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Fri, 17 Nov 2017
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Secret History

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The mysterious tribe of blue-eyed Native Americans who appeared Caucasian in nature

A drawing of a Mandan tribeswoman by George Catlin
History holds many oddities that we may never fully understand, either through incomplete documentation, disinterest at the time, or simply a big question mark that hangs over all. Among these are mysterious tribes of people that have been encountered and confronted in all corners of the globe, often vanishing before we really understand them and leaving us perplexed at just who they were or where their origins lie.

One such tribe was a mysterious group of Native Americans who appeared to explorers as something quite European in nature, although their ways and beginnings have always been cloaked in shadows. Known mostly from historical accounts, their origins remain murky, their lineage uncertain, and they are a historical curiosity we may never fully understand.

During the era of early European contact, the native peoples of North America held many curiosities for explorers and settlers coming to this new, wild land. These tribes were numerous, and displayed rich variety between different cultures, as well as myriad languages, customs, and traditions that inspired awe, wonder, curiosity, bafflement, and even fear in the European adventurers who bravely delved into this uncharted new world and tried to tame it. Yet as fascinating as these new peoples were, perhaps the most interesting was an alleged tribe of natives who were said to look decidedly Caucasian in nature.


Archaeologists discover signs of ritual violence in Peruvian highlands

© Nagaoka et al, PLOS ONE, 2017
Buried individuals with signs of trauma.
A team of archaeologists has uncovered early evidence of ritual violence in Peru's northern highlands, providing new clues to what lay behind the development of bloody ceremonial mutilation in ancient Andean civilisation.

According to an article published in the journal Plos One, archaeologists examined the remains of 104 individuals from a site called Pacopampa, a place home to "impressively large, ceremonial architecture," that may have played host to "a complex society founded on ritual activity."

Seven of the people showed signs of trauma; and while those buried at Pacopampa were from both elite and commoner classes, all those with evidence of trauma were probably from lower castes.

Analysis of their injuries showed a large proportion of the trauma was sustained by blows to the head and face, rather than the hands and feet. So while the mountainous environment would have been a potentially dangerous place to live, the researchers argue, it is likely that many of the injuries were intentional.


Stonehenge builders and celebrants brought animals from as far away as Scotland for their Neolithic feasts

© Kieran Doherty / Reuters
The ancient architects who created Stonehenge feasted on animals brought from as far away as Scotland and took part in lavish midwinter rituals, an analysis of teeth and bones excavated at the site has revealed.

The findings were unveiled by English Heritage to mark the opening of an exhibition at the Stonehenge museum in Wiltshire called 'Feast! Food at Stonehenge.'

Discarded animal teeth and bones excavated at the site suggest that cows and pigs were herded hundreds of miles along ancient byways to Stonehenge, and may even have been brought to southern England by boat.


Ancient stone structures discovered in Saudi Arabia

© Google Earth
Mysterious stone structures that archaeologists call "gates," due to their loose resemblance to old-fashioned field gates, have been discovered in Saudi Arabia.
Almost 400 mysterious stone structures dating back thousands of years have been discovered in Saudi Arabia, with a few of these wall-like formations draping across old lava domes, archaeologists report.

Many of the stone walls, which archaeologists call "gates" because they resemble field gates from above, were found in clusters in a region in west-central Saudi Arabia called Harrat Khaybar.

The archaeologists involved in the research aren't sure of the purpose, or even the exact age, of these gates. [See Images of the Mysterious Stone Structures in Saudi Arabia]


The powerful Assyrians: An empire of conquest

© CC BY-SA 4.0
Part of the Lachish Relief, British Museum. Battle scene, showing Assyrian cavalry in action. Above, prisoners are led away.
Much of Assyria's history is closely tied to its southern neighbor, Babylonia. The two Mesopotamian empires spoke similar languages and worshipped most of the same gods. They were often rivals on the battlefield for influence in the ancient Middle East.

The history of Assyria spans mainly from about 2000 BC, when the cities of Nineveh and Calah were founded, to the destruction of Nineveh in 606 BC.

Whereas Babylonia is best remembered for its contributions in literature, architecture, and the law, Assyria is chiefly remembered for its military prowess, advances in weaponry, and meticulously recorded conquests.

Geographically, Assyria occupied the middle and northern part of Mesopotamia. It was situated between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, and its major cities were Calah, Zab, Ashur, and the capital, Nineveh.


