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Sat, 20 Apr 2019
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Secret History


Crusader armies were remarkably genetically diverse

© CC0
DNA research adds to evidence soldiers heading east struck up relationships with locals
Crusader armies were made up of people from remarkably genetically diverse backgrounds, hailing not just from western Europe but also much further east, according to a new study that gives unprecedented insight into the fighters' lives.

The Crusades to the Holy Land were spread over two centuries, with many Europeans heading east to fight, and others turning up to trade.

While experts say it is well known that high-ranking crusaders entered into marriages with Armenians to shore up political allegiances, the study adds to evidence that footsoldiers were also striking up relationships as they headed east.

"Those were the regular normal people who are also mixing together, and their sons were joining the fight later on," said Dr Marc Haber, author of the research from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge.

Comment: Perhaps there's more to the history of the Crusades than is currently known: Also check out SOTT radio's:

Easter Egg

How Easter egg trees almost became an American tradition

Easter egg tree
The Easter egg tree custom, pictured here in Saalfeld, Germany, gained some ground in the United States.
IN THE SPRING OF 1895, Louis C. Tiffany, of stained-glass and jewelry fame, held a lavish "Mayflower Festival" to benefit a local hospital. "Among the evening's entertainments," writes culinary historian Cathy K. Kaufman, "was an Easter egg tree, dazzling with different colored eggs."

This wasn't unusual at the time. In the era before plastic eggs, many Americans carefully emptied whole eggs of their contents and colored them brightly for Easter, occasionally hanging them on tree branches with scraps of ribbon or thread. In 1890s New York, it was even something of a craze. But despite brief bursts of popularity, Kaufman writes, today "egg trees are a dismal failure when compared to Christmas trees, found only in a few public fora and very scattered homes."

Much like the Christmas tree, the custom likely came to the United States with German immigrants, entrenching itself among the Pennsylvania Dutch. (Although the Easter egg tree is typically a bare-branched tree hung with eggs, rather than an evergreen.) Across parts of Pennsylvania and Appalachia, Kaufman writes, women considered egg trees a type of good-luck charm, especially when it came to fertility.

Black Cat

New species of giant carnivore found in Kenya museum drawer

Simbakubwa kutokaafrika - big lion
© Mauricio Anton
When Ohio University integrative biologist Nancy Stevens peered into a drawer in the wooden cabinets on the top floor of a Nairobi museum in 2010, she saw a chunk of rock containing massive teeth and knew she had come across something important.

The overlooked fossils stored at the National Museums of Kenya belonged to one of the largest meat-eating mammals ever to walk the Earth, a beast called Simbakubwa kutokaafrika that stalked Africa 22 million years ago, according to research by Stevens and co-author Matthew Borths published on Thursday.

Bigger than any carnivorous land mammal alive today - even a polar bear - Simbakubwa's skull was the size of a rhino's, its 20-centimetre canine teeth as large as bananas. It weighed about a ton and was 2½ metres snout to rump.


Çatalhöyük: The Stone Age settlement where humanity took its first steps toward city life


Beginning in the 1960s, work at Çatalhöyük (in central Turkey) has unearthed numerous levels of close-knit households where a large community of people lived during the Stone Age as humanity began to reject nomadic life.
The Konya Plain stretches for hundreds of miles across central Turkey. Almost 60 years ago, in a remote spot some 30 miles from the regional capital of Konya, a team of archaeologists began exploring two small hills. A fork in a local footpath and the two mounds themselves gave the site its modern name. Fork (çatal in Turkish) and mound (höyük) combine to form Çatalhöyük. Today the site is regarded by UNESCO as the most significant human settlement documenting early settled agricultural life.

Founded over 9,000 years ago on the bank of a river that has since dried up, Çatalhöyük is believed to have been home to an egalitarian Stone Age society who built distinctive homes, arranged back-to-back without doors or windows. They went in and out through openings in the roof. On the inside, they left wall paintings and enigmatic figurines.

These dwellings also played an important role in their funerary practices: Residents buried the dead under their homes. At its peak, the town housed as many as 8,000 people, who supported themselves through agriculture and raising livestock.

