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Sat, 23 Sep 2023
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Secret History


Agriculture spread thoughout UK in just 50 years

New scientific techniques reveal how large tribal gatherings swept neolithic Britain

They were the stone-age equivalent of Glastonbury festival. People gathered in their hundreds to drink, eat and party every summer at revelries lasting several days and nights. Young men met women from nearby communities and married them. Herds of cattle were slaughtered to provide food.

These neolithic carousals even had special sites. They were held on causewayed enclosures, large hilltop earthworks built by our forebears after they brought farming to Britain from the continent 6,000 years ago.

This picture of ancient British bacchanalia has been created by researchers led by Professor Alasdair Whittle of Cardiff University and Dr Alex Bayliss of English Heritage. Using a revolutionary technique for dating ancient remains, they have built up a detailed chronology of the first farmers' arrival in Britain and have shown that agriculture spread with dramatic rapidity. In its wake, profound social changes gripped the country, culminating in the construction of causewayed enclosures where chieftains or priests held revelries to help establish their power bases.

Comment: Lauding the arrival of agriculture as a good thing is tragic when we consider the fruits of its labour compared with what is known of the original stone circle people. As Laura Knight-Jadczyk pointed out in The Golden Age, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction:
According to the mainstream scientific view, the Neolithic Revolution - the switch to agriculture - was one of the steps that led us to where we are today. This event involved the development of a system for the production and storage of food. Apparently, a human society already highly diversified and in the process of changing over to growing and storing food was already  - according to Gellner and others  - a 'ritually restrained society'.
"But it [agriculture] was also a tremendous trap. The main consequence of the adoption of food production and storage was the pervasiveness of political domination. A saying is attributed to the prophet Muhammad which affirms that subjection enters the house with the plough. This is profoundly true. The moment there is a surplus and storage, coercion becomes socially inevitable, having previously been optional. A surplus has to be defended. It also has to be divided. No principle of division is either self-justifying or self-enforcing: it has to be enforced by some means and by someone.

This consideration, jointly with the simple principle of pre-emptive violence, which asserts that you should be the first to do unto them that which they will do unto you if they get the chance, inescapably turns people into rivals. Though violence and coercion were not absent from pre-agrarian society, they were contingent. They were not, so to speak, necessarily built into it. But they are necessarily built into agrarian society...

The need for production and defense also impels agrarian society to value offspring, which means that, for familiar Malthusian reasons, their populations frequently come close to the danger point... The members of agrarian societies know the conditions they are in, and they do not wait for disaster to strike. They organize in such a way as to protect themselves, if possible, from being at the end of the queue.


With agriculture came domination
So, by and large, agrarian society is authoritarian and strongly prone to domination. It is made up of a system of protected, defended storehouses, with differential and protected access. Discipline is imposed, not so much by constant direct violence, but by enforced differential access to the storehouses. Coercion does not only underwrite the place in the queue; the threat of demotion, the hope of promotion in the queue also underwrites discipline. Hence coercion can generally be indirect. The naked sword is only used against those who defy the queue-masters altogether...

... the overwhelming majority of agrarian societies are really systems of violently enforced surplus storage and surplus protection... Political centralization generally, though not universally, follows surplus production and storage. ... A formalized machinery of enforcement supplements or partly replaces ritual." (Ernest Gellner, Anthropology and Politics, Blackwell, 1995)

Magic Wand

Origin of domesticated horses: Mystery solved

© petcaregt.com
Domestic horses originated in the steppes of modern-day Ukraine, southwest Russia and west Kazakhstan, mixing with local wild stocks as they spread throughout Europe and Asia, a new research has indicated.

Scientists have remained puzzled over the origin of domesticated horses for several decades until now.

Based on archaeological evidence, it had long been thought that horse domestication originated in the western part of the Eurasian Steppe (Ukraine, southwest Russia and west Kazakhstan); however, a single origin in a geographically restricted area appeared at odds with the large number of female lineages in the domestic horse gene pool, commonly thought to reflect multiple domestication "events" across a wide geographic area.

