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Ancient Easter Island communities offer insights for successful life in isolation

South coast of Rapa Nui.
© Sean Hixon
This is a restored statue platform with standing moai on the south coast of Rapa Nui.
After a long journey, a group of settlers sets foot on an otherwise empty land. A vast expanse separates them from other human beings, cutting off any possibility of outside contact. Their choices will make the difference between survival and death.

The people of Easter Island may have something to teach future Martian colonists.

Binghamton University anthropologists Carl Lipo and Robert DiNapoli explore how complex community patterns in Rapa Nui — the indigenous name for both the island and its people — helped the isolated island survive from its settlement in the 12th to 13th century until European contact.

Their findings, "Population structure drives cultural diversity in finite populations: A hypothesis for localized community patterns on Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile)," were recently published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Co-authors also include Mark Madsen from the University of Washington's Department of Anthropology and Terry Hunt from the University of Arizona's Honors College and School of Anthropology.

"The cool thing about Easter Island is that it's a great case study for what happens in absolute isolation," said Lipo, a professor of anthropology and environmental studies and associate dean of Harpur College. "From our best understanding, once people got to the island, that was it. They weren't going anywhere else and there wasn't anyone else coming in."

Shaped like a triangle, Easter Island is small: around 15 miles long and a bit more than 7 miles wide at its thickest point. It's also one of the most remote inhabited places on Earth, more than a thousand miles away from the closest inhabited neighbors.

But for all its small size, Rapa Nui had multiple clans and small communities that maintained both cultural and physical separation. The archaeological evidence shows stylistic differences in the creation of artifacts in communities only 500 meters apart, for example. The inhabitants' physical remains also show they didn't stray far or marry away from home; this was uncovered through DNA and isotope analyses, as well as skeletal variations between communities.

These small communities may have been a cultural bulwark against a phenomenon known as random drift, according to their research.

Book

The lies and conspiracy theories from neocon 'crazies' that fueled Iraq war are the subject of new history

Scott Horton/book
© YouTube/KJN
Scott Horton
Last month Foreign Affairs ran an article saying that Iran and Israel were engaged in mutual hostilities that could drag the United States into a war not of our choosing, and there was no mention in the article of the people who really do want the U.S. to go to war with Iran, the neoconservative branch of the Israel lobby. Last week Foreign Policy ran an article by one of those neoconservatives, saying that if the U.S. returns to its deal with a "rogue regime committed to Israel's destruction," Israel will likely go to war against Iran.

It ought to be terrifying that our supposed client state is escalating its attacks on Iran just as the United States is trying to reenter the Iran deal; and its friends in the U.S. are escalating the war of words. But the most you hear about this on mainstream media is Andrea Mitchell venturing to Jake Sullivan that Israel "is being unhelpful" to the United States with its attacks.

It's as if the Iraq war and the neoconservative/Israel lobby role in pushing that invasion has disappeared down the memory hole.

That's what makes Scott Horton's new book such essential reading. Enough Already is the radio host/libertarian/antiwar.com editor's meticulous analysis of how the U.S. "war on terrorism" has generated unending suffering in the Middle East. A million lives lost in Bush's war on Iraq alone, as Horton said during the Israel lobby conference April 24.

Comment: The suffering of humanity is partly to do with things we cannot control, but also with things we can but don't.


Light Saber

Black people are far more powerful than critical race theory preaches

Black students sit down strike
© Getty Images
Black students line the counter of a dime store in protest for the stores refusal to serve them. Some 150 students staged the "sit down strike" after the store refused to serve them. The lunch counter was quickly closed by the store manager.
The nation is currently engulfed in a debate about critical race theory, a social science that emerged in the mid-1970s that analyzes how racism has been used as a system to disempower people of color. The view has been popularized by people like Ibrahim X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, whose books How to Be an Antiracist and White Fragility mainstreamed the idea that racism is systemic and must be combatted constantly and vigorously, at every level of society. More recently, there's been some pushback, too: Republicans across the nation have been making attempts to ban this theory from public schools, pointing out that its practical application has led to the demonization of white students.

The problem with critical race theory is much deeper than that, though. It stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the complexities of our social and political realities, reducing them to a single factor: racism. But when it comes to how race and power intersect, black history is far, far richer than critical race theorists allow.

Many in the critical race theory camp view black people as uniquely disempowered by America's history of racism. Racism "has contributed to all contemporary manifestations of group advantage and disadvantage along racial lines, including differences in income, imprisonment, health, housing, education, political representation, and military service," write several critical race theory scholars, including Kimberle Crenshaw and Mari Matsuda in Words that Wound. "Our history calls for this presumption."

