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Sun, 09 May 2021
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Early signs of man found buried in abandoned Saharan gold mine

Ancient Signs1
© Fot.M.Masojć
Some of the earliest signs of human life dating back 1.8 million years have been discovered in an old gold mine in the Eastern Sahara.

Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław came across a horde of tools belonging to the African variety of Homo erectus, the ancestor of humans (Homo sapiens), about 70 km east of the present-day city of Atbara.

Included among the hundreds of artefacts were massive, almond-shaped cleavers resembling fists, weighing several kilograms, and with chipped edges on both sides forming a pointed tip at the junction.

"In the eastern part of Sudan, in the Eastern Desert, like in many places in the Sahara, a gold rush broke out. People were looking for this valuable ore in makeshift, open-cast mines. While exposing subsequent layers, miners came across several-hundred-thousand-year-old tools."

By examining layers of soil and sand above the objects using the optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) method the archaeologists were able to determine the age of the tools.

Book 2

New Book: Social Darwinism and "The Hitler Problem"

In Cambridge University Press's new book Social Darwinism, Jeffrey O'Connell and Michael Ruse tackle an issue that I have written about extensively: the connections between Darwinism and Nazi ideology. Unfortunately, however, as far as I can tell, they ignore almost everything I have written (I have to say "almost" because they do quote from a blog post I wrote). To be sure, they do cite my book, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, though I cannot tell if they read a line of it, because they never discuss any specific material from the book. Worse yet, they do not even cite my later books, Hitler's Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress (2009) or Hitler's Religion: The Twisted Ideas that Drove the Third Reich (2016), even though these are the most thorough and important scholarly books that deal with the topic of Hitler's social Darwinism.

In their chapter on "The Hitler Problem" they make the completely untenable assertion that Hitler did not believe in evolution at all. As is obvious from their citations, the way they came to this conclusion was by reading Robert Richards's works, especially Was Hitler a Darwinian? (Richards answers his question with a resounding, No!).

An Avalanche of Evidence

My book, Hitler's Ethic, contains an avalanche of evidence that Hitler believed in evolution, including human evolution. My later book, Hitler's Religion, contains a chapter, "Was Hitler a Creationist?" that directly refutes Richards's false arguments. Here I can only provide a few tidbits, but if anyone wants more evidence, including explicit refutations of Richards's claims, please consult these works.

Let me give some examples of Hitler's belief in evolution and social Darwinism from a variety of sources: Hitler's Mein Kampf and his Second Book, his speeches, his monologues, and testimony from his associates.


20,000-seater gladiator arena from Roman era unearthed in Turkey

gladiator arena
© Courtesy of Assoc. Prof. Mehmet Umut Tuncer/Aydın Provincial Director of Culture and Tourism
An aerial view shows the Roman-era arena poking out of a hilly area in Mastaura, Turkey.
Archaeologists in Turkey have discovered the remains of a "magnificent" Roman-era arena, where up to 20,000 spectators likely cheered and jeered as they watched gladiator matches and wild animal fights, the excavators said.

The 1,800-year-old arena was discovered on the rolling hills of the ancient city of Mastaura, in Turkey's western Aydın Province. Its large central area, where "bloody shows" once took place, has since filled with earth and vegetation over the centuries.

"Most of the amphitheater is under the ground," and the part that is visible is largely covered by "shrubs and wild trees," Mehmet Umut Tuncer, the Aydın Culture and Tourism provincial director and project survey leader Sedat Akkurnaz, an archaeologist at Adnan Menderes University in Turkey, told Live Science in a translated email.

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Better Earth

Rare evidence of habitation in Scotland's Cairngorms after end of last Ice Age

© Upper Dee Tributaries Project
University of Aberdeen students at work to unearth the traces of the stone age inhabitants of the Cairngorms
New research has uncovered rare evidence of people living in Scotland's mountains after the end of the last Ice Age.

Archaeologists found stone tools and traces of firepits and possible shelters in Deeside in the Cairngorms.

Finds from the Mesolithic period, also known as the Middle Stone Age, are rare and usually made in lowland areas.

Archaeologists describe the evidence in the Cairngorms as "exciting".

The research, published in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, adds to existing evidence from a handful of other upland sites.

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Noushabad: Iran's hidden underground city constructed around 224AD

Noushabed, also called Oeei or Ouyim is an ancient subterranean city, built beneath the small town of Nushabad in present-day Iran.

The earliest parts of the city were constructed sometime during the Sassanid period between AD 224 to 651 and continued to be excavated during the post-Islamic era, with evidence of occupation lasting until the Qajar dynasty.

Archaeologists have discovered human remains, earthen vessels, and stone instruments from the Sassanian, Ilkhanid, and Safavid periods, suggesting almost continuous use for many centuries.

Researchers have identified three distinct levels reaching a depth of 16 metres, and a complex network of interconnected tunnels and chambers covering an area of 3.7 acres. The different levels were connected through vertical and horizontal channels that also functioned as a ventilation system allowing the free flow of air throughout the substructure.

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Recolonisation of Europe after the last ice age started earlier than previously thought

© G. Oxilia
A study that appeared today on Current Biology sheds new light on the continental migrations which shaped the genetic background of all present Europeans.
A study that appeared today in Current Biology sheds new light on the continental migrations which shaped the genetic background of all present Europeans. The research generates new ancient DNA evidence and direct dating from a fragmentary fossil mandible belonging to an individual who lived ~17,000 years ago in northeastern Italy (Riparo Tagliente, Verona). The results backdate by about 3,000 years the diffusion in Southern Europe of a genetic component linked to Eastern Europe/Western Asia previously believed to have spread westwards during later major warming shifts.

"By looking into the past of this particular individual, who was one of the first settlers of the southern Alps after the Last Glacial peak, we found evidence that the previously documented genetic replacement which changed the makeup of Southern European Hunter Gatherers started at least 17,000 years ago," said lead author Eugenio Bortolini (University of Bologna), "much earlier than we previously thought, and in a very different scenario."

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Blue Planet

Diets of Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples on the Great Hungarian Plain revealed in new study

greater hungarian plains
© Miaow Miaow
The territory of the GHP in Hungary. The lifestyle and eating habits of human groups that have lived for thousands of years can be examined by tooth.
An international research group analyzed the prehistoric findings of the Neolithic Age. In addition to providing knowledge about the lifestyles of people who lived in prehistoric times, a novel study of tooth remains paved the way for other methods previously not used. This study applies the complementary approaches of stable isotope and dental microwear analyses to study the diets of past people living in today's Hungary. Their joint results were published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports.

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As Cuban chief Raul Castro leaves office, declassified CIA files expose how Washington planned to assassinate him

Raul Castro
© Reuters/Yamil Lage
Raul Castro
Covert attempts by the US to take out renowned revolutionary Fidel Castro by way of exploding cigars or poisoned seashells are now well known. But one contract that spies took out on his brother has remained secret... until now.

On April 16, Cuban leader Raul Castro announced his intention to resign and pass leadership to a younger generation "full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit." Having taken over power from his brother Fidel in 2008, his departure marks the seeming end of a dynasty that has ruled Cuba since 1961.

To mark the historic occasion, the National Security Archive released a number of previously classified US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents that expose how Washington had well-developed plans to assassinate Raul.

A general overview of the plot is provided by a January 1975 memorandum, prepared for the CIA Inspector General, with a stated subject of "questionable activities." It noted that Jose Raul Martinez Nunez - "a Cuban national and ranking Cubana Airline pilot" - was "developed and recruited" by the Agency at some point in 1960.

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MindMatters: Phillip Barlag: The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar

Power-hungry despot. Dictator for life. Vain ladies' man. Murdered by his peers for aspiring to be king. That was Julius Caesar, at least according to his critics and modern interpreters. But countless portrayals of the most famous Roman - in histories, novels, plays and films - omit what were quite likely his greatest features: his multifaceted genius, unparalleled leadership skill, and, remarkable for the times in which he lived, his humanity. Those skills - and their relevance for leadership today - have gone mostly unnoticed.

So this week on MindMatters we discuss The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar with author Phillip Barlag. This examination of Caesar's accomplishments not only brings a fresh perspective on who Caesar was, but also hones in on the qualities that made him an exemplary leader of ancient Rome and what lessons we can draw from the accounts of his life and character. What emerges is an alternative reading of Caesar, not as a wholly self-serving tyrant, but a politically skilled reformer, man of the people, and all around exceptional human being.

Preorder Phillip's new book here

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Archaeology in the ashes of Notre Dame

Notre Dame
© Aurélia Azéma/Laboratoire de Recherche des Monuments Historiques
The Notre Dame fire was devastating but has opened the door to research on building materials now available for study.
Two years ago, a fire devastated Paris' iconic Catholic cathedral. An archaeologist outlines the unprecedented research scientists are now undertaking to make the most of the disaster.

The night of April 15, 2019, brought unimaginable tragedy to Paris' iconic medieval Catholic cathedral. I was on the metro at the time, when I got a phone call from a colleague: "Notre Dame is burning." When the train crossed the Seine a few minutes later, I saw it with my own eyes, from a distance, helpless. The fire caused the cathedral spire to collapse, most of the roof was destroyed, and its upper walls were severely damaged.

The first time I could access Notre Dame was in December 2019, more than six months after the fire. I pulled on a mandatory protective suit and powered respirator to protect me from lead emissions, and was taken up to the top of the southern transept. From there, I gasped at the site of the northern great rose window through the wide hole where the spire had totally collapsed. I was speechless. The vaults were a total mess of carbonized wooden and metallic pieces.

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