Better Earth

Maya calendar workshop documents time beyond 2012

© Tyrone Turner/National Geographic
Boston University archaeologist William Saturno carefully uncovers art and writings left by the Maya some 1,200 years ago.
Archaeologists have found a stunning array of 1,200-year-old Maya paintings in a room that appears to have been a workshop for calendar scribes and priests, with numerical markings on the wall that denote intervals of time well beyond the controversial cycle that runs out this December.

For years, prophets of doom have been saying that we're in for an apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012, because that marks the end of the Maya "Long Count" calendar, which was based on a cycle of 13 intervals known as "baktuns," each lasting 144,000 days. But the researchers behind the latest find, detailed in the journal Science and an upcoming issue of National Geographic, say the writing on the wall runs counter to that bogus belief.

"It's very clear that the 2012 date, while important as Baktun 13, was turning the page," David Stuart, an expert on Maya hieroglyphs at the University of Texas at Austin, told reporters today. "Baktun 14 was going to be coming, and Baktun 15 and Baktun 16. ... The Maya calendar is going to keep going, and keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future."

The current focus of the research project, led by Boston University's William Saturno, is a 6-by-6-foot room situated beneath a mound at the Xultun archaeological site in Guatemala's Peten region. Maxwell Chamberlain, a BU student participating in the excavations there, happened to notice a poorly preserved wall protruding from a trench that was previously dug by looters, with the hints of a painting on the plaster.


Looting Leads Archaeologists to Oldest Known Mayan Calendar

Mayan Tomb
© Tyrone Turner; (inset) Illustration by William Saturno and David Stuart/© 2012 National Geographic
Hidden treasure. In a ruined residential compound in the ancient Maya city-state of Xultún in Guatemala, archaeologists found three elaborately painted walls—one with the portrait of a king, others with painted hieroglyphs (inset) that comprise the astronomical notations of Maya skywatchers.
On 21 July 1561, a crowd of indigenous farmers cried out in the town square of Maní, Mexico, as a Franciscan missionary set fire to dozens of fragile Maya books, or codices. Condemned by the missionaries as "the Devil's trickery," these written texts preserved knowledge gleaned from centuries of Maya science and mathematics. Similar acts of destruction followed, obliterating hundreds of other Maya codices. Today, only a handful of readable, precolonial codices survive.

Now a team of American researchers has discovered a small trove of ancient Maya texts in a surprising place. In a paper published online today in Science, William Saturno, an archaeologist at Boston University, and his colleagues, report finding Maya astronomical tables and other texts painted and incised on the walls of a 1200-year-old residential building at the site of Xultún in Guatemala. The newly discovered astronomical tables are at least 500 years older than those preserved in the Maya codices, giving researchers a new glimpse of science at the height of the Maya civilization. "I think we are all astonished by this find," says Stephen Houston, an archaeologist at Brown University who was not part of the team.

Looters have extensively targeted Xultún, which was once a sprawling Maya city-state. But in March 2010, a member of Saturno's team, Boston University student Maxwell Chamberlain, discovered part of a painted wall exposed by the illicit diggers. Subsequent archaeological excavation revealed three intact room walls within a residential compound: the walls bore paintings of human figures - including an elaborately attired Maya king - as well as vertical columns of numbers written in Maya hieroglyphs.


Earliest Evidence of Biblical Cult Discovered

Khirbet Qeiyafa
© Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The excavation of a shrine in the 3,000-year-old city of Khirbet Qeiyafa near Jerusalem.
For the first time, archaeologists have uncovered shrines from the time of the early Biblical kings in the Holy Land, providing the earliest evidence of a cult, they say.

Excavation within the remains of the roughly 3,000-year-old fortified city of Khirbet Qeiyafa, located about 19 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem, have revealed three large rooms used as shrines, along with artifacts, including tools, pottery and objects, such as alters associated with worship.

