Secret History


First farmers were also inbred

Inbred Farmers
© Archive of the Basta Joint Archeological Project; (inset) J. Kranzbhler/SIGN Project
Family ties that bind? A high percentage of farmers at 9500-year-old Basta in Jordan shared a genetic defect in which two incisors (red numbers) were missing.
Humans have been mating with their relatives for at least 10,000 years. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds the earliest known evidence of deliberate inbreeding - including missing teeth - among farmers who lived in what is today southern Jordan. Although inbreeding over long periods can lead to a rise in genetic defects, the team concludes that it may have helped prehistoric peoples make the transition from hunting and gathering to village life.

Researchers agree that the best evidence for family ties is DNA. For example, ancient DNA from a group of Neandertal skeletons found in a Spanish cave showed that they belonged to the same extended family.

But DNA often preserves poorly, especially at early farming sites from the so-called Neolithic period in the Near East where high temperatures and burials under house floors or in shallow graves easily degrade the genetic material. So some researchers have searched for signs of family relationships in the skeletons themselves, looking for rare anomalies that might suggest shared genetic heritage.

A team led by Kurt Alt, an anthropologist at the University of Mainz in Germany, examined the skeletons of individuals buried at the Neolithic site of Basta, in southern Jordan. Between about 9500 and 9000 years ago, up to 1000 early farmers lived there; the site was excavated in the 1980s and 1990s by an international team of archaeologists. At least 56 skeletons were found in one area, perhaps a graveyard.

In earlier research, Alt had identified more than 100 skeletal traits that can be used to determine family ties, most of which concern features of the teeth and jaws. Although inbreeding with very close relatives - such as between brothers and sisters, parents and children, or even cousins - boosts the incidence of genetic disease, mating with even more distant family members can increase the prevalence of traits that indicate family relationships. So his team set about looking at the upper jaws, or maxillae, of the Basta skeletons, which were well preserved in 28 individuals.

U.S.'s oldest cave and rock art discovered in Tennessee

The oldest and most widespread collection of prehistoric cave and rock art in the United States has been found in and around Tennessee, according to a new paper in the journal Antiquity that documents the art. It provides intriguing clues about what life was like for Native American societies more than 6,000 years ago. That is the age of the newly discovered cave art, one of which is seen here, showing what appears to be a human hunting. Other images are of a more direct spiritual/mythological nature.
At more than 6,000 years old, prehistoric cave and rock art found in what is today Tennessee is easily the oldest discovered yet within the United States. The art is also the most widespread collection found anywhere in the U.S., according to a new paper in the journal Antiquity that documents the art. The extensive cave and rock art provides intriguing clues about what life was like for Native societies more than 6,000 years ago.

According to the study published in Antiquity, "systematic field exploration in Tennessee has located a wealth of new rock art - some deep in caves, some in the open air. The authors show that these have a different repertoire and use of color, and a different distribution in the landscape - the open sites up high and the caves down low. The landscape has been reorganised on cosmological terms by the pre-Columbian societies. This research offers an exemplary rationale for reading rock art beyond the image and the site."

Airborne laser spots ancient city complex of roads, canals hidden under dense Cambodian forest

Angkor Wat
© AP Photo/Heng Sinith
In this photo taken on June 28, 2012, Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temples complex stands in Siem Reap province, some 230 kilometers (143 miles) northwest Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Airborne laser technology has uncovered a network of roadways and canals, illustrating a bustling ancient city linking Cambodia's Angkor Wat temples complex. The discovery was announced late Monday, June 17, 2013, in a peer-reviewed paper released early by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sydney - Airborne laser technology has uncovered a network of roadways and canals, illustrating a bustling ancient city linking Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temples complex.

The discovery was announced late Monday in a peer-reviewed paper released early by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The laser scanning revealed a previously undocumented formal urban planned landscape integrating the 1,200-year-old temples.

The airborne lasers produced a detailed map of a vast cityscape, including highways and previously undiscovered temples, hidden beneath dense vegetation atop Phnom Kulen mountain in Siem Reap province. It was the lost city of Mahendraparvata.
Book 2

Long-lost diary of Nazi leader Rosenberg outlines plans for Soviet occupation

© Charles W. Alexander/Office of the US Chief of Counsel/US Holocaust Museum courtesy of Robert Jackson
Alfred Rosenberg reads a document during the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal in 1946.
US authorities have recovered the long-lost diary of top Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, in which Adolf Hitler's minister for the occupied eastern territories outlines plans for occupying the Soviet Union and exterminating Soviet Jews and other citizens, the Reuters news agency has reported.

