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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.

Crusader

US, Virginia: Archaeologist Traces Pocahontas Wedding Site

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© Agence France-Presse/Mladen Antonov
A stone cross marks the grave of a 17th century British settler at the archaeological site of Jamestown, Virginia -- the first permanent English settlement in America. Archaeologist William Kelso is certain he's discovered the remains of the oldest Protestant church in the United States, standing between two holes he insists once held wooden posts -- the wedding site of Indian princess Pocahontas.
Archaeologist William Kelso is certain he's discovered the remains of the oldest Protestant church in the United States, standing between two holes he insists once held wooden posts.

In 1614, Pocahontas was "married right here, I guarantee," Kelso told AFP at the Jamestown, Virginia archeological site southeast of the nation's capital.

Near the James River, on May 14, 1607, a group of about a hundred men landed on commission from England to form the first colony in the Americas.

"It's fantastically exciting and significant because Jamestown is usually depicted -- the whole early settlement depicted -- as it was carried out by lazy gentlemen who wanted to get rich quick, and go right back to England."

The area was carefully excavated to reveal several large post holes 6.5 feet (two meters) deep and the trace remnants of four graves.

Two other Protestant churches are thought to have been built before, but left no trace, and remains of a Catholic church were also found in Florida -- but Kelso is sure this one is the oldest left.

Sun

Archaeological discovery provides evidence of a celestial procession at Stonehenge

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© EPA/Lindsey Parnaby
Arch Druid Keeper of the Stones Terry Dobney inspecting the famous British landmark Stonehenge in Wiltshire, south west England.
Archaeologists led by the University of Birmingham with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection have discovered evidence of two huge pits positioned on celestial alignment at Stonehenge. Shedding new light on the significant association of the monument with the sun, these pits may have contained tall stones, wooden posts or even fires to mark its rising and setting and could have defined a processional route used by agriculturalists to celebrate the passage of the sun across the sky at the summer solstice.

Positioned within the Cursus pathway, the pits are on alignment towards midsummer sunrise and sunset when viewed from the Heel Stone, the enigmatic stone standing just outside the entrance to Stonehenge. For the first time, this discovery may directly link the rituals and celestial phenomena at Stonehenge to activities within the Cursus.

The international archaeological survey team, led by the University of Birmingham's IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA), with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna (LBI ArchPro) have also discovered a previously unknown gap in the middle of the northern side of the Cursus, which may have provided the main entrance and exit point for processions that took place within the pathway. Stretching from west to east, the Cursus is an immense linear enclosure, 100 metres wide and two and a half kilometres across, north of Stonehenge.

Magnify

The Secrets of Ancient Rome's Buildings

Roman Colosseum
© Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images
Roman Colosseum The Colosseum, inaugurated in A.D. 80, seated 50,000 and hosted gladiatorial games, ritual animal hunts, parades and executions.
What is it about Roman concrete that keeps the Pantheon and the Colosseum still standing?

The Romans started making concrete more than 2,000 years ago, but it wasn't quite like today's concrete. They had a different formula, which resulted in a substance that was not as strong as the modern product. Yet structures like the Pantheon and the Colosseum have survived for centuries, often with little to no maintenance. Geologists, archaeologists and engineers are studying the properties of ancient Roman concrete to solve the mystery of its longevity.

"Roman concrete is . . . considerably weaker than modern concretes. It's approximately ten times weaker," says Renato Perucchio, a mechanical engineer at the University of Rochester in New York. "What this material is assumed to have is phenomenal resistance over time."

That resistance, or durability against the elements, may be due to one of the concrete's key ingredients: volcanic ash. Modern concrete is a mix of a lime-based cement, water, sand and so-called aggregates such as fine gravel. The formula for Roman concrete also starts with limestone: builders burned it to produce quicklime and then added water to create a paste. Next they mixed in volcanic ash - usually three parts volcanic ash to one part lime, according to the writings of Vitruvius, a first-century B.C. architect and engineer. The volcanic ash reacted with the lime paste to create a durable mortar that was combined with fist-size chunks of bricks or volcanic rocks called tuff, and then packed into place to form structures like walls or vaults.

Fish

Evidence Found Of Ancient Deep Sea Fishing By Humans

Caught Fish
© redOrbit
An Australian archaeologist has discovered ancient fish bones in a cave in East Timor - a small island country northeast of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands - that contain the ancient remains of more than 38,000 fish bones from nearly 2,900 individual fish, a sign that humans may have gone deep-sea fishing as many as 42,000 years ago.

Among the fish bones were those of tuna and shark, clearly brought to the cave - called Jerimalai - by human hands. And to back that up, the archaeologist also unearthed a fish hook dating to 23,000 years old.

The discovery, reported online in the journal Science, provides the strongest evidence yet that people were deep-sea fishing long ago. And those maritime skills may have allowed the inhabitants of this region to travel abroad and colonize other islands and continents.

Human consumption of fish dates back around 1.9 million years. Early fishers waded into lakes and streams and caught fish without the use of boats or complex tools. It wasn't until later that humans began fishing the deep seas.

The earliest known boats, found in France and the Netherlands, date back only 10,000 years, but archaeologists know that boats must have been used prior to this. Wood and other common boat-building materials do not preserve well, making it harder to find more ancient proof. But. With the colonization of Australia and nearby islands in Southeast Asia occurring at least 45,000 years ago, sea travel of at least 16 miles would have been required.

Binoculars

New find sheds light on ancient site in Jerusalem

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© Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images
Jerusalem: Newly found coins underneath Jerusalem's Western Wall could change the accepted belief about the construction of one of the world's most sacred sites two millennia ago, Israeli archaeologists said Wednesday.

The man usually credited with building the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary is Herod, a Jewish ruler who died in 4 B.C. Herod's monumental compound replaced and expanded a much older Jewish temple complex on the same site.

But archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority now say diggers have found coins underneath the massive foundation stones of the compound's Western Wall that were stamped by a Roman proconsul 20 years after Herod's death. That indicates that Herod did not build the wall - part of which is venerated as Judaism's holiest prayer site - and that construction was not close to being complete when he died.