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Evil-thwarting "rattles" found in prehistoric infant's grave

© Yury Esin
This infant lived around 4,500 years ago and was buried in a birchbark cradle with eight intricately carved figurines. The infant also wears headgear made from 11 copper plaques sewn together.
Tiny figurines that may have been used as rattling toys or charms to ward off evil spirits were discovered in the grave of an infant dating back 4,500 years, archaeologists say.

The burial was discovered on the northwest shore of Lake Itkul in the Minusinsk basinin Russia. The infant's remains, which were found in what appears to be a birchbark cradle, suggest he or she was less than a year old at death. On the infant's chest, archaeologists found "eight miniature horn figurines representing humanlike characters and heads of birds, elk, boar and a carnivore,"wrote archaeologists Andrey Polyakov and Yury Esin, in an article published recently in the journal Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia.

The intricately carved figurines were likely made from deer antlers and have traces of red paint on them. "Some of [the figurines] have internal cavities and, upon coming in contact with each other, could produce noisy sounds like modern rattles," wrote Polyakov, of the Institute for the History of Material Culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Esin, of the Khakassian Research Institute of Language, Literature and History.

Sun

Newgrange, Ireland's Stone Age megalithic monument

© NASA
Solstice sunrise light entering the Newgrange monument, a photo by Cyril Byrne of the Irish Times
Today, the Irish and visitors celebrated the Winter Solstice as they did thousands of years ago at Newgrange, a huge Stone Age megalithic monument into the deepest part of whose main chamber the sun shines at sunrise. This year about 30,000 people participated in a lottery, from whom 50 were chosen, to be in the 5,000-year-old monument at sunrise to witness the primeval event the mornings of Dec. 18 to 23.

While the monument near the Boyne River in County Meath is open all year and is one of Ireland's most popular attractions, it draws special international attention today.

Newgrange predates the great pyramids at Giza in Egypt by some 500 years and Stonehenge by about 1,000 years. When it was built, sunrise on the shortest day of the year, what we now call December 21, entered the main chamber precisely at sunrise. Experts say it is not by chance that the sun shines there. Now it enters about four minutes after sunrise because of changes in the Earth's orbiting of the sun since then.

Info

Oldest known tattoos found on Oetzi, the Iceman

© Strictly copyrighted Museo Archeologico dell’Alto Adige. www.iceman.it
A tattoo is visible on the Iceman's wrist.
Oetzi, the Tyrolean Iceman entombed beneath an alpine glacier some 5,300 years ago, is the oldest tattooed human, according to a new study.

The mummy boasts tattoos grouped across 19 body parts. Earlier this year, Marco Samadelli and colleagues from the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, Italy, spotted a new tattoo on the mummified body, bringing the total count of the Iceman's skin markings up to 61.

Published in the February 2016 edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, the research reveals how an error in reading radiocarbon data wrongly attributed the record to an unidentified South American mummy.

The mummy, sporting dotted mustache-like markings across the upper lip, was one of 96 bodies recovered in 1983 from El Morro, Chile. Researchers identified the naturally mummified remains as belonging to a Chinchorro male who died between 35 - 40 years of age.

They named the mummy "Mo-1 T28 C22."

The mustache-like tattoo simply consisted of eight black dots across the upper lip to the left side of the nose and four dots to the right side.

The South American mummy belonged to the Chinchorro, a preceramic fishing society that lived in the coastal regions of southern Peru and Chile between 9,000 and 3,100 years ago. Their burials feature both natural and artificial mummification, making them the oldest known human mummies.

The reported age of the mummy was around 4000 B.C., making his dotted tattoos the oldest known.

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Religion and politics led to social tension and conflict, then and now

© Nick Russet
Associate Professor Sarah Barber found evidence in several Mexican archeological sites that contradict the long-held belief that religion acted to unite early state societies. It often had the opposite effect, the study says.
Humans haven't learned much in more than 2,000 years when it comes to religion and politics.

Religion has led to social tension and conflict, not just in today's society, but dating back to 700 B.C. according to a new study published in Current Anthropology.

University of Colorado anthropology Professor Arthur A. Joyce and University of Central Florida Associate Professor Sarah Barber found evidence in several Mexican archeological sites that contradict the long-held belief that religion acted to unite early state societies. It often had the opposite effect, the study says.

"It doesn't matter if we today don't share particular religious beliefs, but when people in the past acted on their beliefs, those actions could have real, material consequences," Barber said about the team's findings. "It really behooves us to acknowledge religion when considering political processes."

Sounds like sage advice in today's world that has multiple examples of politics and religion intersecting and resulting in conflict.

Question

Mysterious Dighton Rock: Who made the petroglyphs on it?


An 1853 reversed image of Seth Eastman (known for documenting Native American life in the 1800s) on top of the boulder known as Dighton Rock.
Are the symbols on the Dighton Rock Native American? Norse? Phoenician? Chinese? Portuguese? Japanese? All or none of the above? There have been numerous theories about who carved the inscriptions found on the 40-ton boulder in Massachusetts, USA. Nonetheless, no one has been able to say with certainty who first wrote on the rock, what they wanted to communicate, or why.

Description of Dighton Rock

The Dighton Rock is a 40-ton boulder that arrived to the Taunton River during the melting of the glaciers during the last ice age. It measures 5 feet (1.5 meters) high, 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) wide, and 11 feet (3.4 meters) long, and is made of gray-brown crystalline sandstone.

