Secret History


Ancient underground city in Cappadocia will "rewrite history"

© AA Photos
An underground city found in Turkey's touristic Cappadocia will "rewrite the history of the city", according to the mayor in the Central Anatolian Nevşehir province, adding they had discovered people had permanently lived in the underground city, unlike other cities which were mostly carved into rocks for temporary protection.

Hasan Ünver, the mayor of Nevşehir, where Cappadocia is located, said the new findings at the ancient underground city in the province would rewrite history.

"When the works are finalized the history of Cappadocia will be rewritten," said Ünver, adding the findings found during the excavations dated back as the Hittite era.

"We have reached significant discoveries; new long tunnels and spaces where people lived all together. Places where linseed oil was produced, chapels and tunnels combining various living spaces in the underground city were found," said Ünver.

Book 2

Archaeologist pieces together story of the mysterious Zhang Zhung people of Tibet

© John Vincent Bellezza
A repoussé golden death mask dating to before 200 AD; John Vincent Bellezza says it is "perhaps of western Tibet provenance" It measures 15 cm (6 inches) by 12 cm (4.7 inches).
Many centuries ago, high in the mountains of western Tibet, the Zhang Zhung people established a civilization complete with technological advancements, rich art and a pantheon headed by a supreme god with strange and wonderful origins.

John Vincent Bellezza, a senior research fellow with the Tibet Center of the University of Virginia, has been studying the archaeology of the Iron Age people of western Tibet and their gods and cultures for more than 25 years.

His blog states: "Until the author's [Professor Bellezza's] intensive exploration of Upper Tibet in the 1990s and 2000s, very little was known about Zhang Zhung. The Tibetans themselves had forgotten what they had once achieved and the Chinese Communists were unaware of what lay on the extremes of the Plateau."


Early Native Americans raised turkeys, but not to eat

© Edward Curtis
Portrait of "Three Horses," a headdress made of feathers.

There is little doubt that Native Americans at a Utah site appropriately called Turkey Pen Ruins raised turkeys, but new research concludes that they rarely ate them, and instead raised the large birds for their coveted feathers.

The study involved extensive analysis of amino acid signatures resulting from diet that can be detected in human hair. The research, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, represents one of the first analyses of human hair from the American Southwest.

The findings indicate that Native Americans from the Ancestral Pueblo Tradition (also sometimes known as the Anasazi) heavily relied upon corn, showing that "about 80 percent of the calories and protein came from maize," co-author R.G. Matson from the University of British Columbia Department of Anthropology told Discovery News.


Glastonbury legend was "fabricated by 12th century monks desperate to raise cash"

© Alamy
Glastonbury Abbey: Not the stuff and myths and legends
Archaeologists find that Glastonbury's links to Jesus and King Arthur were concocted to attract pilgrims

It is a revelation that will strike a blow to the heart of the generations of pilgrims drawn to Glastonbury for its Christian legend and new age myths.

But a four-year academic study has unceremoniously debunked the series of oft-repeated myths that have cemented Glastonbury Abbey's reputation as one of the most romantic religious sites in the UK.

The feet immortalised in William Blake's poem Jerusalem never did walk on its green and pleasant land, King Arthur's grave is little more than a pile of a rubble and the oldest church in England was not built by Jesus's disciples but by monks desperate to raise some cold, hard cash.

The groundbreaking study, by 31 archaeology experts, discovered that the creative monks, faced with a financial crisis when their abbey burnt down in 1184, also dreamt up the legend that Jesus had visited the site as a boy with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, whose walking stick transformed into a tree that flowers every year at Christmas and Easter.


Archaeologists in Croatia discovered sunken 3,500-year-old town

© Slobodna Dalmacija
Croatian archaeologists recently announced they had discovered a 3,500-year-old sunken town and a port in the Adriatic Sea near Zadar, a southern coastal city.

"We found the remains of a large settlement and a port in the sea between the islands of Ricula and Galesnjak in the Pasman Channel last year. After radiocarbon analysis finished this month, we could say that the remains were probably built around 1500 B.C.," Mato Ilkic, head of the archaeological research team at Zadar University, told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

They unearthed various findings during two research explorations in a small part of the settlement, covering a total area of nearly two hectares, Ilkic said.

The most valuable findings were the very rare wood objects from 3,500 years ago, he said.


"Dongzhi Man" - China's latest ancient human fossil find

© Xinhua
The fossilized skull of Homo erectus discovered at the site of the grotto of Hualong, in the district of Dongzhi, in the Chinese province of Anhui.
Chinese archaeologists have discovered an "uncommonly well-preserved" fossilized skull of Homo erectus in east China, providing more valuable material in the study of the evolution and distribution of early man.

