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Sat, 22 Feb 2020
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Syria's 'lost province': The Hatay question returns

Hatay region

The Hatay region, located on the coast north of Latakia, was originally a part of Syria
For decades, November 30 had come and gone in silence in Syria, but not in 2013. In various ways, Syrian media instead chose to highlight the fact that seventy-four years had now passed since the 1939 Turkish annexation of Hatay Province, or Liwa Iskanderoun as it is known in Arabic — an annexation that Syria has never formally recognized.

The Hatay region, located on the coast north of Latakia, was originally a part of Syria according to the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, a League of Nations mandate after the First World War, but Turkey showed interest in the area and its large Turkish-speaking community. In 1936, the Turkish government began to push for Hatay's "reunification" with Turkey. The French decision to hand it over to Ankara three years later came in tandem with a Turkish-French treaty guaranteeing Turkish "friendship" during the Second World War. It was a blunt violation of the Treaty of Lausanne that partitioned the former Ottoman Empire and the text of the French mandate, both written in 1923, but the move was defended by France before the League of Nations as necessary in order to avoid a Turkish attack on Syria.


Mythical founder Romulus tomb rediscovered beneath the Forum in Rome

Tomb Beneath Curia Julia
© Parco Colosseo
A 3D laser scan image showing the location of the tomb (in yellow) buried beneath the steps to the Curia Julia, or Senate House, in the Roman Forum.
A tomb that was buried thousands of years ago and revered by ancient Romans as the resting place of their city's mythical founder Romulus has now been rediscovered beneath the Forum in Rome.

The underground tomb and the temple built around it are thought to date from the sixth century B.C., according to archaeologists.

Ancient Romans believed the tomb held the remains of their city's founder, but the stone sarcophagus that archaeologists just found inside the tomb is empty.

The underground temple — called a hypogeum in Greek — contains a votive altar that was dedicated to Romulus, said Alfonsina Russo, the director of the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo, which oversees the city's ancient ruins.

The entrance to the tomb is hidden in the northwest of the Forum, underneath the building of the Curia Julia, or Senate House, Russo told a news conference in Rome today (Feb. 21). The tomb itself would once have been beneath the Comitium — the central meeting place of the ancient city where votes by public assemblies were conducted, she said.

The tomb is also near the Lapis Niger — meaning "Black Stone" in Latin — an ancient shrine paved in black marble and thought to cause bad luck, with a stone block marking the spot where Romulus was said to have been murdered by jealous members of the Senate.

The temple was therefore "located in a highly symbolic place for the political life of Rome," Russo said.

The empty 4.5-foot-long (1.4 meters) sarcophagus in the tomb was made of a light volcanic stone, called tuff, quarried from the Capitoline Hill beside the Forum, she said.


Fossils discovered in the Sahara reveal catfish and tilapia swam in rivers 12,000 years ago

Paleontologists uncovered 17,551 identifiable

Paleontologists uncovered 17,551 identifiable remains on the Tadrart Acacus Mountains, with 80 percent belonging to fish that fed early humans during the Holocene period. (A and B are both fossilized remains of a catfish, while C and D belong to a tilapia. The fossil E is remains of a crocodile)
The Saharan environment in southwest Libya is a sandy, dry world, but fossil records show it was flowing with water and life some 12,000 years ago.

Paleontologists uncovered 17,551 identifiable remains on the Tadrart Acacus Mountains, with 80 percent belonging to fish that fed early humans during the Holocene period.

The remains show there was once an abundance of catfish and tilapia in the area, which died off from over fishing - the bones had cut marks and traces of burning.

The study also found that tilapia decreased more significantly over time, which may have been because catfish have accessory breathing organs allowing them to breathe air and survive in shallow, high-temperature waters.


28,500 year old fossil site supports date for dog domestication during Ice Age

© Peter Ungar
Peter Ungar with the jaw of a dog-like canid at the Moravian Museum in the Czech Republic.
Analysis of Paleolithic-era teeth from a 28,500-year-old fossil site in the Czech Republic provides supporting evidence for two groups of canids — one dog-like and the other wolf-like — with differing diets, which is consistent with the early domestication of dogs.

