Secret History

Cow Skull

Shamans from around the world gather in Siberia for ceremony timed to coincide with cosmic cycles

Stunning pictures as shamans from around the world gather in Sayan Mountains.
© Alexander Nikolsky
'I don't think I even came across a country with as many practicing shamans as Tuva'.
A shaman, in the dictionary definition, is 'a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, especially among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practise divination and healing.'

These images - giving an extraordinary glimpse inside this largely unknown world - have emerged of a conclave held this summer over nine days near the village Khorum-Dag in Tuva Republic.

Comment: Interestingly enough, research indicates that in the past shamans were mostly women, and the role of shamans was quite different from what is perceived today.


New digital map reveals hidden archaeology of Stonehenge

Stonehenge new monuments map
© University of Birmingham
A host of previously unknown archaeological monuments have been discovered around Stonehenge as part of an unprecedented digital mapping project that will transform our knowledge of this iconic landscape - including remarkable new findings on the world's largest 'super henge', Durrington Walls.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, led by the University of Birmingham in conjunction with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, is the largest project of its kind.

Remote sensing techniques and geophysical surveys have discovered hundreds of new features which now form part of the most detailed archaeological digital map of the Stonehenge landscape ever produced. The startling results of the survey, unveiled in full at the British Science Festival, include 17 previously unknown ritual monuments dating to the period when Stonehenge achieved its iconic shape. Dozens of burial mounds have been mapped in minute detail, including a long barrow (a burial mound dating to before Stonehenge) which revealed a massive timber building, probably used for the ritual inhumation of the dead following a complicated sequence of exposure and excarnation (defleshing), and which was finally covered by an earthen mound.

Hidden henge: Archaeologists discover huge Stonehenge 'sibling' nearby

© Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft (Vienna)
Scientists say they had no idea massive henge of 50 stones was just two miles away.
Archaeologists have discovered that Stonehenge had a huge stone sibling just two miles to the northeast.

Using powerful ground-penetrating radar, which can 'x-ray' archaeological sites to a depth of up to four metres, investigators from Birmingham and Bradford universities and from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna have discovered a 330 metre long line of more than 50 massive stones, buried under part of the bank of Britain's largest pre-historic henge.

"Up till now, we had absolutely no idea that the stones were there," said the co-director of the investigation Professor Vince Gaffney of Birmingham University.

Fire and brimstone: How American preachers reinvented hell

Fire and brimstone survived the Enlightenment and prospered at the dawn of the American republic - but why?
Among the many congratulatory letters George Washington received after assuming the presidency was one from "the Convention of the Universal Church, assembled in Philadelphia." "SIR," it began, "Permit us, in the name of the society which we represent, to concur in the numerous congratulations which have been offered to you." The letter reassured the president that "the peculiar doctrine which we hold, is not less friendly to the order and happiness of society, than it is essential to the perfection of the Deity." One of its signers, Universalist minister John Murray, had known Washington since serving as a chaplain in the Revolutionary War. The minister and his second wife, Judith Sargent Murray, had even stopped to dine with the Washingtons on their way to the Convention. Thanks in large part to their efforts, universal salvation was no longer an obscure creed espoused by a scattered few. Now the Convention sought to establish Universalism as a recognized, socially responsible faith.

Washington responded favorably. "GENTLEMEN," he began, thanking them for their well-wishes, "It gives me the most sensible pleasure to find, that in our nation, however different are the sentiments of citizens on religious doctrines, they generally concur in one thing: for their political professions and practices, are almost universally friendly to the order and happiness of our civil institutions. I am also happy in finding this disposition particularly evinced by your society." Such affirmation of the Universalists' civic friendliness, from none other than the first president of the newly United States, must have gratified the Convention. They were well aware that other Protestant clergy, especially the Calvinists, disdained their "peculiar doctrine."

Archeology team has discovered pieces from the long-lost 19th-century Franklin expedition ships in the Arctic

© Hutton Gallery/Getty
Sir John Franklin led an ultimately doomed expedition in the mid-1840s to find the Northwest Passage.
An archeology team has discovered pieces from the long-lost 19th-century Franklin expedition ships - "the first discovery" of its kind in modern times, the government of Nunavut announced on Monday."An iron fitting from a Royal Navy ship, identified as part of a boat-launching davit, and bearing two broad arrows was found on an island in the southern search area," said the government of Nunavut in a news release.

"A wooden object, possibly a plug for a deck hawse, the iron pipe through which the ship's chain cable would descend into the chain locker below, was also discovered."

In 1845, Sir John Franklin and 128 sailors embarked from England to find the Northwest Passage aboard the ships Erebus and Terror.

Search parties later recorded Inuit testimony that claimed one ship sank in deep water west of King William Island and one ship went perhaps as far south as Queen Maud Gulf or into Wilmot and Crampton Bay.

Red Flag

No empire rules forever: 10 great city-states now forgotten

Rome annihilated Carthage to ensure it would never again rise as a major threat. The Ottomans forever ended Byzantium's glory. The vast armies of Persia were repeatedly beaten back by the Greeks, subjugated by the might of Alexander, and destroyed by the rise of Islam. The fates of once great and proud nations fill the pages of history books - and then there are those forgotten powers even the history books seldom mention.

burgundy western europe
10 Burgundy Western Europe

France's greatest historical rivals are often considered to be England or Germany. Yet, for a time, Burgundy was arguably its greatest opponent.