The fossil is the latest discovery from the Hualongdong archaeological site in Dongzhi County, Anhui Province, which the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) has been combing through since summer 2006.

This is proving to be another important site for Homo erectus after findings were made in Zhoukoudian, where Peking Man lived, Lantian in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Anhui's Hexian County, and Nanjing in the eastern Jiangsu Province, said Liu Wu, the IVPP researcher in charge of the excavation.

The skull at the center of this discovery, named "Dongzhi Man", was found along with an assortment of stone implements, other human teeth and bone fragments, as well as more than 6,000 bone fossils belonging to vertebrate animals including stegodon, giant tapir and giant pandas.


1,700-year-old ring depicts nude cupid, the homewrecking god

© K. Hinds and Hampshire Cultural Trust
A 1,700-year-old gold ring with a stone showing Cupid carrying a torch would've been worn on the finger of a man or woman at a time when the Roman Empire controlled England.
An intricately carved gold ring containing a stone engraved with an image of Cupid — a god associated with erotic love — has been discovered near the village of Tangley in the United Kingdom.

In the engraving, Cupid (also known by his Greek name, "Eros") is shown standing completely nude while holding a torch with one hand. The ring dates back around 1,700 years, to a time when the Roman Empire controlled England. The ring was discovered by an amateur metal detectorist. Researchers who studied it say that it may have been worn by a man or a woman and is engraved with spiral designs that contain bead-shaped spheres.

The image of Cupid is engraved on a stone made of nicolo, a type of onyx that is dark at the base and bluish at the top. The image on the stone "depicts a standing naked adolescent with crossed legs, leaning on a short spiral column; the short wings which sprout from his shoulders identify him as Cupid," Sally Worrell, national finds adviser with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and John Pearce, senior lecturer in archaeology at King's College London, wrote in an article published recently in the journal Britannia.


Hobbits were a separate species, ancient chompers show

© Professor Peter Brown, University of New England
Endocasts of the skulls of a hobbit (left) and a modern human (right). Research by Dean Falk of Florida State University and colleagues has suggested features of the hobbit's skull more closely resembled that of a normal human than a microcephalic.
An ancient, 3-foot-tall (0.9 meters) human whose diminutive stature has earned it the nickname "hobbit" has puzzled evolutionary scientists since its little bones were discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores. Some have suggested the individual was a Homo sapien with some miniaturizing disorder.

Now, teeth from the hobbit suggest it belonged to a unique species rather than a modern human with a growth disorder. The new research also suggests hobbits may share a direct ancestor with modern humans.

The 18,000-year-old fossil remains of the hobbit were discovered in 2003. Since then, scientists have suggested that the hobbit, which had a brain about the size of a grapefruit, was a unique branch of the human lineage Homo, dubbed Homo floresiensis. However, other researchers have argued the hobbit was really a modern human with microcephaly, a condition that leads to an abnormally small head, a small body and some mental retardation.


Mystery extinct cavemen were more diverse than Neanderthals

© Bence Viola
A molar from a Denisovan individual, found in a cave in Siberia.
A mysterious extinct branch of the human family tree that once interbred with modern humans was more genetically diverse than Neanderthals, a finding that also suggests many of these early humans called Denisovans existed in what is now southern Siberia, researchers say.

In 2008, scientists unearthed a finger bone and teeth in Denisova cave in Siberia's Altai Mountains that belonged to lost relatives now known as the Denisovans (dee-NEE-soh-vens). Analysis of DNA extracted from a finger bone from a young Denisovan girl suggested they shared a common origin with Neanderthals, but were nearly as genetically distinct from Neanderthals as Neanderthals were from living people.

A deeper understanding of extinct human lineages could shed light on modern human evolution. For instance, analysis of the Denisovan genome showed that Denisovans have contributed on the order of 5 percent of their DNA to the genomes of present-day people in Oceania, and about 0.2 percent to the genomes of Native Americans and mainland Asians. These DNA contributions not only signify interbreeding between the two groups (scientists have yet to definitively call Denisovans a separate species), but also may explain the origin of some traits of living humans.


Why do humans care for the bodies of the dead?

© Albert Anker / Wikimedia
The ancient Greek Cynic philosopher Diogenes was extreme in a lot of ways. He deliberately lived on the street, and, in accordance with his teachings that people should not be embarrassed to do private things in public, was said to defecate and masturbate openly in front of others. Plato called him "a Socrates gone mad." Shocking right to the end, he told his friends that when he died, he didn't want to be buried. He wanted them to throw his body over the city wall, where it could be devoured by animals.

"What harm then can the mangling of wild beasts do me if I am without consciousness?" he asked.

What is a dead body but an empty shell?, he's asking. What does it matter what happens to it? These are also the questions that the University of California, Berkeley, history professor Thomas Laqueur asks in his new book The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains.