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June 21, 2007

Government Study Into Polyphenols Results In Discovery of Jack Shit

Funny bit from the Onion.

It sort of misses the target though, doesn't it? No investigation ever comes up with a conclusion of "jack shit." If they really find "jack shit," they claim they actually found something.

Case in point: This absurd article from Hot Air's headlines a few days ago.

Juicy headline, extravagant conclusion... no real evidence whatsoever to back it up.

Ancient Graves Suggest Human Sacrifice

Physically disabled people may have been ritually sacrificed by European hunter-gatherer tribes as early as 24,000 years ago, according to an investigation into burials from the Upper Paleolithic period.

Well known in large, stratified ancient societies, ritual human sacrifice has never been apparent in the archaeological data of Upper Paleolithic Europe (about 26,000 to 8,000 B.C.).

But, according to lead study author Vincenzo Formicola of the University of Pisa in Italy, several of these burials suggest that human sacrifices may have been an important ritual activity in this period.

...

Analysis of the European record revealed an "intriguing high frequency of multiple burials."

Commonly attributed to simultaneous death due to natural disaster or disease, the multiple graves show a composition by age and sex and include severely deformed individuals, indicating that the burials may have been selective.

The researcher focused his investigation on three previously discovered sites in Russia, the Czech Republic and Italy. None of the remains buried at the three burials show signs of a violent death or sacrificial killing.

Nevertheless, the three graves share intriguing similarities: they all feature rich funerary decorations and include the remains of physically disabled people.

"The Sunghir double burial in Russia is probably the most spectacular and elaborate funerary example. A boy and a girl were placed head to head in a long, narrow, shallow grave. They were covered with red ochre and ornamented with extraordinarily rich and unique grave goods," Formicola wrote in the June issue of Current Anthropology.

The skeleton of the girl showed abnormal thigh bones that were bowed and shortened most likely the result of a disease linked to a diabetic condition of the mother.

The grave goods included about 5,000 perforated ivory beads which had probably been sown into caps and clothing.

"Each ivory bead would have required the work of a specialist and would have taken more than a hour to make. This implies that the grave goods were ready when the two children died, raising the question of whether this ceremony was foreseen long in advance," Formicola said."

Ummmm... yeah. Or it could imply the jeweled clothing was actually worn by the kids in their actual living life, thus explaining the incredible mystery of how such garments could have been already made when they died. I mean, it's not as if rich/royal/cheiftain-related folks, those buried with lots of precious stones, actually wear such pretty baubles when they're alive.

No, apparently such indicators of high status are permitted only for one's burial garb. The rest of the time, the children of warlords walked around in sackcloth adorned with wet auroch-shit like the rest of the population. They were very egalitarian in their actual lifetimes, you see.

And of course it's simply beneath consideration that these kids were stricken by a fatal, but lingering, disease, and that their families had lots of time to arrange a funeral for the deaths they knew were coming. I mean, we all know there are no such diseases like that in the modern world; surely then there were none in the prehistoric one, either.

I have little doubt that ritual sacrifice occurred in most places, among most peoples, at various times. But are they really asking us to accept as proof of this the fact that the kids here were wearing clothing prepared in advance?

Hey -- here's more evidence. The kids were buried in a hole. Now, how did that hole get there, unless the families knew in advance they were scheduled to die?

I love this part:

Commonly attributed to simultaneous death due to natural disaster or disease, the multiple graves show a composition by age and sex and include severely deformed individuals, indicating that the burials may have been selective.

I'm amused at how glibly the article (and the "scientists" it reports on) dismisses the common explanation as being, well, not quite convincing. Natural disasters? Disease in the prehistoric world wiping out entire families? How silly! We know such things are extraodinarily rare -- in fact, I'm scratching my head trying to imagine a single instance of such a farfetched event ever occurring -- and the only plausible explanation is ritual sacrifice of the deformed.

When you have eliminated the impossible and all that jazz.


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posted by Ace at 08:07 PM

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