Secret History


Sequencing of mitochondrial DNA used to track spread of first European farmers

Neolithic agricultural practices
© Alejandro Pérez Pérez (UB) and Miquel Molist (UAB)
Experts analyzed samples from three sites located in the birthplace of Neolithic agricultural practices.
By sequencing the mitochondrial DNA of the first Near Eastern farmers for the first time, an international team of researchers have discovered evidence supporting an Early Neolithic pioneer maritime colonization of mainland Europe that involved expansion through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands.

Writing in the journal PLOS Genetics, the study authors explained their analysis of genetic samples obtained from three sites located in what has been dubbed the birthplace of Neolithic agricultural practices: the Middle Euphrates basin and the oasis of Damascus, which is located in modern-day Syria. Those samples date back to approximately 8,000 BC.

"The genetic impact associated to the Neolithic spread in Europe has been widely debated over the last 20 years," the researchers wrote. "Within this context, ancient DNA studies have provided a more reliable picture by directly analyzing the protagonist populations at different regions in Europe."

"However, the lack of available data from the original Near Eastern farmers has limited the achieved conclusions, preventing the formulation of continental models of Neolithic expansion," they added. "Here we address this issue by presenting mitochondrial DNA data of the original Near-Eastern Neolithic communities with the aim of providing the adequate background for the interpretation of Neolithic genetic data from European samples."

The research team looked at 63 skeletons from the Pre Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) sites of Tell Halula, Tell Ramad and Dja'de El Mughara, which have been dated to between 8,700 BC and 6,600 BC. They recovered 15 validated mitochondrial DNA profiles, and compared them to available ancient genetic data from human remains belonging to the Linearbandkeramik-Alföldi Vonaldiszes Kerámia and Cardial/Epicardial cultures.

The Devil: Alive and well?

Devil and Jesus
© Corbis
The devil is alive and kicking -- literally -- according to the Catholic Church. Above, Satan tries to lure Jesus to the dark side in the painting "Last Temptation of Christ."
He is the serpent who tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, the fallen angel who rebelled against God, the Dragon, Beelzebub, the Father of Lies, Lucifer, Satan, the Prince of Darkness.

A giant beast, he stood frozen to the waist in a lake of ice in Dante's Divine Commedy, chewed on the damned in early Renaissance paintings, made a pact with Faust as Mephistopheles, rode a tank and "held a general's rank when the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank" -- if you trust the Rolling Stones.

A popular icon in the past, the devil appears to be alive and kicking also in Pope Francis' modernizing church.

The pontiff has alluded to him ever since his first homily as Pope, when he boldly quoted the French author Léon Bloy: "Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil."

This week, speaking at a massive gathering in Rome's Olympic Stadium, Francis warned about the "devil wanting to destroy the family" and told married couples to raise children rather than owning pets. He ended his much-criticized remarks by portraying a life of loneliness and bitterness to those who love pets like they would children.

"Families face attacks from the devil because Jesus grows in parent's love and children's lives," he said.

But who, or what, is the devil?

Forget 'Saving Private Ryan', 'Stalingrad' is a movie about the battle that defeated the Nazis

Stalingrad, the movie
A handful of soldiers, beleaguered by a Nazi host in a wrecked city apartment building, prepare to sell their lives dearly on celluloid.

Does the scenario sound familiar? It should. For 70 years, the British and Americans have been making heroic movies about World War II, some of which are etched in our culture.

But now for something different: Russian film-makers have got in on the act.

They have created a 3D epic set for the film Stalingrad, about the most famous battle in their history, and the movie has become one of the biggest domestic box office hits of all time. Now, British audiences can see for themselves this amazingly noisy, bloody, cliche-laden, rubble-making version of the war.

3D does startling things to on-screen bomber crashes, tank attacks, ash from burning buildings that appears to float onto the cinema audience.

Untwisting the revisionists' history: Stalin's Russia won WW2, not the Anglo-American alliance, and he tried to prevent Cold War

The Soviet Union alone indeed could have won World War II, but would have done it at a much slower pace, believes British historian Professor Geoffrey Roberts.

"The Soviet Union could have defeated Nazi Germany on its own, but it would have taken it a lot longer and at much greater price and, of course, it would have taken the country much longer to recover after World War II," he told RT.

"Yes, the Soviet Union did not ultimately need its allies to win the war, but its alliance with particularly the United States and Great Britain helped it to win the war a lot quicker than it would have otherwise been the case," he added.

According to Roberts, following World War II, the Soviet Union was much less enthusiastic about the Cold War than its recent allies, the USA and Great Britain.

"On the Western side, once the Cold War had broken out, there was a much more positive engagement with the Cold War, whereas on the Soviet side there was a reluctance to become involved in the Cold War and continuous efforts to revive the Grand Alliance," he said.

"One of the great themes of post-war Soviet foreign policy is a desire to return to the Grand Alliance," Roberts added.

Eye 1

The 'Good War': New book reveals American troops committed tens of thousands of rapes on French women they were 'liberating'

Targets: Some American GIs saw French women as spoils of war according to an explosive new book
The handsome American soldier was Elisabeth's tenth client that evening. Working her trade on the top floor of a dingy apartment block in Paris, she felt that she had seen them all.

For the past four years, the men had been Germans, and now, since the city had been liberated in August, 1944, they were Americans. It made little difference.

Elisabeth held out three fingers of her hand to indicate the price of her body - three hundred francs.

'Too much,' said the soldier.

Elisabeth sighed. She had seen that before as well. Wearily, she kept the three fingers held up, almost as an insult.

