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Magic Wand

Mysterious 4,000 year-old Phaistos Disk finally decoded after a century

Phaistos Disk
© Yves Brise/Flickr
Discovered in 1907 in the Minoan palace of Phaistos in Crete, the disk has been the subject of many an interpretation attempt. However, the small total body of text - it consists of only 241 signs on both sides, based on 45 individual signs - defies any
decisive conclusion
The decoding of the Phaistos Disk has puzzled specialists for over a century, however new findings describe the disk as "the first Minoan CD-ROM' featuring a prayer to a mother. Gareth Owens, Erasmus coordinator at the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Crete, speaking at the TEI of Western Macedonia on Monday, said the disk is dedicated to a "mother".

"The most stable word and value is 'mother', and in particular the mother goddess of the Minoan era," said Dr. Owens. He says there is one complex of signs found in three parts of one side of the disk spelling I-QE-KU-RJA, with I-QE meaning "great lady of importance" while a key word appears to be AKKA, or "pregnant mother," according to the researcher.

One side is devoted to a pregnant woman and the other to a woman giving birth. The disk was discovered in 1908 at the palace of Phaistos, in the northeastern part of the Aegean Island of Crete.The round clay object, tentatively dated close to 1700 B.C., displays an unknown language on both sides which is carved in a circular fashion, from outside to the centre.
Sherlock

Ancient city ruled by Genghis Khan's heirs discovered

Ancient city of Ukek
© Dmitriy Kubankin
Archaeologists with the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore have uncovered part of the ancient city of Ukek, founded by the descendents of Genghis Khan.
Remains of a 750-year-old city, founded by the descendents of Genghis Khan, have been unearthed along the Volga River in Russia.

Among the discoveries are two Christian temples one of which has stone carvings and fine ceramics.

The city's name was Ukek and it was founded just a few decades after Genghis Khan died in 1227. After the great conqueror's death his empire split apart and his grandson Batu Khan, who lived from 1205 to 1255, founded the Golden Horde (also called the Kipchak Khanate).The Golden Horde kingdom stretched from Eastern Europe to Central Asia and controlled many of the Silk Road trade routes that connected China to Medieval Europe.

This city of Ukek was built close to the khan's summer residence along the Volga River, something which helped it become prosperous. The name "Golden Horde" comes from the golden tent from which the khan was said to rule.
Document

Vatican library digitizes 4,400 ancient manuscripts and gives them away for free

Ancient Manuscript
© Vatican Apostolic Library
The Vatican Apostolic Library is now digitizing its valuable ancient religious manuscripts and putting them online via its website. All of the content is available for free.

The Library was originally founded in 1451 AD and holds over 80,000 manuscripts, prints, drawings, plates and books printed prior to 1500 AD. The titles are all written throughout history by people who had different faiths or religions, from all over the world.

Not only are paintings, religious iconography and books being published online, but also letters by from important historical figures, drawings and notes by artists and scientists such as Michelangelo and Galileo, as well as treaties from all eras in history.
Info

Oldest high-altitude human settlement discovered in Andes

Rock Shelter
© Kurt Rademaker
Archaeologists excavate a rockshelter in the Peruvian Andes that was used more than 12,000 years ago by human settlers.
The oldest-known evidence of humans living at extremely high altitudes has been unearthed in the Peruvian Andes, archaeologists say.

The sites - a rock shelter with traces of Ice Age campfires and rock art, and an open-air workshop with stone tools and fragments - are located nearly 14,700 feet (4,500 meters) above sea level and were occupied roughly 12,000 years ago.

The discovery, which is detailed today (Oct. 23) in the journal Science, suggests ancient people in South America were living at extremely high altitudes just 2,000 years after humans first reached the continent.

The findings also raise questions about how these early settlers physically adapted to sky-high living.

"Either they genetically adapted really, really fast - within 2,000 years - to be able to settle this area, or genetic adaptation isn't necessary at all," said lead study author Kurt Rademaker, who was a University of Maine visiting assistant professor in anthropology when he conducted the study.

In follow-up work, the team plans to look for more evidence of occupation, such as human remains.
Cow Skull

Welcome to the Altai Mountains, nature's own ancient gallery: Thousands of 5,000 year old rock paintings

© Dr.Borodovsky
Drawings dating from the early nomadic era depict deer, shown with strangely disproportionate large size horns.
It is a place unlike any other and is, arguably, one of the greatest art galleries anywhere in the world. Yet you won't find masterpieces in the traditional sense here, with no Rembrandts, Monets, or Da Vinci's anywhere in sight.

Instead, this is the Russian Altai mountain range, where art exists in its most natural sense, carved into the rocks by ancient civilisations 5,000 years ago.

Located in Siberia, at its borders with China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, it is home to literally thousands of petroglyphs and drawings that continue to fascinate archaeologists today. Experts have been studying the area for more than a century, with each expedition deep into the heart of the valleys and gorges uncovering more fingerprints of the past.
Boat

Epic pre-Columbian voyage suggested by genes

Wooden canoe
© Mary Evans Picture Library/Alamy
Wooden canoes like this one from Easter Island may have brought Native Americans and Polynesians together.
Polynesians from Easter Island and natives of South America met and mingled long before Europeans voyaged the Pacific, according to a new genetic study of living Easter Islanders.

