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Foodies Alert: 5 Best Traditional Santorini Dishes to Try

Santorini food
Santorini; having breakfast with the best view in the world. Credit: Greek Reporter

When tourists visit the Greek island of Santorini, they are often surprised by the unique traditional Santorini dishes that are served by locals at tavernas and restaurants.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss a single sumptuous bite, check out the list below of five of the best traditional dishes on Santorini.

1. Chlorotyri

Chlorotyri Cheese
Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis Yarl, CC BY 2.0

We start our food journey on Santorini by letting you in on a unique cheese that is only found on the island. Chlorotyri is hard to come by, as it is not made in large quantities.

The cheese is a little sour but the creamy local treat made from goat’s milk is a favorite for spreading on bread or adding to a Santorini salad, which is like a traditional Greek salad but uses Santorini cherry tomatoes.

2. Fava

Fava Santorini dish
Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis from Santorini, Greece- Yarl, CC BY 2.0

You can eat fava all over Greece, but in Santorini, it is considered a traditional dish, and it is superb.

Probably the most famous dish on the island, this nutritious purée of yellow split pea is really tasty and velvety in texture.

It is served with Greek Olive Oil drizzled over it and topped with chopped onions or capers with lemon wedges on the side.

3. Ntomatokeftedes (Tomato Fritters), Santorini Classic Dish

Tomato Fritters Santorini
Credit: Sam Holt – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

This is a dish that Santorini is known for. Many people try ntomatokeftedes while visiting the island and then return to their own countries and try to make them for themselves (just do a Google search, you’ll find hundreds of recipes).

What makes this dish so worth it? It is all in the Santorini tomatoes that are about the size of cherries and super flavorful. They are fried up in a batter with peppers, onions, mint, and herbs.

4. Melitzanes Santorini (white Santorini eggplant) made into Melitzanosalata

The rich volcanic soil of the island is perfect for growing produce, and one thing that you will find on Santorini is the white eggplant. Locals make a wonderful melitzanosalata, or purée, from this tasty veggie. Be sure to try it out with some fresh pita bread.

5. Apochti

The traditional meat dish called Apochti, is prepared by salting a pork loin and soaking it in vinegar before leaving it out to air-dry.

Next, locals prepare this Santorini specialty by rubbing pepper and cinnamon into the meat and allowing it to harden. They then use it in other locally prepared dishes.

This meat is very unique to the island of Santorini, so be sure to try some during your visit.

The NYSE Was Founded Under a Tree on May 17, 1792

nyse tree founded
Credit: Wikipedia/ Public Domain

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the largest such stock exchange in the world, has quite humble origins.

According to legend, it was founded on May 17, 1792 under a buttonwood tree outside of 68 Wall Street when 24 stockbrokers signed the Buttonwood Agreement.

The Buttonwood Agreement is considered one of America’s most important financial documents, as it served as the basis for the foundation of the NYSE.

In March of 1792, 24 of the most prominent merchants in New York met at the Corre’s Hotel in secret to discuss the potential for regulating the securities business in the city.

The group then met again in May to sign the Buttonwood Agreement, named for the tree under which some believe it was signed, although others argue that the signing couldn’t have occurred under the tree, as there were too many members.

The historic financial document had two important elements, the first being that the brokers could only deal amongst themselves, and the second that commissions were set at 0.25 percent.

The founding of the NYSE and the Buttonwood Agreement

The full text of the document, which is now part of the archives of the NYSE, reads:

“We the Subscribers, Brokers for the Purchase and Sale of the Public Stock, do hereby solemnly promise and pledge ourselves to each other, that we will not buy or sell from this day for any person whatsoever, any kind of Public Stock, at a less rate than one quarter percent Commission on the Specie value and that we will give preference to each other in our Negotiations. In Testimony whereof we have set our hands this 17th day of May at New York, 1792.”

Wall Street has since been transformed into more than just a city street, as its name is synonymous with US finance as a whole.

The street was originally known as “de Waalstraat” in Dutch, as it was part of New Amsterdam. Both a slave marketplace and an office for trading securities during the seventeenth century were located on the street.

It was only during the 19th century that Wall Street became the financial hub of the city, when businesses and banks began to flock to the street after the creation of the NYSE there in the late eighteenth century.

In April, dozens of top-level speakers from Greek and international governments, as well as business and financial communities offered an insightful blueprint of the state of the Greek economy during the “23rd Capital Link Invest in Greece” Forum which was held on Monday at the Metropolitan Club in New York.

Within the context of the Forum, the New York Stock Exchange in cooperation with Capital Link organized a special ceremony in honor of Greece called “Greek American Issuer Day at NYSE.”

To honor the occasion, Dr. Nikolas P. Tsakos, President and CEO of Tsakos Energy Navigation, and Christos Staikouras, Minister of Finance of the Hellenic Republic, rang the opening bell.

