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Tue, 12 Dec 2017
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Secret History


Homo sapiens helped kill off Neanderthals with STDs and other diseases, study shows

Neanderthal man
© University of Utah
Research published earlier this year suggested that Neanderthal genes might have boosted our immunity and given us allergies, and now new research suggests that we may have returned the favor by infecting them with diseases we transported from Africa to Europe.

In the new study, which was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology this weekend, researchers from University of Cambridge and Oxford Brookes University reported that Neanderthals throughout Europe may have been infected by diseases that were brought there by Homo sapiens, and that said diseases may have contributed to their eventual demise.

Since both species were hominids, the researchers explained, it would have been easier for these pathogens make the jump from one species to another. Infections passed from modern humans to Neanderthals could have included tapeworm, tuberculosis, stomach ulcers, and herpes - all of which are chronic conditions that would have weakened the Neanderthals and made them less able to find food, thus harming the overall fitness of the species.


French cave paintings are 10,000 years older than originally thought, oldest in the world

cave painting
© Jean-Michel Geneste, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication
The cave drawings in the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc, France may be taking back the crown for the oldest animal paintings on Earth, as an international team of scientists have found new evidence that they are 10,000 years older than previously believed.

Chauvet-Pont d'Arc is a cave located in the Ardèche département, a region that is found in south-central France. Discovered in 1994, it features human hand prints as well as drawings of 14 different animal species, ranging from cave bears to big cats. It was long believed to be the oldest known human-decorated cave in the world, with its artwork estimated to be from between 22,000-18,000 BCE.

However, in 2014, a cave on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia knocked Chauvet-Pont d'Arc off its pedestal, as researchers dated its animal paintings to roughly 35,000 years old. The Sulawesi cave also contained the earliest hand stencil, coming in at about 40,000 years old.


Possible 'lost Caravaggio' found in French attic causes rift in art world

Painting valued at up to €120m found by accident believed by many to be work of Renaissance master
Caravaggio, Judith beheading
© Charles Platiau/Reuters
The painting Judith Beheading Holofernes at its presentation in Paris. It may have been painted by Caravaggio (1571-1610) and could be worth €120m.
It could turn out to be an Italian Renaissance masterpiece by one of history's greatest painters; yet the mysterious 400-year-old canvas was only found by accident when the owners of a house near Toulouse went to fix a leak in the ceiling.

The large, remarkably well-preserved canvas of the beheading of the general Holofernes by Judith, from the apocryphal Book of Judith, was painted between 1600 and 1610, specialists estimate. And many experts believe it could be a work by the Milan-born master, Caravaggio.

Labelled the Caravaggio in the attic, France has put an export ban on the painting to stop it leaving the country while investigations are carried out.

Speaking to reporters, the painting expert Eric Turquin said it could be worth as much as €120m (£96m), describing the work as having "the light, the energy, typical of Caravaggio, without mistakes, done with a sure hand and a pictorial style that makes it authentic".


Cant, Polari and Gobbledygook: The anti-languages of the anti-societies

Elizabethan vagrants
© Alamy
Thomas Harman's book deciphered the elliptical slang used by Elizabethan vagrants to plan their crimes.
Could you erectify a luxurimole flackoblots? Have you hidden your chocolate cake from Penelope? Or maybe you're just going to vada the bona omi?

If you understand any of these sentences, you speak an English "anti-language". Since at least Tudor times, secret argots have been used in the underworld of prisoners, escaped slaves and criminal gangs as a way of confusing and befuddling the authorities.

Thieves' Cant, Polari, and Gobbledygook (yes, it's a real form of slang) are just a few of the examples from the past - but anti-languages are mercurial beasts that are forever evolving into new and more vibrant forms.


Largest mysterious man-made sphere discovered in Bosnia

Bosnian stone sphere
© CEN/Piramidasunca.ba
What about this mysterious man-made sphere discovered by a controversial archeologist in Bosnia?The specialist claims this bizarre natural sphere is the world's oldest man-made sphere proving Europe has an advanced lost civilisation that used impressive technology more than 1,500 years ago.

The giant ball of rock has a radius of between four and five feet (1.2 to 1.5 metres) and is extremely iron rich. Semir Osmanagic discovered the 'stone ball' near the town Zavidovici in central Bosnia and Herzegovina and said it is the heaviest man-made ball in the world.
Bosnia and Herzegovia Map
© Piramidasunca.ba
Dr Osmanagic had previously hit the headlines for his work on the supposed existence of ancient pyramids in the Visoko Valley, which he believes are hidden in plain sight as a cluster of hills. The phenomenon of stone balls has been linked with ancient civilisations around the world with the most famous being the stone spheres of Costa Rica. In total there are around 300, weighing up to 15 tonnes, which are believed to have been created by the now extinct Diquis culture, potentially making them up to 1,500 years old.

It is unclear how they were created but it is believed they were first sculpted from a local stone before being hammered and polished with sand.
If the huge stone in Bosnia is found to be made by human hands, it would be the largest man-made stone ball ever found - twice as heavy as the Costa Rican ones.

But there seems to be no proof that the 'sphere' is anything more than an unusual product of nature at the moment. These images actually reminds me of the Moeraki boulders in New Zealand.