The 400 pages of the diary that were recovered in a private home in upstate New York "include details about the German occupation of the Soviet Union and chilling plans for the slaughter of Jews and other eastern Europeans," wrote Reuters, which was given exclusive access to view the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's (USHMM) preliminary assessment of the diary.

In their assessment of the hand-written diary, which Rosenberg penned between 1936 and 1944, USHMM analysts said the Russian-born Nazi leader "sheds new light on a number of important issues relating to the Third Reich's policy."

The diary "will be an important source of information to historians that complements, and in part contradicts, already known documentation," the analysts say, without going into detail about exactly how the diary contradicts accepted Nazi history.

Study dates arrival of humans in Asia

Lake Toba
Lake Toba, Sumatra bears the scars of a massive eruption 74,000 years ago. The question is: did modern humans arrive in Asia before or after this time?
The first anatomically modern humans almost certainly arrived in southern Asia within the last 70,000 years, having dispersed as small groups of pioneer settlers along coastal regions from Africa, say UK scientists.

But another expert has disputed their proposal, saying there is still too little evidence to say for certain how humans dispersed into the region.

Using a combination of genetic and archaeological evidence, scientists led by University of Cambridge archaeologist Professor Paul Mellars and geneticist Professor Martin Richards, from the University of Huddersfield, say modern humans left eastern Africa sometime after 70,000 years ago and dispersed along the coast to the region south of the Himalayas.

The research, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science , is the latest volley in a heated debate about how, and when, humans spread around the globe.

The controversy has been particularly intense when it comes to the southern part of the Asian continent, the authors say.

Some scientists think modern humans arrived in the region 50,000 to 60,000 years ago having originated as a small group who left Africa and expanded around the coastlines of southern and southeast Asia.

Others think there was a much earlier dispersal of modern humans from Africa sometime before a massive volcanic eruption on Mount Toba in Sumatra, about 74,000 years ago.

Wright brothers were wrong, Gustave Whitehead was first in flight

Gustave Whitehead
© Gustave Whitehead Research Committee / Weisskopf
Gustave Whitehead with his Number 21 plane.
When it comes to the Wright Bros, history books have it wrong, according to the Connecticut state government.

Orville and Wilbur Wright are historically known as the first to successfully take powered flight, taking their Wright Flyer into the skies around Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina on December 17, 1903. However, the Connecticut Senate on Wednesday (June 5) passed a bill that essentially strips that title away from the aeronautical duo, and passes the torch onto another who had taken the first flight a few years earlier.

Gustave Whitehead, a German immigrant living in Boston and New York, is claimed by at least one Connecticut newspaper to be the first to fly, lifting off for a ten minute flight over Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1901.

A Bridgeport Sunday Herald report dated August 18, 1901 gives the account of the first successful flight in exciting detail. The report has also been supported by a respected aviation reference guide, which could cause some uproar with the Smithsonian, which has long held the Wright Bros as the inventors of powered flight. In fact, a "contract" between the Smithsonian and the estate of Orville Wright requires the institution to refer to the Wright Bros as the first in flight.

Ancient marriage certificates in China reveal women's hidden stories

Chinese Marriage Certs_1
© Zhanju
An employee of the Luoyang Museum of Folk Customs shows off an ancient marriage certificate collected at the museum.
Folklore researcher Wang Zhiyuan has collected 26 civilian marriage certificates ranging from the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) to the early stage of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

"These civilian marriage certificates are not antiques or historical records. Few people take an interest in collecting them. But to some degree, they bear witness to historical changes in China," said Wang, president of the Luoyang Museum of Folk Customs in Luoyang City, central China's Henan Province.

Wang entertains a special affection for these certificates and has spent four years collecting them from various second-hand book markets and antique markets.

By now, he has a varied collection, including certificates for marriages, divorces, remarriages, and ghost marriages. A ghost marriage is a marriage in which one or both parties are deceased.