The study, published in the Journal of Archaeolgical Science, was co-directed by Peter Ungar, Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas.

The researchers performed dental microwear texture analysis on a sample of fossils from the Předmostí site, which contains both wolf-like and dog-like canids. Canids are simply mammals of the dog family. The researchers identified distinctive microwear patterns for each canid morphotype. Compared to the wolf-like canids, the teeth of the early dog canids — called "protodogs" by the researchers — had larger wear scars, indicating a diet that included hard, brittle foods. The teeth of the wolf-like canids had smaller scars, suggesting they consumed more flesh, likely from mammoth, as shown by previous research.

Comment: See also:

Book 2

Solzhenitsyn and Suvorov: Is reading the "anti-Russian traitors" a good or bad idea?

Alexander Solzhenitsyn
There are two names which often trigger a very strong and hostile reaction from many Russians: Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Vladimir Rezun aka "Viktor Suvorov". The list of accusations against these two men usually includes:
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn: he made up numbers about 66 million people killed by the Soviet regime, he spoke favorably of General Andrei Vlasov, he was a CIA stooge, he was an anti-Semite, a Russian nationalist and a monarchist. Finally, there is a popular saying in modern Russia: "show me an anti-Soviet activist ("антисовечик") and I will show you a russophobe" (which makes Solzhenitsyn a russophobe).
  • Vladimir Rezun: he is a traitor, he is the creator of the theory that Hitler only preempted a Soviet attack which Stalin was about to launch, he is a MI-6 front to spread russophobic theories.
What I like to do when I hear these opinions is to ask a simple question: how many books by Solzhenitsyn and/or Rezun have you actually read?

The answer is typically rather nebulous. They mostly refer to either one or two books (at most) and a number of articles (often articles not even written by either author, but paraphrasing, often rather "creatively").

This reminds me of an old Soviet joke: "a Party official comes to some factory or office to deliver a political lecture and absolutely tears into Solzhenitsyn's famous "Gulag Archipelago" calling it an ugly collection of lies. One of the workers present asks the Party official whether he read the entire book to which the Party official replies "I don't read such anti-Soviet filth!"

There is much truth to that as I have rarely encountered Solzhenitsyn-haters who actually read at least a few books by him.


Stone Age hunter-gatherers' diet may have been full of heavy-metals, and during a time of sea level rise

Stone Age
© Lou-Foto/Alamy Stock Photo
An artist’s illustration of Stone Age hunter-gatherers fishing.
You'll be healthier if you ate as your ancestors did. At least that's the promise of some modern fads such as the "caveman" or paleo diet — characterized by avoiding processed food and grains and only eating things like meat, fish, and seeds. But a new study suggests the food some early humans in Norway ate may have not only been unhealthy, but downright toxic. In some cases, these people may have consumed more than 20 times the levels of dangerous metals recommended for humans today.

Comment: The evidence overwhelmingly shows that throughout humanity's history meat (and its accompanying fat) has been our primary food source, whereas grains and vegetables are the 'fad' and these were relied on during times of struggle, and our bodies suffered for it. There's also good reason to think that eating meat is what made us human to begin.

"This study raises interesting ideas," says Katheryn Twiss, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University who was not involved in the work. But, she notes, the findings are limited to a small number of animal remains from just a few sites, and therefore may not fully represent the diets of Norwegians from thousands of years ago.

Comment: Rather than the heavy metals 'leaching' from the earth's mantel, as the paper proposes, instead could it be that what initiated the rising sea levels was also accompanied by other events that resulted in the pollution of the waters?

As for how they coped, it's worth bearing in mind that the human body is quite capable of eliminating or sequestering toxins, especially at levels like those noted above which weren't aren't considered to lethal, and this is particularly true when our bodies have an optimal food source to work with, as would be the case with these hunter-gatherers.


Microscope 2

Earliest interbreeding event between ancient human populations discovered

primative people
© C0 Public Domain
For three years, anthropologist Alan Rogers has attempted to solve an evolutionary puzzle. His research untangles millions of years of human evolution by analyzing DNA strands from ancient human species known as hominins. Like many evolutionary geneticists, Rogers compares hominin genomes looking for genetic patterns such as mutations and shared genes. He develops statistical methods that infer the history of ancient human populations.

