Secret HistoryS


Killer cave may have inspired myth of Hades

© Gianluca Cantoro, Foundation for Research and Technology, HellasA giant cave called Alepotrypa that might have helped serve as the inspiration for the mythic ancient Greek underworld Hades may have supported complex settlements in its heyday. Here, the cave's main chamber.
A giant cave that might have helped serve as the inspiration for the mythic ancient Greek underworld Hades once housed hundreds of people, potentially making it one of the oldest and most important prehistoric villages in Europe before it collapsed and killed everyone inside, researchers say.

The complex settlement seen in this cave suggests, along with other sites from about the same time, that early prehistoric Europe may have been more complex than previously thought.

The cave, located in southern Greece and discovered in 1958, is called Alepotrypa, which means "foxhole."

"The legend is that in a village nearby, a guy was hunting for foxes with his dog, and the dog went into the hole and the man went after the dog and discovered the cave," said researcher Michael Galaty, an archaeologist at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. "The story's probably apocryphal - depending on who you ask in the village, they all claim it was their grandfather who found the cave."


Necropolis with over 100 burials unearthed near the village of Marten, northern Bulgaria

A necropolis with over 100 burials has been unearthed during archaeological excavations near the village of Marten in northern Bulgaria. The discovery was made by the archaeologist from the Archaeology Museum in the Danube city of Ruse, Deyan Dragoev. The necropolis is on the path of the future gas connection between Bulgaria and Romania.

The site includes tombs from the Thracian times to the times of the First Bulgarian Kingdom. The oldest ones date from the 5th - 4th centuries B.C. Some reveal very interesting rites such as the tomb of a decapitated soldier, whose head was laid on his lap, while others have been buried with gold and silver jewelry or with their dogs.

Some skeletons have deformed skulls, which have been typical for the First Bulgarian Kingdom as a sign of high position in society and of nobility. Noble children then had their heads tightened with headbands in order to change the form of the skull, experts say.
© Ruse History MuseumThe newly-discovered necropolis in Bulgaria includes tombs from the Thracian times to the times of the First Bulgarian Kingdom.


40 silver Roman coins from 3rd century found at Odeon site in Bulgaria's Plovdiv

Archaeologists working at the Odeon site in Bulgaria's second city of Plovdiv have found 40 silver coins said to date from the third century CE when the city was under Roman rule. The coins were said by archaeologists to have been minted during the Severan dynasty, while ruled from 193 to 235 CE and variously feature images of four different emperors.

The Odeon site, dating from the second to fifth centuries, is the location of a Roman-era theatre, and is smaller in scale than Plovdiv's well-known ancient theatre in the city's Old Town. The coins were found near the complex of administrative buildings at the northern end of the forum complex. This archaeological season, more than 600 coins have been excavated at Plovdiv's Odeon site. From the Hellenic era, there have been many finds of pottery.


The written word: An ancient tool of oppression

Ancient Writing
© BBC NewsExperts working on proto-Elamite hope they are on the point of 'a breakthrough'.
The advent of writing is generally viewed in terms of its significance as a cultural advance - less attention is given to its political implications. Yet it looks like the most important function writing originally served was in the management of slavery and the regulation of society.

The BBC's Sean Coughlan reports on efforts to understand proto-Elamite, the world's oldest undeciphered writing system, which was used in an area that is now in south-western Iran over 5,000 years ago. The script was imprinted in clay tablets.
These were among the first attempts by our human ancestors to try to make a permanent record of their surroundings. What we're doing now - my writing and your reading - is a direct continuation.

But there are glimpses of their lives to suggest that these were tough times. It wasn't so much a land of milk and honey, but porridge and weak beer.

Even without knowing all the symbols, Dr [Jacob] Dahl [director of the Ancient World Research Cluster at Oxford University] says it's possible to work out the context of many of the messages on these tablets.

The numbering system is also understood, making it possible to see that much of this information is about accounts of the ownership and yields from land and people. They are about property and status, not poetry.

