Secret History


World's largest pyramid discovered - Lost Mayan city of Mirador

Bigger than downtown Los Angeles

It's the tallest known pyramid in the New World and possibly the biggest pyramid by volume on earth, 2.8 million cubic meters.

For years, it was mistaken for a big hill.

Amazingly, this pyramid was unknown just a few decades ago and is part of collection of ruins covering an area bigger than downtown Los Angeles.

Stories like this are a reminder to take schoolbook archeology with a grain of salt. Not only do we not know all that there is to know, it appears that people trying to get the answers aren't getting much help figuring it out.


Ancient port discovered at Hinkley Point, U.K.

© This is Cornwall
A Roman brooch or fibula, one of the artefacts found during preliminary work at Hinkley Point. Left, Rachel Bellamy and Jane Hill, from the Somerset Heritage Service, with bones, stones and pottery. Right, a piece of ornate Samian ware Roman pottery, found during the work
The remains of what might be one of the oldest ports in the Westcountry have been discovered by the largest single archaeological site-survey ever undertaken in the region.

The historic investigation covers an area of land the equivalent of 262 football pitches at the site of the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor on the Somerset coast.

Surprisingly, given the geography involved, the remains of what looks to be an ancient harbour have been found nearly a mile inland.

Historians have been able to establish that the nuclear power station is situated on what used to be an isolated headland - until Roman times a large estuarine inlet filled the shallow valley to the south.

This provided a sheltered spot where ancient people, going back 4,000 years or even longer, could moor their primitive boats and fish.

These astonishing facts were revealed yesterday at an event staged at Somerset Museum where details of an archaeological excavation and education outreach programme funded by EDF Energy and carried out by Somerset County Council (SCC) were unveiled.

Not only have archaeologists discovered what looks to be the remains of an estuarine community, they have also uncovered the first ever Saxon style 'grub hut' to be found anywhere west of the River Parrett.


Stonehenge may have been burial site for Stone Age elite, say archaeologists

© Eyebyte/Alamy
Theories of what Stonehenge was include a temple, observatory, calendar, a site for fairs or ritual feasting, or a centre for healing.
Dating cremated bone fragments of men, women and children found at site puts origin of first circle back 500 years to 3,000BC

Centuries before the first massive sarsen stone was hauled into place at Stonehenge, the world's most famous prehistoric monument may have begun life as a giant burial ground, according to a theory disclosed on Saturday.

More than 50,000 cremated bone fragments, of 63 individuals buried at Stonehenge, have been excavated and studied for the first time by a team led by archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who has been working at the site and on nearby monuments for decades. He now believes the earliest burials long predate the monument in its current form.

The first bluestones, the smaller standing stones, were brought from Wales and placed as grave markers around 3,000BC, and it remained a giant circular graveyard for at least 200 years, with sporadic burials after that, he claims.


Stone-Age skeletons unearthed in Sahara Desert

© Mary Anne Tafuri
Archaeologists uncovered 20 Stone Age skeletons in the Sahara Desert. The burials spanned thousands of years, suggesting the place was a persistent cemetery for the local people.
Archaeologists have uncovered 20 Stone-Age skeletons in and around a rock shelter in Libya's Sahara desert, according to a new study.

The skeletons date between 8,000 and 4,200 years ago, meaning the burial place was used for millennia.

"It must have been a place of memory," said study co-author Mary Anne Tafuri, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge. "People throughout time have kept it, and they have buried their people, over and over, generation after generation."

About 15 women and children were buried in the rock shelter, while five men and juveniles were buried under giant stone heaps called tumuli outside the shelter during a later period, when the region turned to desert.

The findings, which are detailed in the March issue of the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, suggest the culture changed with the climate.


Human ancestors were fashion conscious

© Marian Vanhaeren
Keeping up with fashions. A close examination of shell beads from Blombos Cave (left) suggests that ancient humans there started off with one style of jewelry (bottom) and then shifted to another (middle) over the course of 3000 years.
The 2013 Academy Awards were, as always, as much about making appearances as about making films, as red carpet watchers noted fashion trends and faux pas. Both Jessica Chastain and Naomi Watts wore Armani, although fortunately not the same dress. And Best Supporting Actress Anne Hathaway switched from Valentino to a controversial pale pink Prada at the last minute because her original dress looked too much like someone else's. Of course, no actress would be caught dead wearing the same style 2 years in a row. A new study of ancient beaded jewelry from a South African cave finds that ancient humans were no different, avoiding outdated styles as early as 75,000 years ago.

Personal ornaments, often in the form of beads worn as necklaces or bracelets, are considered by archaeologists as a key sign of sophisticated symbolic behavior, communicating either membership in a group or individual identity. Such ornaments are ubiquitous in so-called Upper Paleolithic sites in Europe beginning about 40,000 years ago, where they were made from many different materials - animal and human teeth, bone and ivory, stone, and mollusk shells - and often varied widely among regions and sites.

