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Sat, 13 Feb 2016
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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.

Info

Could a human not in our species still exist?

© Darren Curnoe, Ji Xueping, Peter Schouten
Shown are human remains from the Red Deer Cave people and an artist's reconstruction of a Red Deer Cave man.
An ancient species of human from China, thought to be long extinct, likely survived until at least the last Ice Age 14,000 years ago, new research finds.

Since the timeframe of these so-called Red Deer Cave people, as well as Homo floresiensis (aka Hobbit humans) from Indonesia, overlapped for many years with that of Homo sapiens, it is possible -- however remote -- that a human not in our species could still exist.

"It's always possible that a pre-modern human population still exists somewhere in the world," associate professor Darren Curnoe from The University of New South Wales, who co-led the new study of the Red Deer Cave people fossils, told Discovery News.

"New species are being found all of the time by scientists, but with a large-bodied species like humans, you would think it would be difficult to miss, that someone would have reported it or a scientist found it somewhere (already)," added Curnoe. "My guess is if any did exist -- and I'm doubtful -- it would be in a remote place like Siberia, but some very grandiose claims have been made about Yetis and other creatures being Neanderthals surviving today in places like Siberia."

Boat

Sword and shipwreck discovered in Oak Island, Nova Scotia suggest Roman mariners visited New World thousands of years before Columbus

© Credit: Farhad Vladia / Panoramio
Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Inset: The Roman sword found in water just off the mysterious Oak Island, Nova Scotia.
Researchers investigating the mysterious Oak Island, located on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada, have made a startling announcement regarding the discovery of a Roman ceremonial sword and what is believed to be a Roman shipwreck, radically suggesting that ancient mariners visited North America more than a thousand years before Columbus.

Evidence of the finding, which was exclusively revealed to Johnston Press and published in The Boston Standard, was uncovered by researchers involved in The History Channel's series Curse of Oak Island, which details the efforts of two brothers from Michigan as they attempt to solve the mystery of the Oak Island treasure and discover historical artifacts believed to be concealed on the island.

J. Hutton Pulitzer, lead researcher and historic investigator, along with academics from the Ancient Artifact Preservation Society, have compiled a paper on the finding, which is scheduled to be published in full in early 2016.

Comment: Laura Knight-Jadczyk, in her must-read and well-researched book The Secret History of The World and How To Get Out Alive sheds some light on Oak Island's mysteries.


Sherlock

Pyramid secret chambers sought using cosmic rays

© Philippe Bourseiller
Muon-detecting plates are placed within the Bent Pyramid.
Some 40 plates have been planted inside the Bent Pyramid in Dahshur in an attempt to capture cosmic particles, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced early today.

The installation is part of an ambitious project using muons, or cosmic particles, to investigate Egypt's main pyramids. The aim is to detect the presence of unknown internal structures and cavities within the pyramids and learn about the monuments' construction techniques.

Called ScanPyramids, the study is in its first stage and is being carried out by a team from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based non-profit organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.