This was a simple agricultural society, with a ruling household. Below them was a tier of powerful middle-ranking figures and further below were the majority of workers, who were treated like "cattle with names".

Their rulers have titles or names which reflect this status - the equivalent of being called "Mr One Hundred", he says - to show the number of people below him.

It's possible to work out the rations given to these farm labourers.

Dr Dahl says they had a diet of barley, which might have been crushed into a form of porridge, and they drank weak beer.

The amount of food received by these farm workers hovered barely above the starvation level.

However the higher status people might have enjoyed yoghurt, cheese and honey. They also kept goats, sheep and cattle.

For the "upper echelons, life expectancy for some might have been as long as now", he says. For the poor, he says it might have been as low as in today's poorest countries.
If we think of writing as an observer's record-keeping we might imagine some kind of proto-historian assuming the task of creating these first tablets, yet their content as described above makes it clear that these texts had a purely utilitarian function - they were records for the ruling class. Indeed, the creation of writing was likely one of the necessary conditions that facilitated the development and expansion of ownership.


Maharashtra's ancient rock sculptures

Rock Sculpture
© The Times of India
Rock sculptures dating back to between 4,000-7,000 BC have been found in a well-preserved condition in the forests near Kudopi village in Sindhudurg district of coastal Konkan region, an official said here Tuesday.

There are more than 60 big and small images of Mother Goddess, birds and animals, found in a single location of around 20,000 square feet, considered one of the biggest such concentration anywhere in the country, Satish Lalit, leader of an expedition team which made the discovery last May, said.

"Though similar carvings have been found in other parts of India, this is the first find on a red soil laterite plateau. These are petro-glyphs unlike the picto-graphs found in places like Amravati," Lalit, a member of Rock Art Society of India (RASI), said.

With this significant historical find dating back to over 6,000 years from now, Sindhudurg district, around 490 km from Mumbai on the Maharashtra-Goa border, will be catapulted onto the global rock-art map.

Last week (Nov 17) Lalit, who is also the media advisor to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, presented his findings before the RASI's 17th National Congress held in Badami, Karnataka.


Ancient tombs discovered in Pakistan

Ancient Tomb_1
© Phys.OrgA Pakistani family crosses the River Swat by bridge at the hill station of Madyan. Italian archaeologists say they have discovered a cemetery that reveals complex funeral rites dating back more than 3,000 years in Pakistan's Swat valley, which was recently controlled by the Taliban.
Italian archaeologists say they have discovered a cemetery that reveals complex funeral rites dating back more than 3,000 years in Pakistan's Swat valley, recently controlled by the Taliban.

The Italian mission began digging in the 1950s at Udegram, a site of Buddhist treasures in Swat, the northwestern district formerly known as the Switzerland of Pakistan for its stunning mountains, valleys and rivers.

Archaeologists were aware of a pre-Buddhist grave site in Udegram, but only recently discovered the collection of almost 30 graves, tightly clustered and partially overlapping.

"Some graves had a stone wall, others were protected by walls and enclosures in beaten clay," Luca Maria Olivieri, head of the Italian mission, told AFP.

"The cemetery... seems to have been used between the end of the second millennium BCE and the first half of the first millennium BCE," he added.

Olivieri says the tombs point to the culture that predates the Buddhist Gandhara civilisation that took hold in northwest Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan from the first millennium BCE to the sixth century AD.


Pope questions Christ's birth year in new book

© AFP/Alberto Pizzoli
A new book written by the Pope questions one of the fundamentals of the Christian religion. The head of the Roman Catholic Church argues the Christian calendar is based on a miscalculation and is therefore wrong.

In the book Benedict XVI goes on to suggest Christ was born several years earlier than is commonly thought.

In the final instalment of the Pope's Jesus of Nazareth trilogy dedicated to Christ's infancy, the pontiff writes of an error made by 6th century monk Dionysius Exiguus or Dennis the Small, who apparently "made a mistake... by several years" calculating the beginning of our calendar.

"The actual date of Jesus' birth was several years before,"
he claims.

The concept is not new. Many historians and scholars agree with Pope Benedict XVI, believing Jesus Christ was rather born sometime between 6BC and 4BC.

Dionysius Exiguus invented the new Christian calendar as an alternative to the one that was current at the time. It was based on the years of reign of Emperor Diocletian, a tyrant who persecuted Christians. The Exiguus system eventually replaced the Diocletian in Europe around the year 800 and started the use of Anno Domini.

The allegation Dionysius Exiguus made a mistake is still a questionable theory, as no one knows how exactly Dionysius made his calculations.

The book hit the stores on Wednesday after it has been translated into other languages from original German. The first part was published in 2007 and was annotated as a "personal search for the face of the Lord." The second instalment was published in 2011.


Lost civilization unearthed in Indonesia

Lost Civilization_1
© J.B. DjwanOld: Discoverer of 14th century temple ruins Chandra Kirawan points out the massive stones that are believed to be the foundations of Bali’s largest temple complex.
Ancient Balinese history was not uppermost in Ida Rsi Bhujannga's life until plans to build a septic tank at his home turned into an archeological discovery that has scientists bewitched.

The elderly high priest says he is now fascinated by his community's history, which the rare find of dozens of massive stones has uncovered. These meter-long stones are believed to be from a 14th century temple complex that may have been the largest ever constructed on the Island of the Gods.

"I have become very interested in archeology since this was found, because we must know our history here in Bali. As a priest I need to know about this history so I can teach people," said Bhujannga.

He is speaking of ruins of a Hindu temple unearthed recently during excavations into rice fields to extend his home in Penatih village, Denpasar. Workers struck the huge mudstone foundations of the temple at just 70 centimeters below the surface, and in doing so have altered the Denpasar history books.

Head of Bali's Archeology Unit, Made Geria, says the discovery is unique due to the scale of the stones used in the ancient temple's foundations and their location.


Prehistoric Scotland home unearthed - dated to the Mesolithic period

© Transport Scotland/Headland Archaeology
An artists impression of how the Mesolithic dwelling may have looked
The ancient dwelling was uncovered during an archaeological excavation in a field on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A large oval pit nearly seven metres in length and studded with postholes is all that remains of the dwelling that has been dated to the Mesolithic period, around 10,252 years ago.

A survey of the site was being conducted in preparation for the building of the Forth Replacement Crossing in a field in Echline, South Queensferry, just north of Edinburgh.

Rod McCullagh, a senior archaeologist at Historic Scotland, said: "This discovery and, especially, the information from the laboratory analyses adds valuable information to our understanding of a small but growing list of buildings erected by Scotland's first settlers after the last glaciation, 10,000 year ago.

"The radiocarbon dates that have been taken from this site show it to be the oldest of its type found in Scotland which adds to its significance."


Vikings feasted on seals, bones reveal

© Jette ArneborgArchaeologists dig up skeletons of Norse settlers in 2010 at Igaliku Fjord, Greenland.
Seals made up as much 80 percent of the Viking diet in Greenland, new analyses of Norse skeletons reveal. The finds suggest that the settlers' mysterious disappearance from Greenland 500 years ago was hardly due to an inability to adjust to the icy environment.

"Even though the Norse are traditionally thought of as farmers, they adapted quickly to the Arctic environment and the unique hunting opportunities," explained researcher Jan Heinemeier of Aarhus University in a statement. "During the period they were in Greenland, the Norse ate gradually more seals."

Through analyses of the carbon isotope ratios in bone samples from 80 Norse skeletons, the researchers determined that a large proportion of the Vikings' diet came from seafood, with seals making up between 50 and 80 percent by the 14th century.

The first Norse transplants brought farming and domestic animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs from Iceland to Greenland. But the new findings challenge the view that these settlers stuck to this lifestyle until increasingly harsh conditions, and possibly a "Little Ice Age," drove them to starve or settle elsewhere.