But our history actually tells a different story, too, one of empowerment through struggle. In the racist Jim Crow South, segregation forced African Americans to form their own businesses, universities, legal funds and other civil society institutions. "The more cut off black communities became from white communities and the more that white businessmen refused to cater to black customers, the more possible it became for enterprising black entrepreneurs to create viable businesses of their own," The Henry Ford Foundation's Donna Braden writes.

Dig

Remains of 9 Neanderthals discovered by archeologists near Rome

Neanderthals
© Emanuele Antonio Minerva/Italian Culture Ministry via AP
This image released by the Italian Culture Ministry shows a cave near Rome where fossil findings were discovered, shedding new light on how the Italian peninsula was populated and under what environmental conditions. The Italian Culture Ministry announced the discovery Saturday, May 8, 2021, saying it confirmed that the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, where a Neanderthal skull was discovered in 1939, was "one of the most significant places in the world for the history of Neanderthals."
Italian archaeologists have uncovered the fossilized remains of nine Neanderthals in a cave near Rome, shedding new light on how the Italian peninsula was populated and under what environmental conditions.

The Italian Culture Ministry announced the discovery Saturday, saying it confirmed that the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo was "one of the most significant places in the world for the history of Neanderthals." A Neanderthal skull was discovered in the cave in 1939.

The fossilized bones include skulls, skull fragments, two teeth and other bone fragments. The oldest remains date from between 100,000 and 90,000 years ago, while the other eight Neanderthals are believed to date from 50,000-68,000 years ago, the Culture Ministry said in a statement.

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Info

Greenan Fort - Seat of the Kingdom of Ailech, Ireland

Greenan Fort
© Ian Mitchinson - Shutterstock
The Grianan of Aileach, also called Greenan Ely or Greenan Fort, is a stone ringfort located on the summit of Greenan Mountain in County Donegal, Ireland.

The fort is believed to have been constructed by the Cenél nEógain, a branch of the Northern Uí Néill dynasties during the 8th or 9th century, serving as the principal seat of the Kings of Ailech which ruled the medieval Irish province of Ailech, otherwise known as the Kingdom of Ailech.

According to Irish mythology, the fort's construction is attributed to the Dagda (meaning "the good god" or "the great god"), a deity and the celebrated king of the Tuatha Dé Danann who was associated with fertility, agriculture, manliness, strength, as well as magic, Druidry and wisdom.

In the Great Book of Lecan, a medieval Irish manuscript from the 14th or 15th century AD, it describes in verse 38 Ordnance Memoir of the parish of Templemore how the fort was erected around the grave of Dagda's son Aedh, who was killed by the Connacht chieftain Corrgenn.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the fort is situated on the remains of an earlier Iron Age hillfort that dates from around 1000 BC, with evidence of earlier occupation in the Early Bronze Age and possibly the Neolithic period.

Book

Masterful new history exposes America's dangerous misunderstanding of Iran, partly due to Israel lobby pressure

Ghazvinian
© Twitter/KJN
Author John Ghazvinian
John Ghazvinian's superb new book appears at exactly the right time. As the Biden administration gingerly starts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, the mainstream U.S. media will continue its shameful tradition of distorting the truth, partly in response to the Israel lobby's attempt to sabotage America's return to the agreement. Ghazvinian's magisterial, fascinating survey is a calm, persuasive response to the dishonesty, indispensable to anyone concerned about what is still one of the greatest flashpoints in the world.

Ghazvinian is of Iranian descent — his parents left the country with him 46 years ago when he was a year old — and he has used his language skills to work in Iran's archives after getting limited permission. He was a journalist before he joined the academy — the author of a valuable 2007 book on the oil industry in Africa — and his impressive writing ability shines through, making this 667-page book a smooth read.

What stands out about U.S. policy toward Iran over the past 7 decades or so is the lethal combination of arrogance and stupidity. American policymakers fundamentally misunderstood that, as Ghazvinian puts it: . . . Iran is one of the world's oldest, proudest, and most enduring civilizations. . . Iran has had three thousand years of (mostly) continuous nationhood. . . It is also one of only seven or eight nations that were never colonized by European powers. . . Ghazvinian's account makes clear that Iranians will continue to resist U.S. efforts to impose "regime change" on them, whatever their view of their present government. What's tragic is that his thoroughly-researched account shows that hostility between the two nations is not eternal. In the early years of American independence, in fact, there was a distant but mutual respect. Iran was instead worried about its expansionist northern neighbor, Russia, and then, later, about Great Britain.

