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The Scroll > The Scroll Winter 2010
A nail dating from the time of Christ's crucifixion has been found at a remote fort believed to have once been a stronghold of the Knights Templar.
Nail from Christ's crucifixion found? — UK Telegraph
      A nail dating from the time of Christ's crucifixion has been found at a remote fort believed to have once been a stronghold of the Knights Templar.
      The four-inch long nail is thought to be one of thousands used in crucifixions across the Roman empire. Archaeologists believe it dates from either the first or second century AD.
     Pontinha was thought to have been held by the Knights Templar, the religious order that was part of the Christian forces which occupied Jerusalem during the Crusades in the 12th century.
     Bryn Walters, an archaeologist, said the iron nail's remarkable condition suggested it had been handed with extreme care, as if it was a relic. The nail was found last summer in a decorated box in a fort on the tiny isle of Ilheu de Pontinha, just off the coast of Madeira. The nail was found together with three skeletons and three swords. One of the swords had the Knight Templar's cross inscribed on it.
     He said the original Knights Templar may have thought it was one of the nails used in Christ's crucifixion.

Archaeologist sees proof for Bible in ancient wall — Yahoo/AP
      An Israeli archaeologist said Monday that ancient fortifications recently excavated in Jerusalem date back 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the biblical narrative about the era.
      If the age of the wall is correct, the finding would be an indication that Jerusalem was home to a strong central government that had the resources and manpower needed to build massive fortifications in the 10th century B.C., matching the Bible's account that the Hebrew kings David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem around that time.
      The fortifications, including a monumental gatehouse and a 77-yard (70-meter) long section of an ancient wall, are located just outside the present-day walls of Jerusalem's Old City, next to the holy compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. According to the Old Testament, it was Solomon who built the first Jewish Temple on the site.
      That temple was destroyed by Babylonians, rebuilt, renovated by King Herod 2,000 years ago and then destroyed again by Roman legions in 70 A.D. The compound now houses two important Islamic buildings, the golden-capped Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.
      Archaeologists have excavated the fortifications in the past, in the 1860s to recently the 1980s.
      Aren Maeir, an archaeology professor at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said he has yet to see evidence that the fortifications are as old as Mazar claims. There are remains from the 10th century in Jerusalem, he said, but proof of a strong, centralized kingdom at that time remains "tenuous."

Tobacco smoke residue includes such chemicals as ammonia, butane, lead, chromium, toluene, cadmium, and radioactive polonium-210. This smoking residue contaminates household furnishings and becomes part of the environment, where, as dust, it will be breathed or ingested. Photo: Vanessa Pike-Russell
The dangers of third-hand smoke — Berkeley Lab's Indoor Environment Department
      Nicotine in third-hand smoke, the residue from tobacco smoke that clings to virtually all surfaces long after a cigarette has been extinguished, reacts with the common indoor air pollutant nitrous acid to produce dangerous carcinogens. This new potential health hazard was revealed in a multi-institutional study led by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).
      "The burning of tobacco releases nicotine in the form of a vapor that adsorbs strongly onto indoor surfaces, such as walls, floors, carpeting, drapes and furniture. Nicotine can persist on those materials for days, weeks and even months. Our study shows that when this residual nicotine reacts with ambient nitrous acid it forms carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines or TSNAs. TSNAs are among the most broadly acting and potent carcinogens present in unburned tobacco and tobacco smoke."
      The study's findings indicate that opening a window or deploying a fan to ventilate the room while a cigarette burns does not eliminate the hazard of third-hand smoke.
      "Smoking outside is better than smoking indoors but nicotine residues will stick to a smoker's skin and clothing. Those residues follow a smoker back inside and get spread everywhere."
      The dangers of mainstream and secondhand tobacco smoke have been well documented as a cause of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, pulmonary disease and birth defects.
      Anyone who has entered a confined space – a room, an elevator, a vehicle, etc. - where someone recently smoked, knows that the scent lingers for an extended period of time...the sidestream smoke of one cigarette contains at least 100 nanograms equivalent total TSNAs, our results indicate that several hundred nanograms per square meter of nitrosamines may be formed on indoor surfaces in the presence of nitrous acid.
Mars shines brightly over Mount Taftan in southeast Iran. Photograph by Babak Tafreshi/, TWAN
Red planet to pass closest to Earth — National Geographics, Futura Sciences
      La plus médiatique des planètes du Système solaire, la rougeoyante Mars, passe au plus près de la Terre le 27 janvier et à l'opposition 2 jours plus tard. Suivez nos conseils pour ne pas la manquer.
      Mars is zooming in for a close approach to Earth this week, offering backyard astronomers their best views of the red planet until 2014.
    &nbspFor the past few months Mars has appeared at night as a ruddy, starlike beacon rising in the east.
      On January 27 Mars will pass within 61 million miles (98 million kilometers) of Earth—close enough for well-equipped sky-watchers to make out details on the Martian surface.
      January 29 Mars will reach opposition, which means it will rise in the east just as the sun sets in the west, making the red planet visible all night long.
      Adding to the cosmic spectacle, on the night of opposition Mars will appear fairly close to the full moon, and the pair will glide together across the sky.
     In August 2003 Mars made its closest pass by Earth in 60,000 years, swinging by at a mere 35 million miles (56 million kilometers) away.
     It's the third brightest object in the night sky, aside from the moon and the star Sirius.
This mosaic of Alexander the Great shows the king wearing linothorax -- an armor made from laminated linen.
Martin Beckmann
Laminated Linen Armor Protected Alexander the Great — Discover
      Alexander's men wore linothorax, a highly effective type of body armor created by laminating together layers of linen, research finds.
      (356–323 B.C.)A Kevlar-like armor might have helped Alexander the Great conquer nearly the entirety of the known world in little more than two decades, according to new reconstructive archaeology research.
      "While we know quite a lot about ancient armor made from metal, linothorax remains something of a mystery since no examples have survived, due to the perishable nature of the material. Nevertheless, we have managed to show that this linen armor thrived as a form of body protection for nearly 1,000 years, and was used by a wide variety of ancient Mediterranean civilizations," Gregory Aldrete, professor of history and humanistic studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said.
      "When Alexander was in India, and received 25,000 new suits of armor for his army, he is described as having ordered the old worn-out suits of armor to be burned. This would only make sense if they had been made of fabric rather than metal," Aldrete said.
      "Our controlled experiments basically dispelled the myth that armor made out of cloth must have been inferior to other available types. Indeed, the laminated layers function like an ancient version of modern Kevlar armor, using the flexibility of the fabric to disperse the force of the incoming arrow," Aldrete said.
      Tests included treated linen from ancient style linen and glues made from the skins of rabbits and another from flax seeds then shooting the resulting patches with arrows and hitting them with a variety of weapons including swords, axes and spears.
Did civilization arise from the pursuit of alcohol?
An Egyptian wooden funerary model of a beer brewery in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
Thirst for Beer Caused Invention of Agriculture? — Spielgel Online
      Did our Neolithic ancestors turn to agriculture so that they could be sure of a tipple? US Archaeologist Patrick McGovern believes, humans stopped at nothing in their pursuit of frequent intoxication. The expert on identifying traces of alcohol in prehistoric sites reckons the thirst for a brew was enough of an incentive to start growing crops.
      It turns out the fall of man probably didn't begin with an apple. More likely, it was a handful of mushy figs that first led humankind astray.
      Here is how the story likely began -- a prehistoric human picked up some dropped fruit from the ground and popped it unsuspectingly into his or her mouth. The first effect was nothing more than an agreeably bittersweet flavor spreading across the palate. But as alcohol entered the bloodstream, the brain started sending out a new message -- whatever that was, I want more of it!
      A secure supply of alcohol appears to have been part of the human community's basic requirements much earlier than was long believed. As early as around 9,000 years ago, long before the invention of the wheel, inhabitants of the Neolithic village Jiahu in China were brewing a type of mead with an alcohol content of 10 percent, McGovern discovered recently.
A 19th-century illustration by Currier & Ives shows the traditional vision of Noah’s ark. Photograph: Brooklyn Museum/Corbis
Noah's ark was circular — The Guardian UK
      That they processed aboard the enormous floating wildlife collection two-by-two is well known. Less familiar, however, is the possibility that the animals Noah shepherded on to his ark then went round and round inside.
