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Tue, 26 Jul 2016
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Ancient oracle to Apollo discovered in Athens

© Jutta Stroszeck
Archaeologists working on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens have found an ancient well, believed to be at least 1,800 years old, which could be the first oracle devoted to the Greek god Apollo ever discovered in that country's capital and largest city.

According to Haaretz and Ancient Origins, the well is the first ancient oracular edifice to Apollo, the Greek god of music, art, poetry, archery and the sun (among other things), and the well itself likely would have been used for hydromancy, a divination technique that involved water.

The oracle well was located in the Kerameikos region of Athens, which was in the central part of the capital just northwest of the Acropolis. It was discovered in the Temple of Artemis Soteira, in a region that still receives water from the Eridanos River, said Dr. Jutta Stroszeck, a cultural and art history expert who led the expedition on behalf of the Institute.

"Water, and in particular drinking water, was sacred," Dr. Stroszeck told Haaretz. "In Greek religion, it was protected by nymphs, who could become very mischievous when their water was treated badly." People would present miniature, liquid-filled vessels and other offerings in order to appease them in such instances


Enormous platform structure found in Petra, Jordan

© Photograph by I. LaBianca (Left) and Photograph by I. LaBianca; graphics by J. Blanzy (Right)
An overhead image of the monument photographed from a drone, and a detail overlay of the surface features in which the image is rotated 90 degrees clockwise.
An enormous monument has been hiding in plain sight at the World Heritage site of Petra, according to a study recently published in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

Archaeologists Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic fellow, and Christopher Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, used high-resolution satellite imagery followed by aerial drone photography and ground surveys to locate and document the structure.

They report that the monument is roughly as long as an Olympic-size swimming pool and twice as wide. It sits only about half a mile (800 meters) south of the center of the ancient city.
The enormous platform has no known parallels to any other structure in Petra.
The caravan city of Petra, in what is today southern Jordan, served as the capital of the Arab tribe known as the Nabataeans from its likely founding in the mid-second century B.C. The site was essentially abandoned at the end of the Byzantine period in the seventh century A.D.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit its iconic buildings, hewn from the local red sandstone, each year.

The entire Petra Archaeological Park covers about 102 square miles (264 square kilometers), but the city's center encompasses an area of only 2.3 square miles (6 square kilometers).

As evidenced by the latest discovery, while the hinterlands north and south of Petra's ancient city center have been well surveyed since explorer Johann Burckhardt arrived in 1812, new discoveries continue to be made around its urban core.


49 years ago Israel carried out a false flag attack that killed 34 Americans, U.S. government covered it up

On June 8, 1967, 34 American servicemen were slaughtered and 173 more wounded after Israeli forces repeatedly attacked the USS Liberty in international waters. The Liberty was not a battleship and was entirely unable to defend itself as the hours-long assault took place.

For decades, the US government threatened the survivors with jail if they spoke about it and kept the truth from the public.

Although Israel apologized for the devastating attacks and maintained that a simple misidentification caused the strikes, startlingly new evidence has surfaced that refutes Israeli claims that this attack was done in error and that the Israelis were unaware they were attacking an American Navy vessel.

The USS Liberty incident was an attack on a U.S. Navy intelligence ship in international waters about 12.5 nautical miles from the coast of the Sinai Peninsula, north of El Arish, by Israeli fighter planes and torpedo boats.

It occurred during the Six-Day War, a conflict between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The Israeli attack killed 34 U.S. servicemen and wounded at least 173. The attack was the second deadliest against a U.S. Naval vessel since the end of World War II and marked the single greatest loss of life by the U.S. Intelligence Community.


Overlord versus Bagration: A tale of two WWII battles

© Wikipedia
Soviet and Polish Armia soldiers in Vilnius, July 1944.
Ceremonies in Normandy mark the 72 anniversary of D-Day that opened the Second Front in the war against Nazi Germany. It was a culmination of East-West cooperation, with the Soviet Union launching its own massive offensive to help the Allied effort. But it's largely forgotten in the West.

