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Mon, 23 Sep 2019
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Secret History

Cloud Grey

The bizarre social history of beds

box beds
© wikipedia
In Brittany, the closed-bed (French: lit-clos) is a traditional furnishing. In homes with usually only one room, the box-bed allowed some privacy and helped keep people warm during winter. Similar enclosed bed furniture was once also found in western Britain… Box-beds were also used to protect people of the home from the animals (pigs, hens) also living in the house, or even to protect them from wolves who might enter houses and snatch babies.
Groucho Marx once joked, "Anything that can't be done in bed isn't worth doing at all." You might think he was referring to sleeping and sex. But humans, at one time or another, have done just about everything in bed.

And yet, despite the fact that we spend one-third of our lives in bed, they're more of an afterthought.

I certainly didn't think much about beds until I found myself talking about their history with the executives of a mattress company. These humble artifacts, I learned, had a big story to tell - one that's 77,000 years old.

That's when, according to archaeologist Lynn Wadley, our early African ancestors started to sleep in hollows dug out of cave floors - the first beds. They wrapped themselves in insect-repelling grasses to avoid bed bugs as persistent as those of today's seedy motels.

Much about our beds have remained unchanged for centuries. But one aspect of the bed has undergone a dramatic shift.


Why James Mattis is no hero

© Unknown
President Donald Trump • Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis - January 27, 2017
Last week the corporate media were going all out to lionize former Marine General and Secretary of Defense James Mattis in tandem with the publication of Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, his memoir of his lengthy career (Co-authored with former Undersecretary of Defense, Bing West, also a marine officer and veteran of Vietnam). As this celebratory gala of war and warrior hood lapses yet another military idol will have joined the pantheon. When George H.W. Bush launched Desert Storm in 1991 and "kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all" he also claimed to re-elevate the glory of the American way of war whereby the exceptional U.S. would defend the underdogs of the world against the predations of Hitlers reborn. Thereafter "Mad Dog" Mattis's career would unfold.

I was struck by a statement Mattis made in one of his interviews to the effect that prior to the second siege of Fallujah in 2004, which he commanded, he said that he at first objected to the tactics to be employed because they would "harm too many civilians" in the Iraqi city. He earlier had caused a stir in military circles when he removed a subordinate for not being aggressive enough in the capture of Baghdad. The lower ranking officer had been too careful protecting the lives of his troops.

Despite his claim of moral reluctance, Mattis unleashed an enormous cyclone of deadly force in Fallujah resulting in an immense massacre of those very civilians. As he stated in an interview, "That's why orders are not requests." He continued to explain that his orders required him to do what was necessary to uproot and defeat the enemy. Mattis has also been quoted as follows: "a good soldier follows orders, but a true warrior wears his enemy's skin like a poncho."


What lies beneath: 'Lost' Picasso revealed 100 years after artist hid it

© Anthony Bourached and George Cann
New imaging technology has carefully reconstructed a never-before-seen Picasso painting that the artist covered beneath one of his most famous pieces more than 100 years ago.

One of Pablo Picasso's best-known pieces from his 'Blue Period' - when he painted almost exclusively in shades of blue - called 'The Old Guitarist' features an elderly man slumped over the stringed instrument, dating back to 1903.

However, the faint impression of a ghostly woman in the background of the painting has long been noted by art historians. In 1998, art experts photographed the artwork using x-rays and infrared light to see what might be hidden beneath its surface.

And the results didn't disappoint: they discovered the faint outline of a completely different artwork - a seated woman holding out her left arm. Picasso had painted over the piece, but experts were able to match this original, concealed painting to a similar sketch he had sent in a letter at the time.

Car Black

Henry Ford, America's father of economic populism

Henry Ford populism

Henry Ford
The Vision

Henry Ford was not just an engineer with a vision for building an automobile. He had a vision for building a "business model" that would allow his Ford Motor Company to sell an unknown and unproven product, in a nonexistent marketplace, to a customer who could not afford to buy the product. To accomplish this Herculean task Henry Ford had to invent a new business model. Today the fruits of that business model are referred to as "economic populism" accomplished through what has become known as "supply chain management design."

The business model Henry Ford created to be able to sell his automobiles would become the defining activity of his lifetime. He would, arguably, become the father of economic populism and the resulting American middle class. His business model would ignite a war with the U.S. oligarchs and Wall Street bankers. This war with the bankers would become Henry Ford's crucible. He wrote a book about this battle.