      A newly translated, 3,700 year old (1,700 BC), clay tablet inscribed in ancient Babylonian tells the story of the ark, the vessel that saved one virtuous man, his family and the animals from god's watery wrath was not the pointy-prowed craft of popular imagination but rather a giant circular reed raft.{$br}}      There are dozens of ancient tablets that have been found which describe the flood story but Finkel says this one is the first to describe the vessel's shape.{$br}}     The ark didn't have to go anywhere, it just had to float, and the instructions are for a type of craft which they knew very well. It's still sometimes used in Iran and Iraq today, a type of round coracle which they would have known exactly how to use to transport animals across a river or floods. {$br}}     In this translation, the god who has decided to spare one just man speaks to Atram-Hasis, a Sumerian king who lived before the flood and who is the Noah figure in earlier versions of the ark story. "Wall, wall! Reed wall, reed wall! Atram-Hasis, pay heed to my advice, that you may live forever! Destroy your house, build a boat; despise possessions And save life! Draw out the boat that you will built with a circular design; Let its length and breadth be the same."{$br}}     The tablet goes on to command the use of plaited palm fibre, waterproofed with bitumen, before the construction of cabins for the people and wild animals.{$br}}     It ends with the dramatic command of Atram-Hasis to the unfortunate boat builder whom he leaves behind to meet his fate, about sealing up the door once everyone else is safely inside: "When I shall have gone into the boat, Caulk the frame of the door!"
     The Mesopotamian flood myth was incorporated into the great poetic epic Gilgamesh, and Finkel, curator of the recent British Museum exhibition on ancient Babylon, believes that it was during the Babylonian captivity that the exiled Jews learned the story, brought it home with them, and incorporated it into the Old Testament.
The Boskops had big eyes, child-like faces, and an average intelligence of around 150, making them geniuses among Homo sapiens.
A sketched reconstruction if the Boskop skull done in 1918. Shaded areas depict recovered bone.Source: American Museum of Natural History
What Happened to the Hominids Who Were Smarter Than Us? — Discovery
      “There’s just one thing we haven’t quite dared to mention. It’s this, and you won’t believe it. It’s all happened already. Back there in the past, ten thousand years ago. The man of the future, with the big brain, the small teeth. He lived in Africa. His brain was bigger than your brain. His face was straight and small, almost a child’s face.”
      The Boskops with big brains, and perhaps great intelligence, occupied a substantial piece of southern Africa in the not very distant past, and that they eventually gave way to smaller-brained, possibly less advanced Homo sapiens—that is, ourselves. Their existence refutes the Darwinian notion that whole great process leads to greater complexity, to animals that are more advanced than their predecessors.
     Discovered in Boskop South Africa 1913, The first of many Boskop skulls housing a brain perhaps 25 percent or more larger than our own. The cranial capacity must have been very large and calculation by the method of Broca gives a minimum figure of 1,832 cc [cubic centimeters].
      These measures say that the distance from Boskop to humans is greater than the distance between humans and their Homo erectus predecessors.
      These people had small, childlike faces. Physical anthropologists use the term pedomorphosis to describe the retention of juvenile features into adulthood. This phenomenon is sometimes used to explain rapid evolutionary changes.
      The combination of a large cranium and immature face would look decidedly unusual to modern eyes, but not entirely unfamiliar. Such faces peer out from the covers of countless science fiction books and are often attached to “alien abductors” in movies.
      Boskop’s brain size is about 30 percent larger than our own—that is, a 1,750-cc brain to our average of 1,350 cc. And that leads to an increase in the prefrontal cortex of a staggering 53 percent. If these principled relations among brain parts hold true, then Boskops would have had not only an impressively large brain but an inconceivably large prefrontal cortex.
      See more at Boskops
Here is a map of hair color. The pigment "melanin" colors hair as well as skin. Adult blondes are native only to the same unique region.
Solar UV and Oceans: Genetic Origins of Blonds — Google News
      It is well known that UV light is a factor, but there are other things at work.
      UV rays produce vitamin D and reduce folate when they hit naked skin. And embryos are terribly vulnerable to both substances in the mother. When it comes to sunlight and skin tone, furless humans are balanced on a knife-blade.
