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Tue, 22 Sep 2020
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Secret History


Pompeii's recent finds reveal new clues to city's destruction

The excavation of Region V, wedged between Via del Vesuvio and Via di Nola and covering an area of roughly half an acre, led to the discovery of an upscale housing district with extraordinary frescoes and artifacts. The west side of Region V, from Via del Vesuvio to Alley of the Balconies, can now be seen by the public. Future excavations will focus on Region VIII, a determination made by a pressing need for safety and conservation work.
Since its discovery several centuries ago, few archaeological sites have fascinated the world as has the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. After the first major excavations in more than 50 years, Pompeii is revealing a surprising abundance of buried treasures. The new finds are coming from intensive work in a small sector known as Region V that has nevertheless yielded giant insights into the final days of the doomed city.

Along with the complete excavation of two houses — the House of the Garden and the House of Orion — the dig has yielded frescoes, murals, and mosaics of mythological figures in gorgeous colours, skeletons with stories still to be unravelled, coins, amulets, and show horses in the stable of a wealthy landowner.

The new finds are also sparking debate about Pompeii's tragic story. Just before Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79 and buried the city under a mantle of ash and rock, a local worker scrawled an inscription on a wall. Along with a joke (roughly translated as "he ate too much"), he wrote the date: October 17. The discovery of this inscription may confirm the view that the eruption took place in October, and not August, as some scholars maintain.

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Mexico cave with evidence of early humans closed to visitors to prevent DNA contamination

Chiquihuite Cave early humans north america mexico
© Thomas L.C. Gibson
Located in the mountains, Chiquihuite Cave is unusually high compared to other archaeological sites in the Americas
Tourists or locals visiting a cave in north-central Mexico could endanger what is purported to be some of the earliest evidence of human presence in North America, archaeological authorities said Thursday.

Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said the remote Chiquihuite cave in Zacatecas state has been declared off-limits to visitors.

Scientists "are looking for the DNA of ancient humans in the sediments (of the cave floor), thus human presence could contaminate strata that has been preserved intact for thousands of years," the institute said.


Five interlocked neolithic skeletons dating to the 6th Millenium BC discovered in the UAE

UAE skeletons

The five interlocked skeletons

Five interlocked skeletons were discovered by the Umm Al Quwain authorities in the neolithic cemetery at Al Shabika.

The skeletons date back to the 6th millennium BC (6000 BC to 5001 BC).

After analysing the bones, it turns out that the skeletons were those of young males buried during the same period.


Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland: The magical underground city carved entirely out of Salt Rock

Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine
© Unknown
Few underground cities in the world are sculpted entirely out of rock salt. That's the magic of Poland's fantastic Wieliczka Salt Mine, near the city of Kraków.

A famed tourist attraction, a site of worship and even weddings, a gripping gallery of artistic reliefs, everything in Wieliczka is carved from salt blocks.

Mining operations stopped in 1996, but for many centuries in the past Wieliczka was the most significant cog in the local region's economy

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Inside the mine. Photo by Dino Quinzani CC BY-SA 2.0

Comment: Some additional photos not included in the article:

The Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland
© Unknown
A carving of The Last Supper in St. Kinga’s Chapel.
Wieliczka  Salt Mine

Speleothems at Wieliczka include forms that look like a ladder or fountain (top) or spiked fibers (bottom). These natural formations at can appear yellow, red or brown. Both: Rafal Stachurski
Further photos from Wieliczka Salt Mine can be found here.

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MindMatters: Interview with Gary Lachman: The Return of Holy Russia

gary lachman holy russia
The American clairvoyant Edgar Cayce once said, "Through Russia, comes the hope of the world." He spoke those words in the era of Stalin, and it would be another 60 years or so before the end of Communism. But starting in the tumultuous 90s, the great country straddling East and West not only has made a comeback on the world stage - it is seeing a spiritual revival of sorts. Forgotten thinkers are being resurrected in the minds of Russians, new movements are cropping up, and old ones reinvigorated.

While most Westerners may be familiar with Russia's turbulent period of totalitarianism, and the works of a few of its literary giants, there are whole areas of the nation's philosophical, scientific and spiritual inquiry that are largely unknown to many observers. Until now.

This week on MindMatters we are joined by Gary Lachman, author of the new book The Return of Holy Russia: Apocalyptic History, Mystical Awakening, and the Struggle for the Soul of the World - and delve into some of the history, movements and individuals that helped shape the religious, social and cultural DNA of its people. It may come as some surprise to know that many developments in science, as well as religious questions, were being seriously addressed and worked out in Russia shortly before the scourge of revolution squelched, and in may cases destroyed, the lives of the people who dared go where few had gone previously.

Join us as we see how this resurgence of Russian thought isn't an anomaly, but is, perhaps, a kind of synthesis, and integration of its hard-won lessons learned, and part of a long tradition we can all learn from.

Running Time: 01:27:57

Download: MP3 — 80.5 MB

Blue Planet

Exact match for Stonehenge's 20 tonne sarsen stones found 15 miles away

© Katy A Whitaker
A large sarsen stone at West Woods, the probable source of most of the sarsens used to construct Stonehenge.
Today West Woods in Wiltshire is a popular spot for hikers, dog walkers and mountain bikers, famed for its bluebells in the springtime. Stick to the footpaths and it is easy to miss the hefty flat stones hidden in the undergrowth.

But groundbreaking scientific research published on Wednesday reveals that, 4,500 years ago, this spot - and in particular those hulking sandstone boulders - drew the ancient architects of Stonehenge.

The research, made possible after a piece of one of the stones taken away as a souvenir 60 years ago was recovered, concludes that 50 of the 52 sarsen stones at Stonehenge were probably sourced from West Woods, on the edge of modern-day Marlborough.

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Arrow Up

Iran's future will be prosperous: A 150-year fight for sovereignty from oil to nuclear energy

Dome in Iran
© BookMundi
This is Part 3 of the series "Follow the Trail of Blood and Oil"

From Arc of Crisis to Corridors of Development

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani became President of Iran on August 16th 1989 and served two terms (1989-1997). Rafsanjani, who is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the Islamic Republic, began the effort to rebuild the country's basic infrastructure, after the ravages of the Iran-Iraq War and launched a series of infrastructure projects not only domestically but in cooperation with neighbouring countries. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Rafsanjani moved to establish diplomatic relations with the newly independent Central Asian Republics, forging economic cooperation agreements based on building transportation infrastructure.

The major breakthrough in establishing this network came in May 1996 (after a 4 year construction) with the opening of the Mashhad-Sarakhs-Tajan railway, which provided the missing link in a network connecting landlocked Central Asian Republics to world markets, through Iran's Persian Gulf ports.
© Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

Comment: See also: Follow the Trail of Blood and Oil, parts 1 & 2:


Embossed stone blocks from King Ramses II reign discovered in Egypt

Embossed Stone Block
© Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities
Archaeologists conducting a rescue project have discovered several embossed stone blocks and statues from the reign of King Ramses II and Egypt's Coptic era.

The rescue project is being conducted by the Supreme Council of Archaeology near the ancient capital of Memphis, in the modern-day town of Mit Rahina. The embossed blocks from Ramesses II's reign were made from pink and black granite, and limestone along with a statue of the pharaoh himself. Researchers believe that the limestone blocks that date from the Coptic era (Late Roman Egypt and Byzantine Egypt) was recycled stonework repurposed for later structures.

Ramesses II also known as Ramesses the Great, was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Ramesses was regarded as one of the most powerful pharaohs of the New Kingdom, who led several military campaigns into the Levant and Nubia, and constructed various cities, temples, and monuments.


Collapse of ancient economy in the grip of plague and climate change revealed by grape pips

© Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain
A team of archeologists from Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa has discovered new and compelling evidence for a significant economic downturn on the fringe of the Byzantine Empire in the aftermath of a major pandemic in the mid-sixth century CE. The research reconstructs the rise and fall of commercial viticulture in the middle of Israel's arid Negev desert using evidence about life during that period found in an unexpected place: the trash.

While countries grapple with the new reality imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many researchers look to the past for historical precedents such as the Spanish flu of 1918 and the Black Plague of the 14th century. The first historically attested wave of what later became known as the Black Plague (caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis) spread throughout the Byzantine Empire and beyond, in 541 CE. Known as Justinianic Plague, after the emperor Justinian who contracted the disease but survived, it caused high mortality and had a range of socio-economic effects. Around the same time, an enormous volcanic eruption in late 535 or early 536 CE marked the beginning of the coldest decade in the last 2000 years (another volcano of similar proportions erupted in 539 CE). However, scholars disagree as to just how far-reaching and devastating the mid-sixth century epidemic and climate change were. This scholarly debate is unsurprising, considering that even today, leaders and policymakers around the world differ on the severity and correct response to COVID-19, not to mention climate change. One reason that hindsight is not 20/20 when it comes to ancient plagues is that ancient reports tend to exaggerate or underrepresent the human tolls, while archeological evidence for the social and economic effects of plague are very hard to find.

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Blue Planet

Mediterranean Sea was warmer during the Roman Empire, warmest period of the last 2,000 years

mediterranean warm

The study identifies the Roman period (1-500 AC) as the warmest period of the last 2,000 years. Map A shows the central-western Mediterranean Sea. Red triangle shows the location of the sample studied, while the red circles are previously-found marine records used for the comparison. Map B shows the Sicily Channel featuring surface oceanographic circulation and sample location. Black lines follow the path of surface water circulation
The Mediterranean Sea was 3.6°F (2°C) hotter during the Roman Empire than other average temperatures at the time, a new study claims.

The Empire coincided with a 500-year period, from AD 1 to AD 500, that was the warmest period of the last 2,000 years in the almost completely land-locked sea.

The climate later progressed towards colder and arid conditions that coincided with the historical fall of the Empire, scientists claim.

Comment: When followed the warm period was much more devastating: 536 AD: Plague, famine, drought, cold, and a mysterious fog that lasted 18 months

Spanish and Italian researchers recorded ratios of magnesium to calcite taken from skeletonized amoebas in marine sediments, an indicator of sea water temperatures, in the Sicily Channel.

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