Secret History

Wine n Glass

Origins of inebriation revealed

Alcohol Drinking
© schankz/Shutterstock
Prehistoric people of Europe didn't use mind-altering substances for hedonistic pleasure. Drugs and alcohol were an important part of ritual ceremonies.
In prehistoric Eurasia, drugs and alcohol were originally reserved for ritual ceremonies, and weren't used merely to satisfy hedonistic motives, a new study suggests. What's more, given the sacred role of the substances, their use was likely highly regulated and only available to elite citizens.

Many Eurasian cultures are known to have an ancient history with psychoactive substances, as evidenced by early written documents. The Greek historian Herodotus, for example, once described the Scythians' (Iranian equestrian tribes) post-funeral purification ceremony involving hemp, which dates back to the fifth century B.C.

But written records aren't the only indication of early drug and alcohol use.

"It is generally thought that mind-altering substances, or at least drugs, are a modern-day issue, but if we look at the archaeological record of prehistoric Europe, there are many data supporting their consumption," said study author Elisa Guerra-Doce, a prehistory expert at the University of Valladolid in Spain.

"Apart from the presence of macrofossil remains of plants with these [mind-altering] properties, there are artistic depictions of opium poppies, for instance, and some designs in megalithic tombs may have been inspired by altered states of consciousness."

Despite numerous indications, archaeologists have largely overlooked the use of mind-altering substances in Eurasian prehistory. So Guerra-Doce decided to sort through the scarce and scattered information in the scientific literature, in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the history and context of ancient drug and alcohol use.

She reviewed four lines of evidence: macrofossil remains of psychoactive plants, residues from fermented alcoholic drinks, psychoactive alkaloids (chemical compounds) on artifacts and skeletal remains, and artistic depictions of psychoactive plants and drinking scenes.

Amazing 7,000-year-old hunting scenes discovered inside a Spanish cave

Cave paintings dating from 7,000 years ago have been discovered in Spain, which show hunting scenes including human archers and primitive bulls (pictured) called aurochs
* Cave paintings were discovered in Vilafranca in Castellón, Spain

* They include drawings of two aurochs, two human archers and a goat

* A layer of dust protected 10 figures, which were exposed to the weather

* Computer analysis has revealed unseen details

Amazingly well-preserved cave paintings dating back seven millenia have been discovered in Spain.

The stunning murals provide a rare glimpse into daily prehistoric life - showing dramatic hunting scenes including human archers.

Despite being exposed to harsh weather, the 'totally unique' artwork has survived on a 19ft (6 metre) long wall inside a small cave in Vilafranca in Castellón, in the east of the country.

Students in 'at-risk youth' program discover 7,000-year-old mummy in Chile

Chile mummies
© Claudio Santana/AFP
A group of Chinchorro mummies on display in the cultural centre of the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, on August 27, 2008
A group of students discovered a 7,000-year-old mummy during a trip to northern Chile, local media reported Monday.

La Tercera newspaper reported that the find was made by chance Saturday during a visit to the Morro de Arica site by local students.

The children, at-risk youths enrolled in an archeology workshop, were performing excavation work when one found a strange shape under dog droppings.

Remains of burnt ancient city found in Chandigarh, India

Ancient Ruins
© The Asian Age
Archaeologist J.R. Bhagat inside the trench with charred patches surrounding him.
Remnants of a burnt ancient city, believed to be dating back to 2nd century BC, have been found in an archaeological site in Tarighat, nearly 30 km from here. The "gutted settlement" reminds one the famed Roman city of Pompeii that got buried under 13-20 feet of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The remains of the charred city have been found around 20 feet below Tarighat archaeological site which came into national focus when excavation had brought to surface a 2,500-year-old urban centre in 2013.

"It is a stunning discovery. Our excavation, which began last year, has reached 35 feet deep now. The excavation has so far yielded remains of various settlements that had come up at the site from sixth century AD to second century BC.
Grey Alien

NASA book explores how archaeology could contribute to understanding Extra-terrestrial Communication

Maya Glyphs
© Wikpedia
Maya glyphs in stucco at the Museo de sitio in Palenque, Mexico.
A new book released by NASA as part of the official NASA History Series examines the contributions that archaeology and anthropology can make to contemporary SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) research.

