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Medieval mass burial site discovered beneath Paris supermarket

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© Denis Gliksman, Inrap
More than 200 bodies were recently unearthed in several mass burials beneath a Paris supermarket.

The bodies, which were lined up head to feet, were found at the site of an ancient cemetery attached to the Trinity Hospital, which was founded in the 13th century.

Though it's not clear exactly how these ancient people died, the trove of bodies could reveal insights into how people in the Middle Ages buried their dead during epidemics or famine, the researchers involved said.

Supermarket renovations

The burials were discovered during renovations to the basement of the Monoprix Réaumur-Sébastopol supermarket, located in the second-arrondissement neighborhood of Paris. As workers lowered the floor level of the basement, they found a shocking surprise: the bodies of men, women and children, neatly arranged in what looked to be mass graves.

The site was once the location of the Trinity Hospital, which was founded in 1202 by two German noblemen. The hospital was conceived not just as a place to provide care for the sick, but also as one where weary pilgrims and travelers could rest and enjoy themselves, according to a 1983 presentation given at the French Society on the History of Medicine.

Books

Archaeologists believe they've identified the house that the mythical Jesus grew up in

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© Ken Dark
People in the Middle Ages believed Jesus grew up in this first-century house in Nazareth, according to research
Archaeologists working in Nazareth — Jesus' hometown — in modern-day Israel have identified a house dating to the first century that was regarded as the place where Jesus was brought up by Mary and Joseph.

The house is partly made of mortar-and-stone walls, and was cut into a rocky hillside. It was first uncovered in the 1880s, by nuns at the Sisters of Nazareth convent, but it wasn't until 2006 that archaeologists led by Ken Dark, a professor at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, dated the house to the first century, and identified it as the place where people, who lived centuries after Jesus' time, believed Jesus was brought up.

Whether Jesus actually lived in the house in real life is unknown, but Dark says that it is possible.

"Was this the house where Jesus grew up? It is impossible to say on archaeological grounds," Dark wrote in an article published in the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review. "On the other hand, there is no good archaeological reason why such an identification should be discounted."

Jesus is believed to have grown up in Nazareth. Archaeologists found that, centuries after Jesus' time, the Byzantine Empire (which controlled Nazareth up until the seventh century) decorated the house with mosaics and constructed a church known as the "Church of the Nutrition" over the house, protecting it.

Crusaders who ventured into the Holy Land in the 12th century fixed up the church after it fell into disrepair. This evidence suggests that both the Byzantines and Crusaders believed that this was the home where Jesus was brought up, Dark said.


Comment: While it is interesting that the Byzantines and Crusaders both believed that this was the house of Jesus, it could easily have been false, a myth created to help build up the Jesus story.


Hourglass

Study finds Aboriginal legends linked with cyclical cosmic catastrophes

© argus/Shutterstock
Aboriginal legends could offer a vast untapped record of natural history, including meteorite strikes, stretching back thousands of years, according to new UNSW research.

Dr Duane Hamacher from the UNSW Indigenous Astronomy Group has uncovered evidence linking Aboriginal stories about meteor events with impact craters dating back some 4,700 years.

Dr Hamacher, an astrophysicist studying Indigenous astronomy, examined meteorite accounts from Aboriginal communities across Australia to determine if they were linked to known meteoritic events.

His study, published in the latest edition of peer-reviewed journal Archaeoastronomy, found "definitive links" between known meteorite craters and local Aboriginal traditions.

One of the meteorite strikes, at a place called Henbury in the Northern Territory, occurred around 4,700 years ago.

Dr Hamacher said the level of detail contained in the local oral traditions suggested the Henbury event had been witnessed and its legend passed down through generations over thousands of years - a remarkable record.

Comment: For more history on ancient civilizations, legends and the nature of cyclical cosmic catastrophes see: The Secret History of the World and its sequels, Comets and the Horns of Moses and Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection.


Pharoah

3000-year-old tomb unearthed in Luxor, Egypt

© NBC News
Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities says American archeologists have discovered a 3000-year-old tomb with beautifully painted walls belonging to a nobleman who guarded the temple of the ancient deity Amun. Tuesday's statement says the tomb, found near the southern city of Luxor, dates back to the New Kingdom of the 18th Dynasty — the most famous of ancient Egypt dynasties.

The nobleman's name was Amenhotep. Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh el-Damaty says the tomb contains "stunning scenes with bright colors" painted on the walls. He says the scenes depict the tomb owner and his wife in front of an offering table, as well as scenes of daily life, such as hunting. The ministry says the tomb was discovered by the American Research Center's team. It gave no date for the discovery.

Source: Associated Press

Sherlock

Lost city discovered in Honduras

© Dave Yoder/National Geographic
"A 'were-jaguar' effigy, likely representing a combination of a human and spirit animal, is part of a still-buried ceremonial seat, or metate, one of many artifacts discovered in a cache in ruins deep in the Honduran jungle."
A team of archaeologists has reportedly discovered a lost city deep within the remote jungles of Honduras - a lost city that had never been explored founded by a culture we know little about.

