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Wed, 26 Oct 2016
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Secret History


DNA reveals possible link to mysterious branch of humanity

© Preben Hjort, Mayday Film
Researchers have found that Aboriginal Australians are some of the oldest living populations on Earth. Here, Eske Willerslev talks to Aboriginal elders n the Kalgoorlie area in southwestern Australia in 2012.
A group of humans migrating out of Africa some 40,000 to 70,000 years ago mingled with an as-yet unknown branch of humanity, researchers say.

Modern humans originated about 150,000 to 200,000 years ago in Africa. However, scientists have long debated when and how the modern human lineage spread out of Africa to nearly every corner of the globe. Nearly everyone outside Africa descended from an exodus that occurred between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago, but recent archaeological findings and climate models suggest that migrations of modern humans from Africa began at least 100,000 years ago.

One way to find out whether, in the past, modern humans dispersed from Africa in one wave or many — and to see if they intermingled with any other human lineages along the way — is to examine the genomes of present-day modern humans.

"We're interested in understanding how our species has come to be how it is through the lens of ancient DNA," said Swapan Mallick, bioinformatics director at Harvard Medical School in Boston and lead author of one of the three studies appearing in the Sept. 22 issue of the journal Nature.

Previous human genetic databases often sampled a relatively narrow range of populations, which could skew results or miss key details about the migrations of modern humans out of Africa. Now, three studies have collected new, high-quality data from 787 human genomes from more than 280 geographically diverse populations around the world, including typically understudied and rapidly disappearing groups.

Among the understudied groups researchers looked at are African populations, which have considerable genetic, linguistic and cultural diversity. They also examined genomes from Australia, where previous research uncovered some of the earliest archaeological and fossil evidence of modern humans outside Africa.

Comment: Related: Indian study of genetics of Andaman Islanders uncovers new human ancestor


Laser scans reveal network of ancient cities in Cambodia

© Billy H.C. Kwok for The New York Times
A woman at work beside ruins in the Angkor region of Cambodia.
For decades, archaeologists here kept their eyes on the ground as they tramped through thick jungle, rice paddies and buffalo grazing fields, emerald green and soft with mud during the monsoon season.

They spent entire careers trying to spot mounds or depressions in the earth that would allow them to map even small parts of Angkor, the urban center at the heart of the Khmer empire, which covered a vast region of what is now Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos from roughly A.D. 802 to 1431. In modern times, little material evidence existed beyond a network of monumental stone temples, including the famed Angkor Wat, and the sprawling settlements that presumably fanned out around the temples long since swallowed up by the jungle.

But earlier this year, the archaeologists Shaun Mackey and Kong Leaksmy were armed with a portable GPS device containing data from an aerial survey of the area that is changing the way Angkor is studied. The device led them straight to a field littered with clods of earth and shot through with tractor marks. It looked to the naked eye like an ordinary patch of dirt, but the aerial data had identified it as a site of interest, a mounded embankment where the ancestors of today's Cambodians might have altered the landscape to build homes.

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Archaeologists use drones to reveal ancient Roman settlement in the Apennine Mountains

© A. Hamel
Interpretation of where an ancient sites might be in an aerial drone photo taken in the Le Pianelle area.
Ancient Roman ruins that lie hidden below the surface at the Apennine Mountains of Italy have largely escaped discovery because the rugged terrain makes them difficult to spot by foot and dangerous to find by airplane.

Now, using small airborne drones, archaeologists have found that an ancient settlement in the Apennines was much more dense and organized than previously thought, a new study reveals. The study offered evidence that drones could help uncover more unknown sites in mountains worldwide.

Scientists investigated the area of Le Pianelle in the Tappino Valley in the mountainous southern Italian region of Molise. This area was known as Samnium in antiquity.

"The way this mountain society was organized remains poorly understood," said study author Tesse Stek, a Mediterranean archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Previously, construction accidentally unearthed two ancient temples in the area. However, "there was no good knowledge about other sites, such as villages, farms, villas, graveyards and so on, that could tell us more about the ancient inhabitants in the area that visited the cult sites," Stek told Live Science. "They seemed to be cathedrals in the desert, so to say."

Star of David

The violence, intolerance, monotheism nexus: Made in Ancient Israel

The Mosaic Distinction... Psychopathy in action.
With increasing clarity scholars of history and religion are coming to perceive a disturbing trifecta--a nexus that links monotheism, intolerance, and violence. Today the jihadists are the most prominent exponents of this noxious triad. As will be seen below, however, the Hebrew Bible is the originating locus.

To be sure, violence is a human universal. To take an extreme example, consider the wars conducted by the Aztecs to procure victims for their rituals of human sacrifice. These conflicts were bloody, but they were not undertaken to maintain and extend an intolerant monotheistic faith. The Aztecs were quite content to leave the polytheistic beliefs of their own nation, and those of their neighbors, just as they were.

Matters were different among the ancient Israelites. As the Egyptologist Jan Assmann notes: "[t]he accounts of the Exodus from Egypt, violently forced upon Pharaoh by God-sent plagues--and even more so the conquest in Canaan--depict the birth of the Israelite nation and the rise of monotheism (these two being aspects of the same process) in terms of extreme violence." The prominent place of these motifs in the historical memory of the people who created the Hebrew Bible makes them highly significant. In addition to the glorification of violence, these narrative reveal a demonization of the Egyptians and the Canaanites. And demonization is often a prelude to aggression.


