Secret HistoryS


Archaeologist digs into grandad's tale to uncover lost Yorkshire amphitheatre

© Christopher Thomond for the GuardianRose Ferraby strides across Studforth Hill in Aldborough where she and other archaeologists have discovered evidence of a Roman amphitheatre and stadium.
A national theatre of the north is found on summit of Studforth Hill in Aldborough

The lost amphitheatre of northern England has been found on a Yorkshire hilltop in a discovery with major implications for the study of Roman Britain.

Centuries of speculation have ended with a printout from geomagnetic scanners which reveals a great tiered bank of seats below curving hummocks in a field now frequented only by a herd of cattle.

Crowning the summit of Studforth Hill, the oval arena would have combined spectacles and entertainments with a magnificent 360-degree view, making it the equivalent of a national theatre of the north.

The find by Cambridge University archaeologists - led by a young woman who grew up locally and was told the amphitheatre legend by her grandfather - seals the importance in Roman times of the small village of Aldborough, between Harrogate and York.


2,000 year old skulls reveal the ancient medical practice of trepanning

© Unknown
The Garamantian civilization of ancient North Africa survived and thrived in the Sahara Desert from 1,100 BCE to 600 CE. Three newly discovered skull reveal that the Garamantians practiced medicine. Unfortunately, it involved making tiny holes in people's skulls.

This practice, known as trepanning, is quite possibly the oldest medical procedure known to humankind. Evidence of drilling and cutting at skulls dates all the way back to ancient Morocco 13,000 years ago. The Garamantian skulls - you can see one of them up top - showed evidence of holes and depressions that archaeologists believe were made during these procedures. We can also see renewed growth of the bone around these incisions, which indicates the patients survived the procedure and went onto at least a somewhat successful recovery.


Archaeologists excavating Arastu Tepe for signs of Kura-Aras culture

© British Institute at AnkaraThis photo shows a number of shards discovered at the Yanik Tepe in northwestern Iran.
A team of Archaeologists is currently working on the Arastu Tepe in order to find signs of the Kura-Aras culture in the mound located near the town of Malard in the southwest of Tehran.

Signs of the Kura-Aras culture were previously discovered during a series of initial excavations done by the team led by Akbar Purfaraj of Tehran's Allameh Tabatabai University.

They gathered a large number of shards scattered on the ground of the mound in the excavations, Tehran Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department Director told the Persian service of the Mehr News Agency on Tuesday.

Various motifs are seen on the shards, which are mostly red in color.

Purfaraj said that this season of excavation runs until late September and the second term is expected to begin next year.

Cow Skull

UK: Oxford Viking Massacre Revealed by Skeleton Find

© BBCEvidence suggests the men were running away from their attackers
Evidence of a brutal massacre of Vikings in Oxford 1100 years ago has been uncovered by archaeologists.

At least 35 skeletons, all males aged 16 to 25 were discovered in 2008 at St John's College, Oxford.

Analysis of wound marks on the bones now suggests they had been subjected to violence.

Archaeologists analysing the find believe it dates from 1002 AD when King Ethelred the Unready ordered a massacre of all Danes (Vikings) in England.

The surprise discovery of the skeletons was made by Thames Valley Archaeological Services under the quadrangle at St John's College at the University of Oxford, before building work started on the site.

The bodies had not received any type of formal burial and they had been dumped in a mass grave on the site of a 4,000-year-old Neolithic henge monument.


Rare Headless Hercules Statue Found in Israel

Hercules Statue
© Israel Antiquities AuthorityA marble statue of Hercules found at the site of a Roman bathhouse in Israel on Aug. 15.
A rare second-century statue of the mythic hero Hercules has been found in Israel, archaeologists reported today (Aug. 15). The buff marble masterpiece likely decorated a niche in a Roman bathhouse.

The intervening centuries have left Hercules headless, but his bulging muscles are still apparent, as is his club and the skin of the Nemean lion, which, according to myth, Hercules slew as one of his 12 labors.

According to Greek and Roman myth, Hercules was half-man, half-god, the son of the god Zeus and Alcmene, a mortal woman. Out of jealousy, Zeus' wife Hera plagued Hercules with misfortune, including a fit of madness that caused him to kill his own wife and children. In penitence, Hercules performed 12 superhuman feats, including the slaying of the vicious Nemean lion.

Ancient artists often portrayed these tasks in murals and statuary. The newly discovered statue was found at Horvat Tabernet, in Israel's Jezreel Valley. The Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered the remains of a Roman bathhouse from the second century, along with dwellings and a well and channel that supplied water to the bathhouse's large pool. The Hercules statue was found in the pool, amidst potshards and broken glass vessels.


Woah Mama! Ancient fossil of pregnant 'sea monster' solves 200-year-old mystery about reptile parenting

sea reptile egg laying
© Marshall UniversityFossilised remains: A pregnant sea monster that died about 78 million years ago carrying a large foetus - the first expectant plesiosaur mother to be found since the species was discovered almost two centuries ago
A pregnant sea monster that died about 78 million years ago may have solved a mystery that scientists have pondered for almost 200 years.

The fossilised remains of a plesiosaur were unearthed in Kentucky carrying a large foetus.

It's the first expectant plesiosaur mother to be found since the species was discovered almost two centuries ago.

Study researcher Frank O'Keefe, of Marshall University in West Virginia, said: 'It demonstrates that the plesiosaur gives live birth and did not crawl out on land [to lay eggs]. It puts this 200-year mystery to rest.

'The really interesting thing is how big this bouncing baby is. It's really large by reptilian standards, by human standards, by any standards you use.'

The fact that the expecting mother only carried one offspring, and the sheer size of the foetus, indicate that the marine reptiles gave live birth.

Mr O'Keefe also said that the plesiosaur may have invested much more time and energy into nurturing their offspring than other marine reptiles at the time, similar to how humans invest years raising their kids.

Cow Skull

Rare polar dinosaur tracks discovered in Australia

© Anthony MartinThe rare tracks were most likely made during a polar summer when melting glaciers created a floodplian soft enough for the dinosaurs to leave tracks on.
A group of more than 20 polar dinosaur tracks have been discovered on the coast of Victoria, Australia, offering a rare glimpse into animal behaviour during the last period of pronounced global warming, about 105 million years ago.

The discovery is the largest and best collection of polar dinosaur tracks ever found in the Southern Hemisphere.

"These tracks provide us with a direct indicator of how these dinosaurs were interacting with the polar ecosystems, during an important time in geological history," said Emory palaeontologist Anthony Martin, who led the research.


Newly discovered relics show ancient Chinese knew how to use fire

Chinese archaeologists have found new evidence to show that ancient Chinese people knew how to use fire. The relics were discovered at the Peking Man cave site in the village of Zhoukoudian near Beijing. Peking Man is an ancient Chinese ape-man that lived as much as 750-thousand years ago.

According to archaeologists, there are about ten cultural layers in the cave of the Chinese ape-men. The fourth layer or ash layer is the top cultural layer indicating a period of human activities. Ancient Chinese probably lived from the third to the tenth level.

Archeologists have been digging the ruins since mid-May. In August they uncovered numerous relics, giving evidence that ancient Chinese knew how to use fire.

There are nearly 400 relics, including scrapers, choppers and hammers made of stone. More than 700 samples of medium and large animal bones, and fossils of rodents and birds have been uncovered.

The fire pits and ashes could be the relics showing the use of fire and the cave-life of ancient Chinese people.


Best of the Web: Centuries of Lying in the Name of Christianity

Forged cover
© HarperOne
A Review of Forged by Bart D. Ehrman
The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed. - Thomas Paine
Professor Bart Ehrman has done something that more than 99 percent of American Christians have failed to do. He has devoted much of his adult life to a serious study of the New Testament.

Ehrman commenced his studies at a fundamentalist Bible college, Moody Bible Institute, before completing his undergraduate education at Wheaton College. While at Wheaton, Ehrman did what every serious student of the New Testament must do; he studied Greek. As he explained in Forged: Writing in the Name of God - Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, "I took Greek, so that I could read the New Testament in its original language." [p. 4]


Explorer Marco Polo "Never Actually Went to China"

Marco Polo's journeys to China and the Far East established him as one of history's greatest explorers but archeologists now believe he never actually went there.

© Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesExplorer Marco Polo
They think it more likely that the Venetian merchant adventurer picked up second-hand stories of China, Japan and the Mongol Empire from Persian merchants whom he met on the shores of the Black Sea - thousands of miles short of the Orient.

He then cobbled them together with other scraps of information for what became a bestselling account, A Description of the World, one of the first travel books.

The archeologists point in particular to inconsistencies and inaccuracies in his description of Kublai Khan's attempted invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281.