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Sherlock

Secret 19th century tunnels discovered underneath Alcatraz prison

Scientists have uncovered a series of 19th century tunnels underneath Alcatraz prison in San Francisco, California. The tunnels are part of a military fortress that used to stand where Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was built on an island in the San Francisco Bay. The fortress was built over and all remnants were thought to have been destroyed, until now, the BBC reported.
© Twitter
Using ground-penetrating technology, scientists from Texas A&M University found the fortress and tunnels under the ground in Alcatraz's recreation yard, where prison inmates would have spent a few minutes outdoors in the '30s. "(The tunnels) would have been used for the fortifications. There would have been movement of man and ammunition; it would have been bomb proof and covered with earth so it would have been protected," university professor Mark Everett told the BBC.

The team was able to use a ground-penetrating radar that scanned the ground under the yard, similar to how an X-ray scans the body, Everett told the BBC.
Bulb

Medieval candelabra hints at forgotten sea routes

Candelabra
© Marcus H. Hermanns
A 10th-century candelabra found near Ibiza, Spain.
A 10th-century candelabra found off the coast of the Spanish island of Ibiza may be a clue to long-forgotten shipping routes in that era.

But the candelabra's use and origin remain a stubborn mystery, researchers report in the journal Archivo Español de Arqueología. A new dive to the spot where the object was found in the 1970s revealed no real clues, so there is no context for understanding the find. Because the candelabra has been in the hands of private collectors, its restoration was also done differently than if it had been found by academic archaeologists.

"We are uncertain of its symbology and precise use," study leader Marcus Hermanns, of the German Archaeological Institute, in Madrid, said in a statement. "For instance, it shows no traces of burning ... because it was restored differently from those found in investigations. However, it was worthwhile to make the study known to the scientific community, because it might give clues on the importance of Ibiza in navigation routes."
Hourglass

Rare Neolithic or Bronze Age rock art in Ross-shire, Scotland

A rare example of prehistoric rock art has been uncovered in the Highlands.

© John Wombell
The rock decorated with cup and ring marks
Archaeologists made the discovery while moving a boulder decorated with ancient cup and ring marks to a new location in Ross-shire. When they turned the stone over they found the same impressions on the other side of the rock. It is one of only a few decorated stones of its kind. John Wombell, of North of Scotland Archaeological Society (NOSAS), said: "This is an amazing discovery."

Susan Kruse, of Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH), first discovered the stone at Heights of Fodderty several years ago when out walking. The second set of cup and ring marks were uncovered recently when archaeologists were moving the stone to a new site at nearby Heights of Brae Neil Gunn Viewpoint. From the Neolithic or Bronze Age, the art was created between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.

Archaeologists believe the markings may have been made for a number of reasons. These include for rituals, as territorial markers or mapping the stars. They could even be the "doodlings" of bored, ancient shepherds. Ms Kruse said: "Finding cup and ring decoration on the opposite side has raised a number of tantalising questions. "Was the decoration meant to be viewed from both sides or was one decorated side deliberately placed face down? "Or was the stone carved at different times?"
Info

Humans may have been stuck on Bering Strait for 10,000 years

Bering Strait land bridge
© NOAA
A view of the Bering Strait land bridge, as it would have appeared about 21,000 years ago. Humans probably migrated across the temporary link to the New World, recent genetic evidence suggests.
The ancestors of Native Americans may have lived on and around the Bering Strait for about 10,000 years before streaming into the Americas, researchers argue.

In the new Perspectives article, published today (Feb. 27) in the journal Science, the researchers compile existing data to support the idea, known as the Beringia standstill hypothesis.

Among that evidence is genetic data showing that founding populations of Native Americans diverged from their Asian ancestors more than 25,000 years ago. In addition, land in the region of the Bering Strait teemed with grasses to support big game (for food) and woody shrubs to burn in the cold climate, supporting a hard-scrabble existence for ancient people.

Given the hypothesis, archaeologists should look in regions of Alaska and the Russian Far East for traces of these ancient people's settlements, the authors argue.
Cheese

Ancient Chinese mummies carry evidence of oldest known cheese

Ancient Cheese
© Thinkstock
Some cheeses are best when they are aged for five or ten years, but any cheese that you eat today would be considered under-ripe if you base it against a cheese recently discovered in China.

Researchers from Germany's Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) have found what is being called the world's oldest cheese after discovering yellowish clumps on the necks and chests of Chinese mummies dating back to around 1615 BC.

An analysis of the clumps revealed that they are a lactose-free variety of cheese that was made quickly and conveniently.

Furthermore, the researchers believe the manufacturing process may have "played a role in the spread of herding and dairying across Asia," reports Traci Watson of USA Today.

"We not only identified the product as the earliest known cheese, but we also have direct ... evidence of ancient technology," said study author Andrej Shevchenko, an analytical chemist at MPI-CBG.

Shevchenko said the cheese, as were the mummies, remained well-preserved for so long due not only to the burial practices, but the region. The conditions at Small River Cemetery Number 5 in northwestern China's Taklamakan Desert, which was first documented in the 1930s, were perfect for preserving the dead.

The Bronze Age people of the area seemingly buried their dead atop a large sand dune near a now-dry river, interring their kin under what looks like large wooden boats. The researcher noted that these mummies seemed as if they were "vacuum-packed" because of the burial process, which included wrapping the boats tightly with cowhide.
Pirates

Taxation without Representation: The untold history of Washington, DC

Abby Martin then takes a look at the roots of the DC statehood movement, from the establishment of DC as the Federal City to the steps people can take to help support the movement today.

