Secret History


Ancient native American city discovered

© John Kelly, Washington University in St. Louis
Apparently there were cities in the Americas before European influence ever set foot on the continent.

A thousand years ago, where modern-day St. Louis stands, existed a Native American city known as Cahookia. Its birth and decline is one of America's great mysteries.

A new studied published in the Journal of Archeological Science sheds new information on the ancient city where they believe about 20,000 people lived, and was formed in just 50 years.

16th-century warfare manual showing 'rocket cats' weaponry puzzles experts

© The Independent, UK
Images from a 16th century artillery manual digitized by the University of Pennsylvania appear to show jet packs strapped to the backs of cats and doves.
From Nyan cat to leaping feline fails the airborne moggie is quite rightly a harmless obsession for those who create internet memes.

Experts studying fanciful illustrations from a circa-1530 manual on artillery and siege warfare, however, appear to have uncovered a less innocent use for cats in flight.

Images from the manual, which was digitised by the University of Pennsylvania, appear to show jet packs strapped to the backs of cats and doves.

The German text accompanying the pictures helpfully advises military commanders to use them to "set fire to a castle or city which you can't get at otherwise."

The pictures showing cats and doves being propelled towards a castle by what appear to be jet-packs appear in a Feuer Buech manuscript that has now got experts puzzled.

The treatise in question was written by artillery master Franz Helm of Cologne, who was believed to have fought in several skirmishes against the Turks in south-central Europe at a time when gunpowder was changing warfare.

Ancient Egyptian soldier's letter home deciphered

Ancient Letter_1
© Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley
Dating back about 1,800 years, this letter was written, mainly in Greek, by Aurelius Polion, an Egyptian man who served with the legio II Adiutrix legion around modern-day Hungary. In the letter, discovered more than a century ago in the Egyptian town of Tebunis and only recently translated, Polion pleads with his family to respond.
A newly deciphered letter home dating back around 1,800 years reveals the pleas of a young Egyptian soldier named Aurelius Polion who was serving, probably as a volunteer, in a Roman legion in Europe.

In the letter, written mainly in Greek, Polion tells his family that he is desperate to hear from them and that he is going to request leave to make the long journey home to see them.

Addressed to his mother (a bread seller), sister and brother, part of it reads: "I pray that you are in good health night and day, and I always make obeisance before all the gods on your behalf. I do not cease writing to you, but you do not have me in mind," it reads.

"I am worried about you because although you received letters from me often, you never wrote back to me so that I may know how you ..." (Part of the letter hasn't survived.)

Polion says he has written six letters to his family without response, suggesting some sort of family tensions.

"While away in Pannonia I sent (letters) to you, but you treat me so as a stranger," he writes.

"I shall obtain leave from the consular (commander), and I shall come to you so that you may know that I am your brother ..."

Shilling discovery could rewrite Canadian history

Rare Shilling
© AFP Photo/Clement Sabourin)
A rare Edward VI shilling, minted in London between 1551 and 1553, is seen on January 23, 2014 in Victoria, British Columbia.
Victoria - An amateur treasure hunter with a hand-held metal detector has turned Canadian history on its head after finding a 16th century shilling buried in clay on the shores of Vancouver Island.

The 435-year-old coin discovered in western-most Canada has rekindled a theory that a British explorer made a secret voyage here two centuries before it was discovered by Spanish sailors.

Official historical records show the Spanish were the first Europeans to set foot in what is now Canada's British Columbia province in 1774, followed four years later by British Royal Navy Captain James Cook.

Retired security systems installer Bruce Campbell found the coin in mid-December, along with a rare 1891 Canadian nickel, a 1960s dime and penny from 1900.

"I was getting fat and tired of watching TV," he said about what got him into his hobby, surrounded in his Victoria, British Columbia home by a trove of adventure novels and a few dug up treasures.

He never imagined, he said, stirring up controversy with his latest find.

According to conspiracy theorists and some historians, the silver coin (produced between 1551 and 1553) is evidence that English explorer Sir Francis Drake travelled as far north as Canada's Pacific Coast during an expedition to California in 1579, in search of the famed Northwest Passage.
Blue Planet

A different world: If Africa had split vertically 130 million years ago

  • Break-up of the supercontinent Gondwana 130 Million years ago could have lead to a completely different world
  • Would have dramatically altered shape of the African and South American continent
possible ancient africa
© Christian Heine and Sascha Brune
How South America could have ruled the world: New image shows how the Earth MIGHT have looked if Africa had been split in two. The move would have left a huge ocean south of today's Sahara desert, creating a South Atlantic and a Saharan Atlantic Ocean.
Researchers have revealed a fascinating glimpse of how the world could have looked - if a shift in the Earth's tectonic plates had taken a slightly different turn.

