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Blue Planet

Queen Hetepheres' silver bracelets shed light on trade networks in Ancient Egypt

Hetepheres egypt
© Sowada et al., doi: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2023.103978.
Two silver bracelets of queen Hetepheres.
Silver artifacts first appeared in Egypt during the 4th millennium BCE but the original source then, and in the 3rd millennium, is unknown.

Ancient Egyptian texts don't mention any local sources, but an older view, derived from the presence of gold in silver objects, plus the high silver content of Egyptian gold and electrum, holds that silver was derived from local sources.

An alternative view is that silver was imported to Egypt, possibly via Byblos on the Lebanese coast, owing to many silver objects found in Byblos tombs from the late fourth millennium.

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Arrow Down

World War II 'horror bunker' run by infamous Unit 731 discovered in China

A bunker discovered near the city of Anda in northeast China is believed to be the largest test site of Imperial Japan's infamous Unit 731, which conducted horrifying human experiments during the 1940s.
Japanese Unit 731
© From History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Japanese Unit 731 staff carrying a body from one of the unit's facilities.
Archaeologists in China have uncovered a secret underground bunker used by Japanese scientists to conduct horrific experiments on human subjects during World War II.

The "horror bunker," discovered near the city of Anda in Heilongjiang province, northeast China, was used by the Japanese army's infamous Unit 731 during Japan's occupation of China from 1931 to 1945.

Built by the Japanese in 1941 and running until Japan's surrender at the end of World War II, the lab was Unit 731's largest research site, but its exact location was lost until now. Unit 731 began in 1931 as a Japanese-run public health unit, but it quickly expanded its research to include grotesque biological and chemical warfare experiments using Chinese, Korean, Russian and American captives as test subjects.

Info

2,700-year-old petroglyphs depicting people, ships and animals discovered in Sweden

About 40 ancient rock carvings have been found on a former rocky island in Sweden.
Sweden petroglyphs
© Foundation for Documentation of Bohuslän’s Rock Carvings
The newly found petroglyphs from Sweden include depictions of humans.
On a steep rock face in western Sweden, researchers uncovered a fascinating find: around 40 petroglyphs — depicting ships, people and animal figures — dating back around 2,700 years.

The petroglyphs were carved on a granite rock face that was once part of an island, meaning people would have had to make the carvings while standing on a boat, or from a platform constructed on ice, said Martin Östholm, a project manager with the Foundation for Documentation of Bohuslän's Rock Carvings who is one of the archaeologists who discovered the petroglyphs, told Live Science.
Sweden petroglyphs 1
© Foundation for Documentation of Bohuslän’s Rock Carvings
The petroglyphs are high up on a granite rock face that cannot be climbed, so researchers built a platform to study them.
Bohuslän is already known for its rock carvings, including Bronze Age art made at Tanum, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site. The team was looking for new petroglyphs in the area when they came across the moss-covered rock face. They noticed some lines on it that appeared to be human made, so they removed the moss, revealing the petroglyphs underneath. The rock face is too steep to stand on, Östholm said, so the team had to stand on a platform to do their archaeological work.

Better Earth

Lost since 1362: Researchers discover the church of a medieval trading place sunk by legendary tidal surge

Rungholt
© Dirk Bienen-Scholt
A lightweight survey vehicle provides large-scale magnetic mapping of cultural traces hidden beneath the present-day tidal flat surface.
The medieval trading center of Rungholt, which is today located in the UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage Site and currently the focus of interdisciplinary research, drowned in a storm surge in 1362.

Using a combination of geoscientific and archaeological methods, researchers from Kiel University (CAU), Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), the Center for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZBSA), and the State Archaeology Department Schleswig-Holstein (ALSH), both in Schleswig, have now succeeded in locating the site of the Rungholt church. Thus, they can now finally clarify a much-discussed research question that has been going on for over 100 years.

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Better Earth

Arctic was warmer, ice-free in summertime 10,000 years ago, Aarhus University study finds

arctic
© NASA
Sediment samples show Arctic was warmer 10,000 years ago and was ice free in the summertime. Moreover, the researchers say "it's uncertain" if Arctic sea ice will disappear in the summertime before 2063.
The Aarhus University conducted a study that confirms sea ice disappeared from the Arctic during the summer months during the early Holocene - 10,000 years ago.

Researchers from Aarhus University, in collaboration with Stockholm University and the United States Geological Survey, analyzed samples from the previously inaccessible region north of Greenland. The sediment samples were collected from the seabed in the Lincoln Sea. They showed that the sea ice in this region melted away during summer months around 10,000 years ago.

The research team concluded that summer sea ice melted at a time when temperatures were higher than today.

Comment: That may be in part due to Earth's poles being at a different location: Of Flash Frozen Mammoths and Cosmic Catastrophes


Star of David

Israel's state-building project is unravelling - from within

demonstrator
© AFP
A demonstrator with a sign against Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Tel Aviv • 1 April, 2023
Israel's undoing will not be an attack from Arab states or international sanctions. Rather, its leaders have created a monster they can no longer tame...

As Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary, the state-building project it cemented into place in 1948 by expelling 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland is showing the first signs of unravelling.

The surprise is that Israel's woes spring not, as generations of its leaders feared, from outside forces - a combined attack from Arab states or pressure from the international community - but from Israel's own internal contradictions.

Israeli leaders created the very problems they all too obviously lack the tools to now solve. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bombardment of Gaza in recent days, killing dozens of Palestinians, should be understood in that light. It is one more indication of Israel's internal crisis.

