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Thu, 20 Feb 2020
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Java Man not so old after all says new research

Sangiran H. erectus skull
The most complete cranium of Javanese Homo erectus so far found.
The oldest human remains in Southeast Asia aren't as old as we thought they were.

An Indonesian-Japanese team of scientists has overturned a decades-old estimate of Homo erectus remains from Central Java in Indonesia, shaving off several hundred thousand years from the age of the globe-trotting hominin, the first to disperse out of Africa.

The new estimate, published in the journal Science, puts Homo erectus at the fossil-rich Sangiran dome by around 1.3 million years ago, and certainly no earlier than 1.5 million years ago

That's at least 300,000 years younger than a long-standing estimate from the 1990s, which suggested the oldest Homo erectus remains at Sangiran could be up to 1.8 million years old.

The age has remained controversial, though, because some studies have come up with much younger estimates for Homo erectus at Sangiran, ranging from 1.3 to 0.6 million years old.

To figure out whether the fossils were older or younger, Shuji Matsu'ura from the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tsukuba City, Japan, and colleagues used two separate dating techniques not previously used at the site.

Star of David

How a hilltop became the incubator for Israeli settler violence

Jewish settler
© Kobi Gideon/Flash90
Jewish settler clears rubble from demolition by IDF, Mitzpe Yitzhar, West Bank
On Oct. 16, 2019, masked settlers from Yitzhar and its surrounding outposts assaulted Israeli and American-Jewish activists who were assisting Palestinians with their olive harvest, among them an 80-year-old rabbi. Three days later, settlers in the same area attacked Palestinians farming their land. For the following two days, Yitzhar residents also attacked Israeli Border Police troops, part of a running series of altercations after the military arrested a settler suspected of setting fire to a plot of Palestinian-owned land.

This spasm of violence — which took place during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot — was one of many that occurred throughout the occupied West Bank in the last few months of 2019. Assaults on Palestinians and Israeli security forces, and vandalism of Palestinian property, including arson, were reported in Gush Etzion, Hebron, Bat Ayin, Hizma, and beyond. Although there has been, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry, an overall drop in the number of hate crimes by settlers this year compared to 2018, their scale and level of violence is increasing.

Yitzhar is located in the northern West Bank (generally referred to in Israel as "Samaria"), where settlers tend to cluster in hilltop outposts dotted around Palestinian population centers. This part of the occupied territories is particularly prone to settler violence, yet it is no accident that Yitzhar has been at the heart of the latest extended bout of settler aggression.

Russian Flag

Now twenty years later, how did Putin do it?

© Sputnik/KJN
Twenty years ago a not very well-known Vladimir Putin published an essay "Russia at the turn of the millennium". It was printed in Nezavisimaya Gazeta and at the Russian government website. The only copy that I can find on the Net in English now is here but I will be referring to the official English translation and Russian text that I downloaded at the time.

Putin had been Prime Minister for about five months and, when Yeltsin resigned the day after the publication of this essay, he became Acting President. Since that day his team has been running Russia. It is reasonable to regard this essay as his program and, on its twenty-year anniversary, appropriate to see how well he (and his team - it's not a one-man operation) have done.

I concluded that he outlined four main projects:
  • Improve the economy.
  • Re-establish central control.
  • Establish a rule of law.
  • Improve Russia's position in the world.



Padlock among finds at Lair of Glenshee Pictish homestead

pictish homestead
© Chris Mitchell
A reconstruction of the homestead in Glenshee
An early Medieval padlock was among the finds made by archaeologists at a Pictish settlement in Perthshire.

Lair in Glenshee was the location of a Pictish homestead with turf-roofed stone and timber buildings dating to around 500 to 1000 AD.

Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, supported by other organisations, has spent five years excavating the site.

Archaeologists believe the padlock was used to keep valuables and personal belongings safe.

Comment: See also:


Recurring, natural climate change: 9th century Viking runestone records fears of '3-year-long winter'

Rök stone
© Alfredo Dagli OrtiRex/Shutterstock
The Rök stone in Sweden bears the longest runic inscription in the world.
One of the world's most famous runestones is now believed to have been erected by Vikings fearing a repeat of a previous cold climate crisis in Scandinavia, a study has concluded.

The Rök stone, raised in the ninth century near Lake Vättern in south central Sweden, bears the longest runic inscription in the world, with more than 700 runes covering its five sides.

It is believed to have been erected as a memorial to a dead son, but the exact meaning of the text has remained elusive, as parts are missing and it contains different writing forms.

Comment: Extreme shifts in climate have had untold impacts on civilizations throughout history, and we're seeing similarly ominous changes even in our time: Also check out SOTT radio's:

Pocket Knife

1.8 million years ago early humans engineered optimized stone tools

© Journal of The Royal Society Interface (2020). DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2019.0377
Representative flakes made from quartzite (a), chert (b) and basalt (c). The Instron 3345 tensile testing machine used during the controlled cutting tests (d). A quartzite flake, prior to being used to cut, is clearly depicted, along with the metal framework and PVC tubing (e).
Early Stone Age populations living between 1.8 - 1.2 million years ago engineered their stone tools in complex ways to make optimised cutting tools, according to a new study by University of Kent and UCL.

The research, published in the Journal of Royal Society Interface, shows that Palaeolithic hominins selected different raw materials for different stone tools based on how sharp, durable and efficient those materials were. They made these decisions in conjunction with information about the length of time the tools would be used for and the force with which they could be applied. This reveals previously unseen complexity in the design and production of stone tools during this period.

The research was led by Dr. Alastair Key, from Kent's School of Anthropology and Conservation, and is based on evidence from mechanical testing of the raw materials and artefacts found at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania — one of the world's most important sites for human origins research.

Comment: A recent paper showed that Neanderthals were fresh meat eaters - not vegetarians, nor scavengers - and particularly of herbivores, so there is at least evidence that, at a much, much later period anyway - 43,740-42,720 cal. y BP according to the paper - scavenging wasn't to be the primary source of nutrition. The point being that, as this discovery, and many others have revealed, perhaps not all these early humans were as simple minded or primitive as was once thought.

See also:


Arctic island mammoth shows strongest evidence yet of human slaughter and butchering

© Albert Protopopov
The extinct mammoth remains were dated by radiocarbon analysis to 21,000 years of age by the Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo.
The Kotelny island woolly mammoth was killed by humans some 21,000 years ago, say scientists.

Dr Albert Protopopov shared new pictures of the remains found at a location which was then part of the vast Beringia Land Bridge connecting what is now Siberia and North America.

'The traces on the bones show that the mammoth was killed and butchered by ancient people,' he said.

Comment: As Pierre Lescaudron explains in Of Flash Frozen Mammoths and Cosmic Catastrophes it's highly likely that the climatic conditions there were considerably different to our times for the not-so-woolly mammoth.

See also: And check out SOTT radio's: MindMatters: America Before: Comets, Catastrophes, Mounds and Mythology

Star of David

Polytheism and human sacrifice in early Israelite religion

Is that a 3,000-year-old picture of god, his penis and his wife depicted by early Jews at Kuntillet Ajrud?

FILE PHOTO: Is that a 3,000-year-old picture of god, his penis and his wife depicted by early Jews at Kuntillet Ajrud?
The following is an interview with Thom Stark, a scholar of ancient and modern religious texts. Stark is currently an M.A.R. student at Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tenn. His first book, released in October, is called The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It). In chapters 4 and 5, Mr. Stark systematically lays out evidence that polytheism and human sacrifice were practiced widely as a part of early Yahweh worship.
I have to start with a question that may sound rude. Most people would expect that someone writing about human sacrifice and polytheism in the Bible would be an atheist or agnostic. And yet you describe yourself as a very committed Christian. Help me put the pieces together.
Well, I hail from the Stone-Campbell tradition, an anti-creedal protestant movement that is committed to discovering what the Bible says, even if what the Bible says contradicts what orthodox Christianity has historically said. That commitment to the Bible over the creeds is what underwrote my biblical studies, and ironically is what made it possible for me to come to the realization that the Bible isn't inerrant, and that what "it says" often depends on which book in the Bible you're reading.

Comment: See also: Also check out SOTT radio's:


Early modern humans cooked starchy food in South Africa, 170,000 years ago

Border Cave
© Dr. Lucinda Backwell
Border Cave excavation.
"The inhabitants of the Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains on the Kwazulu-Natal/eSwatini border were cooking starchy plants 170 thousand years ago," says Professor Lyn Wadley, a scientist from the Wits Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa (Wits ESI). "This discovery is much older than earlier reports for cooking similar plants and it provides a fascinating insight into the behavioural practices of early modern humans in southern Africa. It also implies that they shared food and used wooden sticks to extract plants from the ground."

"It is extraordinary that such fragile plant remains have survived for so long," says Dr. Christine Sievers, a scientist from the University of the Witwatersrand, who completed the archaeobotanical work with Wadley. The underground food plants were uncovered during excavations at Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains (on the border of KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, and eSwatini [formerly Swaziland]), where the team has been digging since 2015. During the excavation, Wadley and Sievers recognised the small, charred cylinders as rhizomes. All appear to belong to the same species, and 55 charred, whole rhizomes were identified as Hypoxis, commonly called the Yellow Star flower. "The most likely of the species growing in KwaZulu-Natal today is the slender-leafed Hypoxis angustifolia that is favoured as food," adds Sievers. "It has small rhizomes with white flesh that is more palatable than the bitter, orange flesh of rhizomes from the better known medicinal Hypoxis species (incorrectly called African Potato)."

Comment: See also:


Dating the ancient Maltese temples

Stone Tablet from Malta
© Berthold Werner, CC-BY-SA 3.0.
Relief showing goats and rams from one of the temples at Tarzien.
Malta is famous for its ancient megalithic temples, such as Gjantija and Hagar Qim. The orthodox view has always been that they are Bronze Age, or slightly earlier. The most recent attempt to date them involves researchers from Queens University Belfast (QUB), Maltese institutions and other universities in the UK under the 'FRAGSUS' project, an EU multi-million pound research collaboration. For example, see the paper 'Island questions: the chronology of the Brochtorff Circle at Xaghra, Gozo ...' by C. Malone et al. (2019) in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Because they are megalithic structures, for which radiocarbon dating is useless, the conventional approach is to date remains found in situ within and near the temples. Of course, this is simply dating the latest occupations of the temples, not necessarily their construction dates. All of the latest work carried out by the FRAGSUS team simply confirms the conventional view that the earliest settlement on the island began around 5200 BC, with the temples being built over the course of a few thousand years, beginning slightly before 4000 BC.

But now we can provide a zodiacal date that shows at least some of the temples were in use before the 8.2 kiloyear event, around 6300 BC. Presumably, then, the islands were depopulated by the 8.2 kiloyear event, which I suspect was another catastrophic encounter with the Taurid meteor stream, that probably also led to the demise of the culture that built the Great Sphinx of Giza. In effect, I suspect there was a well-developed (early Neolithic) Mediterranean culture involving Malta, Egypt, Turkey, the Levant and possibly several other regions, that was largely destroyed by the 8.2 kiloyear event.

Just how advanced this culture was is not clear. Could they have mapped the world? Who knows. Did they cut the giant Baalbek megaliths? Quite possibly. So how does the zodiacal dating of these Maltese temples work? Zodiacal dating is a disruptive 'technology'. It challenges, and overturns, core archaeological assumptions of 'gradualism' and 'cultural evolution', currently believed wholesale by the bulk of the archaeological academic community, which deny the possibility of a widespread ancient culture that recorded the many destructions of their world in terms of great artworks.