Our analysis showed that the shape of the small lesions on the bones can only have been caused by a soft tissue cancer ... though the exact origin is impossible to determine through the bones alone."

Despite being one of the world's leading causes of death today, cancer is virtually absent in archaeological records compared to other diseases - and that has given rise to the idea that cancers are mainly attributable to modern lifestyles and to people living for longer.
Info

Ancient city of Petra was a 'celestial calendar', says new study

Petra
© The Independent, UK
A new study into the ancient Jordanian city of Petra has found that was built to cast the sun’s rays onto sacred sites “like celestial spotlights.”
The Nabateans (Petra's inhabitants) rose and fell in relative obscurity between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century AD.

Exploiting the trade between its two neighbours', Rome and Assyria, the Nabateans built the buildings popularised in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.'

Yet despite their iconic dwellings, gouged out of mountains in the south of Jordan, not much is known of their culture and habits.

Now, a new study in the 'Nexus Network Journal' is beginning to reveal a little more about the Nabateans and how they lived.

The study shows that Petra's buildings were hewn for more than aesthetics - they double as a celestial calendar, marking the seasons and days of religious significance.

"The facades of Petra are not only beautiful in themselves, but they also show something additional," the study leader Juan Antonio Belmonte, an archaeo-astronomer at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands told National Geographic.
Star of David

Oliver Stone: Jewish control of the media is preventing free Holocaust debate

Outspoken Hollywood director says new film aims to put Adolf Hitler, who he has called an 'easy scapegoat' in the past, in his due historical context.
© AP
"We're going to educate our minds and liberalize them and broaden them. We want to move beyond opinions ... Go into the funding of the Nazi party. How many American corporations were involved, from GM through IBM. Hitler is just a man who could have easily been assassinated," Stone said.
Jewish control of the media is preventing an open discussion of the Holocaust, prominent Hollywood director Oliver Stone told the Sunday Times, adding that the U.S. Jewish lobby was controlling Washington's foreign policy for years.

In the Sunday interview, Stone reportedly said U.S. public opinion was focused on the Holocaust as a result of the "Jewish domination of the media," adding that an upcoming film of him aims to put Adolf Hitler and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin "in context."

Comment: See also Solzhenitsyn - Banned all over again

Books

Untwisting the revisionists' history: Stalin's Russia won WW2, not the Anglo-American alliance, and he tried to prevent Cold War

The Soviet Union alone indeed could have won World War II, but would have done it at a much slower pace, believes British historian Professor Geoffrey Roberts.

"The Soviet Union could have defeated Nazi Germany on its own, but it would have taken it a lot longer and at much greater price and, of course, it would have taken the country much longer to recover after World War II," he told RT.

"Yes, the Soviet Union did not ultimately need its allies to win the war, but its alliance with particularly the United States and Great Britain helped it to win the war a lot quicker than it would have otherwise been the case," he added.

According to Roberts, following World War II, the Soviet Union was much less enthusiastic about the Cold War than its recent allies, the USA and Great Britain.

"On the Western side, once the Cold War had broken out, there was a much more positive engagement with the Cold War, whereas on the Soviet side there was a reluctance to become involved in the Cold War and continuous efforts to revive the Grand Alliance," he said.

"One of the great themes of post-war Soviet foreign policy is a desire to return to the Grand Alliance," Roberts added.
Pyramid

Pyramid in Croatia? Secret Dalmatia follows a 1570 map in Zagora

After the Bosnian pyramid, is there a Croatian equivalent? Secret Dalmatia investigates a map dating back to 1570 in Zagora.

While the traditional association with pyramids is Egypt, the alleged discovery of pyramids in Bosnia and Hercegovina a few years ago brought the possibility of their existence in Europe, and a field trip by boutique agency Secret Dalmatia in Croatia on March 10, 2014 has offered up one more intriguing angle to the mystery.

Croation Pyramid
© Alan Mandic
The pyramid.
Specialists in discovering and promoting the many secrets of Croatia and the Dalmatian hinterland, Digital Journal recently reported on how owner Alan Mandic and local adventure specialists Dalmatia Explorer discovered the lost village of Karanovac, and a similar field trip at the weekend investigated a curious feature on a map of the region produced in 1570.
Question

Mystery of Blarney Stone's heritage finally solved

Blarney Stone
© Associated Press
A tourist kisses the Blarney Stone – which researchers now say is Irish in origin.
As millions of Irish people at home and abroad celebrate Saint Patrick's Day by pinning shamrocks to their clothes and downing the odd pint or two, their Celtic cousins across the sea in Scotland have shattered a couple of myths about one of Ireland's most iconic tourist attractions.

The Blarney Stone - famous for giving you the "gift of the gab" if you kiss it - is 100% Irish, according to researchers at Glasgow University.