As first reported by National Geographic on Monday, Christopher Fisher, an archaeologist from Colorado State University, and his colleagues traveled to the site based on long-standing rumors that it was the location of a city referred to in legend as the "City of the Monkey God."

Cult of the Were-Jaguar?

The city, which belonged to a culture so mysterious that experts have not even found a name for it, was extensively mapped by Fisher's team, who found plazas, earthworks, mounds and even an earthen pyramid at the site, according to the website. The expedition, which lasted through last Wednesday, also uncovered a collection of stone sculptures and dozens of artifacts.

In the article, Fisher called the find "incredibly rare," especially since it was in perfect condition and had not been targeted by looters. He went on to speculate that the statues, which were found at the base of the pyramid, were "a powerful ritual display" and most likely an offering.

Among the more than 50 artifacts found there included ceremonial seats known as metates and carved vessels that had been decorated with snakes, vultures and other figures. One of the finds was the head of what the archaeologists believe was a "were-jaguar" sticking out of the ground. It is believed to be depicting a shaman in a transformed-spirit like shape, National Geographic said.

The research team believes that many more artifacts have been buried underground at potential burial sites, and many of the objects discovered were catalogued but not excavated. The lost city was first identified during an aerial survey of the La Mosquitia region in 2012, the report noted, and in order to protect the ruins from looters, their exact location is not being disclosed.

Info

Herders spread Indo-European languages

© Dmitry_Chulov/iStockphoto
Highly mobile pastoralists likely contributed to the spread of the language group that evolved into English, say researchers.
Nomadic pastoralists from the Great Steppe helped spread the large group of languages that includes English, an analysis of ancient DNA confirms.

The findings, reported today in Nature, gives weight to one of two competing hypotheses about where this language group came from.

"These results provide support for a steppe origin of at least some of the Indo-European languages of Europe," write the researchers in their paper.

Although English, Spanish, Russian, Urdu and Persian may sound very different, linguistic analysis suggests they all came from a common source, says lead author archaeo-geneticist Dr Wolfgang Haak of the University of Adelaide.

One idea is that this language group, now spoken throughout Europe, South Asia and the Middle East, spread with Neolithic farmers who migrated west from places like Turkey into Europe around 8000 years ago.

Another idea is that these languages must have emerged later because they include words for transport, such as wheel, a phenomenon that didn't emerge until later. Likely sources were the highly mobile cultures in the Great Steppe north of the Black Sea. These nomadic people were cattle herders who could have easily have brought language with them.

"They domesticated the horse in the Steppes around 5000 years ago and were probably using oxen-drawn carts to get around," says Haak.

But, he says, the subject has been controversial.

"The debate has been stuck for a while and has almost becomes a religious thing where you have believers of one side or the other," says Haak.

Archaeological evidence supports the 'Great Steppe' hypothesis, but until now, there has been a lack of evidence that herders migrated in large enough numbers to influence language, he says.

Magnify

DNA evidence: cultural connections between Britain and Europe 8,000 years ago

The ancient British were not cut off from Europeans on an isolated island 8,000 years ago as previously thought, new research suggests.

Researchers found evidence for a variety of wheat at a submerged archaeological site off the south coast of England, 2,000 years before the introduction of farming in the UK.

The team argue that the introduction of farming is usually regarded as a defining historic moment for almost all human communities leading to the development of societies that underpin the modern world.

Published in the journal Science, the researchers suggest that the most plausible explanation for the wheat reaching the site is that Mesolithic Britons maintained social and trade networks spreading across Europe.

These networks might have been assisted by land bridges that connected the south east coast of Britain to the European mainland, facilitating exchanges between hunters in Britain and farmers in southern Europe.

Called Einkorn, the wheat was common in Southern Europe at the time it was present at the site in Southern England -- located at Bouldnor Cliff.

The einkorn DNA was collected from sediment that had previously formed the land surface, which was later submerged due to melting glaciers.

Info

Does the House of Windsor have right to British throne?

© AP Photo/Jon Furniss/Invision
The history of the British Royal Houses has always been shrouded in mystery: citing the results of DNA tests as well as hereditary genetic disorders researchers, have called into question the legitimacy of the present British royalties.

Scientists from the University of Leicester claimed last year there could be a break in the royal blood line, citing an astonishing mismatch of the DNA of Richard III to that of some of his descendants: it is not possible to trace his modern male-line relatives through the Y chromosome. Henry VII Tudor, who seized the power in 1485 after defeating the king in the Battle of Bosworth Field, cemented his power by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III.

The current royal family share a direct blood line to the Tudors, researchers underscored, calling into question the House of Windsor's right to rule. In addition to the suspicious DNA tests' results scientists also pointed to some hereditary genetic disorders, suggesting there could have been some skeletons in the closet of the Queen Victoria's mother, German-born Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

In 1995 a book Queen Victoria's Gene by D.M. Potts was published examining the defective hemophilia gene in the royal bloodline. The author claimed that while Queen Victoria's son Leopold as well as some of her grandchildren suffered from the deadly disease, no member of the royal line before Leopold had been struck by the condition. In this light there could be only two possibilities: either one of Victoria's parents had an extremely rare gene mutation (1 in 50,000), or Queen Victoria was the illegitimate child of a hemophiliac man.

Top Secret

American eugenics: Virginia to compensate victims of sterilization program

© Reuters
From 1924 to 1979, over 8,000 people were forcibly sterilized in Virginia.
Victims of a sterilization program in the United States could finally see compensation.

Legislators in the U.S. state of Virginia voted Thursday to allow compensation for victims of forced sterilization, though few survivors are alive today.

"I think it's a recognition when we do something wrong we need to fix it as a government," said Democrat delegate Patrick Hope. "Now we can close this final chapter and healing can begin."

Close to US$400,000 is available in a fund earmarked for compensation payments, though only around 11 sterilization victims in the state are known to be alive today. However, Hope stated if any new victims come forth, they too could be eligible for compensation.

Comment: See also:


Cult

Irish priest proves Jesus never existed: Church bans him from teaching and speaking to media


Fr. Thomas Brodie
A top priest has been forced to quit a bible teaching job thanks to his work of pulpit fiction which denies the existence of Jesus Christ.

Fr Tom Brodie has been removed from his post in Limerick after the publication of his book Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus.

The Irish Sun reports that the priest was removed from his post at the Dominican Biblical Institute in Limerick, which he helped set up.

The paper has gained access to documents which confirm that the scholar was also banned from any lecturing, teaching or writing while a probe is underway.

The report says that Father Brodie has questioned the existence of Jesus since the Seventies but has only made his views public now.

The book, which took 12 years to write, came as a shock to his superiors when it was published last October.

Comment: Brodie is apparently the first known active - and certainly the most high-profile - priest to have claimed that Jesus did not exist. The final judgement of the Dominican Order on the matter was published in their periodical Doctrine and Life in May - June 2014:
In September 2012, Fr Thomas L. Brodie, O.P., of the Irish Province, published Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus. In this 'Memoir of a Discovery', the author, already well-respected for his commentaries on the Gospel of John and for his study, The Birthing of the New Testament, stated categorically that his studies proved that Jesus did not exist as a historical person. He had expected that reviewers or commentators would understand from his earlier works that this was the position he had held since the 1970s. But there had been no such recognition; and the time, he believed, had come to state his views bluntly.

Because this claim was so much at odds with Christian tradition, in November 2012, the Prior Provincial of Ireland, Fr Gregory Carroll, O.P., instructed that, while the controversy about the book was being addressed, Tom Brodie must withdraw from all ministry and from any teaching or writing, or contacting the media. Co-incidentally, at about the same time Tom Brodie resigned from being moderator and director of the Dominican Biblical Institute Limerick.


Fr. Brodie's book
Under Dominican Order procedures, its Irish Province set up a committee of five experts from within the Province to examine the work under dispute.

After providing Tom Brodie with written copies of their assessments of Beyond the Quest, and having received a written response from him, the committee spent a morning discussing the work with him. Following on these deliberations, the committee advised that they judged Beyond the Quest to be "imprudent and dangerous" (a phrase from the Order's own legislation). Accepting this assessment, the Provincial continued the sanctions on Tom Brodie - that he withdraw fully from ministry and from all forms of teaching, writing, or making public statements.

On 17 May 2013, at the request of Tom Brodie, Fr Gregory Carroll, Prior Provincial, referred the matter to the Master of the Order, its worldwide head.

On 29 August 2013, the Master, Fr Bruno Cadoré, appointed a committee to examine the book and report to him. This committee, made up of three professors from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, had the Master's Assistant for the Intellectual Life, Fr Michael Mascari, as non-voting chairman. The members of this committee provided the author with written assessments of Beyond the Quest, and received from him a written response.

On 20 February 2014, the committee had a two-hour meeting in Fribourg with Tom Brodie to discuss their reports and his response. Following this meeting the committee formally advised the Master that the publication was "imprudent and dangerous", and recommended that the sanctions imposed on Thomas Brodie by the Province of Ireland were appropriate.

In a letter dated 3 March 2014, Fr Bruno Cadoré concurred with the judgement of the committee and instructed that the sanctions already in place be maintained.

Despite the restrictions placed on him, Tom Brodie remains a brother of the Irish Province, and the Province continues to care for him and provide for him. From the point of view of the Order, the matter is closed.
And so, at the age of 71 years, Thomas L. Brodie appears to have been condemned to live out the rest of his life in silence in exchange for retirement care.

It's an amazing and horrible thing to happen to someone seeking Truth, but it's also not surprising that in response to his in-depth scholarly research showing evidence for a lack of historicity of Jesus, the Dominican hierarchy's counter argument is to call his evidence "imprudent and dangerous".

While laconic in the extreme, maybe the Dominican leadership is being as honest as it can be with this response. After all, it isn't very prudent, from the point of view of the Catholic Church, to have one of their priests point out that Jesus did not exist. It's also dangerous, from the point of view of the sustainability of the Catholic Church as a viable religion, for that truth to be revealed to the world.

They couldn't refute Brodie's evidence - which tears down the entire edifice of their belief system - so they shut him up.