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Archaeology

Radiocarbon dating and DNA show ancient Puebloan leadership in the Maternal line

© Douglas Kennett, Penn State University
Photo of Pueblo Bonito taken from the northern rim of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, USA.
Discovering who was a leader, or even if leaders existed, from the ruins of archaeological sites is difficult, but now a team of archaeologists and biological anthropologists, using a powerful combination of radiocarbon dating and ancient DNA, have shown that a matrilineal dynasty likely ruled Pueblo Bonito in New Mexico for more than 300 years.

"We are not saying that this was a state-level society," said Douglas J. Kennett, head and professor of anthropology, Penn State. "But we don't think it was egalitarian either." Archaeologists have described the Chaco Phenomenon as anything from an egalitarian society without any rulers at all, to a full-fledged state-level society or kingdom. The researchers now think that Chaco Canyon was much more than a leaderless conglomeration of people, but a hierarchically organized society with leadership inherited through the maternal line.

Typically, the only things found in prehistoric archaeological ruins to indicate elevated status are grave goods—the artifacts found with burials. Throughout the Southwest it is unusual to find formal burials within structures, because most people were buried with limited grave goods outside housing compounds, but in excavations sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and carried out in the 1890s at Chaco Canyon, archaeologists found room 33 in Pueblo Bonito—a burial crypt within a 650-room pueblo dating between 800 and 1130—that contained 14 burials.

Document

Declassified files show Nazi-era film star Marika Rokk was Soviet spy

© imago stock&people / www.globallookpress.com
Marika Rökk
Newly declassified records reportedly show that Marika Rokk, the incarnation of glamour and coquetry who was one of the brightest stars in the Third Reich and post-war West Germany, played another important role off screen - that of a Soviet agent.

An old file from 1951 seen by German newspaper Bild says she had "connections to Soviet authorities" that allegedly indicated some "intelligence activity." The documents had been kept under lock and key for over five decades.

Rokk was allegedly recruited as a KGB agent by her manager, Heinz Hoffmeister, who was already working for Soviet intelligence. Her husband, film director Georg Jacoby, whom she met on the set of Kora Terry, is thought to have spied along with her.

While it is unclear what role Rokk might have played in the espionage, the network of agents she was a member of, called Krona, was involved in passing top secret military intelligence on to the USSR, including plans for Operation Barbarossa (the code name for Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II) and the Battle of Kursk.

The Egyptian-born diva of Hungarian descent started her career as a dancer at the Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris before heading to Broadway to polish her dancing and acting skills.

Info

Iranian historians unravel ancient mummy murder mystery

© Davide Mauro
Iranian scientists have managed to uncover the cause of death of what's probably the country's most famous mummy, who dates back to 9550 B.C.

Having spent many years researching the mystery of one of the so called 'saltmen' - mummies discovered in Iran's northwest in the 1990s and kept in the National Museum in Tehran - Iranian historians have been able to establish that the man did not die of natural causes, according to the Mehr news agency.

After subjecting the mummy's skull to radiocarbon dating, the researchers have determined that the 'saltman' was in fact killed at the age of 40 by a powerful blow to the head.

Bad Guys

The Secret History of Iran-Contra: Interview with Hugo Turner

© Google
Participants:

Interviewer: @OurHiddenHistry
Hugo Turner: @hugoturner1969

Info

The Masada mystery - Mass suicide or twisted science for political ends?

© Photo by HG/Magnum
Aerial view of Masada showing the Roman ramp.
In 73 or 74 CE, 960 Jewish zealots - men, women and children - committed suicide on top of the mountain of Masada by the Dead Sea in Israel rather than be captured by the Romans. The story, told by the Roman historian Josephus, is one of the most famous from antiquity. But did it actually happen? Yigael Yadin, the late Israeli archaeologist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who excavated the site in the mid-1960s, said that it did. Moreover, he also said that the objects found during his dig proved it. His subsequently published book, Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand (1966), was a bestseller.