The three shrines were part of larger building complexes, and the artifacts included five standing stones, two basalt altars, two pottery libation vessels and two portable shrines, one made of pottery, the other of stone. The portable shrines are boxes shaped like temples.

The shrines themselves reflect an architectural style dating back as early as the time of King David (of the biblical David and Goliath story), providing the first physical evidence of a cult in the time of King David, according to an announcement by Yosef Garfinkel, an archaeologist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The research is presented in the book, Footsteps of King David in the Valley of Elah (Yedioth Ahronoth, 2012).

Radiocarbon dating on burnt olive pits found in the ancient city of Khirbet Qeiyafa indicate it existed between 1020 B.C. and 980 B.C., before being violently destroyed.

Comment: Completely ignores the facts that no "King David" ever existed, that there was NO "kingdom of Israel" as presented in the Bible, and that the likelihood is that the god worshiped in this "shrine" was probably not Yahweh.


Ancient Language Discovered on Clay Tablets Found Amid Ruins of 2800 Year Old Middle Eastern Palace

Ancient Language
© The Independent
A detail from the 8th century BC Assyrian clay tablet bearing the 45 mystery names written in cuneiform script which have now been deciphered at Cambridge University.
Archaeologists have discovered evidence for a previously unknown ancient language - buried in the ruins of a 2800 year old Middle Eastern palace.

The discovery is important because it may help reveal the ethnic and cultural origins of some of history's first 'barbarians' - mountain tribes which had, in previous millennia, preyed on the world's first great civilizations, the cultures of early Mesopotamia in what is now Iraq.

Evidence of the long-lost language - probably spoken by a hitherto unknown people from the Zagros Mountains of western Iran - was found by a Cambridge University archaeologist as he deciphered an ancient clay writing tablet unearthed by an international archaeological team excavating an Assyrian imperial governors' palace in the ancient city of Tushan, south-east Turkey.

The tablet revealed the names of 60 women - probably prisoners-of-war or victims of an Assyrian forced population transfer program. But when the Cambridge archaeologist - Dr. John MacGinnis - began to examine the names in detail, he realized that 45 of them bore no resemblance to any of the thousands of ancient Middle Eastern names already known to scholars.

Because ancient Middle Eastern names are normally composites, made-up, in full or abbreviated form, of ordinary words in the relevant local lexicon, the unique nature of the tablet's 45 mystery names is seen by scholars as evidence of a previously unknown language.

Eye 1

Hitler Used Cocaine and Had Semen Injections

Hitler used cocaine
© Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)/Wikimedia Commons.
Adolf Hitler farted uncontrollably, used cocaine to clear his sinuses, ingested some 28 drugs at a time and received injections of bull testicle extracts to bolster his libido.

The startling revelations come from Hitler's medical records, now up for auction at Alexander Historical Auctions of Stamford, Conn. (The full catalogues can be found here and here.)

Bidding for the documents -- which include 10 X-rays of various views of the dictactor's skull, the results of several EEG tests and sketches of the inside of his nose -- ends Tuesday and Wednesday.

The cache consists of a 47-page account compiled by his six chief physicians, each specializing in different areas of treatment, and a 178-page report dated June 12, 1945, which was compiled by Dr. Erwin Giesing, while he was interned by American forces.

The U.S. military commissioned the medical reports provided by Hitler's personal doctors, Bill Panagopulos, president of Alexander Autographs, told the New York Daily News.

Though there is no official document regarding Hitler's love of cocaine, Giesing wrote that the dictator inhaled powdered cocaine to "clear his sinuses" and "soothe" his throat. Since he had begun to "crave" the drug, his dosage had to be lowered, Giesing wrote.

The documents reveal another unflattering aspect of Hitler's life: der Führer "suffered from uncontrollable flatulence."


