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Thu, 08 Dec 2016
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Secret History


European epidemics left their mark on Canadian First Nations' DNA, population forced to adapt to pathogens

© Robert W. Redford collection, Library and Archives Canada
The Tsimshian people of northwestern Canada (pictured in 1890) suffered a population crash in the nineteenth century.
Change to immune-system genes in indigenous Canadians linked to epidemic introduced by Europeans.

Epidemics from Europe that killed thousands of indigenous Canadians in the nineteenth century have left their signatures in the genomes of the people living there today, researchers say.

The Tsimshian people, who live in coastal British Columbia and Alaska and are among Canada's First Nations, suffered a severe population crash around the nineteenth century, as European colonizers brought diseases including smallpox to communities that had not acquired resistance.

The population decline is documented in reports from the time and in oral histories. But it may also show up in changes in immune-system genes, say geneticists who sequenced the genomes of 25 Tsimshian people and compared them with the DNA of 25 people who lived in the same region between 6,000 and 1,000 years ago. The ancient DNA was obtained — with permission from Tsimshian communities — from corpses stored in the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau.


Last Russian tsar, Nicholas II portrait survives for almost 100 years on back of Lenin painting

© Ruptly
Tsar Nicholas and Lenin share a canvas
While they might have been enemies in real life, in a twist of fate, Tsar Nicholas II and the Bolshevik leader of 1917 October revolution, Vladimir Lenin, have been sharing one canvas for almost a century.

The secret double nature of the painting was discovered by pure chance during restoration works at the St. Petersburg's Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy.

The full-length Lenin portrait was commissioned in 1924, the year Lenin died, to the Soviet artist Vladislav Izmailovich, who is believed to have been ordered to cover politically inappropriate image with Lenin. However, the artist apparently decided there's a room for both revolutionary hero and monarch on the canvas, painting the Lenin portrait on the reverse side while at the same time masking the image of Nicholas II from inquisitive eye beneath layers of washable paint.

"The artist [Vladislav Izmailovich] who painted Lenin was a very good artist. Even then he understood that times were changing and so he used washable paints and painted several layers and in so doing saved a beautiful portrait of Nicholas II. He clearly understood that he was risking his life for it, because in those times if somebody, spotted him whilst he was doing it and didn't trust him he would be shot," Vasily Kichedzhi, Rector at Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy, told RT's Ruptly video agency.


Built by the Huns? Ancient stone monuments discovered along Caspian Sea

© Photo courtesy Evgeniï Bogdanov
A massive stone structure, dating back 1,500 years, has been discovered along the Caspian Sea.
A massive, 1,500-year-old stone complex that may have been built by nomad tribes has been discovered near the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan.

The complex contains numerous stone structures sprawled over about 300 acres (120 hectares) of land, or more than 200 American football fields, archaeologists reported recently in the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.

"When the area was examined in detail, several types of stone structures were identified," archaeologists Andrey Astafiev, of the Mangistaus State Historical and Cultural Reserve; and Evgeniï Bogdanov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences Siberian Department's Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, wrote in the journal article. The smallest stone structures are only 13 feet by 13 feet (4 by 4 meters), and the biggest are 112 feet by 79 feet (34 by 24 m).


Got milk? People living 9,000 years ago did, ceramic pots show

© siete_vidas | Shutterstock.com
Cows on the island of St. Ahileos at Lake Prespa, Greece.
Humankind has gulped down mouthfuls of milk and other dairy products from animals, such as sheep, goats and cows, for at least 9,000 years, a new study suggests.

Researchers made the discovery after analyzing and dating more than 500 prehistoric pottery vessels discovered in the northern Mediterranean region, which includes the modern-day countries of Spain France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. During each examination, they looked for remnants of milk, which indicated that people had used animal dairy products.

The scientists also examined the ceramic pots for residue from animal fat and other evidence, such as skeletal remains, that would suggest Neolithic people slaughtered domesticated animals for meat; they examined these bony remains from 82 sites around the Mediterranean dating from the seventh to fifth millennia B.C.

Comment: See also: You have to ask the question as to why the article headline states that people drank milk 9000 years ago, yet the article itself states "However, more research is needed to verify that Neolithic people consumed milk products." Just another example of sensationalist headlines lying about the research results.


Iranian Museum of History exhibits 7,500-year-old mummified skeleton

© Wikipedia/
Chahar Fasl History Museum
The Museum of History in the central Iranian city of Arak has opened an interesting exhibition - a perfectly-preserved skeleton from the Neolithic period, found during excavations near an ancient burial mound.

The Chahar Fasl History Museum recently opened the showcase of the remains, whose discovery has been hailed as a turning point in the historiography of central Iran, demonstrating that the region has had human civilization for a period of at least 7,500 years.

The skeleton is displayed in the fetal position in which it was found. Archeologists believe that this was the traditional burial method in the Neolithic period. The remains are believed to have been preserved in such good condition due to low accitidy and high salt content in the soil around the burial area.


Adolf Hitler: A look at how the Dunning-Kruger effect manifested itself in a political archetype

Where textbook examples of propaganda, political manipulation, megalomania and control freakery is concerned, Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, author of the resoundingly unhinged blueprint for genocide Mein Kampf and initator of the Second World War is widely regarded as one of the best examples. Indeed, so glaring is this example that it is overused to the point where we must often look for better examples in political debate to compare to lest we be justly accused of reaching for low-hanging fruit.