Comment: See also:


Archeologists find rare ancient mummy of Turkik origins buried in Altai mountains

mummy mongolia
© Khovd Museum
'The finds show us that these people were very skilled craftsmen.'

Remains of suspected female of Turkik origin found in at an altitude of 2,803 metres in the Altai Mountains.

The ancient human remains are wrapped in felt but the excavation is being hailed as the first complete Turkik burial found in Central Asia. B.Sukhbaatar, researcher at Khovd Museum, said: 'This person was not from elite, and we believe it was likely a woman, because there is no bow in the tomb.

'Now we are carefully unwrapping the body and once this is complete the specialists will be able to say more precisely about the gender.'

In the mummy's grave archeologists found - alongside the human remains - a saddle, bridle, clay vase, wooden bowl, trough, iron kettle, the remains of entire horse, and four different 'Dool' (Mongolian clothes).

Eye 2

How elites used human sacrifice to impose inequality in ancient societies

human sacrifice
Religion has long been a useful tool for social control, with fear of god used in service of every despicable practice from slavery to war. A new study reveals that religious rites, particularly ritual sacrifice, helped create and maintain class stratification in ancient societies. According to researchers from the University of Auckland, Victoria University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, the findings reveal a "darker link between religion and the evolution of modern hierarchical societies" than once thought.

The analysis focused on 93 Austronesian cultures, meaning peoples who originated in Taiwan, later settling in Madagascar, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. Researchers found that the more class stratification that existed in a society—elites on top, with the rest of the populace on the bottom—the more likely it was to engage in ritualistic killings. The powerful frightened the masses into staying in proverbial line by employing "god-sanctioned" sacrifice, which entailed implicitly threatening the lives of many for supposed wrongdoing. Those at the top became, by proxy, gods among men and women, and they maintained those positions by doling out killings as they deemed necessary.


Champagne, UFOs and other interesting finds off the coast of Sweden's Baltic Sea

baltic sea
© RIA Novosti/Vladimir Fedorenko
Sweden has reportedly been planning to salvage a legendary Halifax bomber from its territorial waters. In 1943, the Canadian Halifax HR871 crashed off the coast of Falsterbo in southern Sweden during a Nazi raid. To commemorate the occasion, Sputnik decided to offer you a list of the most interesting findings in the Baltic Sea in recent history.

According to the Swedish news outlet The Local, the Halifax wreckage was discovered four years ago. Since then, divers from the Swedish Coast and Sea Center, researchers from the University of Lund and members of the Canadian Halifax 57 Rescue group have been examining the seabed for more traces of the plane. Here is a list of other famous findings in the Baltic which you may not know about.


Revised dating reveals 'hobbits' were separate human species, living 10K years before homo sapiens in the region

hobbit fossils
© Smithsonian Digitization Program Office/Liang Bua Team
The “hobbit” fossils were discovered in 2003 in the cathedrallike Liang Bua cave, on the Indonesian island of Flores.
In 2003, scientists made a startling find in a remote cave on the Indonesian island of Flores: The skull and skeleton of an adult female hominin, a group consisting of modern humans and extinct human species, who stood only about a meter tall. That discovery sparked a fierce debate about whether the hominin—officially dubbed Homo floresiensis but often called the "hobbit"—was a separate species or a diseased modern human. Now, many of the same scientists who made the discovery have radically revised their estimate of the fossils' age, based on an exhaustive new analysis of the cave's geology. Instead of living 18,000 years ago, as they originally reported, the hobbit lived between 60,000 and 100,000 years ago—some 10,000 years before H. sapiens arrived in the region.

That new, much older date range for H. floresiensis makes it "impossible to argue that it is a pathologically-dwarfed modern human," says Russell Ciochon, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City who was not involved in the study. "In my opinion, this paper drives the final nail in the coffin" of that hypothesis.

A chief argument underpinning the diseased Homo sapiens hypothesis was the original 18,000-year age of the fossils—long after H. sapiens arrived in southeast Asia and Australia. However, that 18,000-year-old date was based on only a geological analysis of the fossils' surroundings and not on direct analysis of the bones themselves. And the complexity of the cave's geology initially misled the scientists, says Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, and a member of the discovery team.

Comment: Further reading:


Scientists discover ruins of ancient township and legendary shore temples of Mamallapuram, India

lion statue mahabalipuram india

Lion statue that appeared after the December 26, 2004 tsunami on the beach of Mahabalipuram, India.
When the shoreline receded during the 2004 tsunami, tourists in Mamallapuram swore they saw a long row of granite boulders emerge from the sea, before it was swallowed again as the water hurtled forward. More than a decade later, a team of scientists and divers have uncovered what eyewitnesses saw on that fateful day - vestiges of an ancient port.

In a discovery that could lead to more underwater explorations off the historic town of Mamallapuram, a group from National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) has found the remains of a port or ruins of one of the six shore temples which, according to legend, went under water. The 10-member team, comprising divers, geologists and archaeologists, found a 10m-long wall, a short flight of stairs, and chiselled stone blocks scattered on the seabed. They were found 800m from the shoreline at a depth of nearly 27ft.