World History & Research Reports

CHRISTMAS HISTORY TODAY: Pagan Roots & Hanukkah Commemorates Rededication of Second Temple In Jerusalem With A Miracle

AceHistoryDesk – That’s because Hanukkah commemorates the triumphant rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated on the orders of a king of the Seleucid Empire, who cracked down on Jewish practices in the second century BC. A Jewish rebellion ensued, and – after the temple was reclaimed – they celebrated by burning an oil lamp for eight days. This was a miracle, as there was only enough oil to last one day.


Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.10 2023: Sky History Today News: TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link

A photograph of a pagan themed festive dinner

Celebrated on varying dates every November and/or December, Hannukah is grounded in verifiable historical fact, yet some have drawn comparisons between this ‘Festival of Lights’ (the lights harkening back to the miracle of the lamp) and pagan celebrations involving the lighting of candles in the depths of winter.

A more obviously solstice-inspired soiree is the Iranian Shab-e Yalda festival, which is marked every December. It calls for happy gatherings of family and friends, the reading of classic Persian poetry, the singing of songs and the eating and drinking of delicious things – especially certain fruit such as watermelons and pomegranates. Over in China, meanwhile, there’s the Dongzhi festival of December, which again brings families together for some serious celebrating time, with traditional foods including balls of glutinous rice served in savoury and sweet broths, and traditional dumplings.

It all just goes to show that the celebrations of even the most disparate societies, and of cultures that may seem opposed in so many ways, actually share the same human concerns, passions and superstitions. Whether you’re tucking into rice balls in China, a watermelon in Iran or a slightly overcooked turkey breast in Blighty (should have shoved more butter under the skin, shouldn’t you?), the roots of it all go back to the common consciousness of our distant ancestors. We’ll raise a sherry to that.

6 Ancient Roman festivals in December (that aren’t Saturnalia)

Written by Rachel Littlewood

December in Ancient Rome immediately conjures up images of Saturnalia’s week-long romp, held from 17th-23rd. While celebrations of the god Saturn were incredibly important and enjoyed by all Roman citizens, it wasn’t the only party of the season worth attending. 

As the 10th month in the Ancient Roman calendar, December marked the end of the agricultural year and the beginning of winter. This meant that there were harvests to celebrate, darkness to ward off, a host of deities and potentially a wealthy prostitute to pay homage to. 

Get those Vestal Virgins on speed dial and let’s look at the festive season ala Ancient Rome.

1. Bona Dia

First up we have the celebration of Bona Dia, ‘The Good Goddess’, on 3rd December. But did she throw a good party? Well, the jury’s out on that, because what they did throw was an incredibly exclusive after-party. So much so that little of what went on was ever recorded. 

A goddess of healing and the protection of the state and people of Rome, she was celebrated at her Aventine temple by all of Roman society. At night, an all-female entourage, led by the Vestal Virgins, held the central ritual at the Chief Magistrate’s house. The house was decorated with blooming plants and agricultural symbols. It was a rare occasion that women were granted the use of strong wine and blood sacrifice, and any men catching a glimpse risked being blinded as punishment.

2. The Consualia

Consus was the Roman god of the granary and such an important figure that he was celebrated twice every year. Once in August to mark the beginning of harvest, and then again on 15th December to ensure the precious grain stores received his protection. His altar was positioned underground beneath the Circus Maximus and uncovered only for his feast days. 

Need to keep some grain, safe to make your bread, who you gonna call? Vestal Virgins! Yes, these ladies were in high demand and this time were joined by the Flamen Qurinalis to offer up the first fruits of harvest as a feast for Consus. Once confident their granaries would be protected through winter, the shrine was sealed and horse races were held in the stadium above, including one where the chariots were comically pulled by mules.

3. The Opalia

Ops (Opia) was the goddess of abundance and the reserved harvest. Unfortunately, being held on the 19th, the Opalia clashed with the third day of Saturnalia causing a degree of overshadowing. In some accounts, Op is incorrectly reduced to merely Saturn’s wife. 

Fortunately, the Opiconsivia held on 25th August was also dedicated to Ops ensuring the fertile earth was honoured before and after the harvest. Ops’ ancient shrine was VIP access only, positioned in the Regia, the office of the Pontifex Maximus with only he and, you guessed it, the Vestal Virgins allowed to enter.

4. The Angeronalia

Also known as Divalia, this feast celebrated the Winter Solstice around 21st December and honoured the Goddess Angerona. Goddess of secrecy and protector of Rome, Angerona’s temple was near Porta Romanula, one of the inner gates to the city on the Northern side of Palatine Hill. 

