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Ancient Texts Part of Earliest Known Documents

Ancient Stele
© The Schøyen Collection, MS 2063
Detail of the Tower of Babel stele, with the engraving of King Nebuchadnezzar II.

A team of scholars has discovered what might be the oldest representation of the Tower of Babel of Biblical fame, they report in a newly published book.

Carved on a black stone, which has already been dubbed the Tower of Babel stele, the inscription dates to 604-562 BCE.

It was found in the collection of Martin Schøyen, a businessman from Norway who owns the largest private manuscript assemblage formed in the 20th century.

Consisting of 13,717 manuscript items spanning over‭ ‬5,000‭ ‬years, the collection includes parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Buddhist manuscript rescued from the Taliban, and even cylcon symbols by Australia's Aborigines which can be up to 20,000 years old.

The collection also includes a large number of pictographic and cuneiform tablets -- which are some of the earliest known written documents -- seals and royal inscription spanning most of the written history of Mesopotamia, an area near modern Iraq.

A total of 107 cuneiform texts dating from the Uruk period about 5,000 years ago to the Persian period about 2,400 years ago, have been now translated by an international group of scholars and published in the book Cuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection.

The Tower of Babel stele stands out as one of "the stars in the firmament of the book," wrote Andrew George, a professor of Babylonian at the University of London and editor of the book.

The spectacular stone monument clearly shows the Tower and King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled Babylon some 2,500 years ago.
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Rare Cuneiform Script Found on Island of Malta

Ancient Script
© Popular Archaeology
A small-sized find in an ancient megalithic temple stirs the imagination.
Excavations among what many scholars consider to be the world's oldest monumental buildings on the island of Malta continue to unveil surprises and raise new questions about the significance of these megalithic structures and the people who built them. Not least is the latest find - a small but rare, crescent-moon shaped agate stone featuring a 13th-century B.C.E. cuneiform inscription, the likes of which would normally be found much farther east in Mesopotamia.

Led by palaeontology professor Alberto Cazzella of the University of Rome "La Sapienza", the archaeological team found the inscribed stone in the sancturary site of Tas-Silg, a megalithic temple built during the late Neolithic period, and which has been used for various religious and ceremonial purposes by the ancients from the third millennium BC to the Byzantine era. The inscription was translated as a dedication to the Mesopotamian moon god Sin, the father of Ninurta who, for centuries, was the main deity worshiped far to the east in the city of Nippur in Mesopotamia. Nippur was considered a holy city and a pilgrimage site with a scribal school that generated literary texts.
Top Secret

Vatican Throws Light on History as it Opens Secret Archives

Vatican scrolls
© Archivo Segreto Vaticano
As the confidential correspondence of popes, princes and potentates, the Vatican Secret Archives have been jealously guarded for centuries.

But now 100 of the most historically significant documents held by the Vatican's Secret Archives are to go on public display in Rome - the first and probably last time that they will leave the buttressed stone walls of the tiny city state.

The priceless documents span more than a millennium, from the 8th century to modern times, and feature a cast of historical characters ranging from the Knights Templar to Galileo, Martin Luther and Henry VIII.

They are normally kept in air-conditioned, climate-controlled rooms in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, which boasts more than 50 miles of shelves, as well as in a high-security underground bunker.

Archivists have gathered them together for an unprecedented exhibition, to be held in Rome's Capitoline Museums, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Secret Archives in their present form.
Sherlock

Early Christian Church and Cemetery Unearthed in Syria

A Syrian archeological expedition working at the site of Tal Hasaka, northeastern Syria, have unearthed a church and cemetery dating back to the Early Christian Era during its fourth excavation season.

© The Archaeology News Network
Head of the expedition, Abdul-Masih Baghdo, said the church is 22.50 m long and 14.50 m wide, located to the south of a cathedral which was discovered during the past three seasons.

The church was built with basalt stones, with its walls painted with gypsum.

Baghdo pointed out that the church can be entered from the southern part of Tal Hasaka through an entrance leading to a lobby, adding that the first part of the church can be accessed through 3 entrances, 1 m wide each.
Attention

Turkey: Bracelet Reveals Amazing Craftsman's Skill From 7500BC

obsidian bracelet
© CNRS
Polished skills: The obsidian bracelet contains remarkable detail
A 9,500-year-old bracelet has been analysed using the very latest computers - and the results show that it is so intricate even today's craftsmen would struggle to improve it.

Researchers from the Institut Français d'Etudes Anatoliennes in Istanbul and Laboratoire de Tribologie et de Dynamiques des Systèmes studied the bracelet's surface and its micro-topographic features revealing the astounding technical expertise of the maker.

The bracelet is obsidian - which means it's made from volcanic glass - and the researchers analysis of it sheds new light on Neolithic societies, which remain highly mysterious.

