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Big Question for 2012: The Great Pyramid's Secret Doors

© Nina/Creative Commons
The Great Pyramid of Giza.

Will the mystery over the Great Pyramid's secret doors be solved in 2012?

I dare say yes. After almost two decades of failed attempts, chances are now strong that researchers will reveal next year what lies behind the secret doors at the heart of Egypt's most magnificent pyramid.

New revelations on the enduring mystery were already expected this year, following a robot exploration of the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum.

But unrest in Egypt froze the project at its most promising stage, after it produced the first ever images behind one of the Great Pyramid's mysterious doors.

Now the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), once led by the controversial yet charismatic Zahi Hawass, is slowly returning to granting permits for excavations and archaeological research.

"As with other missions, we have had to resubmit our application to be allowed to continue. We are currently waiting for the various committees to formalise the approval," project mission manager Shaun Whitehead, of the exploration company Scoutek UK, told Discovery News.

"Once we're allowed to continue, I have no doubt that we can complete our work in 2012," he added.

Built for the pharaoh Cheops, also known as Khufu, the Great Pyramid is the last remaining wonder of the ancient world.


Part of ancient fortress wall of Philippolis found in Bulgaria's Plovdiv

Part of the ancient fortress wall of Philippopolis was discovered during excavations by EVN Heating in the centre of Plovdiv, Bulgarian National Television said on December 9 2011.

The find, however, will not be exhibited because the roadway has to be covered over again, the report said.
© Svetla Dobreva

Workers who were installing a heating pipeline made the find and stopped work immediately so that archaeologists could carry out an examination of the section of the fortress wall, which is about 50m long and close to two metres wide.

The find gives a new insight to the topography of ancient Phiippopolis.


Canada: Fossil First Discovered in Alberta in 1916 - A New Species of Dinosaur

© The Canadian Press/HO Lukas Panzarin/Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology.
Artist's rendering of the skull bones of Spinops sternbergorum. A team of international scientists says a newly rediscovered dinosaur species once roamed the planes of southern Alberta
After gathering dust on a shelf for more than 90 years, two previously ignored skulls have been identified as a new dinosaur species which once roamed the plains of southern Alberta.

The bones of the newly named Spinops sternbergorum were originally discovered southeast of Calgary in 1916 by a father and son science team.

Charles and Levi Sternberg - who are now honoured in the new dinosaur's name - sent two partial skulls to London's Natural History Museum and even voiced a hunch that the bones might indicate a previously unknown dinosaur.

But those examining the skulls at the British museum at the time disagreed, labelled the fossils as "rubbish" and the bones were promptly forgotten for years.

Nearly a century later, a team of international scientists rummaging through the museum's collection of bones stumbled upon the skulls, re-examined them closely and found that they belonged to a species unknown until now.


World's Oldest Bedding Discovered in Cave

Ancient Bedding
© Prof. Lyn Wadley
Study researcher Christopher Miller sampling sediments containing the ancient mattresses.

The oldest known bedding - sleeping mats made of mosquito-repellant evergreens that are about 77,000 years old - has been discovered in a South African cave.

This use of medicinal plants, along with other artifacts at the cave, helps reveal how creative these early peoples were, researchers said.

An international team of archaeologists discovered the stack of ancient beds at Sibudu, a cave in a sandstone cliff in South Africa. They consist of compacted stems and leaves of sedges, rushes and grasses stacked in at least 15 layers within a chunk of sediment 10 feet (3 meters) thick.

"The inhabitants would have collected the sedges and rushes from along the uThongathi River, located directly below the site, and laid the plants on the floor of the shelter,"said researcher Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The oldest mats the scientists discovered are approximately 50,000 years older than other known examples of plant bedding. All told, these layers reveal mat-making over a period of about 40,000 years.

"The preservation of material at Sibudu is really exceptional," said researcher Christopher Miller, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany.


Mayans Never Predicted World To End In 2012?

© unknown
Mexico: If you are worried the world will end next year based on the Mayan calendar, relax: the end of time is still far off.

So say Mayan experts who want to dispel any belief that the ancient Mayans predicted a world apocalypse next year.

The Mayan calendar marks the end of a 5,126 year old cycle around December 21, 2012 which should bring the return of Bolon Yokte, a Mayan god associated with war and creation.

Author Jose Arguelles called the date "the ending of time as we know it" in a 1987 book that spawned an army of Mayan theorists, whose speculations on a cataclysmic end abound online. But specialists meeting at this ancient Mayan city in southern Mexico say it merely marks the termination of one period of creation and the beginning of another.

"We have to be clear about this. There is no prophecy for 2012," said Erik Velasquez, an etchings specialist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). "It's a marketing fallacy."


Cores Reveal When Dead Sea "Died"

When the dead sea died
Aragonite and gypsum deposits at the edge of the Dead Sea record the region's climate history
Sediments drilled from beneath the Dead Sea reveal that this most remarkable of water bodies all but disappeared 120,000 years ago.

It is a discovery of high concern say scientists because it demonstrates just how dry the Middle East can become during Earth's warm phases.

In such ancient times, few if any humans were living around the Dead Sea.

Today, its feed waters are intercepted by large populations and the lake level is declining rapidly.

"The reason the Dead Sea is going down is because virtually all of the fresh water flowing into it is being taken by the countries around it," said Steve Goldstein, a geochemist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, US.


Archaeologists Unearth Artifacts, Creating Fuller Picture of WWII

Years after the end of the world's greatest conflict, new research reveals the true nature and extent of its impact

© Laudanksy/NARA FILE # 111-SC-191475 War and Conflict Book# 1168)
Allied invasion force landing on the beaches of Saipan in the Mariana Islands in the summer of 1944.
Between 1939 and 1945, the world was engulfed in a conflict fought on almost every continent and ocean, involving every world power, and ultimately costing more than 50 million people, both soldiers and civilians, their lives. More than a dozen nations, among them the United States, Great Britain, and the U.S.S.R, fought on the side of the Allies, joining forces against the Axis powers - primarily Germany, Italy, and Japan - who, at the apex of their power, controlled or were poised to control large swaths of Europe, Africa, the Pacific Ocean, and East and Southeast Asia. Perhaps the greatest difference between World War II and the wars and conflicts that preceded it was its ubiquity.

For the first time, there were no clearly defined front lines where battles began and ended, were won and lost. Instead, according to University College London archaeologist Gabriel Moshenska, who studies the archaeology of modern conflict, "Everyone was on the front line and that transformed the world. World War II made the modern world what it is more than any single event in history," he says. "It changed the technology we use, it changed art and literature and the world's legal, international, and political structures - everything from nations to families."

This new kind of warfare, for archaeologists, requires a different approach to studying military action. The traditional methodology of battlefield archaeology - identifying a battle's location, unearthing weapons and defensive structures, and evaluating historical and literary texts - is not sufficient to understand World War II's geographic reach and social impact. What is needed, according to Tony Pollard, Director of the Center for Battlefield Archaeology at University of Glasgow, is a new kind of archaeology, one that he has dubbed "conflict archaeology." "Conflict archaeology is valuable because it places the violent events of warfare within their wider social context," he says, allowing for a broader understanding of twentieth- and twenty-first-century war.


Scotland: New study of Western Isles' sand dune-buried artefacts

© Rob Burke / Geograph
Remains of Iron Age occupation of the site on North Uist
New research is being carried out on artefacts recovered from a site where evidence was found for every age from the Neolithic to the 20th Century.

Archaeology at Udal provides an "unbroken timeline" of occupation from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Viking, Medieval through to the 1900s.

Some of the evidence at the site on North Uist was preserved by wind-blown sand dunes.

Archaeologist Ian Crawford excavated Udal between 1963 and 1995.

The earliest Neolithic layers he revealed consisted of a line of stones with a large upright stone nicknamed the great auk stone because of its resemblance to the extinct seabird.

A deep shaft containing quartz pebbles which had been covered over with a whale's vertebrae was also uncovered.

From the Bronze Age, finds included a skeleton and from the Iron Age evidence of metal work.


UK: Exhibition tells how Charles Dickens was spooked by ghost tale doppelganger

© London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images
A British Library exhibition celebrating the bicentenary of Charles Dickens's birth includes material claiming alleged plagiarism of a ghost story.
Bicentennial show at British Library says rival accused Dickens of plagiarism but author said he was amazed by story similarities.

The spirits which terrorise and ultimately reform Scrooge in A Christmas Carol may have been due to a nightmare brought on, as the miser put it, by "an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese".

Now a new exhibition at the British Library marking the bicentenary in 2012 of Charles Dickens's birth suggests that the real-life mystery of another ghost story by the author may have had an equally prosaic beginning: a manuscript he allegedly stole from a rival.

Dickens wrote some of the best-loved spooky yarns in the English language - but he did not please one artist who accused him of plagiarising his apparition in a piece published in 1861.

The author and artist Thomas Heaphy bitterly accused Dickens of underhand dealing and blatantly ripping off his own story which he had sent to the printers.

Friend and biographer John Forster described Dickens as having "a hankering after ghosts".


Curse of Tutankhamun May Have Been Work of Satanist Killer, a Historian Claims in a New Book

Six mysterious London deaths famously attributed to the "Curse of Tutankhamun" were actually murders by notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley, a historian claims in a new book.

© Getty Images
Aleister Crowley (left) and former Keeper in the British Museum's Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, Sir Ernest Wallis Budge
Incredible parallels between Crowley and Jack the Ripper have also been discovered during research by historian Mark Beynon.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, London was gripped by the mythical curse of Tutankhamun, the Egyptian boy-king, whose tomb was uncovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter.

More than 20 people linked to the opening of the pharaoh's burial chamber in Luxor in 1923 bizarrely died over the following years - six of them in the capital.

Victims included Carter's personal secretary Captain Richard Bethell, who was found dead in his bed from suspected smothering at an exclusive Mayfair club.