New study shows common carp aquaculture in China dates back 8,000 years

By using age-mortality and species-selection profiles from prehistoric East Asia, researchers identified carp aquaculture in Henan Province, China, thousands of years earlier than previously reported.
Carp Farming Japan
© Mark Hudson
Preparing to drain the field at Matsukawa village, Japan.
In a recent study, an international team of researchers analyzed fish bones excavated from the Early Neolithic Jiahu site in Henan Province, China. By comparing the body-length distributions and species-composition ratios of the bones with findings from East Asian sites with present aquaculture, the researchers provide evidence of managed carp aquaculture at Jiahu dating back to 6200-5700 BC.

Despite the growing importance of farmed fish for economies and diets around the world, the origins of aquaculture remain unknown. The Shijing, the oldest surviving collection of ancient Chinese poetry, mentions carp being reared in a pond circa 1140 BC, and historical records describe carp being raised in artificial ponds and paddy fields in East Asia by the first millennium BC. But considering rice paddy fields in China date all the way back to the fifth millennium BC, researchers from Lake Biwa Museum in Kusatu, Japan, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in Norwich, U.K., and an international team of colleagues set out to discover whether carp aquaculture in China was practiced earlier than previously thought.


6,600-year-old ceramic woman figurine found in Bulgaria

Prehistoric figurine in Bulgaria
© Varna Museum of Archaeology via Radio Varna
The newly discovered prehistoric figurine is deemed a very valuable find because of the perplexingly small number of such figurines from the Middle Chalcolithic along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
A partially preserved 6,600-year-old anthropomorphic clay figurine from the Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age) has been discovered by archaeologists in a prehistoric pottery workshop located close to the town of Suvorovo, Varna District, in Northeast Bulgaria, near the Black Sea coast.

More specifically, the prehistoric pregnant woman figurine dates back to 4,700 BC - 4,600 BC, the brief period Middle Chalcolithic.

As of the middle of the 5th millennium BC, it was followed by the Late Chalcolithic famous for the Varna Culture, which boasted the world's oldest gold treasure, the Varna Gold Treasure from the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis.

It was part of Europe's first human civilization found in what is today's Bulgaria and other parts of the Balkan Peninsula near the Lower Danube and the Black Sea dubbed by some American scholars "Old Europe".

A 6,500-year-old skeleton from the Chalcolithic period was discovered back in 2011 in the Suvorovo Chalcolithic Settlement in Northeast Bulgaria, and another skeleton from the same period was also found there in 2018.

The newly discovered female anthropomorphic figurine from the Middle Chalcolithic found near Bulgaria's Suvorovo is valuable because anthropomorphic figurines precisely from that time period are perplexingly rare in the region, archaeologist Vladimir Slavchev from the Varna Museum of Archaeology has told Radio Varna.

The figurine is half-preserved, and consists mostly of its torso. It is about 15 centimeters tall, meaning that the figurine was originally about 30 centimeter tall.

The site of the figurine's belly had another clay part, which was attached or glued to it, and which broke off and has not been found. However, there is sufficient evidence for the researchers to conclude that it was used in order to augment its belly, thus seemingly depicting a pregnant woman.


The enigma of Bronze Age tin solved

The origin of the tin used in the Bronze Age has long been one of the greatest enigmas in archaeological research. Now researchers from Heidelberg University and the Curt Engelhorn Centre for Archaeometry in Mannheim have solved part of the puzzle. Using methods of the natural sciences, they examined the tin from the second millennium BCE found at archaeological sites in Israel, Turkey, and Greece. They were able to proof that this tin in form of ingots does not come from Central Asia, as previously assumed, but from tin deposits in Europe. The findings are proof that even in the Bronze Age complex and far-reaching trade routes must have existed between Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. Highly appreciated raw materials like tin as well as amber, glass, and copper were the driving forces of this early international trade network.
Tin Deposits on Eurasia
© Berger et al. 2019t | Prepared by Daniel Berger
Tin deposits on the Eurasian continent and distribution of tin finds in the area studied dating from 2500–1000 BCE. The arrow does not indicate the actual trade route but merely illustrates the assumed origin of the Israeli tin based on the data.
Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, was already being produced in the Middle East, Anatolia, and the Aegean in the late fourth and third millennia BCE. Knowledge on its production spread quickly across wide swaths of the Old World. "Bronze was used to make weapons, jewellery, and all types of daily objects, justifiably bequeathing its name to an entire epoch. The origin of tin has long been an enigma in archaeological research", explains Prof. Dr Ernst Pernicka, who until his retirement worked at both the Institute for Earth Sciences of Heidelberg University as well as the Curt Engelhorn Centre for Archaeometry. "Tin objects and deposits are rare in Europe and Asia. The Eastern Mediterranean region, where some of the objects we studied originated, had practically none of its own deposits. So the raw material in this region must have been imported", explained the researcher.


