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Mon, 20 Feb 2017
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Secret History


Virtual reality helps researchers recreate the lost sounds of Stonehenge

There are many questions surrounding the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge but might sound help in the search for answers?

Thomas Hardy said it had a strange "musical hum". Tess of the d'Urvbervilles ends at Stonehenge and features the "sound". Modern-day druids also say they experience something special when they gather at Stonehenge and play instruments within the stone circle.

However, Stonehenge is a ruin. Whatever sound it originally had 3,000 years ago has been lost but now, using technology created for video games and architects, Dr Rupert Till of the University of Huddersfield has - with the help of some ancient instruments - created a virtual sound tour of Stonehenge as it would have sounded with all the stones in place.

Arriving at 07:00 on a decidedly chilly January morning, I was sceptical. Dr Till had arrived with a horn, a drum and some sticks to try to show me that, even in its partially deconstructed state, there was still a distinctive echo.


Archaeologists investigate mounds in Burkina Faso

Krakow, Poland — Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a team of Polish researchers has been investigating archaeological sites in northern Burkina Faso, an area inhabited by the Kurumba people for the past several hundred years. The researchers found flint tools on the surface of the ground that could range in age from 15,000 to 50,000 years old. "This is one of the oldest known traces of human presence in this country," said Krzysztof Rak of Jagiellonian University.
© K. Rak
The team also examined the remains of a settlement known as Damfelenga Dangomde, which was abandoned in the late nineteenth century, when the Kurumba people moved to their current capital of Pobé-Mengao. The site is likely to have been inhabited before the arrival of the Kurumba. The team also identified a necropolis near the Damfelenga Dangomde tell that had been thought to be the remains of an ancient village. "The mounds of stone and earth that we have studied are approximately 1,300 years old," Rak said.

Comment: Archaeologists find more than 30 burial mounds and tombs dating back to II-I centuries BC in the Yardimli region of Azerbaijan

Blue Planet

Hunters lived on Tibetan plateau thousands of years earlier than thought

Intrepid hunter-gatherers may have lived permanently in the cold, harsh environment of the oxygen-starved Tibetan Plateau at least 7,400 years ago — nearly 4,000 years earlier than researchers had thought.

The claim, made by archaeologists who have re-examined ancient hand- and footprints at a site in central Tibet, could shed light on how and why humans moved to live at high altitudes. And it fits with genetic studies suggesting that Tibetan people began to acquire physiological adaptations to help them cope with reduced atmospheric oxygen levels around the same time. But some researchers say the evidence is too scanty to confirm such early year-round habitation on the plateau.
© Mark Aldenderfer
One of the human handprints at Chusan, on the Tibetan plateau; the prints have been dated to between 7,400 and 12,700 years ago.
With an average elevation of 4.5 kilometres, the air on the Tibetan Plateau has around half the oxygen present at sea level. "It's the ultimate test for human survival and adaptation in extreme environments," says Mark Aldenderfer, an archaeologist at the University of California in Merced, and a co-author of the new study, published on 5 January in Science1.

2 + 2 = 4

Before the Nobel Prize, rich patrons and nobles funded scientific discoveries

Galileo presents an experiment to a Medici patron
While the Nobel Prizes are 115 years old, rewards for scientific achievement have been around much longer. As early as the 17th century, at the very origins of modern experimental science, promoters of science realized the need for some system of recognition and reward that would provide incentive for advances in the field.

Before the prize, it was the gift that reigned in science. Precursors to modern scientists - the early astronomers, philosophers, physicians, alchemists and engineers - offered wonderful achievements, discoveries, inventions and works of literature or art as gifts to powerful patrons, often royalty. Authors prefaced their publications with extravagant letters of dedication; they might, or they might not, be rewarded with a gift in return. Many of these practitioners worked outside of academe; even those who enjoyed a modest academic salary lacked today's large institutional funders, beyond the Catholic Church. Gifts from patrons offered a crucial means of support, yet they came with many strings attached.

Comment: Let's be honest, so do most research grants.

Comment: As much as there was a marked progression in helping scientists to gain recognition and find avenues for publishing their works that did not depend on rich donors or patrons to satisfy, these institutions also later became corrupt and ponerized. The 'religion of science' was born. The halls of science, which were once about discovery and progress, ended up becoming dogmatic and rigid in their thinking, where new ideas and challenging the old beliefs became akin to heresy.


Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin - 1917 and its lessons for 2017

© Peter Otsup / Sputnik
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin
If, as my fellow Op-Edger John Wight stated recently, 'seismic' was the only word to describe 2016 - what on earth can we say about 1917? This was the year of not one, but two, Russian Revolutions.

It also saw the US break with isolationism and enter the First World War - and the Balfour Declaration - which eventually led to the establishment of the state of Israel.

The dramatic events of one hundred years ago still shape our world today. It's important therefore that we relive the year and study it closely, as there's much we can learn from it - and in particular from the year's most influential personality.

If Donald Trump was the Person of the Year in 2016, there's no doubting who the key figure in 1917 was: Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin. The bearded Marxist from Simbirsk began the year in exile, living with his wife in a bedsit at No 14 Spiegelgasse in Zurich, Switzerland, and ended it as the leader of the world's first communist state.


'Sicilian Stonehenge' discovered by amateur archaeologists

© Giuseppe La Spina
Italian archaeologists have found an intriguing Stonehenge-like "calendar rock" in Sicily.

Featuring a 3.2-foot diameter hole, the rock formation marked the beginning of winter some 5,000 years ago.

The holed Neolithic rock was discovered Nov. 30, 2016 on a hill near a prehistoric necropolis six miles from Gela, on the southern coast of Sicily, by a team who was surveying some World War II-era bunkers.

"It appeared clear to me that we were dealing with a deliberate, man-made hole," archaeologist Giuseppe La Spina told Seeker. "However, we needed the necessary empirical evidence to prove the stone was used as a prehistoric calendar to measure the seasons."

Using a compass, cameras and a video camera mounted to a GPS-equipped drone, La Spina and colleagues carried out a test in December at the winter solstice. The idea was to find out if the rising sun at solstice aligned with the distinct hole in the rock feature. According to La Spina, the experiment was "a total success."

"At 7:32 am the sun shone brightly through the hole with an incredible precision," La Spina said. "It was amazing."

The 23-foot high holed stone would have marked a turning point of the year and the seasons, anticipating some hard and cold time ahead. The moment likely had a ritual importance. In fact, further investigation of the area revealed the site was a sacred place at the end of the third millennium BC.


Ancient Cross and Menorah Carvings Found Side by Side

© Sa'ar Ganor, Israel Antiquities Authority
Engravings of a seven-armed menorah (left) and a cross were carved thousands of years ago in a cave in southern Israel.
Engravings of a cross and a menorah carved thousands of years ago were recently found in a cave in Israel, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Though the two figures were etched close together on a cistern wall, they were likely created hundreds of years apart, the archaeologists said.

Hikers unexpectedly came upon the ancient carvings while exploring subterranean passages in southern Israel. Archaeologists with the IAA dated the menorah carving to the second century A.D. and the cross to the fourth century A.D. The menorah, which has seven arms and three legs, represents the traditional candelabra that stood in the Second Temple in Jerusalem, IAA experts said in a statement.

The discovery of two side-by-side symbols associated with Judaism and Christianity, respectively, coincides with a rare overlap of the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays in 2016, with the first night of Hanukkah falling on Christmas Eve. Such an alignment has happened only four times since 1900 — in 1902, 1940, 1978 and 2016, Vox.com reported.

Comment: Related articles:


The Room of 10,000 Ancient Skulls

Indigenous people have lived in Peru since as early as 12,000 BC, leaving Peruvian archaeologists with thousands of years of prehistoric human skulls to examine. The Museum of Anthropology, Archaeology, and History in Lima, Peru contains over 10,000 of these skulls, packed together tightly in the museum's Human Remains Gallery.

The room is filled with so many skulls that it has been speculated to be the largest ancient skull collection in the world. The collection also includes hundreds of ancient ceramics and stone statues.
© Brien Foerster
Perhaps the most interesting of the museum's 10,000 skulls is the Paracas collection, known worldwide for their stretched, elongated shape. These strange skulls have foreheads that are massively taller than those of normal humans, which many archaeologists suspect is the result of rigidly tying cloth or two pieces of wood around the head to show elite status in society.

Gallery link

Comment: Elongated Peruvian skulls DNA tested: Not human?


Cuba and South Africa: Regionalism and Internationalism, Ideology and Conflict in Southern Africa during the Cold War

Many historians have addressed East/West tensions and conflicts during the Cold War as contested spheres between the U.S and U.S.S.R. These tensions not only shaped diplomacy, technological expansion and weapons, but also challenged ideology in the form of proxy wars. In essence, the Cold War in historiography is consistently summarized as the United States vs. the Soviet Union. Conflicts outside this paradigm are marginalized.

This is particularly true in the literature concerning the impact of the Cold War on Regional State actors and the international dimension of conflicts. Angola and Namibia are a case in point. The last major twentieth century Cold War clashes between sovereign nations were fought in Southern Africa. Despite the regionalization of the fighting, it became international when Cuban and South African Forces collided in these countries. Their engagement was unilateral and not as proxy states, although troops and arms came from a number of Western and non-Western countries. It was a unique confrontation between a Third World "Latin Power" and a highly industrialized African nation.

Finally, the participants in these conflicts had diametrically opposing ideologies. South Africa, a regional African power was entrenched not only in an ideological struggle, but also in its physical survival, while Cuba's engagement was termed "internationalism." Was their engagement more than democracy vs. communism? What were the implications of their engagement?


2,300yo ancient sword discovered in China, looks as deadly as ever

© CGTN / YouTube
The sword is expected to go on display in a museum.
Despite being 2,300 years old, an ancient sword discovered in China looks like it could still do some serious damage. Archaeologists unsheathed the weapon to reveal a surprisingly shiny and sharp-looking blade.

Discovered in an ancient tomb in Xinyang city, Henan Province the sword has been displayed for the first time, with some trusted individuals handling the fully-intact blade.