     Too much UV penetrating the skin (too pale-skinned under intense sunlight) increases Vitamin D but reduces folate. Lack of folate causes neural tube defects in the fetus, causing such congenital abnormalities as craniorachischisis, anencephalus, and spina bifida, leading to many miscarriages.
     On the other hand, too little UV penetrating the skin (too dark-skinned under dim sunlight) increases folate but reduces vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D causes skeletal neonatal abnormalities (skull, chest, and leg malformations), rickets being the best known. Again, this causes miscarriages.
     And so, humans adapt very quickly to solar UV. Prehistoric groups that migrated towards the equator got darker. Prehistoric groups that migrated away from the equator got lighter.
      Here is another map of skin tone. Again, the blob surrounding the Baltic Sea is like nothing else on the planet. That this pale population surrounds the Baltic gives the first hint. It must have something to do with the oceans.
      The Baltic depigmentation is not just in the skin and hair. Here is a map of eye color. Melanin colors eyes, as well as skin and hair. Adults with blue eyes are native only to the same unique region.
      It happened after 13 and 4.6 thousand years ago based on Cave art beginning to show depigmented people (blonds).
      In the end, they seem to think that it has to do with areas near the Baltic sea that are warm enough to grow grains, due to the gulf stream.
The Voynich Manuscript May Have Been Decoded — Slashdot
      "The Voynich Manuscript has confounded attempts to decode it for nearly 100 years. A person named Edith Sherwood, who has previously suggested a possible link to DaVinci, has a new idea: perhaps the text is simply anagrams of Italian words. There are three pages of examples from the herb section of the book, showing the original text, the plaintext Italian words, and the English equivalents. Has someone cracked the code?"
      All attempts over the past century to decode this mysterious manuscript have met with failure. This is probably due to the initial error made by Voynich and his followers attributing the authorship of the manuscript to Roger Bacon, the 13th century British scientist, monk and scholar. Sherwood suspects a young (around 8 to 10 years old) Leonardo da Vinci was a likely author.
      "When I examined the VM script, I noticed that there were very few corrections, and the writing, though slow, had the appearance of easy fluidity. A complicated code would require making a preliminary copy using for example a slate for a scratch pad. Paper was expensive in the 15th century. To produce a 200 page manuscript under these conditions would be a very tedious task. The encoding must have been simple, easy and direct. Gordon Rugg has suggested that the VM is nothing but a meaningless jumble of letters! I wondered whether he was not correct, with one modification, only the individual words were jumbled, i.e. anagrams."
      The Italian alphabet does not use the letter X. Leonardo used this letter as shorthand for ver. The line "Povere leter rimon mist(e) ispero" Translates into English as "Plain letter reassemble mixed inspire"
      This brief sentence indicated that the use of anagrams should be investigated. This was further supported by reading Wikipedia’s report that anagrams were popular throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and that some 17th century astronomers, while engaged in verification of their discoveries, used anagrams to hide their ideas. Thus Galileo announced his discovery that Venus had phases like the Moon in the form of an anagram. Similarly Robert Hooke in 1660 first published Hooke’s Law in the form of an anagram.
      See details at The Voynich Manuscript Decoded
The Royal Society puts historic papers online — BBC
      The Royal Society, founded in London in 1660, is making public manuscripts by figures like Sir Isaac Newton. Benjamin Franklin's account of his ill-advised attempt in 1752 to show that lightning was a form of electricity by flying a kite in a storm, and a 1970 paper on black holes co-written by Professor Stephen Hawking.
     Society president Lord Rees said the papers documented some of the most "thrilling moments" in science history. The Royal Society grew out of the so-called "Invisible College" of thinkers who began meeting in the mid-1640s to discuss science and philosophy. Its official foundation date is 28 November 1660 and thereafter it met weekly to debate and witness experiments.
      There is also an entertaining paper about a study of the nine-year-old Mozart in London in 1770 to determine whether he really was a child prodigy. Suggestions he was in fact a midget adult were dismissed by writer Daines Barrington on the grounds that young Wolfgang was more enthusiastic about playing with his cat than practising his harpsichord.
      * Trailblazing: 350 years of Royal Society Publishing
      * The Royal Society

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Last edited October 31, 2011 (history)

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