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Tue, 14 Jul 2020
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Ancient accounts of 'Death from Above'

Meteorite Barage
© John Martin/Wikimedia Commons
Evidence suggests that a devastating barrage of meteorites rained down on the Dead Sea city of Tall el-Hammam in what is now Jordan. And, according to some researchers who think Tall el-Hammam was the biblical city of Sodom, that scenario could explain its destruction.
When we stargaze, we bask in photons that have traveled for many millennia before reaching our eyes. To us, the stars appear fixed on a so-called celestial sphere that encapsulates our entire earthly existence.

The truth, of course, is that no such sphere exists. Instead, stars and galaxies are scattered through the cosmos at distances so great they're incomprehensible to us.

But not all celestial phenomena exist so far away. Every day, shooting stars fail to recognize a boundary between space and Earth, dropping rocks from above — and often with dramatic results.

Our planet is vast, so meteorites typically don't concern us. But every once in a while, these objects actually strike humans and our property. Based purely on statistics, researchers estimate that a space rock should strike a human roughly once every nine years. And with those odds, you'd expect people to get killed by meteorites fairly often.

"I do strongly suspect that stats on 'death by asteroid' have been severely undercounted through human history," NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson told Astronomy via email. "It's only been in the last half century or so that we've even realized that such a thing could happen."

However, researchers still have not found a single confirmed case of death by space rock. But that's not to say we haven't come close. Modern history is full of near misses. On many occasions, space rocks have exploded over populated areas and sent thousands of meteorites raining down.

One of the most recent and well-known examples occurred in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, when a house-sized asteroid exploded over the city and injured some 1,200 people. Further back, on Jan. 30, 1868, a meteor exploded outside a town called Pultusk, near Warsaw, Poland, creating a literal meteor shower: More than 100,000 stones fell from the sky. The biggest recovered meteorite (a fragment of a space rock that makes it to the ground) weighed 20 pounds. It's the largest meteorite fall on record.

Eye 2

How the British Empire created and then killed George Orwell

animal farm protest orwell quote
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), happily amplified by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the United States which carries its World News, continues to pump out its regular dreck about the alleged economic chaos in Russia and the imagined miserable state of the Russian people.

It is all lies of course. Patrick Armstrong's authoritative regular updates including his reports on this website are a necessary corrective to such crude propaganda.

But amid all their countless fiascoes and failures in every other field (including the highest per capita death rate from COVID-19 in Europe, and one of the highest in the world) the British remain world leaders at managing global Fake News. As long as the tone remains restrained and dignified, literally any slander will be swallowed by the credulous and every foul scandal and shame can be confidently covered up.

Dig

Pristine, ancient Roman mosaic floor unearthed beneath Italian vineyard

roman mosaic vines
© Comune di Negrar di Valpolicella
The mosaic was found a few metres beneath a row of vines a week after work resumed after the coronavirus lockdown.
A perfectly preserved ancient Roman mosaic floor has been discovered near the northern Italian city of Verona.

Archaeologists were astonished by the find as it came almost a century after the remains of a villa, believed to date to the 3rd century AD, were unearthed in a hilly area above the town of Negrar di Valpolicella.

After the discovery in 1922, the site was mostly left abandoned until a team from the Superintendent of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape of Verona resumed digging last summer. The team returned to the site in October and again in February before the excavation was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Info

A look at the dirty history of soap

Wright's Coal Tar Soap
© SeM/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
From animal fat to coal tar, what goes in tends to be pretty dirty.
"Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds." That's what the CDC has advised all Americans to do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during this pandemic.

It's common-sense advice. The surfactants found in soap lift germs from the skin, and water then washes them away. Soap is inexpensive and ubiquitous; it's a consumer product found in every household across the country.

Yet few people know the long and dirty history of making soap, the product we all rely on to clean our skin. I'm a historian who focuses on material culture in much of my research. As I started digging into what's known about soap's use in the past, I was surprised to discover its messy origins.

Family

Ancient genomes reveal 7,000 years of demographic history in France

skull
© Eva-Maria Geigl et Thierry Grange, Institut Jacques Monod (CNRS/Université de Paris)
Samantha Brunel examining a skull in Institut Jacques Monod ‘s high containment laboratory
According to new genomic analysis, France was populated by a pair of ancient migrations: the first during the Neolithic period, roughly 6,300 years ago, and the second during the Bronze Age, some 4,200 years ago.

"There were almost no data from ancient populations on the territory of present-day France and our study begins to fill a gap that leads to a clearer picture of the evolution of populations throughout Europe," Eva-Maria Geigl, a researcher with the Jacques Monod Institute in Paris, told UPI in an email.

For the new study, researchers in France generated and analyzed the mitochondrial genomes, Y-chromosome markers and genotypes of 243 individuals, whose remains were recovered from dig sites across present-day France. The dates of the individuals comprised a period spanning 7,000 years.

