Secret History


Vast 5,000 year-old underground city discovered in central Turkey

© Creative Commons/Katpatuka
Tatlarin, another overground city near Nevşehir
A 5,000 year-old underground city thought to be the largest in the world has been discovered in central Turkey.

The subterranean settlement was discovered in the Nevşehir province of Turkey's Central Anatolia region, in the historical area of Cappadocia.

Cappadocia is famous in archaeological circles for its large number of underground settlement.

But the site, located around the Nevşehir hill fort near the city of Kayseri, appears to dwarf all other finds to date.

Hasan Ünver, the mayor of the city on those outskirts the discovery was found, said other underground cities were nothing more than a "kitchen" compared to the newly uncovered settlement.

Mehmet Ergün Turan, the head of Turkey's housing development administration, said the discovery was made during the groundwork for a housing project meant to develop the area.

Derinkuyu underground city, to the south of Nevşehir city "It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered," Mr Turan told Turkish publication Hurriyet Daily News.

The agency has already spent 90 million Turkish liras (£25m) on the development project, but the organisation's head said he did not see the money spent as a loss due to the magnitude of the historical discovery.

The upper reaches of the city were first spotted last year but it was not until now that the size of the discovery became apparent. The organisation has so far taken 44 historical objects under preservation from the site.

Cappadocia's characteristic volcanic rock landscape lends itself to underground cities. The area has been officially registered with Turkey's Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board and no further building work will be done.

Comment: See also:

Inside the intriguing ancient underground city of Derinkuyu


Archeologists discover mythical tomb dedicated to Osiris, god of the dead, in Egypt

Inside the replica of the tomb dedicated to the god Osiris.
A Spanish-Italian archaeological team, in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, has made an incredible discovery in the necropolis of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, on the West Bank at Thebes, Egypt - an enormous ancient reproduction of the mythical Tomb of Osiris as described by Egyptian legend, complete with multiple shafts and chambers. Inside the tomb complex, researchers found a carving of Osiris and a room with a wall relief depicting a demon holding knives.


Ancient Mexico provides lesson on human unity, experts say

© Latin America Herald Tribune
Mexico City - Scientists have found substantial genomic differences among Mexico's indigenous populations that persist despite the widely popular concept of a homogeneous mestizo la raza, experts say.

"There is a high degree of differentiation among indigenous populations, and more so between those who are more isolated," Victor Acuna Alonzo, an anthropologist at the National School of Anthropology and History, told Efe.

An international team of researchers analyzed genome samples taken from more than 1,000 individuals representing 20 indigenous and 11 mestizo, or mixed, population groups, the journal Science reported recently.

The greatest differences were found between the Seri ethnic group living in northwest Mexico and the Lacandones in the southeast, with genomic differences wider than those existing between European and Chinese people.

The Mexican Constitution states that the country's population is multicultural and rooted in its indigenous populations, but the diversity has tended to be hidden or shunned in mainstream discourse that favors the concept of a monolithic culture.

The National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination says one of the main reasons for this is the "mestizo myth" based on the emergence of a national identity that integrates all the distinct components of Mexico's population.

Black Magic

Evidence of sacrificial practices found at 6,000 year old temple in Ukraine

© The Independent, UK
Burnt animal bones found on the remains of stone altars.
Archaeologists exploring the remains of a 6,000 year old temple in Ukraine have found evidence of complex sacrificial practices at the site.

The temple, thought to belong to the ancient Trypillian culture, was found near the modern-day city of Nebelivka and originally unearthed in 2009.

Burnt bones of lambs were found lying on the remains of stone altars, suggesting sacrifices had taken place on the site.

The building, which was two stories high, was part of a vast 288 acre prehistoric settlement which may have contained as many as 1,200 buildings.

The temple itself measures 60 metres by 20 metres and was made of wood and clay. It included a gallery and a courtyard.


Psychological warfare and Aztec death whistles? They produce intimidating human screams

© Unknown, 1550
Human Sacrifice, Magliabechi Codex
When odd, skull-shaped grave items were found by archaeologists decades ago at an Aztec temple in Mexico, they were assumed to be mere toys or ornaments, and were catalogued and stored in warehouses.

However, years later, experts discovered they were creepy 'death whistles' that made piercing noises resembling a human scream, which the ancient Aztecs may have used during ceremonies, sacrifices, or during battles to strike fear into their enemies.

Magic Wand

German historian's 'not so happily ever after' fairytale collection to be published in English

The stories, published in The Turnip Prince were compiled by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth around the same time as the Brothers Grimm.
Most fairytales are overrun with wicked witches, entrapped princesses and dashing young princes.

But a new collection offers a different take on the classics - without the Happily Ever After.

