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UK: Archaeologists unearth 7th-century house in Yorkshire Dales

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© Yorkshire Dales national park authority
Volunteers dug down to discover a 7th-century house at Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales.
Volunteers' find in national park adds to discoveries pointing to richer cultural history of northern England than assumed

Humanity's long attachment to Yorkshire has notched up another piece of early evidence with the discovery of the first 7th-century house to be recorded in the Dales national park. Volunteer archaeologists dug down into an outcrop of stones on the flanks of Ingleborough fell, one of the Three Peaks famous for walks and marathon runs, where settlements were thought to exist but none had been excavated owing to shortages of time, expertise and funds.

The team revealed two chamber rooms with charcoal remains and pieces of chert, a hard flint knapped in ancient times to make tools. Carbon-dating of the charcoal has placed the use of the building at between AD660 and AD780, when Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were consolidating in northern England. The dig adds to a growing list of discoveries, from a Roman amphitheatre at Aldborough to exquisitely carved golden rings near Leeds, which are changing the history of the north of England.

In each case, archaeologists have suggested that the relative poverty of previous finds in the region, compared with southern counties, has had more to do with where the profession previously looked rather than what may be there.

Sherlock

Bronze age man's lunch: a spoonful of nettle stew

Archaeological dig reveals hundreds of objects, from six oak-tree boats to a bowl of food

Six boats hollowed out of oak tree trunks are among hundreds of intact artefacts from 3,000 years ago that have been discovered in the Cambridgeshire fens, the Observer can reveal.

The scale, quality and condition of the objects, the largest bronze age collection ever found in one place in Britain, have astonished archaeologists - and barely a fraction of the site has been excavated.
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© Dave Webb/Cambridge Archaeological Unit for the Observer
The smallest of six oak boats is excavated at the bronze age site near Peterborough.

Unique textile fragments, wicker baskets and wooden sword handles have survived. There are even containers of food, including a bowl with a wooden spoon still wedged into the contents, now analysed as nettle stew, which may have been a favourite dish in 1000BC. The boats - two of which bear unusual decoration - are in such good condition that the wood grain and colour can be seen clearly, as can signs of repairs by their owners.

Info

Filling in The Gaps in The Slave Trade

Slave Trade
© Mary Evans Picture Library
The history of the slave trade can be made clearer using genetic data.

Geneticists, archaeologists and historians are joining forces to investigate the history of transatlantic slavery, in a €4.3-million (US$5.8-million) project launched today. The researchers say that the project is a unique opportunity to improve our knowledge of the slave trade, but warn that some of their results might be "uncomfortable".

Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, millions of people from west and central Africa were captured and shipped across the Atlantic by European slave traders to a life of forced labour in the Americas. The subject has been well studied by historians, but one of the coordinators of the project, geneticist Hannes Schroeder of the Center for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, says that there are still "large gaps in our knowledge" regarding the origins of the people captured as slaves, for instance, and how the slave trade operated.

"The historical records are fragmentary," he says. "For example, they tend to mention just the port of export, rather than the ethnic or geographical origin of the person. The idea is that by bringing in genetics, we get a different view."

Schroeder got the idea for the collaboration after studying isotopes of strontium, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in the bones and teeth of slaves buried at the Newton plantation in southern Barbados. Archaeologists were keen to find a method to distinguish between first-generation captives and individuals who were subsequently born on the island, and to relate that to ancient African cultural practices such as filing teeth or burying grave goods with bodies.

Sherlock

UK: Archaeologists find 100,000 year-old rare tool on building site in Moreton

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© Cotswold Archaeology
The flint hand axe
A rare and ancient tool found on a building site in Moreton is said to a "significant find" for the town according to experts.

Cotswold Archaeology made the exciting discovering earlier this month while carrying out an excavation on the Fire Service College housing development.

The flint hand axe, thought to have been used primarily for butchering large animals, is the second of its kind to be found in Moreton in eight years.

Neil Holbrooke, chief executive at Cotswold Archaeology, said the artefact could be up to 100,000 years old.

Sherlock

Remains of medieval church discovered in Bulgaria's Sozopol

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© Julia Lazarova
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a medieval church, said to date from some time in the 12th to 14th centuries, and the front gate of the ancient city on the location of today's Sozopol, on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.