It was no secret that Yadin's excavations at sites in Israel, such as at Hazor in the 1950s and at Masada in the 1960s, were in part under­taken in the hope of reinforcing Jewish claims to the land by linking them to biblical stories and other famous events. Some have long charged Yadin with a political agenda detached from the truth - and cast a shadow over his interpretations of the finds at Masada and elsewhere in the Levant. In 1995 and 2002, Nachman Ben-Yehuda, a sociologist also at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, published his own interpretation of the finds from Masada in two separate books - The Masada Myth and Sacrificing Truth. He con­cluded that Yadin had been incorrect in many of his interpretations, perhaps deliberately so, in the interest of creating a nationalist narrative to help the young state of Israel forge an identity for itself.

Subsequently, Amnon Ben-Tor, who is now the Yigael Yadin Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and who had excavated with Yadin at Masada, published a spirited defence of Yadin and his findings, titled Back to Masada (2009). In this book, Ben-Tor went through the archaeology again, dismissing each of Ben-Yehuda's points and basically confirming Yadin's point of view.

Yet the dispute goes on. The story of Masada is more than just a story of the archae­ological excavations. It is an example of how archaeologists use histori­cal information to supplement what they find during their excavations and to flesh out the bare details provided by the archaeological discov­eries. Yadin made particular use of the writings of Flavius Josephus - the Jewish general turned Roman historian who wrote two books about the Jews in the first century CE and who is the primary source for what might have taken place on top of Masada nearly 2,000 years ago. And Masada shows how the relationship between archaeology and the historical record cuts both ways; since we cannot be certain that Josephus's discussions are 100 per cent accurate, we can use archaeology to corroborate - or to challenge - the ancient text.

Masada also serves as a cautionary tale about using (or misusing) archaeological evi­dence to support a nationalistic agenda, as some scholars have suggested Yadin did. The debate over Masada involves the trustworthiness of Josephus's account; the credibility of Yadin, perhaps the most famous of all Israeli archaeolo­gists; and the influence of nationalism on the interpretation of archaeo­logical discoveries. Whom do we believe? How should we view this seemingly tragic, heart-wrenching ancient site and event? And can we ever tap evidence from thousands of years in the past to establish the origins, legal claims and birthright of peoples today?

Archaeology

Could a giant polar bear skull found at an eroding Alaska archaeological site be the legendary 'weasel bear'?

© UIC Science
A huge, unusually shaped polar bear skull, left, emerged in 2014 from an eroding archaeological site southwest of Utqiagvik. It is quite different from most modern polar bear skulls, right.
Aboriginal hunters from Arctic Canada have a couple of names for what they say is an extremely rare polar bear that is huge, narrow-bodied, fast-moving and lithe: "tiriarnaq" or "tigiaqpak," meaning "weasel bear." Now the thawing and rapidly eroding Chukchi Sea coastal permafrost has produced evidence that one of these legendary weasel bears — or some other strange kind of bear — roamed Arctic Alaska centuries ago.

A huge, fully intact and unusually shaped polar bear skull emerged in 2014 from an eroding archaeological site about 13 miles southwest of Utqiaġvik (Barrow). It is one of the biggest polar bear skulls ever found — and quite different from most modern polar bear skulls. It is slender, elongated in the back and has unusual structural features around the nasal area and other areas.

"It looks different from your average polar bear," said Anne Jensen, an Utqiaġvik-based archaeologist who has been leading excavation and research programs in the region. Through radiocarbon dating and subsequent analysis, Jensen and her colleagues estimate that the big bear skull — which appears to be the fourth largest ever found — is from a period between the years 670 and 800. It is possibly the oldest complete polar bear skull found in Alaska, inspiring a name for the departed creature that owned it: The Old One.

Blackbox

Volcano may explain mysterious 100-Year Maya Dark Age

A new study theorizes that in 540 CE, a small and until recently seemingly unremarkable volcano in southern Mexico, El Chichón, was responsible for plunging the Maya civilization into a hundred years of chaos. The Maya prospered from 250 to 900 CE, they developed calendars, a writing system, new mathematics, amazing cities and pyramids. However, there remains a mysterious 100-year period during which the Maya inexplicably stopped construction projects, abandoned some regions and engaged in war, that archeologists have been unable to explain.