Info

Oldest human burial in Kenya

A new study featured on the 6 May cover of Nature by an international team of researchers details the earliest modern human burial in Africa. The remains of a 2.5 to 3 year-old child were found in a flexed position, deliberately buried in a shallow grave directly under the sheltered overhang of the cave. The interment at Panga ya Saidi joins increasing evidence of early complex social behaviours in Homo sapiens.
Panga ya Saidi
© Mohammad Javad Shoaee
General view of the cave site of Panga ya Saidi. Note trench excavation where burial was unearthed.
Despite being home to the earliest signs of modern human behaviour, early evidence of burials in Africa are scarce and often ambiguous. Therefore, little is known about the origin and development of mortuary practices in the continent of our species' birth. A child buried at the mouth of the Panga ya Saidi cave site 78,000 years ago is changing that, revealing how Middle Stone Age populations interacted with the dead.

Panga ya Saidi has been an important site for human origins research since excavations began in 2010 as part of a long-term partnership between archaeologists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (Jena, Germany) and the National Museums of Kenya (Nairobi).

"As soon as we first visited Panga ya Saidi, we knew that it was special," says Professor Nicole Boivin, principal investigator of the original project and director of the Department of Archaeology at the MPI for the Science of Human History. "The site is truly one of a kind. Repeated seasons of excavation at Panga ya Saidi have now helped to establish it as a key type site for the East African coast, with an extraordinary 78,000-year record of early human cultural, technological and symbolic activities."

Archaeology

Scientists find oldest evidence of ancient human activity deep inside South African cave

Wonderwerk Cave
© Michael Chazan/Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Kalahari desert Wonderwerk Cave.
The Wonderwerk Cave site in South Africa is one of very few places on Earth where human activity can be traced back continuously across millennia, and scientists just established the oldest evidence of archaic human habitation in the cave: some 1.8 million years ago.

That's based on an analysis of sedimentary layers containing animal bones, the remnants of burning fires, and Oldowan stone tools: Objects made from simple rocks with flakes chipped off to sharpen them, representing what was once a significant step forward in tool technology.

While tool artifacts at other sites have been backdated as far as 3.3 million years ago, the new findings are now thought to be the earliest sign of continuous prehistoric human living inside a cave - with the use of fire and tools in one fixed location indoors.

UFO

How the Pentagon started taking UFOs seriously

UFO massachusetts Coast guard 1952
© Seaman Shell R. Alper/US Naval Institute
Four UFO's sighted above the Salem, Massachusetts Coast Guard Air Station on July 16, 1952. Photo by Seaman Shell R. Alpert. Also present was Hospitalman Thomas E. Flaherty.
On May 9, 2001, Steven M. Greer took the lectern at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C., in pursuit of the truth about unidentified flying objects. Greer, an emergency-room physician in Virginia and an outspoken ufologist, believed that the government had long withheld from the American people its familiarity with alien visitations. He had founded the Disclosure Project in 1993 in an attempt to penetrate the sanctums of conspiracy. Greer's reckoning that day featured some twenty speakers. He provided, in support of his claims, a four-hundred-and-ninety-two-page dossier called the "Disclosure Project Briefing Document." For public officials too busy to absorb such a vast tract of suppressed knowledge, Greer had prepared a ninety-five-page "Executive Summary of the Disclosure Project Briefing Document." After some throat-clearing, the "Executive Summary" began with "A Brief Summary," which included a series of bullet points outlining what amounted to the greatest secret in human history.

Over several decades, according to Greer, untold numbers of alien craft had been observed in our planet's airspace; they were able to reach extreme velocities with no visible means of lift or propulsion, and to perform stunning maneuvers at g-forces that would turn a human pilot to soup. Some of these extraterrestrial spaceships had been "downed, retrieved and studied since at least the 1940s and possibly as early as the 1930s." Efforts to reverse engineer such extraordinary machines had led to "significant technological breakthroughs in energy generation." These operations had mostly been classified as "cosmic top secret," a tier of clearance "thirty-eight levels" above that typically granted to the Commander-in-Chief. Why, Greer asked, had such transformative technologies been hidden for so long? This was obvious. The "social, economic and geo-political order of the world" was at stake.

Health

Cancer rates in medieval Britain were around ten times higher than previously thought, study suggests

bone
© Left: Jenna Dittmar. Right: Bram Mulder
Left: Excavated medieval bone from spine showing cancer metastases (white arrow). Right: CT scan of bone from a medieval skull showing metastasis hidden within (white arrow).
CT scanning used to uncover remnants of malignancy hidden inside medieval bones provides new insight into cancer prevalence in a pre-industrial world.

The first study to use x-rays and CT scans to detect evidence of cancer among the skeletal remains of a pre-industrial population suggests that between 9-14% of adults in medieval Britain had the disease at the time of their death.

This puts cancer prevalence in a time before exposure to tumour-inducing chemicals from industry and tobacco at around ten times higher than previously thought, according to researchers.


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