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Clues to prehistoric human exploration found in sweet potato genome

Sweet Potatoes
© iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Well-traveled. - South American sweet potatoes became a staple crop in Polynesia at least 500 years before Columbus's first voyage.
Europeans raced across oceans and continents during the Age of Exploration in search of territory and riches. But when they reached the South Pacific, they found they had been beaten there by a more humble traveler: the sweet potato. Now, a new study suggests that the plant's genetics may be the key to unraveling another great age of exploration, one that predated European expansion by several hundred years and remains an anthropological enigma.

Humans domesticated the sweet potato in the Peruvian highlands about 8000 years ago, and previous generations of scholars believed that Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced the crop to Southeast Asia and the Pacific beginning in the 16th century. But in recent years, archaeologists and linguists have accumulated evidence supporting another hypothesis: Premodern Polynesian sailors navigated their sophisticated ships all the way to the west coast of South America and brought the sweet potato back home with them.

The oldest carbonized sample of the crop found by archaeologists in the Pacific dates to about 1000 C.E. - nearly 500 years before Columbus's first voyage. What's more, the word for "sweet potato" in many Polynesian languages closely resembles the Quechua word for the plant.

Studying the genetic lineage of the sweet potato directly has proved difficult, however. European traders exported varieties of sweet potato from Mexico and the Caribbean to the Pacific, and those breeds mixed with the older Polynesian varieties, obscuring their genetic history. Therefore, it's difficult to apply information culled from modern samples to older varieties without a prehistoric control.
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Toothy tumor found in 1,600-year-old Roman corpse

Corpse Tumor
© International Journal of Paleopathology
Archaeologists working at the site of La Fogonussa near Lleida, in Spain, have uncovered an ancient female skeleton with an odd tumor embedded with teeth hidden in her pelvis.
In a necropolis in Spain, archaeologists have found the remains of a Roman woman who died in her 30s with a calcified tumor in her pelvis, a bone and four deformed teeth embedded within it.

Two of the teeth are still attached to the wall of the tumor researchers say.

The woman, who died some 1,600 years ago, had a condition known today as an ovarian teratoma which, as its name indicates, occurs in the ovaries . The word Teratoma comes from the Greek words "teras" and "onkoma" which translate to "monster" and "swelling," respectively. The tumor is about 1.7 inches (44 millimeters) in diameter at its largest point.

"Ovarian teratomas are bizarre, but benign tumors," writes lead researcher Núria Armentano, of the ANTROPÒLEGS.LAB company and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, in an email to LiveScience.

The tumors come from germ cells, which form human eggs and can create hair, teeth and bone, among other structures.

This is the first time scientists have found this type of teratoma in the ancient world.

"[T]his is an extraordinary case, not only for its antiquity, but also its identification in the archeological record," writes the research team in a paper published recently in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

The woman lived at a time of decline for the Roman Empire, with new groups (popularly known as the "barbarians") moving into Roman territory, eventually taking over Spain and other areas.
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A giant mystery: 18 strange giant skeletons found in Wisconsin: Sons of god; Men of renown

Giant Skeletons_2
© SouthMilwaukeeNow
Here's one for your "Forbidden Archaeology" file.Scientists are remaining stubbornly silent about a lost race of giants found in burial mounds near Lake Delavan, Wisconsin, in May 1912. The dig site at Lake Delavan was overseen by Beloit College and it included more than 200 effigy mounds that proved to be classic examples of 8th century Woodland Culture. But the enormous size of the skeletons and elongated skulls found in May 1912 did not fit very neatly into anyone's concept of a textbook standard. They were enormous. These were not average human beings.

Strange Skulls

First reported in the 4 May 1912 issue of the New York Times the 18 skeletons found by the Peterson brothers on Lake Lawn Farm in southwest Wisconsin exhibited several strange and freakish features.

Their heights ranged between 7.6ft and 10 feet and their skulls "presumably those of men, are much larger than the heads of any race which inhabit America to-day." They tend to have a double row of teeth, 6 fingers, 6 toes and like humans came in differant races. The teeth in the front of the jaw are regular molars. Heads usually found are elongated believed due to longer than normal life span.

" One must wonder how much can they lift if twice the size of a average human today? Are these the Giants the Bible & many other civilizations have in their history and painted on their walls. The Bible in Genisis 6:4 " There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old men of renown. " Now this is faulty logic to any scientist out there because I am using religous/cultural history to fill a hole in science.