Comment: See also:

Star of David

AIPAC and the US Federal Election Commission

Netanyahu aipac
Reviewing AIPAC's history since its 1963 creation reveals a consistently well-organized campaign of manipulation and evasion of the US election law as one necessary ingredient to its invincible image on Capitol Hill. The American Israel Political Affairs Committee has long claimed it is not a political action committee, that they do not endorse candidates nor provide financial donations to political campaigns. As with all things involving AIPAC, there is another side to the story.

As the result of a 1988 Sixty Minutes interview by Mike Wallace, it became clear that AIPAC had a long history of involvement in US electoral politics as it targeted non-AIPAC members of Congress for defeat with the use of "80 shell-front pro-Israel PACs." Unfortunately, Wallace never inquired whether AIPAC was in compliance with the Federal Election Commission laws. It comes as no surprise to know they were not and continue to resist efforts at accountability or adhering to the standard rule of registering as a foreign entity.

Soon after Sixty Minutes aired, a memo written by AIPAC's Deputy Political Director Elizabeth Schrayer in 1986 became public. In that memo, Schrayer instructed her assistant to direct AIPAC affiliated PAC's; that is those PACs with non- identifiable AIPAC names, to channel political donations into the campaigns of AIPAC's favored candidates.


6,000 years ago Aegean farmers replaced hunters of ancient Britain

ancient briton
© Jonathan Brady/PA via AP, File
On this Wednesday Feb. 7, 2018, file photo a full facial reconstruction model of a head based on the skull of Britain's oldest complete skeleton on display during a screening event of The First Brit: Secrets Of The 10,000 Year Old Man at The Natural History Museum, in London. Scientists say a wave of migrants from a region that is now Greece and Turkey arrived in Britain some 6,000 years ago and virtually replaced the existing hunter-gatherer population, according to a study published Monday April 15, 2019, in the journal Nature. According to Nature, genetic samples of ancient remains show there was little interbreeding between the newcomers and the darker-skinned foragers that had inhabited the British Isles for millennia.
A wave of migrants from what is now Greece and Turkey arrived in Britain some 6,000 years ago and virtually replaced the existing hunter-gatherer population, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature.

Scientists examining samples of ancient remains dating as far back as 8500 BC found the dark-skinned foragers who had inhabited the British Isles since the last Ice Age left comparatively little trace in the genetic record after the transition to farming, suggesting there wasn't much interbreeding with the newcomers who arrived around 4000 BC.

By contrast, the same Aegean migrants mixed extensively with local populations when they introduced farming to continental Europe about 1,000 years earlier, according to previous DNA studies.

Comment: It's notable that according to another study detailed in The first farmers were direct descendants of hunter-gatherers and not migrants:
They discovered that the Neolithic farmers were direct descendants of the hunter-gathers. The finding strongly indicates that farming became commonplace because the indigenous population changed its subsistence strategy, rather than because it was overrun by incomers who brought the practice with them.
See also:


Megalith tombs were family graves in European Stone Age says new study

The Ansarve site
© Magdalena Fraser by HeritageDaily
The Ansarve site on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea is embedded in an area with mostly hunter-gathers at the time.
In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international research team, led from Uppsala University, discovered kin relationships among Stone Age individuals buried in megalithic tombs on Ireland and in Sweden.

The kin relations can be traced for more than ten generations and suggests that megaliths were graves for kindred groups in Stone Age northwestern Europe.

Agriculture spread with migrants from the Fertile Crescent into Europe around 9,000 BCE, reaching northwestern Europe by 4,000 BCE. Starting around 4,500 BCE, a new phenomenon of constructing megalithic monuments, particularly for funerary practices, emerged along the Atlantic façade. These constructions have been enigmatic to the scientific community, and the origin and social structure of the groups that erected them has remained largely unknown. The international team sequenced and analysed the genomes from the human remains of 24 individuals from five megalithic burial sites, encompassing the widespread tradition of megalithic construction in northern and western Europe.