For centuries, legends have abounded about the origins of the stone, which some have claimed was hewn from Stonehenge or sent over as a gift from the Scots by Robert the Bruce after victory at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. But the secret of the stone has been unravelled after the discovery of a unique 19th-century microscopic slide taken from the rock at Blarney Castle, near Cork.

Geologists at the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum can reveal the true nature of the Stone after studying the historic microscope slide, containing a slice of the stone ground so thin that it is transparent to light. Their analysis indicates the Blarney is a limestone, made of the mineral calcite, and containing recrystallised and slightly deformed fragments of fossil brachiopod shells and bryozoans - all of which are unique to the region where it is based.

Dr John Faithfull, curator at the Hunterian museum, said: "This strongly supports views that the stone is made of local carboniferous limestone, about 330m years old, and indicates that it has nothing to do with the Stonehenge bluestones, or the sandstone of the current 'Stone of Destiny', now in Edinburgh Castle."
Cow Skull

A creepy collection of 9,000-year-old stone faces is on display in Israel

Billed as "the oldest masks in the world," a creepy collection of 9,000-year-old stone faces is now display in Israel.
© Elie Posner/Israel Museum
Holes at the edges of the stone artifact may have been threaded with hair or strung with cords to attach the mask to the face or hang it up on a building.
With stilted smiles and large eyeholes, the artifacts are thought to have represented the spirits of dead ancestors and may have been worn during Stone Age ceremonies and rituals, researchers say.

Before putting the rare artifacts inside glass cases at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the curators say they brought the masks together for a comparative study. Three-dimensional modeling showed that most of the masks could have been placed comfortably on the face, curator Debby Hershman said. [See Pictures of the Stone Age Masks]

"The eye holes allow for a wide field of vision, and the comfortable apportioning of the mass is suited to human facial contours," Hershman told Live Science in an email.
Sherlock

1930s homicide detectives trained in forensics with an unusual tool: Dollhouses

Frances Glessner Lee's miniature murder scenes are dioramas to die for

Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) was a millionaire heiress and Chicago society dame with a very unusual hobby for a woman raised according to the strictest standards of nineteenth century domestic life: investigating murder. And she did this through a most unexpected medium: dollhouse-like dioramas. Glessner Lee grew up home-schooled and well-protected in the fortress-like Glessner House, designed by renown American architect H.H. Richardson, but she was introduced to the fields of homicide investigation and forensic science by her brother's friend, George Magrath, who later became a medical examiner and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. Instantly captivated by the nascent pursuit, she became one of its most influential advocates. In 1936, she endowed the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard and made subsequent gifts to establish chaired professorships and seminars in homicide investigation. But that's not all.
Frances Glessner Lee
© Glessner House Museum, Chicago, Illinois
Frances Glessner Lee hard at work on her one of her deadly dioramas, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.
As architect and educator Laura J. Miller notes in the excellent essay "Denatured Domesticity: An account of femininity and physiognomy in the interiors of Frances Glessner Lee," Glessner Lee, rather than using her well cultivated domestic skills to throw lavish parties for debutantes, tycoons, and other society types, subverted the notions typically enforced upon a woman of her standing by hosting elaborate dinners for investigators who would share with her, in sometimes gory detail, the intricacies of their profession. Glessner Lee oversaw every detail of these dinners herself, down to the menu and floral arrangements. She could probably tell you which wine goes best with discussion about a strangled corpse found in a bathroom. But the matronly Glessner Lee -- who may have been the inspiration for Angela Lansbury's character in "Murder She Wrote" - wanted to do more to help train investigators. She wanted to create a new tool for them.
Info

Ancient Greek tombstones served as therapy

Tombstone
© University of Gothenburg
Tombstone from Smyrna. The small boy to the left is sitting on a grave monument and holding a rattle in his right hand, while another curly haired boy is holding a bunch of grapes above a small dog. On the right, in front of a pillar, is a mourning a servant boy with his right hand on his chin.
Greek tombstones were not just commemorative markers, but served as therapy for the bereaved, says a study on images and epitaphs found on 2,300-year-old gravestones.

The research examined 245 grave reliefs from the Greek city-states of Smyrna and Kyzikos in present-day Turkey.

Dating to the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.), when production of funerary reliefs was at its height in western Asia Minor, the rather expensive tombstones probably belonged to the equivalent of middle class individuals.

According to Sandra Karlsson, a doctoral student at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, the rarely investigated sepulchral imagery can offer precious insights about funerary rituals, demographics, and family structures. Most of all, the reliefs reflect people's way of relating to death.

"In classical antiquity there were strict conventions for grieving for the dead, based on the belief that death is not an evil and hence not a reason for sorrow," Karlsson wrote in her doctoral thesis in classical archaeology and ancient history.
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