Secret History


Humans did not wipe out the Neanderthals, research suggests

neanderthal face
© Mauro Cutrona
Neanderthals went extinct in Europe about 40,000 years ago, giving them millennia to coexist with modern humans culturally and sexually, new findings suggest.

This research also suggests that modern humans did not cause Neanderthals to rapidly go extinct, as some researchers have previously suggested, scientists added.

Neanderthals are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, and lived in Europe and Asia. Recent findings suggest that Neanderthals were closely related enough to interbreed with ancestors of modern humans - about 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of anyone outside Africa is Neanderthal in origin.

It has long been uncertain when Neanderthals went extinct, and there has been much debate over whether interactions with modern humans might have driven their disappearance. Neanderthals entered Europe before modern humans did, and prior studies had suggested the last of the Neanderthals held out there on the Iberian Peninsula until about 35,000 years ago, potentially sharing the region with modern humans for millennia. However, more recent findings suggested that some Neanderthal fossils from Europe might be thousands of years older than previously thought, raising the possibility that Neanderthals went extinct before modern humans arrived in Europe starting about 42,000 years ago.

It finally reaches mainstream: Researchers argue 'Black Death' was due to Ebola, not Bubonic plague

© Getty Images
Public health advocates stage street theater to attract people to attend an Ebola awareness and prevention event on August 18, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia.
A new book titled Biology of Plagues: Evidence from Historical Populations, argues that the "Black Death" may not have been caused by the bubonic plague, as history textbooks would suggest, but rather, an Ebola-like virus.

The authors, Christopher Duncan and Susan Scott of the University of Liverpool, claim that the bubonic plague could not have spread across Europe at the rate in which the Black Death did.

Duncan says, "If you look at the way it spreads, it was spreading at a rate of around 30 miles in two to three days. Bubonic plague moves at a pace of around 100 yards a year."

Duncan and Scott also analyzed the symptoms described in historical texts. Autopsy reports detail the internal organs of victims having had dissolved along with the appearance of black liquid. The liquidization of internal organs is a trademark of the Ebola virus and causes its victims tremendous pain.

Comment: The fact is, this information isn't new, and learning from history, including learning about possible protection measures, is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones.


Neanderthals and humans overlapped for 5,400 years

Neanderthal family
A recreation of a Neanderthal family.
The situation might not have been pretty, but Neanderthals and Homo sapiens were both living in Europe at the same time for around 5,400 years, according to a new study that has many other implications.

For starters, it's now possible that Neanderthals and our species mated and otherwise interacted for some 20,000 years.

"Significant interbreeding between Neanderthals and early modern humans had probably already occurred in Asia more than 50,000 years ago, so the dating evidence now indicates that the two populations could have been in some kind of contact with each other for up to 20,000 years, first in Asia then later in Europe," Chris Stringer, research leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum in London, explained.

"This may support the idea that some of the changes in Neanderthal and early modern human technology after 60,000 years ago can be attributed to a process of acculturation between these two human groups," Stringer said.

A look behind the thick façade of civilization

[This is a guest post by Capt. Ray Jason. To read more of his essays, please visit his blog. (And to read more of mine, please buy the book I just published.)]

Shoshoni Tipis
© Unknown
Most of the sky was clear and starry, but ten miles out to sea there was a cluster of clouds filled with lightning. I was anchored peacefully behind a low island that afforded me a perfect view of this dramatic spectacle. Sitting on the foredeck with my back against the mast, I sipped some hot sake and marveled at this exquisite display. Each burst of sky fire was contained within an individual cloud. Some would erupt in amber-colored brightness and others would shimmer in soft silver or lavender. The almost Japanese lantern quality of the clouds sparked a memory within me that I struggled to recall. A second cup of sake unlocked the remembrance vault, and the incident drifted back. It was a good one.

About a year earlier AVENTURA was nestled in a pristine cove with a few Indio houses scattered on the shore. One afternoon I heard the nearby children chattering enthusiastically about something. I took my binoculars topside and aimed them towards the commotion. The father was draping a fresh snakeskin over the low branch of a tree. My guess was that the kids were so excited because they would have fresh snake for dinner that evening. But my guess was delightfully wrong.

Ancient Mayan cities found in jungle of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula

© Ivan Sprajc
The monster mouth doorway at Lagunita. Note the stylized eye of the earth monster and fangs along the doorway jamb.
A monster mouth doorway, ruined pyramid temples and palace remains emerged from the Mexican jungle as archaeologists unearthed two ancient Mayan cities.

Found in the southeastern part of the Mexican state of Campeche, in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula, the cities were hidden in thick vegetation and hardly accessible.

"Aerial photographs helped us in locating the sites," expedition leader Ivan Sprajc, of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), said.

Sprajc and his team found the massive remains as they further explored the area around Chactun, a large Maya city discovered by the Slovenian archaeologist in 2013.

No other site has so far been located in this area, which extends over some 1800 square miles, between the so-called Rio Bec and Chenes regions, both known for their characteristic architectural styles fashioned during the Late and Terminal Classic periods, around 600 - 1000 A.D.

How did an ancient Chinese palace end up in Siberia?

© Reuters
Dotted with archaeological sites, Siberia may be the final piece of an ancient Chinese puzzle.
Siberia is known from many things: Gulags, unmitigated cold, and more recently, a treasure trove of natural resources. A luxurious Chinese palace, however, would throw just about anyone.

