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DNA from ancient Phoenician shows European ancestry

© M.Rais/Creative Commons
This reconstruction shows what Ariche might have looked like.
Researchers have sequenced the complete mitochondrial genome of a 2,500-year-old Phoenician, showing the ancient man had European ancestry.

This is the first ancient DNA to be obtained from Phoenician remains.

Known as "Ariche," the young man came from Byrsa, a walled citadel above the harbor of ancient Carthage. Byrsa was attacked by the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus "Africanus" in the Third Punic War. It was destroyed by Rome in 146 B.C.

Ariche's remains were discovered in 1994 on the southern flank of Bursa hill when a man planting trees fell into the ancient grave.

Analysis of the skeleton revealed the man died between the age of 19 and 24, had a rather robust physique and was 1.7 meters (5'6″) tall. He may have belonged to the Carthaginian elite, as he was buried with gems, scarabs, amulets and other artifacts.

Now genetic research carried out by a team co-led by Lisa Matisoo-Smith at New Zealand's University of Otago has shown the man belonged to a rare European haplogroup — known as U5b2cl — that likely links his maternal ancestry to the North Mediterranean coast, probably on the Iberian Peninsula.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the findings provide the earliest evidence of the European mitochondrial haplogroup U5b2cl in North Africa, dating its arrival to at least the late sixth century BC.


Neanderthals built mystery cave rings 175,000 years ago researchers say

© Etienne Fabre/SSAC
ANCIENT RING A new study finds that Neandertals built structures out of stalagmites. Here, a researcher takes measurements of a circular arrangement of stalagmites created in a French cave around 176,500 years ago.
In at least one part of Stone Age Europe, Neandertals were lords of the rings. Humankind's close evolutionary cousins built large, circular structures out of stalagmites in a French cave around 176,500 years ago, researchers say.

Neandertal groups explored the cave's dark recesses, where they assembled stalagmite pieces into complex configurations, archaeologist Jacques Jaubert of the University of Bordeaux in France and colleagues report online May 25 in Nature. Two ring-shaped formations and four smaller stalagmite arrangements, situated 336 meters inside France's Bruniquel Cave, all display traces of ancient fires on stalagmite chunks.

These ancient constructions were discovered in the early 1990s, but limited access to Bruniquel Cave delayed dating of the finds until 2013. Jaubert's team calculated the age of these creations based on the decay of uranium variants in seven stalagmites from the two circular structures. Neandertals inhabited Europe and Asia from around 400,000 to 40,000 years ago. Homo sapiens did not leave Africa until about 60,000 years ago. That leaves Neandertals as the only candidates for builders of the stalagmite circles.


State-sanctioned LSD experiments in Cold War Bulgaria

© Jordan Todorov
Prof. Marina Boyadjieva (first row, second right) with colleagues from the Multiprofile Hospital for Active Treatment in Neurology and Psychiatry St. Naum in Sofia, Bulgaria.
LSD is usually associated with the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s. What has not been known until recently is that dozens of experiments involving the psychedelic drug were carried out in Communist Bulgaria, from 1962 to 1968, by the Bulgarian psychiatrist Marina Boyadjieva. Among the human guinea pigs were doctors, artists, miners, truck drivers, and even prisoners and mentally ill patients. These research subjects were involved in some 140 trials.

Years before Timothy Leary's famous 1966 exhortation to "Turn on, tune in, drop out" and the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," LSD experiments were taking place in Bulgaria in the early years of the Cold War, where recreational drugs were completely unknown. Mind you, this was all happening legally and with the state's blessing.

Comment: Further reading:

MI6 payouts over secret LSD tests


5,000-year-old Chinese beer recipe had secret ingredient

© Fulai Xing

A stove fragment from the Mijiaya site that was probably used to heat the fermenting grain mash during the beer-brewing process.
Barley might have been the "secret ingredient" in a 5,000-year-old beer recipe that has been reconstructed from residues on prehistoric pots from China, according to new archaeological research.

Scientists conducted tests on ancient pottery jars and funnels found at the Mijiaya archaeological site in China's Shaanxi province. The analyses revealed traces of oxalate — a beer-making byproduct that forms a scale called "beerstone" in brewing equipment — as well as residues from a variety of ancient grains and plants. These grains included broomcorn millets, an Asian wild grain known as "Job's tears," tubers from plant roots, and barley.

Barley is used to make beer because it has high levels of amylase enzymes that promote the conversion of starches into sugars during the fermenting process. It was first cultivated in western Asia and might have been used to make beer in ancient Sumer and Babylonia more than 8,000 years ago, according to historians.

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Light Sabers

Mysterious mass graves hold prisoners of bloody 17th-century battle

© North News

Two mass graves holding an estimated 1,700 skeletons were found underground at the southern tip of Durham University's Palace Green Library.
Three years ago, archaeologists at Durham University began excavating a site on campus for a proposed addition to the school's library, but work was unexpectedly halted when the researchers uncovered remnants of two mass graves. The discovery ignited a centuries-old mystery, but now, scientists say clues point back to one of the shortest but bloodiest battles of the English Civil Wars.

The estimated 1,700 skeletons, found underground at the southern tip of Durham University's Palace Green Library, were likely Scottish soldiers who had been taken prisoner after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, the archaeologists said.

The prisoners were captured by Oliver Cromwell, the controversial English leader who waged a successful military campaign against the Royalists in a 17th-century civil war, toppling the monarchy and culminating in the execution of King Charles I in 1649.

The two mass graves beneath Durham University had been hidden for nearly four centuries.

