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Mysterious structure discovered beneath Sea of Galilee

Mystery Structure_1
© Deror Avi/Wikimedia
This shot of the Sea of Galilee was taken near the old city of Tiberias. The newly discovered structure is located just to the south.
A giant "monumental" stone structure discovered beneath the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Israel has archaeologists puzzled as to its purpose and even how long ago it was built.

The mysterious structure is cone shaped, made of "unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders," and weighs an estimated 60,000 tons the researchers said. That makes it heavier than most modern-day warships.

Rising nearly 32 feet (10 meters) high, it has a diameter of about 230 feet (70 meters). To put that in perspective, the outer stone circle of Stonehenge has a diameter just half that with its tallest stones not reaching that height.

It appears to be a giant cairn, rocks piled on top of each other. Structures like this are known from elsewhere in the world and are sometimes used to mark burials. Researchers do not know if the newly discovered structure was used for this purpose.

The structure was first detected in the summer of 2003 during a sonar survey of the southwest portion of the sea. Divers have since been down to investigate, they write in the latest issue of the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

"Close inspection by scuba diving revealed that the structure is made of basalt boulders up to 1 m (3.2 feet) long with no apparent construction pattern," the researchers write in their journal article. "The boulders have natural faces with no signs of cutting or chiselling. Similarly, we did not find any sign of arrangement or walls that delineate this structure." [See Photos of the Mysterious Sea of Galilee Structure]

They say it is definitely human-made and probably was built on land, only later to be covered by the Sea of Galilee as the water level rose. "The shape and composition of the submerged structure does not resemble any natural feature. We therefore conclude that it is man-made and might be termed a cairn," the researchers write.
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Truth behind Gospel of Judas revealed in ancient inks

The Gospel of Judas
© Joseph Barabe, McCrone Associates, Inc
The Gospel of Judas, a text dated to about A.D. 280, tells the story of Judas as a collaborator with Jesus instead of a betrayer.
A long-lost gospel that casts Judas as a co-conspirator of Jesus, rather than a betrayer, was ruled most likely authentic in 2006. Now, scientists reveal they couldn't have made the call without a series of far more mundane documents, including Ancient Egyptian marriage licenses and property contracts.

The Gospel of Judas is a fragmented Coptic (Egyptian)-language text that portrays Judas in a far more sympathetic light than did the gospels that made it into the Bible. In this version of the story, Judas turns Jesus over to the authorities for execution upon Jesus' request, as part of a plan to release his spirit from his body. In the accepted biblical version of the tale, Judas betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

As part of a 2006 National Geographic Society (the Society) investigation of the document, microscopist Joseph Barabe of McCrone Associates in Illinois and a team of researchers analyzed the ink on the tattered gospel to find out if it was real or forged. Some of the chemicals in the ink raised red flags - until Barabe and his colleagues found, at the Louvre Museum, a study of Egyptian documents from the third century A.D., the same time period of the Gospal of Judas.

"What the French study told us is that ink technology was undergoing a transition," Barabe told LiveScience. The Gospel of Judas' odd ink suddenly fit into place.
Pyramid

Djehuty Project uncovers significant evidence of the 17th dynasty of ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt
© Spanish National Research Council
The Djehuty Project, led by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), has discovered on the hill of Dra Abu el-Naga in Luxor (ancient Thebes), the burials of four personages belonging to the elite of the 17th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, who lived about 3.550 years ago.

These findings, discovered during the 12th campaign of archeological excavations of the project, shed light on a little-known historical period in which Thebes becomes the capital of the kingdom and the empire's foundations become established with the dominance of Egypt over Palestine and Syria to the north, and over Nubia to the south.

The project is led by the CSIC researcher José Manuel Galán, from the Institute of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (ILC), and funded by Unión Fenosa Gas and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.