This fact nothwithstanding, Hitler and the movement he created remain archetypal examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect. What is the Dunning-Kruger effect you ask? Well, Wikipedia defines it as follows:
The Dunning - Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of those of low ability to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their ability accurately. Their research also suggests corollaries: high-ability individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.
Dunning and Kruger have postulated that the effect is the result of internal illusion in those of low ability, and external misperception in those of high ability: "The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."
From the point of view of Dunning-Kruger, Hitler's manifesto Mein Kampf is particularly telling in terms of his total lack of insight into his own limitations. A budding narcissist, Hitler's recounting of his schooling describes his propensity to argue with adults despite not having yet received his education. 'I think that an inborn talent for speaking now began to develop and take shape during the more or less strenuous arguments which I used to have with my comrades,' he reflects in Chapter 1. ' I had become a juvenile ringleader who learned well and easily at school but was rather difficult to manage.'

Comment: This last point of the article seems to get at the heart of the matter. As we have seen in recent days, the anti-Trump protestors (paid ones nothwithstanding) are being manipulated into a reactionary thrall that would seem to ignore all data, logic and rationality because they lack a great deal of self-awareness and knowledge of the world in which they live. In other words, their thinking and actions are almost entirely emotional in nature, and what they are clearly missing is that their "movement" is, ultimately, a manifestation of the very thing they claim to be fighting against: Fascism. See the SOTT Focus piece: Knowledge and Freedom: Antidote to the rising fascism

Bad Guys

Neoliberalism: How a 56 year-old book changed the world for the worse

© Nathalie Lees
How a ruthless network of super-rich ideologues killed choice and destroyed people's faith in politics

The events that led to Donald Trump's election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. "This is what we believe," she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

Comment: Horsehockey. Of course, one would expect nothing less from the Guardian.

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap.

Comment: Wow, this is a hitpiece par excellence.

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, "is not an ultimate or absolute value". In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

Comment: That's a misrepresentation at best.

Comment: Trump may be an oligarch, but he is a practical one. He doesn't dabble in ivory-tower theories. He may not be concerned for his fellow man in a philanthropic way, but in the pragmatic, business-like recognition that the current state of U.S. affairs is a waste of human capital. If he can provide the means to unleash the untapped potential of those left behind by the policies of the last three administrations, that may be accomplishment enough.


Egyptian tomb yields millennia-old mummy

© AP/Hassan Ammar
Illustrative: the ancient ruins of the Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt, November 30, 2014.
Ancient sarcophagus belonging to a nobleman discovered near the southern town of Luxor

CAIRO, Egypt — Spanish archaeologists have discovered a millennia-old mummy in "very good condition" near the southern Egyptian town of Luxor, the antiquities ministry said on Sunday.

The find was in a tomb probably dating from between 1075-664 BC, on the west bank of the Nile river 700 kilometers (435 miles) south of Cairo, a statement said.

The mummy had been bound with linen stuck together with plaster.


Underwater Stone Age settlement discovered off the coast of Sweden

© Arne Sjöström
Discoveries indicate mass fishing and therefore a semi-permanent settlement.
Six years ago divers discovered the oldest known stationary fish traps in northern Europe off the coast of southern Sweden. Since then, researchers at Lund University in Sweden have uncovered an exceptionally well-preserved Stone Age site. They now believe the location was a lagoon environment where Mesolithic humans lived during parts of the year.

Other spectacular finds include a 9,000 year-old pick axe made out of elk antlers. The discoveries indicate mass fishing and therefore a semi-permanent settlement.

"As geologists, we want to recreate this area and understand how it looked. Was it warm or cold? How did the environment change over time?" says Anton Hansson, PhD student in Quaternary geology at Lund University.

Changes in the sea level have allowed the findings to be preserved deep below the surface of Hanö Bay in the Baltic Sea.

The researchers have drilled into the seabed and radiocarbon dated the core, as well as examined pollen and diatoms. They have also produced a bathymetrical map that reveals depth variations.


Archaeologists uncover possible Akkadian Empire outpost in Northern Iraq

© P. Pfälzner/University of Tübingen
Archeologists from the University of Tübingen perform excavation work just 27 miles from the IS territory. The settlement may have been an outpost of the Akkadian Empire.
Archeologists from the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (IANES) at the University of Tübingen have uncovered a large Bronze Age city not far from the town of Dohuk in northern Iraq. The excavation work has demonstrated that the settlement, which is now home to the small Kurdish village of Bassetki in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan, was established in about 3000 BC and was able to flourish for more than 1200 years. The archeologists also discovered settlement layers dating from the Akkadian Empire period (2340-2200 BC), which is regarded as the first world empire in human history.

Scientists headed by Professor Peter Pfälzner from the University of Tübingen and Dr. Hasan Qasim from the Directorate of Antiquities in Dohuk conducted the excavation work in Bassetki between August and October 2016. As a result, they were able to preempt the construction work on a highway on this land. The former significance of the settlement can be seen from the finds discovered during the excavation work. The city already had a wall running around the upper part of the town from approx. 2700 BC onwards in order to protect its residents from invaders.

Large stone structures were erected there in about 1800 BC. The researchers also found fragments of Assyrian cuneiform tablets dating from about 1300 BC, which suggested the existence of a temple dedicated to the Mesopotamian weather god Adad on this site. There was a lower town about one kilometer long outside the city center. Using geomagnetic resistance measurements, the archeologists discovered indications of an extensive road network, various residential districts, grand houses and a kind of palatial building dating from the Bronze Age. The residents buried their dead at a cemetery outside the city. The settlement was connected to the neighboring regions of Mesopotamia and Anatolia via an overland roadway dating from about 1800 BC.