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Jesus' Wife and Other Bible Rewrites

Bible
© Getty Images
A piece of papyrus dating back to the fourth century mention a Biblical character that can't be found in scripture: the wife of Jesus Christ.

Identified by Karen L. King, a historian at Harvard Divinity school, the scroll has the following passage written in Coptic, as reported by the New York Times: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife... she will be able to be my disciple."

King cautioned that the fragment is not proof that Jesus was married, but is reflective of the debates early Christians had in the infancy of the church. After all, this wouldn't be the first time early Christian artifacts have contradicted history as written in the Bible..

As reported by Discovery News' Jennifer Viegas in March 2011, Oxford scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou believes she found evidence that God had a wife based on an analysis of ancient texts, figurines and other artifacts.

God's wife, Asherah, was a powerful fertility goddess, and worshiped alongside Yahweh, as God is known in Hebrew. Strict monotheism, however, gradually diminished Asherah's importance in the religion of the ancient Israelites.

Changes to scripture itself can not only include omissions, but also additions as they're copied and translated from generation to generation. A project led by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary catalogues hundreds of versions of the New Testament written in early Christendom to document changes that crept in over the years.

Although many of the alterations they discover are trivial, some changes can be much more significant, as reported by the Times-Picayune.

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Ancient Baby Graveyard Not for Child Sacrifice, Scientists Say

Graveyard
© Dennis Jarvis, FlickrCarthage burial grounds called Tophet holds urns with the cremated remains of thousands of babies. While some say Tophet is a site of child sacrifice, others contend it was used to bury babies and fetuses.
A Carthaginian burial site was not for child sacrifice but was instead a graveyard for babies and fetuses, researchers now say.

A new study of the ancient North African site offers the latest volley in a debate over the primary purpose of the graveyard, long thought to be a place of sacred sacrifice.

"It's all very great, cinematic stuff, but whether that was a constant daily activity ― I think our analysis contradicts that," said study co-author Jeffrey Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh.

The city-state of Carthage was founded in the ninth century B.C., when Queen Dido fled Phoenicia (along the eastern Mediterranean shore) for what is now Tunis, Tunisia. The empire became a powerhouse of the ancient world and fought several wars against the Romans.

When archaeologists began excavating the ancient civilization last century, they found urns with the cremated remains of thousands of babies, young goats and lambs at a graveyard called the Tophet, which had been used from 700 to 300 B.C. At its peak, the Tophet may have been bigger than a football field and had nine levels of burials.

Based on historical accounts, scientists believed Carthaginians sacrificed children at the Tophet before burying them there. For instance, the Bible describes child sacrifice to the deity Baal, worshipped by a civilization in Carthage. A Greek and a Roman historian both recount gory tales from this time period in which of priests slit the throats of babies and tossed them into fiery pits, Schwartz said.

Sherlock

Archaeologists launched a bid to uncover the site one of the most famous battles in Scottish history: Battle of Bannockburn

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Archaeologists launched a bid to uncover the site one of the most famous battles in Scottish history -- in the grounds of a police headquarters.

Central Scotland Police's headquarters at Randolphfield, Stirling, is named after Sir Thomas Randolph, one of the commanders of Robert the Bruce's army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The first major skirmish of the two-day battle occurred on Sunday 23 June when Randolph routed around 300 English cavalry, who were attempting to relieve Stirling Castle.

A pair of small standing stones near the entrance to the current police headquarters is believed to mark the site of the fighting, but until now there has been no other physical evidence.

Stirling Council archaeologist Murray Cook said ground-penetrating radar would be used to locate the Roman road on which King Edward II's army marched on Stirling and the famous spike-filled pits that played a crucial role in the outcome.

Sherlock

U.S. said to cover up Polish massacre

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© Associated PressAmerican and British POWs held by German soldiers look over a mass grave in 1943 where slain Polish military officers were buried near Smolensk, Russia.
The American POWs sent secret coded messages to Washington with news of a Soviet atrocity: In 1943, they saw rows of corpses in an advanced state of decay in the Katyn forest, on the western edge of Russia, proof that the killers could not have been the Nazis who had only recently occupied the area.

The testimony about the infamous massacre of Polish officers might have lessened the tragic fate that befell Poland under the Soviets, some scholars believe. Instead, it mysteriously vanished into the heart of American power. The long-held suspicion is that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn't want to anger Josef Stalin, an ally whom the Americans were counting on to defeat Germany and Japan during World War II.

Documents released last week lend weight to the belief that suppression within the highest levels of the U.S. government helped cover up Soviet guilt in the killing of 22,000 Polish officers and other prisoners in the Katyn forest and other locations in 1940.

Newly declassified documents

The evidence is among about 1,000 pages of newly declassified documents that the U.S. National Archives released and is putting online. Democratic Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who helped lead a recent push for the release of the documents, called the effort's success Monday a "momentous occasion" in an attempt to "make history whole."

Historians who saw the material days before the official release describe it as important. The most dramatic revelation so far is the evidence of the secret codes sent by the two American POWs - something historians were unaware of and which adds to evidence that the Roosevelt administration knew of the Soviet atrocity relatively early on.

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Best of the Web: New Coptic Papyrus Fragment Has Jesus Referring to His Wife

Papyrus fragment
© Karen L. King
Cambridge, Mass. - A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...'"

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, "she will be able to be my disciple."

The finding was made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars by the historian Karen L. King, who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation's oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday, Dr. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their conclusions.

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First Ever Etruscan Pyramids Found in Italy

Subterranean Pyramids
© David GeorgeThe subterranean pyramids found in Orvieto, Italy could offer a unique insight into the mysterious Etruscan culture. Stairs carved into the wall can be seen at left.
The first ever Etruscan pyramids have been located underneath a wine cellar in the city of Orvieto in central Italy, according to a team of U.S. and Italian archaeologists.

Carved into the rock of the tufa plateau --a sedimentary area that is a result of volcanic activity -- on which the city stands, the subterranean structures were largely filled. Only the top-most modern layer was visible.

"Within this upper section, which had been modified in modern times and was used as a wine cellar, we noticed a series of ancient stairs carved into the wall. They were clearly of Etruscan construction," David B. George of the Department of Classics at Saint Anselm, told Discovery News.

As they started digging, George and co-director of the excavation Claudio Bizzarri of the Parco Archeologico Ambientale dell'Orvietano noted that the cave's walls were tapered up in a pyramidal fashion. Intriguingly, a series of tunnels, again of Etruscan construction, ran underneath the wine cellar hinting to the possibility of deeper undiscovered structures below.

After going through a mid-20th century floor, George and Bizzarri reached a medieval floor. Immediately beneath this floor, they found a layer of fill that contained various artifacts such as Attic red figure pottery from the middle of the 5th Century B.C., 6th and 5th century B.C. Etruscan pottery with inscriptions as well as various objects that dated to before 1000 B.C.

Sherlock

Archaeologists unearth 1,500-year-old Jewish town in southern Israel

Israeli archaeologists digging on the route of a planned highway have found new ruins from a 1,500-year-old Jewish town, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Sunday.

The remains of two Jewish ritual baths and two public buildings were uncovered in a salvage dig ahead of the paving of a new section of Israel's Highway 6, a north-south toll road eventually slated to run much of the length of the country.

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Enormous Roman Mosaic Found Under Farmer's Field

Roman Mosaic
© University of Nebraska, LincolnEach section of the mosaic features its own geometric design.
A giant poolside mosaic featuring intricate geometric patterns has been unearthed in southern Turkey, revealing the far-reaching influence of the Roman Empire at its peak.

The mosaic, which once decorated the floor of a bath complex, abuts a 25-foot (7-meter)-long pool, which would have been open to the air, said Michael Hoff, a University of Nebraska, Lincoln art historian and director of the mosaic excavation. The find likely dates to the third or fourth century, Hoff said. The mosaic itself is an astonishing 1,600 square feet (149 square meters) - the size of a modest family home.

"To be honest, I was completely bowled over that the mosaic is that big," Hoff told LiveScience. [See Photos of the Roman Mosaic]

The first hint that something stunning lay underground in southern Turkey came in 2002, when Purdue University classics professor Nick Rauh walked through a freshly-plowed farmer's field near the ancient city of Antiochia ad Cragum. The plow had churned up bits of mosaic tile, Hoff said. Rauh consulted other archaeologists, including experts at the local museum in Alanya, Turkey. The museum did not have funds to excavate more than a sliver of the mosaic, so archaeologists left the site alone.

Last year, with a new archaeological permit for the site in hand, museum archaeologists invited Hoff and his team to complete the dig.

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Ice Age Art - Trove of early ceramics shows the mindset of ancient humans: More metaphor, less blood

We know them best for their stone tools and intrepid mammoth hunting. But new discoveries in Croatia suggest that ice age humans made evocative ceramic art far more regularly than once believed. Thirty-six fragments of fired clay, excavated in the Vela Spila cave on an island off the Adriatic coast, make up the second-largest collection found so far of the earliest human experiments with ceramic art. They are 15,000 to 17,500 years old -- the first European evidence of ceramic art after the ice sheets stopped spreading.
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© Rebecca FarbsteinAn archaeologist at the University of Cambridge worked in a trench at a cave where ancient ceramics were found in Croatia. The find reinforced the idea that ceramic work was invented for art rather than utility.

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'Lost' City of Atlantis: Fact & Fable

Atlantis
© LiveScienceA 1669 map by Athanasius Kircher put Atlantis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The map is oriented with south at the top.
Atlantis is a legendary "lost" island subcontinent often idealized as an advanced, utopian society holding wisdom that could bring world peace. The idea of Atlantis has captivated dreamers, occultists, and New Agers for generations.

In the 1800s, mystic Madame Blavatsky claimed that she learned about Atlantis from Tibetan gurus; a century later, psychic Edgar Cayce claimed that Atlantis (which he described as an ancient, highly evolved civilization powered by crystals) would be discovered by 1969.

In the 1980s, New Age mystic J.Z. Knight claimed that she learned about Atlantis from Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit who speaks through her. Thousands of books, magazines and websites are devoted to Atlantis, and it remains a popular topic.