Secret HistoryS


Our calendar: A history of how and when it was adopted

© Alameda Patch
Our current calendar is named after a pope, but it all began with the most famous leader of the Roman empire.

Julius Caesar instituted the model for what our calendar is based on in 45 B.C. when he approved what was called the Julian calendar.

According to, that calendar consisted of 11 months of 30 or 31 days each with 28 days in February. Quite accurate for its time, but with a major flaw.

The calendar was off from the real solar year (the time it takes the Earth to circle the sun) by 11 minutes. Over the centuries, that added up.

By the late 1500s, the Julian calendar was off by 10 days from the solar year. So, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII approved a new calendar that include 365 days and a leap year every four years.

To catch up with the sun, the pope ordered the calendar to advance by 10 days. That officially happened on Oct. 15, 1582.

Not every country immediately accepted the pope's decree and adopted the Gregorian calendar.

Arrow Up

Sand Creek Massacre descendants seek justice 148 years later

Pastor Simpson
© Andy Cross, The Denver PostSand Creek Massacre descendant Robert Simpson, a Methodist pastor, stands in his church in Anadarko, Okla.
Anadarko, Oklahoma - They dance for the dead.

The foreman, the minister and the princess in the buckskin dress stomp and twirl and sing on a gymnasium floor protected by a tarp.

About 100 people watch from chairs arranged around a drum circle. All of them are family, in a way, bound to a terrible event 148 years ago on the banks of an ice-encrusted creek in Colorado.

The old lawyer is here, too, the former Oklahoma attorney general who smoked the truth pipe in a tepee as the Cheyenne arrow keeper looked on.

They gather every year - descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre and their unlikely allies - in a long search for justice that started with optimism, languished and now has a breath of new life.

At dawn on Nov. 29, 1864, Colorado soldiers attacked peaceful Indians camped on the banks of Sand Creek in what is now southeastern Colorado, slaughtering an estimated 163 - mainly women, children and the elderly - and desecrating their bodies.

The backlash was so severe, the U.S. government not only acknowledged wrongdoing but promised reparations of land and cash to survivors and relatives of victims.

That promise - spelled out in an 1865 treaty - remains unfulfilled, according to descendants and their attorneys.

Champions of the cause have died or moved on. And descendants who once stood as allies now view one another with scorn.
© The Denver Post / Andy CrossA painting depicting the 1864 Sand Creek massacre on a buffalo skin hangs on a wall of Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Trust attorney Larry Derryberry in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma November 30th, 2012.
But on this early December day, in a town that calls itself the "Indian Capital of the Nation," descendants receive a rare progress report.

The newly expanded legal team for the Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Trust has opened a dialogue with Department of Interior officials about the claim. At the least, the discussions could lay the groundwork for a federal lawsuit, the lawyers say.

And after decades of research and recruitment, about 15,000 descendants have been identified - a step that trust leaders believe is necessary.

Homer Flute, a former auto-parts- factory foreman who has headed the trust since 1990, sits on the gym's wooden bleachers and considers the unlikely group of people in his company.

"Sand Creek is like a cobweb," Flute says. "It links in all different directions, and you don't know where it's going. You find people you didn't know existed, and they are kin to you somehow. The idea is you belong to these people and they belong to you."


Effort to return Hopi artifacts stirs questions

Indian Artifacts
© The Arizona RepublicDozens of arrowheads were among the more than 600 items recovered by archaeologists from an ancient Sinagua grave near Flagstaff, Ariz.; those sacred items and remains of a man nicknamed “the Magician” reportedly were repatriated to the Hopi Tribe in secret proceedings.
Phoenix -- On an unknown date at an unidentified location, the U.S. government turned over a collection of undisclosed Sinagua artifacts to anonymous members of the Hopi Tribe for unspecified disposition.

The mysterious proceedings this fall involved an archaeological treasure trove and a substantial expenditure of tax dollars. Yet virtually everything about it remains secret under a federal law known as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA.

The 1990 law enables Indian tribes to reclaim ancestral remains and sacred objects that were unearthed from native burial sites by scientists or looters. Along with supplemental statutes, it also authorizes U.S. agencies to conceal virtually all details of those transactions.

The recent Hopi event involved archaeological digs from Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. When The Arizona Republic sought a description of the repatriated items and an accounting of federal money spent, the government repeatedly answered, "Our intent is to honor the tribe's request, made in consultation, not to disclose information."

