Secret HistoryS


What did cause the mysterious fire which destroyed America's greatest ancient city?

A mysterious fire which destroyed North America's greatest ancient civilization has led to fascinating discoveries about social tensions, violent tendencies and religious practices within the society.

The city of Cahokia, whose secrets lie underneath where St Louis, Missouri now stands, was ruined by a huge blaze around the year 1170 CE.

Following the disaster, the Native American city changed dramatically - defense walls were built, buildings fortified and a sun symbol incorporated into designs.

The significant changes have led to one nagging historical mystery - just how did the fire start?
© Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, painting by William R. IsemingerThe illustration is an aerial perspective of Cahokia Mounds circa AD 1150-1200 which was destroyed by a huge blaze
© WikipediaSecrets of the past: Monk's Mound in Colinsville, Illinois is believed to have been built as a place of worship in ancient cultures
© WikipediaAn 1887 illustration of Monk's Mound blown a little out of proportion. However the ancient civilizations have long been of interest to history buffs
Cahokia, pictured in this illustration, was originally a vast city encircled by 120 pyramids, stretches of farmland and wealthy communities.

Those who built the model city were known as the Mound Builders because of the earthen structures similar to Mayan Temples.

Snowflake Cold

Ancient muddy memories?

ice age ancient legends
© Marinus Anthony Van Der SluijsEchoes of a primordial landscape? Þingvellir, Iceland.
Many cultures recalled a period of unbearable cold, which they associated with a distant mythical age of 'creation', when the sun did not yet shine or fire had not yet been obtained.

Such tales are hardly surprising for higher latitudes, such as the Viking sagas of Iceland, but present a palaeoclimatological puzzle elsewhere.

For example, the Cherokee (originally along the Tennessee), who should be quite accustomed to climatic extremes, claimed that the first fire was confined to a special tree - arguably an axis mundi - at a time of lasting cold:
'In the beginning there was no fire, and the world was cold, until the Thunders (Ani´-Hyûñ´tikwalâ´ski), who lived up in Galûn´lati, sent their lightning and put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree which grew on an island. ... This was a long time ago. ... still there was no fire, and the world was cold ...'
Eventually, mythical beings succeeded in acquiring the fire. At tropical latitudes meanwhile, the Quiché Maya (Guatemala) related that their first ancestors were overcome by circumstances most peculiar for central America:
'After that a great downpour began, which cut short the fire of the tribes. And hail fell thickly on all the tribes, and their fires were put out by the hail. Their fires didn't start up again. ... And so again the tribes arrived, again done in by the cold. Thick were the white hail, the blackening storm, and the white crystals. The cold was incalculable. They were simply overwhelmed. Because of the cold all the tribes were going along doubled over, groping along ...'
And the Bibbulmun nation (southwestern tip of Australia) referred to the 'Dreamtime' or the 'ancestral' time (Demma Goomber) as the 'Nyitting times, the cold, cold times of long ago'. As the name says, the Bibbulmun qualified this past era as one dominated by unprecedented cold - and, consequently, by a savage mode of living:

'In that far-off time Australia was not so warm and congenial as it is to-day. It was cold and bleak, and great glaciers of ice covered many of its hills and valleys. ... "the icy cold (nyitting) times of long, long ago". Now, in an icy cold country one must have fires, but there was a time when the Bibbulmun people had no fires, and they had to eat their meat raw and drink the blood of the animals they killed to warm their bodies.

The theme of a cold epoch meshes with the notion of 'primordial darkness' reported universally to have preceded the formation of the present natural environment. Another associated motif is that the embryonic earth was excessively muddy and wet, a necessary consequence of the earth's putative original submersion in primeval waters. In addition, the moist earth is often linked with the aftermath of the deluge and the first appearance of humans and the sun. Though scholars never seem to have compiled the material, let alone considered it, the literature is awash with examples. A selection follows.


8,000 year old evidence of human activity found in Alps

Dr Kevin Walsh from the University of York with colleagues unearthed a series of stone animal enclosures and human dwellings considered some of most complex high altitude Bronze Age structures found anywhere in the Alps. "High altitude landscapes of 2 km and above are considered remote and marginal. Many researchers had assumed that early societies showed little interest in these areas," said Dr Walsh, who reported the results in a paper published in Quaternary International.
© Kevin Walsh, the University of York.A Neolithic flint arrow head at about 2.5 km, the highest altitude arrowhead discovered in the Alps.
"This research shows that people, as well as climate, did have a role in shaping the Alpine landscape from as early as the Mesolithic period."

