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'Upside down houses' built for the dead in Stone Age tomb in Orkney

Maeshowe

Maeshowe
A study of the Maeshowe tomb by the University of the Highlands and Islands has suggested that the side chambers of the tomb are styled upside-down, as inverted netherworlds for the dead to pass on into the afterlife.

Maeshowe is a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave, built around 2800 BC on the mainland of the Orkney Islands in Scotland. Maeshowe is one of the island's largest tombs, consisting of a large mound reaching a height of 24 feet that encases a complex of passages and chambers built from crafted slabs of flagstone.

The interior contains a 36-foot-long passageway that leads to a central square shaped chamber, illuminated on the winter solstice in similarity to the grand passage tomb of Newgrange found in Ireland.

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Fish

Trove of undersea figurines point to ancient Phoenician cult

Phoenician
© Jonathan J. Gottlieb
Three 2,500-year-old Phoenician figurines recovered from the Mediterranean. The leftmost and center figurines carry a symbol associated with Tanit, a mother goddess of the Phoenician pantheon.
In 1972, in one of the early finds of marine archaeology, researchers discovered a trove of clay figurines on the seabed off the coast of Israel. The figurines — hundreds of them, accompanied by ceramic jars — were assumed to be the remains of a Phoenician shipwreck that had rested under the Mediterranean for 2,500 years.

The artifacts were never fully analyzed in a scientific study, and were filed away and mostly forgotten for decades. But a new analysis by Meir Edrey, an archaeologist at the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at the University of Haifa in Israel, and his colleagues indicates that the items were not deposited all at once in a wreck. Rather, they accumulated over roughly 400 years, between the 7th and 3rd centuries B.C., in a series of votive offerings, as part of a cult devoted to seafaring and fertility.

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Cheese

Lactose tolerance spread throughout Europe in only a few thousand years

skull
© Stefan Sauer/Tollense Valley Project
The human ability to digest the milk sugar lactose after infancy spread throughout Central Europe in only a few thousand years.
This is the conclusion reached by an international research team led by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The researchers analyzed genetic material from the bones of individuals who had fallen in a conflict around 1200 B.C. on the banks of the Tollense, a river in the present-day German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and report their findings in Current Biology this week.

The researchers found that only around one in eight of the assumed warriors had a gene variant that enabled them to break down the lactose in milk. "Of the present-day population living in this same area, around 90 percent have this lactase persistence," explained population geneticist Professor Joachim Burger of JGU, the lead author of the study. "This is a huge difference when you consider that there cannot be many more than 120 human generations between then and today." Aside from lactase persistence and a few other genetic variants, the genomes of the Tollense people are similar to that of today's inhabitants of northern Germany and the Baltic Sea region.

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Info

Study of the death beliefs of Bronze Age people

Ancient Burial
© Tees Archaeology
Burial of a woman from Windmill Fields, Stockton-upon-Tees, accompanied by skulls and limb bones from at least 3 people. The 3 people represented by the skulls and long bones had died 60-170 years before the woman with whom they were buried.
Using radiocarbon dating and CT scanning to study ancient bones, researchers have uncovered for the first time a Bronze Age tradition of retaining and curating human remains as relics over several generations.

While the findings, led by the University of Bristol and published in the journal Antiquity, may seem eerie or even gruesome by today's convention, they indicate a tangible way of honouring and remembering known individuals between close communities and generations some 4,500 years ago.

"Even in modern secular societies, human remains are seen as particularly powerful objects, and this seems to hold true for people of the Bronze Age. However, they treated and interacted with the dead in ways which are inconceivably macabre to us today," said lead author, Dr Thomas Booth, who carried out the radiocarbon dating work at the university's School of Chemistry.

"After radiocarbon dating Bronze Age human remains alongside other materials buried with them, we found many of the partial remains had been buried a significant time after the person had died, suggesting a tradition of retaining and curating human remains."

"People seem to have curated the remains of people who had lived within living or cultural memory, and who likely played an important role in their life or their communities, or with whom they had a well-defined relationship, whether that was direct family, a tradesperson, a friend or even an enemy, so they had a relic to remember and perhaps tell stories about them," said Dr Booth.

Fireball 5

The long history of comet phobia

he Book of Miracles, c. 1550
© Wikimedia Commons
The Book of Miracles, c. 1550.
Nowadays, the appearance of a comet, like the recently soaring NEOWISE, is likely to inspire wonder and excitement. But for much of human history, a comet was more likely to inspire blood-curdling fear.

"Almost always in classical times comets were regarded as portents, generally as warnings of dire events," writes historian Duane Koenig. (They were also sometimes "harbingers of happy things," like the birth of heroes, prophets, or kings.)

Ancient records show that thousands of years ago, "Persians and Koreans viewed comets as of evil nature and often [announced] war with the country in whose direction the tail pointed," writes Koenig. Over in Rome, comets were an object of fear and worship. Historian Geraldine Herbert-Brown finds that Pliny the Elder paid "particular attention to comets, and the terror they had caused humans in the course of history." According to Pliny, a comet would appear at "crucial intervals" starting in 49 BCE, "glaring terribly when Nero succeeded Claudius, and then continuously throughout Nero's principáte."

Comets — also called "bearded stars" — were consistently seen as bad news for rulers. Around 70 CE, the Roman emperor Vespasian was cautioned about a comet. "He contended the bearded star did not concern him because he was bald. It threatened his neighbor, the king of the Parthians, who was hairy," writes Koenig.

