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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.


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


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


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."


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.


Mammal diversity exploded immediately after dinosaur extinction

© Thomas Halliday
Leptictis fossil.
The diversity of mammals on Earth exploded straight after the dinosaur extinction event, according to UCL researchers. New analysis of the fossil record shows that placental mammals, the group that today includes nearly 5000 species including humans, became more varied in anatomy during the Paleocene epoch -- the 10 million years immediately following the event.

Senior author, Dr Anjali Goswami (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment), said: "When dinosaurs went extinct, a lot of competitors and predators of mammals disappeared, meaning that a great deal of the pressure limiting what mammals could do ecologically was removed. They clearly took advantage of that opportunity, as we can see by their rapid increases in body size and ecological diversity. Mammals evolved a greater variety of forms in the first few million years after the dinosaurs went extinct than in the previous 160 million years of mammal evolution under the rule of dinosaurs."

The Natural Environment Research Council-funded research, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, studied the early evolution of placental mammals, the group including elephants, sloths, cats, dolphins and humans. The scientists gained a deeper understanding of how the diversity of the mammals that roamed Earth before and after the dinosaur extinction changed as a result of that event.

Ornament - Red

How holly, ivy and mistletoe became associated with Christmas celebrations

Every year, almost without thinking about it, we incorporate certain plant species into out Christmas celebrations. The most obvious is the Christmas tree, linked historically in England to Prince Albert - but its use in British homes goes back to at least 1761 when Charlotte wife of George III put up a tree at the royal court.

(It's probably worth noting here that the first artificial-brush Christmas tree was produced using the same machinery that was originally designed to produce toilet brushes.)

Three other plants are intimately associated with Christmas: holly, ivy and mistletoe - and in all cases their ecology is closely linked to their cultural uses.


Untold history of Finland: Fascist origins, Russophobia and today's anti-Muslim hysteria

© Unknown
Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS (5. SS-Panzer-Division “Wiking”) in Tampere, Finland, 1943
The pen has been used to fix what the sword has ripped to shreds in our history.

- J.K Paasikivi
Every state that participated in the Second World War has written its history in support of national unity, with its narratives eliminating certain facts and emphasizing silence over controversial and 'unpleasant things'. This has resulted in the patriotic, religious and quasi-scientific mythologization of war events, and fomented a hysterical attitude towards anyone who disagrees with the official narratives. Today we are in a situation where those unpleasant things are unconsciously avoided because openly confronting them causes fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

A specific interpretation of history, in which absolute evil and blame for the war is projected onto the adversary, even decades later, becomes, for most people, 'how it was always so'. Conversely, 'absolute good' is measured by good deeds on behalf of the constituted authorities of the motherland, and done in the name of liberal-individualist 'freedom and democracy'. Such a black-and-white 'division of values' has no place for self-criticism, compassion/forgiveness, or openness to new ideas.

In Finland, we have been so strongly raised (conditioned) in this "patriotic" (i.e. non-questioning) way that even the slightest hint that our war-time leaders bear some responsibility for the war invites accusations of heresy and evokes strong emotional resistance in most, along with pronounced cognitive dissonance.

Selective memory theories and the Separate War Thesis

Finnish historian Heikki Ylikangas wrote, in Mitä on historia - ja millaista sen tutkiminen ('What is history and how is it researched'), about the factors hindering renewal of historical narratives, not least the control of research by policy-makers. Commenting on the 1939-1940 Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland, he wrote:
Even today, contemporary policy-makers limit the picture of the political background behind the Winter War. The hand of the clock that measures the progress of research on this issue is stuck in place. It is stuck at the point where Tanner, Ryti and Mannerheim penned their words on the matter. From the perspective of historical research by the amateurs of like mind in this field, and from the point of view of strongly biased people in legal research, a historical picture of the political background of the Winter War was constructed, which continues to be almost fully in force.
This is a very common problem in the writing of history. The closer the personal ties historians have with a topic, the more critical we should be about what they say. A classic example is the great effect Cicero and his writings have had in shaping today's perception of Julius Caesar: Many historians have ignored the fact that they were political rivals, which makes Cicero a very questionable source when building an objective portrait of Caesar. Ask yourself, would future societies get a realistic description of Russian President Vladimir Putin by only using American politicians and Western media as sources, or the fifth column of Russian 'opposition' leaders?


King Tut's half-sister may have nursed him, carving suggests

© Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities
Maia, whose tomb was discovered in 1996, is thought to be King Tutankhamun's wet nurse, but a new analysis of the space suggests she may also be his half sister, archaeologists said.
Egypt's famous "boy king," the pharaoh Tutankhamun, may have suckled at the breast of his half sister during his infancy, new research finds.

The announcement comes on the heels of a cleaning and analysis of the tomb of Maia (or Maya), King Tut's wet nurse. Researchers discovered the tomb in 1996 in Saqqara, an ancient burial ground about 19 miles (30 kilometers) south of Cairo, according to a statement posted yesterday (Dec. 20) on the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities' Facebook page.

In preparation for the public opening of Maia's tomb next month, the ministry organized a cleaning of the space. During this preparation, workers found a potsherd with the title "Great one of the Harim," inscribed on it, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty said in the statement.


King Tut's parents were cousins, not siblings: Researcher

Tracing King Tut's Roots

Parental Incest May Be Cause of King Tut's Short Life

King Tut's "Family Secrets" to be Unveiled from DNA


Sickle-wearing skeletons reveal ancient fear of demons

© Polcyn, et al.
This teenage girl was buried in a Polish cemetery with a sickle over her neck, possibly to ward off demons. She was also buried with a copper headband and a copper coin, archaeologists found.
How do you keep a demon from disturbing the living? A blade to the throat should do the trick.

A few skeletons unearthed in a 400-year-old Polish cemetery have been discovered with sickles placed around their necks. Archaeologists believe this strange burial practice is evidence of a belief in magic and a fear of demons.

The sickle burials were found at Drawsko cemetery, a site in northeastern Poland that dates from the 17th to the 18th centuries. Archaeologists, including Marek Polcyn, a visiting scholar at Lakehead University in Canada, have excavated more than 250 graves there since 2008.

Among those graves were four skeletons with sickles placed at their throats, and a fifth skeleton with a sickle placed over its hips. Previously, these burials had been described as "vampire" burials, with the sickles interpreted as a way to prevent the dead from reanimating and terrorizing the living. But in a new study detailed in the journal Antiquity, Polcyn and co-author Elzbieta Gajda, of the Muzeum Ziemi Czarnkowskiej, now reject that characterization. ("We deliberately dismiss the interpretation of a revenant (i.e. vampire)," isn't something you read in an academic paper every day.)