While the Vestal Virgins were off polishing their virginity, Angerona’s priests and pontiffs would gather to offer sacrifices to guarantee the cold short days would be over quickly. These would be laid at Angerona’s bound and gagged statue, her finger pressed against her sealed lips in an eternal command for silence. 

5. The Larentalia 

The Larentalia took place on 23rd December and is a festival of two Larentias. Some say it honoured the funeral rites of Acca Larentia the ‘Great Nations Nurse’. She acted as a wet nurse to Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, after her husband discovered them suckling from a she-wolf, or lupa, as babies. 

Others suggest the Larentia in question is a 7th century BCE sex workerwho, after being won by Hercules in a game of dice, inherited a considerable fortune, leaving her wealth to the city of Rome on the condition that it honoured her annually. There are also suggestions that both are the same woman, which isn’t the craziest thing in Roman mythology, as lupa was a colloquial term for prostitute. Either way, it became a festival to honour dead parents with citizens leaving offerings for their ancestors.

6. Natalis Sol Invicti

The 25th December was the birthday of not one, but two Roman sun gods. Its name means ‘Birthday of the Invincible Sun’ and celebrated the birth of Sol Invictus who was portrayed riding a quadriga, a racing chariot pulled by four horses. Belief in Sol Invictus stems back to Persia but it found its home in Rome being introduced as its official deity by Emperor Aurelian in 274 CE. 

If those celebrations aren’t cliquey enough, Mithraism was immensely popular from the 1st- 4th century CE with the sun god Mithra was also born on 25th December. While both celebrations revolved around feasting, Mithraism had a complex male hierarchy requiring a series of initiations. The seventh and highest title attainable was Pater (Father). 

With its popularity within the Imperial Roman Army, Mithraism spread across Europe and Mithraism was an early rival to Christianity. Despite having plenty in common, Mithra’s worshippers were suppressed and eliminated by Christianity during the 4th century.

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Australian News

BREAKING CYCLONE JASPER UPDATE REPORT: Queensland’s FN Braces For Likely Arrival On Wednesday.


AceBreakingNews – Residents between Cape Melville, on the eastern coast of Cape York Peninsula, and Townsville have been placed on notice that destructive winds and potential flooding are headed their way.


Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.10: 2023: BOM & 1News: TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link

Tropical Cyclone Jasper moves towards Queensland. (Source: EarthNullschool)

Qld residents warned of Cyclone Jasper’s destructive power

They’ve been warned trees and powerlines are likely to be felled and roofs blown from houses along with anything not tied down.

Should Jasper remain on its current trajectory, power, phones and internet services are expected to be lost and water supplies interrupted, Queensland Fire and Emergency said on Sunday.

Storm surges would also mean flooding in some places and communities isolated.

Before announcing her shock retirement from politics on Sunday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had been briefed on the category 2 cyclone.

“I can say that all preparations are well and truly in place,” she told reporters in Brisbane.

“It is expected to make land on Wednesday, and can I just remind Queenslanders, and especially North Queensland, to take care.”

Specialist began preparing swift water rescue craft ready to be shipped north, at a facility in Brisbane on Friday.

At 12pm on Sunday, Jasper was some 450km east of Willis Island, 900km east of Cairns and tracking southwest at 13km/h.

The Bureau of Meteorology says the system may re-intensify to category 3 before crossing the coast somewhere between Cape Melville and Cardwell.

Meteorologist Jonathan How warned gale force winds of up to 90 kilometres an hour could hit within the next 48 hours, particularly along the coastline south of Townsville.

Daily rainfall totals are predicted to be excess of 200 millimetres in some areas, he said.

A severe weather warning has been expanded south to Mackay with possible damaging wind gusts expected on Monday.

Both Cairns and Cooktown lie within what BoM is referring to as the area of highest risk

A rescue helicopter safely evacuated four bureau scientists from a remote weather station on Willis Is on Saturday.

“Wherever Jasper crosses, it will be a significant event likely to bring damaging to destructive winds, heavy, persistent rain that will lead to flooding, a storm surge along the coast and very dangerous conditions out over the water,” senior meteorologist Angus Hines said.

Queensland Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Shane Chelepy warned households north of Mackay to prepare their emergency kits.

The state disaster centre has moved to alert level, with local and district co-ordinators from Mackay to Cairns making preparations.

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Australian History

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY TODAY: Yolŋu Bark Petition Repatriated To East Arnhem Land In Remote NT After Going ‘Missing’ For Decades


AceHistoryDesk – One of Australia’s most important sovereign documents from the fight for Aboriginal land rights has been returned to the people of Arnhem Land, after going “missing” in the Kimberley for decades. A rare hearing of the High Court in Darwin is scheduled to take place next August into the matter.


Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.10 2023: TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link

Woman stands close to framed artwork and stares at it
Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs reading the bark petition, after it was repatriated to Yirrkala(ABC News: Matt Garrick)none

The bark petitions were created by Yolŋu elders of north-east Arnhem Land in the 1960s to protest the encroachment of bauxite mining onto their land on the Gove Peninsula without consultation.

The documents were landmark in their combination of traditional Yolŋu bark art and typed petitions to show that the 13 clans of the peninsula had never ceded their land, despite the arrival of mining.

On Thursday, the petition was finally returned to the people of Yirrkala, in the remote NT, and was danced to a position of prominence in famed Arnhem Land gallery, Buku-Larnŋgay Mulka.

Daughter of the petition’s sole surviving signatory, Yananymul Mununggurr, described it as a “lost treasure” and said its return was “very, very important for this community and for my people”.

Aboriginal elders stand on stage next to large framed artwork
Clan elders in Yirrkala, including Yananymul Mununggurr (far right), led the repatriation ceremony.(ABC News: Matt Garrick)

It’s important as it demonstrates the power that the Yolŋu people, our forefathers, had when they did the bark petitions,” Ms Mununggurr said.

“It’s important for all the people to come together and reconcile in unity, and also to think back, way back to the 1960s, about how our forefathers came together as one, with one mind, one voice.

“The good fight is not over, you know, we are still fighting.”

The clan elders of the 1960s were left repeatedly disappointed, as in spite of their protests – both through the bark petitions and a battle in the courtroom – mining continued unabated on their land.

Group of Indigenous women in red shirts hold sticks and stand in a line with traditional paint on
Residents of Yirrkala joined in a ceremonial buŋgul (dance) to repatriate the bark petition.(ABc News: Matt Garrick)

The bark petition repatriated to Yirrkala on Thursday is one of four created in the 1960s, which were all sent to politicians in Canberra, including then-prime minister Robert Menzies.

Ms Mununggurr said those petitions which remain in Canberra are “something that can remind our government, the government of the day” about the ongoing fight of the Yolŋu people.

“Governments come in and out, all the time, new people they come and go,” she said.

“It’s a reminder for politicians that there is a voice in there.

“The voice of our forefathers from east Arnhem Land, Yirrkala, telling them that we are here, the Yolŋu people are here, and it’s what they said for the future.”

No members of either the federal or NT government attended Thursday’s repatriation ceremony.

Man in green shirt sits below a peice of artwork behind him
Sole surviving signatory of the Yirrkala bark petitions, Dhuŋgala Mununggurr, attended the repatriation ceremony.(ABC News: Matt Garrick)

Petition tracked down by history professor in the Kimberley

The return of the fourth bark petition to Yirrkala came about after a “eureka moment” by La Trobe University history professor Clare Wright, who had been researching a book about the petitions.

“I’d been writing this story and along the journey, I was able to locate this fourth petition, which has been missing to the Yolŋu people for 60 years,” Professor Wright said.

The petition had been gifted to the former secretary for the Federal Council of Aboriginal Advancement, Stan Davey, and for many years it had hung on his wife Joan McKie’s wall in the far north of Western Australia.

Woman with glasses hugs man and looks up into the air with happiness

“ As a gift to Stan for his commitment to the Yolŋu people, he was given one of these petitions, it hung on his wall, and then his wife’s wall when they separated,” she said.

“She took it around Australia … and eventually to the Kimberley, where she made her home.

“And that’s where I found the petition, in the Kimberley, in Derby.

“She doesn’t call it the missing bark petition, because she knew where it was all the time.”

Indigenous woman with traditional paint on face and neck holds baby and smiles
Dancer Djalinda ‘2’ Yunupingu with baby Danica Marika attended the ceremony in Yirrkala.(ABC News: Matt Garrick)

Rirratjiŋu clan elder Witiyana Marika said his family had been awaiting the return of the petition for decades and thought it had been forever lost to the world.

“It is a testament to the elders, their wisdom and insights into Yolŋu affairs, and we are very happy that one of the bark petitions has come back home,” he said.

Six decades on, the Yolŋu are continuing to fight against the arrival of mining onto their land without consultation through the courts, however, the Commonwealth is now challenging their claim.

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Australian History

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY: Extinct language Kalkutungu Revived With New Generation Of Students In Outback Town Of Mount Isa


AceHistoryDesk – Ninety-four-year-old Cecil Moonlight is the last living fluent speaker of the Kalkutungu language.


Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.10 2023: ABC North West Qld News: TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link

An aerial view of land near Mount Isa, featuring hills and a river bathed in sunlight.
The Kalkutungu peoples have inhabited land around Mount Isa for thousands of years.(Supplied: Anushka Anu Dissanayake)none

Thanks to the efforts of Uncle Moonlight, several linguists, and Kalkutungu peoples who have worked across decades, the officially extinct language is set to be revived with a new generation.

“You can’t have culture without language. It is beyond words how powerful, emotional and spiritual it is to be able to use our language again,” Kalkuntungu man William Blackley said.

“Now this language will be revived among students in outback Queensland.”

From the Kalkadoon lands in and around Mount Isa in north-west Queensland, Mr Blackley, his wife Sheree Blackley and their team have been working to revive the nearly extinct language of their ancestors.

For several years they have been building a Kalkutungu language program, and with the help of linguist Belinda Keller are preparing a school curriculum that incorporates the language into the studies of prep to year 9 students.

two men smiling
“This is inspiring for the next generation of Kalkutungu and even for our older Kalkutungu people who were denied the use of the language for so long,” Mr Blackley said.Uncle Cecil Moonlight (right), with Mr Blackley, is the last fluent speaker of the Kalkutungu language.(Supplied: Will Blackley)

The rebirth of a dying language

In the 1950s and 1960s, linguists Barry Blake and Gavan Breen recorded endangered Indigenous languages, including the Kalkutungu language.

Thanks to their work, Mr Blackley and his team were able to build a language program with assistance from the Queensland government’s Local Community Engagement Through Co-design model (LCETC), which was developed on the basis that local, Indigenous-led solutions were more effective at closing the gap than band-aid government programs.

An old photo of a man recording the speech of a First Nations woman
Linguist Gavan Breen recording language in the 1970s.(Supplied: Tim Erickson)

After several years of running the Kalkuntungu language program locally, many Kalkutungu peoples are semi-fluent, Mr Blackley said.

However, there were some gaps in the pronunciation of certain words, which triggered a trip to Alice Springs to meet with the last-surviving fluent speaker of Kalkutungu language, Uncle Moonlight.

“The Kalkutungu language was officially extinct because there were less than 12 fluent speakers all those years ago when, luckily, Gavan Breen and Barry Blake recorded them,” Mr Blackley said.

“To be able to speak with [Cecil] in language was a moving experience, but it was also validation that we were doing the right thing by our old people, our ancestors in reviving our language the right way.”

A First Nations Dance Troupe
The Kalkutungu Sundowners dance troupe frequently represent Kalkutungu culture.(Supplied: Sundowners Kalkutungu Dance Troupe)

A new generation of Kalkutungu speakers

In 2024, students in prep all the way through to year 9 at Spinifex State College in Mount Isa will learn the full Kalkutungu language as part of their curriculum.

students dancing in gym
Mr Blackley said the revival of his people’s language would go a long way to empowering local Kalkutungu culture.Mr Blackley (centre) teaches Spinifex State College students about Kalkutungu culture.(Supplied: Spinifex State College)

“ Language has power to affirm our practices from the past,” Mr Blackley said.

“As Aboriginal people, we believe that ancestors are always with us.

“And now that we can speak language, we can go out on country and we can speak to our ancestors in language, or if we go to a sacred site, we can tell them who we are.

“They will be able to hear the language that they spoke when they were walking that country.

“It’s beyond words, actually, how powerful it is.”

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World History & Research Reports

ENGLISH HISTORY TODAY Pliosaur Discovery Of Huge Sea Monster Found In Dorsets Jurassic Coast Cliffs From 150-Million Years Ago

Steve Etches
Steve Etches has the skull. Now he wants the rest of the animal’s body

AceHistoryDesk – The skull of a colossal sea monster has been extracted from the cliffs of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.


Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Dec.10: 2023: By Jonathan Amos and Alison Francis: BBC News, Science: Additional reporting by Rebecca Morelle and Tony Jolliffe: Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster will air on BBC One and iPlayer at 20:00 on 1 January – a BBC Studios Natural History Unit production for the BBC and PBS with The WNET Group.TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link

Steve Etches
Steve Etches has the skull. Now he wants the rest of the animal’s body

It belongs to a pliosaur, a ferocious marine reptile that terrorised the oceans about 150 million years ago.

The 2m-long fossil is one of the most complete specimens of its type ever discovered and is giving new insights into this ancient predator.

The skull will be featured in a special David Attenborough programme on BBC One on New Year’s Day. 

BBC Studios

Artwork: Pliosaurs had the speed and power to take down other big marine reptiles

There are gasps as the sheet covering the fossil is pulled back and the skull is revealed for the first time.

