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Thursday, 3 December 2009

Ancient history as seen today, 2009

First, here's a link to an article discussing the Nok culture-interesting African culture from 2500 years ago, that could smelt iron.

  1. Hand axes in Europe nearly a million years old: study
  2. Europe's first farmers replaced their Stone Age hunter-gatherer forerunners
  3. Milk drinking started around 7,500 years ago in central Europe
  4. 2,000-year-old skeleton found in Mongolia
  5. Heating System Confirms Ancient Kingdom Was Korean
  6. Greeks uncorked French passion for wine
I'm not sure  how useful you'll find this post, because it's mostly articles I find useful for my historical search for the Truth, but I hope at least some things will be interesting for you. As for me, I find it very interesting article number 2,3,4 and 5, because they concern tribes I'm personally interested in. If you get annoyed by my obsession with Thracian (or Trakians which is the original name- "t-ra-ki-a" - land of Ra), I appologise. A friend asked me yesterday why I'm so interested in them. Well, it is very simple - they were great. They were gorgeous. This is the first European civilisation (or at least that I am aware of!) who had the belief in the immortal soul, who understood the power of music and vibration, who made amazing gold treasures, who were well real people. And what is even more interesting is that we know so little of them, it's almost like someone doesn't want that we know. For example, yesterday I checked some new Bulgarian books on ancient history. There was NOTHING on Thracia. Only in books  explicitly dedicated to Thracia, but not in general history. Nothing! It is amazing, because these people gave so much to our civilisation and our own historians don't care. I bought myself 2 very exciting books (that makes 3 now) on the subject, so you can expect very interesting and not so general posts. For now, have fun with general history. 

Hand axes in Europe nearly a million years old: study

September 2nd, 2009

Early humans used two-sided stone axes in Europe up to 900,000 years ago, far earlier than previously thought, according to a study released Wednesday.

The transition from primitive chopper-like tools to more finely crafted double-faced axes marked a milestone in the history of technology, and gave those whose wielded them an edge in the struggle to survive.

The revised dating of tools discovered in the 1970s at two sites in Spain largely erases a time gap that had long perplexed scientists.

Before the new study, the earliest double axes found in Europe were thought to date from only 500,000 years ago -- fully a million years after they had come into use in Africa.

Gary Scott and Luis Gibert of the Berkeley Geochronology Center in Berkeley, California applied a technique called magnetostratigraphy to determine that the hatchets were in fact crafted between 760,000 and 900,000 years ago.

Magnetostratigraphy is based on the periodic reversal of Earth's magnetic field.

Acting like tiny compasses, fine-grained magnetic minerals in the tools contain a record of the polarity at the time they were used. Once buried in sediment, the polarity is preserved.

"The age (of the axes) must be Early Pleistocene, the most recent period dominated by reverse polarity, 1.78-to-0.78 million years ago," the researchers concluded. source

Europe's first farmers replaced their Stone Age hunter-gatherer forerunners

September 3rd, 2009 ( -- DNA study suggests that further waves of prehistoric immigration are waiting to be discovered. Central and northern Europe's first farmers were immigrants with barely any ancestral ties to the modern population, a study has found.

Researchers used DNA taken from the remains of farmers who worked the land more than 7,000 years ago to discover that they were not related to the hunter-gatherers who inhabited Europe previously. Instead, they probably belonged to an immigrant population, possibly from south-eastern Europe.

The study also found that the ancient hunter-gatherers do share their predominant DNA type with some modern Europeans, unlike the agriculturalists who arrived in Europe at a later stage. Neither group, however, explains the genetic make-up of much of Europe's current population, which indicates that there were other waves of prehistoric migration that still remain uncharted.

Generations of scholars have puzzled over whether the change in lifestyle from hunter-gatherer to farmer was brought to Europe by new people, or whether only the idea of farming spread. The new report provides persuasive evidence that it arrived in central Europe with a wave of immigrants approximately 7,500 years ago.

Researchers compared new mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from late European hunter-gatherers (up to 13,000 years old) with sequences from early farmers (7,500 years old), as well as with sequences from modern Europeans.

They found significant genetic differences between all three groups which cannot be explained by population continuity. Most (82%) of the hunter-gatherers share a genetic lineage known as "U", which is still found today in a minority of Europeans - about 5% of Mediterranean people, increasing northwards to 20-40% of traditional tribes in north-eastern Russia and Finland, such as the Saami.

The major DNA type among the farmers, however, was type N1a, which is exceptionally rare, found in less than 0.2% of the European population. The fact that this lineage was not shared with the hunter-gatherers means that the farmers were immigrants who, at least initially, did not mix with the existing population of Europe at the time.

"A new puzzle emerges, however. Neither the hunter-gatherers nor the early farmer DNA can account for all European genetic variants today. It seems we need to look for more major, unidentified migrations into, or within, prehistoric Europe. These additional waves might have consisted of secondary farming movements or of later metalworkers."

Humans first arrived in Europe 45,000 years ago, replacing a Neanderthal population. A series of major climactic changes then ensued, including the last Ice Age. Hunter-gathering helped humans to survive through that period and was still in evidence 11,000 years ago, as the Ice Age ended. Within a few thousand years, however, it had largely disappeared, as the new wave of immigrants settled and domesticated plants and animals.

The study suggests that these farmers settled first in the Carpathian Basin.

Farming itself is believed to have begun in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East, between 12,000 and 7,000 years ago. Early communities there began to produce the so-called "founder crops", such as wheat and barley. More recently, it has become clear that early Chinese communities domesticated their own grains, such as rice and millet, independently of western influence and a growing body of research suggests that these methods may also have spread to the West. source

My comment: This is very interesting article. Clearly, it's hard to find out the history of Europe by merely comparing DNA, but the good thing about DNA is that it doen't lie (unlike historical sources). I find it interesting that the proto-tribes inhabited Europe like Thracians and Pelasgians were so different from the hunters before and that they made so little contact with them. And that of course, they genes later simply disappeared, melted by unknown source of new people like the Slavs, the Greeks and so on. 

Milk drinking started around 7,500 years ago in central Europe

The ability to digest the milk sugar lactose first evolved in dairy farming communities in central Europe, not in more northern groups as was previously thought, finds a new study led by UCL (University College London) scientists published in the journal PLoS Computational Biology. The genetic change that enabled early Europeans to drink milk without getting sick has been mapped to dairying farmers who lived around 7,500 years ago in a region between the central Balkans and central Europe. Previously, it was thought that natural selection favoured milk drinkers only in more northern regions because of their greater need for vitamin D in their diet. People living in most parts of the world make vitamin D when sunlight hits the skin, but in northern latitudes there isn't enough sunlight to do this for most of the year.

In the collaborative study, the team used a computer simulation model to explore the spread of lactase persistence, dairy farming, other food gathering practices and genes in Europe. The model integrated genetic and archaeological data using newly developed statistical approaches.

Professor Mark Thomas, UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment, says: "Most adults worldwide do not produce the enzyme lactase and so are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose. However, most Europeans continue to produce lactase throughout their life, a characteristic known as lactase persistence. In Europe, a single genetic change (13,910*T) is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage. Since adult consumption of fresh milk was only possible after the domestication of animals, it is likely that lactase persistence co-evolved with the cultural practice of dairying, although it was not known when it first arose in Europe or what factors drove its rapid spread.

"Our study simulated the spread of lactase persistence and farming in Europe, and found that lactase persistence appears to have begun around 7,500 years ago between the central Balkans and central Europe, probably among people of the Linearbandkeramik culture. But contrary to popular belief, we also found that a need for dietary vitamin D was not necessary to explain why lactase persistence is common in northern Europe today."

The spread of fresh milk drinking from the Balkans across Europe also explains why most European lactase-persistent people carry the same version of the gene; it surfed on a wave of population expansion that followed the rapid co-evolution of milk tolerance and dairy farming. In Africa, there are four known lactase persistence gene variants and probably many more yet to be discovered. Most are likely to be of African origin but the European version is also found there, especially among the Falani people.  source

My comment: Central Balkans are generalised as Central Europe? Am, Hello?! Anyway, this comes as no surpise to me, for the obvious reasons. I think many more beautiful things originated from the "central Balkans" (which is what, todays Bulgaria and Serbia?), we just have yet to find them out. And by the way, for those of you who don't know me yet, this is not nationalism,  in my case, I'm just awed by a great civilisation that disappeared from world history for unknown reason, but which cannot disappear from our hearts and mostly blood. 

2,000-year-old skeleton found in Mongolia

 The National Museum of Korea said yesterday it has unearthed a 2,000-year-old skeleton of a Mongolian nomad at the Xiongnu Tombs (198 tombs) of Duurlignars, about 500 kilometers northeast of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. 

 The skeleton of a man was identified as mortal remains of the Xiongnu, a confederation of nomadic tribes in Central Asia, a finding that archeologists and historians could use to advance the studies about the ancient tribe. The Xiongnu tribe is often linked with the Huns, a tribe which is better known in Europe, but identification of the two tribes has yet to be confirmed.

This year, the archeologists discovered a number of artifacts such as bowls and a mirror at four different tombs at the excavation site. The skeleton, whose structure remains largely intact, was found in one of the tombs.

 The Xiongnu Tombs of Duurlignars is widely regarded as one of the three key sites that might help unlock the mystery about the ancient tribe. The other two sites are Noyon-Uul in northern Mongolia and Gol-Mod in the central region of the country. 

The Xiongnu tribe defeated and displaced the then-dominant Yuezhi and secured control on the steppes north of China around 2nd century B.C. Their influence reached southern Siberia, western Manchuria and the modern Chinese provinces of Inner Mongolia, Gansu, and Xinjiang. Since the tribe was considered hostile and aggressive, the Qin Dynasty built the Great Wall to protect itself from Xiongnu attacks. source

My comment:Have you ever heard of this tribe? I haven't. But the very idea that the Great Wall was built because of them is very interesting and that's why this article is here, for future referencing. And note, they are often related with the huns and well, we all love huns. You probably remember the article on Huns by a hungarian researcher I published recently. 

