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Secret History


MIT solves mystery of why Roman concrete was so durable

roman concrete
© Courtesy of the researchers
A large-area elemental map (Calcium: red, Silicon: blue, Aluminum: green) of a 2 cm fragment of ancient Roman concrete (right) collected from the archaeological site of Privernum, Italy (left). A calcium-rich lime clast (in red), which is responsible for the unique self-healing properties in this ancient material, is clearly visible in the lower region of the image.
The ancient Romans were masters of engineering, constructing vast networks of roads, aqueducts, ports, and massive buildings, whose remains have survived for two millennia. Many of these structures were built with concrete: Rome's famed Pantheon, which has the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome and was dedicated in A.D. 128, is still intact, and some ancient Roman aqueducts still deliver water to Rome today. Meanwhile, many modern concrete structures have crumbled after a few decades.

Researchers have spent decades trying to figure out the secret of this ultradurable ancient construction material, particularly in structures that endured especially harsh conditions, such as docks, sewers, and seawalls, or those constructed in seismically active locations.

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A look at how people kept their bottoms clean through the ages

What did people do before toilet paper was invented?
Toilet Paper
© ZME Science
The simple toilet paper is a luxury many of our ancestors didn’t have.
Everyone poops, but not everyone uses toilet paper. It's estimated that over half of the world's population doesn't use toilet paper (most of them use water instead). But what did people do before we had access to toilet paper or modern bidets? Believe it or not, our ancestors used a wide array of approaches to wipe our behinds.

Dark history

Believe it or not, history doesn't seem to focus a lot on how people cleaned up after going "number two." We don't know what people used ten thousand years ago or more, and there's not much historical evidence or written text about this.

But since people in non-industrialized parts of the world (and camping trips) use things like leaves or cobs, that may have been the case in the very-olden days. But whatever the large-scale practices were, they are not well preserved in the archaeological record or in writing before the Greco-Roman times.

Still, some clues remain.

For instance, some cultures today use a 'lota', a type of small, spouted vessel traditionally made of brass or copper to spray clean the booty after the dirty business, and lotas dating back to the 2nd millennium BC have been uncovered. It's probably safe to assume that throughout history, water has been widely used for cleaning, possibly with a cloth towel, fur, or another material used for wiping.

But that only works if you have a hefty supply of water and sewage. Some ancient civilizations had this. Almost every house unit at Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, and Lothal (all ancient civilizations older than 3500 years old) was equipped with a private bath-toilet area with drains that could take the dirty water out into a larger drain that emptied into the sewage and drainage system.

It was the Greeks and Romans, however, that designed a type of lavatory that survived, with small modifications, for over 1500 years (until the modern age).


Doomed to fail: How Lenin and Stalin placed a ticking time bomb under the Soviet Union exactly 100 years ago

Soviet Union Flag
The USSR's promotion of national identities left it doomed from the very get-go

Exactly 100 years ago, on December 30, 1922, the largest country in world history was created. At the First All-Union Congress of Soviets, representatives of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) and Belarusian SSR, and the Transcaucasian Federation all signed Declaration and Treaty on the Formation of the USSR.

The huge country left an ambiguous legacy, and most of the Bolsheviks' promises were never fulfilled. However, despite its collapse in 1991, to this day the history of the Soviet Union remains relevant for residents of Russia and the former Soviet republics. In fact, it was the beginning of Bolshevik rule that marked the national revival of minorities and the creation of republics that received not only autonomy, but also the right to secede from

RT recalls how the decision to create the USSR was made and why its structure was determined by a dispute between the "red chiefs" - Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin.

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20,000-year-old cave painting 'dots' are the earliest written language, study claims but not everyone agrees

Stone Age dots, lines and Y-shaped marks might represent a type of proto-writing created by hunter-gatherers who lived in Europe at least 20,000 years ago.
Cave Art
© JoJan; Wikimedia Commons; (CC BY 4.0)
A 21,500-year-old cave painting depicting an aurochs, an extinct cattle species, in the Lascaux caves in France. Notice the four dots (within the digital yellow circle), which may have had a special meaning for ice age peoples.
At least 20,000 years ago, humans living in Europe created striking cave paintings of animals that they paired with curious signs: lines, dots and Y-shaped symbols. These marks, which are well known to researchers, might relate to the seasonal behavior of prey animals, making the signs the first known writing in the history of humankind, a new study claims.