Ancient cold case: The Sima hominins, proto-Neanderthals

sima skull
© Sala et al./PLOS One
A skull from Sima de los Huesos showing evidence of blunt force trauma.
From the scene, authorities recovered DNA, a stone handaxe and more than 7,000 scattered bones, including a bashed human skull. It was a case for the ages. But there was one complication: the events unfolded 430,000 years ago.

The evidence was unearthed by anthropologists beginning in the 1980s at Sima de los Huesos — the "pit of bones" — in Spain's Atapuerca mountains. The spectacular cave chamber, nearly 100 feet below the surface, has yielded remains from at least 28 hominin individuals. Ancient DNA analysis of the fossils — the oldest human genetic code ever sequenced — indicates that these people were ancestors to Neanderthals.

After more than three decades of research, the remains have revealed much about Neanderthal evolution. But the circumstances surrounding the group's death and burial remains contentious. Found in a jumble at the base of a 45-foot chute, some say the bodies were deliberately dropped there after meeting violent ends — a Stone Age cold case.


Since systematic excavations of Sima began in 1984, researchers have discovered thousands of hominin fossils there, but only one artifact: a teardrop shaped handaxe of red and yellow stone, nicknamed Excalibur. There's more digging to do, though: It's thought more than half the deposit of sediments and fossils has yet to be excavated.


Cameron claims it was he who talked 'peacenik' EU and 'dithering' Obama into bombing Libya

Sirte, Libya
© AP/Manu Brabo
Sirte, Libya
Bombing Libya preceded a massive immigration crisis in Europe and failed to establish peace in the country, but the former Tory leader says he felt "relief" as he gave the order.

David Cameron has heaped self-praise on his decision to bomb Libya in March 2011, saying major allies expressed a lack of enthusiasm in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi.

In the weeks leading up to the NATO-led intervention, Libya was engulfed in a chain of violent protests against Gaddafi's government, with armed militias seizing the country's second-largest city, Benghazi, and swathes of eastern Libya.

However, in early March government forces pushed the rebels back and were advancing toward Benghazi; Cameron - then-Britain's prime minister - says he tried to rally allies to take action to avert a potential crackdown on the rebel-held city.
"The decision to ratchet up our response on Libya was, in many ways, the easy part, because I knew it was the right thing to do. What was tough was getting it done — and doing so against the clock. To do nothing in these circumstances was not a neutral act. It was to facilitate murder."
Cameron explains in his soon-to-be-released memoir, For the Record, which is being serialised in The Times.

Black Cat 2

Spy pigeons? Killer cigars? Acoustic kitties? Some of the weird ways CIA tried to win the cold war!

© Burkhard Sauskojus/Egon Bömsch/imageBROKER.com via GlobalLookPress
The CIA has declassified documents revealing its Cold War spy pigeons program, the latest revelation of the truly bizarre lengths the US went to to win the war which included killer cigars, trained dolphins and acoustic kitties.

Pigeon spies

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has declassified details of its secret spy-pigeon mission during the Cold War, named 'Tacana'. It used the birds to secretly photograph sites inside the Soviet Union. The avian species was chosen because of their ability to navigate their way back home, and they apparently flew their missions while expensive cameras were strapped to them.

From the sky ... and the sea

The new documents also reveal how the CIA used ravens to drop bugging devices on window sills, and trained dolphins for underwater "harbour penetration" missions. The mammals were also tested to see if they could carry sensors to detect Soviet nuclear submarines and traces of radioactive weapons. In Key West, Florida, the US tried to use dolphins in underwater attacks against enemy shipping.