The 17th Dynasty belongs to the historical period called Second Intermediate Period of Egypt (between 1800 and 1550 BC), characterized by the hegemony of rulers of Syrian-Palestinian origin settled in the eastern Delta. This is a period of great political complexity in which the monarchy did not control all the territory and the real power was in the hands of local rulers.
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Massive archeological find points to origins of civilization

Ancient Ur
© Stuart Campbell/University of Manchester
This photo taken on March 31, 2013 photo provided by Manchester University professor Stuart Campbell shows excavation in progress at Tell Khaiber, Iraq. A British archaeologist says he and his colleagues have unearthed a huge, rare complex near the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq, home of the biblical Abraham. Stuart Campbell of Manchester University's Archaeology Department says it goes back about 4,000 years, around the time Abraham would have lived there. It's believed to be an administrative center for Ur.
A team of British archaeologists from the University of Manchester has discovered what they believe to be a large building complex underground in an area of Iraq near Tell Khaiber. Using a satellite, the team spotted the 87-yard-long building before confirming its presence by way of geographical survey and trial excavations. They now believe this 4,000-year-old building could have had a critical function in Ur, one of the world's earliest cities.

"This is a breathtaking find and we feel privileged to be the first to work at this important site," explained Professor Stuart Campbell, the head of the University of Manchester archeology department.

This small team also feels privileged to be the first group of British archeologists to dig in South Iraq since the discovery of the Royal Tombs in the 1920s by Sir Leonard Woolley.

"It has been off-limits to international archaeologists for many decades, so the opportunity of re-engaging with the study of the earliest cities is a truly exciting one," said Campbell.

According to the University, this building features a collection of rooms and a small courtyard outside. The entire complex is situated about 12 miles away from the ancient city of Ur.
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Clamshells reveal secrets of pre-Columbian society's decline

Moche Pottery
© Juan Carlos Martins
Moche pottery.

Dramatic changes in the ocean's environment could be one of the reasons why the Moche, an early pre-Columbian civilization in Peru, fell apart over 1000 years ago.

Upwelling of cold, deep water diminished because of changes in El Niño in the Pacific, and interrelated climate changes upset the life of the Moche (pronounced Mo-CHAY) in ways that undermined their social structure and life so badly that within a few generations, their society collapsed.

The history of that social catastrophe is told in clamshells, which reveal the local climate much like tree rings can.

The Moche Empire didn't suddenly collapse, said Fred Andrus, a geologist at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa.

"The people adapted but did it in a way that was uncomfortable," he said. "They faced a series of challenges and dealt with them in ways that must have been difficult, and unpleasant."

The stable societies they built could not cope with the difficulties. Civil wars may have broken out, along with civil unrest. After a couple of centuries of upheaval new social organizations replaced the old, and the Moche simply became a different people, a culture known as the Chimu.
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Bones from time of Christ reveal a brutal history

Skull
© Ejvind Hertz/Skanderborg Museum
Among the remains found at an archeological site in what is now Aiken, Denmark is a skull from early Roman Empire times.
In the days of ancient Rome, it was never a good idea to send amateurs to pacify the Germanic tribes. The Emperor Augustus found this out in A.D. 9, when his handpicked crony, Varus, blundered into a series of ambushes in the Teutoburg Forest and lost about 20,000 men in three days.

Several years later, another Roman army stopped at that battlefield, a bit south of the modern German city of Bremen, to clean up the scene. According to the historian Tacitus, they found "bleaching bones, scattered or in little heaps," while "hard by lay splintered spears and limbs of horses." Human skulls "were nailed prominently on the tree-trunks." There were "gibbets and torture pits for the prisoners," and "in the neighboring groves stood the savage altars at which they [the Germanic tribes] had slaughtered the tribunes and chief centurions." Varus had fallen on his sword after the battle, either out of shame or because he was terrified. It was impossible to know which.

Scattered archaeological evidence has long suggested that the warriors of ancient Germania were not kind-hearted in victory. But new evidence suggests just how grisly things were at about the time of Christ, when an aggressive and well-organized young Roman empire was trying - ultimately, unsuccessfully - to subdue the equally aggressive inhabitants of Germania.

A Danish team, working in a bog about 325 miles south of the site of the Roman massacre, is analyzing the recently excavated remains of 40 men, part of a larger contingent of as many as 200 soldiers, whose bodies were apparently hacked to bits and thrown into the shallows of Lake Mosso after a battle that took place between German rivals, probably a few years before the Varus massacre. The Alken bog, lying today beneath a lakeside meadow, conceals the largest concentration of apparent war dead ever found from that era. These findings, added to artifacts from other sites and the writings of the ancient Romans, are supplying insights into a warlord culture of fiercely egalitarian German tribes that fought constantly, routinely slaughtered their enemies and offered their bodies - and their weapons - to their gods.
Sherlock

Trove of Neanderthal bones found in Greek cave

A trove of Neanderthal fossils including bones of children and adults, discovered in a cave in Greece hints the area may have been a key crossroad for ancient humans, researchers say. The timing of the fossils suggests Neanderthals and humans may have at least had the opportunity to interact, or cross paths, there, the researchers added.

Neanderthals are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, apparently even occasionally interbreeding with our ancestors. Neanderthals entered Europe before modern humans did, and may have lasted there until about 35,000 years ago, although recent findings have called this date into question.
© Katerina Harvati et al.
Map of Greece (left) showing the approximate position of Kalamakia cave (right, shown with excavated sediments) and other sites with human remains in the Mani peninsula.
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Study shows Shakespeare as ruthless businessman

Shakespeare
© KLEWTV.com
William Shakespeare
London - Hoarder, moneylender, tax dodger - it's not how we usually think of William Shakespeare.

But we should, according to a group of academics who say the Bard was a ruthless businessman who grew wealthy dealing in grain during a time of famine.

Researchers from Aberystwyth University in Wales argue that we can't fully understand Shakespeare unless we study his often-overlooked business savvy.

"Shakespeare the grain-hoarder has been redacted from history so that Shakespeare the creative genius could be born," the researchers say in a paper due to be delivered at the Hay literary festival in Wales in May.

Jayne Archer, a lecturer in medieval and Renaissance literature at Aberystwyth, said that oversight is the product of "a willful ignorance on behalf of critics and scholars who I think - perhaps through snobbery - cannot countenance the idea of a creative genius also being motivated by self-interest."

Archer and her colleagues Howard Thomas and Richard Marggraf Turley combed through historical archives to uncover details of the playwright's parallel life as a grain merchant and property owner in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon whose practices sometimes brought him into conflict with the law.
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Pluto's gate uncovered in Turkey

Plutonium
© Francesco D'Andria
A digital illustration shows the ancient Plutonium, celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology.
A "gate to hell" has emerged from ruins in southwestern Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced.

Known as Pluto's Gate -- Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin -- the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.

Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors.

"This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death," the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC -- about 24 AD) wrote. "I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell," he added.

Announced this month at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, Turkey, the finding was made by a team led by Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento.
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First love child of human, Neanderthal found?

Neanderthal
© Corbis
The skeletal remains of an individual living in northern Italy 40,000-30,000 years ago are believed to be that of a human/Neanderthal hybrid, according to a paper in PLoS ONE.

If further analysis proves the theory correct, the remains belonged to the first known such hybrid, providing direct evidence that humans and Neanderthals interbred. Prior genetic research determined the DNA of people with European and Asian ancestry is 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal.

The present study focuses on the individual's jaw, which was unearthed at a rock-shelter called Riparo di Mezzena in the Monti Lessini region of Italy. Both Neanderthals and modern humans inhabited Europe at the time.

"From the morphology of the lower jaw, the face of the Mezzena individual would have looked somehow intermediate between classic Neanderthals, who had a rather receding lower jaw (no chin), and the modern humans, who present a projecting lower jaw with a strongly developed chin," co-author Silvana Condemi, an anthropologist, told Discovery News.

Condemi is the CNRS research director at the University of Ai-Marseille. She and her colleagues studied the remains via DNA analysis and 3D imaging. They then compared those results with the same features from Homo sapiens.

The genetic analysis shows that the individual's mitochondrial DNA is Neanderthal. Since this DNA is transmitted from a mother to her child, the researchers conclude that it was a "female Neanderthal who mated with male Homo sapiens."
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