Secret History


Atlantis' legendary metal found in shipwreck

© Superintendent of the Sea Office, Sicily
A team of divers recovered nearly 40 ingots off the sea floor near Sicily, from a ship that was lost in the sixth century.
Gleaming cast metal called orichalcum, which was said by Ancient Greeks to be found in Atlantis, have been recovered from a shipwreck that sunk 2,600 years ago off the coast of Sicily.

The lumps of metal were arriving to Gela in southern Sicily, possibly coming from Greece or Asia Minor. The ship that was carrying them was likely caught in a storm and sunk just when it was about to enter the port.

"The wreck dates to the first half of the sixth century," Sebastiano Tusa, Sicily's superintendent of the Sea Office, told Discovery News. "It was found about 1,000 feet from Gela's coast at a depth of 10 feet."

He noted that the 39 ingots found on the sandy sea floor represent a unique finding.

"Nothing similar has ever been found," Tusa said. "We knew orichalcum from ancient texts and a few ornamental objects."

Indeed orichalcum has long been considered a mysterious metal, its composition and origin widely debated.

According to the ancient Greeks, it was invented by Cadmus, a Greek-Phoenician mythological character. The fourth century B.C. Greek philosopher Plato made orichalcum a legendary metal when he mentioned it in the Critias dialogue.

Ancient amulet discovered in Cyprus with palindrome inscription

two-sided amulet uncovered in Cyprus
© Marcin Iwan
The amulet contains a Greek inscription, 59 letters long, which reads the same backwards as it does forwards, a feature known as a palindrome. The three letters at the very bottom, ΕΑΙ, were squeezed in and are hard to read. The amulet is about 1.4 inches by 1.6 inches (34.9 millimeters by 41.2 millimeters) in size. The inscription translates as “Iahweh is the bearer of the secret name, the lion of Re secure in his shrine.”
An ancient, two-sided amulet uncovered in Cyprus contains a 59-letter inscription that reads the same backward as it does forward.

Archaeologists discovered the amulet, which is roughly 1,500 years old, at the ancient city of Nea Paphos in southwest Cyprus.

One side of the amulet has several images, including a bandaged mummy (likely representing the Egyptian god Osiris) lying on a boat and an image of Harpocrates, the god of silence, who is shown sitting on a stool while holding his right hand up to his lips. Strangely, the amulet also displays a mythical dog-headed creature called a cynocephalus, which is shown holding a paw up to its lips, as if mimicking Harpocrates' gesture.

Vast 5,000 year-old underground city discovered in central Turkey

© Creative Commons/Katpatuka
Tatlarin, another overground city near Nevşehir
A 5,000 year-old underground city thought to be the largest in the world has been discovered in central Turkey.

The subterranean settlement was discovered in the Nevşehir province of Turkey's Central Anatolia region, in the historical area of Cappadocia.

Cappadocia is famous in archaeological circles for its large number of underground settlement.

But the site, located around the Nevşehir hill fort near the city of Kayseri, appears to dwarf all other finds to date.

Hasan Ünver, the mayor of the city on those outskirts the discovery was found, said other underground cities were nothing more than a "kitchen" compared to the newly uncovered settlement.

Mehmet Ergün Turan, the head of Turkey's housing development administration, said the discovery was made during the groundwork for a housing project meant to develop the area.

Derinkuyu underground city, to the south of Nevşehir city "It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered," Mr Turan told Turkish publication Hurriyet Daily News.

The agency has already spent 90 million Turkish liras (£25m) on the development project, but the organisation's head said he did not see the money spent as a loss due to the magnitude of the historical discovery.

The upper reaches of the city were first spotted last year but it was not until now that the size of the discovery became apparent. The organisation has so far taken 44 historical objects under preservation from the site.

Cappadocia's characteristic volcanic rock landscape lends itself to underground cities. The area has been officially registered with Turkey's Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board and no further building work will be done.

Comment: See also:

Inside the intriguing ancient underground city of Derinkuyu


Archeologists discover mythical tomb dedicated to Osiris, god of the dead, in Egypt

Tomb of Osiris
Inside the replica of the tomb dedicated to the god Osiris.
A Spanish-Italian archaeological team, in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, has made an incredible discovery in the necropolis of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, on the West Bank at Thebes, Egypt - an enormous ancient reproduction of the mythical Tomb of Osiris as described by Egyptian legend, complete with multiple shafts and chambers. Inside the tomb complex, researchers found a carving of Osiris and a room with a wall relief depicting a demon holding knives.

Ancient Mexico provides lesson on human unity, experts say

Mexico's Races
© Latin America Herald Tribune
Mexico City - Scientists have found substantial genomic differences among Mexico's indigenous populations that persist despite the widely popular concept of a homogeneous mestizo la raza, experts say.

"There is a high degree of differentiation among indigenous populations, and more so between those who are more isolated," Victor Acuna Alonzo, an anthropologist at the National School of Anthropology and History, told Efe.