In the small hours of June 6, 1944 General Eisenhower and his staff gathered at their Portsmouth HQ, battered by driving rain and gale force winds that threatened to derail the cross-Channel attack on Hitler's Fortress Europe, which took years to agree and months to prepare. The window of opportunity for the start of Operation Overlord seemed to have closed. Then, as if by a miracle, the downpour suddenly stopped. Eisenhower thought for a few moments and then spoke quietly: "O.K., let's go."

His words heralded the opening of the Second Front against Nazi Germany, a momentous event in East-West relations.


Latest DNA technology confirms Aboriginal Australians as continent's first people

© Wilfred Shawcross
Human remains found near Lake Mungo are the oldest in Australia.
A new look at ancient bones with the latest DNA technology has confirmed Aboriginal Australians as the continent's first people.

Researchers say the findings overturn a 2001 paper that argued the oldest known Australian human remains found near Lake Mungo in New South Wales were from an extinct lineage of modern humans that occupied the continent before Aboriginal Australians.

This claim was based on mitochondrial DNA extracted from Mungo Man's 40,000-year-old fossilised remains by a team lead by Australian National University's Dr Greg Adcock.

But now, Professor David Lambert, from Griffith University, and colleagues, have used new DNA sequencing methods to re-analyse the material from Mungo Man, who was found in the World Heritage-listed Willandra Lakes region, in far western New South Wales.

Professor Lambert said the latest findings, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirmed earlier concerns with the 2001 report.

"There was a lot of suspicion at the time amongst a lot of international researchers in ancient DNA that there was a distinct possibility the results were due to contamination," he said.

"The reason for the suspicion was that the sequences for Mungo Man, in particular, were very unusual ... and gave rise to the thought that Aboriginal people were not in fact the first Australians — that there was a group there before them and that Aboriginal people displaced them.

"We could not, with better technology, repeat what the original study found and therefore the evidence that Aboriginal people were not the first Australians has no foundation."

Professor Lambert said it was important to attempt to replicate the 2001 findings to determine their authenticity.


The mysterious megaliths of the Indonesia's Bada Valley

© Tropenmuseum
Bada Valley (also known as Napu Valley) is a megalithic site situated in the Lore Lindu National Park, in the District of Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Although the megaliths have yet to be formally catalogued and documented (as of 2001) several hundred of them have been located in and around the national park. These megaliths are often carved, and 30 of them depict human / human-like forms. Very little is known about these statues.

Difficult Dating of the Megaliths

The megaliths of Bada Valley were first discovered in 1908. Although slightly more than a 100 years has passed since they were first uncovered, it seems that what we know about these objects is still very little. For example, it is not known for certain when these megaliths were made.

Some have speculated that these stones were carved about 5000 years ago. Yet others suggest that they were created at a more recent point of time, i.e. 1000 years ago. Others have also proposed that they are related to a culture that carved megaliths in Laos, Cambodia and other parts of Indonesia 2000 years ago.

© Aesthetic Grounds
One of the megaliths in the Bada Valley.
Uncertain Creators and Purpose

Neither are the creators of these megaliths known. Although it has been suggested that they were made by a culture that created megaliths in other parts of Southeast Asia, it has also been pointed out that the megaliths in Bada Valley are unique, and therefore could have been made by an entirely different culture. At the moment, no one really knows which culture made them.

The original purpose(s) of these megaliths has / have also been lost, though people have speculated about this as well. Local people, for example, believe that some of the megaliths were once used for ancestor worship. The locals also tell stories about how these megaliths came into being. For instance, there is a megalith they have named Tokala'ea, which is said to have been a rapist who was turned into stone. The deep cuts on this megalith are said to be knife wounds. Another megalith, known as Tadulako, is thought to have once been a village protector. After stealing some rice, however, he was turned to stone.


The colonization of America was genocidal by plan: Yes, Native Americans were the victims of genocide

© Northwestern Photo Co.
Burial of the dead after the massacre of Wounded Knee, 1891.
This paper, written under the title, "U.S. Settler-Colonialism and Genocide Policies," was delivered at the Organization of American Historians 2015 Annual Meeting in St. Louis, MO on April 18, 2015.