Even more ancient personal ornaments go back to at least 100,000 years ago in Africa and the Near East. But this earlier jewelry seems less variable and was nearly always made from mollusk shells. So some archaeologists have questioned whether these earlier ornaments played the same symbolic roles as the later ones, or even whether they were made by humans at all.


First evidence of a Viking-like 'Sunstone' found

© Alderney Museum
Researchers say this crystal found at the Alderney shipwreck near the Channel Islands could prove fabled Viking sunstones really did exist.
Ancient lore has suggested that the Vikings used special crystals as optical compasses to find their way under less than sunny skies. Though none of these so-called "sunstones" have ever been found at Viking archaeological sites, a crystal uncovered in a British shipwreck could prove they did indeed exist, researchers say.

Divers recently found the rhombohedral crystal amongst the wreckage of the Alderney, an Elizabethan ship that sank near the Channel Islands in 1592. The stone was next to a pair of navigation dividers, suggesting it may have been kept with the ship's other navigational tools, according to the research team headed by scientists at the University of Rennes.

A chemical analysis confirmed that the stone was Icelandic Spar, or calcite crystal, believed to be the Vikings' mineral of choice for their fabled sunstones, mentioned in the 13th century Viking saga of Saint Olaf.


Wealthy ancient Egyptians suffered disease

© Miguel Botella Lopez
Two skulls excavated from the Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis in Egypt.
Even the best-off ancient Egyptians suffered from malnutrition and preventable disease, a new analysis of mummies and skeletons finds.

The bodies come from the Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis, which is near the modern city of Aswan in southern Egypt. Constructed in the 12th dynasty (between 1939 B.C. and 1760 B.C.) and re-used in later periods, the necropolis contains remains of people from across the social spectrum.

An analysis of more than 200 of these bodies, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, finds that wealth did not necessarily buy health in ancient Egypt.


The discarded infants of ancient Poggio Civitate horrify, provoke and fascinate 2,500 years later

© Unknown
More than 2,500 years after tiny infant bones were scattered, perhaps offhandedly, amid animal remains on the floor of an Etruscan workshop, recently-discovered fragments of those bones are causing a stir far beyond Italy's Poggio Civitate Archaeological Project.

University of Massachusetts Amherst archaeologist Anthony Tuck recently told an Archaeological Institute America annual meeting in Seattle that the bones discovered in the ancient Etruscan town of Poggio Civitate were "simply either left on the floor of the workshop or ended up in an area with a heavy concentration of other discarded remains of butchered animals."

It is an image that has, in ensuing weeks, resonated powerfully, if not always accurately, in the international press as everyone from religious fundamentalists to luridly invasive tabloids has scrambled to assemble narratives for the baby bones that might be either more or less appalling to modern sensibilities - narratives, notes Tuck, that tell us more about ourselves than they do about perinatal death in ancient Italy.

"Romans may have dumped remains of dead kids with their rubbish," screamed an Asian News International headline; "Grisly discoveries reveal unsympathetic attitudes," wrote a Daily Mail reporter. Other news outlets placed the excavated site on a timeline that might have associated it either with BCE cave dwellers or alternatively in the path of seventh century CE invaders.


Shipwreck may contain near-mythical Viking navigation aid

© AFP Photo
An oblong crystal found in the wreck of a 16th-century English warship is a sunstone, a near-mythical navigational aid said to have been used by Viking mariners, researchers said on Wednesday.

The stone is made of Iceland spar, a transparent, naturally-occurring calcite crystal that polarises light and can get a bearing on the Sun, they said.

It was found in the remains of a ship that had been dispatched to France in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I as a precaution against a second Spanish Armada but foundered off the island of Alderney, in the Channel.

British and French scientists have long argued that the find is a sunstone - a device that fractures the light, enabling seafarers to locate the Sun even when it is behind clouds or has dipped below the horizon.

Sunstones, according to a theory first aired 45 years ago, helped the great Norse mariners to navigate their way to Iceland and even perhaps as far as North America during the Viking heyday of 900-1200 AD, way before the magnetic compass was introduced in Europe in the 13th century.

But there is only a sketchy reference in ancient Norse literature to a "solarsteinn," which means the idea has remained frustratingly without solid proof.


Megalithic stone circles found on Male Mahadeshwara Hills, India

© The Hindu
A megalithic stone circle dating back to about 800 B.C. found at Mari Kote in MM hill ranges in Chamarajanagar district.
Over 20 megalithic stone circles dating back to about 800 BC were discovered at Male Mahadeshwara Hills in Chamarajanagar district, according to T. Murugeshi, Associate Professor in the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, MSRS College, Shirva.

In a press release issued here, Mr. Murugeshi said that Megalithic Culture or Iron Age has been considered as a formative period in the South Indian history.

He said that he had gone with R. Gopal, Director of State Archaeology, Mysore, on a survey of a deserted temple at Alambady on the right bank of River Cauvery on the Male Mahadeshwara (MM) Hills near Gopinathapuram in Kollegal taluk of Chamarajanagar district on February 27.

They had gone on a survey of the temple on a request by Pattada Immdi Mahadeva Swami of Saluru Bruhan Math.