An international team of researchers analyzed genome samples taken from more than 1,000 individuals representing 20 indigenous and 11 mestizo, or mixed, population groups, the journal Science reported recently.

The greatest differences were found between the Seri ethnic group living in northwest Mexico and the Lacandones in the southeast, with genomic differences wider than those existing between European and Chinese people.

The Mexican Constitution states that the country's population is multicultural and rooted in its indigenous populations, but the diversity has tended to be hidden or shunned in mainstream discourse that favors the concept of a monolithic culture.

The National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination says one of the main reasons for this is the "mestizo myth" based on the emergence of a national identity that integrates all the distinct components of Mexico's population.
Black Magic

Evidence of sacrificial practices found at 6,000 year old temple in Ukraine

Ukraine Temple
© The Independent, UK
Burnt animal bones found on the remains of stone altars.
Archaeologists exploring the remains of a 6,000 year old temple in Ukraine have found evidence of complex sacrificial practices at the site.

The temple, thought to belong to the ancient Trypillian culture, was found near the modern-day city of Nebelivka and originally unearthed in 2009.

Burnt bones of lambs were found lying on the remains of stone altars, suggesting sacrifices had taken place on the site.

The building, which was two stories high, was part of a vast 288 acre prehistoric settlement which may have contained as many as 1,200 buildings.

The temple itself measures 60 metres by 20 metres and was made of wood and clay. It included a gallery and a courtyard.

Psychological warfare and Aztec death whistles? They produce intimidating human screams

Aztec ritual human sacrifice
© Unknown, 1550
Human Sacrifice, Magliabechi Codex
When odd, skull-shaped grave items were found by archaeologists decades ago at an Aztec temple in Mexico, they were assumed to be mere toys or ornaments, and were catalogued and stored in warehouses.

However, years later, experts discovered they were creepy 'death whistles' that made piercing noises resembling a human scream, which the ancient Aztecs may have used during ceremonies, sacrifices, or during battles to strike fear into their enemies.
Magic Wand

German historian's 'not so happily ever after' fairytale collection to be published in English

The Turnip Prince

The stories, published in The Turnip Prince were compiled by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth around the same time as the Brothers Grimm.
Most fairytales are overrun with wicked witches, entrapped princesses and dashing young princes.

But a new collection offers a different take on the classics - without the Happily Ever After.

The stories were compiled by German historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in the 1880s - around the same time as the Brothers Grimm folk tales - from across the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz.

And now the collection, which lay undiscovered in a local archive for 150 years, is set to be published in English for the first time, the Guardian reports.

While the well-known Grimm fairytales often feature a vulnerable princess and dragon-slaying hero, Schönwerth reverses their roles - offering readers powerful female and vulnerable male characters.

In Schönwerth's fantastical version Cinderella, for example, the heroine uses her golden - not glass - slippers to rescue her lover from beyond the moon.

But his work, which also includes untold tales such as The Stupid Wife and The Girl And The Cow, failed to attract the same attention as that of the Brothers Grimm and faded into obscurity.

Comment: For more background on Schönwerth's folklore and the ancient origins of fairy tales, see:

Gift 2

Ancient bronze naval ram from warship of Mithradates VI discovered in Russia

ancient bronze naval ram
Volnoe Delo Oleg Deripaska Foundation, one of the largest private charities in Russia, announces that an ancient bronze naval ram found in the submerged part of Phanagoria, the largest Greek colony on the Taman peninsula, was named the year's most compelling discovery in Russia by the respected Science and Life magazine.

The bronze ram that was found in Phanagoria during the 10th archaeological season in 2014, used to be a part of a bireme, an ancient oared warship with two decks of oars. The latter was in the army of Mithradates VI, the king of Pontus from 119 to 63 BC who was the most powerful king in Anatolia during the 1st century BC. Often called Rome's greatest enemy, he fought three wars against the Roman republic.

The discovery has shed light on the history of anti-Mithradates protests in Phanagoria that led to the king's ouster. The bireme found in 2012, has long believed to be an ancient Byzantine merchant vessel. However, the one-meter long ram unearthed in 2014 dismissed the previous version and proved that the ship was a warship used by Mithradates's army to quell the protests. The vessel was later burned by the protesters in 63 BC.
Brick Wall

Volcanic ash is secret ingredients for preserving Roman buildings

© Alamy
They brought us roads and a clever sewer system. But it seems the Romans also knew a thing or two about making concrete.

While Britain's 1960s concrete tower blocks and flyovers are crumbling, Roman monuments such as the Pantheon and the Colosseum are still standing.

Now scientists have discovered the secret ingredient behind the longevity of Roman concrete - volcanic ash.

The study by the University of California, in Berkeley, found Roman concrete showed no corrosion, with a smooth surface suggesting long-term stability.

Manufacturing modern cement requires heating a mix of limestone and clay at 1,450C.