Secret History


Why were trousers invented?

© Thinkstock
These days, pants are our garment of choice. But for years, our ancestors draped themselves in tunics, robes, and gowns, until someone decided they were tired of having the wind up their skirt. So, what prompted the change? When, exactly, did two-legged trousers become a thing?

A recent archaeological discovery gives us a clue. Archaeologists Ulrike Beck and Mayke Wagner of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin excavated two ancient graves in a cemetery in Xinjiang, China and, among the remains, discovered two pairs of well-preserved woolen pants. Radiocarbon dating puts them at between 3000 and 3300 years old, making them the oldest-known pair of trousers ever discovered. This historical time period corresponds with the rise of "mobile pastoralism" in Central Asia - nomads began moving their herds across the land, and they did so on horseback. Tunics and robes weren't comfortable or conducive to long, bumpy rides - and battles - so these ancient people innovated. They created pants.

Early neolithic farmers arrived in Europe by sea

© Modified NASA map
Genetic markers in modern populations indicate the Neolithic migrants who brought farming to Europe traveled from the Levant into Anatolia and then island hopped to Greece via Crete and then to Sicily and north into Southern Europe.
Scientists have long wondered how Neolithic people found their way to Europe. Now, researchers have turned to genetics. With the help of genetic markers, they've uncovered new clues and have found exactly how Neolithic culture first came to Europe.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 BC in the Levant, which is the region in the eastern Mediterranean that encompasses Israel and the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and part of southern Turkey, people began to domesticate wild grains. This allowed our ancient ancestors to abandon their nomadic lifestyles and instead become farmers. This transition from hunting and gathering to farming marked the end of the Paleolithic era and a transition to the Neolithic era.

These farmers, though, didn't stay in the Levant. Instead, they moved to Europe and introduced farming and genes to native Paleolithic people. Yet exactly what routes they used have long remained a mystery-at least until now.

Ancient Roman sanctuary discovered in France

Ancient Diety_2
© Denis Gliksman/Inrap
In Northern France's Picardy region about 35 kilometers north of Paris in the city of Pont-Sainte-Maxence, archeologists have uncovered an ancient Roman sanctuary dating back to the second century, which has no equivalent in Roman Gaul.

This sanctuary, which measures 70 meters by 105 meters, has two small pavilions in the back, of which only the foundations remain. In the center, the Cella, visitors could access a dramatic masonry platform via a front staircase.

Here in the heart of the sanctuary, the ancient Romans would have erected the statue of a deity. Archaeologists have discovered many elements of the artwork inside the sanctuary, including clashed spears and marble veneer.

The entrance to the sanctuary was a monumental façade measuring 10 meters high and 70 meters long, which made it an exceptional structure in Roman Gaul. This façade consists of thirteen to seventeen arches, above which the Romans surmounted an entablature and, exceptionally, a frieze that should include a dedication in bronze letters.

A few decades after its erection, the façade collapsed in one piece perhaps due to a defect in the foundation related to the nature and slope of the ground, which caused a mess of thousands of blocks and fragments.

Archaeologists intend to study these fragments to gradually restore the original appearance of the sanctuary. The ornamentation, sometimes enhanced color reveals carved decorations: Greek meanders, foliage, animals, and mythical characters such as Venus, Apollo, and Jupiter.
Fireball 5

Polish meteorite venerated by Neolithic man?

© Wikipedia
A meteorite found in the remains of a Neolithic hut in Bolkow, north west Poland, may have been used for shamanic purposes, academics have argued.

The meteorite was discovered among a large group of sacral objects in a hut on the banks of Swidwie Lake in the West Pomeranian region.

Archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Szczecin found items including an amulet, a so-called 'magic staff' fashioned from antlers and decorated with geometrical motifs, and an engraved bone spear.

They were made about 9000 years ago. The discovery of the meteorite, which is 8cm high and 5.3cm wide at the base, proved especially intriguing in this context.

"The meteorite was brought to the hut as an object of special significance, because it came 'from another world," Professor Tadeusz Galinski told the Polish Press Agency.

"The item became an object in their belief system, and perhaps even a prop in the practice of shamanic magic," he said.

Archaeologists have been carrying out excavations at the site for several years now. The meteorite was discovered last year, but at first academics failed to identify it correctly.

4,000-year-old pharaonic tomb from 11th dynasty discovered in Luxor

Ancient Tomb
© AFP/Getty
The entrance of the tomb found by Spanish archaeologists, who said the discovery would reveal new details about the 11th dynasty.
Spanish archaeologists have discovered a 4,000-year-old pharaonic tomb belonging to a leader from the 11th dynasty of Egypt in Luxor, the antiquities ministry said on Monday.

The wide surface of the tomb showed it was that of "someone from the royal family or a high-ranking statesman," the antiquities minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, said.