Once again, the Palestinians are being used in a frantic bid to shore up an increasingly fragile "Jewish" unity.

Roses

Composition of Roman perfume identified for first time, and it smelled like patchouli

urn roman
© University of Córdoba
A little bottle of the solidified scent was found in a glass urn inside a Roman tomb.
In Roman Spain, some 2,000 years ago, people may have been perfuming themselves with the musky scent of patchouli, new research hints. The study marks the first time that the composition of a Roman perfume has been identified, offering us a rare whiff of a bygone empire.

The perfume, which has solidified after two millennia inside a carved quartz bottle, was discovered in a funerary urn found in a mausoleum in Seville, Spain. Unearthed in 2019, during an excavation in modern-day Carmona, the mystery ointment has now been chemically described, revealing the inclusion of patchouli, an essential oil common in modern perfumery but never before known in use in ancient Rome.

As well as the essence of patchouli, obtained from Pogostemon cablin, a plant of Indian origin, the cologne was found to have a base of vegetable oil - possibly olive oil - although the researchers cannot be certain about this.

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Info

Why the idea of western civilization is more myth than history

Bayeaux Tapestry
© Lit Hub
One weekend, I found my younger son at the kitchen table, carefully writing out everything he knew about the Olympian gods for his school homework. His brow was furrowed, and he trained his eyes on the page with a level of concentration that I wish he would pay to his maths homework. So I asked him — casually, I thought — why he was so interested in the ancient Greeks. He beamed up at me with an angelic smile and answered, "Because that's what you study, Mama."

At this point, my heart nearly burst with parental pride. I am a Professor of Classical Archaeology and the ancient Greeks are, quite literally, my bread and butter. But my heart sank when my son added as an afterthought, "and because the Greeks gave us Western Civilization." Buckle up, kid, I thought, you're in for a lecture.

I wanted to tell him that the ancient Greeks did not give us Western Civilization. That there is no golden thread, unfurling unbroken through time from Plato to NATO. That we in the modern West are not the heirs of a unique and elevated cultural tradition, stretching back through Atlantic modernity to Enlightenment and Renaissance Europe, and from there through the darkness of the medieval period and ultimately back to the glories of classical Greece and Rome.

For most of us, it seems normal — even natural — to think of Western history in these terms. Unthinkingly, we assume that the modern West is the custodian of a privileged inheritance, passed down through a kind of cultural genealogy that we usually refer to as "Western Civilization."

It is a version of history that is all around us, set out in popular textbooks, encoded implicitly into children's stories and Hollywood movies, and proclaimed loudly and sometimes even angrily by commentators on both sides of the political spectrum. But it is a version of history that is simply wrong.

Research points to a different version of Western history. I have myself spent two decades of my professional life uncovering how ancient Greeks and Romans were much more diverse than we might think. They were neither predominantly white nor predominantly European, and indeed did not conceive of racial and geographical categories in the same way that we now do. As a result, the monks of western Europe, laboriously copying Latin manuscripts in their dusty scriptoria, were not the only medieval heirs of classical antiquity.

Info

Archaeologists discovered the earliest Iron Age house in Athens and Attica

Iron Age house2
© Thorikos Archaeological Project Gent-Göttingen
Iron Age house from the 10th to 9th. Century BC BC in Thorikos ( Attica / Greece ): courtyard with adjoining rooms.
Archaeologists from the University of Göttingen discovered the earliest Iron Age house in Athens in Thorikos ( Greece ) south of Athens. This is an important finding that was unexpected and unique for early Greek history: building structures from this early period, from the 10th to the 9th Century BC, have never been excavated in Attica. The Gerda Henkel Foundation is now funding the continuation of the excavations with around 82,000 euros.

The ancient settlement is located in the area of ancient silver mining, 60 kilometers south of Athens. Here you can see Mycenaean dome tombs and a classic settlement with houses, production facilities, sanctuaries, the theater and burial sites. What is striking is the unprotected location just 20 meters above sea coast - from the sea, so there was apparently no danger at the time. Only in the course of the 8th Century BC the settlement activity shifted to the safe hill plateau, which is over 100 meters high. After geophysical investigations of the southeastern slope, the scientists found a grave from the 5th Century BC.

In 2019, a exposed corner of the wall initially indicated a classic grave building. "However, it turned out that there was no burial there before, but a building from the 10th to the 9th Century BC.", says Prof. Dr. Johannes Bergemann, director of the Archaeological Institute of the University of Göttingen. Last year, the scientists continued to research the expansion of the building, recognizing five to six rooms. In the largest room there were still numerous pebbles in the association, which indicate a cobbled courtyard. An analysis of inorganic and organic characteristics of the rock confirmed the use of around 950 to 825 BC.

Flashlight

7,000 year old cave paintings discovered in Spain using drones

cave painting
© University of Alicante
Archaeologists discover cave paintings using drones Share Archaeologists from the University of Alicante have discovered cave paintings in Penáguila, Spain.

The team were conducting a drone survey of the Castellet-Barranc del Salt ravine and Port de Penáguila, revealing Neolithic cave paintings from 7,000-years-ago.

The survey is part of a pioneering project, enabling the researchers to study inaccessible mountain shelters by photographing and recording videos of the walls in 18 shallow cavities using small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's).

Two of the shelters contained wall paintings, with the most notable being in the del Salt ravine that contains painted figures of anthropomorphic archers, in addition to depictions of deer and goats, some of which appear wounded with arrows.

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