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Thu, 21 Feb 2019
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Greenland Crater - The 12,000 year old comet that erased ancient civilization

Ancient Impact
© ScreenCapture/YouTube
NASA recently discovered of a massive, 19-mile (31km) wide crater, found hidden underneath Greenland's Hiawatha Glacier. This crater is the result of an asteroid impact, from a nearly 1 mile-wide mountain of iron, weighing somewhere around, get this, 11-12 BILLION tons, and was traveling at approximately 12 MILES per second - which is equivalent to more than 43,000 miles per hour - when it slammed into the earth some 12,000 years ago - And...with the mind-boggling force of essentially a 700-megaton bomb. And without a doubt, THIS is the reason why there is so much mystery and why we know so little about lost Ancient human civilization

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Indus Valley script still undecipherable

Indus Script
© Harappa Archaeological Research Project, in Yadav et al 2010 PLOS One
A typical seal of the Indus Valley Civilization, containing undeciphered signs.
Today, when we've unlocked the secrets of Egyptian hieroglyphs, Maya writing and hosts of far lesser known scripts, it seems as though there's nothing left for enterprising linguists. Fear not, for there are actually a number of ancient writing systems still to be cracked by archaeologists. They include texts of the Olmec and Zapotec (Mesoamerican cultures preceding the Classic Maya), Proto-Elamite (writings of the earliest civilization of present-day Iran) and Rongorongo of Easter Island.

But if it's fame you're after (as well as intense scrutiny and even death threats) there's no better challenge than the symbols of the Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished some 4,000 years ago in present-day Pakistan and northwest India.

From this culture, archaeologists have recovered several thousand short inscriptions, most with just 4 or 5 signs. There is no consensus on how to read them, although dozens of speculative decipherments have been proposed over the past century.

Complicating efforts, the underlying language the script is tied to is disputed, and there are complex modern-day political ramifications to the question. Rival ethnic groups claim to descend from this once-great civilization and knowing its language would help cement cultural ties. Hence the reported threats to scholars immersed in the matter.

Furthermore, some researchers go so far as to deny the existence of an underlying language. That is, they argue the Indus inscriptions were not true writing - visible signs that unambiguously represent speech - but an alternate symbolic system similar to emblems, conveying more general meanings.

Despite naysayers and challenges, decipherment efforts have progressed in the past decade, thanks to better databases of texts and new computational methods for finding patterns among the signs. Here's what we know, for now.

Cut

First temple of god depicted as skinned human discovered in Mexico

mexico skinned god
© Meliton Tapia Davila/AP
A skull-like stone carving and stone trunk depicting the Flayed lord.
Mexican experts say they have found the first temple of the Flayed Lord, a pre-Hispanic fertility god depicted as a skinned human corpse.

Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said Wednesday the find was made during recent excavations of Popoloca ruins in Puebla state.

The institute said experts found two skull-like stone carvings and a stone trunk depicting the god, Xipe Totec. It had an extra hand dangling off one arm, suggesting the god was wearing the skin of a sacrificial victim.

Priests worshipped Xipe Totec by skinning human victims and then donning their skins. The ritual was seen as a way to ensure fertility and regeneration.

Comment: One wonders what brought about such a brutal and morbid practice, one that apparently continued for centuries:


Toys

Ancient kids' toys have been hiding in the archaeological record

ancient spinning disk

An ancient spinning disk (reconstruction shown) found in what's now southwestern France may have been a children's toy.
Youngsters have probably been playing their way into cultural competence for at least tens of thousands of years. So why are signs of children largely absent from the archaeological record?

A cartoon that Biblical scholar Kristine Garroway taped up in her college dorm helps to explain kids' invisibility at ancient sites: Two men in business suits stare intently at an unidentifiable round object sitting on a table. "Hey, what's this?" asks the first guy. "I dunno, probably a toy ... or a religious object," says the second.

Archaeologists have long tended to choose the second option, says Garroway, now a visiting scientist at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Ambiguous finds, such as miniature pottery vessels and small figurines, get classified as ritual or decorative objects. Some of these artifacts undoubtedly were used in ceremonies. But not all of them, Garroway argues.

Comment: Evidently we share great behaviorally similarities with our ancestors, and yet, as other findings show, some possessed a knowledge we've yet to attain in our supposedly advanced age:


Beer

18th-century ice house found under London street reveals link to Norwegian ice trade

ice house
© Graeme Robertson/Guardian
The inside of a rediscovered ice house near Regent’s Park in central London.
For the well to-do residents of Georgian London, serving chilled drinks at a festive party was a more complicated process than today. In the absence of electricity to make ice cubes and keep them frozen, they had to source their ice from elsewhere.

For the most discerning hosts, that meant using blocks of purest frozen Norwegian fjord, which was shipped to London's docks and then carefully stored until required to be chipped into glasses and clinked.

Archaeologists have now uncovered a link to the capital's lost ice trade with the rediscovery, under one of London's most prestigious addresses, of an enormous 18th-century ice store, the existence of which had been almost entirely forgotten.

Comment: As detailed below, the technology for storing ice and keeping things cool goes a long way back. From wiki:
Yakhchāl (Persian: یخچال‎ "ice pit"; yakh meaning "ice" and chāl meaning "pit") is an ancient type of evaporative cooler. Above ground, the structure had a domed shape, but had a subterranean storage space. It was often used to store ice, but sometimes was used to store food as well. The subterranean space coupled with the thick heat-resistant construction material insulated the storage space year round. These structures were mainly built and used in Persia. Many that were built hundreds of years ago remain standing.[1]
Yakhchāl

Yakhchāl
Design and process

By 400 BC, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of using yakhchāls to create ice in the winter and store it in the summer in the desert. In most yakhchāls, the ice is created by itself during the cold seasons of the year; the water is channeled from the qanat (Iranian aqueduct) to the yakhchāl and it freezes upon resting inside the structure. Usually a wall is also made along an east-west direction close to the yakhchāl and the water is channeled from the north side of the wall so that the shadow of the wall keeps the water cool to make it freeze more quickly. In some yakhchāls, ice is also brought in from nearby mountains for storage or to seed the icing process.

