Secret HistoryS


Mastodons were hunted in North America 800 years earlier than thought

Mastodon hunting
© University of Copenhagen/PAA mastodon rib with an embedded bone spear tip: (a) Closeup view; (b) reconstruction showing the bone point with the broken tip (the thin layer represents the exterior of the rib); (c) CT scan; (d) the entire rib fragment.

Humans were hunting large mammals in North America about 800 years earlier than previously thought, new analysis of a controversial mastodon specimen - with what appears to be a spear tip in its rib - seems to confirm.

The find suggests humans were hunting mastodons using tools made from bone about a thousand years before the start of the "Clovis culture", reputedly the first human culture in North America. Other evidence points to mammoth hunting using stone tools around this time, but the notion of pre-Clovis hunting has remained highly controversial.

The mastodon was found in 1977 by a farmer called Emanuel Manis. He contacted archaeologist Carl Gustafson, who excavated the skeleton and noticed a pointed object embedded in its rib. Gustafson took a fuzzy x-ray and interpreted the object as a projectile point made of bone or antler.

By dating organic matter around the fossil, he estimated that it was about 14,000 years old. Other archaeologists challenged Gustafson's dates and his interpretation of the fragment as a man-made point.


Scotland: Ardnamurchan Viking boat burial discovery 'a first'

The UK mainland's first fully intact Viking boat burial site has been uncovered in the west Highlands, archaeologists have said.

The site, at Ardnamurchan, is thought to be more than 1,000 years old.

Artefacts buried alongside the Viking in his boat suggest he was a high-ranking warrior.

© Getty Images
Archaeologist Dr Hannah Cobb said the "artefacts and preservation make this one of the most important Norse graves ever excavated in Britain".

Dr Cobb, from the University of Manchester, a co-director of the project, said: "This is a very exciting find."


Piles of Ancient Rubbish Could Prove Incredible Temple That's 6,500 Years Older Than Stonehenge was Actually a House

It has long been considered the world's oldest temple and even thought by some to be the site of the Garden of Eden.

But a scientist has claimed that the Gobekli Tepe stones in Turkey, built in 9,000 BC and 6,500 years older than Stonehenge, could instead be a giant home 'built for men not gods'.

Ted Banning, a professor at the University of Toronto, has branded it 'one of the world's biggest garbage dumps,' with piles of animal bones, tools and charcoal found there proving that it was an ancient home rather than a religious site.

Gobekli Tepe_1
© AlamyAncient: Much of the 11,000 year-old site is still yet to be explored and it has even been considered the place of the Garden of Eden.
When excavation started at Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey in 1994, archaeologists were sure it was a temple and largely uninhabited.

Remarkably it was deliberately buried under thousands of tonnes of soil and only a small amount of the 20-acre area has been excavated since its discovery.

The incredible site was put up long before humans mastered language or skills like pottery or metal work, making it one of the true wonders of the world pre-dating any previously discovered religious site by 1,000 years.


Researchers at SMU-led Etruscan dig in Italy discover ancient depiction of childbirth - first of its kind ever found

An archaeological excavation at Poggio Colla, the site of a 2,700-year-old Etruscan settlement in Italy's Mugello Valley, has turned up a surprising and unique find: two images of a woman giving birth to a child. Researchers from the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which oversees the Poggio Colla excavation site some 20 miles northeast of Florence, discovered the images on a small fragment from a ceramic vessel that is more than 2,600 years old. The images show the head and shoulders of a baby emerging from a mother represented with her knees raised and her face shown in profile, one arm raised, and a long ponytail running down her back.

© Phil PerkinsCloseup photo of the fragment taken by Phil Perkins, professor at The Open University in the U.K.
The excavation is a project of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Tex., Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in collaboration with The Open University in Milton Keynes, England.


Why the Black Death was the Mother of All Plagues

Plague germs teased from mediaeval cadavers in a London cemetery have shed light on why the bacterium that unleashed the Black Death was so lethal and spawned later waves of epidemics.

The DNA of Yersinia pestis shows, in evolutionary terms, a highly successful germ to which the population of 14th-century Europe had no immune defences, according to a study published Wednesday in the British journal Nature.

Comment: Even if it's true that these cadavers from a London cemetery tested positive for Yersina pestis, keep in mind that the field of DNA analysis has been plagued by problems of contamination from the DNA that is ever present on human hands, bacteria and other sources. Alan Cooper, head of the Ancient Biomolecules Centre at Oxford University has said that Yersinia DNA found in bodies buried in France have been a case of mistaken identification because of accidental contamination of samples. In addition to that, it is not the first time that bodies buried in "medieval" graves actually belonged to an earlier or later period other than that of the Black Death. In Italy, health authorities in the northern states called outbreaks of bubonic plague "minor pests", to distinguish them from the "major pests", which they took much more seriously.

There is compelling evidence that the Black Death was not an outbreak of bubonic plague, but was in fact caused by a hemorrhagic virus. This case is synthesized in the book Return of the Black Death, in which Susan Scott and Christopher Duncan from Liverpool University carefully put all the available clues together, tracking the plague from its first appearance out of nowhere and chronicling its unprecedented catastrophic effects on European civilization.

Studying the parish records and the historical data registered in English provinces, using information about the critical events in the lives of real people and computer modeling, Duncan and Scott were able to not only surmise the amount of time from the appearance of symptoms to death, but also to establish the following about the pandemic:
"It seems that the plague's latent period was 10-12 days", says Chris Duncan, "while the infectious period prior to the appearance of symptoms lasted 20-22 days, giving a total incubation period of about 32 days. This is exceptionally long and it explains why the plague could jump very long distances even in the days of primitive transport: for three weeks, people didn't realise they had been infected. People generally died five days after the first symptoms appeared, so the average time from infection to death was about 37 days. This is an interesting finding, because European health authorities had quickly determined on 40 days as a safe quarantine period for the plague." [From legend to legacy]

It also lays bare a pathogen that has undergone no major genetic change over six centuries.

© AP Photo/Museum of London ArchaeologyThis undated handout photo provided by Museum of London Archaeology shows skeletons in the East Smithfield Cemetery in London, where Black Death victims were buried in the 13th Century. Scientists used skeletons from this graveyard to decode the genome of the plague.
"The Black Death was the first plague pandemic in human history," said Johannes Krause, lead researcher and a professor at the University of Tuebingen, Germany.

"Humans were (immunologically) naive and not adapted to this disease," he said in an email exchange.

No bug or virus has wiped out a greater proportion of humankind in a single epidemic than the Black Death.

Brought to Europe from China, it scythed through the continent from 1347 to 1351, killing about 30 million people - about one in three of Europe's and nearly one in 12 of the world's population at the time.

Comment: The reader is encouraged to review this in-depth article which sheds more light on this subject: New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection by Laura Knight-Jadczyk.


'Oldest rakiya relic' found in Bulgaria

© Nadezhda ChipevaBozhidar Dimitrov
An inscription on a cup depicting rakiya - a traditional form of brandy - said to date from the 14th century CE is proof that Bulgarians invented the drink, National History Museum director Bozhidar Dimitrov said on October 10 2011.

The cup with the inscription was found during excavation work at the Trapezitsa peak near Veliko Turnovo, Dimitrov said, quoted by local news agency Focus.

He said that the find was "sensational" because it was proof that rakiya was invented in Bulgaria.

A photo of the archaeological finding is to be sent to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, which has been trying to register rakiya as a national product at the European Commission.


Ancient Greek ships carried more than wine

Greeks more than wine
If you ask me, the Greeks are by far the most remarkable ancient people, laying the base for science, philosophy and even art as we know it today. They also loved to trade, in order to achieve the means for the life they desired. However, we are only learning how and what they used to trade.

Ancient historians believed Greek sailors were using amphorae (ancient storage units) to transport and trade wine - but as it turns out, the Greeks once again are surprising.

Led by archaeologist Brendan Foley from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and geneticist Maria Hansson from Lund University in Sweden led the study, which retrieved DNA from amphorae found on the bottom of sunken transport ships. As expected, some of them contained grape DNA, consistent with the wine theory; however, others contained traces of olives, presumably from olive oil, but the analysis also revealed DNA hits from honey, ginger, walnut, fish, juniper, legumes, mint, oregano and thyme - a surprising collection of products.

Scientists hope to take this study one step further and figure out what the Greeks trasported during dfferent periods. Here is the abstract of the paper, as present on Nature.


Breathing Life Into an Extinct Ethnicity

The Taínos
© Peter Newark American Pictures / The Bridgeman Art LibraryThe Taínos were the first Native Americans to encounter European explorers, but this ethnic group is now extinct.

The Taínos were the first Native Americans to meet European explorers in the Caribbean. They soon fell victim to the diseases and violence brought by the outsiders, and today no Taínos remain.

But the footprints of this extinct ethnicity are scattered throughout the genomes of modern Puerto Ricans, according to geneticist Carlos Bustamante at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California. On average, the genomes of Puerto Ricans contain 10 to 15% Native American DNA, which is largely Taíno, says Bustamante.

At a presentation at the 12th International Congress of Human Genetics in Montreal, Canada, Bustamante described preliminary results from a study that aims to reconstruct the genetic features of the Taíno people. The cryptic information was found in the genomes of 70 modern Puerto Ricans, some of the latest additions to the ongoing 1000 Genomes project, an international consortium whose goal is to find the variations in DNA sequence among the genomes of all human populations.


Is This the First Self-Portrait of Michelangelo?

© Rossella LorenziThe marble relief. A self portrait by Michelangelo?

A unique marble relief might be the first known self-portrait of Michelangelo, Italian art historians have announced this week.

Belonging to a private collection, the sculpture is a white marble tondo, or circle, about 14 inches in diameter. It depicts a bearded head in three-quarter profile.

"It's a very high-quality sculpture, carved with precision and delicacy. It certainly deserves much attention," Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale in the Tuscan town of Vinci, told Discovery News.

The carving was identified as a possible work by Michelangelo back in 1999 by the late James Beck, professor of art history at Columbia University.

In his monograph The Three Worlds of Michelangelo, Beck called the artwork a "possible Michelangelo self portrait" and dated it to about 1545.

At that time, 70-year-old Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) had already completed masterpieces such as the David, the Pieta in the Basilica of St. Peter, the Medici chapels in Florence and the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.

According to Beck, there was no doubt that the carved face of the old bearded man belonged to Michelangelo.


100,000 year old "Art Studio" Found; Evidence of Early Chemistry

© Science/AAASThe abalone shell was found with an ochre-covered grindstone on its lip.
Abalone shells used to mix paint found in South African cave, new study says.

A coating of bright red powder on the insides of a pair of 100,000-year-old abalone shells is evidence of the oldest known art workshop, a new study says.

The powder was found inside two shells in Blombos Cave near Still Bay, South Africa (map). The substance is the dried remains of a primitive form of paint made by combining colorful clay called ochre, crushed seal bones, charcoal, quartzite chips, and a liquid, such as water.

"A round [stone] covered the opening of one of the shells, and underneath it was absolutely bright red," said study leader Christopher Henshilwood, an archaeologist at the University of Bergen in Norway and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

In addition to the shells, the team also found grindstones, hammerstones, the remains of a small fire pit, and animal bones that were used to transfer small amounts of the paint.