The secrecy and phrasing hint at an underlying controversy that has festered since the repatriation act was adopted.

For Native Americans, the repatriation of remains and funerary objects is a matter of justice - the return of sacred possessions that were dug up, defiled and displayed for decades in violation of tribal beliefs and human rights. To this day, activists are pushing to expand the law in the name of privacy, religious freedom and tribal sovereignty.


Buried Christian empire casts new light on early Islam

Zafar yemen christian pre islamic empire
© Paul YuleThe "crowned man" relief found in Zafar, Yemen is seen as evidence that there was a Christian empire in the region before Islam took hold.
Archeologists are studying the ruins of a buried Christian empire in the highlands of Yemen. The sites have sparked a number of questions about the early history of Islam. Was there once a church in Mecca?

The commandment "Make yourself no graven image" has long been strictly followed in the Arab world. There are very few statues of the caliphs and ancient kings of the region. The pagan gods in the desert were usually worshipped in an "aniconic" way, that is, as beings without form.

Muhammad had a beard, but there are no portraits of him.

But now a narcissistic work of human self-portrayal has turned up in Yemen. It is a figure, chiseled in stone, which apparently stems from the era of the Prophet.

Paul Yule, an archeologist from the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, has studied the relief, which is 1.70 meters (5'7") tall, in Zafar, some 930 kilometers (581 miles) south of Mecca. It depicts a man with chains of jewelry, curls and spherical eyes. Yule dates the image to the time around 530 AD.

The German archeologist excavated sites in the rocky highlands of Yemen, an occupation that turned quite dangerous recently because of political circumstances in the country. On his last mission, Yule lost 8 kilograms (18 lbs.) and his equipment was confiscated.

Grey Alien

'Alien' skulls found at Sonora, Mexico, ancient burial site

An ancient burial site in Mexico, discovered in 1999 but only recently investigated, has revealed skeletal remains with odd, "alien-shaped" skulls.

They were unearthed in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora at a site known as "El Cementerio" when workers stumbled upon the remains accidentally while digging to install an irrigation system. According to Time, the bones date to between A.D. 940 and 1308, making them around 1,000 years old.

The skulls appear to have been intentionally deformed until they resembled something akin to the "Coneheads," the fictional alien family made famous on "Saturday Night Live" in the late 1970s.

"This was an Hispanic cemetery with 25 skulls, and 13 of them have deformed heads," Cristina Garcia Moreno, a researcher from Arizona State University who worked on the project, told ABC News. "We don't know why this population specifically deformed their heads."


Is Israel hiding the secret source of Christianity?

Caiaphus Ossuary
© Israel Antiquities AuthorityCaiaphus Ossuary.
Were the final resting-places of the family and disciples of Jesus discovered 30 years ago and then hidden as part of a religious-political conspiracy?

The archaeological controversy swirling around two Roma-era burial tombs in Jerusalem refuses to die. Indeed, it has become something of an ugly academic slugfest.

In one corner stands the Israeli archaeological establishment represented by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Amos Kloner of Bar-Ilan University, backed by various respected archaeologists and scholars. In the other stands Simcha Jacobovici, the filmmaker and self-styled "Naked Archaeologist," backed by another group of respected archaeologists and scholars.

In 1981, Prof Kloner led an archaeological survey of a 1st-century burial tomb in East Talpiot, Jerusalem, that was exposed during construction works in the area. Prof Kloner was able to spend only a few minutes inside the tomb before he was chased away by a group of ultra-orthodox Jews who objected to the disturbance of what they suspected were Jewish graves. A number of stone burial boxes or ossuaries were left inside the tomb and it was resealed, eventually hidden under the patio of a newly-built apartment.

The tomb briefly inspected by Kloner was very close to another tomb from the same era that been exposed during construction work a year earlier. That tomb contained 10 ossuaries, of which nine are in the IAA store rooms including ones with inscriptions identifying them as containing the bones of "Yehoshua bar Yoseph", "Miriam", and "Yehuda bar Yeshua (Jesus)".


Oldest known depiction of pharaoh found

Royal Boat Procession
© Stan Hendrickx, John Coleman Darnell and Maria Carmela GattoThe scene with the royal boat procession. Heavily damaged, the carving has been virtually restored.
The oldest known representation of a pharaoh has been found carved on rocks at a desert site in southern Egypt, according to new research into long forgotten engravings.

