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Sherlock

Pyramid secret chambers sought using cosmic rays

© Philippe Bourseiller
Muon-detecting plates are placed within the Bent Pyramid.
Some 40 plates have been planted inside the Bent Pyramid in Dahshur in an attempt to capture cosmic particles, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced early today.

The installation is part of an ambitious project using muons, or cosmic particles, to investigate Egypt's main pyramids. The aim is to detect the presence of unknown internal structures and cavities within the pyramids and learn about the monuments' construction techniques.

Called ScanPyramids, the study is in its first stage and is being carried out by a team from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based non-profit organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Sherlock

Catastrophic medieval earthquakes in Nepal

© C. Andermann, GFZ
Kali boulder on top of the sediment deposits near Pokhara in Nepal. The boulder is approx. 10m in diameter and weighs around 300 tons. The timing of deposition of this boulder has been dated in this study and coincides with the timing of a large earthquake in 1681 in Nepal.
Pokhara, the second largest town of Nepal, has been built on massive debris deposits, which are associated with strong medieval earthquakes. Three quakes, in 1100, 1255 and 1344, with magnitudes of around Mw 8 triggered large-scale collapses, mass wasting and initiated the redistribution of material by catastrophic debris flows on the mountain range.

An international team of scientists led by the University of Potsdam has discovered that these flows of gravel, rocks and sand have poured over a distance of more than 60 kilometers from the high mountain peaks of the Annapurna massif downstream.

Christoff Andermann from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam participated in the study, published now in the Science magazine. "We have dated the lake sediments in the dammed tributary valleys using 14C radiocarbon. The measured ages of the sediment depositions coincide with the timing of documented large earthquakes in the region."

One big boulder, situated on top of the sediment depositions, has raised the interest of the scientists: "The boulder has a diameter of almost ten meters and weighs around 300 tons. At the top of the boulder we measured the concentration of a Beryllium isotope which is produced by cosmogenic radiation." This 10Be chemical extraction was carried out in the isotope laboratory at the GFZ in Potsdam and was measured with the accelerator mass spectrometer at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Germany.

The results show that the deposition of the big boulder matches the timing of another large earthquake from 1681. Pokhara lies at the foot of the more than 8000 meters high Annapurna massif; whether the big boulder was transported during the last dated earthquake with the debris, or was just toppled by the strong shaking needs to be further investigated. Nevertheless, the movement of the big boulder can be connected to this strong earthquake.

Sherlock

Protected witness: Sarajevo market attack in 1994 was staged by Bosnian Army under then President Izetbegovic's orders

© ICTY
Ratko Mladic in court
At Ratko Mladic's war crimes trial, a protected witness alleged that the deadly attack on Sarajevo's Markale market in 1994 was carried out by the Bosnian Army, not Serb forces.

Protected witness GRM-116, who testified in Mladic's defence at the Hague Tribunal on Tuesday, claimed that the attack on the market that killed 66 civilians in February 1994 was approved by the then Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic.

The witness said that as a member of the Biseri special security unit from 1992 to 1994, he worked on security at the Bosnian presidency building.

He said that during that time he could hear what Izetbegovic and others said during meetings.

Comment: For more insight on what actually happened during the Yugoslav wars in early 1990s, and why they were started, check out the great documentary: The Weight of Chains: US/NATO Destruction of Yugoslavia (Documentary).


Tornado1

Divine intervention or 'just coincidence'? When freak storms win battles

Of all the battles in all of history, it may be likely that at least some of them would involve dramatic weather events. Yet some of the details of such battles seem to align so perfectly that people have attributed the victories and defeats to divine intervention.

A Tornado Fought in the War of 1812

On Aug. 25, 1814, as the White House and other public buildings burned in fires set by the British, the sky blackened and a downpour doused the flames. The most destructive tornado Washington D.C. has seen touched down, and it killed more British soldiers than all the bullets fired by the American resistance, according to the National Weather Service.

Was it "just coincidence" or did the storm appear by divine providence at the right time?

British Admiral George Cockburn purportedly had a conversation with a local woman as he and the British troops fled the stormy city, recorded by meteorologists Kevin Ambrose, Dan Henry, and Andy Weiss in their book, Washington Weather:

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Cluster of 131 ancient hanging coffins found in Hubei, China

© cnhubei.com
The hanging coffins are inside man-made caves halfway on a cliff in Hubei province, China.
A large cluster of hanging coffins have been found in central China's Hubei province. The wood coffins were discovered in man-made caves and between rocks halfway up a cliff.

The 131 hanging coffins, located on a cliff in Yanglinqiao village in Zigui county, date back 1,200 years, according to initial archeological studies.

The coffins, placed inside dense man-made caves dubbed "Cave of the Fairies" by the locals, are about 100 meters high and spread over 50 meters. They belonged to the Bo people, an ethnic group during the Tang Dynasty.

Cliff burial was a funeral style widely practiced in southern China. Ancient people believed that hanging coffins prevented bodies from being taken by beasts, and blessed the souls of the deceased eternally.

The coffins have become important cultural heritages, as well as a mystery. How the heavy coffins, along with many sacrificial objects, were carried up the cliffs remains unknown.

