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Thu, 19 Oct 2017
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Archaeologists discover early Viking boat grave in Norway

© Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU)
Archaeologists excavating a market square in Trondheim, Norway, have discovered the remains of a boat grave and possible human remains dating to around the time the Vikings started exploring and raiding lands across Europe.

The boat was at least 13 feet (4 meters) long and was buried in the ground in a roughly north-south direction, according to archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage (NIKU). It's not clear why the boat was oriented in a north-south direction.

Though the wood from the boat wasn't intact, the archaeologists found nails and lumps of rust that allowed them to confirm that the buried object was, in fact, a boat, NIKU archaeologist Ian Reed said in a statement.


Ancient Greeks may have built sacred sites on earthquake fault lines, viewing the tremors as mystical occurrences

© UIG via Getty Images
Temple of Apollo ruins in Delphi, Greece
Archeologists and other scientists have long known that intoxicating gases emanating from water flowing from deep within the earth likely produced the visions of the oracle of Delphi, a seer who guided ancient Greeks with her prophecies from around 800 BC through the 4th century AD from her temple on Mount Parnassus.

Now new research suggests many other Greek sacred sites were built on similar fissures created by earthquakes throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

"The ancient Greeks placed great value on hot springs unlocked by earthquakes," said Iain Stewart, professor of geoscience communication and director of the Sustainable Earth Institute at the University of Plymouth in Britain. "But perhaps the building of temples and cities close to these sites was more systematic than has previously been thought."

In a study published recently in the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, Stewart showed how temples and other structures at Mycenae, Ephesus, Cnidus, and Hierapolis were, like Delphi, built and rebuilt over earthquake faults.


Polish researcher attempts to decipher Rongorongo tablet of Easter Island

© Rafał Wieczorek
Rongorongo tablet.
In one of the most secluded places in the world - Easter Island - the rongorongo writing was invented a few hundred years ago. Attempts to read it are currently being made. Among the few people who have taken up this challenge is a Polish researcher, Dr. Rafał Wieczorek.

25 artefacts with rongorongo inscriptions have been preserved to our time. Rongorongo is a system of glyphs known only from Easter Island - none of the other Polynesian peoples have invented writing.

"There is a lot of evidence that Easter Island is one of the few places in the world where writing was invented independently of other recording systems. Why it was created in such an isolated location, remains a mystery" - told PAP Dr. Rafał Wieczorek from the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Warsaw.

Deciphering the glyphs is the more difficult that only a few people in the world are working on it, non of them "full time". For all involved it is a side project. "In order to move things forward, it is necessary to set up a research team that would focus on just that" - believes the researcher.

Dr. Wieczorek specialises in astrobiology, but many years ago he joined the international group, whose goal is to attempt to decipher rongorongo. The researcher admits that he devotes more and more time to this passion - he is also the author of several articles on rongorongo published in scientific journals.

Despite many question marks, investigators of the mysterious writing established several facts. First and foremost, it is known that rongorongo was used by the aristocracy living on the island - it was not a commonly used writing. Sentences were read in the reverse bustrofedon system - the medium had to be rotated while reading. How could this be determined even though the writing still has not been deciphered? "Sequences of characters are repeating on a few tablets. In some cases they go to the next line of text, and in others, they continue in one line" - said Wieczorek.


Simple solution for deciphering Voynich manuscript met with skepticism

Voynich Manuscript
The Voynich manuscript is not an especially glamorous physical object. It is slightly larger than a modern paperback, bound in "limp vellum" as is the technical term. But its pages are full of astrological charts, strange plants, naked ladies bathing in green liquid, and, most famously, an indecipherable script that has eluded cryptographers to this day.

What could be so scandalous, so dangerous, or so important to be written in such an uncrackable cipher?

This week, the venerable Times Literary Supplement published as its cover story a "solution" for the Voynich manuscript. The article by Nicholas Gibbs suggests the manuscript is a medieval women's-health manual copied from several older sources. And the cipher is no cipher at all, but simply abbreviations that, once decoded, turn out to be medicinal recipes.


7 horrible and loathsome things the CIA has done in the last 70 years

On Monday, President Trump tweeted birthday wishes to the Air Force and the CIA. Both became official organizations 70 years ago on September 18, 1947, with the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947.

After spending years as a wartime intelligence agency called the Office of Strategic Services, the agency was solidified as a key player in the federal government's operations with then-President Harry Truman's authorization.

In the seventy years since, the CIA has committed a wide variety of misdeeds, crimes, coups, and violence. Here are seven of the worst programs they've carried out (that are known to the public):

1. Toppling governments around the world

The CIA is best known for its first coup, Operation Ajax, in 1953, in which it ousted the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, reinstating the autocratic Shah, who favored western oil interests. That operation, which the CIA now admits to waging with British intelligence, ultimately resulted in the 1979 revolution and subsequent U.S. hostage crisis. Relations between the U.S. and Iran remain strained to this day, aptly described by the CIA-coined term "blowback."

Bad Guys

Douglas Valentine: The CIA and 70 years of organized crime

On occasion of the CIA's 70th anniversary, Lars Schall talked with U.S. researcher Douglas Valentine about the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Valentine, the CIA is "the organized crime branch of the U.S. government", doing the dirty business for the rich and powerful.

Douglas Valentine is the author of the non-fictional, historical books "The Hotel Tacloban", "The Phoenix Program", "The Strength of the Wolf", "The Strength of the Pack", and "The CIA as Organized Crime".

