Secret HistoryS


Neanderthals extinction may have been caused by incapacity to form larger social networks

Homo neanderthalensis
For ages, anthropologists have puzzled over Neanderthal and human brains, since they were the same size. If each species had comparable brainpower, why did humans dominate?

A comparison of Neanderthal and human brains has revealed it was a matter of allocation: Neanderthal brains focused more on vision and movement, leaving less room for cognition related to social networking.

According to the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, bigger eyed and larger bodied Neanderthals required more brain space devoted to the visual system and basic body functions, leaving less area for what co-author Robin Dunbar called "the smart part."

He explained to Discovery News that this is "the part that is doing the creative thinking."

Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford, and colleagues Eiluned Pearce and Chris Stringer compared the skulls of 32 anatomically modern humans and 13 Neanderthals. The skulls date to 27,000 to 75,000 years ago. The researchers noticed that Neanderthals had significantly larger eye sockets.


Wright brothers flew 2 years after Gustav Whitehead, researcher claims

© FoxNews
Were we wrong about the Wright Brothers?

That's the shocking claim by Australian aviation historian John Brown, who told he has photographic proof that German immigrant Gustav Whitehead flew over Connecticut in 1901 -- Orville and Wilbur were second.

"Two years, four months, and three days before the Wright brothers, somebody else flew first," Brown said via phone from Germany. "It's really a radical revision of the history of aviation."

Even Jane's: All the World's Aircraft -- widely considered the essential bible of flight -- has acknowledged Whitehead's achievement and Brown's research. With the headline "justice delayed is justice denied," editor-in-chief Paul Jackson wrote about the early aviator's story for the overview to the newly released 100th edition of the reference guide, published online on Saturday.

"Today, it seems impossible that a vast cache of documentary evidence ... can be overlooked by the world at large," he wrote.

The Wright brothers soared into history books on Dec. 17, 1903, following their historic, 852-foot, 59-second flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina -- an achievement for which the duo are widely described as being "first in flight." But historians have long known that others were working on a variety of flying machines, including a fellow U.S. resident, German immigrant Gustav Whitehead (born Weisskopf).


Shape-Shifting Jesus described in ancient Egyptian text

Last Supper
© Renata Sedmakova | ShutterstockIn a newly deciphered 1,200-year-old telling of the Passion story, Jesus has supper with Pontius Pilate before his crucifixion. His supper with the apostles (and subsequent arrest) happen on Tuesday instead of Thursday.
A newly deciphered Egyptian text, dating back almost 1,200 years, tells part of the crucifixion story of Jesus with apocryphal plot twists, some of which have never been seen before.

Written in the Coptic language, the ancient text tells of Pontius Pilate, the judge who authorized Jesus' crucifixion, having dinner with Jesus before his crucifixion and offering to sacrifice his own son in the place of Jesus. It also explains why Judas used a kiss, specifically, to betray Jesus - because Jesus had the ability to change shape, according to the text - and it puts the day of the arrest of Jesus on Tuesday evening rather than Thursday evening, something that contravenes the Easter timeline.

The discovery of the text doesn't mean these events happened, but rather that some people living at the time appear to have believed in them, said Roelof van den Broek, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who published the translation in the book Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem on the Life and the Passion of Christ (Brill, 2013).

Copies of the text are found in two manuscripts, one in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City and the other at the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Most of the translation comes from the New York text, because the relevant text in the Pennsylvania manuscript is mostly illegible.


Early human ancestor surprisingly smart

Early Humans
© Steveoc, Wikimedia CommonsTo routinely use fire, early human ancestor Homo erectus would have needed long-term planning, group cooperation, and inhibition.
Early human ancestors needed high-level intelligence to use fire, new research suggests.

The study, published in February in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal, argues that fire use requires long-term planning, group cooperation and inhibition. In combination with evidence for early fire use, the study suggests that the early human ancestor Homo erectus may have been smarter than previously thought.

"Early humans would have had to have been fairly clever to keep a fire going by cooperating, not stealing food or not stealing fire from other people," said study author Terrence Twomey, an anthropologist at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Fire found

Traces of ash found in Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa suggest that at least some Homo erectus used fire as far back as 1 million years ago. Another site in Israel, Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, shows evidence of fire from around 800,000 years ago.

While it's possible these ancient ancestors made fire from scratch, it's more likely they learned to harness flames from a lightning strike or other natural source, Twomey told LiveScience.

Some anthropologists have suggested that cooked food allowed early human ancestors to eat meat, derive more nutrition from food and neutralize bacteria in their food. As a result, early humans could divert energy from digestion to brain growth.

But the evidence for that hypothesis is mostly circumstantial.


Five strange theories about Stonehenge

Sunset over Stonehenge
© MPanchenko, ShutterstockSunset over Stonehenge.
Thousands of years ago, an ancient civilization raised a circle of huge, roughly rectangular stones in a field in what is now Wiltshire, England. Stonehenge, as it would come to be called, has been a mystery ever since.

