July 1st, 2017

Ancient Mysteries


Archaeologists working at Avebury, the Neolithic stone circle in Wiltshire thought to be the world's largest, have uncovered a mysterious square formation at the site's center, according to a report in The Guardian. Using radar technology, a team led by University of Leicester's Mark Gillings uncovered hidden stones marking the footprint of what they believe was a wooden building dating to around 3500 B.C. Gillings and his colleagues have concluded that the square, which measures nearly 100 feet on each side, formed a monument to what must have been a very important structure. The find may also solve a riddle that has challenged researchers since the 1930s, when the marmalade magnate Alexander Keiller conducted major exavations at Avebury. Keiller found several buried standing stones placed in a line leading to an upright obelisk, as well as postholes and grooves indicating the existence of a building.

Gillings now believes that what Keiller assumed to be a medieval structure was in fact the original Neolithic building around which the entire circle developed over centuries.

Kemo D. 7
Credit: Archaeology Magazine

Brain Power

Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach -- even if it's off. That's the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they're not using them. In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants' available cognitive capacity -- that is, the brain's ability to hold and process data at any given time.

Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent. The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag. The findings suggest that the mere presence of one's smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they're giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand. "We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants' available cognitive capacity decreases," Ward said.

"Your conscious mind isn't thinking about your smartphone, but that process -- the process of requiring yourself to not think about something -- uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It's a brain drain."
Kemo D. 7

Secrets of Dead Sea Scrolls


The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered the greatest historical discovery of the past century due to their tremendous value to religion. One of the most intriguing manuscripts from Qumran is the Copper Scroll, a sort of ancient treasure map that lists dozens of gold and silver caches. While the other texts are written in ink on parchment or animal skins, this curious document features Hebrew and Greek letters chiseled onto metal sheets—perhaps, as some have theorized, to better withstand the passage of time. Using an unconventional vocabulary and odd spelling, the Copper Scroll describes 64 underground hiding places around Israel that purportedly contain riches stashed for safekeeping. None of these hoards have been recovered, possibly because the Romans pillaged Judaea during the first century A.D.

According to various hypotheses, the treasure belonged to local Essenes and was spirited out of the Second Temple before its destruction.

Kemo D. 7