LS: 70 years ago, on September 18, 1947, the National Security Act created the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA. Douglas, you refer to the CIA as "the organized crime branch of the U.S. government." Why so?

DV: Everything the CIA does is illegal, which is why the government provides it with an impenetrable cloak of secrecy. While mythographers in the information industry portray America as a bastion of peace and democracy, CIA officers manage criminal organizations around the world. For example, the CIA hired one of America's premier drug trafficker in the 1950s and 1960s, Santo Trafficante, to murder Fidel Castro. In exchange, the CIA allowed Trafficante to import tons of narcotics into America. The CIA sets up proprietary arms, shipping, and banking companies to facilitate the criminal drug trafficking organizations that do its dirty work. Mafia money gets mixed up in offshore banks with CIA money, until the two are indistinguishable.

Drug trafficking is just one example.


Post-It Note

Historians baffled by cryptic note left by Antarctic explorer

Shackleton and the Endurance, the ship the explorer took on his attempt to make the first Trans-Atlantic Expedition in 1914. The ship became stuck in the ice and was slowly crushed before sinking three years later.
Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton is today regarded as one of the principal explorers responsible for the so-called "Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration." During this time, close to twenty expeditions were launched to explore and survey the then-mysterious continent on the underside of our planet. These expeditions are called 'heroic' due to the near-superhuman levels of mental and physical fortitude required to survive for months on the Antarctic ice.

Shackleton led several groundbreaking treks in Antarctica, including two that broke records for the farthest southern latitude reached. For his efforts, Shackleton received numerous royal commendations and is widely regarded in as one of the world's most notable explorers.

Comet 2

How ancient Aztec chroniclers recorded Venus: Smoke without fire

Part 1

The planet Venus 'smoking', as seen in 1535 CE and depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (1553-1563 CE), fol. 45 recto.
From a study of ancient sources, the catastrophist polymath Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979) famously concluded that the planet Venus had presented a comet-like appearance just a few millennia ago.

Instead of a puerile response of outright condemnation and censorship, the academic world ought to have invested its energy in a careful and dispassionate evaluation of Velikovsky's individual sources.

Velikovsky's evidence for the 'comet Venus' included the claim that "the peoples of Mexico" passed on "early traditions ..., written down in pre-Columbian days" according to which "Venus smoked". The savant does not appear to have consulted the single primary source he adduced, misspelling the name of an early editor of it. This is the Aztec Codex Telleriano-Remensis annotated by Spanish friars (1553-1563 CE), which contains several illustrations of Venus' 'smoking' as a hemispheric, oval or circular "patch of sky ... with a large central star and smoke volutes arising from the form." The accompanying Spanish text records a series of puzzling contemporary observations of Venus. In the translation of Eloise Quiñones Keber:
"Year of two houses [2 House] and 1533 there was an earthquake. And they show smoke coming from the star they called citlal choloha, which is the one we call Venus, a star they considered to be very important."

"Year of three rabbits [3 Rabbit] and 1534 don Antonio de Mendoza came as viceroy of New Spain. They say that the star was smoking."

"In this year of four reeds [4 Reed] and 1535 the star was smoking."

"This year of six houses [6 House] and 1537 the blacks tried to rebel; in the city of Mexico the instigators were hanged. The star was smoking and there was an earthquake, the worst I have seen, even though I saw many of them in these lands."

Grey Alien

Connections between Wright-Patterson AFB, Ray Szymanski and hidden aliens

Here's a well-known mystery: many people believe that aliens and their spacecraft from the Roswell incident are hidden in special tunnels at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Here's a little-known fact: Raymond Szymanski worked at Wright-Patterson for 39 years and wrote a book published in 2016 called 50 Shades of Greys about what he saw there. Here's a new mystery: why is the book suddenly back in the news? Is someone getting us ready for full disclosure?

A number of media outlets revisited (or visited) 50 Shades of Greys recently after its author was interviewed by Sun Online. In the book, published in January 2016, Szymanski begins with details of his first days on the job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1973 when a mentor named Al introduced him to the Avionics Laboratory's Management Operations Office by asking, "Have you heard about our aliens?"
He said that in 1947 there was a crash down in Roswell and they brought the machines and the aliens here for inspection and said they keep them in secret tunnels under the base. When I asked him how he came to know about the secret, he responded, 'Everybody who works on base knows'. I was stunned. Me, a young co-op student barely into his first week, was now initiated into a small select group of 10,000 people and given their most incredible secret ever - that we have aliens and their craft in our tunnels on our base.'


Vindija Cave, Croatia: Refined analysis shows there was no Human-Neanderthal interaction

© Ancient Origins
Researchers have used a more refined screening method in conjunction with radiocarbon dating on a popular collection of Neanderthal remains found at Vindija Cave in Croatia. Their results show that the remains are much older than previously found and negate the common belief that genetically modern humans interacted with Neanderthals at the major research site.

According to Phys.org, these remains have been dated various times since they were found in the cave almost 40 years ago. The earlier dates for the Neanderthal remains range from 28,000 to 29,000 years ago and more recent tests suggested they are 32,000 to 34,000 years old. However, the present test has used a new process called ZooMS screening to identify collagen from a previously unrecognized Neanderthal bone. Their results indicate the remains are approximately 40,000 years old.