Secret History
Map

Sherlock

Archaeologists uncover Europe's first civilization?

Image
© Balkan Heritage Field School.
A team of archaeologists have unearthed additional evidence of what may have been Europe's first civilization at a site located near the town of Pazardzhik in southern Bulgaria. Known as Yunatsite, it is a Tell (mound containing archaeological remains) about 110 meters in diameter and 12 meters high, rising above fields next to a small Bulgarian village by the same name. The Tell contains remains of an urbanized settlement dated at its earliest to the early fifth millenium BC.

Directed by Yavor Boyadzhiev of the National Institute of Archaeology and Museums, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, excavators have unearthed artifacts such as weapons, Spondylus jewels, decorated fineware pottery, shards marked by characters/pictograms, and evidence of structures dated to 4900 BC, including fortifications and a recently discovered wooden platform that was likely the floor of a building that had been destroyed by fire.

The excavations are revealing an age-old story of warfare and human cruelty. Writes Boyadzhiev, et. al. at their website: "The Copper age settlement was destroyed by invaders around 4200-4100 cal. BC. Among the ruins of the last Chalcolithic horizon are found the skeletons of its last inhabitants (mainly children and elderly men and women): a testimony of a cruel massacre. Those who survived returned and resettled for a while the devastated settlement but soon even they left it and Tell Yunatsite was abandoned for more than 1000 years". [1]

Flashlight

Archaeologists at 'Pompeii of Japan' site find a 1,400-year-old warrior still wearing his armour

Archaeologists working at Japan's Kanai Higashiura site have unearthed the remains of a Kofun-period warrior and infant - both of whom were killed in a volcanic eruption. The bodies were covered in a layer of volcanic ash that dates to the early 6th century. The discovery, which is a first of its kind, is particularly remarkable in that the warrior is still wearing his lamellar suit. Though 600 armoured suits have been recovered by archaeologists over the years, none were worn by its owner.

Typically, suits like this one, what are called kozaneko or keiko, are found in tombs placed next to the owner, along with various burial goods. But this one is clearly unique.

Archaeologists believe that the Kanai Higashiura site was buried after the eruption of Harunayama Futatsudake in the early part of the 500's. And in fact, nearby sites Kuroimine and Nakasuji were also hit by the disaster. As a result, the team has started to call these sites the "Pompeii of Japan."

Info

Prehistoric farmers made cheese

© iStockPhoto
Evidence reveals people made cheese some 7,000 years ago.
About 7,000 years ago, dairy farmers in modern-day Poland used clay strainers to turn cow's milk into cheese.

The new discovery offers the earliest evidence yet of cheese-making, which began before people developed the ability to digest the lactose sugars in unprocessed milk.

Not only did cheese, which contains very little lactose, provide a valuable source of nutrition for prehistoric Europeans. It also allowed them to store milk in a form that was easy to transport and would keep for months without spoiling.

"The interesting thing is that people at that stage could not digest the lactose in the milk, so processing milk into cheese would have given them the benefit from the nutritious effects of milk without having the side-effect of being ill," said Mélanie Salque, a chemist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

"It was a very good product for them because you don't have to kill animals to get the milk out of them," she added. "Milk was a big development and cheese was as well."

Some 30 years ago, archaeologists described sieve-like pottery fragments found in a region of north-central Poland, where some of the region's earliest farmers settled. The shards dated back to between 7,200 and 6,800 years ago. And the holes in the sieves were tiny, just two or three millimeters (about a tenth of an inch) wide.

Info

Iron Age feast found in England

© British Museum, John Winterburn, Wessex Archaeology; Stephen Crummy
Remnants of an Iron-Age feast, including cattle skulls and 13 cauldrons, have been unearthed in Chiseldon, United Kingdom, according to a report in the latest British Archaeology.

The discovery marks the largest grouping of early cauldrons ever found in Europe. One cauldron features a handle plate in the form of a cow's head; zoomorphic decoration is otherwise unknown on a British cauldron.