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Treasure Chest

Auschwitz museum uncovers jewelry secretly hidden in enamel cup

© Marcin Inglot/Courtesy of Auschwitz Memorial/Handout via Reuters
A box with a gold ring and a necklace wrapped in a piece of canvas found hidden in a mug is pictured at the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, Poland May 12, 2016.
Staff at the Auschwitz museum have uncovered jewelry secretly hidden in an enamel mug since the liberation of the wartime Nazi death camp in 1945.

The mug, one of thousands of kitchenware items seized by Nazi guards from those deported to the camp in southern Poland during World War II, was found to have an inside double bottom, under which a gold ring and necklace wrapped in a piece of canvas were hidden.

The objects, believed to have been made in Poland in between 1921 and 1931, were discovered during maintenance of the museum's enameled kitchenware exhibits.

"When I picked up this mug, it turned out that there were hidden objects inside," museum staffer Hanna Kubik said.

"With time, the fake bottom had detached from the cup, so it was clearly visible that inside there was a bundle and you could see a fragment of the chain and a ring".
© Pawel Sawicki/Courtesy of Auschwitz Memorial/Handout via REUTERS
A mug where a gold ring was hidden is pictured at the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, Poland May 19, 2016.
Between 1940 and 1945, about 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland. Those sent there had belongings taken away upon arrival, many of which are on display today.

Many hid valuables inside, items the museum says are still being discovered years later. However, their owners often remain anonymous because of the lack of traces on the objects to identify them.

The museum, which says it has more than 12,000-enamelled kitchen items -- like cups, pots, bowls, kettles, jugs -- in its memorials collection, said the jewelry would now be stored in "in the form reflecting the manner in which it had been hidden by the owner."


Divers discover important collection of artifacts from 1,600-year-old shipwreck in Caesarea National Park harbor

© Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Figurine of the moon goddess Luna (L.) and a bronze lamp decorated with the image of the sun god Sol.
IAA archaeologists diving in the ancient harbor in the Caesarea National Park recovered beautiful artifacts and coins from a 1,600-year-old shipwreck. This is the largest assemblage of marine artifacts to be recovered in the past thirty years.

A fortuitous discovery by two divers in the ancient port of Caesarea in the Caesarea National Park before the Passover holiday led to the exposure of a large, spectacular and beautiful ancient marine cargo of a merchant ship that sank during the Late Roman period 1,600 years ago.

As soon as they emerged from the water divers Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra'anan of Ra'anana contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority and reported the discovery and removal of several ancient items from the sea.

A joint dive at the site together with IAA archaeologists revealed that an extensive portion of the seabed had been cleared of sand and the remains of a ship were left uncovered on the sea bottom: iron anchors, remains of wooden anchors and items that were used in the construction and running of the sailing vessel. An underwater salvage survey conducted in recent weeks with the assistance of many divers from the Israel Antiquities Authority and volunteers using advanced equipment discovered numerous items that were part of the ship's cargo.

Quenelle - Golden

Slow-motion coup against Jeremy Corbyn: British media goes bonkers over Labour members' "anti-Semitic comments"

© Toby Melville / Reuters
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the Labour party after he said Hitler had supported Zionism, during an interview where he defended a colleague accused of anti-semitism.

Livingstone refused to apologize for his comments and said people should not confuse criticizing the Israeli government's policies with being anti-Semitic after being confronted by Labour MP John Mann, who called him a "Nazi apologist" and claimed he was "rewriting history."

The row, which was captured on video, broke out after the veteran politician went on BBC Radio London to defend MP Naz Shah who was accused of anti-Semitism over a series of Facebook posts.

Comment: But 'Gorgeous' George Galloway did...


Secret tunnel found in Teotihuacán may solve the mysteries of an ancient Mexican civilization

© eu tirada/Public Domain
The Avenue of the Dead, with the Pyramid of the Sun to the left.
Teotihuacán is mysterious. A city that probably started around 400 B.C., before it was abandoned over 1,000 years later, this central Mexican civilization has long puzzled archaeologists, as Teotihuacanos seemingly left no written records.

Were they ruled by a single, all-powerful king? Or was it a council? What was their religion? What language did they speak? We simply don't know.

But 13 years ago, as Matthew Shaer reports in Smithsonian, an archaeologist who has devoted his entire career to the Teotihuacanos stumbled upon a secret: a tunnel, specifically, that no one knew existed before. It was built under a temple in the city.

Six years later, the archaeologist, Sergio Gómez, began excavating. What he uncovered was a trove of artifacts, from necklaces to knives to bones. And Gomez might find more: there are three chambers still to be excavated.


Computer reconstructs the Antikythera Mechanism

© National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece

This is the largest piece of the Antikythera Mechanism, which is on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece.
The Antikythera Mechanism has been called an "ancient calculator," but there is so much more to it than meets the eye. The shoebox-size device has a complex gearwheel system of 30 intricate bronze gear wheels used to run a system that displayed the date, positions of the sun and moon, lunar phases, a 19-year calendar and a 223-month eclipse prediction dial. This makes it an analog computer of great complexity. No other machine of known existence shows a similarity in advanced engineering for at least another 1,000 years.

The discovery

In 1900, a boatload of sponge divers in the Mediterranean were forced off course by a storm and took shelter nearby the island of Antikythera. The next day, they went diving near the island and discovered a 2,000-year-old Greek shipwreck, according to NOVA.

The ship likely sank between 70 B.C. and 60 B.C. on a voyage from Asia Minor to Rome. The sponge divers salvaged from the ship three flat pieces of corroded bronze that later became known to be the Antikythera Mechanism.

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