The north wall and the apse of the church are just metres from the ancient fortress in the city, Bulgarian National Television said. The church is near today's St Cyril and Methodius church, which houses what are purported to be relics of John the Baptist, found on St Ivan island off the coast of Sozopol in summer 2010.

The walls of the medieval church were close to 12 metres long, about 70cm thick and with an estimated height of between three and four metres.

Info

Arabian Artifacts May Rewrite 'Out of Africa' Theory

Ancient Artifacts
© Yamandu Hilbert
The stone artifacts found in Oman were likely made by striking flakes off flint, leading to distinctive triangular shapes. This is the first time this particular stone tool technology has been found outside of Africa.

Newfound stone artifacts suggest humankind left Africa traveling through the Arabian Peninsula instead of hugging its coasts, as long thought, researchers say.

Modern humans first arose about 200,000 years ago in Africa. When and how our lineage then dispersed has long proven controversial, but geneticists have suggested this exodus started between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago. The currently accepted theory is that the exodus from Africa traced Arabia's shores, rather than passing through its now-arid interior.

However, stone artifacts at least 100,000 years old from the Arabian Desert, revealed in January 2011, hinted that modern humans might have begun our march across the globe earlier than once suspected.

Now, more-than-100 newly discovered sites in the Sultanate of Oman apparently confirm that modern humans left Africa through Arabia long before genetic evidence suggests. Oddly, these sites are located far inland, away from the coasts.

"After a decade of searching in southern Arabia for some clue that might help us understand early human expansion, at long last we've found the smoking gun of their exit from Africa," said lead researcher Jeffrey Rose, a paleolithic archaeologist at the University of Birmingham in England. "What makes this so exciting is that the answer is a scenario almost never considered."

Meteor

The Cs Hit List 03: History Is Bunk

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Hale-Bopp over Stonehenge
Update: We covered a list of prophecies in the first part of this series. The idea of California 'falling into the sea' was mentioned. Just a few days ago, another chunk of it did just that. Specifically, part of the Paseo del Mar road in San Pedro fell into the Pacific Ocean after a landslide on 21 November. We don't think this particular landslide is what the Cs were referring to, just thought the timing was interesting in light of bringing it up here!

Just as new discoveries in science can overturn a previously held 'consensus' in a heartbeat (often to the consternation or willful disbelief of those promoting the consensus), new historical data can turn our ideas of what we think happened in our history on their head. We often take for granted that event X occurred in year Y, forgetting that either or both of those variables may be completely false. The event may turn out to have been a fiction, created by scribes and leaders of the time (or years later) for purposes of political propaganda. Dating methods may be inaccurate or possess possible confounding factors, mucking up the accepted timeline. Or, when new documents or scientific data are discovered, the event may turn out to bear little resemblance to our previous ideas of how it happened. New actors emerge with new motivations, necessitating a revision of the history books and the way we see the events and personages of our near and distant past.

Then there are the problems inherent in the study of prehistory, before the advent of 'history' as we know it. There, we only have scarce clues to rely on, all built on sciences which are themselves built on certain assumptions about the way things work. Archaeology, paleoanthropology, population and molecular genetics, climate science, geology... all of these contribute to a story of the past that historians create for us. When we consider the relatively young age of many of these sciences, the amount of information that we have amassed in that short amount of time is pretty staggering. But it's important to keep in mind that history too is a work in progress; new theories and advancements in science can prompt a radical revision of old ideas.

Prehistory occupies a good portion of the Cs transcripts. While archaeologists and anthropologists can piece together broad outlines of migrations, genetic mixing, human behaviors, population bottlenecks, etc., this was a period from which no written records appear to have survived. As such, it's hard to verify specific historical details and much of what the Cs say about these times remains interesting conjecture. But while much of it is unverifiable, it also provides opportunities to test the material as new discoveries come to light: fossil finds, climate studies, evidence for catastrophes and extinctions, and more.

Attention

Deconstructing the Foundational Myths of Israel

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Can you imagine the acrimony if this book had been written by anyone other than an Israeli Jew?

By this time already, after 60-plus years of heatedly arguing the topic back and forth, is there anything new and insightful to be said that might have a bearing on the Israel-Palestine conflict and help to bring some political and intellectual closure at long last -- at least for those who have an open mind? Yes, in fact there actually is! And the left-wing Israeli-born historian Shlomo Sand, the son of Holocaust survivors, has said it in his book, The Invention of the Jewish People, a book that first came out in Hebrew in 2008 and which has now been translated and published in English by Verso Press. Shlomo Sand goes right to the heart of the matter. He attacks and dismantles the foundational myths of the State of Israel that have provided the Zionists with rationalizations for taking over and occupying the homeland of the Palestinians, driving a stake right through them. The terms of the discussion should never be the same again, once people have read and digested Prof. Sand's book.