Glastonbury Abbey excavations reveal Saxon glass industry

© Unknown
New research led by the University of Reading has revealed that finds at Glastonbury Abbey provide the earliest archaeological evidence of glass-making in Britain

Professor Roberta Gilchrist, from the Department of Archaeology, has re-examined the records of excavations that took place at Glastonbury in the 1950s and 1960s.

Glass furnaces recorded in 1955-7 were previously thought to date from before the Norman Conquest. However, radiocarbon dating has now revealed that they date approximately to the 680s, and are likely to be associated with a major rebuilding of the abbey undertaken by King Ine of Wessex. Glass-making at York and Wearmouth is recorded in historical documents in the 670s but Glastonbury provides the earliest and most substantial archaeological evidence for glass-making in Saxon Britain.

The extensive remains of five furnaces have been identified, together with fragments of clay crucibles and glass for window glazing and drinking vessels, mainly of vivid blue-green colour. It is likely that specialist glassworkers came from Gaul (France) to work at Glastonbury. The glass will be analysed chemically to provide further information on the sourcing and processing of materials.


Agriculture Expanded as Farmers Pressed North, Not Because Hunter-gatherers Adopted the Practice

© Goran Burenhult / Science
Ove Persson and Evy Persson at excavations in Gotland, Sweden
Analyzing DNA from four ancient skeletons and comparing it with thousands of genetic samples from living humans, a group of Scandinavian scientists reported that agriculture initially spread through Europe because farmers expanded their territory northward, not because the more primitive foragers already living there adopted it on their own.

The genetic profiles of three Neolithic hunter-gatherers and one farmer who lived in the same region of modern-day Sweden about 5,000 years ago were quite different - a fact that could help resolve a decades-old battle among archaeologists over the origins of European agriculture, said study leader Mattias Jakobsson, a population geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden.

The hunter-gatherers, from the island of Gotland, bore a distinct genetic resemblance to people alive today in Europe's extreme north, said Jakobsson, who reported his findings in Friday's edition of the journal Science. The farmer, excavated from a large stone burial structure in the mainland parish of Gokhem, about 250 miles away, had DNA more like that of modern people in southern Europe.

"People have known for some time that agriculture spread from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and northward and westward," Jakobsson said. "But it's been difficult to determine if people migrated and brought farming with them, or if local hunter-gatherers changed their practices."

The study joins a growing body of work, assembled over the last decade, that aims to settle lingering debates over early human history by examining ancient DNA.

Comment: Comment: For information on the devastation these early farmers have visited on humanity, read:
The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race
Lierre Keith on 'The Vegetarian Myth - Food, Justice and Sustainability'


Late Bloomer: 32,000-year-old frozen remains used to grow ancient Arctic flower

fossil flower
© Svetlana Yashina via The New York Times

An undated handout photo of a narrow-leafed campion that has been generated from the fruit of a little arctic flower. Russian biologists say that they have grown a plant that is 32,000 years old from seeds buried in permafrost.
In a discovery that may herald the Jurassic Park-style resurrection of mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers, Russian scientists have grown a plant from the frozen remains of a 32,000-year-old Arctic flower.

The plant is a narrow-leafed campion grown in petri dishes from organic materials pulled from the banks of the Kolyma River in Siberia. Details of the project appear in Tuesday's issue of The Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. It was drafted by a team led by Svetlana Yashina and David Gilichinsky of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Tragically, Mr. Gilichinsky died of a heart attack on Saturday.

The Russian-grown campion is suspected to be the oldest plant ever grown from ancient tissue. If so, it would trounce the previous record held by a date palm grown from a 2,000-year-old seed recovered from Masada, Israel, site of a mass suicide of Jewish rebels in 73 AD.

The Russian-grown campions are extremely similar to their modern-day descendants, although 32,000 years of evolution have given contemporary campions wider, less splayed-out petals.

A long-dead Arctic ground squirrel is credited with unwittingly creating the ancient seed bank.