Yakhchāl plans



Snakes in Suits

UK's secret plan to dump 22 nuclear submarines in Scotland

defunct submarines

Rosyth's naval dockyard is home to seven defunct submarines
THE UK Government secretly planned to dump the radioactive hulks of 22 nuclear submarines in the sea off north west Scotland, documents released by the National Archives reveal.

A survey for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 1989 identified six sites for "seabed storage" of defunct naval submarines near the islands of Skye, Mull and Barra for up to 60 years - and probably longer.

Detailed and highly confidential MoD studies concluded the plan was "feasible" and would "obviate the international problems which we would face were we to dispose of these vessels in international waters."

One MoD official said the aim was "to remove submarines from public view". Another hoped that "everyone will forget about these submarines and that they will be allowed to quietly rot away indefinitely."

Comment: Wishful thinking, a disdain for the northern parts of the country, and a paranoia about 'Russians' is quite an apt assessment of the mentality of some in the British establishment: Also check out SOTT radio's: Behind the Headlines: Perfidious Albion: If Russia is a Rogue State, What is the UK?


Archaeology

Bronze Age remains may tell of world's oldest-known political assassination

skeleon murdered prince
© dpa
Forensic physician Frank Ramsthaler demonstrates the stab which inflicted mortal injuries to remains now proven to be the Prince of Helmsdorf.
The prince of Helmsdorf's skeleton revealed three brutal injuries, including one that suggests he knew his killer and attempted to fend off the attack

Nearly 4 millennia ago, an experienced warrior thrust a dagger through the stomach of the so-called "prince of Helmsdorf." The weapon, measuring some 6 inches long, traveled through to the victim's spine with such ferocity that it severed multiple arteries. A second blow dealt to the prince's collarbone split his left shoulder blade and likely punctured his lung, ensuring he suffered a bloody, brutal demise.

As Deutsche Welle reports, a group of archaeologists and forensic researchers based in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt presented their detailed portrait of the prince's last moments earlier this month. The team's findings suggest the attack may be the world's oldest-known political murder.

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A stalagmite may have solved the mystery of the Akkadian Empire's fall

Stalagmites
© Fredy Thuerig/Shutterstock
Stalagmites are upward-growing mounds of mineral deposits that have built up due to water dripping onto the floor of a cave, and they reveal quite the history of a land.
Around 4,200 years ago Mesopotamia's first empire, the Akkadian fell, coinciding with major transformations in Egypt and the Indus Valley, the two other great civilizations of the time. A study of stalagmites in Iran suggests a widespread climatic event may have been responsible for all three.

Civilizations rise and fall for many reasons, and the causes of the Akkadian Empire's demise remain controversial. The coincidence of timing with far away events has led some historians to propose a climatic cause. The nature, and even existence, of this event has been unclear, however, coming as it did in the middle of the Holocene era of largely stable temperatures, with no known upsurge in volcanic activity or change in solar output.

However, when a team led by The University of Oxford's Dr Stacy Carolin studied a stalagmite from Gol-e-Zard Cave in Iran's Alborz Mountains formed between 5,200 and 3,700 years ago they saw something certainly happened around the relevant time. The team report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences there were sharp spikes in the amount of magnesium relative to calcium 4,510 and 4,260 years ago, coinciding with slower growth and changes in the stone's oxygen isotopes. These changes lasted 110 and 290 years, respectively before the stalagmite composition returned to previous levels.

Crusader

Dig at Danish Viking capital yields 'sensational find' - Christian amulets pre-dating Harold Bluetooth's conversion

lead christian amulet denmarke
© Northern Emporium Project
Three leaden pendants featuring Christian crosses dating from the early 800s have been unearthed from an excavation site in Ribe, a former Viking capital,
Amulets with Christian symbolism have been found in the oldest extant town in Denmark; they may shed new light on the Christian roots of Scandinavian society.

Three leaden pendants featuring Christian crosses dating from the early 800s have been unearthed from an excavation site in Ribe, a former Viking capital, suggesting that the first Christians had established themselves in Danish society several generations earlier than previously assumed, Danish Radio reported.

"This is new knowledge of early Christianity in Denmark. We are used to crediting Harald Bluetooth with christening the Danes in around the year 960. But this shows that people in Ribe wore Christian amulets more than 150 years before this actually happened, Søren Sindbæk, a professor at Aarhus University, said, calling it "sensational."

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Stone carvings hidden for 600 years discovered on tomb in Scottish cathedral

Bishop Cardeny
© PA
Routine analysis of Bishop Cardeny's tomb revealed images of saint-like figures
Stone carvings that have remained hidden for 600 years have been discovered on the tomb of a medieval bishop in Scotland.

Depictions of saint-like figures were revealed on the side facing a wall while conservationists carried out a routine inspection.

The tomb, located in Dunkeld Cathedral in Perthshire belongs to the 15th century Scottish cleric Bishop Cardeny.

The unearthing of the stone carvings has shed new light on the history of the site, revealing the tomb has at some point been moved and built into the wall from its original free-standing location.

Comment: See also: