Secret History

Blue Planet

Why immigration matters today, as in ancient Rome

There is much the ancient world can teach us. One of the key lessons is that mass migration - motivated by war, societal collapse, and/or extreme poverty - is capable of destroying even the most powerful of empires.

At its height the Roman Empire was so vast and powerful it was run on the basis of the dictum: "Roma locuta est. Causa finita est" (Rome has spoken. The cause has finished)

The names of its most powerful figures are as familiar to us as our own - Pompey, Caesar, Augustus, Nero, Hadrian, Vespasian, Constantine - men whose rule over the ancient world was so dominant that the only threat they faced came from within Rome itself. Indeed, it would have been the very definition of insanity to claim that an empire stretching from the Italian peninsula all the way across Western Europe and down into North Africa and the Middle East, enforced by legions whose very presence in the field of battle induced terror in any army unwise enough to challenge its writ.

Yet in 476CE what was then known as the Western Roman Empire came to an end after a century of successive barbarian invasions finally succeeded in bringing Rome to its knees. The symbols of its power - in the form of the emperor's imperial vestments, diadem, and purple cloak - were sent to Constantinople, the seat of power of the eastern half of the empire, to bring the curtain down on its 1000-year history. It was proof that no empire, regardless of its economic and military power, lasts forever.

Comment: While headlines scream that immigration is the problem, it's really a symptom not the problem.


1-ton WWII bomb found in Koblenz, Germany - 10,000 evacuated

© via twitter@rheinzeitung
At least 10,000 people have been evacuated from the town of Koblenz, western Germany, after a 1000-kg (I metric ton) bomb from World War II was discovered. According to the city officials, the bomb was in poor condition.

The evacuation took two hours more than the scheduled time, with all people being moved by 1200 GMT.

A team of about 800 officers, firefighters and other emergency workers has been working to dispose of the bomb, which weighs about 1,000 kg. Fire brigade spokesman Manfred Morschhäuser told German media that the bomb is in poor condition and it could take from five minutes to five hours to defuse it.

According to German public broadcasting corporation Südwestrundfunk (SWR), during the bomb disposal almost all operations in the city were stopped, including train services and even gondola trips across the Rhine.

The bomb was defused at 1426 GMT, German press reported, citing local officials.

This is not the first evacuation due to a WWII bomb in the city with about 100,000 people. In 2011 at least 45,000 city residents were evacuated after a huge bomb was found lying in the water.

Despite the fact that World War II ended 70 years ago, unexploded devices are still being found on a regular basis in Germany, as well as in other European countries.
© Via twitter@vipstories


Siberian statue carries secret code 7,000yr before writing began

The Shigir Idol is the world's oldest known wooden statue. Built in 9,000 BC, it bears a secret code which nobody has ever been able to decipher. Even more startling is that it was written 7,000 years before writing was thought to have begun.
© Yekaterinburg History Museum
Big Shigir Idol.
The Shigir Idol was found in a peat bog in Kirovgrad, Siberia in 1890, but has always remained something of a mystery. Earlier radiocarbon analysis suggested it was 9,500 years old, but now new technology has dated it as 1,500 older. German scientists described the results as "sensational".

The Mail Online reports that;

"Research was conducted in Mannheim, Germany, at one of the world's most advanced laboratories using Accelerated Mass Spectrometry, on seven minuscule wooden samples."

"The results were astonishing, as samples from inside parts of the idol showed its age as 11,000 calendar years, to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch."

Built at the end of the last Ice Age, it is some 5,000 years older than the pyramids and 6,500 years older than Stonehenge.

The Siberian Times quoted a spokesperson for the Sverdlovsk Regional History Museum, where it is on display, who said.

"This confirms that hunters and fishermen from Urals created works of art as developed and as monumental as ancient farmers of the Middle East".


Ural Mountains: Home of the world's oldest secret code?


