Secret HistoryS


Egypt: Prostate Cancer Found in 2,200 Year-Old Mummy

Some 2250 years ago in Egypt, a man known today only as M1 struggled with a long, painful, progressive illness. A dull pain throbbed in his lower back, then spread to other parts of his body, making most movements a misery. When M1 finally succumbed to the mysterious ailment between the ages of 51 and 60, his family paid for him to be mummified so that he could be reborn and relish the pleasures of the afterworld.

© Instituto dos Museus e da Conservação, I.P., LisbonAncient affliction. A high-resolution CT scan of the lumbar spine region of a 2150-year-old Egyptian mummy has just revealed small, round lesions—the oldest case of metastatic prostate cancer in ancient Egyptians
Now an international research team has diagnosed what ailed M1: the oldest known case of prostate cancer in ancient Egypt and the second oldest case in the world. (The earliest diagnosis of prostate cancer came from the 2700-year-old skeleton of a Scythian king in Russia.) Moreover, the new study now in press in the International Journal of Paleopathology, suggests that earlier investigators may have underestimated the prevalence of cancer in ancient populations because high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scanners capable of finding tumors measuring just 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter only became available in 2005. "I think earlier researchers probably missed a lot without this technology," says team leader Carlos Prates, a radiologist in private practice at Imagens Médicas Integradas in Lisbon.

Prostate cancer begins in the walnut-sized prostate gland, an integral part of the male reproductive system. The gland produces a milky fluid that is part of semen and it sits underneath a man's bladder. In aggressive cases of the disease, prostate cancer cells can metastasize, or spread, entering the bloodstream and invading the bones. After performing high-resolution scans on three Egyptian mummies in the collection of the National Archaeological Museum in Lisbon, Prates and colleagues detected many small, round, dense tumors in M1's pelvis and lumbar spine, as well as in his upper arm and leg bones. These are the areas most commonly affected by metastatic prostate cancer. "We could not find any evidence to challenge this diagnosis," Prates says.

Heart - Black

Friend of Fascism: Writer Nancy Mitford Spied on Sisters

Diana Mosley at rally
© National ArchivesFriend of fascism: Diana, second left, at a Nuremberg Rally in 1936
The writer Nancy Mitford spied on her sisters because of their sympathies with Hitler, documents released by the National Archives reveal.

The latest batch of files from the security service MI5 includes a report from January 1941 which says the writer "personally informed the authorities of her sister's (Lady Mosley's) treasonable sympathies.

"The information was given with very good will and is thoroughly reliable."

Lady Diana Mosley married the British blackshirt leader Sir Oswald Mosley and was a friend of Hitler.

A search of her luggage at Croydon airport on one occasion, the files state, turned up a newly signed photograph of him. She was interned in late 1940.

Magic Wand

UK: Stanton Drew stone circle reveals new secrets

© BBCThe survey built on the previous studies carried out by English Heritage
Evidence of a second entrance and a farmstead have been discovered beneath a complex of stone circles in Somerset.

The discovery has been made as part of an underground archaeological survey of the Stanton Drew stone circles.

The complex is the second biggest in Europe and dates back to the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age.

An earlier study in 2009 concluded the site was 1,000 years older than previously thought after an underground burial chamber was found.

'Sacred objects'

The studies, which took place in 2009 and 2010, were made by Bath and North East Somerset Council and Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society (BACAS) in a joint project.


Beer & Bullets to Go: Ancient 'Takeout' Window Discovered

Godin Tepe
© Courtesy Royal Ontario MuseumAbout 5,200 years ago, a mud-brick oval enclosure was built at Godin Tepe. The main building (pictured here) had two windows that may have been used for "takeout."

Some 5,200 years ago, in the mountains of western Iran, people may have used takeout windows to get food and weapons, newly presented research suggests.

But rather than the greasy hamburgers and fries, it appears the inhabitants of the site ordered up goat, grain and even bullets, among other items.

The find was made at Godin Tepe, an archaeological site that was excavated in the 1960s and 1970s by a team led by T. Cuyler Young Jr., a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, who died in 2006.

A team of researchers took up his work after he died and recently published the results of the excavation, along with more recent research on the artifacts, in the book On the High Road: The History of Godin Tepe (Hilary Gopnik and Mitchell Rothman, Mazda Publishers, 2011). In addition a symposium was held recently where the takeout windows, among other research finds at Godin Tepe, were discussed.

The idea that they were used as takeout windows was first proposed by Cuyler Young and is based mainly on their height and location beside the central courtyard.