The Spanish team was led by José Galán, who said the tomb would provide new insights into the dynasty that ruled in Luxor, the modern site of the city of Thebes, which was then the capital of ancient Egypt.

Sequencing of mitochondrial DNA used to track spread of first European farmers

Neolithic agricultural practices
© Alejandro Pérez Pérez (UB) and Miquel Molist (UAB)
Experts analyzed samples from three sites located in the birthplace of Neolithic agricultural practices.
By sequencing the mitochondrial DNA of the first Near Eastern farmers for the first time, an international team of researchers have discovered evidence supporting an Early Neolithic pioneer maritime colonization of mainland Europe that involved expansion through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands.

Writing in the journal PLOS Genetics, the study authors explained their analysis of genetic samples obtained from three sites located in what has been dubbed the birthplace of Neolithic agricultural practices: the Middle Euphrates basin and the oasis of Damascus, which is located in modern-day Syria. Those samples date back to approximately 8,000 BC.

"The genetic impact associated to the Neolithic spread in Europe has been widely debated over the last 20 years," the researchers wrote. "Within this context, ancient DNA studies have provided a more reliable picture by directly analyzing the protagonist populations at different regions in Europe."

"However, the lack of available data from the original Near Eastern farmers has limited the achieved conclusions, preventing the formulation of continental models of Neolithic expansion," they added. "Here we address this issue by presenting mitochondrial DNA data of the original Near-Eastern Neolithic communities with the aim of providing the adequate background for the interpretation of Neolithic genetic data from European samples."

The research team looked at 63 skeletons from the Pre Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) sites of Tell Halula, Tell Ramad and Dja'de El Mughara, which have been dated to between 8,700 BC and 6,600 BC. They recovered 15 validated mitochondrial DNA profiles, and compared them to available ancient genetic data from human remains belonging to the Linearbandkeramik-Alföldi Vonaldiszes Kerámia and Cardial/Epicardial cultures.

The Devil: Alive and well?

Devil and Jesus
© Corbis
The devil is alive and kicking -- literally -- according to the Catholic Church. Above, Satan tries to lure Jesus to the dark side in the painting "Last Temptation of Christ."
He is the serpent who tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, the fallen angel who rebelled against God, the Dragon, Beelzebub, the Father of Lies, Lucifer, Satan, the Prince of Darkness.

A giant beast, he stood frozen to the waist in a lake of ice in Dante's Divine Commedy, chewed on the damned in early Renaissance paintings, made a pact with Faust as Mephistopheles, rode a tank and "held a general's rank when the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank" -- if you trust the Rolling Stones.

A popular icon in the past, the devil appears to be alive and kicking also in Pope Francis' modernizing church.

The pontiff has alluded to him ever since his first homily as Pope, when he boldly quoted the French author Léon Bloy: "Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil."

This week, speaking at a massive gathering in Rome's Olympic Stadium, Francis warned about the "devil wanting to destroy the family" and told married couples to raise children rather than owning pets. He ended his much-criticized remarks by portraying a life of loneliness and bitterness to those who love pets like they would children.

"Families face attacks from the devil because Jesus grows in parent's love and children's lives," he said.

But who, or what, is the devil?

Forget 'Saving Private Ryan', 'Stalingrad' is a movie about the battle that defeated the Nazis

Stalingrad, the movie
A handful of soldiers, beleaguered by a Nazi host in a wrecked city apartment building, prepare to sell their lives dearly on celluloid.

Does the scenario sound familiar? It should. For 70 years, the British and Americans have been making heroic movies about World War II, some of which are etched in our culture.

But now for something different: Russian film-makers have got in on the act.

They have created a 3D epic set for the film Stalingrad, about the most famous battle in their history, and the movie has become one of the biggest domestic box office hits of all time. Now, British audiences can see for themselves this amazingly noisy, bloody, cliche-laden, rubble-making version of the war.

3D does startling things to on-screen bomber crashes, tank attacks, ash from burning buildings that appears to float onto the cinema audience.

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.

Eye 1

The 'Good War': New book reveals American troops committed tens of thousands of rapes on French women they were 'liberating'

Targets: Some American GIs saw French women as spoils of war according to an explosive new book
The handsome American soldier was Elisabeth's tenth client that evening. Working her trade on the top floor of a dingy apartment block in Paris, she felt that she had seen them all.

For the past four years, the men had been Germans, and now, since the city had been liberated in August, 1944, they were Americans. It made little difference.

Elisabeth held out three fingers of her hand to indicate the price of her body - three hundred francs.

'Too much,' said the soldier.

Elisabeth sighed. She had seen that before as well. Wearily, she kept the three fingers held up, almost as an insult.

There was no negotiation - three hundred was little enough as it was.

'Two hundred,' the soldier insisted.

'Non,' said Elisabeth. 'Three hundred or nothing'.

The soldier approached her, hate in his eyes. Elisabeth glowered back, starting to feel scared.

'In that case,' said the soldier, 'it will be nothing.'