European Companies Can Buy Russian Gas and Avoid Sanctions

russian oil EU
Korchagina oil field in Russia. Credt: Pavel Gurenchuk/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 3.0

The European Union has softened its stance on the purchase of Russian gas and oil, as it released a series of guidelines for European companies to purchase fuel from the country and avoid breaching sanctions on Monday.

The bloc proposed a total ban on Russian oil imports in a large packet of sanctions on May 4th, but the proposal was blocked by a number of countries, including Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, all of which rely on gas and oil from Russia.

Josep Borrell, EU head of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stated that it was not “possible to reach an agreement” on banning Russian oil and gas in the EU due to hesitation from member states that rely on the imports.

While those opposed to the ban, such as Hungary, which receives over 60 percent of its oil and 85 percent of its natural gas from Russia, seem to stand firm in their position, the EU will continue to negotiate the matter.

According to guidelines recently released by the European Union, European companies can continue to purchase Russian oil and gas by opening a bank account even at Russian banks, such as Gazprombank, and paying for the fuel in whatever currency was agreed upon in their contracts.

EU: Companies must pay for Russian fuel in currencies stated in contracts

Putin had previously asserted that foreign companies must pay for oil and gas in rubles as the Russian currency’s value fell due to sanctions. Poland and Bulgaria were cut off from Russian gas in April after refusing to pay in rubles.

Yet, the EU stated that all payments for Russian gas should be made according to the existing contracts, which are largely in dollars and euros, and that companies should clearly state this before agreeing to purchase fuel.

“Operators should make a clear statement that they intend to fulfill their obligations under existing contracts and consider their contractual obligations regarding the payment already fulfilled by paying in euros or dollars, in line with the existing contracts,” the EU released in a statement on Monday.

A number of European companies have already jumped on the opportunity, as the Italian energy company Eni SpA intends to open accounts in both euros and rubles at Gazprombank in order to pay for Russian gas, as reported in Al Jazeera.

Although the newest EU guidelines state that companies should pay in the currency agreed upon in their contracts, it does not ban payments in rubles, which has garnered controversy amongst EU leaders.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sharply criticized the EU for not banning transactions in rubles, stating on Sunday: “I am disappointed to see that in the European Union there is consent to pay for gas in rubles…Poland will stick to the rules and will not yield to Putin’s blackmail.”

Elon Musk Halts Twitter Deal Due to Bots, Fake Accounts

elon musk twitter bots fake accounts deal
Elon Musk halted his deal to purchase Twitter due to an issue regarding the number of bots and fake accounts on the site. Credit: Daniel Oberhaus / Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 4.0

Billionaire Elon Musk has halted his purchase of social network Twitter due to a lack of clarity regarding the number of bots and fake accounts on the platform.

On Tuesday, Musk stated that his $44 billion deal to purchase the company “cannot move forward” until he receives clarification about the number of bots and fake accounts on Twitter.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO has been discussing his concerns over the amount of bots on the platform publicly on his own Twitter account.

Musk claimed that his massive offer, which he entered with the hopes of championing free speech on the platform, “was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate” in a tweet.

Twitter asserts that fewer than 5 percent of all accounts on the site are fake, but Musk claims that the real number could be around 20 percent without providing a source for the figure.

Elon Musk halts Twitter deal due to bots, fake accounts

This new position may be an attempt to either bring down the initial offer to a lower price or to back out of it completely. However, Musk stated on Monday that he was “still committed to acquisition.”

“Twitter is committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price and terms as promptly as practicable,” Twitter released in a statement on Tuesday.

Just one day earlier, on Monday, Musk and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal exchanged a number of tweets about the amount of spam accounts on the site.

In a long thread of tweets, Agrawal discussed the issue of bot accounts on Twitter and argued that the company’s estimates regarding their number is very likely accurate but is an estimate.

We suspend over half a million spam accounts every day, usually before any of you even see them on Twitter. We also lock millions of accounts each week that we suspect may be spam—if they can’t pass human verification challenges (captchas, phone verification, etc.),” Agrawal wrote on Monday.

For his part, Musk responded with a poop emoji, then stated “So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money? This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter.”

Twitter’s shares fell to $37.39 on Monday, which is significantly less than the $54.20 that Musk agreed to pay per share in order to acquire the company last month.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement announcing the deal in late April.

“I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans,” he added.

“Twitter has tremendous potential—I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it,” announced Musk at the time.

Greek PM Mitsotakis Delivers Historic Address to U.S. Congress

Mitsotakis Congress
Mitsotakis addressing a Joint Session of Congress. Video Screenshot

On Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis delivered a historic address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, the first ever by a Greek leader.

Senators and Representatives offered multiple standing ovations for a speech that had it all: Russia’s aggression, Turkey’s overflights, the Parthenon Marbles, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mitsotakis highlighted democratic values as NATO allies confront Russian aggression in Ukraine. “Our shared values are once again being tested,” Mitsotakis emphasized.

