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Document: Israeli Mossad trained Mandela

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s state archives has published a 50-year-old letter from the Mossad spy agency claiming it unknowingly offered paramilitary training to a young Nelson Mandela, along with documents illustrating the Jewish state’s sympathy for the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1960s.

The release of the documents on the archives’ website in the wake of Mandela’s death appear to be aimed at blunting criticism of the close alliance Israel later developed with South Africa’s apartheid rulers.

Israeli relations with post-apartheid South Africa remain cool. The South African government is a fervent supporter of the Palestinian cause, and the Palestinians frequently compare their campaign for independence to the black struggle that ended apartheid.

Early this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was conspicuously absent from the dozens of world leaders, including President Barack Obama, who attended Mandela’s funeral. In a decision that was widely criticized, the globe-trotting Netanyahu cited the high cost of chartering a plane and bringing a large security detail.

The newly published Israeli documents from the 1960s, released days after Mandela’s death on Dec. 5, highlight Israeli officials’ voices against apartheid and their attempts to rally international pressure on the South African government to stop the 1964 Rivonia Trial, in which Mandela would be sentenced to life in prison.

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A woman dodges rocks and Molotov cocktails to protect Peru’s ancient sites

Peru’s Ministry of Culture looks like a cross between a Soviet-era high-rise and an Incan fortress. And, in a tiny office on an upper floor, historian Blanca Alva is rushing through a pile of work.

Blanca Alva, Peru’s historian in charge of protecting the country’s “cultural patrimony,” confiscating illegal handicrafts.

Alva is in her 50s, and typically wears colorful knit cardigans. She has been deaf since childhood, and communicates by speaking and reading lips. Alva is the key person in charge of defending Peru’s “cultural patrimony,” and it’s a pretty crazy job.

Peru’s economy is exploding, and so is the real estate market here. In the capital, Lima, housing has gotten so tight that it’s spilled over into some of the country’s archaeological sites. Those sites are supposed to be protected, but land traffickers have been selling fake titles, leading people to build homes and even entire neighborhoods on top of important ruins.

Blanca Alva tells a story of how, a few years ago, she had to spend the holidays keeping thousands of people from moving into an archaeological site.

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US investigates National Geographic over ‘corrupt payments’ to Egypt’s keeper of antiquities

National Geographic may be facing an unexpected challenge to its reputation as one of the world’s most respected educational and scientific institutions amid reports that it is under investigation in the United States over its ties to a former Egyptian official who for years held the keys to his country’s many popular antiquities.

At issue is whether the Washington-based organisation, which in recent years has rapidly extended its public reach beyond its well-known glossy magazine to a cable television channel and other enterprises, violated strict US laws on payments to officials of foreign governments in contracts starting in 2001 with Dr Zahi Hawass, who, until the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, was the government’s sole gatekeeper to all things ancient Egypt.

For a decade, Dr Hawass seemingly played a critical role in giving National Geographic constant access to the antiquities, including the pyramids and Tutankhamun treasures which because of their popularity with the public became a lynchpin of its expansion. Fees for those services, which according to the Vocativ news web site ranged from $80,000 (£50,000) to $200,000 a year, could be interpreted under US law as illegal bribes.

The Justice Department declined to confirm the investigation. “As a matter of long-standing policy, we generally do not confirm nor deny whether a matter is under investigation,” Peter Carr, a spokesman with the Justice Department Criminal Division, told The Independent.

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Drone mapping the pyramids of Zuleta in Ecuador

The Pyramids of Zuleta are one of the hidden treasures of the Andes. Built around 1,000 years ago, by the native Caranqui people, these earthen mounds and platform pyramids dominate the landscape near Hacienda Zuleta in the mountains of northern Ecuador and 110 kilometres north of Quito.

Unlike much of our planet, high resolution aerial imagery and digital elevation models are unavailable for this part of the world. This is due to the fog that often blankets the area and the agrarian nature of the region. As a part of a team of archaeologists who visited the site in August 2013, we aimed to change that.

A challenging task

Using a small, hand-launched, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV aka drone) equipped with a downward facing camera and a sophisticated autopilot system, we documented the site as it has never been seen—from extremely low altitude and at high resolution. This was a challenging task as most of the pyramids are located in the bottom of a steep constricted canyon inhabited by Andean Condors. To make things more challenging there were high winds, clouds, and quirks of the micro-climates within the canyon to contend with. In spite of that, we were able to fly nine missions and collect hundreds of photographs in just a couple of days.

The UAV flies in a defined pattern and collects photographs. The onboard autopilot insures that each image has 60% or more overlap with adjacent images. These overlapping images allow for the data to be processed into 3D and digital terrain models (DTMs) using photogrammetric and cutting edge Structure from Motion technologies. All of the data are GIS ready. While basic processing allowed us to see the mapped data in the field, it was necessary to further develop it using a high-end processing farm in Maryland, once we were back in the United States.

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Josh Reeves, Lost Secrets 2, Road Update #1

Josh checks in from the road.

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Clues to Lost Prehistoric Code Discovered in Mesopotamia

Researchers studying clay balls from Mesopotamia have discovered clues to a lost code that was used for record-keeping about 200 years before writing was invented.

The clay balls may represent the world’s “very first data storage system,” at least the first that scientists know of, said Christopher Woods, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, in a lecture at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, where he presented initial findings.

The balls, often called “envelopes” by researchers, were sealed and contain tokens in a variety of geometric shapes — the balls varying from golf ball-size to baseball-size. Only about 150 intact examples survive worldwide today.

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The Iron Man suit could become a reality: Scientists are working on bullet-proof ‘liquid’ armour that gives soldiers super-human strength

U.S. Scientists are working on next-generation combat wear for soldiers inspired by the nano suit worn in the Iron Man films and it could be used two or three years away.

U.S. Scientists are working on next-generation combat wear for U.S. soldiers inspired by the nano suit worn in the Iron Man films

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (Talos) would effectively give its wearer superpowers, such as the ability to see in the dark, super-human strength and a way of deflecting bullets, but its is a work in progress.

The U.S. Special Operations Command (Ussocom) has called on scientists to develop a suit reminiscent of the one seen in the films that uses nanotechnology.

Such a suit would probably build upon work done by an MIT professor who is developing ‘liquid armour’, which captured the imagination of U.S. armed forces scientists who are looking for a way of protecting their troops from intensive combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Gravetop Sundial Reveals Lost Civilization’s Tech Savvy

A carved stone found marking a Bronze Age grave in the Ukraine is the oldest sundial of its kind ever found, a new study reveals.

The sundial may have marked the final resting place of a young man sacrificed or otherwise marked as a messenger to the gods or ancestors, said study researcher Larisa Vodolazhskaya of the Archaeoastronomical Research Center at Southern Federal University in Russia. Vodolazhskaya analyzed the geometry of the tire-size stone and its carvings, confirming the stone would have marked the time using a system of parallel lines and an elliptical pattern of circular depressions.

The elliptical pattern makes the carving an analemmatic sundial. A traditional sundial marks the time using a gnomon, a fixed vertical that casts a shadow. An analemmatic sundial has a gnomon that must move every day of the year to adjust to the changing position of the sun in the sky.

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New archaeoastronomical alignments found at Machu Picchu

A joint Peruvian-Polish team have examined a previously unexcavated building in the well-preserved Inca retreat of Machu Picchu and found that the structure is astronomically aligned according to Prof. Mariusz Ziółkowski, Head of Pre-Columbian Research Centre at the University of Warsaw.

The team used 3D laser scanners to fully model and survey the building, named “El Mirador” (the vantage point), so as to get precise locations and alignments.

“Despite the difficult terrain we managed to perform 3D laser scans, which we then used to prepare a precise model of this amazing complex.” said Prof. Ziółkowski. Results of preliminary analysis indicate that it is a device used probably by a small group of Inca priests astronomers for precise observations of the position of celestial bodies on the horizon, against the distinctive Yanantin mountain peaks.

The Inca were well-known as astronomers who took careful note of the movements of the heavens in order to plan their agricultural and religious calendars.

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Ancient Archeological Sites That Were Destroyed By Stupid Humans

Humans love to hear about ancient history, but they aren’t always that great at preserving it. Here are some of the worst, most thoughtless, and just plain dumbest ways that humans have wrecked their own heritage.

The discoverer and destroyer of Troy, Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s

Schliemann found Troy in 1871, but there were nine cities stacked on top of each other, so the inventive archaeologist found a new way to dig to the legendary city: using dynamite, which was invented only four years earlier by Alfred Nobel.

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30,000 year old Brazilian artifacts throw wrench in theory humans first arrived in Americas 12,000 years ago

It’s no secret humans have been having sex for millennia — but recently discovered cave art suggests they were doing it in the Americas much earlier than many archeologists believed.

A new exhibit in Brazil showcases artifacts dating as far back as 30,000 years ago — throwing a wrench in the commonly held theory humans first crossed to the Americas from Asia a mere 12,000 years ago.

The 100 items on display in Brasilia, including cave paintings and ceramic art, depict animals, ceremonies, hunting expeditions — and even scenes from the sex lives of this ancient group of early Americans.

The artifacts come from the Serra da Capivara national park in Brazil’s northeastern Piaui state, on the border of the Amazon and Atlantic Forests, which attracted the hunter-gatherer civilization that left behind this hoard of local art.

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Libyan Desert Glass: Diamond-Bearing Pebble Provides Evidence of Comet Striking Earth

A mysterious black pebble found by an Egyptian geologist at the Libyan Desert Glass strewnfield provides the first ever evidence of a comet entering Earth’s atmosphere and exploding.

This image shows Tutankhamun’s pectoral with a scarab carved from the Libyan Desert Glass. Image credit: Jon Bodsworth.

The comet entered the atmosphere above Egypt about 28.5 million years ago. It exploded, heating up the sand beneath it to a temperature of about 2,000 degrees Celsius, and resulting in the formation of a huge amount of yellow silica glass, called the Libyan Desert Glass.

A magnificent specimen of the Libyan Desert Glass, polished by ancient jewelers, is found in Tutankhamun’s brooch with its striking yellow-brown scarab.

Prof Jan Kramers from the University of Johannesburg, a lead author of the paper published online in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, and his co-authors analyzed the diamond-bearing pebble ‘Hypatia,’ named in honor of the first well known female mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria.

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Are NYPD on the Apple payroll? Cops hand out flyers urging people to upgrade their devices to iOS7 because it is ‘safer’

New York police officers were handing out flyers to people around New York City on Saturday urging them to upgrade their devices to Apple’s new iOS7 operating system.

NYPD’s Public Awareness Notice promotes the software as giving ‘added security to your devices’.

The NYPD notice also urges people to register their devices with their ‘Operation Identification Program’.

One of those given a flyer was Michael Hoffman, who posted a picture on his Twitter account showing the paper from the police that was given to him at his subway stop.

Attention: NYPD are handing out flyers urging people to download Apple’s new iOS7 software

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Developer destruction of Pre-Inca pyramid goes unpunished

On the afternoon of Saturday 29th June Estequilla Rosales, vice president of the heritage association Kapaq Sumaq Ayllu, heard a noise coming from the far side of the archaeological site she has been helping to protect. The Peruvian 45-hectare complex of El Paraíso is a national cultural heritage site and one of the largest and oldest in Peru.

The area of the archaeological complex of El Paraiso which was completely destroyed by developers. Image: Peruvian Ministry of Culture

What Estequilla heard was the sound of heavy machinery in the process of destroying one of the eleven archaeological mounds registered on the site, beneath which lay the remains of a pre-Inca pyramid, up to six metres high.

“I was desperate, and climbed the hill to tell the watchman to call the police”, remembers Estequilla ” Now I feel calmer, but when it happened, I felt a deep pain, as this is part of my country, they are destroying my identity, my culture and this is an act of treason against our nation.”
Growing real estate speculation

The Archaeological Complex of El Paraiso, one hour northwest of Lima in the county of San Martin de Porres, is located in an area where there is growing real estate speculation. Discovered in the 1950s, the occupation period for El Paraíso was relatively short, lasting approximately 300 to 400 years, from 3790 cal BP to 3,065 cal BP. However, the area surrounding the site was gradually being bought up as private property and now its limits are hard pressed by plots and fields.

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12,000 year old lineage of the first settlers in the Americas

About 30 human skeletons that have been dated to the second millennium BC have been discovered in the cave of La Grave, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, and could provide vital clues relating to the first settlers in the Americas according to archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Oldest genetic lineages

The bones are related with early groups that populated the continent. Image: INAH

Based on osteometric studies, ancient DNA and radiocarbon tests that have been applied to the skeletal remains which began to be recovered in 2011 near the town of Tula, it is possible this area has signs of one of the oldest genetic lineages in the Americas, associated with the men who crossed into the continent around 12 thousand years ago.

The exploration and excavation of burial caves in Tamaulipas seeks to “better understand the origin, development, quality and lifestyle of ancient cultures who settled in the region,” said physical anthropologist Jesús Ernesto González Velasco who works at the INAH Centre, Tamaulipas.

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Archaeology: 7000-year-old defensive wall emerges near Bulgaria’s Shoumen

The dry spell blanketing Bulgaria for the past two months has resulted in an unexpected archaeological discovery, with the remains of a 7000-year-old defensive wall emerging from the waters of the Ticha accumulation lake near the town of Shoumen in northeastern Bulgaria.

The wall is more than five meters tall, made of rocks that are being held together by clay. The wall has an arrowslit and appears to be better built than other fortifications dating back to the same period in this part of Europe, historian Stefan Chohadjiev from Veliko Turnovo University told Bulgarian National Television.

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This 1,600-Year-Old Goblet Shows that the Romans Were Nanotechnology Pioneers

The colorful secret of a 1,600-year-old Roman chalice at the British Museum is the key to a super­sensitive new technology that might help diagnose human disease or pinpoint biohazards at security checkpoints.

The Romans may have first come across the colorful potential of nanoparticles by accident, but they seem to have perfected it. (The Trustees of the British Museum / Art Resource, NY)

The glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind—a property that puzzled scientists for decades after the museum acquired the cup in the 1950s. The mystery wasn’t solved until 1990, when researchers in England scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers: They’d impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt. The exact mixture of the precious metals suggests the Romans knew what they were doing—“an amazing feat,” says one of the researchers, archaeologist Ian Freestone of University College London.

The ancient nanotech works something like this: When hit with light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that alter the color depending on the observer’s position. Gang Logan Liu, an engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has long focused on using nanotechnology to diagnose disease, and his colleagues realized that this effect offered untapped potential. “The Romans knew how to make and use nanoparticles for beautiful art,” Liu says. “We wanted to see if this could have scientific applications.”

When various fluids filled the cup, Liu suspected, they would change how the vibrating electrons in the glass interacted, and thus the color. (Today’s home pregnancy tests exploit a separate nano-based phenomenon to turn a white line pink.)

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Mystery of the ancient kingdom discovered in Nepal where thousands of caves are carved 155ft off the ground

Hidden within the Himalayas, 155ft from the ground, these man-made caves are one of the World’s greatest archaeological mysteries.

Thousands of holes are carved into the fragile, sandy-coloured cliff in a gorge so large it dwarfs the Grand Canyon.

The astonishing number of caves, some dug into the cliffside, others tunnelled from above are thousands of years old but who built them and why remains a mystery.

Mystery: Thousands of man-made caves 155ft from the ground lie hidden within the Himilayas in a gorge so large it dwarfs the Grand Canyon

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Return of the Black Death: Boy, 15, dies after eating groundhog infected with bubonic plague in Kyrgyzstan

An outbreak of the deadly bubonic plague has tormented the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan after the death of a 15-year-old boy.

Three more people showed symptoms of the ‘Black Death’, and in total 131 came into contact with the victim.

More than 800 people have been screened in the town of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The disease wiped out tens of millions in 14th century Europe.

It was reported that 15-year-old Temirbek Isakunov died after eating a barbecued groundhog infected with the lethal virus, yet another account suggests he became infected after being bitten by an oriental flea carried by a marmot that he reportedly prepared for food.

Eastern districts of the mountainous country were in ‘lockdown’ last night as officials sought to prevent the plague spreading.

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World’s oldest temple built to worship the dog star

THE world’s oldest temple, Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, may have been built to worship the dog star, Sirius.

The original star sign?

The 11,000-year-old site consists of a series of at least 20 circular enclosures, although only a few have been uncovered since excavations began in the mid-1990s. Each one is surrounded by a ring of huge, T-shaped stone pillars, some of which are decorated with carvings of fierce animals. Two more megaliths stand parallel to each other at the centre of each ring (see illustration).

Göbekli Tepe put a dent in the idea of the Neolithic revolution, which said that the invention of agriculture spurred humans to build settlements and develop civilisation, art and religion. There is no evidence of agriculture near the temple, hinting that religion came first in this instance.

“We have a lot of contemporaneous sites which are settlements of hunter-gatherers. Göbekli Tepe was a sanctuary site for people living in these settlements,” says Klaus Schmidt, chief archaeologist for the project at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin.

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