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Wed, 22 Aug 2018
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Secret History


Joseph Pearce: Putin and Solzhenitsyn

Putin and Solzhenitsyn
The recent film, The Death of Stalin, should be shown to all those millions of millennials in the United States who still harbor romantic delusions about communism. According to the findings of a poll, as reported in the Washington Times last year, almost a third of millennials expressed an admiration for Karl Marx and almost a quarter admired Lenin. The same poll showed that millennials are far less likely than previous generations to have a negative view of communism. Only thirty-six percent said they had a "very unfavorable" impression of an ideology which has killed tens of millions of people in the past century. As tragic and comic as this ignorance is, it is no more tragic and comic than the ignorance of those who insist of conflating contemporary Russia with the Soviet Union, seeking thereby to reignite the Cold War with its nuclear doomsday option of Mutually Assured Destruction, the acronym of which is quite literally and appropriately MAD!

As a means of exposing those who insist of seeing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a reincarnation of Josef Stalin, it would be good to look at Putin's relationship with the great Soviet dissident and anti-communist hero, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose centenary we celebrate this year.



"Trepanation": Analysis on the occupants of the 'cursed' Egyptian sarcophagus released

'cursed' Egyptian sarcophagus
© Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has released details about the skeletons found inside the mysterious sarcophagus unearthed in July and opened despite all the warnings about the ancient curses it might unleash.

The ominous black granite sarcophagus, dating back to up to the 4th century BC, was excavated in Alexandria to the protesting cries of Twitter doomsayers everywhere, and was found to contain no curses - at least, no readily-evident ones. Instead, inside were three skeletons floating in icky dark fluid (which an impressive number of people want to have a sip of).

On the more scientific side, the skeletons have now been studied by a team of scientists from the Antiquities Ministry, who have determined their age, gender and other details. While not really the stuff of a fresh 'Mummy' reboot, the findings are still interesting. They've been posted, along with photos of the bones, on the Antiquities Ministry's Facebook page.

Comment: See also:


Human footprints fossil estimated at 5.7 million years old may challenge history of human evolution

fossil human foot prints Crete

A trail of 5.7 million-year-old fossil footprints discovered in Crete could upend the widely accepted theories on early human evolution. The new prints have a distinctly human-like form, with a similar big toe to our own and a ‘ball’ in the sole that’s not found in apes
Newly discovered human-like footprints from Crete may put the established narrative of early human evolution to the test. The footprints are approximately 5.7 million years old and were made at a time when previous research puts our ancestors in Africa - with ape-like feet.

Ever since the discovery of fossils of Australopithecus in South and East Africa during the middle years of the 20th century, the origin of the human lineage has been thought to lie in Africa. More recent fossil discoveries in the same region, including the iconic 3.7 million year old Laetoli footprints from Tanzania which show human-like feet and upright locomotion, have cemented the idea that hominins (early members of the human lineage) not only originated in Africa but remained isolated there for several million years before dispersing to Europe and Asia.

The discovery of approximately 5.7 million year old human-like footprints from Crete, published online this week by an international team of researchers, overthrows this simple picture and suggests a more complex reality.



3,200-year-old cheese infected with deadly bacteria discovered in Egyptian tomb

Old cheese
© University of Catania - University of Cairo / Reuters
The 3,200-year-old cheese
Connoisseurs say that the taste of cheese improves with age - but what if it was left to age for 3,200 years? Archaeologists in Egypt now have the chance to find out, but it comes with an unexpected bonus: deadly ancient bacteria.

A team from the University of Catania in Italy found the cheese at the tomb of Ptahmes, a 13th-century BC mayor of Memphis in Egypt. The cheese was found wrapped with canvas inside a broken jar. It could be the most ancient cheese ever discovered, according to the team's study, published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

"The archaeologists suspected it was a kind of food left for the owner of the tomb and they decided to ask for chemical analyses," said lead author Enrico Greco, a leader in the new field of ancient food discoveries known as 'archaeofood.'


Rites of the Scythians hinted at with discovery of gold hoard

scythian gold goblet
© Andrey Belinski
One of two 2,400-year-old gold vessels found under a mound at the site of Sengileevskoe-2 in southern Russia depicts griffins attacking a stag.
Russian archaeologist Andrey Belinski wasn't sure what to expect when he found himself facing a small mound in a farmer's field at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. To the untrained eye, the 12-foot feature looked like little more than a hillock. To Belinski, who was charged with excavating the area to make way for new power lines, it looked like a type of ancient burial mound called a kurgan. He considered the job of excavating and analyzing the kurgan, which might be damaged by the construction work, fairly routine. "Basically, we planned to dig so we could understand how it was built," Belinski says. As he and his team began to slice into the mound, located 30 miles east of Stavropol, it became apparent that they weren't the first people to take an interest. In fact, looters had long ago ravaged some sections. "The central part was destroyed, probably in the nineteenth century," Belinski says. Hopes of finding a burial chamber or artifacts inside began to fade.

It took nearly a month of digging to reach the bottom. There, Belinski ran into a layer of thick clay that, at first glance, looked like a natural feature of the landscape, not the result of human activity. He uncovered a stone box, a foot or so deep, containing a few finger and rib bones from a teenager. But that wasn't all. Nested one inside the other in the box were two gold vessels of unsurpassed workmanship. Beneath these lay three gold armbands, a heavy ring, and three smaller bell-shaped gold cups. "It was a huge surprise for us," Belinski says. "Somehow, the people who plundered the rest didn't locate these artifacts."



'Energy in him was in full swing' says Putin's teacher regarding her famous pupil

Vladimir Putin, child
© putin.kremlin.ru/
Young Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin used to be an incredibly energetic child, who in time came to study diligently, his school teacher and long-time family friend, Vera Gurevich, has revealed in an interview with Russian media.

Gurevich taught the future Russian leader German and was his class teacher for 3 years, when he studied in a Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) secondary school. She also set up a German language club that Putin signed up for at school.
Young Putin
© Global Look Press
Young Putin
In a new interview to Ria Novosti, the 85-year-old retired teacher said that Putin always tried to meet her expectations, but his energy used to spill over sometimes. Despite this he graduated with good marks and fulfilled his dream to be accepted into university. But back in elementary school he was a very playful kid, Gurevich said.


Research pushes Egyptian mummification back 1500 years

S.293 Mummy
© Jones et al
S. 293, the oldest mummy in Turin Museum and the earliest known example of chemical preservation.
The ancient Egyptians were chemically embalming corpses some 1500 years earlier than previously thought, stunning new research has revealed.

Using a range of investigatory techniques including chemical analysis, shotgun metagenomics, textile analysis and radiocarbon dating, a team led by Egyptologist Jana Jones from Macquarie University in Australia made the finding by examining "mummy S. 293" - the oldest preserved body held in the collection of the Turin museum in Italy.

Textile dating revealed that the mummy - acquired by the museum in 1901 from a dealer - had been interred around 3600 CE. The date places the event some 1000 years before the invention of writing and around 2500 years before the peak of Egyptian mummification practice, at the height of the pharaonic era.

Mummy S.93 was originally buried lying on his left side, curled in a foetal position, possibly clothed in a full-body shroud, and lain beneath a thin covering of earth. It was originally thought that the body's preservation had occurred through "natural mummification", in which the desiccating effects of sand and wind had prevented complete decomposition.

Detailed analysis of chemical residues present on the corpse itself, its funerary coverings, or the grave goods assumed to have been part of the original burial assemblage had never been conducted.


'Vela incident': Radioactive sheep boost claims of secret Israeli nuke test 39 years ago

Radioactive sheep
© David Gray / Reuters
Radioactive isotopes discovered by scientists in Australian sheep have added gravity to longstanding claims that a mysterious flash above the Indian Ocean 39 years ago was actually an illegal Israeli nuclear weapon test.

On September 22, 1979, US satellite Vela 6911 detected a 'double flash' near the Marion and Prince Edward Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. Ever since, there has been speculation that it was actually a nuclear weapon test carried out by Israel. According to the memoirs of then-US President Jimmy Carter, this was also the assumption of American generals who briefed him on the incident. The official position of the Israeli state is to neither confirm nor deny having a homegrown military nuclear program.

Now a new paper, published in the Science & Global Security journal, says radioactive isotope iodine-131 had been discovered in the thyroids of Australian sheep in the month following the so-called 'Vela incident.'

Comment: See also: "Vela Incident": Is Israel behind 1979's mysterious nuclear explosion?


Stone tools provide new clues to Easter Island's statue builders

Easter Island Statues
© Dale Simpson, Jr.
The geology of the stone tools used to make the stone statues on Easter Island delivers tantalising clues about a bygone culture.
The remote Easter Island, known locally as Rapa Nui, lies 2,300 miles off Chile's Pacific coast, a mysterious place best known for its giant stone statues. The common narrative states that the enormous heads were built by Polynesian seafarers who, the story goes, then brought about the demise of their own society through internal squabbles and draining of the island's natural resources.

However, a new study published in the Journal of Pacific Archaeology suggests the true story of early civilisation on Polynesia's easternmost outpost is more complex. Archaeologists found evidence of a sophisticated society where the people shared information and collaborated, by analysing the chemical make-up of the tools used to build the sculptures.

"For a long time, people wondered about the culture behind these very important statues," says Laure Dussubieux, one of the study's authors and a scientist at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. "This study shows how people were interacting, it's helping to revise the theory."

"The idea of competition and collapse on Easter Island might be overstated," adds lead author Dale Simpson, Jr., an archaeologist from the University of Queensland. "To me, the stone carving industry is solid evidence that there was cooperation among families and craft groups."


Exquisitely designed 2,000-year-old Roman lady's shoe discovered in well

Roman lady's shoe
© Mictlantecuhtli via reddit
Roman lady's shoe
We all know the ancient Romans were skilled engineers, constructing vast highways to cover the enormous lands they conquered. But did you know they were also fashionable? In the Empire, footwear was used as a status symbol in addition to providing warmth and protection. And with Italy's reputation for shoes, it should come as no surprise that their Roman ancestors were also good cobblers.

A stylish shoe on display at The Saalburg in Germany shows just how fashionable women in ancient Rome could be. The Saalburg is a Roman fort located on the ridge of the High Tanus mountain and was part of ancient border fortifications in the area. Enormous in scale, the fort and its surrounding village were home to around 2,000 people at its peak. It was constructed in 90 AD and stayed in operation until around 260 AD when a political and economic crisis caused it to go out of use.