The Greek leader said one should replace the name Greece today for the war of independence with Ukraine, where defenders of the city of Mariupol defended their city like the fighters of Missolonghi in 1826, preferring death over the loss of freedom.

He received applause for his references to “our shared belief in freedom over tyranny, in democracy over authoritarianism, in the fundamental importance of respect for the rule of law over war and anarchy.”

He stressed that Greece has no conflicts with the Russian people with whom it shares historic and faith bonds. “But we cannot be indifferent to a struggle that reminds us so much of our own…We stand by Ukraine against Putin’s aggression,” he said to thunderous applause.

Putin must not succeed not only because of Ukraine but so that all authoritarian leaders may receive a clear message that “Historical revisionism and open acts of aggression that violate international law will not be tolerated,” Mitsotakis said.

He then asked the members of Congress not to forget “the open wound that has caused Hellenism unending pain: the invasion and subsequent division of Cyprus.”

Without mentioning Turkey, Mitsotakis highlighted the security challenges facing Greece, including overflights over its territory.

Mitsotakis amongst few that have addressed a joint meeting of Congress

Mitsotakis has joined only eight other world leaders who have addressed a joint session of Congress since 2015. They include Pope Francis, the Prime Ministers of India, Japan, and Israel, and the Presidents of Afghanistan, France, and Ukraine, as well as the NATO Secretary-General.

Mitsotakis was invited by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, along with the bi-partisan leadership of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Pelosi welcomed Mitsotakis and said that Greece has been a source of democratic principles since antiquity and inspiration for America’s founders.

Pelosi also expressed her appreciation for the US-Greece friendship through NATO and said the United States recognizes Greece’s role in helping Ukrainian refugees, fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and acting on climate change.

“As I always like to say, we learned from the Greeks and the Greeks learned from us, and now we stand together as democratic nations,” it was said.

Mitsotakis-Biden meeting at the White House

On Monday, Mitsotakis and President Joe Biden affirmed that the U.S. – Greece relationship is “stronger than ever” during their meeting at the White House.

Biden congratulated Mitsotakis on 201 years of Greek independence.

The leaders underscored the relationship between the United States and Greece which is currently stronger than ever and noted the enduring people-to-people bonds that have helped define bilateral ties for more than two centuries.

The U.S. President referred to the personal friendship with Mitsotakis and to the democratic ideals born in Greece that inspired the United States and which are sadly being tried by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a democracy threatened by autocrats.

 

Unique Watermelon Recipes That are Perfect for Summer in Greece

watermelon recipes greece summer
Watermelon slices. Recipes featuring watermelon are perfect for the summer. Credit: Caroline Ford/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

Summer in Greece means that watermelon season is in full swing, and the sweet fruits are in abundance. While they’re delicious on their own, the refreshing fruit is the basis of a number of refreshing watermelon recipes that can transport you right back to Greece.

Watermelon is a quintessential Greek food as it is served—usually gratis—at the end of a summertime dinner at tavernas all across the country. The sweet but light fruit is usually the only thing one can eat for dessert after a hearty Greek meal.

Considering that Greece now ranks sixth in the entire world market in watermelon exports, you will never run out of the ingredient for your summertime recipes if you’re in the country!

Greece now produces an impressive 204.46 million kilos (450,757,141 pounds) of watermelons, corresponding to 5.6 percent of the total exports of the succulent fruit across the globe.

Greek Watermelon Cake from the Island of Milos

This unique watermelon recipe is for karpouzopita, or watermelon cake, which is a traditional sweet from the Greek island of Milos.

Whether you eat your karpouzopita plain or garnished with a dab of Greek-style yogurt or honey, either way, you are sure to enjoy it!

This dessert is fairly low-fat, and can use either white or brown sugar, depending on how sweet you would like it to taste.

Ingredients:
¼ – ½ cup sesame seeds
2 pounds watermelon cut in cubes (about the size of walnuts)
½ cup honey + 2 tablespoons for drizzling
2 tablespoons brown sugar or white (adjust accordingly)
¾ cup flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
2. Remove the seeds from the watermelon. Cut in cubes about the size of a walnut. Place in colander and let it strain for about an hour. Squeeze a bit more with your hands to remove additional liquid.
3. Place the watermelon in a large bowl. Add brown sugar (or white), flour, cinnamon, ½ cup honey, and olive oil and mix well with a large spoon while trying not to break the watermelon pieces. The batter will contain some liquid.
4. Grease a cake pan with some olive oil (just to cover) and sprinkle the base with sesame seeds (enough to make a crust-like formation). Pour over the watermelon mixture and spread out evenly. Sprinkle some more sesame seeds and bake in the oven for about an hour.
5. Remove, drizzle the rest of the honey over the cake and let it cool. Serve it at room temperature, or cool it in the fridge and be sure to top it off with some Greek yogurt or honey!