Over 200 Giant digs have been found in recent years. Giant skeleton finds have not made the local/national news since the 1950's for the most part. It seems in most peoples opinion do to the fear that people would question evolution . If anything a de-evolution.

In 2002, National Geographic reported a dozen Cyclops skeletons found in Greece that stood 12-15 1/2 Ft tall. That is 3 humans tall. One eye socket. Giants in history are typically cannibalistic in nature. The reason why I am bringing up giants will all tie into politics, and word happenings. Look at a basketball hoop and add 5 feet. That tall. Greek Mythology talks about war with cyclops learning they had to bring down by taking out their legs rendering them slow and helpless. American Giants (Red Hair Giants) where found with egyptian writing on their tombs have been found in multiple locations.
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Grapes of Wrath: The Fall River/Dighton mystery

Skeleton
© WhoForted?
Original sketch of the Skeleton in Armor republished in 1953 by the Fall River Herald News.
By now, it's a well-accepted fact that the Vikings beat Columbus to the New World (i.e. North America) by a couple hundred years. Settlements have been found in Newfoundland along the Eastern Canadian coast. But exactly how far south they traveled in North America is still a mystery. But could a buried warrior and a strange stone hold the key to the mystery, or is it just the tip of an archaeological iceberg?

Fall River, Massachusetts, is perhaps best known for the violent double homicide leading to the murder trial of Lizzie Borden, but 50 years before that crime, the town was made famous by another shocking headline. Near the present site of New England Gas Company where 5th Street meets Hartwell, workmen excavating a hill uncovered a skeleton in a shallow grave in 1831. According to a contemporary account published in 1839 for American Monthly Magazine, the skeleton was buried in a sitting position encased in coarse bark with its head one foot below ground level. It appears the young man had possibly been mummified either naturally or intentionally ("The preservation of this body may be the result of some embalming process, and this hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that the skin has the appearance of having been tanned...") and wrapped in a coarse cloth resembling burlap. He wore a large brass breastplate across his chest, and around his waist was
"...a belt composed of brass tubes, each four and a half inches in length and three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter... the length of the tube being the width of the belt. The tubes are of thin brass, cast upon hollow reeds, and were fastened together by pieces of sinew... The arrows are of brass, thin, flat, and triangular in shape, with a round hole cut through near the base. The shaft was fastened to the head by inserting the latter in an opening at the end of the wood, and then tying it with a sinew through the round hole, a mode of constructing the weapon never practiced by the Indians..."
There is some historical debate as to the last statement. Brass was not unfamiliar to native tribes who had been known to trade goods for brass kettles which they melted down for arrowheads and adornments in the 1600s. One brass tube was donated to Copenhagen's Peabody Museum in 1887; analysis revealed it was indeed brass. Without modern dating techniques, though, the age of the skeleton couldn't be determined. Some people insisted it was some lost Indian chief. Others suggested it was undoubtedly Phoenician and proved that some forgotten Mediterranean peoples had crossed the Atlantic and formed the mythical Atlantis "beyond the Pillars of Hercules" (or Rock of Gibraltar) as recorded by Plato. Others insisted it was just a hoax.
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Evidence of the Gods - Islands in the Pacific

Moeraki boulders
© New Page Books
Ancient humans had the natural urge to document the world in which they lived, a fact that is evident in the cave paintings from various sites around the world that all seem to depict the same things. Did the peoples of the prehistoric world have contact with each other? Is it possible that some were transported to far-flung locations in what our ancestors could only have described as "flying chariots"? Here is an excerpt from Erich von Däniken's latest book, Evidence of the Gods: A Visual Tour of Alien Influence in the Ancient World.

Boulders on the Beach

North of Dunedin in New Zealand, there are about 100 spherical boulders lying on Moeraki Beach. The largest has a diameter of 3.16 meters. These giant geodes are literally flushed out of the rock, roll a few meters, come to a halt, and are then washed over by the daily tides. Many have broken apart, crumbling away as the result of the action of wind and waves. No one has any idea how many of the boulders have already been swallowed by the surf, worn down over thousands of years. Yet the rock keeps flushing out new boulders from the sediment as if a rock mother were laying eggs.
Boat

Storms turn up lard from WWII shipwreck

WWII Lard
© Scottish Natural Heritage
After storms lashed Scotland over the holidays, decades-old lard from a World War II shipwreck washed up at St. Cyrus, a beach about 100 miles (160 km) north of Edinburgh.
After storms lashed Scotland over the holidays, some strange World War II-era relics turned up on the country's chilly coast, including decades-old lard from a shipwreck and bunker blocks buried on a beach, local officials said.