An early indication an ancient volcanic eruption could have been the reason behind the gap came from sulfur particles trapped within the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland. Michael Sigl, a chemist with the Paul Scherrer Institute, determined a massive eruption might have occurred in 540 CE, coinciding with the beginning of the Maya "Dark Age." Tree ring records also suggest that sulfur particles up high in the atmosphere triggered a global temperature drop of between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius around the same time. A volcanic eruption had impacted the world's climate, however, its location was undetermined.

Comment: For a more in-depth study, read Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection


Info

Linguist's research supports waves of migration into the Americas

© Wikimedia Commons
Graphic illustration of Beringia, showing light blue areas of Beringia that are now underwater with the rise of sea level during modern times.
University of Virginia linguistic anthropologist Mark A. Sicoli and colleagues are applying the latest technology to an ancient mystery: how and when early humans inhabited the New World. Their new research analyzing more than 100 linguistic features suggest more complex patterns of contact and migration among the early peoples who first settled the Americas.

The diversity of languages in the Americas is like no other continent of the world, with eight times more "isolates" than any other continent. Isolates are "languages that have no demonstrable connection to any other language with which it can be classified into a family," Sicoli said. There are 26 isolates in North America and 55 in South America, mostly strung across the western edge of the continents, compared to just one in Europe, eight in Africa[?] and nine in Asia.

"Scientists in the past few decades have rethought the settlement of the Americas," Sicoli said, "replacing the idea that the land which connected Asia and North America during the last ice age was merely a 'bridge' with the hypothesis that during the last ice age humans lived in this refuge known as 'Beringia' for up to 15,000 years and then seeded migrations not only into North America, but also back into Asia."

In a Feb. 17 presentation to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Sicoli will join other scientists discussing "Beringia and the Dispersal of Modern Humans to the Americas." Since much of Beringia, theorized to have been located generally between northwest North America and northeastern Asia, has been under water for more than 10,000 years, it has been challenging to find archaeological and ecological evidence for this "deep history," as Sicoli calls it.

Recent ecological, genetic and archaeological data support the notion of human habitation in Beringia during the latest ice age. The new linguistic research methods, which use "big data" to compare similarities and differences between languages, suggest that such a population would have been linguistically diverse, Sicoli said.

Archaeology

Archeologists discover 1500-year-old astronomical observatory in southern Iran

Archaeologists and historians discovered an observatory from the 3rd or 4th century during excavations in the south of Iran.

Traces of the ancient observatory were found during the excavation of the Paregan mound in the province of Khormozgan in southern Iran. The remains likely belong to the reign of the Sassanian dynasty from 224 to 651 CE, Ali Asadi, the head of the archaeological team, told Tasnim news agency. The Sassanian Empire was the last imperial dynasty in Persia, now modern-day Iran, which ruled before the rise of Islam.

"Judging by the location of ceramics, this object belongs to the reign of the Sassanian dynasty," Asadi said. "However, scientists continue to work on the dating of the found artifacts."

USA

Great leaders always call out the bankers

A common thread between many of the world's great political and social leaders is their willingness to call out the major banks and bankers for their complicity in establishing and maintaining economic tension and international conflict in our world.

Jesus whipped the money changers when he drove them from the Temple for turning his Father's house into a den of thieves, and since the days of Christ, history is the story of a never-ending struggle between houses of finance and public interests.

Banks are in a unique position of power in our world, and can generate extraordinary profits without actually producing anything. Through the issuance of currency and credit, they can control the amount of money available to the economy and create economic booms and busts, seizing titles to land, homes, businesses, and property. They hold extraordinary influence over government for their role as financiers of everything from public works to war, and enjoy extraordinary pecuniary advantage and privilege.
"The few who understand the system, will either be so interested from its profits or so dependent on its favors, that there will be no opposition from that class." — Rothschild Brothers of London, 1863