13th century Maya codex, long shrouded in controversy, proves genuine

Brown University's Stephen Houston and a team of leading researchers in anthropology and Maya archeology methodically verify the authenticity of the oldest known manuscript in ancient America.

© Justin Kerr
This is an image from the Grolier Codex, the oldest known manuscript in ancient America.
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 Harvard 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.

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DNA study confirms indigenous Australians most ancient civilization

© Matt Turner/Getty Images
A new population analysis of Indigenous Australians and Papuans shows they can trace their origins back to the very first arrivals on the continent about 50,000 years ago.
Claims that Indigenous Australians are the most ancient continuous civilisation on Earth have been backed by the first extensive study of their DNA, which dates their origins to more than 50,000 years ago.

Scientists were able to trace the remarkable journey made by intrepid ancient humans by sifting through clues left in the DNA of modern populations in Australia and Papua New Guinea. The analysis shows that their ancestors were probably the first humans to cross an ocean, and reveals evidence of prehistoric liaisons with an unknown hominin cousin.

Prof Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist who led the work at the University of Copenhagen, said: "This story has been missing for a long time in science. Now we know their relatives are the guys who were the first real human explorers. Our ancestors were sitting being kind of scared of the world while they set out on this exceptional journey across Asia and across the sea."

The findings appear in one of four major human origins papers published in Nature this week, which together give an unprecedented insight into how humans first migrated out of the African continent, splintered into distinct populations and spread across the globe.

Willerslev's findings, based on a new population analysis of 83 Indigenous Australians and 25 Papuans, shows that these groups can trace their origins back to the very first arrivals on the continent about 50,000 years ago and that they remained almost entirely isolated until around 4,000 years ago. "They are probably the oldest group in the world that you can link to one particular place," said Willerslev.

En route to Australia, early humans would have encountered a motley assortment of other roving hominin species, including an unknown human relative who has now been shown to have contributed around 4% to the Indigenous Australian genome. Previously, scientists have discovered that prehistoric couplings have left all non-Africans today carrying 1-6% of Neanderthal DNA.

Blue Planet

Anglo-Saxon 'palace' found at Rendlesham near Sutton Hoo site

© Suffolk Archaeological Service
This LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) survey shows the core Anglo-Saxon areas at Rendlesham, including the main residence area
Archaeologists believe they have found a lost Anglo-Saxon royal palace near one of Britain's best known finds.

Archaeologists have been studying an area at Rendlesham, about four miles (6km) from the Sutton Hoo burial site.


Dark Ages royal palace discovered in Cornwall

The mysterious origins of the British archaeological site most often associated with the legend of King Arthur have just become even more mysterious.

Archaeologists have discovered the impressive remains of a probable Dark Age royal palace at Tintagel in Cornwall. It is likely that the one-metre thick walls being unearthed are those of the main residence of the 6th century rulers of an ancient south-west British kingdom, known as Dumnonia.

Comment: See also Famous Danish Bronze Age icon turns out not to be Danish

Che Guevara

The Black Panther Party: The battle against poverty, racism, imperialism & police brutality

Black Panthers
Dedicated to my friend and Comrade Marland X @CharlieMBrownX

In my last article I dealt with the life of Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton. I also discussed the origins of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Huey Newton and Bobby Seale formed the BPP in Oakland, California, to battle poverty, racism, and police brutality. The BPP was created to police the police and was the first step towards a revolution. They hoped their example would inspire others and after recruiting only a single person, Lil Bobby Hutton, they began their patrols armed with guns and a law book. The tactic worked and the party slowly began to expand. In nearby Richmond, California, the BPP began to win mass support by fighting on behalf of the family of Denzil Dowell, who had been murdered by the police. They introduced a 10-point platform calling for socialism and self-determination for the Black Community. When the California Legislature decided to change the gun laws to make it illegal for the Panthers to conduct armed patrols, Bobby Seale led an armed protest that was dubbed by the media as an "invasion." Bobby and about 20 other Panthers were arrested on trumped-up charges on their way home but were soon released on bail. Then on October 28, 1967, Huey and Gene McKinney were pulled over and got in a shoot-out with police after they tried to kill Huey Newton. Newton was wounded and one cop, John Frey, a notorious fascist, was killed and his partner was wounded. Huey was put on trial for his life but the case also catapulted the party to national attention. Soon Black Panther Party branches had formed all over the country. The back-to-back assassinations of Martin Luther King, April 4, 1968, and of Lil Bobby Hutton on April 6, 1968, led to an even more massive expansion of the party.


Archaeologists discover mysterious pyramid in Kazakhstan which pre-dates Giza's

© Victor Novozhenov
Archaeologists have stumbled upon what they believe are the ruins of an ancient pyramid in Kazakhstan which would considerably pre-date some of Egypt's iconic pyramids.

Local archaeologists found the ruins in the Sary-Arka region near the city of Karaganda and believe that it was built for an important figure.

The team excavating the area say that the pyramid is likely more than 3,000-years old.

Viktor Novozhenov, from Karaganda State University, told Yahoo News: "Judging by the monumental construction, this mausoleum was built more than 3,000 years ago for a local king.

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