Secret HistoryS


Oldest globe to depict the New World may have been discovered

Engraved Globe
© The Washington Map SocietyEurope, North Africa and the Middle East on the meticulously engraved globe.
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An Austrian collector has found what may be the oldest globe, dated 1504, to depict the New World, engraved with immaculate detail on two conjoined halves of ostrich eggs.

The globe, about the size of a grapefruit, is labeled in Latin and includes what were considered exotic territories such as Japan, Brazil and Arabia. North America is depicted as a group of scattered islands. The globe's lone sentence, above the coast of Southeast Asia, is "Hic Sunt Dracones."

" 'Here be dragons,' a very interesting sentence," said Thomas Sander, editor of the Portolan, the journal of the Washington Map Society. The journal published a comprehensive analysis of the globe Monday by collector Stefaan Missinne. "In early maps, you would see images of sea monsters; it was a way to say there's bad stuff out there."

The only other map or globe on which this specific phrase appears is what can arguably be called the egg's twin: the copper Hunt-Lenox Globe, dated around 1510 and housed by the Rare Book Division of the New York Public Library. Before the egg, the copper globe had been the oldest one known to show the New World. The two contain remarkable similarities.

After comparing the two globes, Missinne concluded that the Hunt-Lenox Globe is a cast of the engraved ostrich egg. Many minute details, such as the lines and contours of the egg's territories, oceans and script, match those on the well-studied Hunt-Lenox Globe.

The egg's shape is slightly irregular, while the copper globe is a perfect sphere. Also, the markings around the equator of the egg, where the two halves are joined, appear quite muddled.


Oldest 'bog body' found with skin intact in Ireland

Bog Body
© Ossory, Laois, and LeinsterCashel Man, discovered in central Ireland, is thought to have been a young king who was ritualistically sacrificed.
Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a 4,000-year-old man preserved in an Irish peat bog, marking the oldest European body ever found with skin still intact.

The cool, waterlogged conditions of Northern European bogs (a type of wetland) create low-oxygen, highly acidic environments ideal for body preservation. As a result, hundreds of "bog bodies" dating back thousands of years have been uncovered in the region, but many have shriveled down to mostly skeletons and tend to be closer to 2,000 years old.

A resident of central Ireland's County Laois came across the well-preserved "Cashel Man" - named for the bog he was found in - while milling for peat moss, which is used for a variety of farm purposes, including animal-bedding and field conditioning.

Having realized that he had come across a human body, the resident notified archaeologists at the National Museum of Ireland, who later conducted a formal excavation of the site. A summary of the dig appeared in the latest edition of the Irish journal Ossory, Laois, and Leinster.

"All that was visible to start with was a pair of legs below the knees, and a torso," Eamonn Kelly, an archaeologist at the National Museum and lead excavator of the project, wrote in the report. "The body appeared to be naked. Later, it was possible to work out that the torso had been damaged by the milling machine, which also removed the head, neck and left arm."


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.