In this week's issue of Current Biology, researchers argue that the genes point to contact between Native Americans and Easter Islanders before 1500 C.E., 3 centuries after Polynesians settled the island also known as Rapa Nui, famous for its massive stone statues. Although circumstantial evidence had hinted at such contact, this is the first direct human genetic evidence for it.

In the genomes of 27 living Rapa Nui islanders, the team found dashes of European and Native American genetic patterns. The European genetic material made up 16% of the genomes; it was relatively intact and was unevenly spread among the Rapa Nui population, suggesting that genetic recombination, which breaks up segments of DNA, has not been at work for long. Europeans may have introduced their genes in the 19th century, when they settled on the island.

Native American DNA accounted for about 8% of the genomes. Islanders enslaved by Europeans in the 19th century and sent to work in South America could have carried some Native American genes back home, but this genetic legacy appeared much older. The segments were more broken and widely scattered, suggesting a much earlier encounter - between 1300 C.E. and 1500 C.E.
Magnify

Ancient DNA analysis may indicate need for reinterpreting key dates in human prehistory

© Credit: Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Starting with a 45,000-year-old Siberian thighbone, research by Qiaomei Fu (right), a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, and Professor David Reich has narrowed the window of time when Neanderthals and humans crossbred. “Even if we cannot be sure of whether all the interbreeding occurred at once, the big picture is that we can be sure that the recent ancestors of this individual interbred with Neanderthals,” said Fu.
New research on a 45,000-year-old Siberian thighbone has narrowed the window of time when humans and Neanderthals interbred to between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, and has shown that modern humans reached northern Eurasia substantially earlier than some scientists thought.

Qiaomei Fu, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and first author of a paper describing the research, said the sample had a long history before making its way into her hands.

The bone was found eroding out of a Siberian riverbank, but no one knows precisely where. The bone changed hands several times before finding its way to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, where Fu was working with professors Janet Kelso and Svante Pääbo. Fu put the finishing touches on the research after she started in the laboratory of David Reich, HMS genetics professor.

Carbon dating and molecular analysis filled in many of the blanks about the sample. Testing determined that the sample was from an individual who lived 45,000 years ago on a diet that included plants or plant eaters and fish or other aquatic life.
Magnify

Roman Gladiators ate a mostly vegetarian diet and drank a tonic of ashes after training

Roman gladiators
© OEAI, Pietsch
Anthropology unlocks clues about Roman gladiators' eating habits.
Roman gladiators ate a mostly vegetarian diet and drank ashes after training as a tonic. These are the findings of anthropological investigations carried out on bones of warriors found during excavations in the ancient city of Ephesos.

Historic sources report that gladiators had their own diet. This comprised beans and grains. Contemporary reports referred to them as hordearii ("barley eaters").

In a study by the Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna in cooperation with the Department of Anthropology at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern, bones were examined from a gladiator cemetery uncovered in 1993 which dates back to the 2nd or 3rd century BC in the then Roman city of Ephesos (now in modern-day Turkey). At the time, Ephesos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and had over 200,000 inhabitants.

Using spectroscopy, stable isotope ratios (carbon, nitrogen and sulphur) were investigated in the collagen of the bones, along with the ratio of strontium to calcium in the bone mineral.
Sherlock

Archaeologist discovers 17th-century Dutch shipwreck

The Dutch ship Huis de Kreuningen went to her watery grave on March 3, 1677. But until a team led by University of Connecticut professor and maritime archaeologist Kroum Batchvarov found her this past summer in the waters of the southern Caribbean, no one knew precisely where that grave was.

Map
© UConn
Map of the Battle of Scarborough Harbour, 1677.
Batchvarov, assistant professor of maritime archaeology in UConn's Department of Anthropology, is an internationally known researcher specializing in 17th-century ship building and maritime archaeology. He is leading a multi-phased investigation to find and study the remains of 16 vessels that were sunk in a fierce battle that took place in what is now known as Scarborough Harbour in the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.

The battle was fought between the invading French and the Dutch, who controlled the island of Tobago at that time. Although often overlooked by students of maritime history, the confrontation was significant, both in terms of the number of lives lost and the damage done to both fleets.

"What has been discovered is a treasure trove for archaeological researchers," says Batchvarov.
Sherlock

New Jerusalem find may shed light on Jewish revolt against Romans

Stone
© Reuters/Ronen Zvulun
A stone bearing an ancient Latin inscription is displayed for the media outside Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem October 21, 2014.
Israeli archaeologists displayed on Tuesday a 2,000-year-old stone block unearthed in Jerusalem that they hope will help shed new light on a Jewish revolt against the Romans.

It is part of a lintel from an arch built to welcome Emperor Hadrian when he visited Jerusalem in 130 AD, around the time the region's Jews, led by Bar Kochba, rose up against Roman rule.

The Latin inscription on the remnant, which hails Hadrian in the name of the 10th Roman legion, fills out understanding of the extent to which the empire controlled Judea at the time, said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Rina Avner.

"This is another (part in the) puzzle in the historical mystery of what preceded what: the revolt of Bar Kochba or the foundation and the establishment of a city on top of the ruins of Jerusalem named 'Aelia Capitolina' and the change of status of Jerusalem to a Roman colony," she said. "We don't know yet which preceded which."
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