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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.

Briefcase

Finally declassified: France's collaboration with Nazis revealed

© Agence France-Presse
Foreign Jews, especially Polish Jews, who get off the train in Pithiviers. According to the 04 October1940 anti-Jewish law and under German pressure more than 3,000 of them where arrested by the Paris police headquarters and imprisoned in the transit camps of Pithiviers et Beaune-la-Rolande.
France's archives revealing details of collaboration with Nazi Germany have been declassified.

From Monday, the public can access the police and legal documents from the Vichy regime's collaboration with the German invasion from 1940-44.

A culture of secrecy surrounds this period in France's history, when the government worked with the Nazis in France to round up and deport Jews.

The archives had been sealed until today. Documents relating to the period from September 1939 to May 1945 can be accessed. More than 200,000 documents have been made public.

When Germany invaded France in 1940, the two countries signed an armistice. The German army occupied northern and western France, while the French collaborationist Vichy government ruled the rest of the country. The Vichy regime worked with the Germans and introduced anti-Jewish laws, banning Jews from public life and restricting the jobs they could have.

Sherlock

800-year-old shipwreck found off Salento coast, Italy

© Area Marina Protetta Porto Cesareo
The wreck of a ship, thought to date back to either the 12th or 13th century, has been found off the coast of Salento.

The sunken ship, made almost entirely of wood and measuring 18 metres by 4.5 metres, has lain for years untouched near the coastline of Salento, in the southern tip of the Puglia region, La Stampa reported.

The wreck was found in the Porto Cesareo Marine Protected Area, where human activity is restricted in order to conserve the area's natural resources.

Pasquale De Braco, a fisherman and adviser to the protected area, notified local authorities of its presence, and divers were sent to investigate.

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Egyptian statues revealed in ancient shrines

© The Gebel el Sisila Project 2015
The 3,400-year-old statues were found at a site known for its stone quarries near the Nile.
Six rock cut statues have been discovered within 18th Dynasty shrines in Egypt, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty announced.

The 3,400-year-old statues were found at Gebel el Sisila, a site north of Aswan known for its stone quarries on both sides of the Nile. Blocks used in building almost all of ancient Egypt's great temples were cut from there.

The statues were carved within two of the 32 shrines erected by the officials who were in charge of quarrying the stone.

The two shrines are located about half a mile south of Gebel el Sisila's most famous monument, the rock-cut temple known as the Speos of Horemheb. In antiquity they suffered some fracturing due to earthquakes, and erosion due to their submersion by the Nile during the flood season.

"The shrines were described as almost completely destroyed," el-Damaty said.

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Volcanoes sparked an explosion in human intelligence, researcher argues

© Michael Medler
A new theory suggests that ancient hominins used volcanic features to cook their food, which could have fueled the expansion in human intelligence.
Vast lava flows may have provided humans with access to heat and fire for cooking their food millions of years ago, one researcher has proposed.

That, in turn, would have enabled the evolution of human intelligence, Michael Medler, a geographer at Western Washington University, said at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union earlier this month.

The new theory would also help solve a chicken-and-egg puzzle, he added. If cooked food provided the extra calories that allowed people to evolve big brains, and big brains are required to start fires, then how did hominins, with their teensy brains and relatively meager smarts, produce fire in the first place?

"Making fire is very tricky," Medler told Live Science. "I'd argue it requires very high cognitive ability to make fire."

By contrast, sticking food on a pile of hot rocks or setting a twig afire by dipping it into lava requires much less intelligence, he said.

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Altar showing mythical Hydra battle discovered

© Hasan Malay
This marble altar, dating to the second century A.D., was discovered near the Akçay River in Turkey. It shows a warrior battling a serpent monster. An inscription written in Greek is at top.
An ancient marble altar showing a nude warrior battling a serpent monster has been discovered by villagers near the Akçay River in Turkey.

Archaeologists said the altar likely dates to the second century A.D., a time when the Roman Empire controlled the area.

The carved scene on the altar is difficult to interpret, archaeologists said. They think it may show a son of Hercules, named Bargasos, fighting a monster in a battle that would bring forth a beneficial river god named Harpasos, to whom the altar is dedicated. At the time of the altar's creation, the Akçay River was known as the Harpasos River.

"According to [a command in] a dream, Flavius Ouliades set this up to the [river] god Harpasos," the Greek inscription at the top of the altar reads. The altar is 2 feet (0.61 meters) high and 1.5 feet (0.45 m) wide, and is now in the Aydin Museum in Turkey.

The dedication suggests that Flavius Ouliades, the person who created the altar, had a strong belief in the river god, the archaeologists said. "As a result of a communication with the river god Harpasos in a dream, Flavius Ouliades was requested to dedicate an altar," wrote Hasan Malay, a professor at Ege University in Turkey, and Funda Ertugrul, an archaeologist with the Aydin Museum, in an article published recently in the journal Epigraphica Anatolica.

Ouliades may have promised to set up the altar if the river god answered the man's prayers "for a good harvest or protection (for himself or his animals) from flooding or falling down the steep slopes or cure from its healing waters," wrote Malay and Ertugrul.

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The worst earthquake in recent European history that struck Sicily in 1908


Sicily earthquake 1908
Completely flattening the cities of Messina in Sicily and Reggio di Calabria on the Italian mainland, the most devastating earthquake in recorded European history struck on 28th December, 1908.

The horrifying earthquake started at around 5am in the Straits of Messina. It is estimated that the earthquake and ensuing Tsunami killed between 100,000 and 200,000 people. Along with the two cities devastated by the quake, dozens of smaller coastal towns were also severely damaged.

Measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale, the main shock of the earthquake triggered a 40 foot high tsunami which smashed coastal towns on both Sicily and the Italian mainland.

In the days following the 28th December hundreds of smaller tremors exacerbated the situation, causing more damage and severely hampering relief efforts to the worst affected areas.

Comment: See also: 'This Gulf of Fire': The cataclysmic earthquake that leveled Lisbon


Book

Murder in Malbork Castle: The Demise of Werner von Orseln, Grand Master of the Teutonic Order

© Public Domain
Teutonic Castle in Malbork, Poland and Portrait of Werner von Orseln.
The capital castle of the Teutonic Order at Malbork, Poland, was famous for being unconquered. Apart from many battles around the castle in Malbork, these old medieval walls also saw the assassination of Grand Master Werner von Orseln, supposedly at the hands of a mad knight, known as Johan von Endorf. However, an examination of the details surrounding the murder raises questions about whether Endorf was really as mad or as guilty as he was purported to be.

The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, is a classic example of a medieval fortress. On its completion in 1406, it became the world's largest brick castle.

Nowadays, it's Poland's official national Historic Monument as designated in 1994. It also lists and is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland and World Heritage Site by UNESCO. After more than 600 years, it is still the largest castle in the world by surface area. Before the Teutonic Knights accomplished construction of the castle, it became the capital of their country. Nearby the castle, they created a town that the Order named Marienburg (Mary's Castle). Poland renamed this place calling it ''Malbork''.

Comment: Related articles on Teutonic Order:

Mass suicide at Pilenai: Lithuanian defenders choose death over enslavement

Baltic Crusades caused extinctions, end to pagan practices

Teutonic Knights' remains identified in Poland


Boat

Archaeologists unearth 1,500 year old pre-Viking Iron Age settlement in Norway

© Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum
A blue glass bead at least 1,500 years old is among the finds archaeologists have made at the Ørland Main Air Station dig. This bead was found in a garbage layer and was probably lost by its owner.
Archaeologists have discovered a pre-Viking Iron Age settlement dating back around 1,500 years ago on the Trondheim Fjord on Norway's coast as they excavated the area prior to expanding an airport for jet fighters.

The strategically located site includes three large longhouses arranged in a U shape, one of which had several fire pits possibly used for cooking, keeping warm and for handwork, says a press release from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The longhouses may have been used for community gatherings, to honor the chief of the settlement and possibly to store food.
"This was a very strategic place," Ingrid Ystgaard, project manager at the Department of Archaeology and Cultural History at NTNU University Museum, said in the press release. "It was a sheltered area along the Norwegian coastal route from southern Norway to the northern coasts. And it was at the mouth of Trondheim Fjord, which was a vital link to Sweden and the inner regions of mid-Norway."

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Small Tudor treasure hoard found in Thames mud

© David Parry/PA
The hoard includes five aglets and two beads, and fragments of more.
Small gold items discovered over several years by eight different metal detectorists may all be from a 16th-century hat

A very small treasure hoard - a handful of tiny fragments of beautifully worked Tudor gold - has been harvested from a muddy stretch of the Thames foreshore over a period of years by eight different metal detectorists.

The pieces all date from the early 16th century, and the style of the tiny pieces of gold is so similar that Kate Sumnall, an archaeologist, believes they all came from the disastrous loss of one fabulous garment, possibly a hat snatched off a passenger's head by a gust of wind at a time when the main river crossings were the myriad ferry boats.

Such metal objects, including aglets - metal tips for laces - beads and studs, originally had a practical purpose as garment fasteners but by the early 16th century were being worn in gold as high-status ornaments, making costly fabrics such as velvet and furs even more ostentatious. Contemporary portraits, including one in the National Portrait Gallery of the Dacres, Mary Neville and Gregory Fiennes, show their sleeves festooned with pairs of such ornaments.