Secret HistoryS


The forgotten political feud that spawned the Jersey Devil

Jersey Devil
© Illustration by Frank Cecala/The Star-Ledger
Everyone knows the story of the Jersey Devil. In 1735, a witch named Mother Leeds gave birth to a hideous "child" with a horse-like head, cloven hooves, a long tail and bat-like wings. It yelped menacingly at the ragged, dull-witted family, then flew up and out the chimney to spend eternity harassing anyone who encountered it along the lonely back roads of the Pine Barrens.

Unfortunately, everything you think you know about the Jersey Devil is wrong. It is not a monster of the woods, but of politics. It is not a devilish horse haunting our present, but a scapegoat lost to our memory.

The Leeds family does occupy the center of the story, but they were not stereotyped, superstitious rural people. They were politically active religious pioneers, authors and publishers. We have forgotten that the Jersey Devil legend - originally the Leeds Devil - began as a cruel taunt against them, not because of a monstrous birth, but because they had the cultural misfortune of joining the wrong side.

Daniel Leeds came to America in 1677 and settled in Burlington. He published an almanac and was promptly attacked by his Quaker neighbors over his use of astrology in it. Undeterred, he continued and, despite himself being a Quaker, they called him "evil."


Legal battle erupts over where to rebury Richard III

© Unknown
He's been deposed, reviled, buried and dug up, and now a new battle looms over England's King Richard III.

A British High Court judge on Friday granted a group of Richard's relatives permission to challenge plans to rebury the 15th-century monarch in the central England city of Leicester, where his remains were found last year.

Judge Charles Haddon-Cave said the Plantagenet Alliance could take action against the government and the University of Leicester, though he hoped the dispute could be settled out of court.

"In my view, it would be unseemly, undignified and unedifying to have a legal tussle over these royal remains," the judge said, urging the opposing sides "to avoid embarking on the (legal) Wars of the Roses Part 2."


Early humans lived in China 1.7 million years ago

© Thomas Roche | Wikimedia CommonsHomo erectus, an ancestor to modern humans, arose at least 1.8 million years ago. Around that time in the fossil record, archaeologists see big shifts in brain size and body size in ancient hominins.
An extinct species of tool-making humans apparently occupied a vast area in China as early as 1.7 million years ago, researchers say.

The human lineage evolved in Africa, with now-extinct species of humans dispersing away from their origin continent more than a million years before modern humans did. Scientists would like to learn more about when and where humans went to better understand what drove human evolution.

Researchers investigated the Nihewan Basin, which lies in a mountainous region about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Beijing. It holds more than 60 sites from the Stone Age, with thousands of stone tools found there since 1972 - relatively simple types, such as stone flakes altogether known as the Oldowan.

Researchers suspect these artifacts belonged to Homo erectus, "thought to be ancestral to Homo sapiens," Hong Ao, a paleomagnetist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xi'an, told LiveScience.

The exact age of these sites was long uncertain. To find out, Ao and his colleagues analyzed the earth above, below and in which stone tools at the Shangshazui site in the Nihewan Basin were found. The tools in question were stone blades potentially used for cutting or scraping.


Oldest rock art in North America revealed

Rock Art
© University of ColoradoResearchers found that petroglyphs discovered in western Nevada are at least 10,500 years old, making them the oldest rock art ever dated in North America.
On the west side of Nevada's dried-up Winnemucca Lake, there are several limestone boulders with deep, ancient carvings; some resemble trees and leaves, whereas others are more abstract designs that look like ovals or diamonds in a chain.

The true age of this rock art had not been known, but a new analysis suggests these petroglyphs are the oldest North America, dating back to between 10,500 and 14,800 years ago.

Though Winnemucca Lake is now barren, at other times in the past it was so full of water the lake would have submerged the rocks where the petroglyphs were found and spilled its excess contents over Emerson Pass to the north.


Ancient Pennsylvania dwelling still divides archaeologists

Meadowcroft National Historic Site
© Keith Srakocic/The Associated Press The shelter covering the archaeological dig at the Meadowcroft National Historic Site is seen next to part of the natural rock overhand where Native Americans stayed as they traveled through the area thousands of years ago in Avella, Pa., on Aug. 5. A fluke rainstorm has brought Mercyhurst University professor Jim Adovasio back to do new work at the site that launched a furious debate in 1973 over when the first humans came to the Americas.
Avella, Pa. - A fluke rainstorm at an ancient rock shelter in western Pennsylvania has brought a renowned archaeologist back to the site of where a furious debate was launched in 1973 over when the first humans came to the Americas.

As a young archaeologist, Jim Adovasio found radiocarbon evidence that humans had visited the Meadowcroft site 16,000 years ago. To archaeologists it was a stunning discovery that contradicted the so-called Clovis first theory, which dated the first settlement in the Americas to New Mexico about 13,000 years ago.

The question is important because it ties into bigger questions on how and why so many different cultures developed in the Americas, and whether they all descended from one group that came across from Asia or arrived in multiple waves.

On that question, Adovasio's theory of multiple visits has mostly won out since other pre-Clovis sites have been discovered in North and South America.


Neandertals were no copycats

Neanderthal Tools
© Abri Peyrony & Pech-de-l’Azé I ProjectsWell-rounded. Neandertals made bone tools, probably used to work animal hides (drawing lower right), without any help from modern humans.
Sometimes it seems Neandertals just can't catch a break. Every time an archaeologist comes up with new evidence for something cool and clever they did, another researcher claims they learned it from their modern human cousins. But new discoveries of polished bone tools at two prehistoric sites in France suggest that Neandertals independently invented these finely made implements, without a helping hand from Homo sapiens. The finds may represent the best sign yet that Neandertals were no boneheads when it came to technological innovation.

Neandertals lived in Europe and Asia between about 135,000 and 35,000 years ago, after which they went extinct. For a long while they had the territory to themselves; but then, sometime between about 45,000 and 40,000 years ago, modern humans moved into Europe from Africa. At roughly the same time, Neandertal behavior seemed to change and become more "modern": Their stone tools became more sophisticated, they began to wear jewelry, and they started using bone tools. For many archaeologists, the timing strongly suggested that Neandertals had copied modern human behavior.

But other researchers insisted that Neandertals had developed the behaviors before modern humans came to town. The debate often revolved around esoteric discussions of how to interpret radiocarbon dates from sites that both Neandertals and moderns had occupied, contamination of Neandertal sites by modern human artifacts, and other technical details.


Head of a goddess statue discovered

Goddess Statue
© Anadolu AgencyThe head of a mother goddess statue is the first of its kind in Turkey.
The head of an 8,000-year-old statue of a goddess has been found during excavations in İzmir's Yeşilova tumulus.

Associate Professor Zafer Derin said they had found very important pieces during this year's excavations, adding that the four-centimeter head of the statue had a special meaning as it was the first of its kind discovered in Turkey.

Women and fertility were sacred in western Anatolian culture, Derin said, adding that the area was the center of the mother goddess culture. "We have the head of a mother goddess figure. We know that worship of mother goddesses was common in this region in the past, but we have found the four-centimeter head of a goddess statue for the first time in Turkey. People used to put this statue in their home to have healthier children. This small piece is a very beautiful one from 6000 B.C."

Derin said the name of Anatolia came from the holiness of the mother goddess, according to the view of some, adding that they had seen the same portrayal in pots found in the region.

He said another significant find unearthed during the Yeşilova excavations was a seal in the shape of a shoe. "People used to carry this seal with them and use it when a signature was necessary."

Derin said the Yeşilova excavations, were currently hosting scientists from Europe and the U.S.

Black Magic

What's Buried Next Door to Vancouver Island University?

Crimes against Humanity in our own Backyard are Finally Surfacing
I was held in the Nanaimo Indian Hospital when I was a child, for seven years. I was used like a guinea pig in experiments. Lots of Indian kids died in there.
- Joan Morris, Songhees Nation, at a lecture at Malaspina College (VIU) in the spring of 2004

Nanaimo Indian Hospital c 1948
© Unknown
Just south of the VIU campus stands an overgrown piece of land behind stern barbed wire fencing: the site of the former Nanaimo Indian Hospital, run by the United Church of Canada and the federal government for over a half century.

According to Joan Morris and other Indians, this ground holds the remains of children who were killed after grisly medical experiments were conducted there for decades by military doctors.


Prehistoric well could solve questions about local indigenous groups

Ancient Well
© Peter WillottCity archaeologist Carl Halbirt looks at an area of one of his digs off May Street on Thursday, where he believes he has uncovered a Timucuan Indian well than is more that 500 years old.
An archaeological discovery made earlier this summer could show that indigenous people in the St. Augustine area once built and used wells before ever being exposed to European influence.

Local archaeologists previously assumed that the Timucuan indians, who settled in the area before the Spanish arrived, received fresh water from "seeps" in nearby embankments.

"We've never found an example like that, that predates the European settlement here," city archaeologist Carl Halbirt said. "It gives us an idea of where the indigenous population possibly obtained their water."

What appears to be a coquina well was discovered on a property near the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge in June, as part of a county ordinance which requires certain properties to be investigated for archaeological deposits before construction.

The excavation site is littered with historical value. Halbirt said the city has extracted more than a ton of shell, mostly oyster shell, and "tens of thousands" of animal bones, primarily from small fish.

"From that evidence, this is going to give us a really good idea of what their subsistence was like during that time period," Halbirt said. "Most of the shell is fish, but we also have deer, turtle, water birds, and I think we have alligator."

Gold Coins

Byzantine coins and gold found in Israel garbage pit

© Pavel Shargo / Institute of Archaeology / Tel Aviv UniversityByzantine gold coin found at the archaeological site of the ancient city of Apollonia-Arsuf
Archaeologists digging at a site north of Tel Aviv have uncovered ancient coins and jewelry in a mysterious garbage dump, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

Located near the ancient city of Apollonia-Arsuf, the Byzantine refuse pit is one of many unearthed in the area. But unlike the other garbage dumps, the pit measures more than 100 feet in diameter.

As they dug into it, the archaeologists found a hoard of 400 Byzantine coins, 200 intact Samaritan lamps and gold jewelry amid animal bones, pottery and glass fragments.

Most objects date to the 5th-7th centuries A.D.