The authors draw analogies between deciphering the language and symbology of long-lost civilizations and decoding messages that may arrive from 'other worldly' origins.

The new book titled 'Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication', edited by Douglas A Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute, is a collection of chapters by different authors who explore latest research regarding the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

In the opening introduction, Vakoch sets out how the field of archaeology can contribute to this search:
"As we search for analogies to contact at interstellar distances, archaeology provides some intriguing parallels, given that its practitioners - like successful SETI scientists - are charged with reconstructing long-lost civilizations from potentially fragmentary evidence".
Anthropologist Ben Finney and historian Jerry Bentley draw a comparison between the decoding of ancient scripts, including Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphics, and how we may be able to understand and possibly communicate with an extraterrestrial civilization, particularly through the 'universal language' of mathematics and astronomy. For example, when scholars began decoding ancient Mayan hieroglyphs, their earliest successes were in recognizing the basic numbering system used by the Maya, as well as their calendar systems, which were based on the visible motions of the Moon and Sun.

North America's oldest skeleton: 13,000-years-old

© Daniel Riordan Araujo
A cave diver inspects the newly-discovered skull of Naia in a submerged cave on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.
One of the oldest human skeletons in North America has been discovered by a team of international scientists in an underwater Yucatán Peninsula cave.

Named "Naia", the teenager fell to her death in a large pit called Hoyo Nego, meaning "black hole" in Spanish.

Patricia Beddows, a cave-diving researcher from Northwestern University, said: "The preservation of all the bones in this deep water-filled cave is amazing - the bones are beautifully laid out."

"The girl's skeleton is exceptionally complete because of the environment in which she died -- she ended up in the right water and in a quiet place without any soil. Her pristine preservation enabled our team to extract enough DNA to determine her shared genetic code with modern Native Americans," she added.

The skeleton, which is now covered in water, is estimated to be between 12,000 and 13,000 years old, suggesting Naia lived in the late Pleistocene or last ice age.

US-Russian alliance saved the Union during the US civil war, ending the threat of Anglo-French intervention

Lincoln and Alexander II
© Punch, October 24, 1863
At the point of maximum war danger between Great Britain and the United States, the London satirical publication Punch published a vicious caricature of US President Abraham Lincoln and Russian Tsar Alexander II, demonizing the two friends as bloody oppressors.
April 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War, which began when Confederate forces opened fire upon Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The following essay by Webster Tarpley, tells about the largely untold alliance between President Abraham Lincoln and Russian Tsar Alexander II, which by many accounts was key to the North winning the U.S. Civil War, sealing the defeat of the British strategic design.

Who was our friend when the world was our foe." -
Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1871

One hundred fifty years after the attack on Fort Sumter, the international strategic dimension of the American Civil War represents a much-neglected aspect of Civil War studies. In offering a survey of some of the main issues involved, one feels required to justify the importance of the topic. It is indeed true that, as things turned out, the international strategic dimension of the 1861-65 conflict was of secondary importance. However, it was an aspect that repeatedly threatened to thrust itself into the center of the war, transforming the entire nature of the conflict and indeed threatening to overturn the entire existing world system. The big issue was always a British-French attack on the United States to preserve the Confederate States of America. This is certainly how Union and Confederate leaders viewed the matter, and how some important people in London, St. Petersburg, Paris, and Berlin did as well.

The result is that today, the international dimension is consistently underestimated: even a writer as sophisticated as Richard Franklin Bensel can repeatedly insist in his recent Yankee Leviathan that the US development over the decade before the Civil War was "acted out in a vacuum," while asserting that "the relative isolation of the United States on the North American continent contributed to the comparative unimportance of nationalism in American life prior to secession." [1] Reports of American isolation, however, were already exaggerated in the era of a British fleet that could summer in the Baltic and winter in the Caribbean.