Discovered in 1995 at the site of Asıklı Höyük in Turkey, it was analysed by software designed to characterise the 'orange peel effect' on car bodywork.
Blackbox

US: 1,100-Year-Old Mayan Ruins Found in North Georgia

© Flickr Commons
Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of an ancient Mayan city in the mountains of North Georgia believed to be at least 1,100 years old. According to Richard Thornton at Examiner.com, the ruins are reportedly what remains of a city built by Mayans fleeing wars, volcanic eruptions, droughts and famine.

In 1999, University of Georgia archeologist Mark Williams led an expedition to investigate the Kenimer Mound, a large, five-sided pyramid built in approximately 900 A.D. in the foothills of Georgia's tallest mountain, Brasstown Bald. Many local residents has assumed for years that the pyramid was just another wooded hill, but in fact it was a structure built on an existing hill in a method common to Mayans living in Central America as well as to Southeastern Native American tribes.

Speculation has abounded for years as to what could have happened to the people who lived in the great Meso-American societies of the first century. Some historians believed that they simply died out in plagues and food shortages, but others have long speculated about the possibility of mass migration to other regions.
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Deciphered Ancient Tablet Reveals Curse of Greengrocer

Curse Tablet
© Professor Alexander Hollmann
The curse tablet calls on Iao, the Greek name for Yahweh, god of the Old Testament, to strike down Babylas who is identified as being a greengrocer.

A fiery ancient curse inscribed on two sides of a thin lead tablet was meant to afflict, not a king or pharaoh, but a simple greengrocer selling fruits and vegetables some 1,700 years ago in the city of Antioch, researchers find.

Written in Greek, the tablet holding the curse was dropped into a well in Antioch, then one of the Roman Empire's biggest cities in the East, today part of southeast Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The curse calls upon Iao, the Greek name for Yahweh, the god of the Old Testament, to afflict a man named Babylas who is identified as being a greengrocer. The tablet lists his mother's name as Dionysia, "also known as Hesykhia" it reads. The text was translated by Alexander Hollmann of the University of Washington.

The artifact, which is now in the Princeton University Art Museum, was discovered in the 1930s by an archaeological team but had not previously been fully translated. The translation is detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.
Sherlock

Ireland: Archaeologists discover new ancient burial site at Knowth

New archaeological relics from the Neolithic era have surfaced in Knowth, Co Meath, reports the Meath Chronicle. The new finds were discovered at an area just southeast of the passage tomb cemetery at Brú na Binne, which has been the focus of Professor George Eogan's study for the past few decades.
© Google Images
Newgrange

At the site, a "number of previously unknown large-scale monuments" have been discovered. Joe Fenwick, a member of the archaeology department at NUI Galway, conducted a number of "noninvasive, topographical" surveys of the area in conjunction with Professor George Eogan.

With their study, the team has discovered "a complexity of sub-surface wall-footings, earth-filled ditches, and post-pits...This research confirms that the archaeological footprint of Knowth extends over a far greater area than previously thought," notes The Meath Chronicle.
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Humans Originated Near Rivers, Evidence Suggests

Afar People
© Nahid Gani
Afar people, living in the adjoining floodplain of the Jara River. Early humans lived in a similar river-margin environment at Aramis, Ethiopia, 4.4 million years ago.

Just as great civilizations once emerged along the banks of major rivers such as the Tigris, Euphrates, Ganges and Nile, the ancestors of humans might have originated on riversides too, scientists find.

This discovery could help us better understand the environmental forces that shaped the origin of the human lineage, such as factors of the landscape that prompted our ancestors to start walking upright on two legs, researchers said.

What may be the earliest known ancestor of the human lineage, the 4.4-million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus, or "Ardi," was discovered in Aramis in Ethiopia. The precise nature of its habitat has been hotly debated - its discoverers claim it was a woodland creature far removed from rivers, while others argue it lived in grassy, tree-dotted savannas.

To learn more about what the area was like back then, scientists investigated sediments from the site where Ardi was excavated. They noticed layers of sandstone that were likely created by ancient streams regularly depositing sand over time. These rivers may have reached up to 26 feet (8 meters) deep and 1,280 feet (390 m) wide.
Sherlock

Poland: Mysterious Viking-era Graves Found With Treasure

Sword at his side, the so-called Young Warrior (left) is among the thousand-year-old discoveries in a newfound cemetery in Poland, a new study says.

The burial ground holds not only a hoard of precious objects but also hints of human sacrifice - and several dozen graves of a mysterious people with links to both the Vikings and the rulers of the founding states of eastern Europe.
© S. Gronek
Who Was the Young Warrior?

Researchers are especially intrigued by the Young Warrior, who died a violent death in his 20s. The man's jaw is fractured, his skull laced with cut marks. The sword provides further evidence of a martial life.

Objects in the warrior's grave suggest he had ties to one of the region's earliest Slavic monarchs, said the project leader Andrzej Buko, head of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

But the north-south orientation of the man's body is a Scandinavian custom. Slavic graves were oriented east-west, Buko says.
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