It’s immediately obvious that this pliosaur is huge and beautifully preserved.

There isn’t a specimen anywhere else to match it, believes local palaeontologist Steve Etches.

“It’s one of the best fossils I’ve ever worked on. What makes it unique is it’s complete,” he tells BBC News. 

“The lower jaw and the upper skull are meshed together, as they would be in life. Worldwide, there’s hardly any specimens ever found to that level of detail. And if they are, a lot of the bits are missing, whereas this, although it’s slightly distorted – it’s got every bone present.

BBC Studios

Steve Etches shows Sir David Attenborough the snout – the first piece to be found

The skull is longer than most humans are tall, which gives you a sense of how big the creature must have been overall.

You can’t help but focus on its 130 teeth, especially those at the front.

Long and razor sharp, they could kill with a single bite. But look a little closer – if you dare – and the back of each tooth is marked with fine ridges. These would have helped the beast to pierce the flesh and then quickly extract its dagger-like fangs, ready for a rapid second attack. 

BBC/Tony Jolliffe

Experiments show the grooves really do aid incision and withdrawal

The pliosaur was the ultimate killing machine and at 10-12m long, with four powerful flipper-like limbs to propel itself at high speed, it was the apex predator in the ocean. 

“The animal would have been so massive that I think it would have been able to prey effectively on anything that was unfortunate enough to be in its space,” says Dr Andre Rowe from Bristol University. 

“I have no doubt that this was sort of like an underwater T. Rex.”

Meals would have included other reptiles such as its long-necked cousin, the plesiosaur, and the dolphin-like ichthyosaur – and fossil evidence reveals that it would have even feasted on other passing pliosaurs.

How this fossil skull was recovered is extraordinary.

It started with a chance find during a stroll along a beach near Kimmeridge Bay on southern England’s famous World Heritage Jurassic Coast.

Steve Etches’ friend and fellow fossil enthusiast Phil Jacobs came across the tip of the snout of the pliosaur lying in the shingle. Too heavy to carry, he went to fetch Steve and the pair rigged a makeshift stretcher to take the fossil fragment to safety.

BBC Studios

The whole excavation was conducted on ropes high above the Dorset beach

But where was the rest of the animal? A drone survey of the towering cliff face pinpointed a likely location. The problem was the only way to excavate it was to abseil down from the top. 

Removing fossils from rock is always painstaking, delicate work. But to do this while dangling on ropes from a crumbling cliff, 15m above a beach, requires another order of skill.

The courage, dedication, and the months spent cleaning up the skull, have certainly been worth it. Scientists from across the globe will be clamouring to visit the Dorset fossil to gain fresh insights into how these amazing reptiles lived and dominated their ecosystem.

Palaeobiologist Prof Emily Rayfield has already examined the large circular openings at the rear of the head. They tell her about the size of the muscles operating the jaws of the pliosaur, and the forces generated as its mouth snapped shut and crushed its prey.

At the top end, this comes out at about 33,000 newtons. For context, the most powerful jaws in living animals are found on saltwater crocodiles, at 16,000 newtons.

“If you can generate a really powerful bite, you can incapacitate your prey; it’s less likely to get away. A powerful bite means you’re also able to crunch through tissue and bone quite effectively,” the Bristol researcher explained.

“As for feeding strategies: crocodiles clamp their jaw shut around something and then twist, to maybe twist a limb off their prey. This is characteristic of animals that have expanded heads at the back, and we see this in the pliosaur.”

BBC/Tony Jolliffe

The small pits could have been part of the animal’s sensory system

This newly discovered specimen has features that suggest it had some particularly acute, and very useful, senses. 

Its snout is dotted with small pits that may have been the site of glands to help it detect changes in water pressure made by prospective prey. And on its head is a hole that would have housed a parietal, or third, eye. Lizards, frogs and some fish alive today have one of these. It’s light-sensitive and might have helped in locating other animals, especially when the pliosaur was surfacing from deep, murky waters.

Steve Etches will put the skull on display next year at his museum in Kimmeridge – the Etches Collection.

BBC/Tony Jolliffe

It has some vertebrae poking out at the back of the head but trailing off after just a few bones. They are a tantalising clue that more of the fossil might still be in the cliff. Steve is keen to finish what he started. 

Dorset’s Kimmeridge Clay cliffs were once the bottom-muds in warm Jurassic seas

“I stake my life the rest of the animal is there,” he tells BBC News. 

“And it really should come out because it’s in a very rapidly eroding environment. This part of the cliff line is going back by feet a year. And it won’t be very long before the rest of the pliosaur drops out and gets lost. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

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