What has drawn attention about the great boulder is not the size, but the petroglyphs across one of its six sides. These carvings have been the inspiration for over 1000 books and articles, and the basis for over 35 hypotheses. Although no one can say for certain who was/were the maker(s) of the inscriptions on the petroglyph, it has been agreed that they certainly are very old and very real.

Snakes in Suits

Why slavery is the foundation of American capitalism

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in America and contrary to popular belief, slavery is not a product of Western capitalism; Western capitalism is a product of slavery.

The expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American Independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States.

Historian Edward Baptist illustrates how in the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy.

Through torture and punishment slave owners extracted greater efficiencies from slaves which allowed the United States to seize control of the world market for cotton, the key raw material of the Industrial Revolution, and become a prosperous and powerful nation.

Comment: Indeed, not much seems to have changed in the "land of the free":


Question

Red Deer Cave: Mysterious humanoid species may have intermingled with early humans in China

© YouTube
Red Deer Cave people
A 4,000-year-old thigh bone suggests a mysterious prehistoric humanoid species may have lived alongside humans in southwest China.

The partial femur was discovered in Maludong, or Red Deer Cave, in 1989, but researchers recently published their analysis of the finding in the journal PLoS One,reported Sci-News.com.

The thigh bone is small like the primitive species Homo habilis, with a narrow shaft, and thin outer layer, but the walls of the shaft are reinforced in high-stress areas and the primary flexor muscle is very large and faces backwards, researchers said.

The Maludong humanoid likely weighed about 110 pounds, which is considered very small by pre-modern and Ice Age human standards.

"The find hints at the possibility a pre-modern species may have overlapped in time with modern humans on mainland East Asia, but the case needs to be built up slowly with more bone discoveries," said study co-author Darren Curnoe, of the University of New South Wales.

Info

6th century Ramayana discovered in Kolkata - twist in the story intrigues scholars

The new 6th century Ramayana discovered at a Sanskrit library in Kolkata has the potential to widen our understanding of this Indian epic.
© India Today
A 6th-century manuscript of Ramayana, which focuses on the separation of Rama and Sita and portrays them more as humans, has been found tucked inside a Purana at a Sanskrit library here. It is markedly different from the more accepted 4 BC Valmiki Ramayana. The 12th-century rendition by Tamil poet Kamba is generally considered the second oldest among the more popular versions. However, now that may change.

The 6th-century manuscript was discovered purely by chance. Scholars working on the 6th-century Vanhi (fire) Purana at the Asiatic Society library were puzzled to find that the manuscript seemed incomplete. They began looking through the Catalogus Catalogorum - a global repository of Sanskrit manuscripts compiled by German scholar Aufrecht - and realized two more identical manuscripts existed.One was preserved at the India Office Library, London; the second at the Kolkata-based Samskrita Sahitya Parishad, a 100-year-old research institution.

The scholars scoured the archives and found the complete version of the Vanhi Purana manuscript. When they were analyzing it, they stumbled upon the Dasa Griba Rakshash Charitram Vadha, which did not have any bearing with the Vanhi Purana. For some time they could not understand why the slokas of the Purana suddenly started telling another story - albeit a familiar one, as the main characters were Rama, Sita and Ravana. Before long, they realized it was a 6th-century version with many interpolations.

Sherlock

Early captive carnivore remains found in ancient Mexican ruins

© Plos Blogs
From Roman gladiatorial combat to Egyptian animal mummies, capturing and manipulating wild carnivores has long been a way for humans to demonstrate state or individual power. Historians and scientists alike have attempted to determine when humans first began to use carnivores to establish their place on the social ladder, one of the earliest examples being Moctezuma's 14th century zoo at the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. A recent PLOS ONE study, however, reveals evidence from the ruins of the Mexican city of Teotihuacan that may push back the date of captivating carnivores by 1000 years.

Between the first and sixth centuries A.D., Teotihuacan was one of the largest and most powerful urban cities in Mesoamerica and was home to at least 25,000 people. When the city reached the height of its influence around 1300-1500 A.D., its architects designed massive temples to show off the city's power. The ruins of three of these incredible temples still stand: the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Pyramid of the Moon.

During excavations from 1998-2004, the authors of this study found rare artifacts and human and animal remains in chambers in the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. The authors focused the present study on the 194 animal remains, as they are evidence of one of the largest known animal sacrifices in Mesoamerica.

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Ancient Egyptians described Algol's eclipses

© Lauri Jetsu
Inside the superimposed rectangle is the hierarchic writing for the word "Horus".
The Ancient Egyptian papyrus Cairo 86637 calendar is the oldest preserved historical document of naked eye observations of a variable star, the eclipsing binary Algol -- a manifestation of Horus, a god and a king. This calendar contains lucky or unlucky prognoses for each day of one year. Researchers have performed a statistical analysis of the Cairo Calendar mythological texts.

Their analysis revealed that the periods of Algol (2.85 days) and the Moon (29.6 days) strongly regulate the actions of deities in this calendar.

"Until now, there were only conjectures that many of the mythological texts of the Cairo Calendar describe astronomical phenomena. We can now unambiguously ascertain that throughout the whole year the actions of many deities in the Cairo Calendar are connected to the regular changes of Algol and the Moon," says Master of Science Sebastian Porceddu.

This research confirms that the first variable star, as well as its period, were discovered much earlier than was previously thought. These two "classical" milestones in the history of natural sciences need to be shifted three millennia backwards in time to 1244 -- 1163 BC.