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Sat, 25 Feb 2017
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Secret History


13th century boy who preserved his homework on birch bark

Birch bark letter no. 202: spelling lessons and drawings
Onfim was an ordinary boy who lived in Novgorod, Russia, during the 13th century. As was common practice at the time, he wrote letters and drew pictures on birch bark with a sharp stylus.

Accidentally, Onfim created fascinating archaeological data which was discovered centuries after he lived. This unintentional time capsule has provided a unique insight into life in Medieval Novgorod.

Onfim was a six or seven-year-old boy who preserved his personal messages, IOUs, love letters, shopping lists, syllables, notes, and homework in the clay soil of Novgorod. He also kept his drawings which depicted everyday experiences such as fights between him and his teacher.

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Rare dinosaur prints found in B.C., Canada

© CP
'A cross between a hallucinogenic dream and your worst nightmare'
Paleontologists in northeast B.C. have revealed a series of rare discoveries at a recently uncovered dinosaur track site, including a footprint not yet seen anywhere else in the world.

The print is of a four-toed meat-eating dinosaur, said Richard McCrea of the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre.

"Most of the meat-eating dinosaurs had three functional toes," he told CBC Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.

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16th century pendant engraved with Tudor rose found at building site near Kremlin

© mos.ru
According to archaeologists the pendant dates back to 1590. It has a French phrase engraved on it – 'Dieu et mon droit,' which translates into English as 'God and my right.'
A 400-year-old pendant engraved with the Tudor rose, a traditional emblem of England and a symbol of the Tudor dynasty, has been found at a building site near the Kremlin in the heart of the Russian capital.

The pendant, made of tin and lead, is some 5cm in diameter and bears the Tudor rose on its front - a typical feature of the English monarchy which is a white and red rose juxtaposition representing the merger of the two warring houses of York and Lancaster in the 15th century after a protracted conflict.

According to archaeologists, this particular item dates back to 1590. It has a French phrase engraved on it - 'Dieu et mon droit,' which translates into English as 'God and my right.' This has been the motto of the UK monarch since the 12th century.


Researchers discover oldest 'human ancestor' in central China

© Cambridge University
Artist’s reconstruction of Saccorhytus coronarius, based on the original fossil finds. The actual creature was probably no more than a millimetre in size.
Researchers have discovered the earliest known ancestor of humans - along with a vast range of other species.

They say that fossilised traces of the 540-million-year-old creature are "exquisitely well preserved".
The microscopic sea animal is the earliest known step on the evolutionary path that led to fish and - eventually - to humans. Details of the discovery from central China appear in Nature journal.

The research team says that Saccorhytus is the most primitive example of a category of animals called "deuterostomes" which are common ancestors of a broad range of species, including vertebrates (backboned animals).

Saccorhytus was about a millimetre in size, and is thought to have lived between grains of sand on the sea bed. The researchers were unable to find any evidence that the animal had an anus, which suggests that it consumed food and excreted from the same orifice.

© Jian Han/Northwest University, China
Saccorhytus was also covered with a thin, relatively flexible skin and muscles. It probably moved around by wriggling.


LIDAR scan detects ancient Mayan highways

© FARES 2016
LiDAR-derived images accurately portrayed structures and a network of 17 roads.
An ancient network of roads that stretched over 150 miles has been discovered in the jungle of Guatemala, according to high-tech scanning carried out in the area.

Used by the Maya for travel and transporting goods, the causeways were identified in the Mirador Basin, which lies in the far northern Petén region of Guatemala, within the largest tract of virgin tropical forest remaining in Central America.

Also known as the Kan Kingdom, El Mirador is considered the cradle of Mayan civilization. Prior to its abandonment in 150 A.D., it was the largest city-state in the world both in size — 833 square miles — and population. It boasted the largest known pyramid in Central America, and was home to at least one million people.

Researchers have known about the presence of these roads since 1967, when British Mayanist Ian Graham published a map of Mirador showing causeways crossing the swamp regions. Now laser-based remote sensing has been used to map the area, providing new insights into the massive system of superhighways.

The Light Detection and Ranging tool, known as LiDAR, is capable of penetrating the thick jungle vegetation at a rate of 560,000 dots per second, producing detailed images that mimic a 3-D view of the scanned areas.

"LiDAR uses laser pulses that bounce from the Earth's surface through leaves and back to a computer mounted in a plane," said Arlen Chase, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who is working on the project. "While most people felt the technology would not be successful based on past experiments in Central America, we became convinced by 2006 that it could be used to determine what was on the ground in terms of Maya sites under the jungle canopy."


