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Book

Newfound 'Gospel of the Lots of Mary' discovered in ancient text

© Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mrs. Beatrice Kelekian in memory of her husband, Charles Dikran Kelekian, 1984.669
An image showing the opening of the gospel. The text is written in Coptic, an Egyptian language that makes use of the Greek alphabet. The pages of the gospel are small, measuring less than 3 inches (75 millimeters) in height.
A 1,500-year-old book that contains a previously unknown gospel has been deciphered. The ancient manuscript may have been used to provide guidance or encouragement to people seeking help for their problems, according to a researcher who has studied the text.

Written in Coptic, an Egyptian language, the opening reads (in translation):

"The Gospel of the lots of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, she to whom Gabriel the Archangel brought the good news. He who will go forward with his whole heart will obtain what he seeks. Only do not be of two minds."

Anne Marie Luijendijk, a professor of religion at Princeton University, discovered that this newfound gospel is like no other. "When I began deciphering the manuscript and encountered the word 'gospel' in the opening line, I expected to read a narrative about the life and death of Jesus as the canonical gospels present, or a collection of sayings similar to the Gospel of Thomas (a non-canonical text)," she wrote in her book Forbidden Oracles? The Gospel of the Lots of Mary (Mohr Siebeck, 2014).

What she found instead was a series of 37 oracles, written vaguely, and with only a few that mention Jesus.

Info

Newton's journal reveals seeds of plant biology

© Syndics of the Cambridge University Library
Sandwiched between the headings 'Philosophy' and 'Attraction Electricall & Filtration' is half a page of text on plant function.
Sir Isaac Newton's interest in botany extended well beyond the fabled apple falling from a tree - he also appears to have understood how water moves from roots to leaves over 200 years before botanists did.

Newton, who lived from 1643-1727, is known for his observations on the properties of light, the invention of calculus, and for his time as head of the Royal Mint, and president of the Royal Society, the leading scientific body of the day.

But buried in a notebook Newton used during his undergraduate days, is half a page of text on plant function, which has been reviewed in the journal Nature Plants by Professor David Beerling of the University of Sheffield.

In his notes, Newton describes how water is drawn up through a plant's roots and out through its pores.

Newton wrote:
"Suppose a b the pore of a Vegitable filled with fluid mater & that the Globule c doth hitt away the particle b, then the rest of subtile matter in the pores riseth from a towards b & by this meanes juices continually arise up from the roots of trees upward leaving dreggs in the pores & then wanting passage stretch the pores to make them as wide as before they were clogged. which makes the plant bigger untill the pores are too narow for the juice to arise through the pores & then the plant ceaseth to grow any more."

Sherlock

Cold War: FBI's 'Plan C' included martial law and emergency detention

Documents show the FBI created a "Plan C" during the Cold War, which could have been triggered in the event the US underwent a nuclear attack. It included putting the nation under martial law, rounding up "subversives," and interning enemy diplomats.

The documents, acquired by transparency journalism organization MuckRock, detail the FBI plan created in 1956, which was shared with several top officials from every governmental department. The FBI also distributed papers regarding the plan to its field offices. The plan would have gone into effect "after a war has begun in which the US is involved or may become involved and prior to an actual attack on the US itself," according to the documents.

Comment: See also:


Bizarro Earth

Superpower blunders: Czechoslovakia in 1938

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The Czechoslovakia crisis of 1938 marked a pivotal shift in the balance of power in Central Europe, putting the major world superpowers in a collision course. The policies of one superpower in particular made inevitable what was to come less than a year later - World War II.

This episode provides important historical insights on geopolitics, appeasement strategies, buffer zones, ethnic tensions - and unintended consequences.

Camera

In pictures: Russia's imperial Romanov family

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Health

2,000 year old Siberian brain surgery techniques recreated by Russian scientists

© Reuters/Matthew Dunham
Russian neurosurgeons alongside anthropologists and archaeologists have carried out pioneering tests to better understand how incredible operations on skulls were conducted more than 2,000 years ago.

Experts at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography united with prominent Russian neurosurgeons for a series of tests that revealed the exceptional skillfulness of ancient doctors, equipped only with primitive tools, The Siberian Times reported on Thursday.

Magnify

Skull discovery suggests region where humans first had sex with Neanderthals

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© Tel Aviv University and University of Vienna
Views of the human skull, with missing jaw, found in western Galilee, northern Isreal and estimated at 55,000 years old.
Skull found in northern Israeli cave in western Galilee, thought to be female and 55,000 years old, connects interbreeding and move from Africa to Europe

An ancient skull found in a cave in northern Israel has cast light on the migration of modern humans out of Africa and the dawn of humanity's colonisation of the world.