Building began on the site around 3100 B.C. and continued in phases up until about 1600 B.C. The people who constructed the site left no written records and few clues as to why they bothered to schlep the stones to this spot.

Wild theories about Stonehenge have persisted since the Middle Ages, with 12th-century myths crediting the wizard Merlin with constructing the site. More recently, UFO believers have spun theories about ancient aliens and spacecraft landing pads.

But Stonehenge has inspired a fair number of scientifically reasonable theories as well. Here are five major (and not necessarily mutually exclusive) reasons Stonehenge might exist.

Comment: ...and then there's a variation on number 4:

Stonehenge as a cometary catastrophe predictor


Fairy tale giants real, says science: My battle with Snopes

© CudahyNow
In my pursuit for transparency on what I call a " Giant Cover Up" Pun intended, I have collected almost 600 old newspaper clippings from city and state publications prior to 1945 with Giant skeleton finds.Including an 18 Ft Tall Giant Human skeleton found in Texas. Above is one during WWII era that is just fascinating.

My battle with Snopes. I have emailed Snopes asking them to put out an update and correction that giant skeletons do exist. As an organization that strives for the truth you would think they would want to update misleading information.


Bronze-Age donkey sacrifice found in Israel

Donkey Skeleton
© PLOS ONEThis image shows the donkey burial found at Tel Haror. Note the 1992 find of the donkey's skull and bit in situ in the box at right.
Archaeologists in southern Israel say they've uncovered a young donkey that was carefully laid to rest on its side more than 3,500 years ago, complete with a copper bridle bit in its mouth and saddle bags on its back.

Its accessories - and the lack of butchery marks on its bones - lead researchers to believe the venerated pack animal was sacrificed and buried as part of a Bronze Age ritual.

Donkeys were valuable beasts of burden in the ancient Near East. Donkey caravans helped open up vast trade networks across the Levant and Anatolia in the 18th and 17th centuries B.C., according to archives from Amorite settlements like Mari in modern-day Syria. Ancient Egyptian inscriptions from around the same time show that hundreds of pack donkeys were used in large-scale expeditions to mining sites in the eastern desert and southern Sinai, researchers say.

The animals have even been associated with royalty. In 2003, paleoscientists discovered the skeletons of 10 donkeys nestled in three mud graves dating back 5,000 years ago when Egypt was just forming a state. The donkey skeletons were lying on their sides in graves at a burial complex of one of the first pharaohs at Abydos, Egypt.


Stonehenge was Glastonbury of its day but was not built for astronomy

The journeys made by the ancient people who carried its enormous stones are well known.

But researchers now claim men and women came from across Britain in their thousands to build Stonehenge and celebrate the winter solstice.

Experts suggested the gatherings were something like "Glastonbury festival and a motorway building scheme at the same time", as people spent periods of time each year constructing the site and celebrating massive communal feasts.

The findings overturn the belief that Stonehenge was built as an astronomical calendar or observatory, Professor Mike Parker Pearson from University College London said.

It suggests the act of building monuments was key to those who constructed the site, uniting people from across the island of Britain.

The findings come after a decade of research which included excavations, laboratory work and the analysis of 63 ancient human remains.


World's largest pyramid discovered - Lost Mayan city of Mirador

Bigger than downtown Los Angeles

It's the tallest known pyramid in the New World and possibly the biggest pyramid by volume on earth, 2.8 million cubic meters.

For years, it was mistaken for a big hill.

Amazingly, this pyramid was unknown just a few decades ago and is part of collection of ruins covering an area bigger than downtown Los Angeles.

Stories like this are a reminder to take schoolbook archeology with a grain of salt. Not only do we not know all that there is to know, it appears that people trying to get the answers aren't getting much help figuring it out.


Ancient port discovered at Hinkley Point, U.K.

Roman Artifacts
© This is CornwallA Roman brooch or fibula, one of the artefacts found during preliminary work at Hinkley Point. Left, Rachel Bellamy and Jane Hill, from the Somerset Heritage Service, with bones, stones and pottery. Right, a piece of ornate Samian ware Roman pottery, found during the work
The remains of what might be one of the oldest ports in the Westcountry have been discovered by the largest single archaeological site-survey ever undertaken in the region.

The historic investigation covers an area of land the equivalent of 262 football pitches at the site of the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor on the Somerset coast.

Surprisingly, given the geography involved, the remains of what looks to be an ancient harbour have been found nearly a mile inland.

Historians have been able to establish that the nuclear power station is situated on what used to be an isolated headland - until Roman times a large estuarine inlet filled the shallow valley to the south.

This provided a sheltered spot where ancient people, going back 4,000 years or even longer, could moor their primitive boats and fish.

These astonishing facts were revealed yesterday at an event staged at Somerset Museum where details of an archaeological excavation and education outreach programme funded by EDF Energy and carried out by Somerset County Council (SCC) were unveiled.

Not only have archaeologists discovered what looks to be the remains of an estuarine community, they have also uncovered the first ever Saxon style 'grub hut' to be found anywhere west of the River Parrett.