At St. Cyrus Natural Reserve, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Edinburgh, four large chunks of lard washed up after the storms. Though their wooden containers disintegrated long ago, the lard chunks retained their barrel shape, and they were still bright white under a thick crust of barnacles, local officials said.

"The depth of the swell during the storms we had over the holidays must have broke apart the shipwreck some more and caused the lard to escape," Therese Alampo, manager at the reserve, said in a statement from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

"It's given us some interesting sights recently on the reserve: I'm sure there have been people wondering what on earth has washed up on the beach. The lard was covered in the largest barnacles I've ever seen," Alampo added. "Animals, including my dog, have certainly enjoyed the lard, and it still looks and smells good enough to have a fry-up with!"

Vicki Mowat of SNH explained to LiveScience in an email that scientists haven't examined at the lard and the story of its origins comes from local history and knowledge.
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Gene study hopes to settle debate over origin of European Jews

European Jews
© Agence France-Presse
Jewish Rabbis at cementary.
Jews of European origin are a mix of ancestries, with many hailing from tribes in the Caucasus who converted to Judaism and created an empire that lasted half a millennium, according to a gene study.

The investigation, its author says, should settle a debate that has been roiling for more than two centuries.

Jews of European descent, often called Ashkenazis, account for some 90 percent of the more than 13 million Jews in the world today.

According to the so-called Rhineland Hypothesis, Ashkenazis descended from Jews who progressively fled Palestine after the Moslem conquest of 638 AD.

They settled in southern Europe and then, in the late Middle Ages, about 50,000 of them moved from the Rhineland in Germany into eastern Europe, according to the hypothesis.

But detractors say this idea is implausible.

Barring a miracle - which some supporters of the Rhineland Hypothesis have in fact suggested - the scenario would have been demographically impossible.

It would mean that the population of Eastern European Jews leapt from 50,000 in the 15th century to around eight million at the start of the 20th century.

That birth rate would have been 10 times greater than that of the local non-Jewish population. And it would have occurred despite economic hardship, disease, wars and pogroms that ravaged Jewish communities.
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Shaman stones found in Panama include magnetic rocks, crystals


An archaeologist and her colleagues have identified a cache of 12 unusual rocks and crystals in a cave in western Panama, but just what the stones were used for is unclear.
Forget wands, talismen and cauldrons -- in Pre-Columbian Central America, it was all about magic rocks.

An archaeologist and her colleagues have identified a cache of 12 unusual rocks and crystals in a cave in western Panama, but just what the stones were used for is unclear.

The minerals were found in an archaeological site known as the Casita de Piedra rock-shelter, near the town of Boquete. Analysis of charcoal bits found directly above and below the stones suggest they date back 4,000 to 4,800 years.
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Storms reveal Iron Age skeleton

Skeletal Remains
© Shetland Amenity Trust
Skeletal remains uncovered by storms.
A series of storms that hit Scotland's Shetland Islands over the holidays revealed what archaeologists believe could be 2,000-year-old human remains.

Police were initially called to the scene when storms eroded a cliff at Channerwick and exposed the skeleton, but officials soon determined that they wouldn't have to open a homicide investigation.

Local archaeologist Chris Dyer said the ancient skeleton looked as if it were contemporary with the remains of Iron Age structures revealed nearby. Researchers then identified evidence of one or possibly two more burials at the site, but another storm caused a further chunk of the cliff to crumble, covering up the discovery.
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'Peaceful' Minoans surprisingly warlike

Minotaur
© Public domain
The Greek hero Theseus slays the minotaur in this 6th-century depiction on pottery.
The civilization made famous by the myth of the Minotaur was as warlike as their bull-headed mascot, new research suggests.

The ancient people of Crete, also known as Minoan, were once thought to be a bunch of peaceniks. That view has become more complex in recent years, but now University of Sheffield archaeologist Barry Molloy says that war wasn't just a part of Minoan society - it was a defining part.

"Ideologies of war are shown to have permeated religion, art, industry, politics and trade, and the social practices surrounding martial traditions were demonstrably a structural part of how this society evolved and how they saw themselves," Molloy said in a statement.
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