Greek Watermelon Mojito—an essential watermelon recipe for hot Greek summers

Spice up your Greek hot summer nights, or if you can’t make it to Greece this summer, at least you can enjoy the vibrant colors and distinct flavors of a Greek summer with this drink.

Ingredients:
1 ½ ounces rum
4 pieces fresh Greek watermelon (or 1 oz. fresh watermelon puree)
1 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce sparkling water
6 mint leaves and one mint sprig

Preparation:

1. In a tall mixing glass, mix watermelon and mint leaves with simple syrup. Add rum and lime juice and then fill with ice and shake vigorously.

2. Strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass. Top with sparkling water and swirl gently. Garnish with mint sprig. Enjoy!

Watermelon Feta Salad

A twist on the traditional horiatiki, or Greek salad, this refreshing watermelon and feta recipe has grown popular across Greece and Cyprus.

Although the combination of watermelon and feta cheese may seem a bit strange, the sweet and salty elements work perfectly together, creating the ultimate summer dish!

Ingredients:

For the salad:
1kg watermelon, seedless and cut into chunks (35oz.)
250g feta cheese, cut into cubes or crumbled (9 oz.)
a bunch of mint, leaves only, chopped
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced

For the dressing:
1/4 of a cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Start by removing the rind and seeds from the watermelon, and cut the watermelon into triangular chunks.
2. Cut the feta cheese into small cubes, and place both into a large bowl.
3. Thinly slice the onions and place in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Then, add the chopped mint leaves and set aside. Add chopped cucumber to the mix as well.
4. Prepare the dressing in a small bowl; add the olive oil, lemon juice, and brown sugar, and season. Whisk the ingredients to combine, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
5. Pour the dressing over the watermelon feta salad, and toss to coat.
Serve immediately.

Ukraine’s Mariupol Falls to Russia After 82 Days of Battle

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russia mariupol Ukraine
Mariupol had been besieged by Russian forces. Credit: Ukrainian Interior Ministry

Russia has gained full control of Ukraine’s Mariupol after the last Ukrainian soldiers were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant on Monday.

Late on Monday, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, said that 53 heavily wounded soldiers were evacuated to a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. More than 200 others were transported through a corridor to Olenivka, Maliar said.

Main goal is to “save the lives” of Ukraine’s soldiers in Mariupol

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said that the soldiers defending the steel plant had “performed their combat task” and now the main goal was to save the lives of personnel.

By holding the steelworks, they stopped Russian forces from rapidly capturing the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, its statement on Facebook said.

It was unclear how many soldiers remained in Mariupol’s steel plant, but Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said: “We hope to save the lives of our boys.”

“I want to underline: Ukraine needs its Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle,” he said in a video statement.

“The 82nd day of our defense is coming to an end. A difficult day. But this day, like all others, is aimed precisely at saving our country and our people,” Zelensky said.

Russia established a ceasefire in the Mariupol plant

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry had said that a ceasefire had been established to allow the passage of wounded Ukrainian servicemen, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

The evacuation is likely to mark the end of the longest and bloodiest battle of the Ukraine war and a significant defeat for Ukraine. Mariupol is now in ruins after a Russian siege that Ukraine says killed tens of thousands of people in the city.

For Ukrainians, the Azovstal plant has become a symbol of resistance with hundreds of troops continuing to fight on at the plant even after the rest of the city had fallen to Russian forces. Some 600 troops were believed to have been inside the steel plant.

Greek Opposition Leader Tsipras Re-elected as SYRIZA Chief

Tsipras SYRIZA
Leader of SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras expressed confidence in the outcome of the next elections in Greece. Credit: AMNA

Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras renewed his mandate as SYRIZA leader after an inner-party ballot on Sunday and expressed confidence that his party will win the next national election.

It was the first time the leader of SYRIZA was directly elected by party members. The 47-year-old politician, who was the only candidate, won 99 percent of the vote.

Organizers said around 110,000 new members took part in the polls, increasing the total figure to 172,000.

Tsipras hailed the turnout in the procedure as a resounding endorsement of the party’s positions.

“The SYRIZA of 172,000 members will certainly win the most votes in the next elections, no matter when [Prime Minister Kyriakos] Mitsotakis sets up the ballot,” he said.

Tsipras calls for a progressive government in Greece

Asked about the aims of the election process, SYRIZA’s leader noted that a “party that governed and got up to 2.5 million votes cannot have just 25,000 members…a personal and collective goal is for the party SYRIZA to correspond with the social SYRIZA.”

The aim was to send a clear message for political change as the first step toward victory in the general elections, he said.

“In order for political change to come about and a progressive government to arise,” said Tsipras, “SYRIZA must come first and with some difference. The crucial elections will be with simple proportional representation. Second elections may not be needed.”

“We believe that the country can be led by coalition governments with progressive agreements from the first Sunday. The percentages will allow a government from the first Sunday and the maturity of the political forces will be judged,” he said.

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose conservative party appears to be enjoying a steady lead in opinion polls, has repeatedly ruled out a snap vote.

