News Briefs 08-08-2017

Things that keep me awake at night: Is 8th of August celebrated by white supremacists like 20th of April is by stoners?

Thanks @djp1974.

Quote of the Day:

Evil tends to triumph over good because nasty people are more assertive than nice ones; that's our essential design flaw.

Robyn Hitchcock

Secret Room Discovered in the Great Pyramid?

Great Pyramid of Giza. Image by Nina-no, Creative Commons licence

A number of major media outlets are this week running a story about 'secret rooms' discovered in the Great Pyramid of Egypt. For example, Newsweek's article, with the mildly hyperbolic title "Secret Room Discovered in Great Pyramid by Archaeologists Armed with Lasers", says that...

...An international team of archaeologists believes it is on the cusp of pinpointing the location of a secret room hidden within the Great Pyramid of Giza as it uses cutting-edge laser technology to map the 4,500-year-old ancient Egyptian wonder.

Medhi Tayoubi, president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute heading the ScanPyramids project, said that the team, which uses infrared thermography to map subatomic particles, had confirmed there was a hidden room inside the structure. Now the archaeologists need to find its exact location. We know there is a secret room, but not where it is," Tayoubi said.

These 'revelations' are sourced from an Italian newspaper, La Stampa, but there is little information there (at least using Google Translate) that suggests where the Tayoubi quote comes from. So I'm not sure if it was via an interview, or a press release, or just dredging up old information (Zahi Hawass is also quoted, saying "We can not yet think of a secret chamber. For now we are only saying that there have been anomalies, small gaps between one stone and the other.")

In any case, rather than news of 'the discovery of a secret room in the Great Pyramid', this story seems more to be a couple of quotes from an enthusiastic researcher, with little new information beyond the 'cavities' discovered late last year that we reported on here at the Grail.

Related stories:

News Briefs 07-08-2017

The times, they are a changin'...

Thanks @djp1974.

Quote of the Day:

Imagine the outcry if bombs were falling on Florence or Venice; [but] because this is Sanaa in forgotten Yemen, nobody cares a damn.

Peter Oborn

The Grail is Being Updated

It's long overdue, but hopefully in the next month we'll be changing the look of the Daily Grail, to one that is more up to date, including being responsive to screen size changes (e.g. allowing for a better reading experience on mobile devices).

As I'm neck deep in working on this changeover currently, there will likely be a drop-off in the number of articles being posted to the Grail in August - though the daily news briefs will still be posted as per usual. But until then, please be patient while we work on making a better, shinier Grail.

As we get closer to the changeover, I'll post some information to help people understand the new layout better before it happens.

News Briefs 04-08-2017

“Poetry teaches the enormous force of a few words, and, in proportion to the inspiration, checks loquacity.”

Quote of the Day:

“The man who renounces himself, comes to himself.”

R.W. Emerson

Things Keep Getting Older: Archaeologists Find 'Forest Cities' that are at Least 45,000 Years Old

Temple in Cambodia

First we were told that the first human civilisations were Mesopotamia and Egypt, ca. 3000BCE. Then we found out about Göbekli Tepe, stretching the timeline back to 10,000BCE. And now, a new paper in Nature suggests that humans have been coming together in large numbers for a lot longer - but not in the now-arid regions of the Middle East. Instead, say researchers, "archaeological evidence now demonstrates that humans settled tropical forest regions "on previously unimagined scales", and have actively manipulated these ecologies for "at least 45,000 years" - and perhaps much longer:

In the last ten years, the archaeologically acknowledged human inhabitation of tropical forests has quadrupled in age. There is now clear evidence for the use of tropical forests by our species in Borneo and Melanesia by c.45 ka, in South Asia by c.36ka, and in South America by c.13ka. There are suggestions of earlier rainforest occupation c.125ka in Java, c.60ka in the Philippines, c.100ka in China, and in Africa, perhaps from the first appearance of Homo sapiens, c.200ka, though further research is required to verify these cases.

Why has it taken this long for us to notice these much older settlements? Firstly, assumptions about the inhospitability of tropical forests - you might say we couldn't see the settlements for the trees. Just three or four decades ago, the researchers point out, the learned opinion of anthropologists was that tropical forests were unattractive environments for human occupation. Archaeologists backed the anthropologists up, noting that tropical forests were incapable of supporting agricultural populations. And a key factor, especially in terms of archaeological interest, is the generally poor preservation of organic archaeological remains in tropical forest environments - old stuff doesn't last in the tropics.

However, "over the last two decades, archaeological data, including canopy-penetrating LiDAR (light detection and ranging) mapping, have revealed previously unimagined scales of human settlement in the Americas and Southeast Asia", say researchers.

The fact that humans have co-existed with - and manipulated - forest environents for tens of thousands of years offers some lessons, the authors of the paper note. Firstly, it is problematic for any environmental policy simply aimed at returning areas to their 'original' forest conditions. "If past human populations have in many cases altered tropical forests in ways that have rendered them more useable for human inhabitation",
they point out, "then perhaps restoration is a problematic goal, at least if such practices are aimed at restoring to some ‘original’ condition."

And furthermore, they say, these new findings suggest that we should study the ways of these 'primitive' people, as they seemed to learn very early on how to live in forest regions in large numbers, in a sustainable manner:

Indigenous and traditional peoples — whose ancestors’ systems of production and knowledge are slowly being decoded by archaeologists — should be seen as part of the solution and not one of the problems of sustainable tropical forest development.

Link: The deep human prehistory of global tropical forests and its relevance for modern conservation"

Related story:

News Briefs 03-08-2017

Farewell, señor Marrs. Keep on searching for answers!

Quote of the Day:

"Your mind is like a parachute. It works best open."

˜Jim Marrs (1943-2017)

19th Century Science Fiction Author Wrote a Book About a Boy Named Baron Trump Who Travels to Russia, Followed by a Novel Titled 'The Last President'

Baron Trump's Marvellous Underground Journey

Let's be honest: if you had access to a time machine, you'd be up for a bit of pranking. And the first person to build a time machine would no doubt have been a fan of science fiction books. So what better prank than going back in time and inserting some 'prank' sci-fi books into libraries just to mess with people's minds?

You probably think I'm talking about that 1949 sci-fi novel that names the leader of Martian civilisation as 'Elon'? But no, we have a new addition (or is that 'new edition'?): the 1893 sci-fi book Baron Trump's Marvellous Underground Journey, written by one Ingersoll Lockwood.

Barron (with a double 'r') Trump is of course President Donald Trump's son with wife Melania. And though the name is slightly different, according to The Huffington Post...

...in Baron Trump’s Marvellous Underground Journey, Baron is a wealthy young man living in a place called Castle Trump, but his real adventures begin when Don, the “Master of all Masters,” inspires him to travel to Russia, where he finds a portal that allows him to travel to other lands.

Damn, that Russia thing won't go away...even when it's 124 years in the past! But if that's not enough, HuffPo also notes that Lockwood wrote another book, two years later in 1896, titled The Last President...

...which does not feature the Baron Trump character but has some interesting parallels to modern times. It begins in New York City, which is up in arms over the election of an outsider candidate. The news causes those “in the upper portions” of the city to sit “as if paralyzed with a nameless dread... Mobs of vast size are organizing under the lead of anarchists and socialists, and threaten to plunder and despoil the houses of the rich who have wronged and oppressed them for so many years,” an early passage of the book reads.

Time travel, the imaginal world bleeding into reality, low-pay-grade simulation engineers, or coincidence - take your pick. Let's just hope War of the Worlds isn't the next sci-fi book to be based on a future reality...

Related stories:

News Briefs 02-08-2017

We've got all your elongation curiosity covered in today's news. Well, most of it...

Quote of the Day:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: At the first gate, ask yourself “Is is true?” At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?” At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?

Anon