"It has radically altered our understanding of activity in the sub-alpine and alpine zones. It is also of profound relevance for the broader understanding of human-environment interactions in ecologically sensitive environments."

The excavations showed human activity shaped the Alpine landscape through the Bronze, Iron, Roman and Medieval ages as people progressed from hunting to more managed agricultural systems including the movement of livestock to seasonal alpine pastures, known as transhumant-pastoralism.


Inside the intriguing ancient underground city of Derinkuyu

© TodayIFoundOut
Long ago, in the region surrounding Nevsehir and Kayseri, in central Turkey, an ancient people built, or rather dug, over 200 underground cities. The deepest of these, under the present day town of Derinkuyu, delves over 250 feet below the Earth's surface, and boasts numerous tunnels, halls, meeting rooms, wells and passages.

Because the city was carved from existing caves and underground structures that had first formed naturally, there is no way to discern, with traditional archaeological methods of dating, when exactly Derinkuyu was built.

As such, and with ties to the Hittites, Phrygians and Persians, Derinkuyu presents a fascinating riddle for ancient mystery enthusiasts.


Archaeologist unearths new perspective on ancient Roman statue

© Jacqueline Girard
What was Dr. Bridget Buxton's secret to solving the mystery of the "the lost eagle?" Google images. Buxton, on behalf of the Archaeological Institute of America, presented her lecture to an audience of Assumption students, faculty and staff on Monday, September 16. The lecture was an interpretation of Rome's most famous statue, the Prima Porta Augustus.

The statue presents the first emperor of the Roman Empire as "a symbol of western self control and excellence versus the great enemy in the east," said Buxton. Since it was discovered in the outskirts of Rome in 1863, historians and archaeologists have attempted to match the story that is carved out on the statue to the historical accounts that exist.

However, "the correct interpretation that we've had for the last one hundred and fifty years is actually wrong," Buxton argued. Buxton began by presenting to her audience the original interpretation of the statue. The marble statue, which seems to be carved into what can be interpreted as a storyboard, references significant historical events in the history of the Roman Empire.

The center of Augustus' cuirass (chest plate) depicts the surrender of an eagle, which in Augustus' time, was a legionary military standard. Eagles were prized possessions of each Roman legion, a symbol of victory and strength in war and conquest.

Buxton laughed as she attempted to illustrate what would be the modern equivalent. "[It would be like] if somebody came in and stole the [Assumption] greyhound, that would be bad, right?" The audience responded with laughter.


Best of the Web: America's history of chemical weapons 'experiments' against its own people: The Manchester Mill anthrax case

One day in early September 1957, Antonio Jette came home from his job at the Arms Textile Mill in Manchester, N.H., and uncharacteristically went to bed early. He told his wife, Anna, that he was tired, wasn't in the least hungry and felt like he was coming down with a cold.

The next morning, Antonio said he was feeling better. It was Saturday and he and Anna drove to Vermont, four hours away, to attend the Rutland State Fair. It was an event they had been looking forward to for months. But as they were entering the fair's gate, Antonio turned to Anna and said they had to go back home. "I'm sorry," he told Anna, "I feel really sick." On the way home, Antonio had several fits of dry coughing and he said that his chest hurt.

The following day, Sunday, Antonio and Anna went to church. After returning home, Antonio again said that he felt tired. He told Anna he was going to lie down for a couple of hours. An hour later Anna checked on Antonio and found him soaked with perspiration and mumbling incoherently. She took his temperature, saw that it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit and called the family's doctor. The doctor gave Antonio a shot of penicillin for what he thought was a bronchial infection. He told Anna to keep Antonio in bed for the next few days.

Two hours later, Anna found Antonio's temperature had risen to 104, and she was unable to wake him up. With the help of neighbors, Anna took her husband to a nearby hospital. Doctors at St. Joseph's Hospital in Nashua found Antonio's temperature to be 105 degrees. His breathing was rapid and shallow. Rales were audible over both his lungs. Tests revealed blood in his lumbar region. Doctors told Anna that they thought her husband had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. His chances for recovery didn't look good, they said.

Antonio never regained consciousness. He died the next morning, Sept. 6, at 6 a.m., the same time that every morning he walked to church before heading off to work at the mill.

Gold Bar

Secret Code: Music score may lead to Nazi gold

Secret Code
After some initial digs, a Dutch filmmaker believes he may have found the site of buried Nazi treasure long rumored to exist. He was led to the Bavarian town of Mittenwald after cracking a code believed to be hidden in a music score.

Three attempts have been made in recent weeks to find buried Nazi treasure in the Bavarian town of Mittenwald, close to the Austrian border. Even though the holes in the ground have since been filled, the traces left by drills and blue markings are still visible below a thin layer of autumn leaves.

Authorities granted permission for the undertaking in "a bid for clarity," and before too long, the story was making headlines in local papers. "The Hunt for Nazi Gold," the Garmisch-Partenkirchner Tagblatt called it.

Residents' reactions range from annoyed to amused. "I've never seen anything like it," says one. "I can't wait to see what they find down there," says another.

Behind it all is 51-year-old Leon Giesen, a Dutch filmmaker and musician with a tantalizing theory. He is convinced that Nazi treasure is languishing below Mittenwald's roads -- gold or diamonds, at the very least.


Ancient Etruscan prince emerges from tomb 2,600 years later

Italian archaeologists have unearthed a 2,600-year-old intact Etruscan tomb that promises to reveal new depths of one of the ancient world's most fascinating and mysterious cultures.

In the small vaulted chamber, the complete skeleton of an individual was resting on a stone bed on the left. A spear lay along the body, while brooches, on the chest indicated that the man was probably once dressed with a mantle.


Israel's Masada myth: doubts cast over ancient symbol of heroism and sacrifice

© Duby Tal/Albatross/AlamyMasada, near the Dead Sea, was excavated 50 years ago.
Herod the Great's fortified complex at Masada was a winter retreat but also an insurance against a feared rebellion of his Jewish subjects or an attack from Rome. Luxurious palaces, barracks, well-stocked storerooms, bathhouses, water cisterns sat on a plateau 400m above the Dead Sea and desert floor. Herod's personal quarters in the Northern Palace contained lavish mosaics and frescoes.

But by the time the Jews revolted against the Romans, Herod had been dead for seven decades. After the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the surviving rebels fled to Masada, under the command of Eleazer Ben Yair. Around 960 men, women and children holed up in the desert fortress as 8,000 Roman legionnaires laid siege from below.

Using Jewish slave labour, the Romans built a gigantic ramp with which they could reach the fortress and capture the rebels. On 15 April in the year 73CE, Ben Yair gathered his people and told them the time had come to "prefer death before slavery". Using a lottery system, the men killed their wives and children, then each other, until the last survivor killed himself, according to historian Flavius Josephus's account.

The Romans advanced but found only "an awful solitude, and flames within and silence, they were at a loss to conjecture what had happened Here encountering the mass of slain, instead of exulting as over enemies, they admired the nobility of their resolve". Josephus recorded that two women and three children survived to tell the tale.


Were Viking slaves buried with owners?

© Sci-Tech Today
Headless Viking bodies discovered buried in graves were likely slaves killed to be with their owners, archaeologists say. The mistreatment of the bodies, DNA results and an analysis of profound dietary differences led scientists to believe that the headless bodies were slaves who met premature ends to be interred with their masters.

About 1,000 to 1,200 years ago, a Viking man still in his 20s was laid to rest on a craggy island in the Norwegian Sea. A new analysis of his skeleton and others buried nearby -- several without their heads -- suggests a haunting possibility: Some of the dead may have been slaves killed to lie in the grave with their masters.

Slavery was widespread in the Viking world, and scientists have found other Viking graves that include the remains of slaves sacrificed as "grave goods" and buried with their masters, a custom also practiced in ancient China and elsewhere.

The newly analyzed site is one of a very few Viking burials to include more than one slave, says the University of Oslo's Elise Naumann, a Ph.D. student in archaeology who led the research.

"These are people who had values very different from our own," says Naumann, whose study was published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science last week. "There were probably a very few people who were the most privileged, and many people who suffered."