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Thu, 23 Feb 2017
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Secret History


Selinunte: Lost Greek city with tragic history excavated in Sicily

© Creative Commons
Around 15% of the 250 acre city has, to this day, survived above ground
Like a Greek Pompeii, the city in Sicily remained at least partially intact despite the slaughter of its inhabitants

One of the ancient world's greatest tragedies, frozen in time for almost 2500 years, is at last yielding up its long-lost secrets. Archaeologists are gradually unearthing an ancient Greek city - Selinunte in Sicily - whose inhabitants were slaughtered or enslaved by North African invaders in the late 5th century BC.

Like an ancient Greek Pompeii, the whole city remained at least partially intact, despite the tragic loss of most of its inhabitants.
© University of Bonn
Excavations are revealing the secrets of Selinunte
At Pompeii all the houses and other buildings were interred almost instantaneously under volcanic ash - but at Selinunte they were buried more gradually by hundreds of thousands of tons of earth and windblown sand.


In the 50's and 60's over half of West Germany's Interior Ministry workers were ex-Nazis

© Wikipedia/Bundesarchiv
Hans Josef Maria Globke, co-author of the official legal commentary of the Nuremberg Laws which revoked the citizenship of German Jews and Director of the West Germany Chancellor's Office from 1953 till 1963.
From 1949 until 1970, over half of the West German Ministry of the Interior's staffers were ex-Nazis, including former members of SA and SS, according to a team of researchers at the Center for Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam who spent 11 months investigating the ministry's personnel files.

An interim report presented by the historians in Berlin on Wednesday stated that during that period, an average of 54 percent of the ministry's employees were former Nazis, though between 1956 and 1961 the percentage swelled to as high as 66 percent, according to Deutsche Welle.

According to the report, about 5-8 percent of the ministry's staff consisted of former SS members.


The 1983 War Scare: Declassified report reveals how close the world was to nuclear holocaust

© Flickr/ all_usernames_are_taken
A recently declassified report, known as '1983 War Scare,' has revealed yet another episode of how close the world came to the brink of a nuclear disaster: at the dusk of the Cold War the two major nuclear powers, US and USSR, were dangerously near to all-out war.

Once and again the world learns how it was saved from a nuclear apocalypse.

The recently declassified February 1990 report on the Soviet War Scare of 1983, published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, describes how dangerously close the US and Soviet Union were to going to war.

Comment: This newly declassified report is certainly timely, considering NATO's openly hostile war games directed at Russia:
Fresh from its thunderous humiliation by the Taliban; its "liberation" of Libya for the benefit of militia hell; and while Russia was bombing the hell out of a Salafi-jihadi/"moderate rebel" constellation in Syria, NATO - in search for a "360-degree" response to Russia - resorted to invading... Spain.

And Portugal. And Italy. The whole "central Mediterranean" for that matter. Trident Juncture - the heroic denomination of NATO's war games - is supposed to last a very long five weeks, involving 36,000 troops, 230 military units, 140 fighter aircraft, more than 60 ships, and Humvees spectacularly bogged down on Portuguese beaches.

NATO invades the central Mediterranean
Also see:


66 million year old giant Dakotaraptor unearthed in South Dakota

© Wikipedia
Archaeologists claim to have found the remains of one of the world's biggest raptors, which hunted for prey, armed with large claws and wings, some 66 million years ago. They've named the beast, discovered in South Dakota's Hell Creek Formation, Dakotaraptor steini.

"It could run very fast, it could jump incredibly well, it was agile and it had essentially grappling hooks on the front and rear limbs. These claws could grab on to anything and just slice them to bits. It was utterly lethal," Robert DePalma, head of the research team that discovered the fossils and curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History, told The Guardian.

The new dinosaur was discovered in 2005. "It really was the Ferrari of competitors," DePalma noted.


Titanic telegram reveals owners knew of accident

© Heritage Auctions
The newly discovered Titanic distress telegram.
A newly discovered distress telegram sent from the Titanic has shed new light on the luxury liner's last hours, revealing the ship owners knew of the disaster unfolding - something they vehemently refuted at that time.

The world's biggest passenger liner left Southampton, England, for New York on its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. The RMS "unsinkable" Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic four days later, on the night of April 14. It sank within hours on April 15 with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

In the inquiry that followed, Philip Franklin, the boss of shipping company White Star Line, swore on oath he had not received any word from the ship after it had hit the iceberg.

Franklin declared in a U.S. Congressional hearing that there was not "a word or communication of any kind or description" from the ship.

He insisted he had only heard the news of the sinking from Bruce Ismay, general manager of White Star Line, who had been on board but was brought to safety aboard rescue ship the Carpathia.

Now a newly discovered telegram challenges Franklin's claim.

Cow Skull

Two century old skulls, skeletons found below Greenwich Village square in New York City

© Andrew Winning/Reuters
Campus employees at New York University made a grisly discovery while carrying out maintenance work as they came across coffins and skeletons buried beneath a famous Greenwich Village square. Anthropologists now hope to try and identify those buried for over two centuries.

