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Rainbow

An ancient civilization's wet ascent, dry demise

Wet ascent dry demise
© D. Kennett/Penn State
Researchers analyzed a stalagmite from this cave in Belize to reconstruct patterns of rainfall during Classic Maya civilization. Evidence suggests climate shifts accompanied the ancient society’s rise and fall.

Newly documented climate shifts helped shape Classic Maya destiny

Classic Maya civilization rose and fell with the rains.

This once-majestic society, known for massive pyramids and hieroglyphic writing, expanded during an unusually rainy time and declined as the sky's spigots dried up and periodic droughts arrived, a new study suggests.

A 2,000-year climate record, gleaned from a stalagmite inside a Belize cave, highlights a central role for climate shifts in the ancient civilization's fortunes, say anthropologist Douglas Kennett of Penn State University and his colleagues.

A bounty of rain nurtured Maya agriculture and city building from the years 440 to 660, Kennett's team reports in the Nov. 9 Science. A drying trend and occasional droughts after 660 were accompanied by declining crop yields, increasing warfare among Maya city-states and a shift of political centers northward into the Yucatan Peninsula, the researchers say. After the collapse of Maya political systems between 800 and 1000, a severe drought hit southern Belize from 1020 to 1100 and apparently motivated remaining Maya to leave the area.
Megaphone

Our ancestors, the acoustical engineers

Pictographs
© Shutterstock
The 4,000 year-old pictographs at Horseshoe Canyon in Utah may have been inspired by the spectacular acoustics there.
When priests at the temple complex of Chavín de Huántar in central Peru sounded their conch-shell trumpets 2,500 years ago, tones magnified and echoed by stone surfaces seemed to come from everywhere, yet nowhere. The effect must have seemed otherworldly, but there was nothing mysterious about its production.

According to archaeologists at Stanford University, the temple's builders created galleries, ducts, and ventilation shafts to channel sound. In short, the temple's designers may have been not only expert architects but also skilled acoustical engineers.

The findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that sound meant more to our ancestors than archaeologists once realized. We live in a sound-saturated society, full of iPods, thunderous special effects in movies, and thousand-watt car stereos.

New discoveries in the young field of acoustic archaeology hint that just as we create elaborate sonic environments with our electronics, the ancients may have sculpted their soundscapes as well. Like many artistic endeavors, their efforts may have been rooted in an attempt to reach the divine.
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Ancient Roman giant found - Oldest complete skeleton with gigantism

Giant Bone
© Simona Minozzi, Endocrine Society
The giant's tibia, or shinbone, compared with that of a normal Roman male of the same period.
It's no tall tale - the first complete ancient skeleton of a person with gigantism has been discovered near Rome, a new study says.

At 6 feet, 8 inches (202 centimeters) tall, the man would have been a giant in third-century A.D. Rome, where men averaged about 5 and a half feet (167 centimeters) tall. By contrast, today's tallest man measures 8 feet, 3 inches (251 centimeters).

Finding such skeletons is rare, because gigantism itself is extremely rare, today affecting about three people in a million worldwide. The condition begins in childhood, when a malfunctioning pituitary gland causes abnormally growth.

Two partial skeletons, one from Poland and another from Egypt, have previously been identified as "probable" cases of gigantism, but the Roman specimen is the first clear case from the ancient past, study leader Simona Minozzi, a paleopathologist at Italy's University of Pisa, said by email.
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Iceman mummy finds his closest relatives

Otzi
© Reconstruction by Kennis © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, Foto Ochsenreiter
A new genetic analysis reveals that Otzi the Iceman is most closely related to modern-day Sardinians.
San Francisco - Ötzi the Iceman, an astonishingly well-preserved Neolithic mummy found in the Italian Alps in 1991, was a native of Central Europe, not a first-generation émigré from Sardinia, new research shows. And genetically, he looked a lot like other Stone Age farmers throughout Europe.

The new findings, reported Thursday (Nov. 8) here at the American Society of Human Genetics conference, support the theory that farmers, and not just the technology of farming, spread during prehistoric times from the Middle East all the way to Finland.

"The idea is that the spread of farming and agriculture, right now we have good evidence that it was also associated with a movement of people and not only technology," said study co-author Martin Sikora, a geneticist at Stanford University.

In what may be the world's oldest cold case, Ötzi was pierced by an arrow and bled to death on a glacier in the Alps between Austria and Italy more than 5,000 years ago.

Scientists sequenced Ötzi's genome earlier this year, yielding a surprising result: The Iceman was more closely related to present-day Sardinians than he was to present-day Central Europeans.
Gold Bar

Ancient Thracian gold hoard unearthed in Bulgaria

Thracian gold in Bulgaria
© Reuters/Emil Iordanov
Gold artefacts are seen after they were unearthed from an ancient Thracian tomb near the village of Sveshtari, some 400km (248 miles) north-east of Sofia, November 7, 2012.

Bulgarian archaeologists unearthed ancient golden artefacts, including bracelets with snake heads, a tiara with animal motifs and a horse head piece during excavation works at a Thracian tomb in northern Bulgaria, they said on Thursday.

The new golden artefacts are dated back to the end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century BC and were found in the biggest of 150 ancient tombs of a Thracian tribe, the Getae, that was in contact with the Hellenistic world.

The findings also included a golden ring, 44 applications of female figures as well as 100 golden buttons.

"These are amazing findings from the apogee of the rule of the Getae," said Diana Gergova, head of the archaeologist team at the site of the ancient Getic burial complex situated near the village of Sveshtari, some 400 km northeast from Sofia.
Bullseye

Israeli archaeologists ponder possible whodunit

Whodunit
© Reuters/Baz Ratner
A worker for the Israel Antiquities Authority displays ancient flint sickle blades near a well uncovered in recent excavations in the Jezreel Valley, near the northern Israeli town of Yokneam November 8, 2012.

Israeli archaeologists are scratching their heads over a possible 8,500-year-old murder mystery after discovering two skeletons at the bottom of an ancient well.

Flint sickle blades and arrowheads found in the eight-meter (26 foot)-deep Stone Age well in the Jezreel Valley in Israel's Galilee region, suggest it was used by the area's first farmers.

But archaeologists cannot explain why the skeletal remains of a woman, believed by archaeologists to have been aged about 19, and those of an older man were also uncovered deep inside the now-dry well.
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First Polynesians arrived in Tonga 2,800 years ago

Polynesian Artifact
© David Burley
While excavating, researchers found a coral file artifact from within the beach.
The first Polynesian settlers sailed to Tonga between 2,830 and 2,846 years ago, according to new research.

The findings, published Nov. 7 in the journal PLoS One, relied on ultraprecise dating of coral tools found at Tonga's first settlement.

"The technique provides us with unbelievable precision in dating quite ancient materials," said David Burley, a co-author of the study and an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. "This stuff is almost 3,000 years old, and the date range is within 16 years."

The new techniques could be used to trace the migration of Polynesia's prehistoric seafarers as they colonized the archipelagos of the Pacific Ocean, he said.

The Lapita people, the ancestors of modern-day Pacific Islanders, first sailed from coastal New Guinea roughly 5,000 years ago, reaching the Solomon Islands around 3,100 years ago and gradually expanding farther east toward what is now the archipelago Tonga, Burley told LiveScience.

Across a string of Pacific islands, the Lapita left traces of their culture: primitive nail files broken from staghorn coral reefs. The ancient inhabitants of Oceania likely used these coral files to smooth the surfaces of wooden objects or shell bracelets, Burley said.
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British Royal Family's ancestry linked to Count Dracula


Turns out the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles), may be descended from Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Tepes, more popularly known as Count Dracula, and Romania is cashing in on the news. Links have been discovered between the British Royal Family and Vlad the Impaler, the 15th century nobleman whose deeds inspired the vampire legend.

Romania is now exploiting this in an attempt to lure tourists to Transylvania and the rest of Romania. The Romanian National Tourist Office has released brochures and a promotional video, claiming the fame of the link between Count Dracula and British Royalty.

In a brief interview in the video above, Prince Charles says rather ironically, "The genealogy shows I am descended from Vlad the Impaler, so I do have a bit of a stake in the country."
Comet

Electric Universe: Thunderbolts, Mammoths and Mass Destruction

“Squatter man”
© Anthony Peratt
“Squatter man”

Did cosmic lightning wipeout the mammoths?


Siberia, Alaska, Malta! Three mass slaughter sites! Sites littered with carcasses and skeletons captured in violent death throes. Some are petrified as rocks (Malta), some are preserved in ice (Siberia), some are surrounded and invaded by limestone(Hot Springs - Dakota). Others are entombed in Bitumen (La Brea-L.A.) and peat Bogs (Snowmass- Colorado). Many are impeccably preserved whilst the bulk are shattered, dismembered and rolled (Gibraltar) by forces so violent and unseen today that we are naive to their mysterious powers! These extinct species met with an instantaneous and horrific death.

The modern theory of overhunting, careless burn offs, starvation and plague were never more than a trifle in this overwhelming picture of the mass destruction of species both large and small. Although man was in at the death his hand was rarely involved. And the last extinction occurred not so long ago and it is etched in modern man's mythology!

But what was the world shattering causative agent? Certainly not one seen in the last two thousand years. On a journey to track down this mystery I visited Rick Firestone at Berkeley National Laboratories. Rick ran the world's first cyclotron and is the quintessential expert on isotopes and radioactive decay. Intrigued as myself he had relentlessly dug around mammoth and the concurrent "Carolina Bay" crater sites to uncover legitimate keys to the puzzle. in specific layers of earth was evidence that pointed to the cosmological origin of the megafauna's instantaneous death.
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Indus Valley 2,000 years older than thought

Mohenjo-daro seal
© Hindustan Times
A Mohenjo-daro seal.
The beginning of India's history has been pushed back by more than 2,000 years, making it older than that of Egypt and Babylon. Latest research has put the date of the origin of the Indus Valley Civilisation at 6,000 years before Christ, which contests the current theory that the settlements around the Indus began around 3750 BC.

Ever since the excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in the early 1920s, the civilisation was considered almost as old as those of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The finding was announced at the "International Conference on Harappan Archaeology", recently organised by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Chandigarh.

Based on their research, BR Mani, ASI joint director general, and KN Dikshit, former ASI joint director general, said in a presentation: "The preliminary results of the data from early sites of the Indo-Pak subcontinent suggest that the Indian civilisation emerged in the 8th millennium BC in the Ghaggar-Hakra and Baluchistan area."

"On the basis of radio-metric dates from Bhirrana (Haryana), the cultural remains of the pre-early Harappan horizon go back to 7380 BC to 6201 BC."

Excavations had been carried out at two sites in Pakistan and Bhirrana, Kunal, Rakhigarhi and Baror in India.
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