Found on vertical rocks at Nag el-Hamdulab, four miles north of the Aswan Dam, the images depict a pharaoh riding boats with attendant prisoners and animals in what is thought to be a tax-collecting tour.

"We don't know with certainty who the king represented at Hamdulab is. We can guess on paleographic and iconographic grounds," Maria Carmela Gatto, associate research scholar in Egyptology at Yale University and co-director of thee Aswan-Kom Ombo archaeological project in Egypt, told Discovery News.

Indeed, the style of the carvings suggests that the images were made at a late Dynasty date, around 3200-3100 B.C. This would have been the reign of Narmer, the first king to unify northern and southern Egypt, thus regarded by many scholars as Egypt's founding pharaoh.


Ice Age California saber-toothed cats didn't starve into extinction

© American Museum of Natural History
The fearsome felines of the Ice Age in California don't show signs of starving immediately before their extinction. Teeth of saber-toothed cats and the American lions didn't have wear marks that would have suggested the cats were gnawing on bones in hunger near the time of the cats' extinctions.

"Tooth wear patterns suggest that these cats were not desperately consuming entire carcasses, as was expected, and instead seemed to be living the 'good life' during the late Pleistocene, at least up until the very end," said lead author Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University in a press release.

Tooth wear patterns did reveal previously unknown differences in the two cat species behavior. Saber-toothed cats, also known as Smilodon, appeared to have regularly crunched bones, and showed no increase in this dietary distinction toward the end of their reign, which spanned from 30,000 to 10,000 years ago. American lions however, were more finicky and seem to have avoided bones, much as modern cheetahs do.


The little-known legend of Jesus in Japan

Burial Ground
© Jensen Walker / Getty ImagesThe burial ground to what some claim is Jesus' final resting place.
On the flat top of a steep hill in a distant corner of northern Japan lies the tomb of an itinerant shepherd who, two millennia ago, settled down there to grow garlic. He fell in love with a farmer's daughter named Miyuko, fathered three kids and died at the ripe old age of 106. In the mountain hamlet of Shingo, he's remembered by the name Daitenku Taro Jurai. The rest of the world knows him as Jesus Christ.

It turns out that Jesus of Nazareth - the Messiah, worker of miracles and spiritual figurehead for one of the world's foremost religions - did not die on the cross at Calvary, as widely reported. According to amusing local folklore, that was his kid brother, Isukiri, whose severed ear was interred in an adjacent burial mound in Japan.

A bucolic backwater with only one Christian resident (Toshiko Sato, who was 77 when I visited last spring) and no church within 30 miles, Shingo nevertheless bills itself as Kirisuto no Sato (Christ's Hometown). Every year 20,000 or so pilgrims and pagans visit the site, which is maintained by a nearby yogurt factory. Some visitors shell out the 100-yen entrance fee at the Legend of Christ Museum, a trove of religious relics that sells everything from Jesus coasters to coffee mugs. Some participate in the springtime Christ Festival, a mashup of multidenominational rites in which kimono-clad women dance around the twin graves and chant a three-line litany in an unknown language. The ceremony, designed to console the spirit of Jesus, has been staged by the local tourism bureau since 1964.

The Japanese are mostly Buddhist or Shintoist, and, in a nation of 127.8 million, about 1 percent identify themselves as Christian. The country harbors a large floating population of folk religionists enchanted by the mysterious, the uncanny and the counterintuitive. "They find spiritual fulfillment in being eclectic," says Richard Fox Young, a professor of religious history at the Princeton Theological Seminary. "That is, you can have it all: A feeling of closeness - to Jesus and Buddha and many, many other divine figures - without any of the obligations that come from a more singular religious orientation."


Maori are not the indigenous people of New Zealand

David Rankin
© The Northern AdvocateDavid Rankin of Ngapuhi.
The status of Maori as the country's indigenous population could be in danger if research, which suggests previous civilisations lived in New Zealand before Maori arrived, is proved true.

Ngapuhi leader David Rankin said books by authors such as investigative journalist Ian Wishart and historian Noel Hilliam presented "clear evidence" that some of New Zealand's earliest residents might have arrived before the Polynesians.

He pointed to numerous Maori oral histories which referred to people being here when the first Maori arrived, including fair-skinned people.

"If we believe our histories, then we as Maori are not the indigenous people of New Zealand."

The archaeological evidence in some research was a potential challenge to the status of Maori as indigenous, which was why he believed no other Maori was prepared to speak publicly on the issue, Mr Rankin said.