The team collected human remains of 24 individuals from megaliths on Ireland, in Scotland and the Baltic island of Gotland, Sweden. The remains were radiocarbon-dated to between 3,800 and 2,600 BCE. DNA was extracted from bones and teeth for genome sequencing. The team compared the genomic data to the genetic variation of Stone Age groups and individuals from other parts of Europe. The individuals in the megaliths were closely related to Neolithic farmers in northern and western Europe, and also to some groups in Iberia, but less related to farmer groups in central Europe.

The team found an overrepresentation of males compared to females in the megalith tombs on the British Isles.


11,600 year old, 5m tall Shigir Idol may have originally stood tall beside a paleo-lake

Shigir Idol
© Olga Gertcyk, The Siberian Times
The stunning idol is three times as old as the Egyptian pyramids. Drawings: Nina Belanova, Sasha Skulova.
Wooden statue 5.3m high with eight faces gazed over the water for only two decades, but leaves us with a conundrum 11,600 years later.

With its evocative main face and O-shaped mouth, its mysterious zigzag etched lines, the Shigir Idol is now accepted as one of the world's oldest examples of monumental art.

All the more remarkably, it is made of larch not stone yet still survives, thanks to it falling into a peat bog, once a paleo-lake, in which it was superbly preserved.

Now experts who know it best are suggesting some intriguing new theories about this ancient relic found late in the 19th century by tsarist gold prospectors.

Comment: For more on the idol, and for some information about the intriguing history of the region in which it was found, see:


The awkward logistics of cremation in ancient Greece

Ancient Greek funeral pyre
© Nastasic/Getty Images
A nineteenth century illustration depicting an ancient Greek funeral pyre.
The story of the long conflict between Sparta and Athens in the fourth century BCE is considered one of the foundational narratives of European civilisation - but it also contains multiple problems.

Prime among these, a new study argues, is the combustibility of dead soldiers.

The main source of information on the conflict is the History of the Peloponnesian War written by the Athenian historian and general Thucydides (460-400 BCE).

The book is held to be one of the fundamental texts in the development of the discipline of history - a key exercise in objective reporting, a description of cause-and-effect without resorting supernatural explanations.

As early as 1929, historian Charles Norris Cochrane called the writer the father of "scientific history".

It's a wonderful soubriquet, except, says ancient historian Owen Rees from the UK's Manchester Metropolitan University, it isn't true - at least when it comes to Thucydides' detailed, and famous, description of how the Athenians dealt with their war dead.

In a painstaking recreation of the physics and fuel loads of ancient pyres, Rees concludes that the historian's portrayal of the valiant war dead - their bodies retrieved, sorted according to membership of 10 tribes, left in state for three days, and then burned before being placed in massive communal tribal coffins and carried back to the city to be displayed before a ceremonial burial - is significantly flawed, and may indeed be dead wrong.


Reviewing History Channel's 'Jesus: His Life' - zero scholarship, total propaganda

jesus his life
When I heard about the History Channel's new TV special, Jesus : His Life, I was quite interested to see how they were going to handle the subject. As the author of the recently published book, Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Exited, obviously I knew that my perspective on the subject would be different than whatever might be presented, but I was still quite interested to see how they were going to present the subject matter.

Before the first episode even aired, I went to the History Channel website to read about it. This did not bode well. What I saw immediately is that this would not be an actual documentary. In looking at the list of "experts" featured in the series I immediately recognized that there wasn't a single historian among them. Essentially every person associated with the program is a theologian. The about page for the programs notes, "The series interviews and consulted with a diverse group of scholars, faith leaders and theologians from across the ideological spectrum to provide a rounded picture of the life and times in which Jesus lived."

Of those on the list of featured "experts" I recognized a few as obvious charlatans, such as Joel Osteen, a popular televangelist, but also a few respectable scholars, such as Candida Moss and Mark Goodacre. Regardless, this gets at something that I think is extremely important. One of the biggest problems with the popular understanding of Christian origins today stems from the fact that theologians are passed-off in our society as historians, which they are not. I believe that programs like this, which have been common in America for about thirty or forty years now, play a key role in presenting theologians as historians.