Secret History


Paving over history: Ancient Greek fortress found in Jerusalem parking lot

© Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Shown are the remains of the citadel and tower.
The remnants of the Acra, a fortress built by the Greek King Antiochus IV more than 2,000 years ago and sought for over 100 years, has emerged from a parking lot in Jerusalem, Israeli archaeologists said Tuesday.

Mentioned in Jewish biblical sources and by historians like Josephus Flavius, the fortress was unearthed after 10 years of excavations under the parking lot.

The discovery solved "one of Jerusalem's greatest archaeological mysteries," the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said.


4,000 year old secret tunnel discovered under ancient Hittite castle in Turkey

© AA Photos
The excavation team has discovered a structure like a hidden tunnel in the Gevale Castle. The tunnel establishes a connection with the outside but is hard to realize from the outside of the castle.
A secret tunnel has been discovered in Gevale Castle, located on the Takkel Mountain in the Central Anatolian province of Konya's Selçuklu district, which had been home to many civilizations during the Hittite, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Karamanids and Ottoman eras.

The head of the excavations at the castle, Necmettin Erbakan University History of Arts Prof. Ahmet Çaycı, said the excavation works at the site had been carried out with a team of 30 people.

He said they had discovered many historical findings which were delivered to the Directorate of Museums after they were inventoried.


14,000-year-old Ice Age engravings found on British Isles

© Sarah Duffy
Newly-found stone artifacts found on the English Channel island of Jersey could hold some of the oldest man-made carvings ever found on the British Isles, according to a report from BBC News.

The archeologists who found the artifacts have yet to finish their analysis and publish the results, but preliminary reports have dated the stone carvings to about 14,000 year ago.

The artifacts themselves are stone pieces with criss-crossed line engravings similar to those found at other Paleolithic sites in northern Europe.

If this estimate holds up, it would make artifacts the oldest carvings in the UK since a discovery in 2003. The estimate would also put the carvings' origin at around the end of the last ice age.

The research team that discovered the artifacts has been at the same site in the southeast area of Jersey for the past five years.

"We're hoping this is a hint of what is to come, because at some other sites you get hundreds of these pieces. What we've got at the moment is only a fragment of something much larger," Chantal Conneller, a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, told BBC News.


British 'Wartime Domesday' book now available online - a snapshot of life in 1939

A group of young evacuees sit on a hay cart outside Chapel Cleeve Nursery in Washford Somerset
Stored for 76 years in a government building in Lancashire, the files include metadata covering 41 million people

In a move that will transform the study of key aspects of 20th century British social history, one of the country's most important data collections is being made available to historians and the general public from 2 November. Historical researchers have for the first time digitized and placed on-line a detailed survey of English and Welsh society at the beginning of World War Two.

Stored for the past 76 years in a government building in Southport, Lancashire, it includes metadata covering 41 million individuals (with personal information publicly available on 70% of them) and fills a major 'knowledge void' about British social history in the mid-20th century. In terms of detailed digitally available metadata, it is the only major source available for the 1920s to 1940s era - while, in terms of accessible personal data on millions of named individuals, it's the only publically available source for most of the 20th century.

The only other similarly detailed 20th century sources for personal information about millions of individuals are the 1901 and 1911 census records which were only made public in 2002 and 2009. Under the UK's '100 year rule' privacy convention, post-1920 census information about individuals must remain confidential for a full century after the data was collected.


Over 100,000 British orphans sent overseas as 'child migrants'

© Pamela Smedley
Pamela (right) reunited with her mother in 1990.
Up until the late 1960s the UK sent children living in care homes to new lives in Australia and other countries. It was a brutal experience for many, writes Kirstie Brewer.

In the winter of 1949, 13-year-old Pamela Smedley boarded a ship to Australia with 27 other girls. She had been told by the nuns from the Catholic home she lived in that she was going on a day-trip. In reality, she was being shipped out to an orphanage in Adelaide and wouldn't see England again for more than three decades.

"We thought it would be like going to Scarborough for the day because we were so innocent and naive," says Pamela, who is now in her 70s and still lives in Adelaide.

"The nuns said that in Australia you could pick the oranges off the trees, and I was very excited because I loved oranges."


The tragic, forgotten history of zombies

The horror-movie trope owes its heritage to Haitian slaves, who imagined being imprisoned in their bodies forever.