Evidence found at Viking burial sites suggests link between Nordic tribes and Islam - Update

Archaeologists studying clothing worn by ancient Vikings have found evidence of a link between the Nordic tribes and Islam.

Researchers from Sweden's Uppsala University examined garments uncovered at 9th and 10th-century burial sites. They found that what they thought were typical Viking Age patterns in silver bands and embroidered clothing, were actually Kufic characters invoking both 'Allah' and 'Ali,' two central figures in the Islamic faith.

Kufic, an ancient Arabic script dating back to the 7th century, appeared in Viking Age chamber graves and boat graves in areas around the capital Stockholm. Astonishingly, the same characters can also be found in mosaics on burial monuments and mausoleums in Central Asia.

Annika Larsson, researcher in textile archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University, believes that the presence of the Kufic characters at two different grave sites suggests that Viking funeral customs were influenced by Islam.

"Presumably, Viking Age burial customs were influenced by Islam and the idea of an eternal life in Paradise after death,"Larsson told the university's website.

"Grave goods such as beautiful clothing, finely sewn in exotic fabrics, hardly reflect the deceased's everyday life, just as little as the formal attire of our era reflects our own daily lives. The rich material of grave goods should rather be seen as tangible expressions of underlying values."

Comment: RT has updated this story with a rebuttal:
Last week Swedish researchers made a startling claim they discovered the word 'Allah' embroidered into ancient Viking burial clothing. These findings have now been questioned by experts claiming the inscription "makes no sense in Arabic."

Annika Larsson's findings, which concluded that the inscriptions were evidence that Viking "burial customs were influenced by Islam and the idea of an eternal life in Paradise after death," were widely reported last week as a 'historic first'.

Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the University of Texas, Stephennie Mulder, however, claims there is a "serious problem of dating."

Mulder explains that the Kufic script didn't exist at the time of the Vikings and that even if it did, the inscription still doesn't mean anything in Arabic.

Mulder adds that Larsson's claim is "based on extrapolation, not evidence," citing a textile specialist, Carolyn Priest-Dorman, who writes that the interpretation is based on "extensions of pattern, not an existing pattern."

Priest-Dorman and Mulder's analysis details how the texts say 'Allah' only if you presume that the embroidered fabric was originally twice as wide as it is now and that the pattern was replicated in specific ways, leading Mulder to say that "Larsson's extensions are entirely conjectural."

Speaking to RT.com, Annika Larsson, a researcher in textile archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Sweden's Uppsala University, contested her critics' claims, saying that there is a "misunderstanding" from Mulder about the images.

"The scripts on the ribbons are like secret messages. First I thought they were copied by someone who didn't understand the message. But the patterns in the ribbons are like a puzzle or a rebus to read," she said.

"I have spoken to Muslims that tell me that even today sometimes you don't want to say/write/depict the Gods name clearly, so then you can make it like a puzzle, and even mirror it. I think that is what they have done on these ribbons.

"The project is represented in an Exhibition at Enköpings Museum not far from Stockholm, where we have reconstructed two ribbons.

"In this specific case we see a puzzle of two patterns - then mirrored. It is like a hidden or secret message, that is still sometimes used in the Muslim tradition when writing the name of God," she added.

Brick Wall

Jerusalem: Sections of Western Wall uncovered, hidden for 1700 yrs, includes Roman theater

© Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr. Joe Uziel stands inside a theatre-like structure during a media tour to reveal the structure which was discovered during excavation works underneath Wilson's Arch in the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem's Old City.
Archaeologists have discovered an eight-meter-high section of the Western Wall and a subterranean Roman theater, which haven't been seen by human eyes for almost two millennia.

The Israel Antiquity Authority announced the discovery on Monday following a two-year excavation of the site. "From a research perspective, this is a sensational find," archaeologist Joe Uziel said at a press conference on Monday morning in Jerusalem's Old City, as cited by The Jerusalem Post.

"The discovery was a real surprise. We did not imagine that a window would open for us onto the mystery of Jerusalem's lost theater. Like much of archeological research, the expectation is that a certain thing will be found. But at the end of the process, other findings - surprising and thought-provoking - are unearthed," Uziel added.

Archaeologists have searched for the ruins for 150 years, according to The Times of Israel, and their discovery is already altering their perceptions of Roman-occupied Jerusalem after the fall of the Second Temple and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.
© Menahem Kahana / AFP
Workers restore a ceiling of the Western Wall tunnels near the site where Israeli Antiquity Authority recently discovered an ancient roman theatre in Jerusalem's Old City.