Although Paleolithic cave art is better known for its graceful horses and ghostly handprints, there are thousands of nonfigurative or abstract marks that researchers have begun studying only in the past few decades. In a study published Jan. 5 in the Cambridge Archaeology Journal, a team of scholars suggests that these seemingly abstract dots and lines, when positioned near animal imagery, actually represent a sophisticated writing system that explains early humans' understanding of the mating and birthing seasons of important local species.

Other researchers, however, are not convinced by the study's interpretations of these human-made marks.

Melanie Chang, a paleoanthropologist at Portland State University who was not involved in the study, told Live Science in an email that she agrees with the researchers' assessment that "Upper Palaeolithic people had the cognitive capacity to write and to keep records of time." However, she cautioned that the researchers' "hypotheses are not well-supported by their results, and they also do not address alternative interpretations of the marks they analyzed."

Blue Planet

Neolithic hunting shrine with marine fossil cache found in Jordan desert is one of the earliest ritual structures ever found

Hunting shrine
© South Eastern Badia Archaeological Project
Hunting shrine
In the deserts of southeastern Jordan around 9,000 years ago, hunters erected a stone shrine that is one of the earliest ritual structures ever unearthed. A team led by archaeologists Mohammad Tarawneh of Al-Hussein Bin Talal University and Wael Abu-Azizeh of the French Institute of the Near East discovered the shrine in a Neolithic campsite near a network of "desert kites." Desert kites consist of pairs of rock walls that extend across the landscape, often over several miles, and converge on an enclosure where prey such as gazelles could be herded and then easily dispatched. The team previously established that the kites near the shrine date to the Neolithic period (12,000 to 7,000 years ago in Jordan) and have now discovered clear evidence of the shrine's connection to these enormous hunting installations.


5,000-year-old settlement unearthed in Oman

Al Mudhaibi, (ONA) — As result of a second season of antiquary excavations in the archaeological site of Al Gharyein in the Wilayat of Al Mudhaibi, A'Sharqiyah North Governorate, exploratory teams unearthed a 5,000-year-old settlement.
Ancient Ruins
© Oman News Agency
This discovery was the outcome of joint cooperation between Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism.

The excavation team was headed by Dr. Nasser Said Al Jahwari, Professor in the Department of Archaeology at the SQU College of Arts and Social Sciences. The team comprised Dr. Khalid Douglas and Dr. Mohammad Hussein.

The Al Gharyein site's settlement boasts a unique organization and planning. It featured a tower structure, surrounded by multi-room dwellings, a cemetery with mass burial graves and the remains of other buildings.


Ancient Chinese text reveals earliest-known record of a candidate aurora

Passage in Bamboo Annals describes a "five-colored light" in 10th century BCE.

Auroral display over snow-capped mountains in Hangzhou, China.
© Liu Míng Sun/EyeEm/Getty Images
Auroral display over snow-capped mountains in Hangzhou, China.
There's rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we're once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2022, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: New analysis of an ancient Chinese text revealed the earliest candidate aurora yet found, predating the next oldest by three centuries.
A pair of researchers has identified the earliest description, in an ancient Chinese text, of a candidate aurora yet found, according to an April paper published in the journal Advances in Space Research. The authors peg the likely date of the event to either 977 or 957 BCE. The next-earliest description of a candidate aurora is found on Assyrian cuneiform tablets dated between 679-655 BCE, three centuries later.

As we've reported previously, the spectacular kaleidoscopic effects of the so-called northern lights (or southern lights if they are in the Southern Hemisphere) are the result of charged particles from the Sun being dumped into the Earth's magnetosphere, where they collide with oxygen and nitrogen molecules — an interaction that excites those molecules and makes them glow. Auroras typically present as shimmering ribbons in the sky, with green, purple, blue, and yellow hues.