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Blue Planet

Drones cast new light on mystery of Nazca Lines Archaeology

La Orca
© Jorge de la Quintana/The Guardian
The figure known as ‘La Orca de Piedras Gordas’, or The Orca, which was rediscovered by Johny Isla in Palpa.
An aerial search in the Peruvian desert has revealed intriguing figures of humans and animals that predate the nearby Unesco world heritage site

A faded decades-old black-and-white photograph was the only lead Johny Isla had when he set out on the trail of a sea monster.

The Peruvian archaeologist spotted the image at a 2014 exhibition in Germany about the Nazca Lines, the vast and intricate desert images which attract tens of thousands of tourists every year.

The photograph taken in the early 1970s showed a mysterious killer whale deity carved in an arid hillside. The figure bore some resemblance to others he knew but he had never seen this one before.

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Cow Skull

Bones of 60 mammoths found near human-built traps in Mexico

mammoths
© AP
An archaeologist works at the site where bones of about 60 mammoths were found just north of Mexico City in an undated photo.
Archaeologists have found the bones of about 60 mammoths at an airport under construction just north of Mexico City, near human-built "traps" where more than a dozen mammoths were found last year.

Both discoveries reveal how appealing the area - once a shallow lake - was for the mammoths, and how erroneous was the classic vision of groups of fur-clad hunters with spears chasing mammoths across a plain.

For the moment, however, Mexican archaeologists are facing a surfeit of mammoths, almost too many to ever excavate.

"There are too many, there are hundreds," said archaeologist Pedro Sánchez Nava, of the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

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Biohazard

Did psychopath Rockefeller create the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918?

Rockefeller Spanish Flu
It Started with the Rockefeller Institute's Crude Bacterial Meningitis Vaccination Experiment on US Troops. The 1918-19 bacterial vaccine experiment may have killed 50-100 million people. What if the story we have been told about this pandemic isn't true? What if, instead, the killer infection was neither the flu nor Spanish in origin?

Newly analyzed documents reveal that the "Spanish Flu" may have been a military vaccine experiment gone awry.

Summary

The reason modern technology has not been able to pinpoint the killer influenza strain from this pandemic is because influenza was not the killer.

More soldiers died during WWI from disease than from bullets.

The pandemic was not flu. An estimated 95% (or higher) of the deaths were caused by bacterial pneumonia, not an influenza virus.

The pandemic was not Spanish. The first cases of bacterial pneumonia in 1918 trace back to military bases, the first one in Fort Riley, Kansas.

From January 21 - June 4, 1918, an experimental bacterial meningitis vaccine cultured in horses by the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York was injected into soldiers at Fort Riley.

During the remainder of 1918 as those soldiers - often living and traveling under poor sanitary conditions - were sent to Europe to fight, they spread bacteria at every stop between Kansas and the frontline trenches in France.

Comment: History may not always repeat itself exactly, but sometimes it sure does rhyme!

See also: Vaccine not virus responsible for Spanish flu

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Network

Italians' extraordinary genetic diversity dates back 19,000 years

italy
© CC0 Public Domain
In Europe, Italians have the highest genetic diversity. The gradient of their genetic variability, scattered all over the peninsula, encloses on a small scale the whole genetic variance between southern and continental Europeans. This amazing diversity started to accumulate soon after the Late Glacial Maximum, which ended approximately 19,000 years ago.

This is what researchers of the University of Bologna have reported in a paper published in BMC Biology . It is the first time that researchers have traced Italians' genetic history. Results also show that there are genetic peculiarities characterizing people living in the north and south of Italy that evolved in response to different environments. These peculiarities contribute to reducing the risk of kidney inflammation and skin cancers, and the risk of diabetes and obesity, favoring a longer lifespan.

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Archaeology

White settlers buried the truth about the Midwest's mysterious mound cities

Monks Mound
© Sarah E. Baires
View of Monks Mound from Woodhenge Circle
Around 1100 or 1200 A.D., the largest city north of Mexico was Cahokia, sitting in what is now southern Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Built around 1050 A.D. and occupied through 1400 A.D., Cahokia had a peak population of between 25,000 and 50,000 people. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cahokia was composed of three boroughs (Cahokia, East St. Louis, and St. Louis) connected to each other via waterways and walking trails that extended across the Mississippi River floodplain for some 20 square km. Its population consisted of agriculturalists who grew large amounts of maize, and craft specialists who made beautiful pots, shell jewelry, arrow-points, and flint clay figurines.

The city of Cahokia is one of many large earthen mound complexes that dot the landscapes of the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys and across the Southeast. Despite the preponderance of archaeological evidence that these mound complexes were the work of sophisticated Native American civilizations, this rich history was obscured by the Myth of the Mound Builders, a narrative that arose ostensibly to explain the existence of the mounds. Examining both the history of Cahokia and the historic myths that were created to explain it reveals the troubling role that early archaeologists played in diminishing, or even eradicating, the achievements of pre-Columbian civilizations on the North American continent, just as the U.S. government was expanding westward by taking control of Native American lands.