Secret HistoryS

Blue Planet

Neanderthals carried genes acquired from ancient interactions with 'cousins' of modern humans

© Sarah TishkoffA new collaborative study led by Sarah Tishkoff shows that Neanderthals inherited at least 6% of their genome from a now-extinct lineage of early modern humans. Members of Tishkoff's research team collecting ethnograpgic information from participants in Ethiopia.
Modern humans migrated to Eurasia 75,000 years ago, where they encountered and interbred with Neanderthals. A new study published in the journal Current Biology shows that at this time Neanderthals were already carrying human DNA from a much older encounter with modern humans. The Penn-led research team, including collaborators from Addis Ababa University, the University of Botswana, Fudan University, Hubert Kairuki Memorial University, and the University of Yaoundé, showed that an ancient lineage of modern humans migrated to Eurasia over 250,000 years ago where they interbred with Neanderthals. Over time, these humans died out, leaving a population with predominantly Neanderthal ancestry.

"We found this reflection of ancient interbreeding where genes flowed from ancient modern humans into Neanderthals," says Alexander Platt, a senior research scientist in the Perelman School of Medicine and one of the study's first authors. "This group of individuals left Africa between 250,000 and 270,000 years ago. They were sort of the cousins to all humans alive today, and they were much more like us than Neanderthals."

The team arrived at this conclusion by comparing a Neanderthal genome with a diverse set of genomes from modern indigenous populations in sub-Saharan Africa.

Comment: It may be that this ancient lineage left Africa, but the data doesn't support human origins as coming 'out of Africa': Most human origins theories are not compatible with known fossils

Comment: See also:


Stonehenge Altar Stone did not come from Wales - research

Altar Stone
© Professor Nick Pearce, Aberystwyth UniversityThe Altar Stone, seen here underneath two bigger Sarsen stones.
The origin of the largest "bluestone" at the heart of Stonehenge has been thrown into doubt by Aberystwyth University research.

For the past 100 years, the 6-tonne Altar Stone was believed to have come from Old Red Sandstone in south Wales.

This was assumed to be close to the Preseli hills in west Wales where the majority of Stonehenge's world-renowned 'bluestones' came from.

Formed when molten rock crystallised, the Pembrokeshire bluestones are believed to have been among the first erected at the Wiltshire site around 5000 years ago.

The Altar Stone, a sandstone, has traditionally been grouped with the other, smaller, igneous bluestones, although when it arrived at Stonehenge is unclear.

Now, in an attempt to locate its source, scientists at Aberystwyth have compared analyses of the Altar Stone with 58 samples taken from the Old Red Sandstone across Wales and the Welsh borders.

The composition of the Altar Stone cannot be matched with any of these locations. The Altar Stone has a high barium content, which is unusual and may help in identifying its source.


A 4,000-year-old treasure map of France

Saint-Belec Slab
© Arkeonews Net
Overlooked for millennia, a rock fragment adorned with enigmatic inscriptions has emerged as a valuable "treasure map" for archaeologists. After 4,000 years of dormancy, researchers are now using it to uncover ancient sites in northwestern France.

The so-called Saint-Belec slab was claimed as Europe's oldest map by researchers in 2021 and they have been working ever since to understand its etchings - both to help them date the slab and to rediscover lost monuments.

"Using the map to try to find archaeological sites is a great approach. We never work like that," said Yvan Pailler, a professor at the University of Western Brittany.

Ancient sites are more commonly uncovered by sophisticated radar equipment, aerial photography, or by accident in cities when the foundations for new buildings are being dug.

"It's a treasure map," said Pailler. But the team is only just beginning their treasure hunt.

The ancient map marks an area roughly 30 by 21 kilometers and Pailler's colleague, Clement Nicolas from the CNRS research institute, said they would need to survey the entire territory and cross-reference the markings on the slab. That job could take 15 years, he said.


More evidence that humans were in North America over 20,000 years ago

Lake Otero ancient humans new mexico
This illustration shows what the shore of ancient Lake Otero may have looked like 21,000 years ago.
That means people must have been in the Americas even longer than we thought.

People really were walking around in the southwestern US during the middle of the last Ice Age, according to a recent study that double-checked the dates on a set of surprisingly ancient human footprints at White Sands National Park.

Many thousands of years ago, someone walked along the muddy shore of an ancient lake at what's now White Sands. They crushed ditchgrass seeds and grains of conifer pollen beneath their feet with every squishing, slippery step. Bournemouth University archaeologist Matthew Bennett and his colleagues (including the authors of the current study) unearthed eight layers of tracks at the site in early 2020; they radiocarbon-dated the ditchgrass seeds from the oldest layer of footprints to 23,000 years old and the youngest layer to around 21,000 years old.

Their 2021 paper sparked immediate debate.


Stash of ancient bombs discovered at Badaling Great Wall in Beijing

Great Wall
© Global Times
Lined up neatly, over 50 ancient explosive weapons were recently excavated at the Badaling Great Wall in Beijing.

A total of 59 stone bombs were discovered by archaeologists along the western section of the Badaling Great Wall in Beijing's Yanqing district. Ma Lüwei, an archaeologist specializing in ancient Chinese military history, told the Global Times that the stone bombs were major weapons used to "defend against enemy invasion" along the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

"The bomb was often installed in medium-sized hollow bits of stone. Those weapons were easy to make and were also very handy for soldiers to throw them down at invaders while standing on the Great Wall," Ma told the Global Times.

Shang Heng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Institute of Archaeology, said the stone bombs possessed "big explosive power" and were once the preference of Qi Jiguang, a Ming Dynasty military general who made major contributions to China's military system and strategy as well as the innovation of military weapons.

Those 59 stone bombs were found inscribed with orders at one of the Great Wall's station houses that were once used for standing guards watching out for the enemy. The space was later identified by archaeologists as a warehouse for storing weapons.

Prior to the new discovery, no similar "warehouses" had been found along the Beijing sections of the Great Wall.


Declassified Soviet files reveal horror crimes of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators

ukraine nazi collaborators ww2
© WikipediaUkrainian women dressed in national costumes salute Nazi German high command during the parade in Stanislaviv (currently Ivano-Frankovsk), October 1941.
Nationalists began ethnic cleansing of Jews during WWII, even before German occupation began, documents show

RT has obtained a trove of declassified KGB documents, highlighting crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists in Soviet territories occupied by Nazi Germany during WWII. The files include witness accounts of people who survived ethnic cleansing, as well as testimonies of Ukrainian collaborators captured by the Soviet domestic intelligence, then known as the NKVD.

Large swaths of present-day Ukraine fell under Nazi occupation in summer 1941 as German troops advanced deep into the Soviet Union. In fact, attacks on ethnic Jews and Poles, as well as local communists, began immediately as Soviet troops withdrew.

"In the first hours following the retreat of the Bolsheviks, the Ukrainian population has demonstrated commendable activity against Jews," a status report from the Gestapo, Nazi Germany's secret police, dated July 16, 1941, reads.

Comment: Substitute 'Russian' for 'Jews' and you have the state of Ukraine today. The mindset remains, only the target has changed.


An extraordinary archaeological discovery in Spain

Decorated Stela
© Durham University

A new decorated stela has been found in context, in the 3000-year-old funerary complex of Las Capellanías, in Cañaveral de León (Huelva, south-west of Spain). It is thought that late prehistoric stelae in Iberia were created to commemorate important personages. This new stela depicts a human figure with a headdress, a necklace, and two swords. The figure also has a detailed face, hands and feet, as well as male genitals. Las Capellanías is being excavated within a fieldwork project co-directed by the Department's Dr Marta Diaz-Guardamino.

An amazing and very special find

There are three main reasons why this stela is such a valuable find.

Firstly, this is the third decorated stela found at this site, and the second one found in context. A report on the first stela is available now. The publication of the second stela is in preparation, but a preliminary short summary can be found on the Department website.

This find is remarkable, as the contexts of use of late prehistoric stelae in Iberia are largely unknown, despite over 120 years of research. This is due to a variety of reasons, including the conditions of discovery (normally agricultural work) and the lack of archaeological fieldwork conducted at the find spots.