The workers were replacing a water main next to Washington Square Park, one of New York's best loved public spaces and long a hangout for intellectuals, musicians and protesters, when they found the remains of what is believed to be part of a Presbyterian church cemetery, an archeologist said.

"You never know what you can find beneath the city's streets," Alyssa Loorya said at the site in Manhattan's Greenwich Village neighborhood. "You bury people to memorialize them, and these people were forgotten," she added, as cited by AP.

They found two burial vaults, which are stated to be around 200 years old. One of the crypts was roughly 4.5 meters by 5.5 meters in size, while the archeologists found evidence that it had been disturbed, with up to a dozen skulls and skeletons found piled up, while a number of coffins were discovered in the second vault.

Despite the remains being so old, the anthropologists and archeologists have not given up hope of perhaps identifying some of the dead who have been lying below New York City's streets. Loorya added that she and her team would also look through newspaper records and death records if necessary.

"We knew we could be encountering remains or other items in this area," said Thomas Foley, an associate commissioner with the city's Department of Design and Construction told AP. "We'll do some exploring to discover what other lanes we might have."

He was referring to a city policy that is to leave burial grounds intact when possible. Therefore engineers are looking at the possibility of developing a new route.


Thousands of gold & bronze items unearthed at best-preserved Western Han Dynasty cemetery

© New China TV / YouTube
A treasure trove of valuable findings has been unearthed at an ancient Chinese cemetery. Multiple tombs, gold, bronze, iron and other precious items were found in the graveyard, the best-preserved Western Han Dynasty cemetery ever discovered.

A team of archeologists at Haihunhou cemetery in Nanchang, the capital of east China's Jiangxi Province, were given a rare treat when they unearthed more than 10 tons of Wuzhu bronze coins, along with more than 10,000 other gold, bronze and iron items.

Jade articles, wood tablets, and bamboo slips were also among the unearthed treasures, Xin Lixiang of the China National Museum, who led the team of archeologists, told Xinhua.

Book 2

Beware of the Cat: Tales of the Wicked Japanese Bakeneko and Nekomata

© Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Cat Keiko (1841)
Who knew innocent little Fluffy could be so devious? Cats' reputations have often swayed from good to evil over the years as they have been both revered and feared around the world. One of the most famous malevolent associations cats have had is undoubtedly with witchcraft. Another, arguably lesser-known connection comes from Japan, in the form of the mythical and legendary Bakeneko and Nekomata creatures.

The Mythical Bakeneko

Bakeneko has sometimes been translated as "Monster Cat" or "Ghost Cat", but the best definition in English may simply be "Changing Cat". The mythological Bakeneko are yōkai (supernatural creatures) that allegedly begin as regular domestic cats. Legends say that as cats get older, they change. The process starts with them walking on their hind legs, although with time the cats gain more powers and grow larger (even to the size of a human), they then have the ability to change their forms and sometimes peak human languages.

Stories about Bakeneko suggest that the favorite form to shift into for these devious cats is their owners or other humans. This change reportedly makes the cats so happy that they put napkins on their heads and dance.

Other powers of the mythical Bakeneko include: summoning fireballs, their tails acting as torches to set fires, controlling the dead, and cursing (or killing) their previous owners, if they see fit.


New World Pompeii: Ancient village preserved in ash emerges in El Salvador

© University of Colorado
Archaeologists have unearthed 12 buildings, including a house (left), storehouse (center) and community sauna (upper right) buried by volcanic ash at Ceren around A.D. 660.
About 1,400 years ago, the Loma Caldera volcano of El Salvador erupted, covering the small Maya village of Ceren in ash and preserving it in pristine condition to the present day. Unlike at Pompeii in Italy when Mount Vesuvius blew in 79 AD and surprised and killed the residents, the villagers of Ceren were able to make it out and so apparently were not killed in the eruption.

Archaeologists, who've been excavating Ceren since it was discovered in 1978, have speculated that an earthquake rumbled before the volcanic eruption, giving the 200 villagers enough warning to get away in time.

Unlike some Maya villages, the society's rulers did not lord it over the residents of Ceren, says a press release from the University of Colorado at Boulder. The journal Latin American Antiquity published an article on the 10-acre Ceren research area, which UNESCO declared a World Heritage Site in 1993.


Why is Smith the most common surname in the English speaking world?

© Adam Dürr/Wikimedia Commons
Blacksmith 1606
Everybody knows a Smith. There's Will Smith. Of course, who can forget Kevin Smith? And for a short time, a nazi-fighting archaeologist you might have heard of was disturbingly called—you guessed it—Indiana Smith? (Before George Lucas thankfully changed Indy's surname to Jones).

You get the point: Smith is ubiquitous. It's the most common last name in England (where the word originated), Australia, and, of course, the United States—in fact, there's over 2 million of them in the US alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This begs the question wondered by Reddit user rphillip in the Ask Historians community: Why are there so many Smiths in the world?