There was no negotiation - three hundred was little enough as it was.

'Two hundred,' the soldier insisted.

'Non,' said Elisabeth. 'Three hundred or nothing'.

The soldier approached her, hate in his eyes. Elisabeth glowered back, starting to feel scared.

'In that case,' said the soldier, 'it will be nothing.'

Long-lost mummy of Amenhotep II's foster brother found

© Rossella Lorenzi/Discovery News
The skeletonized mummy of Qenamun.
The mummy of the pharaoh Amenhotep II's foster brother may have been found in a former monastery, according to archival research into 19th-century documents.

The mummy, now reduced to a skeleton, is believed to be that of Qenamun, the chief steward of Amenhotep II (about 1427 - 1400 B.C.) who was the 7th Pharaoh of Egypt's 18th Dynasty and likely Tutankhamun's great-great-grandfather.

Qenamun was effectively Amenhotep II's foster brother, as his mother, Amenemipet, was the chief royal nurse of the future king. The two grew up together and the bond endured in adult life, with Qenamun enjoying a high and powerful status.

But the whereabouts of Qenamun's afterlife journey had remained a mystery -- no coffin nor mummy was found in his large and beautifully decorated tomb in Thebes.

Rare 800-year-old lead seal unearthed from the Monastery of St. Sabas

The seal, stamped by the Monastery of St. Sabas, bears a Greek inscription; the find is noted for importance Christian history in the Holy Land

The Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday that it unearthed a rare 800-year-old lead seal from the Monastery of St. Sabas in Jerusalem. Although the authority said the seal was found over a year ago in the capital's Bayit Vagan neighborhood, it was only after recent processing and analysis that it officially authenticated the rare relic.

According to the excavation's directors on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, Benyamin Storchan and Dr. Benyamin Dolinka, the discovery is unprecedented. "This is an extraordinarily rare find because no such seal has ever been discovered to date," the archeologists said in a joint statement. "Also, the object possibly contributes important historical information about the surroundings of the site in the Bayit Vagan neighborhood."
Eye 1

Released transcript of phone conversation between Nixon and Kissinger reveals U.S. intervention in Chile to block Allende began long before September 1970 election

Kissinger & Pinochet

Henry Kissinger and General Augusto Pinochet
"Kissinger said we should present to the President an action plan to prevent [the Chilean Congress from ratifying] an Allende victory and noted that the President may decide to move even if we do not recommend it."
Covert U.S. planning to block the democratic election of Salvador Allende in Chile began weeks before his September 4, 1970, victory, according to just declassified minutes of an August 19, 1970, meeting of the high-level interagency committee known as the Special Review Group, chaired by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. "Kissinger asked that the plan be as precise as possible and include what orders would be given September 5, to whom, and in what way," as the summary recorded Kissinger's instructions to CIA Director Richard Helms. "Kissinger said we should present to the President an action plan to prevent [the Chilean Congress from ratifying] an Allende victory and noted that the President may decide to move even if we do not recommend it."

The document is one of a compendium of some 366 records released by the State Department as part of its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. The much-delayed collection, titled Chile: 1969-1973, addresses Richard Nixon's and Kissinger's efforts to destabilize the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende, and the U.S.-supported coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973. The controversial volume was edited by two former officials of the State Department's Office of the Historian, James Siekmeier and James McElveen.

Comment: Intelligence officers confirm Kissinger role in Turkish invasion of Cyprus and Chilean coup


Unraveling the mystery of the Hannah M. Bell

In the Nov. 15, 1909, edition of the Boston Daily Globe, officers of the British steamship Hannah M. Bell reported being chased by six "monster waterspouts" near Cape Hatteras, N.C.

On that same day, the New York Tribune's account of the incident stated that Captain Cooper saved the ship and crew with his shotgun. When those whirling spirals of forceful water got dangerously near the steamer, they were "disintegrated by the sea captain's well aimed shots."

But less than two years later, good fortune ran out for the 315-foot steel cargo ship. In stormy weather, it crashed into Elbow Reef, which juts close to the Gulf Stream and lies in an average of 20 feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean, about six miles offshore of Key Largo.


The mammoth and the history of mankind

© Patrick Paillet
The fragment of ivory, unearthed in 1864, whose fine detail convinced palaeontologists that man had existed far earlier than was previously known.
Next month, scientists will meet in the Dordogne to mark the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the La Madeleine mammoth - an engraving on ivory that proves man had lived alongside these prehistoric creatures

Just a few weeks from now, scientists from across the globe will gather in the town of Les Eyzies in the Dordogne to commemorate one of the most important - and fortuitous - events in the study of human origins. They will congregate to mark the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Madeleine mammoth, a small piece of ancient art that provided unequivocal proof of the deep antiquity of Homo sapiens.

The uncovering of the engraving, in 1864, was the handiwork of a joint British-French archaeological expedition and it provided the first, unambiguous evidence that human beings had once shared this planet with long-extinct animals such as the mammoth. Its discovery was also an act of extraordinary good fortune, it transpires.

"On the day the engraving was found, two of the world's leading palaeontologists happened to be at the site," says Jill Cook, an ice age art expert at the British Museum. "The piece had been fragmented and workmen carrying out the excavations would never have realised this. They would have simply dumped the bits into a bag and forgotten about them."

But by extraordinary good fortune, Edouard Lartet, who was overall director of the dig, and Hugh Falconer, a Scot who was visiting him, were present that day and realised that the bits formed a single item.