Secret History


Archaeologists uncover grim chapter in Owens Valley history

Researchers believe that bullets, musket balls, cavalry uniform buttons and Native American artifacts found in Owens Lake point to the massacre of 35 Paiute Indians by settlers and soldiers in 1863.
© Louis Sahagun/Los Angeles Times
Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, tribal historic preservation officer for the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation, examines a possible grinding stone she unearthed near a burial site.
Lone Pine, California - Oral histories of Native Americans and U.S. Cavalry records offer insights into a horrific massacre here in 1863: Thirty-five Paiute Indians were chased into Owens Lake by settlers and soldiers to drown or be gunned down.

But the records are silent on one important point. Exactly where did the massacre occur on the moonlit night of March 19, 1863?

An archaeological find in what is today a vast alkali playa has revealed a cache of bullets, musket balls, cavalry uniform buttons and Native American artifacts that Paiute tribal members and researchers believe are evidence of the grim chapter in Owens Valley history.

The site has been lost to history for more than 100 years, a time in which Los Angeles drained most of Owens Lake to slake the growing city's thirst. Strong winds and torrential rain in 2009 may have uncovered the artifacts, which were found by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power archaeologists surveying the area in preparation for dust mitigation projects.

Dust wasn't a problem in the mid-19th century at Owens Lake, 200 miles north of Los Angeles. Native Paiutes hunted along the lake and diverted the flow of local streams to irrigate fields of wild hyacinth and yellow nutgrass.

But disputes arose as settlers poured into the valley and began ranching on the tribe's pasturelands. U.S. troops were sent to protect the settlers and the land and water they had effectively stolen from the Paiutes.


Who wrote the bible and why it matters

Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors -- a faulty creation story here, a historical mistake there, a contradiction or two in some other place. But is it possible that the problem is worse than that -- that the Bible actually contains lies?

Most people wouldn't put it that way, since the Bible is, after all, sacred Scripture for millions on our planet. But good Christian scholars of the Bible, including the top Protestant and Catholic scholars of America, will tell you that the Bible is full of lies, even if they refuse to use the term. And here is the truth: Many of the books of the New Testament were written by people who lied about their identity, claiming to be a famous apostle -- Peter, Paul or James -- knowing full well they were someone else. In modern parlance, that is a lie, and a book written by someone who lies about his identity is a forgery.

Most modern scholars of the Bible shy away from these terms, and for understandable reasons, some having to do with their clientele. Teaching in Christian seminaries, or to largely Christian undergraduate populations, who wants to denigrate the cherished texts of Scripture by calling them forgeries built on lies? And so scholars use a different term for this phenomenon and call such books "pseudepigrapha."

You will find this antiseptic term throughout the writings of modern scholars of the Bible. It's the term used in university classes on the New Testament, and in seminary courses, and in Ph.D. seminars. What the people who use the term do not tell you is that it literally means "writing that is inscribed with a lie."

Eye 1

Nazi war criminals got away with atrocities because of evidence hidden in UK and US archives

Thousands of pages of documentation describe atrocities carried out in both Eastern and Western Europe
Nazi war criminals escaped prosecution because crucial evidence in Britain's National Archives and in government archives in the United States was ignored for decades.

The thousands of pages of documentation describe atrocities carried out in both Eastern and Western Europe - but have only been examined by German government war crimes investigators over the past four years, after most of the suspects and witnesses had died. At no stage had British or US intelligence told the Germans of the existence of the material.

Much of the original material was gathered when British and US intelligence services bugged a small number of prisoner of war camps near London and Washington DC during World War Two. For years the documents were kept under wraps by the intelligence services because the prisoner-of-war camp bugging program would have been regarded as illegal under international law - and, more importantly, because, during most of the Cold War, the US and Britain did not want to alert the Soviets to the fact that they had developed this intelligence gathering technique.

"All the relevant material was of course known to the British and American intelligence services during and after the war - and was in the public domain after its declassification in the US in the 1970s and the UK in 1996. However, prior to 2009, no use was ever made of the material to track down war criminals. If the direct evidence and the indirect leads contained in the material, had been used earlier by official war crime investigators, there is no doubt that a number of war criminals would have been arrested and brought to trial," said London School of Economics historian, Professor Sönke Neitzel, co-author of Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing and Dying - a recently published book on the World War Two allied prisoner-of-war camp bugging operation.

"It is regrettable that the intelligence services in the UK and the US did not make use of the documentation and did not pass it on to the German war crime investigation authorities in the latter part of the 20th century, before many of the suspects had died," he said.

Eye 1

Mass grave uncovered containing dozens of Palestinians killed in 1948 war (ethnic cleansing) that founded Israel

Six mass graves features the remains of dozens of Palestinians killed during the Israeli-Arab war of 1948, when the Jewish state was founded have been uncovered in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv.

An official at the Muslim cemetery there told AFP that the grisly find happened on Wednesday when ground subsided as builders carried out renovation work.

In 1948 Jaffa was a Palestinian town but there was an exodus of most of its Arab population when it fell to the fledgling Israeli army and right-wing Jewish militias.


The grisly find occurred on Wednesday when ground subsided as workers carried out renovations

Researcher and historian Mahmoud Obeid, a Jaffa resident, told As-Safri newspaper: 'We discovered six mass graves, two of which we dug up. Our estimate is that they contain around 200 bodies, with an unknown additional number in the other graves.

'The remains belong to people of different ages, including women, children and the elderly, some of which bear signs of violence.'

Cloud Precipitation

Skeleton Lake of Roopkund, India. The surprise is what killed them ...

© Atlas Obscura
In 1942 a British forest guard in Roopkund, India, made an alarming discovery. More than three miles above sea level, he stumbled across a frozen lake surrounded by hundreds of human skeletons. That summer, the melting ice revealed even more remains, floating in the water and lying haphazardly around the lake's edges.

Since this was the height of World War II, there were fears that the skeletons might belong to Japanese soldiers who had died of exposure while sneaking through India. The British government, terrified of a Japanese land invasion, sent a team of investigators to determine whether this was true. Upon examination they realized these bones weren't Japanese soldiers at all, but of a much much older vintage. But what killed them? Many theories were put forth, including an epidemic, landslide, and ritual suicide. For six decades, no one was able to shed light on the mystery of "Skeleton Lake."

In 2004 a scientific expedition offered the first plausible explanation of the mysterious deaths. The answer was stranger than anyone had guessed.


Ancient Egyptians crafted jewelry from meteorites

© Open University
An analysis of this Gerzeh bead showed it was crafted from a space rock.
An ancient Egyptian iron bead found inside a 5,000-year-old tomb was crafted from a meteorite, new research shows.

The tube-shaped piece of jewelry was first discovered in 1911 at the Gerzeh cemetery, roughly 40 miles (70 kilometers) south of Cairo. Dating between 3350 B.C. and 3600 B.C., beads found at the burial site represent the first known examples of iron use in ancient Egypt, thousands of years before Egypt's Iron Age. And their cosmic origins were suspected from the start.

Soon after the beads were discovered, researchers showed that the metal jewelry was rich in nickel, a signature of iron meteorites. But in the 1980s, academics cast doubt on the beads' celestial source, arguing that the high nickel content could have been the result of smelting.


Shaman 'rainmaking' center discovered in South Africa

© Simone Brunton
Rising 1,000 feet (300 meters) above the ground the hilltop site of Ratho Kroonkop, in South Africa, was used by shamans to perform rainmaking rituals centuries ago.
A towering "rain control" site, where shamans would have asked the gods to open up the skies centuries ago, has been discovered in South Africa.

Located in a semiarid area of the country, near Botswana and Zimbabwe, the site of Ratho Kroonkop (RKK) sits atop a 1,000-foot-tall (300 meters) hill and contains two naturally formed "rock tanks." These tanks are depressions in the rock created when water weakens the underlying sandstone. When the scientists excavated one of them, they found over 30,000 animal specimens, including the remains of rhinoceros, zebra and even giraffe.

"What makes RKK special is that every piece of faunal material found at RKK can in some way be linked to rain control," researcher Simone Brunton, a doctoral candidate at the University of Cape Town, wrote in an email to LiveScience.

Arrow Down

Earliest case of child abuse discovered in Egyptian cemetery?

© Sandra Wheeler
When the researchers came across the abused toddler, labeled "Burial 519," in Kellis 2, nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first. But when they began brushing the sand away, they noticed prominent fractures on the child's arms. The excavated in situ burial of 519 shown here.
A 2- to 3-year-old child from a Romano-Christian-period cemetery in Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt, shows evidence of physical child abuse, archaeologists have found. The child, who lived around 2,000 years ago, represents the earliest documented case of child abuse in the archaeological record, and the first case ever found in Egypt, researchers say.

The Dakhleh Oasis is one of seven oases in Egypt's Western Desert. The site has seen continuous human occupation since the Neolithic period, making it the focus of several archaeological investigations, said lead researcher Sandra Wheeler, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Central Florida. Moreover, the cemeteries in the oasis allow scientists to take a unique look at the beginnings of Christianity in Egypt.

In particular, the so-called Kellis 2 cemetery, which is located in the Dakhleh Oasis town of Kellis (southwest of Cairo), reflects Christian mortuary practices. For example, "instead of having children in different places, everyone is put in one place, which is an unusual practice at this time," Wheeler told LiveScience. Dating methods using radioactive carbon from skeletons suggest the cemetery was used between A.D. 50 and A.D. 450.

When the researchers came across the abused toddler - labeled "Burial 519" - in Kellis 2, nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first. But when Wheeler's colleague Tosha Duprasbegan brushing the sand away, she noticed prominent fractures on the child's arms.

"She thought, 'Whoa, this was weird,' and then she found another fracture on the collarbone," Wheeler said. "We have some other kids that show evidence of skeletal trauma, but this is the only one that had these really extreme fracture patterns."


5000 cave paintings discovered in Mexico; likely made by early hunter-gatherers

Nearly 5,000 cave paintings have been discovered in a mountain range in a section of northeastern Mexico near the U.S. border.
© National Institute of History and Anthropology in Mexico
A photo of one of the cave paintings discovered by archaeologists in Mexico near the U.S. border.
Archaeologists were stunned by the find, as previous research did not suggest pre-Hispanic groups resided so far north. The red, white and black paintings were found in 11 different sites, and were likely made by early hunter-gatherers. The images depict humans in activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering, and animals like deer, lizards and centipedes.

"The find [is] important because with this we were able to document the presence of pre-Hispanic groups in Burgos, where before we said there were none," said archaeologist Martha Garcia Sanchez of the Autonomous University of Zacatecas.

"These groups escaped Spanish control for almost 200 years," Garcia Sanchez said. "They fled to the San Carlos mountain range where they had water, plants and animals to eat. The Spaniards didn't go into the mountain and its valleys."


Villagers find ancient sports statue in Mexico

© Agence France-Presse
Handout picture released by the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH) on May 20, 2013.
Villagers installing a water pipe in southwestern Mexico stumbled onto an ancient granite statue depicting a player from a pre-Hispanic ball game, the national anthropology institute said Monday.

The stone had been sliced at the neck, like a decapitation, and buried in a ritual that was common at the time, the National Anthropology and History Institute said in a statement.

There are indications that the 1.65-meter (5-foot-4) tall statue, which depicts a bow-legged ballplayer with his arms crossed, was built onto an I-shaped ball game field before it was buried and could be more than 1,000 years old.