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Thu, 29 Sep 2016
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Archaeology

Archaeology dig in Spain yields prehistoric 'crystal weapons'

© Morgado, A., et al.,
Even in modern times we are fascinated by crystals - from the diamonds we use as a sacred symbol of partnership, to the plethora of 'healing' gems that can be found in a New Age gift shop. So we can only imagine how ancient people viewed these transparent rocks with hidden structure.

Evidence of the esteem in which crystals were held can be found in a "remarkable set" of 'crystal weapons' found in the megalithic tombs of southwestern Spain. At the site of Valencina de la Concepcion, archaeologists have uncovered crystal arrowheads, an exquisite dagger blade, and cores used for creating the artifacts, that date to the 3rd millennium BCE.

The Montelirio tholos, excavated between 2007 and 2010, is "a great megalithic construction...which extends over 43.75 m in total", constructed out of large slabs of slate. At least 25 individuals were interred within the structure , along with "an extraordinary set of sumptuous grave goods...the most notable of which is an unspecified number of shrouds or clothes made of tens of thousands of perforated beads and decorated with amber beads". Additionally however, a large number of crystal arrowheads were found together, which be suggestive of a ritual offering at an altar. The arrowheads have the characteristic long lateral appendices of flint arrowheads from the area - but investigators remarked that "even greater skill must have been required to produce these unique features when using rock crystal."

Info

Ancient mosaic may portray Alexander the Great

© Mark Thiessen, National Geographic
Archaeologists have been uncovering mosaics at the Huqoq site since 2012. This is the latest to be revealed.
After several years of digging and study, archaeologists are revealing an extraordinary—and enigmatic—mosaic discovered among the ruins of a Roman-era synagogue at a site in Israel known as Huqoq. Nothing like it has come to light in any other building yet known from the ancient world, experts say.

Dated to the fifth century A.D., the mosaic depicts a meeting between two high-ranking male figures, one of whom appears to be a great general leading his troops. A major challenge to interpreting the scene is a total lack of identifying inscriptions.

"It's very frequent in late antique and early Byzantine art to have figures in mosaics and other media that are labeled," says Karen Britt, an art historian at Western Carolina University and the excavation's mosaic expert. "The fact that these are not labeled makes it confounding for the modern viewer."

The scene includes elephants outfitted for battle—a detail that immediately suggests the story of the Maccabees, Judean leaders who mounted a revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the mid-second century B.C. The Seleucids, who were descendants of one of Alexander the Great's generals, are famed for including elephants in their armies.

But excavation director Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has a different interpretation. She believes the leader of the army is none other than Alexander the Great himself. His meeting with the high priest of Jerusalem never happened, but it was a piece of historical fiction that would have been very familiar to the residents of ancient Huqoq. (Learn more about the excavation at Huqoq here and here.)

"After Alexander's death in 323 B.C., when his fame spread and his importance became clear because of the way that he changed the face of the Near East, the Jews—like other ancient people—sought to associate themselves with him and his greatness," Magness explains. "That's why stories like this legend began to circulate."

Magness believes the mosaic should be read from bottom to top. In her view, the lowest tier, or register, depicts one of the many battles that Alexander the Great fought as he expanded his empire into the eastern Mediterranean.

Info

9,000-year-old stone houses found on Rosemary Island, off Australia's north western coast

© The University of Western Australia
Jo McDonald excavating at the Murujuga rock shelter in the Pilbara.
A team of researchers from The University of Western Australia which is exploring the mysteries of the National Heritage listed Dampier Archipelago in north west WA has uncovered evidence of one of Australia's most ancient settlements.

Director of UWA's Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, Professor Jo McDonald, said that although the research was in its early stages, the first rock shelter excavation in the area had uncovered evidence of Aboriginal occupation dating before and through the last ice age.

Professor McDonald is leading a 14 person UWA team funded by the Australian Research Council and Rio Tinto and working in collaboration with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC). They aim to document the National Heritage values of the Archipelago and understand the earliest human uses of the area.

"Excavations on Rosemary Island, one of the outer islands, have uncovered evidence of one of the earliest known domestic structures in Australia, dated between 8000 and 9000 years ago," she said.

"This is an astounding find and has not only enormous scientific significance but will be of great benefit to Aboriginal communities in the area, enhancing their connections to their deep past and cultural heritage."

Known as Murujuga, the Archipelago in WA's Pilbara region is made up of 42 islands as well as reefs, shoals, channels and straits and is the traditional home of five Aboriginal language groups.

It was formed 7000 years ago when rising sea levels flooded what were once coastal plains. The underlying rocks are among the oldest on earth, formed in the 'Archaean' period more than 2400 million years ago.

Info

Long shrouded in controversy, 13th century Maya codex proves to be genuine

© Justin Kerr
A detail of an image from page 4 of the Grolier Codex with red underpainting visible.
The Grolier Codex, an ancient document that is among the rarest books in the world, has been regarded with skepticism since it was reportedly unearthed by looters from a cave in Chiapas, Mexico, in the 1960s.

But a meticulous new study of the codex has yielded a startling conclusion: The codex is both genuine and likely the most ancient of all surviving manuscripts from ancient America.

Stephen Houston, the Dupee Family Professor of Social Science and co-director of the Program in Early Cultures at Brown University, worked with Michael Coe, professor emeritus of archeology and anthropology at Yale and leader of the research team, along with Mary Miller of Yale and Karl Taube of the University of California-Riverside. They reviewed "all known research on the manuscript," analyzing it "without regard to the politics, academic and otherwise, that have enveloped the Grolier," the team wrote in its study "The Fourth Maya Codex."

The paper, published in the journal Maya Archaeology, fills a special section of the publication and includes a lavish facsimile of the codex.

