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Tue, 21 Aug 2018
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Archaeologists find oldest evidence of bread in Jordan

Fireplace for making bread
© Alexis Pantos
One of the stone structures of the Shubayqa 1 site. The fireplace, where the bread was found, is in the middle.
At an archaeological site in northeastern Jordan, researchers have discovered the charred remains of a flatbread baked by hunter-gatherers 14,400 years ago. It is the oldest direct evidence of bread found to date, predating the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years. The findings suggest that bread production based on wild cereals may have encouraged hunter-gatherers to cultivate cereals, and thus contributed to the agricultural revolution in the Neolithic period.

A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London and University of Cambridge have analysed charred food remains from a 14,400-year-old Natufian hunter-gatherer site - a site known as Shubayqa 1 located in the Black Desert in northeastern Jordan. The results, which are published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provide the earliest empirical evidence for the production of bread:

"The presence of hundreds of charred food remains in the fireplaces from Shubayqa 1 is an exceptional find, and it has given us the chance to characterize 14,000-year-old food practices. The 24 remains analysed in this study show that wild ancestors of domesticated cereals such as barley, einkorn, and oat had been ground, sieved and kneaded prior to cooking. The remains are very similar to unleavened flatbreads identified at several Neolithic and Roman sites in Europe and Turkey. So we now know that bread-like products were produced long before the development of farming. The next step is to evaluate if the production and consumption of bread influenced the emergence of plant cultivation and domestication at all," said University of Copenhagen archaeobotanist Amaia Arranz Otaegui, who is the first author of the study.

2 + 2 = 4

Devastation and denial: The academic left and Cambodia

Cambodian prisoners
Looking out across the yellow-washed angular buildings that clutter the inner city of Phnom Penh in 2016, hindsight fills me with anxiety. Imagining myself here in 1975, I recall the jubilant and cheering crowds in the spring of that year who weren't privy to that hindsight as they welcomed Khmer Rouge communists into Cambodia's capital city after months of siege.

On the morning of 17 April, word had arrived that the Khmer Rouge had captured the government's last beleaguered military stronghold on the outskirts of the city. Prime Minister Long Boret could hardly believe the news. He demanded to be driven to the riverside to see it with his own eyes. By the time he arrived, order had already collapsed in the streets and men wearing the black shirts of the Khmer Rouge surrounded his small entourage and demanded his guards put down their guns. Managing to slip away in the chaos, Boret reported back to his cabinet at the Defence Ministry that the enemy was already in the streets. The rush then began to evacuate senior government members from the country on any government helicopters still available amidst the anarchy. Had he taken action, Boret might have escaped with his wife and children on a helicopter reserved for him, but he delayed, trying to find a helicopter with enough space for his extended family.


Russian Flag

RT's 'live updates' of the Romanov family on the centenary of their execution

Romanovs Tsar Nicholas II
On this day 100 years ago, Russia's last reigning monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and five children were murdered by the Bolsheviks. Follow #Romanovs100 Live Feed to find out what exactly happened on July 16th-17th, 1918.

16 July 2018

16:55 GMT

It's heartbreaking to see how the royal children had to grow up fast, caring for each other in captivity.

Comment: For more 'live updates' from RT on the Romanovs see here.


2000-year-old mysterious Basel papyri solved

Basel Papyrus
© University of Basel
Not high-tech at all: The conservation of papyrus requires above all craftsmanship, expertise and time. A specialized papyrus conservator was brought to Basel to make this 2000-year-old document legible again.
Since the 16th century, Basel has been home to a mysterious papyrus. With mirror writing on both sides, it has puzzled generations of researchers. A research team from the University of Basel has now discovered that it is an unknown medical document from late antiquity. The text was likely written by the famous Roman physician Galen.

The Basel papyrus collection comprises 65 papers in five languages, which were purchased by the university in 1900 for the purpose of teaching classical studies - with the exception of two papyri. These arrived in Basel back in the 16th century, and likely formed part of Basilius Amerbach's art collection.

One of these Amerbach papyri was regarded until now as unique in the world of papyrology. With mirror writing on both sides, it has puzzled generations of researchers. It was only through ultraviolet and infrared images produced by the Basel Digital Humanities Lab that it was possible to determine that this 2,000-year-old document was not a single papyrus at all, but rather several layers of papyrus glued together. A specialist papyrus restorer was brought to Basel to separate the sheets, enabling the Greek document to be decoded for the first time.


Did ancient Romans kill off Mediterranean whale species?

roman mosaic sea monster
© Gianni Dagli Orti/REX/Shutterstock
A mosaic showing a 'sea monster' taken from a Roman garrison in North Africa
They are 15 metres long and weigh around 40 tonnes, but two species of whale are mysteriously absent from the Mediterranean Sea.

Now an analysis of bones found at ancient Roman fish factories shows that these whales were common there 2,000 years ago - raising the possibility of a forgotten Roman whaling industry.

The Mediterranean is home to sperm and fin whales, but no gray or right whales are found there and there are no historical records of their presence. This is a mystery to biologists.

