Secret History


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."

The Real First World War

Torture has never gone out of fashion it seems

Europe's "Great War" of 1914-1918 does not deserve to be called the "First World War." That title should go to the first real global conflict, Europe's geocidal invasion of other regions that began in the final decade of the 15th Century. European historians have sought to downplay the ferocity, extent and significance of that earlier conflict by treating it as a diffuse historical process, but if we who were victims accept that view it disables our understanding of everything that has happened since then.

As few Indians are likely to know much about what actually happened, let me recount some salient points.

A decade after Columbus landed on Hispaniola in 1492, its indigenous people were extinct. They had done nothing to deserve that fate; Columbus in a letter to his royal sponsors in Spain said they were "loving, uncovetous people," with "good features and beautiful eyes," who "neither carried weapons nor understood the use of such things." Yet many were tortured to death in a vain attempt to get them to reveal non-existent hoards of gold and others worked to death or driven to suicide. Such gratuitous violence continued as Europeans extended their domains in the "New World."

Comment: Looks like some things never change. Murder and genocide is all justified in the name of empire, land and riches


Ancient treasures found in Nile river cemetery

Ancient tombs
© Berber-Abidiya Archaeological Project
Ancient tombs (shown here after being excavated) discovered in modern-day Dangeil date back 2,000 years, to a time when the kingdom Kush flourished on the shores of the Nile River in Sudan.
A 2,000-year-old cemetery with several underground tombs has been discovered near the Nile River in Sudan.

Archaeologists excavated several of the underground tombs, finding artifacts such as a silver ring, engraved with an image of a god, and a faience box, decorated with large eyes, which a researcher believes protected against the evil eye.

Villagers discovered the cemetery accidently in 2002 while digging a ditch near the modern-day village of Dangeil, and archaeological excavations have been ongoing since then. The finds were reported recently in a new book.

The cemetery dates back to a time when a kingdom called Kush flourished in Sudan. Based in the ancient city of Meroe (just south of Dangeil) Kush controlled a vast territory; its northern border stretched to Roman-controlled Egypt. At times, it was ruled by a queen. [See Photos of the Ancient Sudan Cemetery & Tombs]

Unsolved murder: Mysterious 1957 slaying of boy found in cardboard box still baffles nation

Child's corpse, which first appeared to be a doll, was wrapped in a Navaho blanket and weighed only 30 pounds. In 2002, an Ohio psychiatrist contacted Philadelphia cops telling them that a patient claimed her parents used the boy as sex toy and later murdered him.
America has a slew of enduring mysteries: Who killed the Black Dahlia? What happened to Judge Crater? Where is Jimmy Hoffa? One of the most baffling is "Who was the Boy in the Box?"

His face became known to the world on the frigid afternoon of Feb. 25, 1957, when a traveler along the Susquehanna Road in Philadelphia noticed a carton with red letters spelling out the words "Furniture, Fragile, Do not Open with Knife." It originally contained a bassinet.

Inside, there was what at first appeared to be a doll, but was really a child's corpse. He was naked and wrapped in a Navaho blanket. At about 40 inches he weighed only 30 pounds, significantly less than what's normal for a child that height.

He could have been anywhere from 3 to 6 years old. His nails had been carefully trimmed and his hair was clipped in a way that suggested it was not the work of a skilled barber. A few of the seven scars on his body seemed to have come from surgical procedures, and his eye showed signs that he had been treated for a chronic condition.
Bad Guys

Secret History: Banking elite plotted to overthrow FDR

It was a dangerous time in America: The economy was staggering, unemployment was rampant and a banking crisis threatened the entire monetary system.

The newly elected president pursued an ambitious legislative program aimed at easing some of the troubles. But he faced vitriolic opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.

"This is despotism, this is tyranny, this is the annihilation of liberty," one senator wrote to a colleague. "The ordinary American is thus reduced to the status of a robot. The president has not merely signed the death warrant of capitalism, but has ordained the mutilation of the Constitution, unless the friends of liberty, regardless of party, band themselves together to regain their lost freedom."

Those words could be ripped from today's headlines. In fact, author Sally Denton tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, they come from a letter written in 1933 by Republican Sen. Henry D. Hatfield of West Virginia, bemoaning the policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Denton is the author of a new book, The Plots Against the President: FDR, a Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right.

She says that during the tense months between FDR's election in November and his inauguration in March 1933, democracy hung in the balance.