Sherlock

"Lost" treasure ship is also a war grave

© Colombian Ministry of Culture
A seafloor image of the shipwreck that the Colombian government has identified as the San José.
The president of Colombia's Dec. 5 announcement that a 300-year-old Spanish shipwreck had been discovered made headlines around the world, largely because of the price tag attached to the wreck: somewhere between $4 billion and $17 billion.

The galleon, named the San José, was carrying a large load of gold, silver and precious stones from the mines of Peru back to Spain in 1708 when it was destroyed in a sea battle with the English. The sinking occurred against the backdrop of the War of the Spanish Succession, a European conflict that arose over the disputed successor to the Spanish throne.

According to the Colombian government, a naval and archaeological expedition discovered the wreck of the San José off the country's coast on Nov. 27. Quickly, other parties came forward to make rival claims on the ship, including a U.S. salvage firm that claims to have located the wreckage decades ago, as well as the government of Spain.

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Studies show early human hunters more advanced than previously thought

© Tangelnfoto, Wikimedia Commons
The Schöningen excavation site.
The Paleolithic site of Schöningen in north-central Germany is best known for the earliest known, completely preserved wooden spears (at least 10 recovered) by archaeologists under the direction of Dr. Hartmut Thieme between 1994 and 1998 at an open-cast lignite mine. Deposited in organic sediments on an ancient lakeshore, they were found in combination with the remains of about 16,000 animal bones, including 20 to 25 butchered wild horses, whose bones featured numerous butchery marks, including one pelvis that still had a spear protruding from it. The finds are considered evidence that early humans were active hunters with specialized tool kits as early as 300,000 or more years ago.

Now, a series of detailed study reports on the Schöningen findings have been published online in the Journal of Human Evolution. Altogether, they present a picture of groups of prehistoric hunters who sojourned at sites in the Schöningen area about 300,000+ years ago and hunted and processed mammalian species such as wild horse and red deer using tools/weapons made of wood, stone and bone. The findings have changed the long-accepted paradigm of a more primitive early human hunting culture during this time period that featured primarily stone tools and weapons and a somewhat more limited subsistence strategy.

One study describes an extraordinary assemblage of no less than 88 bone tools, consisting of modified mammal bones from various parts of the skeletons and testifying to the earliest known use of multi-purpose bone tools in the archaeological record. The authors note that it suggests a more advanced planning depth among early humans of this time period than traditionally thought.

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DNA dates dog domestication back 33,000 years

© Wikimedia Commons
Tibetan wolf. A subspecies of grey wolf similar to this is thought to have given rise to the world’s first dogs, according to new research.
All dogs alive today can trace at least some of their ancestry back to dogs that were domesticated 33,000 years ago in southern East Asia, suggests one of the most extensive ever investigations of canine DNA.

In addition to pinpointing the place and time for the earliest dog domestication, the new study, published in the journal Cell Research, found that the first domesticated dogs descended from grey wolves that likely came from China.

The research, conducted by an international team, further determined that dogs began to migrate out of East Asia and towards the Middle East and Africa 15,000 years ago. They then reached Europe in large numbers approximately 10,000 years ago. It appears that the dogs self-initiated the moves.

Sherlock

Julius Caesar battlefield unearthed in southern Netherlands

© Walter Sanders/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
Julius Caesar wrote about the battle in his account of the Gallic wars.
Archaeologists claim carbon dating of ancient weapons found in Kessel proves Roman emperor led massacre of Germanic tribes on Dutch soil

Archaeologists claim to have proved that Julius Caesar set foot on what is now Dutch soil, destroying two Germanic tribes in a battle that left about 150,000 people dead.

The tribes were massacred in the fighting with the Roman emperor in 55BC, on a battle site now in Kessel, in the southern province of Brabant.

Skeletons, spearheads, swords and a helmet have been unearthed at the site over the past three decades. But now carbon dating as well as other historical and geochemical analysis have proved the items dated to the 1st century, the VU University in Amsterdam said.

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6,000-year-old skeletons in French pit came from victims of violence

© Bertrand Perrin/Antea
A circular pit excavated in France (left) contains the remains of eight people probably killed in a violent attack around 6,000 years ago. Seven severed left arms lay at the bottom of the pit. A diagram of the pit discoveries denotes bones of each individual in different colors.
Discovery of severed arms, cracked skull adds to debate over Neolithic circular pits

A gruesome discovery in eastern France casts new light on violent conflicts that took lives — and sometimes just limbs — around 6,000 years ago.

Excavations of a 2-meter-deep circular pit in Bergheim revealed seven human skeletons plus a skull section from an infant strewn atop the remains of seven human arms, say anthropologist Fanny Chenal of Antea Archéologie in Habsheim, France, and her colleagues.

Two men, one woman and four children were killed, probably in a raid or other violent encounter, the researchers report in the December Antiquity. Their bodies were piled in a pit that already contained a collection of left arms hacked off by axes or other sharp implements. Scattered hand bones at the bottom of the pit suggest that hands from the severed limbs had been deliberately cut into pieces.