We've previously mentioned how Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, divided the Carolingian Empire among his sons. His eldest, Lothair, received a vast swath of land that included what would become Burgundy. Over time, a powerful duchy evolved, controlling Burgundy proper, Alsace, Lorraine, Flanders, and Holland. At its height during the 15th century, it was one of the richest and most powerful states in Europe. The Burgundian's rivalry with France knew no bounds - from betraying Joan of Arc to the English, to fighting on foreign soil during the War of the Roses.

For a time, it seemed that fortune favored Burgundy. Indeed, had history turned out differently, proper French might have been a mere dialect and Bourgignon the norm. The sudden death of Duke Charles the Bold on January 5, 1477 changed things entirely, raising the question of the Burgundian Inheritance. Charles's only heir was his daughter, who was supposed to marry into the French royal house. Instead, she married Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor and head of the House of Habsburg. In the subsequent race to claim the Burgundian lands, France merely traded one great rival for two more - Austria and Spain.

Archaeologists find more than 30 burial mounds and tombs dating back to II-I centuries BC in the Yardimli region of Azerbaijan

The archaeologists found more than 30 burial mounds and tombs dating back to II-I centuries BC in the village of Alar in the Yardimli region of Azerbaijan, which is located at an altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level, a senior researcher at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences (ANAS), PhD in history Anar Agalarzade told Trend Sept. 8.

"These mounds and gravestones were found by the archaeologists in the vicinity of the Peshtasar ridge of the Talysh Mountains," he added. Agalarzade also said that a vase, crockery, agate beads and other jewelry, as well as bronze items were also found by the archeologists here.

The archaeologists suggest that these findings refer to the culture of the nomadic tribes of the late Bronze and early Iron Ages. He said that large-scale excavations are planned to be conducted in this area in the future.

Female sculptures from the time of Alexander the Great guard mysterious tomb in Amphipolis, Greece

caryatids amphipolis
© Greek Ministry of Culture
Wearing a sleeved tunic and earrings, the Caryatids feature long, thick hair covering their shoulders
Greek archaeologists made another amazing find Saturday as they unearthed two finely sculpted Caryatids -- female sculptures -- inside a mysterious tomb from the time of Alexander the Great, in Amphipolis, about 65 miles from Thessaloniki.

Carved from marble with traces of blue and red paint, the Caryatids were found when a team of archaeologists led by Katerina Peristeri removed sandy soil in front of a sealing wall.

The sculptures stood between two marble pillars supporting a beam. Wearing a sleeved tunic and earrings, they feature long, thick hair covering their shoulders. While the face of one Caryatid survives almost intact, the other is missing.

"The right arm of the western Caryatid and the left arm of the eastern one are both outstretched, as if to symbolically prevent anyone attempting to enter the grave," the Culture Ministry said in a statement.

Earlier the team discovered two headless, wingless sphinxes guarding the tomb's entrance.

Fifth Viking 'ring fortress' discovered in Denmark - may have been military training camp for English invasion

viking ring fortress
© Thue C. Leibrandt/Wikimedia Commons
A Viking 'ring fortress' at Trelleborg in western Zealand Photo:
Viking 'ring fortress' discovered in Denmark Historians believe distinctive geometric fortresses may have been built by Sweyn Forkbeard as a military training camp from which to launch his invasion of England

Archaeologists in Denmark have discovered a distinctive ring-shaped Viking fortress which historians believe may have been used to launch an invasion of England.

The fortress found on the Danish island of Zealand, around 30 miles south of Copenhagen, is the fifth circular fortress to be unearthed, and the first in over 60 years.

"This is great news," said Lasse Sonne, a Viking historian from the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

"Although there were Vikings in other countries, these circular fortresses are unique to Denmark. Many have given up hope that there were many of them left."

Like previously discovered ring fortresses, the Vallø Borgring is thought to date back to the late tenth century and the reign of Harald Bluetooth, the king who Christianised Denmark and Norway.

Has Jack the Ripper's identity really been revealed using DNA evidence?

Jack the Ripper
© The Independent, UK
With sensational claims emerging today that London's darkest 120-year-old mystery has been solved, Steve Connor takes a forensic look at the evidence.
An amateur sleuth with a book to sell and a scientist working in his spare time claimed to have solved one of the biggest murder mysteries in history by naming Jack the Ripper as a Polish immigrant in the 19th Century after discovering what they said was conclusive DNA evidence.

Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew whose family had emigrated to London to escape pogroms, is "definitely, categorically and absolutely" the man behind the grisly series of murders in 1888 that left at least five women dead and mutilated in the streets of London's East End, said Russell Edwards, the author of the latest in a long-line of speculative books on the affair.

"I've got the only piece of forensic evidence in the whole history of the case. I've spent 14 years working, and we have definitely solved the mystery of who Jack the Ripper was. Only non-believers that want to perpetuate the myth will doubt. This is it now - we have unmasked him," Mr Edwards said.