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Europe's hypocritical history of cannibalism


Cannibalism
© Stapleton Collection/Corbis
References to acts of cannibalism are sprinkled throughout many religious and historical documents, such as reports of cooked human flesh being sold in 11th-century English markets during times of famine. Here, an engraving by Theodor de Bry depicts hungry Spaniards cutting down the bodies of thieves hanged by Pedro de Mendoza in order to eat them.
In 2001, a lonely computer technician living in the countryside in Northern Germany advertised online for a well-built man willing to participate in a mutually satisfying sexual act. Armin Meiwes' notice was similar to many others on the Internet except for a rather important detail: The requested man must be willing to be killed and eaten.

Meiwes didn't have to look far. Two hundred and thirty miles away in Berlin, an engineer called Bernd Brandes agreed to travel to Meiwes' farmhouse. There, a gory video later found by police documented Brandes' consensual participation in the deadly dinner. The cannibalism was both a shock to the German public and a conundrum to German prosecutors wanting to charge Meiwes with a crime.

Cannibalism might be humanity's most sacred taboo, but consent of a victim typically eliminates a crime, explains Emilia Musumeci, a criminologist at the University of Catania, in Italy, who studies cannibalism and serial killers.

More technically, cannibalism is not designated as illegal in Germany's extensive criminal code: Until that point, laws against murder had sufficed to cover cannibalism. If Brandes had volunteered his own life, how could Meiwes be accused of murder?

Because of his victim's consent, Meiwes was initially found guilty of something akin to assisted suicide, and sentenced to eight years in jail. Had there not been widespread uproar about the seemingly lenient penalty, Meiwes would be out of jail by now. Instead, the uproar led to a subsequent retrial, where Meiwes was found guilty of killing for sexual pleasure. He will likely spend the rest of his life in jail.
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Oldest Maya sun observatory hints at origin of civilization

Ceibal Pit
© Takeshi Inomata
Researchers excavating in the ancient Maya city of Ceibal discovered the oldest ceremonial constructions ever, dating back to 1000 BC. These buildings later became widespread throughout the Maya world and were used as solar observatories.
The oldest ancient Maya ceremonial compound ever discovered in the Central American lowlands dates back 200 years before similar sites pop up elsewhere in the region, archaeologists announced today (April 25). The recently excavated plaza and pyramid would have likely served as a solar observatory for rituals.

The finding at a site called Ceibal suggests that the origins of the Maya civilization are more complex than first believed. Archaeologists hotly debate whether the Maya - famous for their complex calendar system that spurred apocalypse rumors last year - developed independently or whether they were largely inspired by an earlier culture known as the Olmec. The new research suggests the answer is neither.

"This major social change happened through interregional interactions," said study researcher Takeshi Inomata, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona. But it doesn't look like the Olmec inspired the Maya, Inomata told reporters. Rather, the entire region went through a cultural shift around 1000 B.C., with all nearby cultures adopting similar architectural and ceremonial styles. [See Images of the Ancient Maya Observatory]

"It's signaling to us that the Maya were not receiving this sophisticated stuff 500 years later from somebody else, but much of the innovation we're seeing out of the whole region may be coming out of Ceibal or a place like Ceibal," said Walter Witschey, an anthropologist at Longwood University in Virginia, who was not involved in the study.
Sherlock

Comet trails?: Ancient DNA reveals Europe's dynamic genetic history

Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.

The study, published today in Nature Communications, reveals a dramatic series of events including major migrations from both Western Europe and Eurasia, and signs of an unexplained genetic turnover about 4000-5000 years ago.


Comment: Forced migration and genetic mutation as the fruits of cometary bombardment? For more information on just what a regular occurrence this is, how knowledge of it has been systematically erased from the historical record (and why), read Laura Knight-Jadczyk's Comets and the Horns of Moses.

Question

Why did European DNA suddenly change 4,000 years ago? Experts reveal evolutionary mystery - and say the makers of Stonehenge may hold the key

Researchers found genetic lineage of Europe mysteriously transformed about 4000 years ago

Bell Beaker culture, which is believed to have been instrumental in building the monoliths at Stonehedge, could hold the key


The genetic makeup of Europe mysteriously transformed about 4,000-5,000 years ago, researchers have discovered.

An Australian team found the unexplained change while analysing several skeletons unearthed in central Europe that were up to 7,500 years old.

They say the rapid expansion of the Bell Beaker culture, which is believed to have been instrumental in building the monoliths at Stonehedge, could hold the key.

Researchers say the rapid expansion of the Bell Beaker culture, which is believed to have been instrumental in building the monoliths at Stonehedge, could hold the key to why the genetic lineage of Europe mysteriously transformed about 4000 years ago

What is intriguing is that the genetic markers of this first pan-European culture, which was clearly very successful, were then suddenly replaced around 4,500 years ago, and we don't know why,' study co-author Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide Australian Center for Ancient DNA said.

'Something major happened, and the hunt is now on to find out what that was.'
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Did an earthquake destroy ancient Greece?

Acropolis
© Leonard G., Wikimedia Commons
Remnants of Cyclopean walls built by the Mycenaeans can be found at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
The grand Mycenaens, the first Greeks, inspired the legends of the Trojan Wars, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Their culture abruptly declined around 1200 B.C., marking the start of a Dark Ages in Greece.

The disappearance of the Mycenaens is a Mediterranean mystery. Leading explanations include warfare with invaders or uprising by lower classes. Some scientists also think one of the country's frequent earthquakes could have contributed to the culture's collapse. At the ruins of Tiryns, a fortified palace, geologists hope to find evidence to confirm whether an earthquake was a likely culprit.

Tiryns was one of the great Mycenaean cities. Atop a limestone hill, the city-state's king built a palace with walls so thick they were called Cyclopean, because only the one-eyed monster could have carried the massive limestone blocks. The walls were about 30 feet (10 meters) high and 26 feet (8 m) wide, with blocks weighing 13 tons, said Klaus-G. Hinzen, a seismologist at the University of Cologne in Germany and project leader. He presented his team's preliminary results April 19 at the Seismological Society of America's annual meeting in Salt Lake City.
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Sacred Stonehenge hunting ground found

Stonehenge
© Edward Haylan | Shutterstock.com
A site near Stonehenge has revealed archaeological evidence that hunters gathered just a mile from Stonehenge roughly 5,000 years prior to the construction of the first stones, new research suggests.

What's more, the site, which was occupied continuously for 3,000 years, had evidence of burning, thousands of flint tool fragments and bones of wild aurochs , a type of giant cow. That suggests the area near Stonehenge may have been an auroch migration route that became an ancient feasting site, drawing people together from across different cultures in the region, wrote lead researcher David Jacques of the Open University in the United Kingdeom, in an email.

"We may have found the cradle of Stonehenge, the reason why it is where it is," Jacques wrote. [In Photos: A Walk Through Stonehenge]
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Archaeologists unlock 1900-year-old burial chamber's secrets with drones

Robot
© Gizmodo
Teotihuacan, an ancient, abandoned city about an hour north of Mexico City, was once one of the largest cities in the world. It collapsed in the centuries ago (thanks either to an internal uprising or foreign invaders, depending on who you ask), but it's never been completely deserted, since the ruins have always been a magnet for squatters, archaeologists and hordes of tourists.

Yet there are still portions of Teotihuacan that remain untouched by today's explorers, including a subterranean burial site that scientists estimate has spent the last 1900 years unseen by human eyes. Until now.

Teotihuacan
© Gizmodo
In 2003, scientists discovered a tunnel beneath Teotihuacan's Temple of the Plumed Serpent. They speculated that the tunnel was a processional walkway leading to a warren of royal burial chambers, but couldn't say for sure, since the opening to the tunnel was intentionally buried by the city's last inhabitants. According to BLDGBLOG, archaeologists at Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute are now uncovering the mystery of the buried chambers without disturbing them - thanks to a diminutive robotic system designed to go where shimmying archaeologists cannot:
... A little wireless robot called Tlaloc II-TC will soon "investigate the far reaches of a tunnel found beneath the Temple of the Plumed Serpent at Teotihuacan," entering a chamber "estimated to be 2,000 years old, and [that] may have been used as a place for royal ceremonies or burials."
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Oldest temple in Mexican valley hints at possible human sacrifice

El Palenque's temple
© Charles Spencer and Elsa Redmond
Here, an oblique aerial view of El Palenque's temple precinct, facing southwest toward a public plaza. Three temples linked by enclosure walls face the public plaza. Behind them are two priests' residences, located in the left foreground of this view. Also visible is the entrance to the masonry-lined tunnel directly behind central temple.
A newly discovered temple complex in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, reveals hints of a specialized hierarchy of priests - who may have committed human sacrifice.

The evidence of such sacrifice is far from conclusive, but researchers did uncover a human tooth and part of what may be a human limb bone from a temple room scattered with animal sacrifice remains and obsidian blades. The temple dates back to 300 B.C. or so, when it was in use by the Zapotec civilization of what is now Oaxaca.

Archaeologists have been excavating a site in the valley called El Palenque for years. The site is the center of what was once an independent mini-state. Between 1997 and 2000, the researchers found and studied the remains of a 9,150-square-foot (850 square meters) palace complex complete with a plaza on the north side of the site. Radiocarbon dating and copious ash reveal that the palace burned down sometime around 60 B.C. or so. [See Images of the Ancient Temple Site]

Now, the archaeologists have unearthed an even larger complex of buildings on the east side of El Palenque. The walled-off area appears to be a temple complex, consisting of a main temple flanked by two smaller temple buildings. There are also at least two residences, probably for priests, as well as a number of fireboxes where offerings may have been made.
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66 Ancient skeletons found in Indonesian cave

Professor Truman
© University of Wollongong
Professor Truman Simanjuntak holding an exact replica of an ancient stone hand axe excavated from East Java.
Talk about your archaeological jackpots: Researchers in Indonesia have reportedly discovered the 3,000-year-old remains of 66 people in a cave in Sumatra.

"Sixty-six is very strange," Truman Simanjuntak of Jakarta's National Research and Development Center for Archaeology said in a statement. He and his colleagues have never before found that many remains in a single cave, Simanjuntak added.

The cave is known as Harimaru or Tiger Cave, and also contains chicken, dog and pig remains. Thousands of years ago, the Tiger Cave and other limestone caverns nearby were occupied by Indonesia's first farmers. They used the caves to bury their dead, explaining the 3,000-year-old cemetery unearthed by Simanjuntak's team. The ancient farmers also manufactured tools in the caves.
Question

Is 'Siberian Stonehenge' really the birthplace of astronomy? Astonishing theory about remote spot 'used by stargazers 16,000 years ago'

Sunduki in Siberia may be oldest human observatory in history

Russian scientist claims to have found evidence of crude solar calendars

Ancients 'used landscape to record time'


A Russian scientist believes a remote Siberian rock formation may be the first place that humanity began to follow the movements of the heavens.

Sunduki, known as the Siberian Stonehenge, is a series of eight sandstone outcrops on a remote flood plain on the bank of the Bely Iyus river in the republic of Khakassia.

Professor Vitaly Larichev, of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, claims that the 16,000-year-old site was not only a place of huge religious significance in the ancient world, but also its stargazing capital.

Dawn of astronomy: A Russian academic says the 'Siberian Stonehenge' could be man's first attempt to monitor the heavens
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