Russia among countries delivering humanitarian aid to New Orleans after Katrina

Yuri Brazhnikov, who at the time served as Russian EMERCOM's Director for International Activities says that the humanitarian aid provided by Russia to US New Orleans devastated by hurricane Katrina, set in motion practical cooperation between the two countries' rescue services.

The humanitarian aid provided by Russia to US New Orleans devastated by hurricane Katrina, set in motion practical cooperation between the two countries' rescue services, Yuri Brazhnikov, who at the time served as Russian EMERCOM's Director for International Activities, told RIA Novosti.

Katrina hit southern US states on August 29, 2005, becoming one of the most destructive hurricanes in US history. New Orleans found itself in its epicenter. Almost 80 percent of the city was flooded and many buildings collapsed. More than 1,800 people died in the hurricane and its aftermath.

Comment: Another little known example of Putin's Russia extending a helping hand to countries in need - while the U.S. encircles the globe with military bases.


Prehistoric stone age petroglyphs discovered deep inside the Arctic Circle

© Anja Roth Niemi / Tromsø Museum
Scientists in Norway have claimed a sensational discovery: prehistoric carvings from the Stone Age deep inside the Arctic Circle. The images of elk and reindeer are about 7,000 years old, they say.

The carvings were found by Erik Kjellman, a leading research technician at Tromso University, while he was doing field work at Tommerneset village, Nordland County, in northern Norway.

"I am 29 years old and cannot really retire now," he said. "I will never be involved in anything like this again."

Kjellman said the site was "unique in an archaeological context."

"It was quite by chance that I went past the place at a time when the light made it possible to glimpse a petroglyph," he said, referring to an image made by removing part of a rock surface by carving.


Tolkien's earliest and 'darkest' prose published for the first time

© Harper Collins Publishers
The Story of Kullervo, a character from Finnish mythology, was the first work of prose written by JRR Tolkien a hundred years ago. It has now been made public for the first time.

This week, Tolkien's first story was published in the UK by Harper Collins. The unfinished work is essentially a retelling of part of a Finnish epic poem, Kalevala, a 19th century compilation of authentic Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology.

The 26-page story was written by then-Oxford student Tolkien exactly a century ago in 1915. Although it was left unfinished by the author, it apparently appeals to all Tolkien fans as it is his earliest work of prose, an early experimental story that was followed by the celebrated Lord of the Rings.

It was also one of Tolkien's darkest works, as the publisher of the book, Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger of the University of Maryland, puts it. The importance of Kullervo, the protagonist, to Tolkien is demonstrated in the following citation.

"I was immensely attracted by something in the air of the Kalevala," Tolkien wrote 1955 in a letter to WH Auden, as quoted by the Guardian. "I never learned Finnish well enough to do more than plod through a bit of the original, like a schoolboy with Ovid ... But the beginning of the legendarium ... was in an attempt to reorganise some of the Kalevala, especially the tale of Kullervo the hapless, into a form of my own."

Kullervo, Tolkien's very first hero, was the only tragic character in Finnish mythology. After surviving the massacre of his whole tribe and family, he was brought up in the house of his enemy, a dark magician named Untamo, and later sold into slavery, where he faced abuse.

Later he unwittingly seduced his twin sister and in the end kills himself with a magic broadsword. Kullervo possesses strong supernatural abilities and is guarded by a magic dog, Musti.


Lost palace of Sparta possibly uncovered

© Greek Ministry of Culture
New excavations at a site near historical Sparta may have uncovered the lost ruins of a Mycenaean Spartan palace. Among the treasures found at the site were cultic objects, such as this bull's head rhyton, or ceremonial drinking goblet.
An ancient Greek palace filled with cultic objects and clay tablets written in a lost script may be the long-lost palace of Mycenaean Sparta, one of the most famous civilizations of ancient Greece.

