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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
© Wikipedia
Ukrainian 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 Photo
Charred 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.

Eye 1

Decades before Snowden, an American patriot waged war against illegal surveillance in the US

Christopher Pyle whistleblower domestic surveillance u.s.
© Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
Former undercover agent Christopher Pyle testifies before the Senate Constitutional Rights subcommittee that the Army has spied on politicians and thousands of ordinary Americans on February 24, 1971.
In the 1970s, US Army Captain Christopher Pyle blew the lid on government agencies' domestic spying

In 1970, a US Army captain went rogue after he discovered that the military was conducting surveillance on dissidents across the country, thus sparking the first effort in modern times to tame US intelligence.

In 1968, almost half a century before the world heard the name of Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who blew the whistle on a US-run global surveillance system, Christopher Pyle, an Army captain who taught law at the Army's intelligence school at Fort Holabird, Maryland, was about to do something no less memorable.

After Pyle had concluded one of his popular lectures on civil disorder, which focused on how the military could better quell riots in those highly volatile times, a military officer directly involved in such operations approached him with the request for a meeting. Several days later, Pyle was escorted into a large warehouse facility that once had been used to assemble railroad engines. In his 2006 book, No Place to Hide, Robert O'Harrow described what happened next.


Roman frescoes in perfect condition discovered in Naples

Roman Frescoes
© Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per l’Area Metropolitana di Napoli
The Roman frescoes perfectly preserved in the Cerberus tomb discovered in Giugliano.
Waterworks in Giugliano, a suburb of Campania (Naples), have uncovered an untouched chamber tomb full of frescoes ceilings, and walls in pristine condition.

The tomb was found on farmland during an archaeological survey in advance of updates to the city water supply system.

The room has the ceiling and walls frescoed with mythological scenes, Ichthyocentaurs (a pair of sea gods with the upper bodies of men) holding a clypeus on the front wall, festoons that go all around the funerary chamber, and figurative representations among which a three-headed dog stands out, hence the name of the mausoleum as the Tomb of Cerberus.

The striking painting that has given the tomb its monicker depicts the 12th and most dangerous of the Labors of Hercules: when he descended to Hades guided by Mercury to capture the three-headed monster dog Cerberus.


1,400-year-old gold figures depicting Norse gods unearthed at former pagan temple

gold figures dig site norway hov
© Museum of Cultural History / University of Oslo
Aerial view captured by a drone of the excavation site. The temple was situated between the modern-day E6 highway and the county road.
gullglubber gold figures norway frey gerd pagans
© The Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo
Known as "gullglubber," the gold-foil figure depicts the god Frøy and the goddess Gerd.
Archaeologists in Norway unearthed dozens of tiny gold-foil figures at a former pagan temple.

Archaeologists have discovered 35 miniature gold-foil depictions of Norse gods tucked inside the remnants of a pagan temple in Norway.

The gold foils, which are flat and as thin as a piece of paper, contain etched motifs depicting the god Frøy and the goddess Gerd and date to the Merovingian period in Norway, which began in 550 and continued into the Viking Age, according to Science Norway. The foils may have been used as sacrificial offerings.

The gold pieces lack holes, so it's unlikely that they were worn as jewelry. The first gold foils were discovered in Scandinavia in 1725 and were eventually labeled as "gullglubber," which translates to "golden old men."


The oldest evidence of human cannibalism as a funerary practice in Europe

Human Skull
© The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London By Oğuz Büyükyıldırım
A human skull from Gough’s Cave was deliberately shaped into a cup after having its flesh removed.
According to a new study, cannibalism was a common funerary practice in northern Europe around 15,000 years ago, with people eating their dead not out of necessity but rather as part of their culture.

Gough's Cave is a well-known paleolithic site in south-eastern England. Nestled in the Cheddar Gorge, the cave is perhaps best known for the discovery of 15,000 years old human skulls shaped into what are believed to have been cups and bones that had been gnawed by other humans.

A study published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews suggests this was not an isolated incident. Their research focused on the Magdalenian period of the late Upper Paleolithic era. The Magdalenians lived some 11,000 to 17,000 years ago.

Experts at London's National History Museum reviewed the literature to identify 59 Magdalenian sites that have human remains. Most were in France, with sites also in Germany, Spain, Russia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Portugal. They were able to interpret the funerary behaviors at 25 of the sites.

The ritualistic manipulation of human remains and its frequent occurrence at sites across northern and western Europe suggested cannibalism was a burial practice - rather than to supplement diet - widespread in Magdalenian culture, researchers said.

'Instead of burying their dead, these people were eating them,' explains Dr. Silvia Bello, an expert on the evolution of human behaviour working at the Natural History Museum. 'We interpret the evidence that cannibalism was practiced on multiple occasions across north-western Europe over a short period of time, as this practice was part of a diffuse funerary behaviour among Magdalenian groups.'

'That in itself is interesting, because it is the oldest evidence of cannibalism as a funerary practice.'

This cannibalistic behaviour was seemingly fairly common amongst Magdalenian people of north-western Europe, but it didn't last particularly long. There was a shift towards people burying their dead, a behaviour seen widely across south-central Europe and attributed to a second distinct culture, known as the Epigravettian.

This then raises the question of whether the eventual relative ubiquity of burial culture towards the end of the Palaeolithic was the result of Magdalenian people adopting primary burial as a funerary behaviour, or if their population was replaced.