Secret History


Hidden cave system of Rouffignac is millions of years old

Cave 1
© Getty Images/Lonely Planet Source: Getty Images
Rock art in Rouffignac Cave.
The train cart rattles along the track. Leaving the bright sunshine behind, you plunge deep into the dank, subterranean world.

The guide points out scratch marks on the wall - made by bears, who fortunately don't live in the caves anymore. Venturing deeper, you pass some engravings and drawings of a rhino, horses and a procession of mammoths. They are impressive. Not simply childish drawings of animals, but skilled works of art.

Two kilometres in, the train grinds to a halt. You get out and start to walk, hoping the movement will warm up your limbs. You stumble into a hidden gallery, darkness engulfing the group. The guide explains in hushed tones why these caves are so magnificent.

At last, you're allowed to switch on your head-torch. Gazing upwards, you now understand what the guide was on about. Animals of all shapes and sizes adorn the ceiling. Some intricately painted, others simple line drawings. No wonder this is known as the "Great Ceiling".

Welcome to Rouffignac Cave.

mammoth wall drawing
Painting of a mammoth c. 13,000 years old
Around two to three million years ago, this vast network of caves in Dordogne, France was created when water penetrated along fractures in the bedrock, dissolving the soft limestone. The cave system reaches 10 kilometres underground, through a mind-boggling maze of tunnels and shafts.

Over 250 prehistoric artworks litter the walls of this cave system, which is accessible only aboard the electric train that zips visitors 13,000 years back in time.

New light shed on the mysterious 'unknown eruption'

Volcano Mount Slamet
© Xinhua/Muhammad Imadudin

New light has been shed on one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in the last 500 years - the so-called 'Unknown eruption' - thanks to an unusual collaboration between a historian and a team of earth scientists at the University of Bristol, UK.

This eruption occurred just before the 1815 Tambora volcanic eruption which is famous for its impact on climate worldwide, with 1816 given memorable names such as 'Eighteen-Hundred-and-Froze-to-Death', the 'Year of the Beggar' and the 'Year Without a Summer' because of unseasonal frosts, crop failure and famine across Europe and North America. The extraordinary conditions are considered to have inspired literary works such as Byron's 'Darkness' and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

However, the global deterioration of the 1810s into the coldest decade in the last 500 years started six years earlier, with another large eruption. In contrast to Tambora, this so-called 'Unknown' eruption seemingly occurred unnoticed, with both its location and date a mystery. In fact the 'Unknown' eruption was only recognised in the 1990s, from tell-tale markers in Greenland and Antarctic ice that record the rare events when volcanic aerosols are so violently erupted that they reach the Earth's stratosphere.

Working in collaboration with colleagues from the School of Earth Sciences and PhD student Alvaro Guevara-Murua, Dr Caroline Williams, from the Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, began searching historical archives for references to the event.

Dr Williams said: "I spent months combing through the vast Spanish colonial archive, but it was a fruitless search - clearly the volcano wasn't in Latin America. I then turned to the writings of Colombian scientist Francisco José de Caldas, who served as Director of the Astronomical Observatory of Bogotá between 1805 and 1810. Finding his precise description of the effects of an eruption was a 'Eureka' moment."

In February 1809 Caldas wrote about a "mystery" that included a constant, stratospheric "transparent cloud that obstructs the sun's brilliance" over Bogotá, starting on the 11 December 1808 and seen across Colombia. He gave detailed observations, for example that the "natural fiery colour [of the sun] has changed to that of silver, so much so that many have mistaken it for the moon"; and that the weather was unusually cold, the fields covered with ice and the crops damaged by frost.

Comment: As Pierre Lescaudron shows in his book, Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection, our history reveals a "strong correlation between periods of authoritarian oppression with catastrophic and cosmically-induced natural disasters".

As the saying goes, "those who do not learn the lessons from history, are doomed to repeat them."

Well, look around you.....!


Russian hermit in Siberian forest only surviving family member of an Orthodox denomination of 'Old Believers'

Russian babushka Agafia
© RT
Russian babushka Agafia
Russian babushka Agafia, whose family fled civilization nearly a century ago, was born in the wilderness of the deep Siberian taiga. RT visited Agafia, who is the only living person of a family of the 'Old Believers' denomination of the Orthodox church.

In the mid-17th century, the leader of Russia's Orthodox church, Patriarch Nikon, introduced radical reforms in Russia. Many couldn't accept the changes and became known as 'Old Believers.'

To avoid religious persecution first from the Orthodox Church and then from the Soviets, many families fled to some of the most remote corners of the country.

In 1978, one such family was discovered by a group of geologists in the remote Russian Republic of Khakassia, Siberia. The Lykovs, a family with four children, hadn't seen other human beings for decades.

Don't like that Israel has the bomb? Blame Nixon

nixon kissinger
In the summer of 1969, Richard Nixon's administration was absorbed in a highly secret debate: how to address the diplomatic, strategic, and political problems posed by Israel's emergent nuclear weapons program. Leading those discussions were senior Defense Department officials who believed that a nuclear-armed Israel was not in U.S. interests -- it would dangerously complicate the situation in an already dangerous region, they argued.

According to recently declassified government documents -- published on Sept. 12 by the National Security Archive, in collaboration with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies -- Deputy Defense Secretary David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, warned his boss, Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, that if Washington did not use its leverage to check Israel's nuclear advances, it would "involve us in a conspiracy with Israel which would leave matters dangerous to our security in their hands."

The overall apprehension was palpable for National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, who consequently signed off in 1969 on National Security Memorandum (NSSM) 40, a request for a set of interagency studies -- including policy recommendations -- of the problems posed by the Israeli nuclear program. NSSM 40 and the studies it produced are now public for the first time, making it possible to better understand the environment in which President Nixon made his own secret decisions, which turned out to be at great variance with Packard's arguments.

Packard's memo, among others, exposes the contours of a policy debate that has been hidden for years. By now, Israel's nuclear weapons are the world's worst-kept secret, universally accepted as well-established fact, and yet Washington still respects Israel's nuclear opacity stance, keeping up the charade that the U.S. government does not comment on Israel's nuclear status. Recent unofficial estimates published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (but which are based on U.S. intelligence leaks) suggest that Israel may possess 80 warheads and also an unspecified amount of weapons-grade fissile material in reserve. (Although the National Security Archive first submitted its declassification request to the Defense Department in 2006, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals panel only released the documents in March 2014.)

Return to Antikythera: Divers confident of new finds from 'ancient computer' shipwreck

Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism—is a 2nd-century BC device known as the world's oldest computer—because it could track astronomical phenomena and the cycles of the Solar System

Archaeologists set out Monday to use a revolutionary new deep sea diving suit to explore the ancient shipwreck where one of the most remarkable scientific objects of antiquity was found.

The so-called Antikythera Mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device known as the world's oldest computer, was discovered by sponge divers in 1900 off a remote Greek island in the Aegean.

The highly complex mechanism of up to 40 bronze cogs and gears was used by the ancient Greeks to track the cycles of the solar system. It took another 1,500 years for an astrological clock of similar sophistication to be made in Europe.

Now archaeologists returning to the wreck will be able to use a new diving suit which will allow them to more than double the depth they can dive at, and stay safely at the bottom for longer.

Europeans ancestry traced to three ancient 'tribes'

ancient stone monument
© Thinkstock
The modern European gene pool was formed when three ancient populations mixed within the last 7,000 years, Nature journal reports.

Blue-eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East.

But another, mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent.

The findings are based on analysis of genomes from nine ancient Europeans.

Agriculture originated in the Near East - in modern Syria, Iraq and Israel - before expanding into Europe around 7,500 years ago.

Multiple lines of evidence suggested this new way of life was spread not just via the exchange of ideas, but by a wave of migrants, who interbred with the indigenous European hunter-gatherers they encountered on the way.

But assumptions about European origins were based largely on the genetic patterns of living people. The science of analysing genomic DNA from ancient bones has put some of the prevailing theories to the test, throwing up a few surprises.

Genomic DNA contains the biochemical instructions for building a human, and resides within the nuclei of our cells.

In the new paper, Prof David Reich from the Harvard Medical School and colleagues studied the genomes of seven hunter-gatherers from Scandinavia, one hunter whose remains were found in a cave in Luxembourg and an early farmer from Stuttgart, Germany.
ancient european genetics
The hunters arrived in Europe thousands of years before the advent of agriculture, hunkered down in southern refuges during the Ice Age and then expanded during a period called the Mesolithic, after the ice sheets had retreated from central and northern Europe.
Cow Skull

'Ancient monster' surfaces in Siberian river

Extinct reptile with 'toothy grin' found by fishermen as they rafted in remote area of the Yamal peninsula.
© Wild North Fishing Club
Research has to be carried out to establish the exact age of the remnants.
Is it a mesosaur? Or some other kind of dinosaur? No-one is quite sure yet. Siberian zoologists are rushing to the site to extract the crocodile-like remains before they are covered by ice and washed away in the spring floods next year.