Hourglass

Spain's paleolithic Altamira cave to reopen

© Unknown
Visitors will have to comply with a strict dress code and wear special suits, masks and shoes.
The Altamira Cave in northern Spain and its well-preserved paintings will again be open to the public from Thursday, albeit to very small groups because of the spread of micro-organisms due to human visitors.

The cave located at Santillana del Mar, in the Cantabria region, was closed in 2002 after damages had been reported to its polychrome prehistoric paintings from the carbon dioxide in the breath of the large number of visitors.

In January the foundation which manages the cave, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, said it could reopen but only to groups of five people a week, and for 37 minutes, until August when the impact of the visits on the paintings would be reassessed.

The culture ministry in Madrid said that on Thursday a first group would be allowed into the cave and selected at random among visitors to the nearby museum.
Info

Gladiator school discovery in Austria reveals hard lives of ancient warriors

Gladiator Training School
© llustration courtesy M. Klein/7reasons
This illustration shows the almost-complete remains of a school for gladiators found at Carnuntum in eastern Austria.
Ancient Rome's gladiators lived and trained in fortress prisons, according to an international team of archaeologists who mapped a school for the famed fighters.

Discovered at the site of Carnuntum outside Vienna, Austria, the gladiatorial school, orludus gladiatorius, is the first one discovered outside the city of Rome. Now hidden beneath a pasture, the gladiator school was entirely mapped with noninvasive earth-sensing technologies. (See "Gladiator Training Camp.")

The discovery, reported Tuesday evening by the journal Antiquity, makes clear what sort of lives these famous ancient warriors led during the second century A.D. in the Roman Empire.

"It was a prison; they were prisoners," says University of Vienna archaeologist Wolfgang Neubauer, who led the study team. "They lived in cells, in a fortress with only one gate out."

The discovery shows that even outside Rome gladiators were "big business," Neubauer says. At least 80 gladiators, likely more, lived in the large, two-story facility equipped with a practice arena in its central courtyard. The site also included heated floors for winter training, baths, infirmaries, plumbing, and a nearby graveyard.
Info

Sultan of Schwing: How Moroccan ruler could sire 1,000 kids revealed

Sultan Moulay Ismaïl of Morocco
© Public Domain
Sultan Moulay Ismaïl of Morocco, "The Bloodthirsty," reigned from 1672 to 1727 and reputedly sired hundreds of children and perhaps more than a 1,000. (Shown here in a photographic reproduction of artwork.)
Sultan Moulay Ismaïl of Morocco, "The Bloodthirsty," reputedly sired hundreds of children and perhaps more than a 1,000. Now computer simulations suggest this could have been possible if the ruler had sex about once a day for 32 years.

Ismaïl, who reigned from 1672 to 1727, was the first great sultan of the Moroccan Alaouite dynasty, the current royal house of the kingdom. He was Sharifian - that is, he claimed descent from Muhammad, the founder of Islam.

Ismaïl's rule was the longest in Moroccan history, and toward its end he controlled the country with an army of more than 150,000 men. Ismaïl was infamously ruthless - his reign is said to have begun with the display of 400 heads at the city of Fez, most of them from enemy chiefs, and over the next 55 years it is estimated he killed more than 30,000 people, not including those in battle.

Any suspicion of adultery against Ismaïl was severely punished. The women were either strangled by the sultan himself, or their breasts were cut off, or their teeth torn out. Men who merely looked at one of his wives or concubines were punished by death.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Ismaïl fathered 888 children, the greatest number of progeny for anyone throughout history that can be verified.

Based on reports by Dominique Busnot, a French diplomat who frequently traveled to Morocco, the sultan may actually have had 1,171 children from four wives and 500 concubines by 1704. At that time, Ismaïl was 57 and had ruled for 32 years.

Some researchers claimed it was unlikely Ismaïl could have fathered that many offspring, noting that women are only fertile for a small window each month, that sperm usually do not fertilize eggs, and that infertility often afflicts women, especially in the developing world. However, other scientists argued women are more fertile than those doubting Ismaïl had said.
Treasure Chest

3,300-year-old silver earrings found at biblical site

© Gabi Laron
The dissected earrings and other contents of a silver hoard found at Abel Beth Maacah.
Earthenware jug containing five complete earrings and ingots from the late Bronze Age discovered near Israel's border with Lebanon

Archaeologists digging in northern Israel found a silver treasure trove at a site associated with the biblical city of Abel Beth Maacah, located just south of the modern border with Lebanon.

Sitting at the headwaters of the Jordan on a tell overlooking the Hula Valley, Abel Beth Maacah was an Iron Age town on the northern marches of the Israelite kingdom. The Book of Kings chronicles its conquest by Ben-hadad I of Damascus in the early 9th century BCE and by Neo-Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III in 733 BCE.

During excavations in the summer of 2013, a team of archaeologists from Azusa Pacific University and Hebrew University found a massive stone structure, "possibly a tower that was part of a fortification" overlooking the Hula Valley, according to a article recently published in the journal Strata.

Near the base of the massive structure, whose purpose is not yet clear, the team found "several basalt ring weights, parts of a collared-rim jar and a complete jug." Most astonishing, however, was "a small jug that contained a silver hoard composed of earrings and ingots." Based on the pottery surrounding the small jug, archaeologists date the tiny trove to the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age - around 3,300 years ago - the period associated with emergence of the Israelites.
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