These certificates also give a glimpse into the lives of women in ancient China, when they were expected to practice the 'three obediences and four virtues'. A woman was supposed to obey her father before she got married, obey her husband while married and obey her son in widowhood. The four virtues included fidelity, physical charm, propriety in speech and efficiency in needle work.

"In feudal China, a marriage was arranged by parents between two families of equal social rank. The bride and bridegroom were supposed to match each other in their birthdates. A lot of rituals were also observed about a wedding. However, all that was still not enough to guarantee a happy marriage," said Wang.

Unexplained shadow 600ft under Pacific could be Amelia Earhart's missing plane

© Unknown
The team of researchers scouring the South Pacific for the wreckage of the plane flown by American aviator Amelia Earhart on her ill-fated attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 1937 say they may be nearing success after seeing an unexplained shadow on sonar images which were taken off the island of Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kirbati last year.

Experts with The International Group for Historic Airport Recovery, TIGHAR, revealed that painstaking analysis of sonar images captured in July 2012 revealed an anomaly on the slopes of a reef at a depth of about 600 feet that could turn out to be a section of the Lockheed Electra aircraft the American aviator and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were flying.

The team has described the discovery as "exciting" but "frustrating", as nothing is sure yet. "Maybe the anomaly is a coral feature that just happens to give a sonar return unlike any other coral feature on the entire reef slope," the group said. "Maybe it's a sunken fishing boat that isn't mentioned in any of the historical literature."

Crazy theories threaten Serpent Mound, demean native heritage

Serpent Mound
© Associated Press
Archaeologists estimate that Serpent Mound dates back to 1000 to 1500 A.D.
Is it home to a mine for spaceship fuel? Could it be a portal to another dimension, ready to be activated? Is it a place of hidden paranormal powers? Was it a safe spot to be when the 2012 Mayan prophecy predicted the end of the world? Is it an ancient indigenous homage to the summer and winter solstice?

Officially Serpent Mound is the largest surviving prehistoric effigy mound in the world, but in this stranger-­than-fiction story, there are ardent supporters for all of the claims listed above, and many more.

According to the Ohio Historical Society, the organization that manages the site in rural in southern Ohio, the mound is over 1,300 feet long, and clearly resembles an uncoiling serpent. Their website says the original purpose of the mound is unknown but was probably built by people from the Fort Ancient culture who lived in the area from 1000 to 1500 A.D. Bradley Lepper, archaeologist for the society, reports that the head of Serpent Mound appears to align with the rising sun during the summer solstice, and since the nearby Newark Earthworks have detailed astronomical alignments built into them, it is reasonable to assume that Serpent Mound does as well. Generations of researchers agree with that theory, but the intent of those who built the serpent remains a mystery. Lepper posits that Serpent Mound may have been a shrine to a spiritual power.

Mexican archaeologists find Olmec and pre Olmec ceramic inside cave in the State of Guerrero

© Centro INAH Guerrero
These figurines are hard to find; during the 80’s they found seven pieces located in Xalitla, and during the years 2005 and 2007 they discovered another four in Mezcala and Atzcala. This means to say, they had eleven figurines archaeologically registered in this part of Guerrero, and with this last one in Oxtotenco, there are now 12.
Chilpancingo - Inside a cave in the municipality of Cocula, north of Chilpancingo, Guerrero, specialists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) found a Mezcala type figurine and fragments of braziers that date back to the year 700 AD; in this same context, they found Olmec and pre Olmec ceramic which dates back to 1000 and 1200 BC, as well as osseous remains, which means this emptiness had different uses and was a place of funerary cult.

Archaeologist Miguel Perez Negrete, from the INAH center in Guerrero, detailed that the Mezcala figurine is complete, and its finding is relevant because of the few discoveries that have been made of these kinds of pieces, only twelve have been found in the region during this decade.

These sculptures are schematic and small, made with stone. The Mezcala culture is one of the civilizations that has been developing along the Balsas River, even toward the limits of the state of Guerrero, which has been identified primarily because of its architectonic style and anthropomorphic figurines.

"The one found in recent days, is a human representation in limestone, 8 centimeters [3.14 inches] tall, and like others that have been found, the gender of the figurine cannot be distinguished. Something noticeable is that it doesn't have slanted eyes, but round, like dots. Along the figurine they also found White Grainy ceramic which is very sandy. This type of material was used in the Epiclassic period (700 AD)", explained the archaeologist.