The weird ideas and behaviors of the Habsburg royal family come out of the closet

The Habsburg family is one of the most important royal families in the history of Europe. This may be somewhat surprising, as many of the rulers from this family behaved strangely, had some weird ideas, and were apparently mentally ill. A mysterious mental illness may actually have been one of the reasons for the fall of their dynasty.

The Habsburgs started to rule in Europe during the 11th century. The dynasty's name comes from the name of a fortress built around the 1020s in the territory of modern Switzerland. The first king in this family was Rudolph of Habsburg who became the king of Germany in 1273. In 1438, the Habsburgs took the throne of the Holy Roman Empire and they kept it until 1740.

The rich family history was created around the thrones of countries like Croatia, Ireland, the Kingdom of Bohemia, England, France, Germany, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and many others. They created a hermetic reality based on people of Habsburg blood - a royal blood empire which was thought to be perfect. However, their story contains many shameful and weird episodes.

Microscope 1

Experts say some Dead Sea Scrolls displayed at DC Museum of the Bible are fakes

© Pinterest
Are the Dead Sea Scrolls historical documents or collectible items? How you answer that question may determine how you feel about new revelations that fragments of scrolls in private collections that their owners have paid millions for are probably fakes ... well-made forgeries, but fakes nonetheless. One of the victims of these frauds is the Museum of the Bible, which is scheduled to open in Washington DC in November 2017. In a new article in Dead Sea Discoveries by paleographer and Dead Sea Scrolls expert, Dr. Kipp Davis, many of the "scrolls" to be displayed in that facility are questionable at best, fakes at worst.

Forgeries have been a problem with the Dead Sea Scrolls since the first ones were found in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds in a cave near what is now known as the Qumran site. Eventually, 11 (some say 12) caves were found housing some 900 manuscripts and up to 50,000 fragments in forms ranging from full scrolls to minute pieces. As they contain the contents of the Hebrew Bible, competition between scholars and collectors to possess the scrolls was immediately fierce, costly and fraught with frauds. Eventually, carbon dating of the leather they were written on eliminated fakes that weren't around 2,000 years old.


Oral accounts of Aboriginal Australians referenced red giants

© SKA Organisation/Alex Cherney/terrastro.com
View of the Milky Way over one of the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder antennas, in the Australian outback.
Australian Aborigines probably observed the cyclical changes in the brightness of pulsating red giant stars such as Antares, Betelgeuse, and Aldebaran. They integrated their observations into their oral traditions - cultural narratives that served as a system of laws, social rules, and general knowledge transmission.

European astronomers realized that red giants changed in brightness in 1596, when David Fabricius registered the variability of the star Mira. Johannes Hevelius went on to calculate the amplitude and periodicity of Mira's changes in 1662. But the oral traditions of Australian Aborigines could go much further back in time: they have inhabited the fifth continent for more than 65,000 years. Research examining oral tradition for geological events, such as volcanic eruptions or meteorite impacts, have shown that such oral traditions can survive for thousands of years.

Duane Hamacher (Monash University and University of Southern Queensland, Australia), found new references to variable stars after reinterpreting the accounts of 19th- and 20th-century anthropologists and ethnologists, who recorded some of the Aboriginal oral traditions. His results are being published in a new study in the Australian Journal of Anthropology.

According to Hamacher, anthropologists sometimes misinterpreted Aboriginal accounts in the past, wrongfully assuming them to refer to planets in the solar system rather than stars.

"Many anthropologists had limited training in astronomy, so misidentifications, conflated terminology, and errors were not uncommon," Hamacher says. "Mars and Antares are often mixed up because of their comparable brightness and occasional close proximity."

Hamacher found two oral traditions that referenced the variable stars Betelgeuse, Antares and Aldebaran. Their changes in brightness carried important weight in the narratives and helped encode certain social rules, such as signaling to the tribe when to celebrate initiation rituals.

This is the first clear evidence of indigenous peoples observing and recording stellar variation in oral traditions. The only widely accepted record of a pulsating variable comes from an Egyptian papyrus called the Cairo calendar, which predicted good and bad luck periods throughout the year, dated around 1200 B.C. A statistical analysis of those periods revealed that they followed the variation of the eclipsing binary star Algol.