Late on Sunday, New Democracy took a swipe at the opposition leader for being the sole candidate in the race.

“Standing against all…odds, Mr. Tsipras beat Mr. Tsipras to become SYRIZA president,” New Democracy said in a statement.

Humans and Neanderthals “Lived Together” 50,000 Years Ago

Neanderthals
The Boker Tachtit archaeological site in the Negev Desert in Israel has shown to researchers that humans and Neanderthals lived together in the area 50,000 years ago. Credit: Facebook/Israel Antiquities Authority

Recent research from an Israeli archaeological dig has proven that modern humans and Neanderthals lived together in the Negev desert some 50,000 years ago. Not only that, but the site they excavated, Boker Tachtit, has now been established as the earliest known migration point from Africa for early Homo sapiens from the Levant.

In the Middle Palaeolithic era, 250,000 to 50,000 years ago, two humanoid species lived in the Old World at the same time: Neanderthal man and modern man (Homo sapiens).

Boker Tachtit charcoal pieces
The flint pieces examined at the Boker Tachtit site in the Negev Desert in Israel. Credit: Facebook/Israel Antiquities Authority

The Neanderthals lived in Europe and Central Asia whereas modern man lived in Africa at that time.

As the Israel Antiquities Authority states regarding the ground-breaking findings, “the Middle East, and the region of Israel in particular, were at the limits of the distribution of these two species and they therefore also contain remnants of the two populations at different times.”

The research undertaken at the Boker Tachtit site in Ein Avdat National Park in Israel’s Negev desert has now provided the first proof of the two cultures’ coexistence there and pinpoints—for the first time ever—the exact time when modern humans left Africa.

Flint at Boker Tachtit
Flint point representative of the Upper Paleolithic found in Boker Tachtit. Credit: Facebook/Clara Amit/ Israeli Antiquities Authority

A recent reexamination of artifacts from the Boker Tachtit site was the subject of a study published on Monday in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The dig was led by researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Max Planck Society, Prof. Elisabetta Boaretto together with Dr. Omry Barzilai of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

“Boker Tachtit is the first site outside of Africa, which modern man penetrated on his way to the rest of the world, hence the importance of the site, as well as the importance of dating it accurately,” said Dr. Barzilai, the director of excavation at the Boker Tachtit site in the statement.

“The age of the site as dated in the study—50,000 years—indicates that modern man existed in the area of the Negev at the same time as the Neanderthal man, who is known to have lived in it during this period,” he explained.

“There is no doubt that the two species who lived and roamed the Negev were aware of each other’s existence,” Barzilai declared, adding “Our research Boker Tachtit site places an important and unequivocal point of reference on the timeline of human evolution.”

The “recent African origin” theory of human development stipulates that Homo sapiens originated in Africa as early as 270,000 years ago; at different times, humans took either the northern route to Eurasia, passing through the Levant, or several possible southern routes to all the corners of Asia.

Many believe that Homo sapiens even reached Oceania—getting as far as Australia by land at that time.

Scientist believe that DNA research shows the migration of modern humans began from Africa to Asia and Europe and proceeded onward to the rest of the world approximately 60,000 years ago.

The clashing of humans with their “cousins,” the Neanderthals, caused the latter to disappear as a group but at the same time assimilate into the entirety of the modern human population outside Africa.

Boker Tachtit, which is located in Ein Avdat National Park, is known to have served as a key site for tracing this migration out of Africa.

It is now proven to show the transition from a predominantly Neanderthal, prehistoric culture to the beginning of the triumph of modern humans, which occurred during the Middle to Upper Paleolithic era.

This vital turning point in development was marked by monumental technological innovations, including the making of blades and the introduction of standardized tools utilizing bones and antlers.

Anthony Marks, an American researcher who was the first to excavate and publish his findings from the Boker Tachtit site in the early 1980s, stated at the time that the site showed transitional industry from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic eras.

Based on one single radiocarbon date, he concluded that it dated back to 47,000 years ago.

Other dates obtained from artifacts at the site, however, contradicted dates provided by Marks. The site may also be from 34,000 years ago, making the timing of the tool transition very problematic for researchers.

Boaretto, who heads up D-REAMS, the Dangoor Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory located at the Weizmann Institute, which specializes in advanced archaeological dating methods, explains further.

“If we are to follow this timeline, then the transitional period could have lasted more than 10,000 years, and yet artifacts excavated from northern sites in Israel, Lebanon and even Turkey suggest that the transition occurred much faster,” she says.

“Marks managed to date only a few specimens from Boker Tachtit, owing to the limitations of radiocarbon dating then, and the range of his proposed dates is not consistent with evidence gathered from other—old and new—excavation sites in the region,” Boaretto adds.

“Radiocarbon dating, the method that he used in his study, has evolved tremendously since his time,” she explains.