Archaeology

'Mammoth central' found at Mexico's Santa Lucia airport construction site

mammoth fossils mexico city
© Marco Ugarte / Associated Press
Paleontologists work Thursday to preserve the skeleton of a mammoth discovered at the construction site of Mexico City’s new Santa Lucia airport.
The number of mammoth skeletons recovered at an airport construction site north of Mexico City has risen to at least 200, with a large number still to be excavated, experts said Thursday.

Archaeologists hope the site that has become "mammoth central" — the shores of an ancient lakebed that both attracted and trapped mammoths in its marshy soil — may help solve the riddle of their extinction.

Experts said that finds are still being made at the site, including signs that humans may have made tools from the bones of the lumbering animals that died somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.

There are so many mammoths at the site of the new Santa Lucia airport that observers have to accompany each bulldozer that digs into the soil to make sure work is halted when mammoth bones are uncovered.

Galaxy

A warning from history: The Carrington event was not unique

Carrington

Drawings of the Carrington sunspot by Richard Carrington on Sept. 1, 1859, and (inset) Heinrich Schwabe on Aug. 27, 1859.
[Ref]

On Sept. 1st, 1859, the most ferocious solar storm in recorded history engulfed our planet. It was "the Carrington Event," named after British scientist Richard Carrington, who witnessed the flare that started it. The storm rocked Earth's magnetic field, sparked auroras over Cuba, the Bahamas and Hawaii, set fire to telegraph stations, and wrote itself into history books as the Biggest. Solar. Storm. Ever.

But, sometimes, what you read in history books is wrong.

"The Carrington Event was not unique," says Hisashi Hayakawa of Japan's Nagoya University, whose recent study of solar storms has uncovered other events of comparable intensity. "While the Carrington Event has long been considered a once‐in‐a‐century catastrophe, historical observations warn us that this may be something that occurs much more frequently."

Comment: Taking into account Electric Universe theory, it's notable that Wikipedia's entry for the year 1770 records that on July 1st Lexell's Comet (D/1770 L1) passed Earth at a distance of 2184129 km, the closest approach by a comet in recorded history. The extreme solar storm of 1770 is thought to have occurred just over a month later.

In Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection, Pierre Lescaudron details the electrical interaction involved between a comet and the Sun, and, considering the 1770 time frame above, the following excerpt could go some way towards explaining the occurrence of the powerful sunspot and subsequent geomagnetic storm:
Because of their highly eccentric orbits, the trajectory followed by most comets is almost perpendicular to the Sun's electric field. This means that the surrounding electric potential rapidly changes during the comet's journey across the solar system.1 This subjects the comet to increasing electric stress brought on by increasing electric potential difference between the comet and its surrounding space. This imbalance in electric potential triggers massive solar discharges and comet outbursts [...]

1 Thornhill, W. & Talbott, D., The Electric Universe, p. 90-95
In our own time, when we consider how many comets have been recorded in our skies of late, our entry into a grand solar minimum, that Earth's weakening geomagnetic field has reached an all time low - which serves to shield our planet from incoming space weather - an extreme solar storm event similar to any of those mentioned above is highly possible and could be a catastrophe for our planet as we know it.

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Microscope 2

Parasitic worm infections common in Medieval Europe, grave study finds

Trichuris trichiura
© Adrian Smith and Patrik Flammer, University of Oxford, UK
Photomicrograph of a Trichuris trichiura egg from an archaeological deposit.
Although helminth infections — including tapeworms and roundworms — are among the world's top neglected diseases, they are no longer endemic in Europe. However, researchers reporting in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases report that these infections were common in Medieval Europe, according to grave samples analyzed from across the continent.

Helminths are parasitic worms and they infect an estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide. The worms are transmitted through eggs that are present in human feces and can contaminate soil and water. While some infections cause only mild symptoms, others are associated with chronic malnutrition and physical impairment, particularly in children.

In the new work, Adrian Smith of the University of Oxford, UK, and colleagues analyzed 589 grave samples from 7 European sites dated between 680 and 1700 CE. Samples were taken from the pelvises of skeletons. Data associated with the sites allowed them to assess the influence of age, sex and community size on helminth infection rates.

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Colosseum

Hadrian's Wall dig reveals oldest Christian graffiti on chalice

Vindolanda
© Jaime Pharr/Alamy
The ruins of Vindolanda Roman fort in Northumberland where the chalice was found.
A 5th-century chalice covered in religious iconography has been discovered in Northumberland, to the astonishment of archaeologists, who describe it as Britain's first known example of Christian graffiti on an object. With its complex mass of crosses and chi-rhos, angels and a priestly figure, as well as fish, a whale and ships, it is believed to be without parallel in western Europe.

Made of lead and now in 14 fragments, it was unearthed at the Vindolanda Roman fort, one of Europe's foremost archaeological sites, near Hadrian's Wall, during an excavation that has also discovered the foundations of a significant church of the 5th or 6th century.

Dr Andrew Birley, director of Vindolanda excavations, told the Observer that finding church foundations inside the Roman stone fort was significant enough, but that uncovering a vessel "smothered both inside and out with Christian iconography is quite incredible".

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Colosseum

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

Colosseum

Colosseum-like structure unearthed in western Turkey
A structure similar to Rome's Colosseum, regarded as the best example of Roman architecture in the world, has been unearthed in the 2,700-year-old Mastaura ancient city in the Aegean province of Aydın's Nazilli district.

The discovery of the Colosseum, which has been preserved under the ground between olive and fig groves, has created excitement in the world of archeology.

Inspired by the notes of European travelers who traveled in the region about 200 years ago, archaeologists discovered the only example of the Colosseum in Rome. There are seven to eight similar examples in Anatolia but they have not survived until today.

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