"Analysis of the interiors of the cauldrons has even revealed traces of animal fats, a tantalizing suggestion that these objects might have been used in cooking and serving meat-rich stews at Iron-Age feasts over 2,000 ago," Julia Farley, curator of European Iron Age collections at the British Museum, told Discovery News.

Farley's colleague Jody Joy, as well as Alexandra Baldwin and Jamie Hood from the museum, are still studying the artifacts, which were found buried in a 6.6-feet-wide pit. The cauldrons were made from iron and copper alloy in the second or first century B.C.

Given that these cauldrons survived for over 2,000 years, it should come as no surprise that they were built to last.

Each was built to last, with an iron rim and band supporting circular suspension handles. The main body of the cauldrons consisted of a central band and bowl of sheet copper alloy riveted together. "The iron rim and handles gave strength and rigidity, while the copper-alloy bowl acted as an excellent heat conductor," the researchers note.

Info

Real-life 'Hobbit' face revealed

© University of Wollongong
Susan Hayes’ facial approximation of the female Hobbit.
Researchers have revealed what the face of a controversial ancient human nicknamed "the Hobbit" might have looked like.

"She's not what you'd call pretty, but she is definitely distinctive," said anthropologist Susan Hayes, a senior research fellow at University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. The female doesn't have feminine-looking big eyes and she's lacking much of a forehead.

With a background in forensic science, Hayes was able to flesh out the face of the 3-foot (1-meter) tall, 30-year-old female based on remains that were uncovered in the Liang Bua cave on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. To come up with this facial depiction, Hayes uploaded information from 3D imaging scans of the skull into a computer graphic program and also looked at portraits by paleo-artists of the Hobbit, finding these earlier interpretations were skewed toward monkey features; her examination, meanwhile, suggested modern features were more accurate, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The 18,000-year-old skeleton, officially known as Homo floresiensis, gets its nickname from its squat stature. The Hobbit would have weighed between 66 and 77 pounds (30 and 35 kilograms). Since the discovery, scientists have debated whether the specimen actually represents an extinct species in the human family tree, perhaps a diminutive offshoot of Homo erectus, a 1.8-million-year-old hominid and the first to have body proportions comparable to those of modern Homo sapiens. (See Images of Homo Floresiensis)

Info

Labyrinth lies within mysterious desert drawing

© Clive Ruggles/www.cliveruggles.net
The spiral that marks the outer end of the labyrinth.
A large labyrinth lies in the midst of Peru's Nazca Lines, according to the most detailed study on the enigmatic desert etchings created between 2,100 and 1,300 years ago.

Completely hidden in the flat and featureless landscape, the labyrinth was identified after a five-year investigation into the arid Peruvian coastal plain land, about 250 miles south of Lima, where the mysterious geoglyphs are located.

"As you walk it, only the path stretching ahead of you is visible at any given point," Clive Ruggles of the University of Leicester's School of Archaeology and Ancient History, said.

Ruggles and colleague Nicholas Saunders of the University of Bristol's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology walked more than 900 miles of desert, tracing the lines and geometric figures carved between 100 B.C. and 700 A.D. by the Nasca people. They reported their findings in the December issue of the journal Antiquity.

Also known for their obsession over trophy heads - - they boasted the largest collection of human heads in the Andes region of South America -- the Nazca flourished in Peru between the first century B.C. and the fifth century A.D. and slid into oblivion by the time the Inca Empire rose to dominate the Andes.

Pyramid

Is there an ancient 'dark pyramid' in Alaska?

"Farewell Airport could have been a forward staging area to bring in equipment and supplies by helicopters to the 'Square' that you mentioned." - - Airline Pilot and Retired USAF Lt. Col.
Image
© Earthfiles/Frank Flavin
September 26, 2012, aerial of anomalous “green square” (red circle) with surrounding creeks that includes Highpower Creek and Mount McKinley to the southeast.
"The pilot told my dad the Alaska site was 'every bit as hush hush as the Manhattan Project.' ...The pilot also told him that it was not a nuclear device; it was not made by man; nobody is supposed to know this place even exists. ...This thing is some kind of power generator and it's thousands of years old, it's made out of stone like a pyramid. They don't know where it came from, who made it or how it works. But it can generate enough power to power the whole North Slope, all of Alaska, and probably the whole country of Canada!" - Bruce L. Pearson, New Jersey

Info

How did female genital mutilation begin?

© Corbis
Forceps, rubber gloves, and other items used in female genital mutilation (FGM), lie on a table in Hargeysa, Somalia.
United Nations Member States recently approved the first-ever draft resolution calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

Hailed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a major step forward in protecting women and girls and ending impunity for the harmful practice, the text is expected to be endorsed by the UN general assembly this month.

How did the practice begin anyway?

Although theories on the origins of FGM abound, no one really knows when, how or why it started.

"There's no way of knowing the origins of FGM, it appears in many different cultures, from Australian aboriginal tribes to different African societies," medical historian David Gollaher, president and CEO of the California Healthcare Institute (CHI), and the author of Circumcision, told Discovery News.

Used to control women's sexuality, the practice involves the partial or total removal of external genitalia. In its severest form, called infibulation, the vaginal opening is also sewn up, leaving only a small hole for the release of urine and menstrual blood.

While the term infibulation has its roots in ancient Rome, where female slaves had fibulae (broochs) pierced through their labia to prevent them from getting pregnant, a widespread assumption places the origins of female genital cutting in pharaonic Egypt. This would be supported by the contemporary term "pharaonic circumcision."

The definition, however, might be misleading. While there's evidence of male circumcision in Old Kingdom Egypt, there is none for female.

Crusader

Baltic Crusades caused extinctions, end to pagan practices

© Aleks Pluskowski
Stanford Assistant Professor Krish Seetah and Reading University student Rose Calis analyze animal bones in the basement of Riga Castle, Latvia.
The Baltic Crusades left major ecological and cultural scars on medieval pagan villages, and new archaeological evidence shows the campaign caused deforestation, pushed species to extinction and may have even ended a pagan practice of eating dogs.

From the 12th century to the 16th century, a group of a Germanic Christian knights known as the Teutonic Order waged war against pagans, who viewed much of nature as sacred, in what is today Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and parts of Sweden and Russia. An archaeological and anthropological team, led by Stanford University researcher Krish Seetah, has been piecing together the changes that took place during this period, with an emphasis on the crusaders' use of wildlife.

"Underlying war was the use of animals for war," Seetah said in a statement. And some of the project's findings show how the Teutonic Order owed the success of its conquest in part to its horses, which were much larger than the ones used by the pagans. The researchers are also comparing food preparation across cultures, through an analysis of processing tools and cut marks on animal bones.

Pharoah

Oldest pharaoh carvings discovered in Egypt

© Stan Hendrickx, John Coleman Darnell & Maria Carmela Gatto
Look closely -- standing on the top of this boat is a crowned figure who may represent Narmer, the first pharaoh to rule unified Egypt. Oarsmen propel the boat along.
The oldest-known representations of a pharaoh are carved on rocks near the Nile River in southern Egypt, researchers report.

The carvings were first observed and recorded in the 1890s, but only rediscovered in 2008. In them, a white-crowned figure travels in ceremonial processions and on sickle-shaped boats, perhaps representing an early tax-collecting tour of Egypt.

The scenes place the age of the carvings between 3200 B.C. and 3100 B.C., researchers report in the December issue of the journal Antiquity. During that time, Egypt was transitioning into the dynastic rule of the pharaohs.

"It's really the end of prehistory and the beginning of history," in Egypt, study researcher Maria Gatto told LiveScience.