The basic foundational myths (of a verifiable historical variety) are twofold: Firstly, that Jews were expelled from the Holy Land by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and then dispersed to various geographical locations around the Mediterranean and beyond. Secondly, that the present-day Jewish citizens of the State of Israel are by and large the descendants of those early Jews. Thus, according to the logic of the apologists for the establishment of a settler state in Palestine, Jews are simply (and justly) re-inhabiting the land from which they originally came, thus finally bringing to a close a long and painful exile. On the surface, this argument might seem to have validity -- even if we cannot buy into the chauvinistic foundational religious myth that Jews are the Chosen People of God and that the deed to the Promised Land, which they have kept with them all through two thousand years of their absence, was awarded to them through Abraham and Moses by the Great Jehovah himself.

First of all, as Sand points out, while the Roman Empire did brutally put down Jewish revolts in A.D. 70 and A.D. 135, the Romans were not in the business of ethnic cleansing. Taxes and tribute could only flow into Roman coffers from people who were continuing to work the land and otherwise laboring. In any case, even if they were so inclined, the Romans did not have the technological means to accomplish such a dastardly thing. So where did the Jewish diaspora come from? Sand's answer is simple and logical and backed up with ample evidence from the primary and secondary sources: While it is not so today, Judaism at that time was a proselyting religion (like Christianity and, later, Islam). The Jews living elsewhere are mainly the descendants of converted peoples. Ashkenazi Jews (Jews in Eastern Europe) are mainly descendants of Khazars whose King converted in the 8th Century. Sephardic Jews (on the Iberian Peninsula and north Africa) come from converted Berbers.

Info

Secret History of Stonehenge Revealed

Stonehenge
© The Independent, UK

Extraordinary new discoveries are shedding new light on why Britain's most famous ancient site, Stonehenge, was built - and when.

Current research is now suggesting that Stonehenge may already have been an important sacred site at least 500 years before the first Stone circle was erected - and that the sanctity of its location may have determined the layout of key aspects of the surrounding sacred landscape.

What's more, the new investigation - being carried out by archaeologists from the universities' of Birmingham, Bradford and Vienna - massively increases the evidence linking Stonehenge to pre-historic solar religious beliefs. It increases the likelihood that the site was originally and primarily associated with sun worship

The investigations have also enabled archaeologists to putatively reconstruct the detailed route of a possible religious procession or other ritual event which they suspect may have taken place annually to the north of Stonehenge.

That putative pre-historic religious 'procession' (or, more specifically, the evidence suggesting its route) has implications for understanding Stonehenge's prehistoric religious function - and suggests that the significance of the site Stonehenge now occupies emerged earlier than has previously been appreciated.

Magnify

Taking a Southern Route Out of Africa

stone tools
© Science/AAAS
These 125,000-year-old stone tools were found in the United Arab Emirates.
Modern humans evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago and later left the continent to populate the rest of the world. If you look at a map, it seems obvious that the best exit route would be through northern Egypt, across the Sinai Peninsula and into modern Israel and Jordan. But mounting evidence is now pointing to another possible path out of Africa: the so-called southern route, leaving from the Horn of Africa, crossing the Red Sea and entering into southern Arabia.

Recent genetic and archaeological evidence suggests that the southern route was a viable alternative to the more northerly course. Based on such evidence, it appears humans made it to Asia sometime between 80,000 and 60,000 years ago - not reaching Europe until a few tens of thousands of years later. Cutting across the southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula might have been the speediest way for our ancestors to get to southern Asia. This year, researchers found evidence that early humans did indeed make it to southeastern Arabia, and at a much earlier date than previously thought. Simon Armitage of Royal Holloway, University of London and colleagues reported finding stone tools in the United Arab Emirates at an archaeological site called Jebel Faya just 35 miles from the Persian Gulf. They unearthed stone tools, including hand axes and scrapers, dated to 125,000 years ago. It's not yet known whether the people who made the tools went on to explore other new frontiers or just stayed put.