Heating System Confirms Ancient Kingdom Was Korean

The largest "ondol" heating system dating from the Balhae Kingdom has been unearthed in a nearly intact state in Russia's Maritime Province, confirming the kingdom to have been a Korean settlement.

Ondol, literally "warm stone", is an under-floor heating system where flues carry hot gases below the living space. They were a distinct feature of Korean dwellings and are not found in the remains of Chinese, Khitan or Jurchen homes.

The discovery proves not only that Balhae was a successor state to the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo, but also defeats the logic of China's recent "Northeast Project", which says Koguryo and Balhae were simply autonomous Chinese frontier districts.

The trace of the U-shaped ondol pipe (14.8m long) which points toward the southwest, is 3.7 m. wide to the west, 6.4 meters to the north and 4.7 meters to the east, and is 1-1.3 m wide. Prof. Evgenia Gelman of Far-Eastern State Technical University, who unearthed the remains, said the discovery clearly showed Balhae to have been a successor state to Koguryo.

 Aug. 25, 2005 19:05 KST source
My comment:Well, I find this kind of questionable. The fact that they used heating pipes, may point to Korea or it may simply say that these people liked the idea of heating pipes and used it on their own. I think this conclusion is kind of preliminary. 

Greeks uncorked French passion for wine

October 23, 2009
( --

Rewind 2,500 years, however, and the original makers of Côtes-du-Rhône are more likely to have prided themselves on rather different qualities, such as Athenian sophistication, and perhaps just a soupçon of Spartan grit.

Writing in a new study, Cambridge University Professor Paul Cartledge suggests that the French, not to mention the rest of the West, might never have become the passionate wine lovers we are without the assistance of a band of pioneering Greek explorers who settled in southern France around 600 BC.

Finding a sheltered port at the mouth of a major river system with natural hilly defences, the Greeks founded the city of Massalia, or modern-day Marseilles, and soon began to mingle and trade with friendly local tribes of Ligurian Celts, turning the settlement into a bustling entrepôt.

Within a matter of generations, Professor Cartledge says, the nearby Rhône became a major thoroughfare for vessels loaded with terracotta amphorae containing a new, exotic Greek drink made from fermented grape juice that would soon be taking the uncivilised tribes of western Europe by storm. Travelling up the river might even have constituted the original booze cruise.

Although some academics agree that the Greeks were central to the foundation of Europe's wine trade, others argue that the Etruscans (of modern Tuscany), or even the later Romans, were the ones responsible for bringing viticulture to France.

Rather than covering the geographical area occupied by the modern Greek state, he argues that we should understand Ancient Greece as having covered a far greater area, from Georgia in the east to Spain in the west.

Modern scholars accept that Ancient Greece was a conglomeration of cities such as Athens, Sparta and Thebes, but further-flung offshoots like Marseilles, Nice, Syracuse and Byzantium have typically been regarded as colonial outposts.

In fact, Professor Cartledge says, they were an extension of the Greek model, which had no sense of a wider state beyond that of the self-governing city and its hinterland, rather like Italian city states centuries later.

From 750 BC onwards, hundreds of these settlements and trading posts started to pop up around the shores of the Mediterranean - "like frogs around a pond", as Plato later put it - and in many cases they were as independent as Athens, Sparta, or any of their more famous sister sites.

The study argues that it is this idea of a Greater Greece which really explains why the achievements of the Greeks in fields such as art, architecture, politics, literature and philosophy continue to affect the western world so profoundly thousands of years on. Greek influence can be found everywhere, Professor Cartledge argues, because Greece itself was all over the place.


My comment: Ok, this one is complicated. I don't know where Greek people migrated to, but let's not get overwhelmed by their culture and so on. In fact, Greeks philosopher were just the lucky few who were able to travel to most of the cradles of philosophy. Wine on itself according to Wikipedia has originated from at around 6000 BC in areas now within the borders of Georgia and Iran and "appeared in Europe at about 4500 BC in what is now Bulgaria and Greece, and was very common in ancient Greece, Thrace and Rome".  So let's not call it Greek discovery, it is not! The Greek god Dionysos was just an adoption of Thracian god and its rituals are also with thracian origin. I don't know who went to Marseilles, some comments in the source article suggest that there are people still speaking Greek in France(which is kind of weird after all those years), so maybe they were Greek after all. But note that there were a Celtic kingdom on the Balkans for a while(60 years), thus the Celts were well able to study how to make wine and to bring the new knowledge across Europe. As for the Greek dominions - I think you should speak in terms of cities and not regions. Because if you see a map of the Balkans from those times - only a small part of its bottom angle is Greek - the other provinces are Thracians. 

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