Australian researchers say the break-up of the supercontinent Gondwana about 130 Million years ago could have lead to a completely different shape of the African and South American continent.

They say the move would have left a huge ocean south of today's Sahara desert, creating a South Atlantic and a Saharan Atlantic Ocean.

Geoscientists from the University of Sydney and the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences used sophisticated plate tectonic and three-dimensional numerical modelling to recreate the shift - but with a different twist.

The researchers say the shift that left Africa it its present location was almost very different.

Stonehenge bluestones had acoustic properties, study indicates

A study has discovered that rocks in the Preseli Hills, the source of some the stones at Stonehenge, have a sonic property
The giant bluestones of Stonehenge may have been chosen because of their acoustic properties, claim researchers.

A study shows rocks in the Preseli Hills, the Pembrokeshire source of part of the monument, have a sonic property.

Researcher Paul Devereux said: "It hasn't been considered until now that sound might have been a factor."

The study, by London's Royal College of Art, was to try and record what "Stone Age eyes and ears" would have heard and seen in a prehistoric landscape.

Since the 1920s, it has been known stones quarried in Mynydd Preseli were hauled 199 miles (320 km) to Wiltshire by its makers. But, trying to establish why has been more difficult.

New texts found in caves that yielded Dead Sea Scrolls

Qumran Caves
© Dejan Gileski/Shutterstock
In 1947 a Bedouin shepherd unearthed the first of nearly 900 texts that would come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were found in a series of 11 caves near Qumran, Israel (shown here).
An archaeologist says he discovered nine tiny scrolls with biblical text from the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed, according to news reports.

The newfound scrolls, which date back to about 2,000 years ago, were hidden inside three leather tefillin cases, also known as phylacteries, traditionally carried by observant Jewish men, Italian news agency Ansa Mediterranean reported. These cases were first pulled out of the caves in the 1950s, but their contents apparently were not examined until now.

Starting in the 1940s, the remains of more than 900 manuscripts were found in 11 caves near the site of Qumran in the West Bank. This collection of Hebrew Bible texts, which came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, included copies of Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Kings and Deuteronomy.

"'It's not every day that you get the chance to discover new manuscripts," archaeologist Yonatan Adler told Ansa Mediterranean. "It's very exciting."

The nine new documents have not been fully examined yet and it's not yet clear what's written in the text. Adler announced his findings at an international conference on Qumran and the Dead Sea Region at Lugano, Switzerland.
Gold Coins

1,500-year-old Roman gold coin unearthed at Chinese tomb

roman coin in china

The coin found, like this one, is from the East Roman Empire era.

Archaeologists conducting excavations at an ancient tomb in Luoyang, Henan Province, China, found Monday a gold coin from the East Roman era estimated to be over 1,500 years old.

The finding, reports China National News, is yet another proof of a long history of exchange between the Eastern and the Western civilizations and suggests that the area was part of the ancient section of the "Silk Road," used by merchants travelling between China and the Mediterranean cultures.

Secret 19th century tunnels discovered underneath Alcatraz prison

Scientists have uncovered a series of 19th century tunnels underneath Alcatraz prison in San Francisco, California. The tunnels are part of a military fortress that used to stand where Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was built on an island in the San Francisco Bay. The fortress was built over and all remnants were thought to have been destroyed, until now, the BBC reported.
© Twitter
Using ground-penetrating technology, scientists from Texas A&M University found the fortress and tunnels under the ground in Alcatraz's recreation yard, where prison inmates would have spent a few minutes outdoors in the '30s. "(The tunnels) would have been used for the fortifications. There would have been movement of man and ammunition; it would have been bomb proof and covered with earth so it would have been protected," university professor Mark Everett told the BBC.

The team was able to use a ground-penetrating radar that scanned the ground under the yard, similar to how an X-ray scans the body, Everett told the BBC.

Medieval candelabra hints at forgotten sea routes

© Marcus H. Hermanns
A 10th-century candelabra found near Ibiza, Spain.
A 10th-century candelabra found off the coast of the Spanish island of Ibiza may be a clue to long-forgotten shipping routes in that era.

But the candelabra's use and origin remain a stubborn mystery, researchers report in the journal Archivo Español de Arqueología. A new dive to the spot where the object was found in the 1970s revealed no real clues, so there is no context for understanding the find. Because the candelabra has been in the hands of private collectors, its restoration was also done differently than if it had been found by academic archaeologists.

"We are uncertain of its symbology and precise use," study leader Marcus Hermanns, of the German Archaeological Institute, in Madrid, said in a statement. "For instance, it shows no traces of burning ... because it was restored differently from those found in investigations. However, it was worthwhile to make the study known to the scientific community, because it might give clues on the importance of Ibiza in navigation routes."