The stories were compiled by German historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in the 1880s - around the same time as the Brothers Grimm folk tales - from across the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz.

And now the collection, which lay undiscovered in a local archive for 150 years, is set to be published in English for the first time, the Guardian reports.

While the well-known Grimm fairytales often feature a vulnerable princess and dragon-slaying hero, Schönwerth reverses their roles - offering readers powerful female and vulnerable male characters.

In Schönwerth's fantastical version Cinderella, for example, the heroine uses her golden - not glass - slippers to rescue her lover from beyond the moon.

But his work, which also includes untold tales such as The Stupid Wife and The Girl And The Cow, failed to attract the same attention as that of the Brothers Grimm and faded into obscurity.

Comment: For more background on Schönwerth's folklore and the ancient origins of fairy tales, see:

Gift 2

Ancient bronze naval ram from warship of Mithradates VI discovered in Russia

Volnoe Delo Oleg Deripaska Foundation, one of the largest private charities in Russia, announces that an ancient bronze naval ram found in the submerged part of Phanagoria, the largest Greek colony on the Taman peninsula, was named the year's most compelling discovery in Russia by the respected Science and Life magazine.

The bronze ram that was found in Phanagoria during the 10th archaeological season in 2014, used to be a part of a bireme, an ancient oared warship with two decks of oars. The latter was in the army of Mithradates VI, the king of Pontus from 119 to 63 BC who was the most powerful king in Anatolia during the 1st century BC. Often called Rome's greatest enemy, he fought three wars against the Roman republic.

The discovery has shed light on the history of anti-Mithradates protests in Phanagoria that led to the king's ouster. The bireme found in 2012, has long believed to be an ancient Byzantine merchant vessel. However, the one-meter long ram unearthed in 2014 dismissed the previous version and proved that the ship was a warship used by Mithradates's army to quell the protests. The vessel was later burned by the protesters in 63 BC.

Brick Wall

Volcanic ash is secret ingredients for preserving Roman buildings

© Alamy
They brought us roads and a clever sewer system. But it seems the Romans also knew a thing or two about making concrete.

While Britain's 1960s concrete tower blocks and flyovers are crumbling, Roman monuments such as the Pantheon and the Colosseum are still standing.

Now scientists have discovered the secret ingredient behind the longevity of Roman concrete - volcanic ash.

The study by the University of California, in Berkeley, found Roman concrete showed no corrosion, with a smooth surface suggesting long-term stability.

Manufacturing modern cement requires heating a mix of limestone and clay at 1,450C.


Synagogue from Roman Empire unearthed in Israel

Excavations in town of Magdala in Golan Heights reveal remains of ancient structure; "historic and rare findings" include fragments of columns, parts of benches and pottery.

© Michael Osband
A part of the ancient structure discovered during excavations.
Archaeologists conducting excavations in the town of Magdala, situated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, exposed a public structure from the Roman period, it was reported Thursday.

The structure's grandeur led researchers to conclude that the site contained the ruins of an ancient synagogue. "We're still at an early stage of unearthing the structure," they said. "We found parts of the structure, fragments of columns, parts of benches, the threshold of a door and pottery fragments."

Christmas Tree

'Many of these gods come from stars': The truth behind the Christmas adventures of baby Jesus?

© Dimitrios/Shutterstock
The Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ as a child, a Byzantine iconography in the interior of Hagios
Valerie Tarico interviews Dr. Tony Nugent, scholar of world religions. Dr. Nugent is a symbologist, an expert in ancient symbols. He taught at Seattle University for fifteen years in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and is an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Most Americans know how Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25: The Emperor Constantine chose the date because it was winter solstice in the Julian Calendar, the birthday of dying and rising gods like Mithra and Sol. Some people also know that our delightful mélange of Christmas festivities originated in ancient Norse, Sumerian, Roman and Druid traditions - or, in the case of Rudolph, on Madison Avenue.

But where does the Christmas story itself come from: Jesus in the manger, the angels and wise men?

The familiar Christmas story, including the virgin conception and birth of Jesus, is found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Scholars have pointed out that these stories are somewhat disconnected from other parts of these Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. In fact, by the time he is a young boy in the temple, Jesus's parents seem to have forgotten the virgin birth. They act surprised by his odd behavior. There is never any other mention in the New Testament of these incredible events! These stories seem to be an afterthought, written later than the rest of the gospels that contain them.

Comment: Indeed. The other two gospels, Mark (which was used as a source for Matthew and Luke) and John, totally lack a birth story for Jesus. And the earliest known form of the gospel of Luke (included in the first New Testament canon by Marcion) also lacked the birth story. They are fictions written generations after the events they presume to relate.