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Sat, 10 Apr 2021
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Secret History


Ancient 'Hobbit' species closely related to Denisovans and Neanderthals

Hobbit Cave
© Liang Bua Team
Liang Bua Cave on the island of Flores, where specimens of the 'Hobbit' species were discovered.
Anthropologists know of at least two ancient species of tiny humans that lived on the islands of southeast Asia over 50,000 years ago. The origin of these extinct humans is unknown, but new research suggests they're more closely related to Denisovans and Neanderthals — and, by consequence, modern humans — than previously thought.

New research published in Nature Ecology & Evolution has found no evidence of interbreeding between modern humans (Homo sapiens) and two extinct species of short-statured humans, Homo floresiensis (commonly known as the Flores Island "hobbits") and Homo luzonensis (found in the Philippines). Fossil evidence of these two species, described in 2004 and 2019 respectively, suggests these island-dwelling humans stood no taller than around 3 feet and 7 inches (109 centimeters), a possible consequence of insular dwarfism — an evolutionary process in which the body size of a species shrinks over time as a consequence of limited access to resources.

At the same time, the new paper, led by João Teixeira from the University of Adelaide, provides further confirmation of interbreeding between the Denisovans and modern humans, specifically modern humans living in Island Southeast Asia, an area that encompasses tropical islands between east Asia, Australia, and New Guinea. Denisovans — a sister group of Neanderthals — reached the area some 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, but archaeologists have yet to uncover a shred of fossil evidence related to these so-called "southern Denisovans." That's obviously weird, given the overwhelming genetic evidence that they lived in this part of the world, but it means there are important archaeological discoveries still waiting to be found. At least in theory.

So, the new paper, co-authored by anthropologist Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London, suggests modern humans interbred with Denisovans but not H. floresiensis or H. luzonensis. That's an important result, because it could help to explain the presence of the diminutive humans, who died out around 50,000 years ago, in this part of the world. Excitingly, it could mean that these "super-archaics," in the parlance of the researchers, "are not super-archaic after all, and are more closely related to [modern] humans than previously thought," explained Teixeira, a population geneticist, in an email.

In other words, H. floresiensis or H. luzonensis might actually be the elusive southern Denisovans.


Mural depicts first documented record of Maya salt sale in marketplace

Salt Sale Record
© Rogelio Valencia, Proyecto Arqueológico Calakmul
The earliest known record of salt being sold in a marketplace in the Maya region depicted in a mural at Calakmul, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Baton Rouge - The first documented record of salt as an ancient Maya commodity at a marketplace is depicted in a mural painted more than 2,500 years ago at Calakmul, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. In the mural that portrays daily life, a salt vendor shows what appears to be a salt cake wrapped in leaves to another person, who holds a large spoon over a basket, presumably of loose, granular salt. This is the earliest known record of salt being sold at a marketplace in the Maya region. Salt is a basic biological necessity and is also useful for preserving food. Salt also was valued in the Maya area because of its restricted distribution.

Salt cakes could have been easily transported in canoes along the coast and up rivers in southern Belize, writes LSU archaeologist Heather McKillop in a new paper published in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. She discovered in 2004 the first remnants of ancient Maya salt kitchen buildings made of pole and thatch that had been submerged and preserved in a saltwater lagoon in a mangrove forest in Belize. Since then, she and her team of LSU graduate and undergraduate students and colleagues have mapped 70 sites that comprise an extensive network of rooms and buildings of the Paynes Creek Salt Works.

"It's like a blueprint for what happened in the past," McKillop said. "They were boiling brine in pots over fires to make salt."

Book 2

The Enduring Relevance of Czesław Miłosz's 'The Captive Mind'

Anyone watching the shenanigans at the New York Times of late could be forgiven for thinking it was a modern-dress staging of The Crucible or a Soviet purge. The US's central "newspaper of record" (founded 1851) has recently, it seems, surrendered all editorial balance and autonomy.

Bari Weiss, the op-ed staff editor who quit her job there last August, said in a resignation letter that the paper's editorial staff were effectively in power no longer: "Twitter has become its ultimate editor." She spoke too of "constant bullying" by colleagues, a "civil war ... between the (mostly young) wokes" and "the (mostly 40+) liberals" and a culture of "safetyism" now prevalent in the newspaper. "The right of people to feel emotionally and psychologically safe," she wrote, "trumps what were previous considered core liberal values, like free speech."

