Secret HistoryS


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Maharashtra's ancient rock sculptures

Rock Sculpture
© The Times of India
Rock sculptures dating back to between 4,000-7,000 BC have been found in a well-preserved condition in the forests near Kudopi village in Sindhudurg district of coastal Konkan region, an official said here Tuesday.

There are more than 60 big and small images of Mother Goddess, birds and animals, found in a single location of around 20,000 square feet, considered one of the biggest such concentration anywhere in the country, Satish Lalit, leader of an expedition team which made the discovery last May, said.

"Though similar carvings have been found in other parts of India, this is the first find on a red soil laterite plateau. These are petro-glyphs unlike the picto-graphs found in places like Amravati," Lalit, a member of Rock Art Society of India (RASI), said.

With this significant historical find dating back to over 6,000 years from now, Sindhudurg district, around 490 km from Mumbai on the Maharashtra-Goa border, will be catapulted onto the global rock-art map.

Last week (Nov 17) Lalit, who is also the media advisor to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, presented his findings before the RASI's 17th National Congress held in Badami, Karnataka.

Info

Ancient tombs discovered in Pakistan

Ancient Tomb_1
© Phys.OrgA Pakistani family crosses the River Swat by bridge at the hill station of Madyan. Italian archaeologists say they have discovered a cemetery that reveals complex funeral rites dating back more than 3,000 years in Pakistan's Swat valley, which was recently controlled by the Taliban.
Italian archaeologists say they have discovered a cemetery that reveals complex funeral rites dating back more than 3,000 years in Pakistan's Swat valley, recently controlled by the Taliban.

The Italian mission began digging in the 1950s at Udegram, a site of Buddhist treasures in Swat, the northwestern district formerly known as the Switzerland of Pakistan for its stunning mountains, valleys and rivers.

Archaeologists were aware of a pre-Buddhist grave site in Udegram, but only recently discovered the collection of almost 30 graves, tightly clustered and partially overlapping.

"Some graves had a stone wall, others were protected by walls and enclosures in beaten clay," Luca Maria Olivieri, head of the Italian mission, told AFP.

"The cemetery... seems to have been used between the end of the second millennium BCE and the first half of the first millennium BCE," he added.

Olivieri says the tombs point to the culture that predates the Buddhist Gandhara civilisation that took hold in northwest Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan from the first millennium BCE to the sixth century AD.

Info

Pope questions Christ's birth year in new book

Pope
© AFP/Alberto Pizzoli
A new book written by the Pope questions one of the fundamentals of the Christian religion. The head of the Roman Catholic Church argues the Christian calendar is based on a miscalculation and is therefore wrong.

In the book Benedict XVI goes on to suggest Christ was born several years earlier than is commonly thought.

In the final instalment of the Pope's Jesus of Nazareth trilogy dedicated to Christ's infancy, the pontiff writes of an error made by 6th century monk Dionysius Exiguus or Dennis the Small, who apparently "made a mistake... by several years" calculating the beginning of our calendar.

"The actual date of Jesus' birth was several years before,"
he claims.

The concept is not new. Many historians and scholars agree with Pope Benedict XVI, believing Jesus Christ was rather born sometime between 6BC and 4BC.

Dionysius Exiguus invented the new Christian calendar as an alternative to the one that was current at the time. It was based on the years of reign of Emperor Diocletian, a tyrant who persecuted Christians. The Exiguus system eventually replaced the Diocletian in Europe around the year 800 and started the use of Anno Domini.

The allegation Dionysius Exiguus made a mistake is still a questionable theory, as no one knows how exactly Dionysius made his calculations.

The book hit the stores on Wednesday after it has been translated into other languages from original German. The first part was published in 2007 and was annotated as a "personal search for the face of the Lord." The second instalment was published in 2011.

Question

Lost civilization unearthed in Indonesia

Lost Civilization_1
© J.B. DjwanOld: Discoverer of 14th century temple ruins Chandra Kirawan points out the massive stones that are believed to be the foundations of Bali’s largest temple complex.
Ancient Balinese history was not uppermost in Ida Rsi Bhujannga's life until plans to build a septic tank at his home turned into an archeological discovery that has scientists bewitched.

The elderly high priest says he is now fascinated by his community's history, which the rare find of dozens of massive stones has uncovered. These meter-long stones are believed to be from a 14th century temple complex that may have been the largest ever constructed on the Island of the Gods.

"I have become very interested in archeology since this was found, because we must know our history here in Bali. As a priest I need to know about this history so I can teach people," said Bhujannga.

He is speaking of ruins of a Hindu temple unearthed recently during excavations into rice fields to extend his home in Penatih village, Denpasar. Workers struck the huge mudstone foundations of the temple at just 70 centimeters below the surface, and in doing so have altered the Denpasar history books.

Head of Bali's Archeology Unit, Made Geria, says the discovery is unique due to the scale of the stones used in the ancient temple's foundations and their location.

Sherlock

Prehistoric Scotland home unearthed - dated to the Mesolithic period

Image
© Transport Scotland/Headland Archaeology
An artists impression of how the Mesolithic dwelling may have looked
The ancient dwelling was uncovered during an archaeological excavation in a field on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A large oval pit nearly seven metres in length and studded with postholes is all that remains of the dwelling that has been dated to the Mesolithic period, around 10,252 years ago.

A survey of the site was being conducted in preparation for the building of the Forth Replacement Crossing in a field in Echline, South Queensferry, just north of Edinburgh.

Rod McCullagh, a senior archaeologist at Historic Scotland, said: "This discovery and, especially, the information from the laboratory analyses adds valuable information to our understanding of a small but growing list of buildings erected by Scotland's first settlers after the last glaciation, 10,000 year ago.

"The radiocarbon dates that have been taken from this site show it to be the oldest of its type found in Scotland which adds to its significance."

Info

Vikings feasted on seals, bones reveal

Grave
© Jette ArneborgArchaeologists dig up skeletons of Norse settlers in 2010 at Igaliku Fjord, Greenland.
Seals made up as much 80 percent of the Viking diet in Greenland, new analyses of Norse skeletons reveal. The finds suggest that the settlers' mysterious disappearance from Greenland 500 years ago was hardly due to an inability to adjust to the icy environment.

"Even though the Norse are traditionally thought of as farmers, they adapted quickly to the Arctic environment and the unique hunting opportunities," explained researcher Jan Heinemeier of Aarhus University in a statement. "During the period they were in Greenland, the Norse ate gradually more seals."

Through analyses of the carbon isotope ratios in bone samples from 80 Norse skeletons, the researchers determined that a large proportion of the Vikings' diet came from seafood, with seals making up between 50 and 80 percent by the 14th century.

The first Norse transplants brought farming and domestic animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs from Iceland to Greenland. But the new findings challenge the view that these settlers stuck to this lifestyle until increasingly harsh conditions, and possibly a "Little Ice Age," drove them to starve or settle elsewhere.

Boat

Hurricane Sandy exposes Fire Island shipwreck

Image
© Live Science/Cheryl Hapke/USGSThe presumed remains of the Bessie White, a wrecked schooner long buried under Fire Island's dunes, now lays fully exposed on the beach following Hurricane Sandy.
New York - A wrecked schooner long buried on Fire Island - a barrier island off of Long Island, N.Y. - now lies fully exposed following Hurricane Sandy's attack on the beach.

The weathered hull of the shipwreck lies about 4 miles (6 kilometers) east of Davis Park, between Skunk Hollow and Whalehouse Point, in the Fire Island National Seashore, as first reported by Newsday.

The remains are thought to be the Bessie White, more than 90 years old, said Paula Valentine, public affairs specialist for the park. Historic photographs and news accounts don't agree on the year of ship's grounding, but here is an outline of its story:

The ship, a four-mast Canadian schooner, went aground in heavy fog about a mile west of Smith's Point, Long Island, in either 1919 or 1922. The men escaped in two boats. One capsized in the surf, injuring one crew member, but everyone (including the ship's cat) made it to shore safely. But the crew couldn't save the three-year-old ship or its tons of coal. The ship was salvaged in the following weeks.

The bus-size ship's skeleton has poked up through the sand before, such as after a nor'easter in 2006, exposing long boards and metal pegs, Valentine told OurAmazingPlanet.

Monkey Wrench

Stone-tipped spear invented earlier than thought, researchers say

Stone-tipped spear
© Jayne WilkinsExamples of experimental stone-tipped hafted spears.
Homo heidelbergensis developed the weapon 500,000 years ago, long before Neanderthals and Homo sapiens made them, a study finds.

It was among early man's greatest technological feats: a fully engineered weapon that combined a wooden shaft, mixed adhesives and a stone that had been chiseled to a lethal point.

To many anthropologists, the creation of the stone-tipped, or hafted, spear was a watershed moment in human evolution. Not only did it amplify the killing power of early hunters, it also demonstrated clearly that they had developed the capacity for complex and abstract reasoning.

Pinning down this moment in prehistory has been difficult, however. It was long held that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens first lashed stone tips to spears 200,000 to 300,000 years ago. But a study published in Friday's edition of the journal Science contends that a third species, Homo heidelbergensis, developed the technology about 500,000 years ago.

Black Magic

They cracked this 250 year-old code, and found a secret society inside


Ancient Manuscript
© Uppsala UniversityFor more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery.
The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun.

The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. "Read," the master commands. The candidate squints, but it's an impossible task. The page is blank.

The candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidate's eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.

The master starts plucking hairs from the candidate's eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are "symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning," the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the master's amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.

For more than 260 years, the contents of that page - and the details of this ritual - remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg. Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations.

Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.

Question

Ancient mariners: Did Neanderthals sail to Mediterranean?

Akrotiri Aetokremnos
© Alan SimmonsNeanderthals or other extinct human lineages may have sailed to the Mediterranean Islands long before previously thought. Here, an excavation at Akrotiri Aetokremnos, a site in Cyprus dating back to about 10,000 B.C. where pygmy hippo fossils were found.
Neanderthals and other extinct human lineages might have been ancient mariners, venturing to the Mediterranean islands thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

This prehistoric seafaring could shed light on the mental capabilities of these lost relatives of modern humans, researchers say.

Scientists had thought the Mediterranean islands were first settled about 9,000 years ago by Neolithic or New Stone Age farmers and shepherds.

"On a lot of Mediterranean islands, you have these amazing remains from classical antiquity to study, so for many years people didn't even look for older sites," said archaeologist Alan Simmons at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

However, in the last 20 years or so, some evidence has surfaced for a human presence on these islands dating back immediately before the Neolithic.

"There's still a lot to find in archaeology - you have to keep pushing the envelope in terms of conventional wisdom," Simmons said.