US policies and actions related to Indigenous peoples, though often termed "racist" or "discriminatory," are rarely depicted as what they are: classic cases of imperialism and a particular form of colonialism—settler colonialism. As anthropologist Patrick Wolfe writes, "The question of genocide is never far from discussions of settler colonialism. Land is life—or, at least, land is necessary for life."i The history of the United States is a history of settler colonialism.


Stunning 2,200 year old mosaics discovered in ancient Greek city, Zeugma

In the ancient Greek City, Zeugma, which is located in today's Turkey, unbelievable mosaics were uncovered, dating back to the 2nd century BC, but incredibly well-preserved and look as beautiful and stunning as the first day.

The site came to the attention of the international archaeological community when it was threatened by flooding, due to the construction of a nearby dam in southern Turkey in 2000.

Comment: See also: Archaeologists: Sublime technique makes Syrian mosaics one of the greatest in the world


Researchers: Bad weather may explain Mongols sudden retreat from Hungary in 1242

Mongol light cavalryman - Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
A pair of researchers has found a possible explanation for the sudden, mysterious reason that the Mongol army withdrew from Eastern Europe in 1242, just when it seemed poised to take Hungary. In their paper published in the journal Nature, Ulf Büntgen with the Swiss Federal Research Institute and Nicola Di Cosmo with the Institute for Advanced Study in the U.S. describe a study they made of tree ring data from trees in Hungary and historical records, which showed that the weather during the time of the Mongol invasion was not particularly well suited for an army traveling on horseback.

For hundreds of years, historical scholars have puzzled over the sudden retreat by the Mongols—they had conquered their way out of Asia and into Russia and had won every battle they had fought making their way into Eastern Europe during the early 1200s, when they abruptly turned tail and headed back to Russia, never to return. Some have suggested it was Mongol politics while others have maintained that armies in the Eastern Europe were putting up much more of a fight than the Mongols had expected. In this new effort, the researchers suggest that the reason might be much more mundane: simple bad weather.

The horses used by the Mongols, the researchers note, survived by eating the grasses that were plentiful on the Asian and Russian steppes—grasses that were healthy and strong and easily accessible due to several years of good weather. But, tree ring data, and some evidence in historical writings suggest that the winter of 1242, was particularly bad—not because it was too cold, or too snowy, but because it was just cold enough to cause widespread freezing which led to widespread melting during the spring, which just happened to coincide with the arrival of the Mongols. The melting led to flooding, because, coincidently, that part of Hungary sits at low elevations—melting ice and snow would have puddled, preventing the grass for growing very well that spring, leaving little for the horses to eat. Also, it would have meant lots of mud, making travel very difficult. The end result, the researchers suggest, might have been the Mongols simply deciding against progressing further because it did not seem worth the trouble.

Comment: See also: Wet Climate May Have Fueled Mongol Invasion


Ring-shaped stalagmite structures found deep in French cave network dated to 176,500 years ago

© CNRS News
Ring-shaped structures made of stalagmites found deep in the Bruniquel cave network, in the Tarn-et-Garonne, are much older than first thought, scientists have said.

They are among the earliest examples of human construction ever found - and were built in the pitch-dark cave by neanderthals, long before homo sapiens reached this part of the world.

Shortly after they were first discovered in 1990, the structures were carbon-dated to about 47,600 years old - already older than even the most ancient cave paintings yet found, and at the limit of carbon-dating reliability.

But a new study, published in the journal Nature, has put the date of construction back to 176,500 years ago.

The stalagmites had been cut to similar lengths and laid out in two oval patterns up to 40cm high. Scientists do not know what purpose the structures could serve.

"Their presence at 336m from the entrance of the cave indicates that humans from this period had already mastered the underground environment, which can be considered a major step in human modernity," the article in Nature says.

The study's co-author, Jacques Jaubert, from the University of Bordeaux, said he had ruled out the possibility that these rings, which show traces of fire, could have been made by animals such as bears or wolves, whose bones were found near the entrance of the cave.