There are different kinds of auroral displays, such as "diffuse" auroras (a faint glow near the horizon), rarer "picket fence" and "dune" displays, and "discrete aurora arcs" — the most intense variety, which appear in the sky as shimmering, undulating curtains of light. Discrete aurora arcs can be so bright, it's possible to read a newspaper by their light. That was the case in August and September 1859, when there was a major geomagnetic storm — aka, the Carrington Event, the largest ever recorded — that produced dazzling auroras visible throughout the US, Europe, Japan, and Australia.


Evidence of US-Backed Coup in Kiev

© Wikipedia
Violence during the Maidan coup in Kiev • 2014
NewsGuard gave Consortium News a red mark for "publishing false content" on Ukraine, including that there was a U.S.-backed coup in Kiev in 2014. Here is CN's detailed proof:

NewsGuard, the media rating agency, alleges that Consortium News has published "false content" by reporting that there was a U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 and that neo-Nazis have significant influence in the country.

NewsGuard took issue with:
"a February 2022 article 'Ukraine: Guides to Reflection,' [which] asserted, 'Hence, the inflation of Russian behavior in Ukraine (where Washington organized a coup against a democratically elected government because we disliked its political complexion) ... .'
It then wrote:
"The U.S. supported the Maidan revolution that ousted then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanikovych (sic) in 2014 — including a December 2013 visit by John McCain to Kyiv in support of protesters — but there is no evidence that the U.S. 'organized' a 'coup.' Instead, it has the markings of a popular uprising, precipitated by widely covered protests against Yanukovych's decision to suspend preparations for the signing of an association and free-trade agreement with the European Union."
Viktor Yanukovych was democratically elected as president of Ukraine in 2010 in an election certified by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a fact not mentioned in NewsGuard's writings on the change of government in Ukraine. Even though Yanukovych agreed to an EU political settlement and early elections, violence forced him to flee from the capital on Feb. 21, 2014.

Comment: When revisions of history disguise the lesson, history is doomed to repeat.


Declassified intelligence files expose inconvenient truths about the Bosnian war

secret files bosnian war nato
© The Grayzone
A trove of intelligence files sent by Canadian peacekeepers expose CIA black ops, illegal weapon shipments, imported jihadist fighters, potential false flags, and stage-managed atrocities.

The established mythos of the Bosnian War is that Serb separatists, encouraged and directed by Slobodan Milošević and his acolytes in Belgrade, sought to forcibly seize Croat and Bosniak territory in service of creating an irredentist "Greater Serbia." Every step of the way, they purged indigenous Muslims in a concerted, deliberate genocide, while refusing to engage in constructive peace talks.

This narrative was aggressively perpetuated by the mainstream media at the time, and further legitimized by the UN-created International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) once the conflict ended. It has become axiomatic and unquestionable in Western consciousness ever since, enforcing the sense that negotiation invariably amounts to appeasement, a mentality that has enabled NATO war hawks to justify multiple military interventions over subsequent years.



Game day snacks: Archaeologists find fragments of olives, fruit and nuts in ancient drains of Rome's Colosseum

Rome Colosseeum draines sewage sysem
© Parco archeologico del Colosseo
Archaeologists began digging around in the sewers of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy in January, and yesterday revealed their contents. Pictured: The end of the main southern channel of the Colosseum's sewage system
Watching gladiators fight to the death was hungry work, and it appears that the best snacks to accompany such a spectacle were olives, fruits and nuts.

Archaeologists have discovered some ancient Roman leftovers while digging around in the sewers of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

They found seeds from figs, grapes and melons, as well as traces of olives and walnuts, thought to have been left by snacking spectators 1,900 years ago. Fragments of bones from ferocious animals that fought for their lives in the Roman arena were also unearthed in 230 feet (70 m) of searched drains.

Comment: Complete 2,700 year old colosseum-like structure unearthed in Turkey may be sole surviving example