The study, Houston said, "is a confirmation that the manuscript, counter to some claims, is quite real. The manuscript was sitting unremarked in a basement of the National Museum in Mexico City, and its history is cloaked in great drama. It was found in a cave in Mexico, and a wealthy Mexican collector, Josué Sáenz, had sent it abroad before its eventual return to the Mexican authorities."

Archaeology

Europe's 'most important' prehistoric stone being unearthed for study after being buried for 50 years

© Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
Detail of cup and ring markings on the Cochno Stone.
With dozens of grooved spirals, carved indentations, geometric shapes, and mysterious patterns of many kinds, the Cochno Stone, located in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, is considered to have the finest example of Bronze Age cup and ring carvings in the whole of Europe. Yet, for the last 50 years it has laid buried beneath several feet of earth and vegetation in what was a desperate attempt at the time to protect it from vandals. However, the famous stone is set to be unearthed once more to finally embark on an in-depth study of its enigmatic symbols in the hope of learning some of its secrets.

The Scotsman reports that the enormous stone will be uncovered over the next three weeks and archaeologists will then use 3D-imaging technology to make a detailed digital record of the stone's markings in the hope that it "will provide more information on the stone's history, purpose and the people who created it about 5,000 years ago".

The stone, which measures 42ft by 26ft, was first discovered by the Rev James Harvey in 1887 on farmland near what is now the Faifley housing estate on the edge of Clydebank. It is covered in more than 90 carved indentations, known as 'cup and ring' marks.

Comment: 5000-year-old Cochno Stone carving may be revealed in Scotland


Bizarro Earth

Scotland finally reveals ancient skeleton of Jurassic monster - Nessie's cousin?

© National Museums Scotland
Five decades after it was discovered on an Isle of Skye beach, the remains of a 170 million year old sea monster are going on public display.

While finding definitive proof of Scotland's mythical Loch Ness monster still proves elusive, Nessie hunters may take some solace in the remains of the Storr Loch beast, described by scientists as the "crown jewels" of fossils.

The Storr Loch monster was discovered in 1966 - more than 30 years after the first Nessie sighting - by a power station manager as he walked along a beach on the Isle of Skye.

Identified as an extinct Ichthyosaur, the "dolphin-like" creature is said to have been a fearsome four-meter-long predator which tore apart its prey with cone-shaped teeth.

War Whore

Torture without borders: Secret weapons technologies used on US citizens

An attorney with the State of California reports being gassed inside her home and taken to a hospital Emergency Room, following repeated incidents of electromagnetic attacks. The attacks take place during an extended court battle over her mother's guardianship.

An anti-police corruption activist in Medford Oregon reports an aerosol attack on her dwelling which causes her to lose consciousness.

An award-winning author pens a memoir concerning how the NSA tried to hack into her mind.

A former intelligence officer lines her apartment with boom boxes in order to drown out chatter of electronic voice weapons. She reports that her mission was successful and the voices have stopped.

Comment: Further reading on secret government experiments:


Info

Ancient Viking warrior blade unearthed by goose hunters in southern Iceland

© The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland
Hunters tracking geese in the wilds of southern Iceland have returned with an unexpected catch - an incredibly well-preserved 1,000 year old Viking sword.

The group of hunters fortuitously stumbled upon the weapon in Skaftárhreppur, south Iceland, a region badly hit by floods last year.

Pictures of the Viking weapon of war - a double edged sword - show it to be in remarkably good condition, save for the tip which has broken off.

The sword is slightly curved at the point and due to years of exposure the metal blade has partially corroded. But despite years out in the open, splinters of wood can still be observed around the handle.

V

The life and works of Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party


Huey P. Newton, visionary, poet, thinker, writer, gangster, revolutionary
Dedicated to my friend and comrade Marland X aka @CharlieMBrownX

Huey P. Newton was a visionary, a poet, a thinker, a writer, a gangster, but above all a revolutionary. Without his brilliance and daring the Black Panther party would never have been created. Fifty years after its creation the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense is as relevant as ever because shockingly little has changed except for the worse. Black life is as cheap as ever, police gun down people at an alarming rate. Much of the country lives in poverty while the ultra-rich get ever richer. In Huey's time American imperialism was waging a genocidal war across Southeast Asia spanning Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Indonesia (and other places as well). Today American imperialism is waging an even larger war stretching from central Africa, through southwest Asia (the Middle East), and into Central Asia and even Eastern Europe (Ukraine). Police brutality, poverty, and war have only grown worse. In fact the Obama administration oversaw the greatest economic looting of the country in general and the Black community in particular in American history. Capitalism is in crisis, imperialism is out of control, and once again revolution is in the air. Thus now the year of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Black Panther Party on October 15, 1966 (or more likely October 29th), is the perfect time to revive the heroic figure of Huey P. Newton, a man who inspired millions with his courageous example.

Books

The Plot to Kill King: New book claims MLK survived shooting and was killed in hospital

For one bright moment back in the late 1960s, we actually believed that we could change our country. We had identified the enemy. We saw it up close, we had its measure, and we were very hopeful that we would prevail. The enemy was hollow where we had substance. All of that substance was destroyed by an assassin's bullet. - William Pepper (page 15, The Plot to Kill King)
The revelations are stunning. The media indifference is predictable.

Thanks to the nearly four-decade investigation by human rights lawyer William Pepper, it is now clear once and for all that Martin Luther King was murdered in a conspiracy that was instigated by then FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and that also involved the U.S. military, the Memphis Police Department, and "Dixie Mafia" crime figures in Memphis, Tennessee. These and many more incredible details of the King assassination are contained in a trilogy of volumes by Pepper culminating with his latest and final book on the subject, The Plot to Kill King. He previously wrote Orders to Kill (1995) and An Act of State (2003).

Comment: More on the MLK assassination: