Royal Holloway News
Tue, 23 Dec 2014 00:00 UTC
Quaternary Science Reviews, the chance find of a humanly-worked quartzite flake, in ancient deposits of the river Gediz, in western Turkey, provides a major new insight into when and how early humans dispersed out of Africa and Asia.
Researchers from Royal Holloway, together with an international team from the UK, Turkey and the Netherlands, used high-precision equipment to date the deposits of the ancient river meander, giving the first accurate time-frame for when humans occupied the area.
Professor Danielle Schreve, from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, said: "This discovery is critical for establishing the timing and route of early human dispersal into Europe. Our research suggests that the flake is the earliest securely-dated artefact from Turkey ever recorded and was dropped on the floodplain by an early hominin well over a million years ago."
"Why should we be so arrogant as to assume that we're the first homo-sapiens to walk the earth?" (J.J. Abrams et al., 2010)
The idea of how humanity's progress began is relative. Before the enlightenment, human civilizations throughout history viewed the past as glorious and expected the future to simply resemble and repeat the past. Mankind did not think highly of themselves until after Kant declared the motto "Sapere aude," - dare to think for yourself. But the question remains: what is it in our distant past that made the ancients behold it with such impressiveness?
Scientific and technological progresses do not necessarily take thousands of years. The pace can be exponential, slow, or even regressive - exponential through accidental breakthroughs and inventions, e.g. the 20th century, but slow when impeded by a major force such as the Roman church or the Black Death that prolonged the dark ages for a century. Regression occurs due to a massive loss of knowledge, e.g. the burning of the Alexandria Library in 391 A.D. The idea that scientific and technological development takes millennia is an impression that we get from our assessment of the known history. Progress is inevitable and desirable for any civilization.
The progress of science and technology changes the way we live presently as well as how we see the past and future. Our expectations of the future change based partly on the breakthroughs we make and the pace of the scientific development. Our visions of the past, too, change as we develop new ways of investigating facts. The current worldview of the past is that things were primitive, and that mankind emerged from a state of barbarism to become smarter and more capable. However, emerging evidence suggests otherwise beginning with Plato's account of Atlantis, although, across the past two millennia, his account was considered fictional. In 1882, U.S. Congressman Ignatius Loyola Donnelly published his book Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in which he gathers the then-available evidence in favor of an early mighty civilization that was far more advanced than they had any right to be. He mainly studied ancient myths and believed Plato's account of Atlantis to be historically accurate.
Forty-seven years later, in 1929, a medieval map called Piri Reis was found at the Imperial Palace library in Constantinople (Istanbul). This map inexplicably depicts, with unprecedented fine details, the continents of South America and Antarctica corresponding to present longitude and latitude albeit it dates back to 1513. It was not until after the Piri Reis map discovery that other maps of high precision started emerging, eg: the Ribero maps 1520-30, the Ortelius map 1570, and the Wright-Molyneux map 1599 (McIntosh, 2000:59).
Ghost of Christmas Past: 70 years after his execution, 14-year old black boy exonerated for double murder
Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:35 UTC
In a ruling issued Wednesday by Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen, the murder conviction against George Stinney was vacated over concerns that the young boy's constitutional right to a fair trial was violated to the point that his name should be cleared, WIS TV reported.
Stinney, who was so small at the time of his execution by electric chair that he had to sit on a phone book, is often cited as the youngest American to be put to death by the state in the 20th century.
During his trial in 1944, Stinney's white lawyer did not present witnesses or cross-examine witnesses presented by the prosecution. In 2009, Stinney's sister claimed in an affidavit that her brother could not have killed the two young girls because he was with her at the time their deaths occurred.
"The state, as an entity, has very unclean hands," attorney Miller Shealy argued at a hearing in January, as quoted by the Huffington Post.
Wed, 17 Dec 2014 10:40 UTC
New research has uncovered the earliest known practical piece of polyphonic music, an example of the principles that laid the foundations of European musical tradition.
The earliest known practical example of polyphonic music - a piece of choral music written for more than one part - has been found in a British Library manuscript in London.
The inscription is believed to date back to the start of the 10th century and is the setting of a short chant dedicated to Boniface, patron Saint of Germany. It is the earliest practical example of a piece of polyphonic music - the term given to music that combines more than one independent melody - ever discovered.
Written using an early form of notation that predates the invention of the stave, it was inked into the space at the end of a manuscript of the Life of Bishop Maternianus of Reims.
The piece was discovered by Giovanni Varelli, a PhD student from St John's College, University of Cambridge, while he was working on an internship at the British Library. He discovered the manuscript by chance, and was struck by the unusual form of the notation. Varelli specialises in early musical notation, and realised that it consisted of two vocal parts, each complementing the other.
Polyphony defined most European music up until the 20th century, but it is not clear exactly when it emerged. Treatises which lay out the theoretical basis for music with two independent vocal parts survive from the early Middle Ages, but until now the earliest known examples of a practical piece written specifically for more than one voice came from a collection known as The Winchester Troper, which dates back to the year 1000.
Varelli's research suggests that the author of the newly-found piece - a short "antiphon" with a second voice providing a vocal accompaniment - was writing around the year 900.
The Express, UK
Sun, 21 Dec 2014 00:20 UTC
It is alleged that Porton Down, the top secret military facility in Wiltshire, was involved in trialling drugs for use in the Cold War on youngsters who were regarded as "feeble-minded".
One survivor told this newspaper he has obtained written and video evidence that he will pass to the public inquiry into historical abuse of children in care when it begins next year.
The man, now in his 50s, has been advised by lawyers to conceal his identity for his own safety until his full submission can be lodged at the inquiry announced by Scottish Education Secretary Angela Constance.
However, he was willing to divulge some of his intended testimony about the treatment he and others suffered.
He said: "Six and seven year olds were tied to racks and given electric shocks.
"I was incarcerated with orderlies armed with rubber coshes.
"We were imprisoned, experimented upon, lobotomies, you name it, they did it.
"I was there, I saw it with my own eyes.
Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:37 UTC
In the annals of war, such "mutinies" are now unheard of. The generals and (as well as the saber-rattling, chest-thumping politicians and war profiteers back home) rapidly developed strategies to prevent such behavior from happening again.
Christmas Eve of 1914 was only 5 months into World War I, and the cold, weary, homesick soldiers found themselves not heroes, as expected, but rather miserable, frightened and disillusioned wretches living in rat- and louse-infested trenches. Most of them had dreamed heroic dreams when they had signed up to kill and die for King and Country a few months earlier, and hey had been fully expecting to be home for the holidays.
Lower echelon officers on both sides of No Man's Land, who were suffering right along with the troops, allowed a lull in the war - just for Christmas Eve. Then they allowed the troops to sing Christmas hymns, and many of the not-yet hardened soldiers started to recognize the humanity of the demonized "other" that had been fingered as sub-humans deserving of death.
Comment: "As tantalizing as is the story of the Christmas Truce, it is also a reminder of what could have happened if there had been less obedience to authority and more organized opposition to senseless war in the families, schools and churches."
Unfortunately, not much has changed since WWI, in fact things have gotten much worse. Control of the press has been massively increased, authoritarianism has been institutionalised into every seam of our society, the citizenry is being relentlessly spied on, and basic human rights have been watered down or abolished.
Would such a Christmas truce still be possible today - probably not!
Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:44 UTC
"We are fairly certain we have over a million burials within this cemetery. It's large, and it's dense," said Project Director Kerry Muhlestein, an associate professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University (BYU). Muhlestein presented his findings at the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Scholars Colloquium, held in Toronto in November, Live Science reported.
Archaeologists from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, have been exploring a mysterious cemetery in Egypt for about 30 years. They excavated about 1,700 mummies within the project in Egypt so far. But there is still much work to do.
The cemetery is now called Fag el-Gamous, which means "Way of the Water Buffalo," a title that comes from the name of a nearby road. Archaeologists from Brigham Young University have been excavating Fag el-Gamous, along with a nearby pyramid, for about 30 years. Many of the mummies date to the time when the Roman or Byzantine Empire ruled Egypt, from the 1st century to the 7th century A.D.cemetery]
This innovative method could improve understanding of medieval buildings in Europe, such as the Sainte-Chapelle, as well as in Asia, such as the temples of Angkor.
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 22:44 UTC
The statue showing him in a striding attitude was re-erected at the northern gate of the king's funerary temple on the west bank of the Nile.
The temple is already famous for its existing 3,400-year-old Memnon colossi - twin statues of Amenhotep III whose reign archaeologists say marked the political and cultural zenith of ancient Egyptian civilisation.
The 12.92-metre (43-foot) statue unveiled on Sunday stands west of an existing effigy of the king, also depicting him walking, which was unveiled in March.
"These are up to now the highest standing effigies of an Egyptian king in striding attitude," said German-Armenian archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian, who heads the project to conserve the temple.
The world-famous twin Memnon colossi are 21 metres tall but show the pharaoh seated.
The restored statue now stands again for the first time since its collapse 3,200 years ago, Sourouzian told AFP from Luxor.
Consisting of 89 large pieces and numerous small fragments and reassembled since November, the monolith weighs 110 tonnes.
It had lain broken in pieces after the earthquake in 1200 BC, Sourouzian said.
The statue shows the king wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, and each hand holding a papyrus roll inscribed with his name, like the one standing next to it that was unveiled earlier this year.
His belt, holding a dagger with a falcon-head handle, is fastened with a rectangular clasp bearing the names of the king.
Work to conserve the Amenhotep III temple is entirely funded through private and international donations.
Pharaoh Amenhotep III inherited an empire that stretched from the Euphrates to Sudan, archaeologists say.
The 18th dynasty ruler became king aged around 12, with his mother as regent.
Amenhotep III died in around 1354 BC and was succeeded by his son Amenhotep IV, widely known as Akhenaten.
Luxor, a city of some 500,000 people on the banks of the Nile in southern Egypt, is an open-air museum of intricate temples and pharaonic tombs.
Thu, 11 Dec 2014 18:44 UTC
The important collection had been hidden for decades in the garden which had been allowed to grow wild after years of neglect.
During a painstaking three-year landscaping project to restore the garden to its former glory, gardeners were astonished to find the statues, each covered in moss, lichen and slime.