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Thu, 29 Sep 2016
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1816: A year without Summer that changed the world

© UW Library Freshwater & Marine Image Bank
If you think the recent weather has been strange lately, listen to this tale of a year without a summer. In 1815 a volcanic eruption caused the following year's weather patterns to be drastically different. People across the world experienced unusual weather and increased hardships, but they did not associate the volcano with the conditions at the time. This strange phenomenon deeply affected the Eastern U.S. and the Appalachian Mountains, but hit the whole world, causing odd rain events and weather that could not be explained, and altering the course of human history.


The eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia (then known as the Dutch East Indies) in April of 1815 was the result of a highly pressurized volcanic environment. The initial stages of eruption were reported to have sounded like an army attack with guns and cannons. As flames shot up from the top, hot pumice and volcanic rock were forced into the air. The geological event caused tons of ash and sulphur-dioxide into the air over the course of five days, enough to cover a 100 mile radius with a foot of ash! This event and the resulting cloud, some scientists proffer, is the cause of the the weather extremes and global cooling the following year. Many experts do believe that this is the only reasonable explanation for the year without a summer, though there is not total agreement on the matter. This volcano is still active today, though volcanic activity is closely monitored to ensure minimal losses if the pressure does build up again.

Comment: See also: The year without a summer: 1816


50,000-years-old Sewing needle made by Denisovan discovered in Siberian cave

'Sensational' discovery in Denisova Cave is at least 50,000 years old BUT it wasn't made by Homo sapiens.
© Vesti
The needle is seen as providing proof that the long-gone Denisovans - named after the cave - were more sophisticated than previously believed.
The 7 centimetre (2 3/4 inch) needle was made and used by our long extinct Denisovan ancestors, a recently-discovered hominin species or subspecies.

Scientists found the sewing implement - complete with a hole for thread - during the annual summer archeological dig at an Altai Mountains cave widely believed to hold the secrets of man's origins. It appears to be still useable after 50,000 years.

Professor Mikhail Shunkov, head of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, said: 'It is the most unique find of this season, which can even be called sensational.
© Vesti
It appears to be still useable after 50,000 years.
'It is a needle made of bone. As of today it is the most ancient needle in the word. It is about 50,000 years old.'


2,300-year-old secret tunnel found in ancient Hittite capital

© Anadolu Agency
Archaeological works in Alacahöyük, one of the most important centers of the Hittite Empire and considered Turkey's first "national excavation field," have unearthed a 2,300-year-old secret tunnel known as a potern.

"This tunnel is a big discovery in terms of Hittite architecture. This is my 55th year in professional life. I never thought I would find a potern but I did," said Ankara University Professor Aykut Çınaroğlu, the head of the excavations.

Çınaroğlu said they opened the season one month ago with a team of 24 people, including eight archaeologists, and were set to continue until the end of September.

While focusing on a sanctuary that was unearthed in 2014, they discovered a secret tunnel, he said.

Stating that more than one secret tunnel existed in the capital of the Hittites, Hattuşa, Çınaroğlu said:
"This new potern proves the existence of other poterns in Alacahöyük. We are carrying out excavations right now; we have not finished yet. We started from the gate opening to the sanctuary, trying to open it. This is a potern from nearly 2,300 years ago. We have dug 23 meters so far but think that it is longer. Cleaning work is continuing, too. We will see what we will find in the end. Poterns were placed under the castle, extending into the city. We have previously found a cuneiform tablet here, featuring a king who explains to priests what to do during ceremonies. This secret tunnel might have had a sacred function."


Bible fairy tales - A look at yesterday

© Born Again Pagan
British historian, F. W. Maitland wrote:
We study the day before yesterday in order that yesterday may not paralyze today, and that today may not paralyze tomorrow.
Which is a fancy way of saying, what really happened does matter.[1] In a similar vein, John Dominic Crossan said something like, if we get yesterday right, we have a chance of getting today better. So, let's look at yesterday.

Back in 1956, David Ben-Gurion, possibly struggling with his conscience, confessed:
If I were an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural, we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We came from Israel, it's true, but that was two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? [2]
"God promised it to us"?

Not so fast. More and more scholars, Jewish and humanist, are questioning the exodus story and that "promise". Rabbi David Wolpe raised just that provocative question before his congregation of 2,200 at Sinai Temple in Westwood, California back in 2001, saying:
After a century of excavations trying to prove the ancient accounts true, archeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua's leadership.[3]
Teresa Watanbe continues:
The modern archeological consensus over the Exodus is just beginning to reach the public. In 1999, an Israeli archeologist, Ze'ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University set off a furor in Israel by writing in a popular magazine that stories of the patriarchs were myths and that neither the Exodus nor Joshua's conquest ever occurred.[4]


The Mayans were tracking the planets long before Copernicus

© Alexander von Humboldt/Wikimedia Commons
An ancient Mayan Text called the Dresden Codex contains detailed recordings of the phases of Venus in its Venus Table, on pages 46 to 50. Data in the Venus Table may have been gathered by astronomers to help time ritual events with the cycles of the planet.
An ancient Mayan text captured the moment when a royal astronomer made a scientific discovery about the movement of Venus across the night sky.

The text, called the Dresden Codex, contains laborious measurements of the rising and setting of Venus. Based on these recordings, historians can now place this astronomer within a 25-year span within the first half of the 10th century.

"We can see the moment when this person puts it all together," said Gerardo Aldana, a science historian in the Department of Chicano Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a co-author of a new study describing the findings.


The U.S. military planned a nuclear first strike against Russia during the 1960s

Several years ago, my articles advocating a large hike in the minimum wage caught the attention of James Galbraith, the prominent liberal economist, and we became a little friendly. As president of Economists for Peace and Security, he invited me to speak on those issues at his DC conference in late 2013. And after the presentations, he arranged a meeting with a friend of his, influential in DC political circles, at which the two of us could present my minimum wage proposals.

While we were waiting for the taxi to take us to that meeting, I heard him quietly discussing a few other matters with a friend standing next to him. Phrases such as "attacking Russia," "a nuclear first strike," and "Kennedy and the Joint Chiefs" came to my ears. I can't recall the exact words, but the conversation stuck in my mind both at the time and on my later flight home that evening, and although I hadn't mentioned anything, I wondered what remarkable historical facts he had been discussing. His father, the legendary economist John Kenneth Galbraith, had spent decades as one of America's most prominent public intellectuals and was a very influential figure in the Kennedy Administration, so I assumed that he was not merely engaging in casual speculation.

Finally, a week or two later, my curiosity got the better of me, and I dropped him a note, gingerly raising the topic I'd accidentally overheard. I suggested that if he possessed any private information regarding so astonishing a possibility—that the Kennedy Administration might have considered a nuclear first strike against the USSR—perhaps he had a duty to bring the facts to public awareness lest they be lost to history.

He replied that he'd indeed found persuasive evidence that the US military had carefully planned a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, and agreed about the historical importance. But he'd already published an article laying out the case. Twenty years earlier. In The American Prospect, a very respectable though liberal-leaning magazine.


Mysterious unbreakable Voynich Manuscript to be reproduced and distributed by Spanish publisher

© Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library/Wikimedia
A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript, which is undeciphered to this day.
A mysterious Renaissance-era manuscript filled with an unknown coded language is due to be reproduced and distributed by a Spanish publisher following the company's 10-year campaign to secure the deal.

No cryptographer in the world has managed to decipher the Voynich Manuscript, which is an eclectic mix of intricate writing and bizarre drawings of nude women, flowers, herbs and constellations.

The book's author, origin, date and language remains a mystery, although it's thought to have been written in Central Europe between the 15th and 16th century - it's named after the Polish-American bookseller, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912.

Speculation as to who or what could have written the book varies from the extraterrestrial to the magical, with some wondering if it's nothing more than the work of jokester who scrolled some jibberish. Whatever their views on its origins, many have craved the chance to get their hands on the priceless piece of literature and study it in detail.

Mexican plants could break code on Voynich manuscript

New signs of language surface in mystery Voynich text

University of Arizona scientists carbon-date mysterious Renaissance-era document


Found grave of Siberian noblewoman up to 4,500 years old

Undisturbed by pillaging grave robbers, the burial site of the woman, also containing the remains of a child, offers a wealth of clues about the life of these ancient people.
Her treasures include an incense burner decorated by solar symbols, 1,500 beads that once adorned her costume, and 100 pendants made from animal teeth.

The intriguing find of the remains of a 'noblewoman' from the ancient Okunev Culture was made in the Republic of Khakassia.

The Okunev people are seen as the Siberian ethnic grouping most closely related to Native Americans. In other words, it was ancestors of the Okunevs who populated America, evidently using primitive boats to venture to the ice-covered Beringia land bridge some 12,600 years ago.

The mysterious ancient culture was 'unparalleled' in Siberia in terms of its artistic richness and diversity, according to experts.

Undisturbed by pillaging grave robbers, the burial site of the woman, also containing the remains of a child, offers a wealth of clues about the life of these ancient people.


25 years since the failed coup that ended the Soviet Union

© www.rt.com
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, right, and Vice President Gennady Yanayev, left.
The junta that tried to seize power in the Soviet Union on August 18-21, 1991, is one of the most inept in the history of palace coups. Not only did it fail to take power, but it also brought about the opposite of its aims - the collapse of the USSR.

The coup was triggered by the New Union Treaty, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's stillborn, last-ditch attempt to save the USSR. The union was in the midst of an uncontrollable collapse of its command economy and being torn apart by its increasingly-nationalist minorities. With six Soviet republics, led by the Baltic States, already virtually seceding over the previous year, and upstart Boris Yeltsin threatening to marginalize Gorbachev in Moscow, the perestroika ideologist attempted to consolidate the remaining nine members into a new, looser confederacy of autonomous states.

"I thought that the worst instability was behind us at the time," Gorbachev said on the eve of the anniversary of the attempted coup, insisting that he still has no regrets over the plan. "There would have been difficult times ahead, but nothing like the momentous suffering caused by the economic reforms undertaken after the breakup of the country."

Yet while Gorbachev drew up new borders, destined to remain only as historical curios, his hard-line opponents saw a different picture - that he was simply paving the way for the dissolution of the country, not striking the workable compromise that he intended. "The treaty was an act of treason," Vasily Starodubtsev, one of the plotters, said simply when interviewed years later.

The 1991 Soviet coupt d'etat attempt, also known as the August Putsch.


Danes stumble upon mysterious WW1 German submarine

© Wikipedia
A surprising find of an ancient submarine loaded with weaponry on the seabed of the North Sea prompted Danish Maritime Authority to issue a prohibition on fishing and diving in the area.

The ban on fishing, diving or dropping anchor anywhere within a radius of 1,000 meters from the old wreckage came after Danish Maritime Authority and Defense Ministry received a warning from a team of divers, who found a WW1 submarine with unexploded mines and torpedoes on board.

On board the wreck there are 18 fully-intact mines and six torpedoes, Gert Normann Andersen, director of Sea War Museum Jutland and diving company JD-Contractor, which carried out the expedition, told the Danish tabloid newspaper BT. According to him, this is a rare find.