Views of the domestic side of the Civil War have often been colored by the sectional loyalties of the authors. In the diplomatic sphere, the international alignments of 1861-65 have been experienced as something of an embarrassment or aberration by American scholars of the twentieth century, at least partly because they inverted the alliance patterns that emerged after 1900. In 1865, the United States was friendly to Russia and Prussia, and resentful and suspicious in regard to Britain and France, whose governments had sympathized with and supported the Confederacy. The general tendency of US historians in 1915 or 1945 or 1952 seems to have been to put the best possible face on things, or, better yet, turn to another area of inquiry. As the Civil War centennial approached, the historian Allan Nevins addressed this issue rather directly in a chapter of his 1960 "War for the Union". Here he dramatically evoked the immense worldwide significance of Civil War diplomacy in a fascinating paragraph to which Howard Jones calls attention. Nevins, horrified by the idea of US war with Britain, wrote:
It is hardly too much to say that the future of the world as we know it was at stake. A conflict between Great Britain and America would have crushed all hope of the mutual understanding and growing collaboration which led up to the practical alliance of 1917-18, and the outright alliance which began in 1941. It would have made vastly more difficult if not impossible the coalition which defeated the Central Powers in the First World War, struck down Nazi tyranny in the Second World War, and established the unbreakable front of Western freedom against Communism. Anglo-French intervention in the American conflict would probably have confirmed the splitting and consequent weakening of the United States; might have given French power in Mexico a long lease, with the ruin of the Monroe Doctrine; and would perhaps have led to the Northern conquest of Canada. The forces of political liberalism in the modern world would have received a disastrous setback. No battle, not Gettysburg, not the Wilderness, was more important than the context waged in the diplomatic arena and the forum of public opinion. The popular conception of this contest is at some points erroneous, and at a few grossly fallacious.... (Nevins II, 242)

Archaeologists find Wari culture artifacts in Ayacucho, Peru

Ancient Artifacts
© Andina
Archaeologists working at the Wari archaeological complex in the Vegachayoq Moqo sector have made new discoveries that promise to illuminate the mysterious pre-Inca society.

Mario Cueto Cardenas from the Ayacucho Culture Board told Andina that "Archaeologist [José Ochatoma Paravicino of the Universidad San Cristobal de Huamanga] presented a report and is preparing an exposition for the new Wari finds, which will allow us to explore unknown spaces, because [at the Wari site], we're just getting familiar with the citadel, there are more mysteries that will allow us to better understand their economic and cultural system."

Juan Arango Claudio, local tourism official, told Andina that "In spite of all the effort that has been expended, we only know a small percentage, that can't be more than 10%, about the Wari, but we're hoping that these advances will allow us more tourism flow, because these historical spaces are being evaluated."

Specifics about the new findings are expected to be announced in coming weeks, Andina reports.

The Wari were an expansive civilization that lived in Peru from around 500 AD to 1000 AD. Their capital city, also called Wari, was located near the city of Ayacucho, in inland Peru.

'Byzantine iPad' found in ancient shipwreck

Byzantine notebook
© Ufuk Kocabaş
The Byzantine notebook.
Turkish archaeologists excavating a harbor site on the European side of the Bosphorus have unearthed a 1,200-year-old wooden object which they claim is the ancient equivalent of a tablet computer. The device was a notebook and tool - in one.

The Byzantine invention was found within the remains of one of the 37 ships unearthed in the Yenikapi area of Istanbul, a site which has been at the center of excavations for the past 10 years.

Also known as Theodosius Port, it was built in the late 4th century during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I and become the city's most important commercial port.

Probably belonging to the ship's captain, the wooden object, whose cover is finely carved with decorations, is the size of a modern seven-inch tablet, but it's much thicker.
Cow Skull

Bones of 'largest dinosaur ever' unearthed in Argentina

dino bone
© i.kinja / gawker
Paleontologists have just unearthed the fossilized bones of a gigantic dinosaur that's never been seen before. They believe it's an entirely new species - and based on the size of its bones, it's way bigger than what we thought was the biggest dinosaur ever. Meet the new number one among earthly creatures.

Based on the size of the thigh bone found at the dig site in Argentina, paleontologists estimate this dinosaur stood 130 feet long and 65 feet tall, and weighed in at a whopping 77 tons. That's seven tons heavier than what we used to think was the biggest dinosaur, Argentinosaurus. In other words, this jumbo-dino weighed as much as 14 African elephants, and with its neck held high the herbivore was seven stories tall. That's positively massive.