"Why are they not there? It seems like a hole in their home range," says biologist Ana Rodrigues of the University of Montpellier, France. She was part of a team of biologists and archaeologists who analysed the DNA of a rare set of presumed whale bones found at Roman fish-processing sites in Gibraltar and northern Spain.


1,000 year old runes carved on mammoth bone pendant found in Siberia

rune Yakutia. mammoth
Pavel Yakovlev makes 'great scientific discovery' near his village in Yakutia.

The fifth grade student discovered the 'jewellery' decorated with ancient Turkic runic inscriptions.

The four words are believed to be in the Orkhon-Yenisei type script.

Such writings are normally found in rock art in Yakutia, also known as Sakha Republic, the world's coldest region and the largest within the Russian Federation.

Academic Ninel Malysheva said: 'Runes rarely occur on such things as talismans and amulets.

'If it is confirmed that this bone found in Namsky district is genuine, it will be a great scientific discovery for the republic.

'A comprehensive study is now required involving paleontologists, archaeologists and Turkologists.'

Comment: Siberia has been revealing some fascinating finds of late:


Heatwave reveals undiscovered ancient henge in Ireland

Meath's Boyne Valley ancient site
© Anthony Murphy
Relics of Ireland's ancient past have been uncovered - thanks to the recent heatwave and drought.

Images captured by a drone show a previously undiscovered monument or henge close to the 5,000 year old Newgrange monument in County Meath.

Measuring up to 200m in diameter, it is believed to be a late Neolithic or early Bronze Age enclosure.

"The weather is 95% responsible for this find," said Anthony Murphy who found the site along with Ken Williams.

Comment: We may find clues for why these henges were built by looking into what was happening with other cultures around the world during the same period:

Cow Skull

How America walked away from the drug war in Afghanistan

drugs afghanistan
© Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
An Afghan man pours gas onto a pile of seized drugs, including opium, hashish and heroin, before incinerating it outside Kabul, Afghanistan, in September 2004. The Taliban reaps hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the narcotics trade, according to U.S. and United Nations estimates.
A high-stakes plan to indict Afghan drug lords and insurgency leaders on criminal conspiracy charges ran afoul of the Obama team. Five years later, it remains buried under Trump.

As Afghanistan edged ever closer to becoming a narco-state five years ago, a team of veteran U.S. officials in Kabul presented the Obama administration with a detailed plan to use U.S. courts to prosecute the Taliban commanders and allied drug lords who supplied more than 90 percent of the world's heroin - including a growing amount fueling the nascent opioid crisis in the United States.

The plan, according to its authors, was both a way of halting the ruinous spread of narcotics around the world and a new - and urgent - approach to confronting ongoing frustrations with the Taliban, whose drug profits were financing the growing insurgency and killing American troops. But the Obama administration's deputy chief of mission in Kabul, citing political concerns, ordered the plan to be shelved, according to a POLITICO investigation.

Star of David

Conspiracy of silence: How Israel is still covering up the execution without trial of 6 Polish Christians in Tel Aviv in 1948 - and other terrorist atrocities

© AP
Cabinet Ministers of the new state of Israel are seen on May 14, 1948, at a ceremony at the Tel Aviv Art Museum, marking the creation of the new state
In 1948, just prior to the foundation of Israel, six Polish Christians were executed without trial in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by the fledgling country's Jewish army, the Haganah. An investigative analysis on the killings - dubbed the Riftin Report - was compiled for future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, but has never been made public until now.

Official refusal to disclose the document comes despite fervid recommendations by chief Israeli state archivist Dr. Yaacov Lozowick, and the campaigning of the investigative Akevot Institute.

According to Israeli official secrecy laws, the report should've been made accessible to the public in 1998 - however, state archivists argued it should remain classified. Dr. Lozowick sought to reverse this decision in 2014, but his recommendation was opposed by Ilana Alon, Director of the Israeli Defense Force and Defense Establishment Archives.

Democratic Resilience

Lozowick's case for declassification is available via various web resources. In it, he made clear there was "no justification" for refusing to publish the report after so many years had elapsed, and doing so demonstrated "the state has something to hide".

"If after the passage of more than half a century the state is still concealing certain files from the public, it's only because they contain particularly dark secrets - that is what the reasonable individual understands. A democratic society is obliged to allow a free discussion of its wars. The discussion is a guarantee of democratic resilience. This file perhaps contains material for such a discussion, but that is a reason to open it, not close it," he explained.

2 + 2 = 4

Feminism's war against Motherhood

woman power march
On March 21 hard-core feminist Sarrah Le Marquand wrote a shocker of a newspaper opinion piece entitled "It should be illegal to be a stay-at-home mum". Yes you read that right. In this uber-feminist rant she said this: "Rather than wail about the supposed liberation in a woman's right to choose to shun paid employment, we should make it a legal requirement that all parents of children of school-age or older are gainfully employed."

I read it at the time, and shook my head in disbelief. Actually, it was all rather believable as this is standard feminist fare. But I let it go, hoping to later get back to it. Well it is later, so I have. You can read the piece for yourself (see link below). It is mind-boggling.