But that is just what road crews found outside the city of Abakan, capital of the Russian Federation republic of Khakassia, not far from the northern borders of Mongolia. Clearing a track from Abakan to the village of Askyz, workers stumbling upon the buried foundations of a ruined building. The area is well known for tombs buried under mounds of earth called kurgans, and archaeologists were quickly called in.

What they found was the equivalent of a palm tree on Mars. The site revealed a huge compound far bigger than any kurgan, nearly 5000 feet combined. As unlikely as it was, the structure was the remains of a palace.

Even more unlikely, it was a palace typical of the Han Empire in China, which flourished from 206 BC to 220 AD. Topping it off was the fact the find was several hundred miles from the known borders of the Han Empire, in a the region controlled by the Xiongnu Khanate, a mysterious people with whom imperial Han forces often fought in open, bloody warfare.

Fully excavated in 1940, the site yielded up numerous luxury items from bronze ware to pottery all reminiscent of Han glory, sparking a lively debate as to just how the palace, and its obviously high-ranking occupants, came to live not only only far from the Han homeland, but in enemy territory to boot.

Unexpected find: 5,000-year-old battlefield revealed in prehistoric Cardiff

neolithic battleground
A six-year-old's discovery of a flint tool in a Neolithic ditch was the first of a "significant number" of thrilling finds at a Cardiff hill fortA flint awl from an ancient Cardiff hill fort
Archaeologists hoping to discover Roman and Iron Age finds at a Welsh hillfort were shocked to unearth pottery and arrowheads predating their predicted finds by 4,000 years at the home of a powerful Iron Age community, including flint tools and weapons from 3,600 BC.

Caerau, an Iron Age residency on the outskirts of Cardiff, would have been a battleground more than 5,000 years ago according to the arrowheads, awls, scrapers and polished stone axe fragments found during the surprising excavation.

"Quite frankly, we were amazed," says Dr Dave Wyatt, the co-director of the dig, from Cardiff University.

"Nobody predicted this. Our previous excavation [in 2013] yielded pottery and a mass of finds, including five large roundhouses, showing Iron Age occupation, and there's evidence of Roman and medieval activity.

Unearthed: Fisherman pulls up beastly evidence of early Americans

© Dennis Stanford
A flaked blade unearthed from the Chesapeake Bay along with a mastodon skull shows evidence of weathering in open air, then saltwater marshes, and finally the ocean. Because sea levels submerged the area about 14,000 years ago, the weathering suggests that the tool was made at least that long ago, and that people may have been living on the Atlantic Coast at that time
A 22,000-year-old mastodon skull and tool dredged from the seafloor in the Chesapeake Bay hints of early settlers in North America.

The two relics, which were pulled up together, may come from a place that hasn't been dry land since 14,000 years ago. If so, the combination of the finds may suggest that people lived in North America, and possibly butchered the mastodon, thousands of years before people from the Clovis culture, who are widely thought to be the first settlers of North America and the ancestors of all living Native Americans.

But that hypothesis is controversial, with one expert saying the finds are too far removed from their original setting to draw any conclusions from them. That's because the bones were found in a setting that makes it tricky for scientists to say with certainty where they originated and how they are related to one another.

Oldest evidence for Egyptian mummy making discovered

Flax yarn
© Ron Oldfield and Jana Jones
This resin-saturated flax yarn came from a late Neolithic burial wrapping, found at a grave in Upper Egypt. The sample is now kept at the Bolton Museum in England.
Three thousand years before King Tut's body was brushed with embalming oils and wrapped in linen to rest in a gold-filled tomb, prehistoric Egyptians seeking immortality may have experimented with their own recipes to preserve the dead for the afterlife.

Scientists previously thought that mummy making began in Egypt around 2600 B.C., during the era when the pyramids of Giza were built, known as the Old Kingdom. But now scientists say they have found traces of complex embalming agents on much older bits of burial shrouds that had been sitting in a museum for nearly 100 years after they were dug up along the Nile Valley.

The newly examined linens were peeled from bodies buried at the Egyptian sites known as Badari and Mostagedda during the Late Neolithic and Predynastic periods, between 4500 B.C. and 3100 B.C. Archaeologists first found these pit graves during a British expedition to the region in the 1920s, and researchers had previously assumed that the hot, dry desert sand naturally mummified any well-preserved corpses from this era. [

The harsh environment definitely encouraged preservation, and may have even inspired mummification practices in the first place. But the new research, detailed today (Aug. 13) in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests Egyptians at that time were cooking up embalming mixtures made from animal fats, as well as tree resins and plant extracts that contained powerful antibacterial elements.

The study "highlights the enormous potential of museum collections accumulated a century ago for giving us new insights into the ancient past," said Alice Stevenson, curator of University College London's Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, who was not involved in the study.

Unique Alexander-era tomb unearthed in Greece. But who did it belong to?

burial discovered greece
© Agence France-Presse/Sakis Mitrolidis
A view of a large burial monument dating back to the 4th century BC, in Kasta, near Amphipolis, Greece on August 24, 2013
Archaeologists have unearthed a funeral mound dating from the time of Alexander the Great and believed to be the largest ever discovered in Greece, but are stumped about who was buried in it.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday described the find as "unique" after he visited the site, which dates to the era following Alexander's death, at the ancient town of Amphipolis in northern Greece.

"It is certain that we stand before an exceptionally important find," Samaras said in a statement. "This is a monument with unique characteristics."