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Tue, 22 Jun 2021
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Secret History


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.

Comment: See also:


Ancient DNA hints at complex social groupings in Neolithic Anatolia

Excavation Site
© University of Liverpool
Genomes from University of Liverpool excavations of burials around some of the earliest houses in history contributed to a major study by an international team of geneticists, anthropologists and archaeologists, revealing more about the remarkable diversity of kinship types in ancient human societies.

The first villagers in history were Middle Easterners who adopted a sedentary lifestyle roughly 12,000 years ago. These people not only built houses, but also buried their dead, young and old, within and around these buildings, while they continued living in them.

Although this subfloor burial tradition is well-known, the underlying social relations among these co-burials have remained a mystery. Many assumed these burials were biological family members, while others suggested that households and their burials represented more complex social groupings, organized through non-biological forms of kinship.

Senior co-author, Hacettepe University's Professor Füsun Özer, said: "Social kinship types are well-documented in many pre-industrial societies.

"What we show in this study is that both sides may have been right, at least in the case of the Neolithic Middle East".


Ancient 'untouched and highly unusual' tomb discovered on Dingle Peninsula, Ireland


The tomb was uncovered in recent days during land improvement works being carried out by a farmer
An ancient tomb, described by archaeologists as "untouched" and "highly unusual" has been discovered on the Dingle Peninsula in Co Kerry.

The tomb was uncovered in recent days during land improvement works being carried out by a farmer.

The National Monument Service has requested that the location of the structure should not be disclosed in order to prevent the possibility of disturbance.

Comment: See also:


New research reveals multipurpose nature of Australian boomerangs

© Griffith University
If you thought all boomerangs were used solely for throwing and - hopefully - returning then think again, because new research by a team of Griffith University archaeologists suggests that Aboriginal Australians employed the traditional curved wooden objects for so many more purposes.

The team from Griffith's Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE) analysed microscopic traces on the surfaces of 100 boomerangs from across each state and territory curated by the Australian Museum in Sydney.

The findings constitute the first traceological identification of hardwood boomerangs being used for shaping stone tools in various Aboriginal Australian contexts and have been published in Journal of Archaeological Science - Reports.

PhD candidate Eva Martellotta worked with ARCHE's Dr Michelle Langley (also Forensics & Archaeology, School of Environment and Science), Professor Adam Brumm and Dr Jayne Wilkins to examine microscopic marks on the surface of the boomerangs using a traceological method.

By using this method, the researchers were able to more clearly see what tasks the boomerangs were used for by Aboriginal Australians in the past.


Extreme weather - such as drought and floods - signals looming wars, warns medieval Korean manuscript

© CC0
Amid increasing concerns voiced by some scientists that climate change is fraught with dangerous implications for the Earth's natural ecosystem and the world economy, there may be other links to altering weather conditions that are no less threatening, claims a new study.

When extreme weather conditions manifest themselves in the form of droughts or excessive rainfall, it may be a sign of impending wars, claims new research.

As a team of scientists led by Santa Fe Institute External Professor Rajiv Sethi (Barnard College, Columbia University) and Tackseung Jun of Kyung Hee University in South Korea discovered the link as they pored over the oldest surviving document recording Korean history - the Samguk Sagi, or History of the Three Kingdoms.

Comment: Not only that, the apparent coupling today of society's psycho-social demise with the increase in extreme weather fluctuation suggests that wars and other destructive human behaviours cause (or at least positively correlate with) 'climate change'.

People 2

Sexual division of labor in Europe evident at advent of farming

farming agriculture
© L.P. Repiso
Neolithic agriculturalists.
A new investigation of stone tools buried in graves provides evidence supporting the existence of a division of different types of labor between people of male and female biological sex at the start of the Neolithic. Alba Masclans of Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas in Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on April 14, 2021.

Previous research has suggested that a sexual division of labor existed in Europe during the transition to the Neolithic period, when farming practices spread across the continent. However, many questions remain as to how different tasks became culturally associated with women, men, and perhaps other genders at this time.

Comment: Notably the article only speculates on 'other genders', because, as the skeletons will likely attest, there are only 2: Sex differences in immune responses to viral infection

Comment: It's likely that as long as there have been humans, divided by biology into males and females, certain jobs have been gender specific. And there's a reason that these farm related gendered roles didn't change much over thousands of years, and that's because, usually, when your survival depends on it, the job goes to the most capable:


Gagarin's history-making flight, 60 years on: How a bizarre Russian dream to resurrect the dead led to a Cold War victory in space

© Sputnik / RIA Novosti
Pilots German Titov (centre left) and Yuri Gagarin (centre 2nd left) with the cosmonaut training group study the space equipment.
"Poekhali," or "Let's go." With those words, Soviet pilot Yuri Gagarin blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan 60 years ago today. His historic flight stunned the world and turned the smiling Russian into a superstar.

Gagarin's rocket, Vostok 1, carried him into orbit, after which he circled the Earth for 108 minutes before returning to the ground. With this, Gagarin became the first human to successfully travel into space.

The Soviet space program had strange origins. In the dying years of the old Russian empire, an eccentric librarian in Moscow dreamt up the idea that humanity's "common task" was to resurrect the dead. Humanity would have to scour the universe to find the dust into which our ancestors had dissolved, and then colonize other planets to provide room for their newly revived bodies.

Comment: See also:

Red Flag


Editors' note: The following is an edited version of remarks delivered at The New Criterion's inaugural Circle Lecture on September 25, 2019.
Lenin was more severe.
— Vyacheslav Molotov, the only senior official to work for both Lenin and Stalin, when asked to compare them.
Lenin "in general" loved people but . . . his love looked far ahead, through the mists of hatred.
— Maxim Gorky
When we are reproached with cruelty, we wonder how people can forget the most elementary Marxism.
— Lenin
Beyond Doctrine

An old Soviet joke poses the question: What was the most important world-historical event of the year 1875? Answer: Lenin was five years old.

The point of the joke, of course, is that the Soviets virtually deified Lenin. Criticism of him was routinely referred to as "blasphemy," while icon corners in homes and institutions were replaced by "Lenin corners." Lenin museums sprung up everywhere, and institutions of every kind took his name. In addition to Leningrad, there were cities named Leninsk (in Kazakhstan), Leninogorsk (in Tatarstan), Leninaul (in Dagestan), Leninakan (in Armenia), Leninkend, Leninavan, and at least four different Leninabads. On a visit to the Caucasus I remember being surprised at seeing Mayakovsky's famous verses about Lenin inscribed on a mountaintop: "Lenin lived! Lenin lives! Lenin will live!" The famous mausoleum where his body is preserved served as the regime's most sacred shrine.

Book 2

Life And Fate: Coming to a country near you?

vassily grossman
Vasily Grossman was a war correspondent in the Soviet Union during World War II. After the war he became a novelist, and Life and Fate, about life in the Soviet Union during the Battle of Stalingrad, is considered his masterpiece. Written in 1960, the novel was suppressed by the KBG and not published until after a manuscript was smuggled to the West in the 70's.

Comment: Soviets were the original snowflakes. They couldn't even take a joke, let alone a novel they didn't like.

Last night I finished watching the 12-part TV series adopted from Life and Fate (Amazon Prime; Russian with English subtitles). As you might expect, life in Soviet Union under Stalin was a dystopian nightmare where political persecution was so commonplace that various slang terms developed around it. For example, one character warns another "Don't you know you could get a 'tenner' [ten years in the gulag] for telling that joke?"

Comment: "Who built the White Sea Canal?" - "The left bank was built by those who told the jokes, and the right bank by those who listened."

It is easy enough to imagine how fortunate we are not to live in such a time and place. But as I watched the show, it dawned on me that such optimism may not be entirely warranted. There are disturbing parallels between life under Stalin and life under "progressive" ideology today, and maybe we are in the incipient stages of a revolution that will push us every closer to Uncle Joe's way of doing things.

Two examples will suffice to demonstrate my point. Cancel culture is Soviet-style denunciation writ small. Nuclear physicist Viktor Shtrum is the main character in the series. Viktor protests when his superiors fire a secretary in his office because she is Jewish. Despite his brilliant scientific work, his colleagues denounce him as an enemy of the state, and put him on the road to losing his livelihood, exactly like a victim of cancel culture today.


Before becoming a terrorist leader, ISIS chief was a prison informer in Iraq for US

Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abd Al-Rahman al-Mawla
© Twitter
Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abd Al-Rahman al-Mawla
AKA: Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi
In confidential interrogation reports, Iraqi detainee M060108-01 is depicted as a model prisoner, "cooperative" with his American captors, and unusually chatty. At times he seemed to go out of his way to be helpful, especially when offered a chance to inform on rivals within his organization, then known as the Islamic State of Iraq.

Over several days of questioning in 2008, the detainee provided precise directions on how to find the secret headquarters for the insurgent group's media wing, down to the color of the front door and the times of days when the office would be occupied. When asked about the group's No. 2 leader — a Moroccan-born Swede named Abu Qaswarah — he drew maps of the man's compound and gave up the name of Qaswarah's personal courier.

Weeks after those revelations, U.S. soldiers killed Qaswarah in a raid in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Meanwhile, the detainee, U.S. officials say, would go on to become famous under a different name: Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi — the current leader of the Islamic State.

U.S. officials opened a rare window into the terrorist chief's early background as a militant with the release this week of dozens of formerly classified interrogation reports from his months in an American detention camp in Iraq. Whereas the Defense Department previously released a handful of documents that cast the future Islamic State leader as an informant, the newly released records are an intimate portrait of a prolific — at times eager — prison snitch who offered U.S. forces scores of priceless details that helped them battle the terrorist organization he now heads. The Islamic State grew out of an organization that was once called al-Qaida in Iraq.

Comment: See also: Dead or alive? Washington ups bounty to $10M on Daesh leader Mawla