For most palaeontologists that might be enough for a single fossil, but the braincase has offered much more: a likely location where the first prehistoric trysts resulted in modern humans having sex with their heavy-browed Neanderthal cousins.

Discovered in a cave in western Galilee, the partial skull belonged to an individual, probably a woman, who lived and died in the region about 55,000 years ago, placing modern humans there and then for the first time ever.

Homo sapiens walked out of Africa at least 60,000 years ago, but the harsh climate in parts of Europe at the time hampered their spread across much of the continent until about 45,000 years ago.

Cow Skull

Mummified remains of '200 year old man in lotus position' found in Mongolia

Forensic examination to be made on well preserved remains of possible Lama teacher.

This extraordinary picture shows the mummifed male body which is believed to be several centuries old. It was found at 6.30 pm 27 January 2015 in Songinokhairkhan province, reported Mongolia's Morning Newspaper.
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© 'Өглөөний сонин'
A 'meditating mummy' found on 27th of January in Mongolia.
'The mummified body sits in a lotus position, as if still meditating.

'Experts that only had time to carry basic visual test say they believe the body can be about 200 years old'.

The report added: 'So far there is no information as to where the body was found. The only details we learned was that it was covered with a cattle skin'.

V

The forgotten 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris who demonstrated against a discriminatory curfew imposed only on Muslims

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1961 Paris massacre
A colleague of mine in Cairo told me a story a few years ago about a massacre in the streets of Paris. He was a news service reporter at the time of the violence in the French capital - Oct. 17, 1961 - and saw tens of bodies of dead Algerians piled like cordwood in the center of the city in the wake of what would now be called a police riot.

But his superiors at the news agency stopped him from telling the full story then, and most of the world paid little attention to the thin news coverage that the massacre did receive. Even now, the events of that time are not widely known and many people, like myself, had never heard of them at all.

This year is an apt time to recall what happened, and not only because this is the 35th anniversary year of Algerian independence. The continuing civil war in Algeria and the growing violence and racism in France, as well as the appalling slaughters taking place elsewhere in the world, give it a disturbing currency.

Here's what happened:
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1961 march
Unarmed Algerian Muslims demonstrating in central Paris against a discriminatory curfew were beaten, shot, garotted and even drowned by police and special troops. Thousands were rounded up and taken to detention centers around the city and the prefecture of police, where there were more beatings and killings.

Comment: See also:

Holocaust 2.0: Coming soon!

As Islamophobia Rises, Moral Values Decrease


Boat

Blackbeard's pirate ship yields medical equipment not for faint of heart

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© North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources
This urethral syringe was used to treat syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that can be fatal. Chemical analysis shows that it contained mercury, which was commonly used to treat people with syphilis during the early 18th century. Although mercury may alleviate some of the symptoms taking too much of it can be fatal.
Archaeologists are excavating the vessel that served as the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard, and the medical equipment they have recovered from the shipwreck suggests the notorious buccaneer had to toil to keep his crew healthy.

Blackbeard is the most famous pirate who ever lived. His real name was Edward Teach (or possibly Thatch), and his flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, was formerly a French slave vessel named La Concorde de Nantes that Blackbeard captured in November 1717. Blackbeard was able to capture this ship easily because much of its crew was either sick or dead due to disease.

A few months into 1718, the Queen Anne's Revenge ran aground on a sandbar at Topsail Inlet in North Carolina. Blackbeard abandoned much of his crew at that point, leaving the site with a select group of men and most of the plunder. He was killed in battle later that year.

The wreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge was rediscovered in 1996 and has been under excavation by the Queen Anne's Revenge Project. Archaeologists have recovered many artifacts, including a number of medical instruments. These artifacts, combined with historical records, paint a picture of a pirate captain who tried to keep his crew in fighting shape.

"Treating the sick and injured of a sea-bound community on shipboard was challenging in the best of times," Linda Carnes-McNaughton, an archaeologist and curator with the Department of Defense who volunteers her time on the excavation project, wrote in a paper she presented recently at the Society for Historical Archaeology annual meeting.

The people on a ship like Blackbeard's would have had to contend with many conditions, including "chronic and periodic illnesses, wounds, amputations, toothaches, burns and other indescribable maladies," Carnes-McNaughton said.

Blackbeard's surgeons

In fact, maintaining the crew's health was so important that when Blackbeard turned the Queen Anne's Revenge into his flagship, he released most of the French crew members he had captured, but he forced the ship's three surgeons to stay, along with a few other specialized workers like carpenters and the cook, Carnes-McNaughton said.