The defenestration of Donald McNeil, a veteran science reporter who'd been with the paper since 1976 and has been nominated for a Pulitzer for his coverage of the pandemic, is a case in point. And McNeil's departure wasn't the first time something like this had happened. Last summer saw editorial-page chief James Bennet forced to walk the plank after printing an op-ed piece by Senator Tom Cotton (Arkansas). Eight hundred NYT staffers complained, saying that Cotton's op-ed put them in "danger."

The radical breakdown of editorial authority at the NYT would be of limited interest if it didn't have echoes elsewhere. From the forced resignation of editor Stan Wischnowski at the Philadelphia Enquirer last year for a badly worded headline to the sacking of Eton College teacher Will Knowland for free-speech related offences, one institution after another in the English speaking world seems to have capitulated to the new radical orthodoxy, with dissent punishable by enforced resignation or termination.

Comment: What Miłosz described in elegant prose, Lobaczewski described in clinical detail.


The murky origins of an enigmatic artifact

Ushuaia, Argentina
© Photo by Helmut Corneli/Alamy Stock Photo
The view of Ushuaia, Argentina, is visible from the Beagle Channel. The channel connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as it zigzags across Tierra del Fuego, but 15,000 years ago, the channel was just a long inland lake.
In 2018, biologists in Ushuaia, Argentina, were scooping sediment from the bottom of the Beagle Channel, 1.5 kilometers from shore, when they discovered something unexpected in the dredged gravel and sand: a narrow, eight-centimeter-long projectile point made of stone. They alerted Atilio Zangrando, an archaeologist with Argentina's Austral Center for Scientific Research, who immediately realized that he was looking at something remarkable.

According to Zangrando, this is the first time that a projectile point has been found this deep underwater in the Beagle Channel, which zigzags across Tierra del Fuego. The extraordinary find now prompts the question of how the point got there.

Homing in on the projectile point's provenance would tell us something about early humans' relationship to the coast — like whether they hunted at sea, says Zangrando. Illuminating that relationship, however, requires knowing when the point ended up in the channel. That's because the water level in the Beagle Channel has changed dramatically since the end of the last ice age, about 15,000 years ago. Back then, the channel was just a long inland lake. But as glaciers retreated and sea levels rose, the lake flooded, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. By about 9,000 years ago, the lake had become a channel.

So if the projectile point dates to the early stages of this transformation, then the spot where the biologists found it may have still been land, between the rising water and the retreating ice. Conversely, if the projectile point is much younger, then the spot was likely deep underwater. That could imply the point was used as a weapon for hunting at sea, says Zangrando, adding that people began using watercraft off the archipelago at least 7,000 years ago.

Blue Planet

The US pivot to Asia: Cold war lessons from Vietnam to today

© Strategic Culture/Wikimedia
There were Cold War preparations underway as early as August 1945 and the two regions selected, Korea and Vietnam, were pre-planned years in advance before the actual wars were to take place, Cynthia Chung writes.

In part one of this series, I discussed how a massive U.S. arms stockpile in Okinawa, Japan that was originally intended to be used for the planned American invasion of Japan was cancelled once the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

L. Fletcher Prouty, who served as Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Kennedy and was a former Col. in the U.S. Air Force, remarks in his book "The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy," that these massive arms shipments were not returned to the United States but rather, half were transported to Korea and the other half to Vietnam.

The implications of this are enormous.

Comment: See also:


Bible scroll fragments, 6,000 year old mummified child & world's oldest basket found in Dead Sea 'Cave of Horror'

© Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority
Sections of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets scroll discovered in the Judean Desert expedition prior to their conservation.
In a stunningly rare discovery, dozens of 2,000-year-old biblical scroll fragments have been excavated from Judean Desert caves during a daring rescue operation. Most of the newly discovered scroll fragments — the first such finds in 60 years — are Greek translations of the books of Zechariah and Nahum from the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, and are written in two scribal hands. Only the name of God is written in Hebrew in the texts.

The fragments from the Prophets have been identified as coming from a larger scroll that was found in the 1950s, in the same "Cave of Horror" in Nahal Hever, which is some 80 meters (260 feet) below a cliff top. According to an Israel Antiquities Authority press release, the cave is "flanked by gorges and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff."

Along with the "new" biblical scroll fragments from the Books of the Minor Prophets, the team excavated a huge 10,500-year-old perfectly preserved woven basket — the oldest complete basket in the world — and a 6,000-year-old mummified skeleton of a child, tucked into its blanket for a final sleep.

Comment: See also: And check out SOTT radio's:


Why Channel 37 doesn't exist on your tv (and what it has to do with aliens)

vintage television static
© Dabarti/Shutterstock
I'm endlessly fascinated by stories of the quirks that were built into the TV system where the well-laid plans of the system simply fell apart because it was asked to do too many things.

Nearly five years ago, I wrote about one of them, the tale of how radio broadcasters were able to shoehorn an additional FM station into the radio because of the proximity of TV's channel 6 to the rest of the radio feed.

So when I was informed that there was another oddity kinda like this involving the TV lineups, I decided I had to take a dive in.

It's a tale that centers around channel 37, which was a giant block of static in most parts of the world during the 20th century.

The reason for that was simple: it couldn't fend off its scientific competition.

Eye 1

Return of the Leviathan: The Fascist Roots of the CIA and the True Origin of the Cold War

Dulles Bros
© Jacob Harris/AP
John Foster Dulles (right) is greeted by his brother Allen Welsh Dulles on his arrival at LaGuardia Field in New York City in 1948.
In whose interest did the creation of the Cold War serve and continues to serve? Cynthia Chung addresses this question in her three-part series.

In 1998, the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG), at the behest of Congress, launched what became the largest congressionally mandated, single-subject declassification effort in history. As a result, more than 8.5 million pages of records have been opened to the public under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act (P.L. 105-246) and the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act (P.L. 106-567). These records include operational files of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA, the FBI and Army intelligence. IWG issued three reports to Congress between 1999 and 2007.

This information sheds important light and confirms one of the biggest-kept secrets of the Cold War - the CIA's use of an extensive Nazi spy network to wage a secret campaign against the Soviet Union.

This campaign against the Soviet Union, which began while WWII was still raging, has been at the crux of Washington's tolerance towards civil rights abuses and other criminal acts in the name of anti-communism, as seen with McCarthyism and COINTELPRO activities. With that fateful decision, the CIA was not only given free reign for the execution of anti-democratic interventions around the world, but anti-democratic interventions at home, which continues to this day.

Treasure Chest

Does this bronze age burial treasure reveal a powerful European female leader?

© Cambridge University Press
La Almoloya, in Murcia, southern Spain, home to the El Argar, a society among the first to use bronze.
The lavish discoveries could undermine the idea that state power is almost exclusively a product of male-dominated societies, researchers say.

A trove of ornate jewelry, including a silver diadem, suggest a woman buried nearly 4,000 years ago in what is modern-day Spain was a ruler of surrounding lands who may have commanded the might of a state, according to a study published today in the journal Antiquity. The discoveries raise new questions about the role of women in early Bronze Age Europe, and challenge the idea that state power is almost exclusively a product of male-dominated societies, say the researchers.

The remains of the woman, alongside those of a man who may have been her consort, were originally unearthed in 2014 at La Almoloya, an archaeological site among forested hills about 35 miles northwest of Cartagena in southeastern Spain. Radiocarbon dating suggests the burial happened about 1700 B.C., and its richness suggests to the researchers that she, rather than he, may have been at the top of the local chain of command.

Comment: There have been times throughout history where women were leaders, co-rulers, even a few will have been warriors - at certain periods matriarchy appears to have been predominant - however we must be mindful that, increasingly, some researchers appear intent on projecting postmodern ideas into their discoveries:


Researchers solve more of the mystery of Laos megalithic jars

laos jar
© Plain of Jars Archaeological Research Project
Dr Shewan and collaborators present new radiocarbon results for site use and also introduce geochronological data determining the likely quarry source for one of the largest megalithic sites.
New research conducted at the UNESCO World Heritage listed 'Plain of Jars' in Laos has established the stone jars were likely placed in their final resting position from as early as 1240 to 660 BCE.

Sediment samples from beneath stone jars from two of the more than 120 recorded megalithic sites were obtained by a team led Dr. Louise Shewan from the University of Melbourne, Associate Professor Dougald O'Reilly from the Australian National University (ANU) and Dr. Thonglith Luangkoth from the Lao Department of Heritage.

The samples were analysed using a technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to determine when sediment grains were last exposed to sunlight.

Comment: See also: