Secret HistoryS


Traces of cannabis found in bones of 17th-century Italians suggest widespread use of plant

© University of Milan Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology and OdontologyForensic scientists at University of Milan's Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology and Odontology take samples from human bones buried near the Ospedale Maggiore in the 17th century. Of the samples from nine different skeletons, two showed traces of cannabis.
People have been consuming weed for a very long time.

Ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote about flowers with psychotropic effects in 440 BC, and medical records from the Middle Ages in Europe show cannabis was widely administered to treat everything from gout, urinary infections and birthing pains to weight loss, as well as being used as an anesthetic.

But in 1484, Pope Innocent VIII passed a bull, or decree, labelling cannabis an "unholy sacrament" and banning its use among the faithful. During the time of the Inquisition, medicinal and hallucinogenic herbs were associated with magic and witchcraft.

For the centuries that followed, there has been no hard evidence of its use — that is, until now, with the discovery by a team of forensic scientists in Milan, Italy, of traces of cannabis in the remains of two skeletons from the 17th century.

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Satellite images bring Serbia's hidden Bronze Age megastructures to light

Using Google Earth and aircraft reconnaissance, archaeologists identify more than 100 previously unknown sites.
Bronze Age  Artifacts
© NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SERBIABronze Age people built massive enclosures on the Pannonian Plain, leaving behind artifacts such as this clay chariot discovered in a cremation urn 1 century ago.
More than 3000 years ago during the Bronze Age, people across Eurasia formed massive trade networks that tied the continent together. But the Pannonian Plain, an open expanse that today includes parts of Romania, Hungary, and Serbia, was considered a relative hinterland. That was true even after archaeologists 2 decades ago uncovered a handful of massive Bronze Age enclosures, some protected by walls and ditches many kilometers long.

No one was sure how the structures were tied to cultural developments elsewhere in Europe, although scattered finds of bronze artifacts showed the enclosures weren't completely isolated. "They were seen as unicorns on the landscape," says Barry Molloy, an archaeologist at University College Dublin. "This was thought of as a backwater."

In 2015, Molloy and other archaeologists turned to satellite imagery to see whether they could spot more structures that ground-based investigations had missed. Last week in PLOS ONE, they report finding more than 100 of these distinct enclosures in what is today Serbia. Spaced closely together, they form a belt stretching 150 kilometers along the Tisza River, a major north-south artery dividing the Pannonian Plain. The findings suggest the structures were part of a vast network of settlements that took part in a booming, continentwide bronze trade that flowered some 3600 years ago.

"For the first time we can see the extent of this phenomenon," says Austrian Archaeological Institute archaeologist Mario Gavranovic, who was not part of the new study. "The remote sensing approach is great."

The structures, many identified for the first time, have been hiding in plain sight. Many are invisible from the ground because they were plowed nearly flat after decades of intensive agriculture or destroyed in prehistoric times. After identifying the enclosures in Google Earth photos, Molloy and his team flew over the area in a small airplane, then visited as many of the sites as possible by foot. "We spent a lot of time trudging through mud," Molloy says.


The Bible and Archaeology

Ancient Ceramics
© The Postil MagazineSamson carrying the gates of Gaza (Huqoq synagogue, 5th-century).
Why does Israel need to exist? This question may seem startling and unfair, but it is one that is frequently asked and hotly debated. The various answers and arguments given fall under two categories. First is the political and somewhat historical answer, which argues that the Levant is the Ur-Heimat of the Jews and thus for Jews to settle there is not only natural, but an unquestionable (God-given) right, as it is simply reclamation of legitimately owned property, and it is the Palestinians who are recent interlopers.

Here it is important to note that the vast majority of the land itself in Israel is owned by the state, and thus reserved for Jews, which means an exclusion of Palestinians. The second answer expands on this approach and seeks to bolster it by veering into the mystical and the messianic: Israel must exist because it is the necessary condition for housing the Third Temple, which in turn will bring the messiah and his "golden age." This second answer brings together the aspirations of Protestant and Jewish Zionists.

Both answers, sadly, also inform much of the anti-Arab sentiment that pervades the powers that be in Israeli society: the land does not really belong to Palestinians; the Jews, as God's chosen people, must do what God needs them to do: build the Third Temple so that the age of the messiah can begin.

Better Earth

Scandinavia's oldest ship burial 'rewrites history'

© Hanne Bryn, NTNU Science Museum
In Leka, a municipality in Norway's Trøndelag county, archaeologists have uncovered Scandinavia's oldest identified ship burial, dating back to around 700 AD.

This summer, archaeologists carried out a small survey of the 60-meter mound Herlaugshaugen, a site mentioned in Snorre's royal sagas as the final resting place of King Herlaug.

Herlaugshaugen is one of the country's largest burial mounds. In the late 1700s, it was excavated three times. According to reports, findings included a type of wall, iron nails, a bronze kettle, animal bones, and a seated skeleton with a sword.

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Mummified baboons point to the potential location of the fabled land of Punt

Punt ancient egypt trade expedition papyrus drawing
© NastasicDrawing of a trade expedition to Punt during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. Note the presence of baboons on board the lower ship.
Egyptians often mentioned a trading partner but neglected to say where it was.

One of the most enduring mysteries within archaeology revolves around the identity of Punt, an otherworldly "land of plenty" revered by the ancient Egyptians. Punt had it all — fragrant myrrh and frankincense, precious electrum (a mixed alloy of gold and silver) and malachite, and coveted leopard skins, among other exotic luxury goods.

Despite being a trading partner for over a millennium, the ancient Egyptians never disclosed Punt's exact whereabouts except for vague descriptions of voyages along what's now the Red Sea. That could mean anywhere from southern Sudan to Somalia and even Yemen.

Now, according to a recent paper published in the journal eLife, Punt may have been the same as another legendary port city in modern-day Eritrea, known as Adulis by the Romans. The conclusion comes from a genetic analysis of a baboon that was mummified during ancient Egypt's Late Period (around 800 and 500 BCE). The genetics indicate the animal originated close to where Adulis would be known to come into existence centuries later.


Wyoming couple finds forest of gigantic 60 million-year-old petrified trees

A couple from Buffalo found a gigantic 35-foot section of a petrified tree which is part of a buried 60-million-year-old prehistoric forest of metasequoia, a type of redwood that thrived in Wyoming and could grow as tall as 160 feet.
Petrified tree
© Photos Courtesy Jeanne PetersonA Buffalo, Wyoming, couple found this giant 35-foot section of a 60 million-year-old petrified tree on their property.
Jeanne Peterson and her husband, Robert Suchor, weren't expecting any tree problems when they started building an RV park outside Buffalo, Wyoming. There were no trees on the property — or so they thought.

Turns out there were some huge trees, they just weren't growing up from the ground. The couple instead found a 60 million-year-old petrified forest of some of the most giant trees that ever lived in Wyoming.

When they started building their home, Peterson and her husband found pieces of petrified wood and roots on the property, but nothing large enough to cause concern. But as they dug further, they found a forest.

"We started to find trees sticking out of the side of the hill," she told Cowboy State Daily. "Multiple trees. There's petrified wood everywhere around us."

When large earth movers were brought in to excavate infrastructure for an RV campground, Peterson had a hunch they would find something much larger. It was branching out at their feet.

"On the surface, we could see branches, which is just crazy. You could see where it branched out on both sides," she said.

Now, a 35-foot-long section of a prehistoric tree has been exposed, its trunk well over a foot in diameter. Another section of indeterminate length is still buried.

The tree is fully fossilized, but the texture of its bark is clearly visible. It's an artifact from a prehistoric age when Wyoming was warmer, wetter and covered with towering trees like these.

Blue Planet

Archaeological skull fragments from Crimea reveal early modern humans came from the East

crimea human
© Nature Ecology & Evolution (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-023-02211-9Nature Ecology & Evolution (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-023-02211-9"> Nature Ecology & Evolution (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-023-02211-9"> Genomic affinities between Buran-Kaya III and other ancient individuals.
How did our species, Homo sapiens, arrive in Western Europe? Published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, our new study analyzes two skull fragments dating back between 37,000 and 36,000 years to conclude that our ancestors came from Eastern Europe and migrated westwards. These two individuals interbred with Neanderthals and with the very first European Homo sapiens, who arrived around 45,000 years ago and were thought to have become extinct following a major climatic catastrophe.

Together with lithic tools and pierced mammoth ivory beads, small skull fragments of the two skulls found in 2009 at an archaeological site in the Crimea, Buran Kaya III, bear witness to the presence of anatomically modern humans in Eastern Europe. Working with French and Ukrainian archaeologists, we were able to put in place a sampling protocol that took special precautions to prevent the fragments from being contaminated by modern human DNA and identify their ancient DNA.

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Eye 1

Neil Oliver: 'Remember'

Neil Oliver
Neil Oliver
'...war, control, money & death...'


Moroccan archaeologists unearth new ruins at Chellah, a tourism-friendly ancient port near Rabat

chellah ancient morroco port rabat
© AP Photo/Mosa’ab ElshamyThe site of recently unearthed archaeological ruins, in Chellah necropolis, Rabat, Morocco, Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. Archaeologists have unearthed more ruins of what they believe was once a bustling port city near the capital of modern-day Morocco, digging out thermal baths and working class neighborhoods
Archaeologists have unearthed more ancient ruins of what they believe was once a bustling port city near the capital of modern-day Morocco, digging out thermal baths and working class neighborhoods that the country hopes will lure tourists and scholars in the years ahead.

On Friday, researchers from Morocco's National Institute of Archaeological Sciences and Heritage presented new discoveries made this year at Chellah — a 1.2-square-mile (3.15-square-kilometer) UNESCO World Heritage Site with a footprint almost five times the size of Pompeii.

Scholars believe the area was first settled by the Phoenicians and emerged as a key Roman empire outpost from the second to fifth century. The fortified necropolis and surrounding settlements were built near the Atlantic Ocean along the banks of the Bou Regreg river. Findings have included bricks inscribed in neo-Punic, a language that predates the Romans' arrival in Morocco.

Blue Planet

Best of the Web: Gunung Padang: Giant pyramid buried in Indonesia could be oldest in the world, initial construction began 27,000 years ago

Gunung Padang
© RaiyaniM/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0Gunung Padang.
A giant underground pyramid hidden beneath a hillside in Indonesia far outdates Stonehenge or the Giza Pyramids and may come to rival the oldest megalithic structures ever built by human hands.

Remember the name Gunung Padang.

The exceptional hillside of ancient stone structures on the island of West Java is sacred to locals, who call this kind of structure a 'punden berundak', meaning stepped pyramid, for the terraces that lead to its peak.

Archaeologists have barely brushed the surface of the site, and yet it is already shaping up to be a "remarkable testament" to human ingenuity.

Comment: Graham Hancock features Gunung Padang in his recent documentary series, Ancient Apocalypse.

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