Homicides peaked 4,000 years ago

skull with head trauma
Skeletons and marks of lethal trauma to the face. (Standen et al., JAA, 2021)
European archaeologists and historians have turned homicide investigators by peeling back the veil on human conflict thousands of years ago.

While data on homicide and assaults are readily available today, record keeping over the millennia is, unsurprisingly, less extensive. But records may exist in human remains unearthed by scientists over the years.

Writing in Nature Human Behaviour, Professor Joerg Baten from the University of Tübingen, Giacomo Benati from the University of Barcelona and Professor Arkadiusz Sołtysiak from the University of Warsaw have ascertained a high point in historic human conflict by developing a dataset of ancient skeletons from the Middle East.

They studied the remains of more than 3,500 people uncovered in the region from modern-day Turkey around the Mediterranean Sea to Iran from 12,000-400 BCE.

Using skeletons with signs of head trauma or weapon-inflicted wounds, their database quantified injuries by period, geographic location, and cause of injury.


AI reads text from ancient Herculaneum scroll for the first time

Machine-learning technique reveals Greek words in CT scans of rolled-up papyrus.
Charred scrolls from Herculaneum
© UK PhotoCharred scrolls from Herculaneum can’t be opened easily, but X-ray scanning can reveal their contents.
A 21-year-old computer-science student has won a global contest to read the first text inside a carbonized scroll from the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum, which had been unreadable since a volcanic eruption in AD 79 — the same one that buried nearby Pompeii. The breakthrough could open up hundreds of texts from the only intact library to survive from Greco-Roman antiquity.

Luke Farritor, who is at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, developed a machine-learning algorithm that has detected Greek letters on several lines of the rolled-up papyrus, including πορϕυρας (porphyras), meaning 'purple'. Farritor used subtle, small-scale differences in surface texture to train his neural network and highlight the ink.

"When I saw the first image, I was shocked," says Federica Nicolardi, a papyrologist at the University of Naples in Italy and a member of the academic committee that reviewed Farritor's findings. "It was such a dream," she says. Now, "I can actually see something from the inside of a scroll."

Hundreds of scrolls were buried by Mount Vesuvius in October AD 79, when the eruption left Herculaneum under 20 metres of volcanic ash. Early attempts to open the papyri created a mess of fragments, and scholars feared the remainder could never be unrolled or read. "These are such crazy objects. They're all crumpled and crushed," says Nicolardi.

The Vesuvius Challenge offers a series of awards, leading to a main prize of US$700,000 for reading four or more passages from a rolled-up scroll. On 12 October, the organizers announced that Farritor has won the 'first letters' prize of $40,000 for reading more than 10 characters in a 4-square-centimetre area of papyrus. Youssef Nader, a graduate student at the Free University of Berlin, is awarded $10,000 for coming second.


Scientist deciphered hieroglyphs discovered inside the Yerkapı Tunnel in Hattusa

© Anatolian Archaeology
The deciphering of the Anatolian hieroglyphs discovered during last year's Hattusa excavations, led by Prof. Dr. Andreas Schachner, has been completed.

The Anatolian hieroglyphs discovered in the Yerkapı Tunnel in Hattusa last year revealed new information about the person responsible for constructing the tunnel. The hieroglyphs contain the name and title of the individual in charge of the tunnel's construction.

The inscriptions discovered last year by Associate Professor Dr. Bülent Genç, a faculty member of the Archaeology Department at Mardin Artuklu University, consist of 249 symbols drawn with root dye and are approximately 3,500 years old.

In the hieroglyphs found at the western and eastern ends of the tunnel, it is understood that a person named 'Arişadu' was responsible for the construction of the tunnel. This information is considered the most significant discovery regarding the tunnel's construction.

In the hieroglyphs found on the western side of the tunnel, there are also symbols for 'Tuthaliya Mountain' and 'road.' The combination of these symbols suggests that the tunnel was constructed as a road leading to Tuthaliya Mountain.