Poland publishes detailed list of Auschwitz SS guards online

© pamiec.pl
Photos of the Auschwitz-Birkenau staff featured in the database
The names of over 8,500 SS personnel who served at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the deadliest of the Nazi concentration camps, have been published, following decades of dogged research by a Polish academic. The vast majority of those on the list avoided formal prosecution.

"Today is a historic day, but this is just the beginning," said Jaroslaw Szarek, of the Institute of National Remembrance, a government-funded organization dedicated to investigating historical crimes. "We start with Auschwitz, but we will expand the database to other concentration camps."

Established near Poland's southwestern border in 1940, by the time of its liberation by the Soviets on January 27, 1945 - which is now marked as Holocaust Remembrance Day - the sprawling complex consisted of three main camps and about 40 separate sub-camps. An estimated 1 million Jews, 75,000 Poles, 20,000 Roma and 15,000 Soviet prisoners were exterminated there, the majority in the gas chambers.

More than 4,500 members of the SS were at the camp when it was captured, but the number working through the conflict was greater. Next to the name of each member of staff in the database is their time of service, a photograph, if available, and a summary of the judicial measures taken against them in the aftermath of the war. In the future, the authors plan to verify and add a description of the roles the listed men had in the camp.

The names are largely the result of the work of Aleksander Lasik, who began building the database as a student in 1982, and has since tallied 25,000 members of staff who serviced the Nazi camps located in Poland, using mostly Polish, German and American archives.

Heart - Black

Why do the British hate the Russians? A brief history of 500 years of anti-Russian propaganda

British political magazine, 19th century: 'Running amuck' - the perennial 'Russian savage and threat to global order and peace'. Why do the Brits hate Russia so?
The latest spate of allegations by western media and politicians about Russian propaganda is nothing new. The UK Cabinet files from 1980s just released by National Archives in London reveal the British establishment's obsession with a propaganda war against Moscow.

Ministers were worried over "the confused state of British public opinion (America seen as a great a threat to peace as Russia)" and "a strong strain of anti-Reagan and anti-American sentiment". They put this down to "Soviet propaganda" and the gullibility of the British public.
© Sputnik/National Archives
Memo addressed to Margaret Thatcher

Gift 3

Gifted to Empress Catherine the Great, the Peacock Clock is the only large example of 18th century robotics that has survived unaltered

The Peacock Clock is a large automaton featuring three life-sized mechanical birds manufactured in London by the British entrepreneur James Cox in the 1770s.

It began under the commission of Grigory Potemkin, who wanted to give it to Catherine the Great. The history of the Hermitage's Peacock Clock begins in 1777 when the Duchess of Kingston came to St. Petersburg. Grigory Potemkin learned from the Duchess about James Cox, the most famous creator of the mechanisms in the second half of the 18th century.

Knowing the passion of Catherine II for collecting, the Prince commissioned the celebrated craftsman to make a monumental automaton with a clock for the Empress's Hermitage. Cox invited Friedrich Urey, a German craftsman who had settled in London, to work with him on this order.


Cambridge archaeologists unearth 25 'perfectly preserved' skeletons from medieval Augustinian friary - and there could be many more

The newly discovered skeletons were found in the university's New Museums site.
More than 25 skeletons have been discovered in the centre of the Cambridge University campus, and archaeologists expect to discover dozens or more in the coming weeks. The remains date back to a friary, based in the area between 1290 and 1538. Despite being nearly 450 years old, the Medieval skeletons are in good condition, the archaeologists said.

The archaeology project started with the discovery of around 400 skeletons in 2010 at a burial site nearby. Containing about 1,300 burials, including about 400 complete skeletons, it was found as part of the refurbishment of a Victorian building.

The newly discovered skeletons were found in the university's New Museums site, which contains the David Attenborough building and the Museum of Zoology, and is set to undergo a major renovation, the BBC reported.

Additional images


Previously unseen photographs of Stalin's Russia revealed by US historian

© Douglas Smith / Facebook
An American historian has discovered what he calls a "unique visual archive" of life in the Soviet Union in the 1950s, in the home of a former US diplomat. Photograph from Martin Manhoff archive of Russia during Stalin, used with the permission of Douglas Smith / Facebook

Some 1,000 color photographs taken on the streets of cities all across Russia, including Moscow, St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), Murmansk in the north and Yalta in the south were found by Douglas Smith in the archives of late Army Major Martin Manhoff.

Manhoff, who served in the US embassy in Moscow between 1952 and 1954, apparently liked to travel and capture the life of ordinary people in the USSR.

He was expelled from the country on charges of espionage, Smith said, adding that the diverse archive of films and color slides had remained unseen for over half a century.