Secret History

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."

Rare Neolithic or Bronze Age rock art in Ross-shire, Scotland

A rare example of prehistoric rock art has been uncovered in the Highlands.

© John Wombell
The rock decorated with cup and ring marks
Archaeologists made the discovery while moving a boulder decorated with ancient cup and ring marks to a new location in Ross-shire. When they turned the stone over they found the same impressions on the other side of the rock. It is one of only a few decorated stones of its kind. John Wombell, of North of Scotland Archaeological Society (NOSAS), said: "This is an amazing discovery."

Susan Kruse, of Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH), first discovered the stone at Heights of Fodderty several years ago when out walking. The second set of cup and ring marks were uncovered recently when archaeologists were moving the stone to a new site at nearby Heights of Brae Neil Gunn Viewpoint. From the Neolithic or Bronze Age, the art was created between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.

Archaeologists believe the markings may have been made for a number of reasons. These include for rituals, as territorial markers or mapping the stars. They could even be the "doodlings" of bored, ancient shepherds. Ms Kruse said: "Finding cup and ring decoration on the opposite side has raised a number of tantalising questions. "Was the decoration meant to be viewed from both sides or was one decorated side deliberately placed face down? "Or was the stone carved at different times?"

Humans may have been stuck on Bering Strait for 10,000 years

Bering Strait land bridge
A view of the Bering Strait land bridge, as it would have appeared about 21,000 years ago. Humans probably migrated across the temporary link to the New World, recent genetic evidence suggests.
The ancestors of Native Americans may have lived on and around the Bering Strait for about 10,000 years before streaming into the Americas, researchers argue.

In the new Perspectives article, published today (Feb. 27) in the journal Science, the researchers compile existing data to support the idea, known as the Beringia standstill hypothesis.

Among that evidence is genetic data showing that founding populations of Native Americans diverged from their Asian ancestors more than 25,000 years ago. In addition, land in the region of the Bering Strait teemed with grasses to support big game (for food) and woody shrubs to burn in the cold climate, supporting a hard-scrabble existence for ancient people.

Given the hypothesis, archaeologists should look in regions of Alaska and the Russian Far East for traces of these ancient people's settlements, the authors argue.

Ancient Chinese mummies carry evidence of oldest known cheese

Ancient Cheese
© Thinkstock
Some cheeses are best when they are aged for five or ten years, but any cheese that you eat today would be considered under-ripe if you base it against a cheese recently discovered in China.

Researchers from Germany's Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) have found what is being called the world's oldest cheese after discovering yellowish clumps on the necks and chests of Chinese mummies dating back to around 1615 BC.

An analysis of the clumps revealed that they are a lactose-free variety of cheese that was made quickly and conveniently.

Furthermore, the researchers believe the manufacturing process may have "played a role in the spread of herding and dairying across Asia," reports Traci Watson of USA Today.

"We not only identified the product as the earliest known cheese, but we also have direct ... evidence of ancient technology," said study author Andrej Shevchenko, an analytical chemist at MPI-CBG.

Shevchenko said the cheese, as were the mummies, remained well-preserved for so long due not only to the burial practices, but the region. The conditions at Small River Cemetery Number 5 in northwestern China's Taklamakan Desert, which was first documented in the 1930s, were perfect for preserving the dead.

The Bronze Age people of the area seemingly buried their dead atop a large sand dune near a now-dry river, interring their kin under what looks like large wooden boats. The researcher noted that these mummies seemed as if they were "vacuum-packed" because of the burial process, which included wrapping the boats tightly with cowhide.

Taxation without Representation: The untold history of Washington, DC

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