'The Zombies'​​ by Hector Hyppolite, which hangs in the Museum of Haitian Art of St. Peter College in Port-au-Prince

In the original script for 1968's Night of the Living Dead, the director George A. Romero refers to his flesh-eating antagonists as "ghouls." Although the film is widely credited with launching zombies into the cultural zeitgeist, it wasn't until its follow-up 10 years later, the consumerist nightmare Dawn of the Dead, that Romero would actually use the term. While making the first film, Romero understood zombies instead to be the undead Haitian slaves depicted in the 1932 Bela Lugosi horror film White Zombie.

By the time Dawn of the Dead was released in 1978 the cultural tide had shifted completely, and Romero had essentially reinvented the zombie for American audiences. The last 15 years have seen films and TV shows including Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, World War Z, Zombieland, Life After Beth, iZombie, and even the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Comment: Zombie fad: Do we love the undead because we are unhappy with the government?
A History of 'Real' Zombies


NASA satellite images show 8000-year old patterns in Kazakhstan

© DigitalGlobe, via NASA
New satellite images from NASA have revealed unusual, massive patterns on the Earth's surface. The geometric shapes are located in Kazakhstan, and are estimated to be up to 8,000 years old.

The massive earthwork patterns called the Steppe Geoglyphs were originally discovered by a Kazakh economist when he was browsing Google Earth in 2007. When browsing through an otherwise empty Central Asian landscape, Dimitriy Dey found intriguing markings in the soil.

But the study of these mysterious constructs is ramping up, and even NASA has taken an interest. Two weeks ago, the space agency released clear satellite photographs of the figures from about 430 miles in the sky.

"I've never seen anything like this; I found it remarkable," Compton J. Tucker, a senior biospheric scientist for NASA who provided the archived images, told The New York Times.

Black Magic

Pharmakos ritual: Ancient Greeks sacrificed ugly people

© Public domain/WikiCommons
An 1864 painting of the Acropolis in Athens, where the pharmakos ritual became an annual event.
Is the tradition of Halloween tainted by the blood of primeval human sacrifices? The origins of Halloween lie in Samhain, the Celtic New Year festival, in which the Gaelic druids might have ritually sacrificed some human victims, according to some accounts and some recent evidence. Such hypothesis is not unreasonable, as many communities in the ancient world decided to appease their enraged chthonic deities with human flesh.

But the European neighbors of the Celts, the ancient Greeks, did something even more disturbing: they brutally sacrificed the ugliest among them in order to maintain the common good.


Prehistoric "eco-house" 1,300 years older than Stonehenge discovered by archaeologists

© David Jacques/Buckingham University
A fallen tree which forms the wall of a Stone Age ‘eco-home’ near Stonehenge
Academics fear that the 6,300-year-old settlement could be severely damaged by a new road tunnel

Archaeologists have discovered the oldest prehistoric building ever found in the Stonehenge landscape - but fear a new road tunnel could severely damage the site.

Dating from around 6,300 years ago - at least 1,300 years before Stonehenge - it was built immediately adjacent to a sacred Stone Age spring.

Academics have dubbed it an "eco" house because the base of a fallen tree was used as one of the walls.

The building is important as it appears to have been constructed by indigenous Mesolithic hunter-gatherers at the time when the very first semi-agricultural European-originating Neolithic settlers were arriving in the area.


22 Shipwrecks found in single location in Greece

© V. Mentogianis
The cargoes revealed long distance trades between the Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Cyprus, the Levant, and Egypt in all those periods. At least three ships carried amphoras, or jars, that have not been found previously on shipwrecks.
Underwater archaeologists have discovered 22 shipwrecks around a small Greek archipelago, revealing what may be the ancient shipwreck capital of the world.

Hailed as one of the top archaeological finds of 2015, the discovery was made by a joint Greek-American archaeological expedition in the small Fourni archipelago with an area of just 17 square miles. This is a collection of 13 islands and islets located between the eastern Aegean islands of Samos and Icaria.

"Surpassing all expectations, over only 13 days we added 12 percent to the total of known ancient shipwrecks in Greek territorial waters," Peter Campbell, of the University of Southampton and co-director from US based RPM Nautical Foundation, told Discovery News.

Fourni lies right in the middle of the major east-west crossing route, as well as the north-south route that connected the Aegean to the Levant. Ships traveling from the Greek mainland to Asia Minor, or ships leaving the Aegean for the Levant had to pass by Fourni.

"Ikaria and the west coast of Samos have no harbors or anchorages, so Fourni is the safest place that ships could stop in the area," Campbell said.