To finally arrive at some kind of understanding of the site, Boaretto, Barzilai, and their  team of researchers performed state of the art dating methods on specimens obtained from Boker Tachtit during the new excavations that they themselves undertook from 2013 to 2015.

These new dating techniques included high-resolution radiocarbon dating of single charcoal pieces found at the site and optically-stimulated luminescence-dating of single grains of quartz sand, performed respectively at the Weizmann Institute and at the Max-Planck Institute.

Boaretto, Barzilai, and their team also took into account detailed studies of the sediments found at Boker Tachtit and employed micro-archaeological methods to understand how the site was initially formed in order to discover information on its chronology.

“We are now able to conclude with greater confidence that the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic transition was a rather fast-evolving event that began at Boker Tachtit approximately 50-49,000 years ago and ended about 44,000 years ago,” Boaretto declared.

Her team’s new dating allows for a certain overlap between the transition that occurred at Boker Tachtit and that of the “Mediterranean woodland” region, including what is now Lebanon and Turkey, which happened between 49,000 and 46,000 years ago.

Barzilay said “The dating results prove—for the first time in prehistoric research—the hypothesis that there was indeed an overlap in space between the late Mostar culture, identified with Neanderthal man, and the Emirite culture, linked to the emergence of modern man in the Middle East.”

Even with this few thousand years’ overlap of time, the recent analysis shows that Boker Tachtit was the very earliest site for this transition in the Levant. Not only that, but based on the materials found, it also encapsulates evidence from the last time modern humans left on their different journeys out of Africa.

The new dating shows that the early phase at Boker Tachtit also overlaps with the existing Middle Paleolithic culture of the Neanderthals who were already proven to have lived there.

Boaretto and Barzilay conclude “This goes to show that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens in the Negev coexisted and most likely interacted with one another, resulting in not only genetic interbreeding, as is postulated by the ‘recent African origin’ theory, but also in cultural exchange.”

The Legacy of the Antikythera Mechanism Discovered on This Day in 1901

antikythera mechanism
The Antikythera Mechanism, currently housed at the National Archaeological Museum. Credit: ZDE/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The Antikythera Mechanism, widely believed to be the world’s first computer, was among wreckage retrieved from a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera 0n May 17, 1901. A year later, it was identified as containing a gear by Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais. Since then, the Mechanism has had a lasting impact on scientists and thinkers across the world.

By Evaggelos Vallianatos

antikythera
The largest seven fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism, A-G, both sides. Courtesy Tom Malzbender and Hewlett Packard.

The Tablet, or the Antikythera Mechanism

“Tablet” was probably the name ancient Greeks gave the Antikythera Mechanism, which dates from the second century BC. This was an era of the golden age of science and civilization in the Greek realms of the empire that survived the death of Alexander the Great.

Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great, and was the mind behind the eruption of science and technology in Alexandria, Egypt that was responsible for the creation of the computer.

antikythera
Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great and was the mind behind the eruption of science and technology in Alexandria, Egypt that was responsible for the creation of the computer. Mural above the entrance of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. From left, Archimedes, Alexander, Demetrios Phalereus, Aristotle, Theophrastos and Straton. Photo: Evaggelos Vallianatos

The Tablet was probably built in Rhodes. It operated with a hand-crank. But despite its simplicity, this was a very small and very sophisticated astronomical computer built with scientific technology, the likes of which only re-emerged in the eighteenth century.

The brain of the computer was made up by several interlocking bronze gears. Most of them were withing the largest fragment, dubbed the Wheel of the Sun.

bronze gears
Bronze gears of the Tablet. Painting by Evi Sarantea. Courtesy Evi Sarantea.

The Tablet was a portable device, a laptop BC computer of genius. It had inscriptions for the benefit of the user.

antikythera
Inscription in gold and the largest fragment, the Wheel of the Sun, in blue. Courtesy Xenophon Moussas.

The Antikythera Mechanism was also a very accurate calendar. Furthermore, it was a predictive machine. It predicted the eclipses of the Sun god Helios and the Moon and mapped the movements and positions of the planets, major stars, and constellations.

Predicting the eclipses of the Sun and the Moon was terribly important. These two stars, like all other stars, were gods to the Greeks. Seeing the Sun or the Moon disappear from the sky was more than frightening.

During the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians lost a huge fleet and almost 40,000 men at Syracuse — primarily because of the lunar eclipse of August 27, 413 BC. Seers convinced the Athenian commander-in-chief, General Nikias, to delay departure by “three times nine days” for sacrifices to satiate the Moon.

This delay turned fatal. The enemies of Athens, the Spartans and the Syracusans, attacked and destroyed the Athenian invaders. Thucydides reports that defeat drove the Athenian troops mad, as noted in The Peloponnesian War, 7.71.

The designers of the Tablet were well aware of the military implications of solar and lunar eclipses.

In addition, the Antikythera Mechanism had considerable scientific, astronomical, calendrical, religious, and political usefulness. This guaranteed its widespread ownership. There must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of such computers all over the Greek world and more than one place manufacturing them.

 

Antikythera
The Tablet. Painting by Dionysios Kriaris. Courtesy Dionysios Kriaris.

Not much ancient reporting on the Tablet

The paradox of finding very little precise information in the historical literature about a fabulous device like the Antikythera Tablet is not difficult to explain.

Ktesibios, who made gears possible in early third century BC, was a great engineering inventor whose written work disappeared. Archimedes, the greatest scientist-engineer of antiquity, perhaps of all time, improved the engineering of the gears of Ktesibios. He wrote an entire book on how to construct a mechanical universe, and the book never made it to our times.

A brief mention of an elementary astronomical device resembling the Tablet found a niche in The Alexander Romance, a popular novel about Alexander and his heroic adventures. The author is an unknown Greek writer who lived sometime between the second and fourth centuries. His novel eventually became a world best seller. It survived in eighty versions in 24 languages.

armenian
Armenian 14th century-illuminated manuscript of the Alexander Romance. Alexander is surrounded by his personal friends and senior officers. Public Domain.

In some of his works, the Roman intellectual and politician Cicero, described the planetariums of Archimedes and Poseidonios, in The Republic 1.14.21-22; Tusculan Disputations 1.63; and The Nature of the Gods 2.87-89. This is the closest literary evidence we have of the possible prototype for or, in the case of the sphere of Poseidonios, a working model of, the Antikythera computer. Poseidonios lived in Rhodes in the first century BC.

Second, in the Introduction to the Phenomena, Geminos, student of Poseidonios,  describes the science of the calendars of his time. Geminos knew that in a Metonic calendar of 235 months things get complicated.

First of all, the calendar was named after the fifth century BC Athenian astronomer Meton. The Metonic nineteen-year period has 6940 days (from counting 12 years of 12 months and 7 years of 13 months). Some months had 29 days and some others had thirty days.

The 29-day month Metonic cycle equaled 6815 days (29 x 235=6815) and the thirty-day cycle was 7050 days (30 x235=7050). Geminos harmonized the lunar days and months with the solar year by subtracting a day every 63 days in the nineteen-year Metonic calendar of 235 months. Sixty-three comes from dividing 6940 days by 110 days; the number 110 is the difference between 6940 and 7050.

The astonishing thing about these calculations by Geminos is that we find the same math inscribed in the back cover of the Antikythera computer. That’s not accidental.

Geminos was an astronomer, a mathematician, and a philosopher who wrote for non-experts. He taught astronomy and he probably designed and constructed astronomical calendars and instruments like the Antikythera computer. That’s why his Introduction to the Phenomena captured the Greek science built into the Antikythera Tablet.

The calendar Geminos talked about happened to be the calendar on the Metonic spiral of the Antikythera computer.

tablet
Back view of the Tablet showing two spirals. The upper spiral reproduces the Metonic 19-year calendar of 235 months. The lower spiral is the 18-year Saros eclipse-prediction dial. Next to this spiral, in blue, we see the signature glyphs of the time of the eclipses. Courtesy Evi Sarantea.

The Metonic calendar of the Tablet fits the calendar Corinth used in its colonies in northwest Greece, especially Dodona and Ambrakia in Epirus.

This was also true for the calendar of Tauromenion (now Taormina) in Sicily. Geminos also writes about the celestial spheres / planetariums he employed in his research: one was a solid sphere (sphaira steraia, XVI.12) and the other was a ringed sphere (sphaira krikote, XVI.10, 12). Most likely, these spheres were models of the circulating Tablet.

Third, Heron of Alexandria is probably a key witness to the survival of the technology of the Antikythera computer. He worked in the first century. He likely left a detailed description of the celestial computer and how to build it, but the text did not survive. Yet, in his Pneumatics he describes the construction of mechanical devices in geometrical terms, in a sense, informing us how to use simple machines to build more complex machines.

Heron built and used Antikythera-like devices. In Pneumatics, he says he wrote extensively on water-powered Sundials he calls Oroskopia, which might have been geared clocks. However, only two fragments on Oroskopia survived. Nevertheless, I am convinced Heron’s knowledge of mathematics, physics, astronomy, and engineering was profound and modern. His Aiolosphere, a first-ever steam engine, and robots are of extraordinary ingenuity and mechanical sophistication.

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Heron’s Aiolosphere, a prototype of the steam engine. Reconstruction by Dionysios Kriaris. Courtesy Dionysios Kriaris.

Fourth, the astronomer Ptolemy, who flourished after Heron in the second century, described in his global best seller Almagest his construction of a Meteoroskopeion, one of the names Greeks used for celestial devices or astronomical computers. Such an instrument for the observation of the heavens would be the equivalent to an Antikythera-like mechanism.

ptolemaios
Extracts from the books of Ptolemaios make up Astronomical Predictions, a book published in Frankfurt in 1622. Credit: Public Domain.