The 10-room complex, called Ayios Vassileios, was filled with striking artifacts, including fragments of ornate murals, a cultic cup with a bull's head, a seal emblazoned with a nautilus and several bronze swords. The palace, which burnt to the ground in the 15th or early 14th century B.C., also contained several tablets written in Linear B script, the earliest known form of written Greek, the Greek Ministry of Culture said in a statement. The ancient palace was uncovered about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) away from the historical Sparta that arose centuries later.

The discovery could shed light on a mysterious period in the history of the Mycenaean civilization, the Bronze Age culture that mysteriously collapsed in 1200 B.C.

War Whore

Cambodia Year Zero: Award-winning documentary by John Pilger


From John Pilger's film Zero Year'
On the 60th anniversary of the founding of ITV, Britain's and Europe's biggest commercial broadcaster, John Pilger's groundbreaking film, 'Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia', has been named as one of the network's 60 top programmes.

'Cambodia Year Zero', as it became known, was credited with alerting the world to the suffering of the people of Cambodia under the fanatical regime of Pol Pot. It raised tens of millions of pounds for Cambodia's children - mostly unsolicited - and became the most watched documentary throughout the world.

Watch the film and read John Pilger's account in his anthology 'Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs'.

The 'Madman Theory of War' was a phrase coined by former US president Richard Nixon. The New rulers of Cambodia called 1975 'Year Zero', the dawn of an age in which there would be No families, no sentiment, no expressions of love or grief, no medicines, no hospitals, no schools, no books, no learning, no holidays, no music, no song, no post, no money - only work and death.

Comment: In his article 'From Cambodia's Pol Pot to Iraq's ISIS', Pilger wrote:
"Anything that flies on everything that moves," and like in Cambodia, later in Iraq, Libya and Syria, from out of the smoke of the Western bombs came a new plague unleashed upon those struggling peoples. As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery - including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields - I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today's Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in "our" societies.


After 108 years at sea, world's oldest message in a bottle washes up in Germany

The bottle was released into the sea by George Parker Bidder in the early 1900s
© MBA archive
The oldest message in a bottle in the world, found by the Winkler family (left) and George Parker Bidder who released the bottle into the North Sea between 1904 and 1906 as part of his research.
A message in a bottle thrown into the sea 108 years ago by British scientists has been discovered washed up on a beach in Germany. It is believed to be the oldest message-in-a-bottle ever found.

Marianne Winkler, a retired post office worker, found the message from the past while on holiday with her husband on the North Sea island of Amrum. Mrs Winkler found the bottle in April, but was shy of publicity and the full story has only now emerged.

"It's always a joy when some one finds a message-in-a-bottle on the beach," she told the Amrum News, a local website. "Where does it come from, who wrote it, and how long has it been travelling on the winds, waves and currents? "But when Mrs Winkler stumbled on her message-in-a-bottle, she had no idea quite how old it would turn out to be.

Written on a piece of paper inside were the words "Break the bottle". "My husband, Horst, carefully tried to get the message out of the bottle, but there was no chance, so we had to do as it said," Mrs Winkler said. Inside they found a postcard with no date but a message promising a reward of a shilling to anyone who returned it. The message, in English, German and Dutch, asked anyone who discovered the bottle to fill in some information on where and how they found it.

The return address was the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth.

Arrow Down

Massive human skull rack found at Aztec temple

Some of the skulls mortared together in a circle.

Archaeologists have unearthed gruesome evidence of brutal rituals as they excavated what could be the largest ceremonial skull rack built by the Aztecs more than 500 years ago.

Found on the western side of what was once the Templo Mayor complex in Tenochtitlan, in modern Mexico City, the partially unearthed skull rack was likely built between 1485 and 1502 and may have been about 112 feet (34 meters) long and 40 feet (12 meters) wide.

Mostly belonging to young adult men, but also to women and children, several of the unearthed skulls feature holes on both sides, suggesting they belonged to a tzompantli. This was a rack on which the skulls of sacrificed people were arranged on wooden poles and displayed to inspire fear and awe.