Secret History

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.

Gold Coins

1000-year-old coins found in Northern Territory may rewrite Australian history

A find of 1000-year-old coins (not pictured) had led archaeologists to launch an expedition that may rewrite Australian history.
Remember when you were taught that Australia was discovered by James Cook in 1770 who promptly declared it "terra nullius" and claimed it for the British throne?

Turns out that could be completely and utterly wrong.

Five copper coins and a nearly 70-year-old map with an "X" might lead to a discovery that could rewrite Australia's history.

Australian scientist Ian McIntosh, currently Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University in the US, is planning an expedition in July that has stirred up the archaeological community.

The scientist wants to revisit the location where five coins were found in the Northern Territory in 1944 that have proven to be 1000 years old, opening up the possibility that seafarers from distant countries might have landed in Australia much earlier than what is currently believed.

Back in 1944 during World War II, after Japanese bombers had attacked Darwin two years earlier, the Wessel Islands - an uninhabited group of islands off Australia's north coast - had become a strategic position to help protect the mainland.

Australian soldier Maurie Isenberg was stationed on one of the islands to man a radar station and spent his spare time fishing on the idyllic beaches.

While sitting in the sand with his fishing-rod, he discovered a handful of coins in the sand.


Cemetery reveals baby-making season in ancient Egypt

© Lana Williams
Here, the burial of a child found in an 1,800-year-old cemetery at the Dakhleh Oasis in Egypt.
The peak period for baby-making sex in ancient Egypt was in July and August, when the weather was at its hottest.

Researchers made this discovery at a cemetery in the Dakhleh Oasis in Egypt whose burials date back around 1,800 years. The oasis is located about 450 miles (720 kilometers) southwest of Cairo. The people buried in the cemetery lived in the ancient town of Kellis, with a population of at least several thousand. These people lived at a time when the Roman Empire controlled Egypt, when Christianity was spreading but also when traditional Egyptian religious beliefs were still strong.

So far, researchers have uncovered 765 graves, including the remains of 124 individuals that date to between 18 weeks and 45 weeks after conception. The excellent preservation let researchers date the age of the remains at death. The researchers could also pinpoint month of death, as the graves were oriented toward the rising sun, something that changes predictably throughout the year.

The results, combined with other information, suggested the peak period for births at the site was in March and April, and the peak period for conceptions was in July and August, when temperatures at the Dakhleh Oasis can easily reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius).

The peak period for the death of women of childbearing age was also in March and April (exactly mirroring the births), indicating that a substantial number of women died in childbirth.

Although attempts have been made in the past to piece together ancient Egyptian birth patterns using census records, researchers say this is the first time that these patterns have been determined by looking at burials.

"No one has ever looked at it using the actual individuals themselves, the biological aspects of it," said lead researcher Lana Williams, a professor at the University of Central Florida, in an interview with LiveScience.

The team presented their research recently at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Honolulu.


Have scientists found the lost 'white city of gold'? Radar scans taken from the air reveal mysterious ancient city in dense Central American jungle

Researchers believe they may finally have uncovered the lost 'White City of gold' in Honduras using hi-tech scanners that let aircraft 'see' through dense forest.Researchers from the University of Houston and the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) flew over the Mosquitia region in a small plane shooting billions of laser pulses at the ground to create a 3D digital map of the topology beneath the jungle canopy.

Compiling their data, the analysts revealed what appears to be man-made elevation changes that are thought to show a forgotten city plaza dotted with pyramids reclaimed by the jungle.
© University of Houston
The University of Houston and National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping team produced this 3D digital topological map which when examined shows a man-made plaza ringed in red