Perhaps it was an advanced version of an armillary sphere for his astronomical studies. Ptolemy also spoke eloquently and with knowledge about the science of prediction, especially human, natural, and astronomical phenomena. This included the movements and positions of the Sun-Helios, the Moon, and the planets (Tetrabiblos (1.3.4-3.20; 2.7.1-7.4; 2.10.1-10.4; 3.1.1-1.3).

And like Geminos, he routinely predicted the eclipses of the Sun and the Moon.

Fifth, the great physician Galen of the second century was well aware of Greek astronomical achievements. He admired the beauty and order of the Sun (Helios), the Moon, and the “whole chorus of stars,” their size, and ceaseless motion. In his book On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body he spoke of mechanical models built in imitation of the “revolutions of the wandering stars (the planets).”

Sixth, the Greco-Roman poet Claudian, who lived in the fourth century, praised Archimedes’ glass sphere in enclosing a man-made Cosmos—challenging Zeus and his control of the universe.

Seventh, the fifth-century Platonist and historian of science, Proklos, wrote in his book A Commentary on the First Book of Euclid’s Elements about “the art of making spheres imitating the revolutions of the heavens.” Clearly, those spheres were mechanical universes that, like the Antikythera Tablet, brought the heavens down to Earth.

Eighth, another witness of the continuing influence of Antikythera Mechanism-like devices was Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, who lived from 485 to 585. Cassiodorus was a politician, writer, and a monk. He was the publicist of the Ostrogoth king Theodoric of Italy for several years. He was educated in Greek culture and had a grasp of the scientific and technological achievements of the Greeks.

He corresponded with another outstanding scholar also versed in Greek culture and science, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, c. 480 to c. 525. In a letter to Boethius, Cassiodorus asks for a sundial and a water clock. He marveled at the machines and automata from the legacy of Heron of Alexandria. He described a “tiny device” with great astonishment and enthusiasm. He is so taken by the beauty, complexity, and purpose of what he calls Archimedes Sphere, he becomes poetic in his understanding of what the device was and what it represened.

Cassiodorus says: “This tiny device (is) pregnant with the world, (being) a portable sky, a compendium of the universe, a mirror of nature which reflects the heavens.”

This is a marvelous metaphor for the Antikythera Mechanism, capturing its scientific and philosophical design and purpose.

Finally, I read more than Geminos’ Introduction to the Phenomena. My immersion in the surviving books and literary fragments of Greek philosophers and scientists made me a participant in the evolution of science and technology that assured the building of a mechanism of advanced technology like the Antikythera computer.

It is possible, of course, we have not searched hard enough for more versions or copies of this ancient device. After all, the Antikythera machine did not vanish.

Medieval Greek Sundial

In 1983, a Lebanese sold to the Science Museum of London a sundial constructed in Constantinople, in all probability, around the early sixth century. One of the wheels of this Sundial had 59 teeth. This wheel measured the movement of the Moon. Like ancient lunar calendars, this Sundial represented a thirty-day month followed by a 29-day month, the gearwheel turning a tooth a day.

This Greek sundial is the oldest, if extremely simplified, version of the Antikythera computer.

To find anything resembling this technology, one has to wait until the eleventh century when Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, 973-1050, an Arab natural philosopher, described a geared calendar.

Michael Wright, a British engineer with a talent for building machines, made a working model of this Medieval Greek sundial. He saw the gearing of the old clocks—gearing that used to model the movements of the Sun, Moon, and the planets—into the big engines of the Industrial Revolution.

In the case of the Greek sundial, its technology of gearwheels was pretty similar to the description of al-Biruni. This meant that the Greek knowledge of gears passed on to the Arabs, making their own clockwork calendars.

In addition, the construction of the Greek sundial in Constantinople showed that the instrument, clearly descended from the Antikythera model of Greek computers, was not a luxury toy but an everyday calendar. There could have been thousands of these sundial calendars all over the Greek medieval world.

The Arabs copied the Greek geared machine and, eventually, they passed it on to the Europeans in thirteenth-century Muslim Spain.

The Antikythera Mechanism and Greek technology in the West

To this basic Greek technical hardware that reached Europe through Muslim Spain, a much larger scientific and technological influence on Europe came from the Greek East.

Greek scholars in the mid-fifteenth century abandoned their conquered country and moved to Florence, Padua, and other cities in the West. They brought with them the literary treasures of their ancestors. This included tremendous amounts of theoretical and engineering knowledge, which sparked the Renaissance and, in time, Europe’s sophisticated clockwork technologies that underpinned the Scientific and Technological Revolutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Evaggelos Vallianatos, Ph.D., is a historian and environmental theorist. He is the author of hundreds of articles and seven books, including “The Antikythera Mechanism: The Story Behind the Genius of the Greek Computer and its Demise” (Universal Publishers, 2021).

antikythera mechanism
The Antikythera Mechanism: The Story Behind the Genius of the Greek Computer and its Demise (Universal Publishers, 2021).