In 2017, Rogers led a study which found that two lineages of ancient humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans, separated much earlier than previously thought and proposed a bottleneck population size. It caused some controversy — anthropologists Mafessoni and Prüfer argued that their method for analyzing the DNA produced different results. Rogers agreed, but realized that neither method explained the genetic data very well.

"Both of our methods under discussion were missing something, but what?" asked Rogers, professor of anthropology at the University of Utah.

Comment: See also: And check out SOTT radio's: MindMatters: America Before: Comets, Catastrophes, Mounds and Mythology


Radar clues reignite debate over hidden burial chambers

Egypt's queen Nefertiti
© Oliver Lang/DDP/AFP/Getty
A limestone bust of Egypt's queen Nefertiti is on display at the Neues Museum, Berlin.
A radar survey around the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt's Valley of the Kings has revealed possible evidence of further hidden chambers behind its walls.

The findings — in an unpublished report, details of which have been seen by Natureresurrect a controversial theory that the young king's burial place hides the existence of a larger tomb, which could contain the mysterious Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

Researchers led by archaeologist Mamdouh Eldamaty, a former Egyptian minister of antiquities, used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to scan the area immediately around Tutankhamun's tomb. They report that they have identified a previously unknown corridor-like space a few metres from the burial chamber (see 'Chamber of secrets'). Their finding was presented to Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) earlier this month.

The data are "tremendously exciting", says Ray Johnson, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute in Luxor, Egypt, who wasn't involved in the research. "Clearly there is something on the other side of the north wall of the burial chamber."

The possibility of extra chambers beyond Tutankhamun's tomb has previously been investigated by several teams, often working with private companies. But they produced conflicting results, and many researchers have dismissed the idea. For example, Francesco Porcelli, a physicist at the Polytechnic University of Turin in Italy who led a GPR survey inside the tomb in 2017, insists that his data rule out the existence of hidden rooms connected with the tomb.

Blue Planet

Mysterious egalitarian 'megasites' could rewrite history of world's first cities

© Nebelivka Project, produced by M. Nebbia
Farmland in Ukraine now covers most of an ancient settlement called Nebelivka that some researchers consider to be one of the earliest known cities. Here, Nebelivka’s site plan is superimposed over where it once stood.
Nebelivka, a Ukrainian village of about 700 people, sits amid rolling hills and grassy fields. Here at the edge of Eastern Europe, empty space stretches to the horizon.

It wasn't always so. Beneath the surface of Nebelivka's surrounding landscape and at nearby archaeological sites, roughly 6,000-year-old remnants of what were possibly some of the world's first cities are emerging from obscurity. These low-density, spread-out archaeological sites are known as megasites, a term that underscores both their immense size and mysterious origins. Now, some scientists are arguing the settlements represent a distinct form of ancient urban life that has gone largely unrecognized.

Megasites were cities like no others that have ever existed, says archaeologist John Chapman of Durham University in England.

Comment: See also:

SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: Zoroastrianism: The Ancient System of Values That Sought to Change The World, And Did

More than several millennia ago, a spiritual leader in Persia had a very high vision and ideal for humanity that he labored to preach and spread. In what is now known as Iran, this priest and reformer - who we know as Zarathustra (or Zoroaster) - began with a strong conception of both good and evil, and man's choice to be a manifestation of either. He saw this choice, and the awareness of it as a choice - as not only crucial to the future of his tribe and his countrymen, but to the well being of the world at large. Along with this very basic but essential concept was Zoroaster's advocacy for man's connection and respect for nature, a cohesive society, and reverence for a higher cosmological order.

Considering Zoroastrianism's huge influence and widespread appeal, and the two thousand or more years that it helped lift up the ancient world, what can be said of its impact on other of the world's ancient religions? And perhaps more importantly, what religious, social and cultural ideas does Zoroastrianism teach that we may benefit from today? This week on MindMatters we discuss these and several other features of this ancient religion, that though mostly lost to this time, could not be more timely.

Running Time: 00:49:20

Download: MP3 — 45.2 MB