Intrepid tourists from the Wild North Fishing Club found fossil as they rafted on the Ruta-Ru River.

'The boat of our group member Oleg Yushkov bumped against something. It was not very deep there and he could discern a stone looking like the head of a prehistoric animal', said the club's chairman Yevgeny Svitov. 'He made a photo of the discovery and showed it to us. One source claimed it had a 'toothy grin'.

Prehistoric "Atlantis" in the North Sea may have been abandoned after being hit by a 5m tsunami 8,200 years ago

© Unknown
A prehistoric "Atlantis" in the North Sea may have been abandoned after being hit by a 5m tsunami 8,200 years ago.

The wave was generated by a catastrophic subsea landslide off the coast of Norway.

Analysis suggests the tsunami over-ran Doggerland, a low-lying landmass that has since vanished beneath the waves.

"It was abandoned by Mesolithic tribes about 8,000 years ago, which is when the Storegga slide happened," said Dr Jon Hill from Imperial College London.

The wave could have wiped out the last people to occupy this island.

The research has been submitted to the journal Ocean Modelling and is being presented at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna this week.

Dr Hill and his Imperial-based colleagues Gareth Collins, Alexandros Avdis, Stephan Kramer and Matthew Piggott used computer simulations to explore the likely effects of the Norwegian landslide.

He told BBC News: "We were the first ever group to model the Storegga tsunami with Doggerland in place. Previous studies have used the modern bathymetry (ocean depth)."

As such, the study gives the most detailed insight yet into the likely impacts of the huge landslip and its associated tsunami wave on this lost landmass.

Comment: Tsunami created North Sea 'Atlantis' 8,000 years ago


Massive 5,000-year-old stone monument revealed in Israel

Crescent-shaped monument
© DigitalGlobe, courtesy Google Earth
About 8 miles (13 kilometers) northwest of the Sea of Galilee, a newly identified crescent-shaped monument was built about 5,000 years ago.
A lunar-crescent-shaped stone monument that dates back around 5,000 years has been identified in Israel.

Located about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northwest of the Sea of Galilee, the structure is massive - its volume is about 14,000 cubic meters (almost 500,000 cubic feet) and it has a length of about 150 meters (492 feet), making it longer than an American football field. Pottery excavated at the structure indicates the monument dates to between 3050 B.C. and 2650 B.C., meaning it is likely older than the pyramids of Egypt. It was also built before much of Stonehenge was constructed.

Archaeologists previously thought the structure was part of a city wall, but recent work carried out by Ido Wachtel, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, indicates there is no city beside it and that the structure is a standing monument.

"The proposed interpretation for the site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population," Wachtel wrote in the summary of a presentation given recently at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. [See Photos of the Crescent-Shaped Monument]

The structure's crescent shape stood out in the landscape, Wachtel told Live Science in an email. The shape may have had symbolic importance, as the lunar crescent is a symbol of an ancient Mesopotamian moon god named Sin, Wachtel said.

An ancient town called Bet Yerah (which translates to "house of the moon god") is located only a day's walk from the crescent-shaped monument Wachtel noted. As such, the monument may have helped mark the town's borders. While the monument is located within walking range of the city it is too far away to be an effective fortification.
Book 2

Generations of families have been guarding ancient libraries in Sahara Desert

Chinguetti, Mauritania
© Hemis/Alamy
A once-bustling center of learning in the middle of the Sahara Desert is now a dry, sparsely populated town trying valiantly to save its ancient, extraordinary libraries.

In a mud-and-brick town that blends in with the rusty red sand of the vast Sahara, generations of families have been guarding ancient books - some perhaps 1,000 years old - and with them, the reputation of a once-legendary, enlightened city. These libraries - mostly simple, mud-packed shelves stacked high with bound manuscripts in ancient huts - are what remain of a place that in better times was the epicenter of Islamic learning and medieval trading in northern Africa. In Mauritania, Chinguetti once flourished with scholars, pilgrims, and religious leaders. But today, the few thousand people left have been fighting against the harsh desert to maintain control of their precious artifacts.‬

The remaining 10 or so libraries hold frayed remains of ancient books on Quranic studies, science, and law. They're tended to by the same families who've been passing down their literary treasures for generations. Some hold just a few shelves and boxes of manuscripts, but one contains an organized collection of 1,400 texts.