The windows could have been used by ordinary individuals or perhaps by soldiers "driving through" to grab some food, or even weapons.


UK: Mystery Yellow Stone Found in Belfast Hills

© Queen’s UniversityCave Hill stone excavation
A mysterious yellow stone which could date back to prehistoric times has been discovered in the hills above Belfast.

The yellow, honeycomb type stone was found by a member of the public as part of an ongoing open archaeological dig in the Ballyaghagan town land on the Upper Hightown Road in the north of the city.

Archaeologists believe it may have been used in prehistoric ceremonies, but they will know more after testing and further study has been carried out on the stone.

Up to 400 people, including groups of school children, have taken part in a public dig on Cavehill over the last week as part of an initiative by the Belfast Hills Partnership.

They have been supervised by archaeologists from the Queen's University's Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork.


Buddha Statues Found in Cambodia

Archaeologists have unearthed the largest Angkorian-era Buddha statues at the renowned Angkor Wat temple complex in South east Asian country of Cambodia.

© unknownHeadless Buddha stone statue sits on blocks unearthed at the Ta Prom temple in Cambodia
The two headless stone statues have been discovered during the excavation at Ta Prohm temple that if they were complete, they would stand about 10 feet (3 meters) tall, Archaeologica reported.

The statues have been discovered when workers were carrying out the Archaeological Survey of India's 10-year, $ 4 million restoration project.

"The statue is incomplete, missing a large Buddha head with a naga snake fan and part of the base which found in the Hall of Dancers at the temple," described the Indian Embassy First Secretary Saurav Ray.

The statues are believed to date back to the 12th century and are the biggest ones discovered since the 1930s, said the expert for the government's Apsara Authority that oversees the site Ly Vanna.

UNESCO Culture Program specialist Philippe Delanghe asserted that he had deployed a field officer to investigate the impressive find.


Food remains in ancient cooking pots suggest farming caught on slowly

cooking pot farming
© Anders FischerA cooking pot and wooden spoon recovered from the Åmose bog in Zealand, Denmark. Charred food residues found in such pots show they once contained fish.
Residues in 6,000-year-old cooking pots point to a gradual transition to agriculture, contrary to received wisdom

Our ancestors' move from hunter-gathering to farming happened gradually rather than abruptly, food residues found in 6,000-year-old cooking pots suggests.

Evidence from pots found around the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe shows farmers at the beginning of the Neolithic period continued to cook the same types of food foraged by their immediate hunter-gatherer ancestors. The finding challenges the traditional view that farming quickly and completely replaced the more ancient lifestyle.

Archaeologists from the University of York and the University of Bradford studied 133 pots from farming communities in 15 different sites in Denmark and Germany. The team analysed the chemical structures of fats, oils and waxes that had been released from cooking and had soaked into the ceramic. The researchers also studied crusts of burnt food that had been preserved on the inside of the vessels.


Archaeopteryx regains its perch on the bird family tree

Archaeopteryx bird fossil
© Sally A. Morgan/CorbisThe new analysis, using a more sophisticated statistical method, makes Archaeopteryx a bird not a dinosaur.
A new study claims to re-establish the status of Archaeopteryx as the earliest bird - and not just another bird-like dinosaur

For 150 years the creature occupied top spot on the avian evolutionary tree until this summer when the discovery of a close relative suggested it was a mere bird-like dinosaur. Now it looks to have regained its previous perch thanks to a more sophisticated anatomical analysis.

"This shows that when you look at the data with a higher degree of analytical rigour it supports the traditional view that Archaeopteryx is a bird," said Dr Paul Barrett, a dinosaur researcher at London's Natural History Museum.

The first complete specimen of Archaeopteryx was discovered in Germany in 1861, two years after the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

It lived around 150 million years ago, had sharp teeth, three fingers with claws, a long bony tail, feathers, broad wings, could grow to about 0.5 metres in length and could fly.


Mysterious 'Copiale Cipher' Cracked

Copiale Cipher
© University of Southern California and Uppsala UniversityThese are pages from the “Copiale Cipher,” a mysterious cryptogram, bound in gold and green brocade paper, that was finally cracked by an international team of cryptographers.

The manuscript seems straight out of fiction: a strange handwritten message in abstract symbols and Roman letters meticulously covering 105 yellowing pages, hidden in the depths of an academic archive.

Now, more than three centuries after it was devised, the 75,000-character "Copiale Cipher" has finally been broken.

The mysterious cryptogram, bound in gold and green brocade paper, reveals the rituals and political leanings of a 18th-century secret society in Germany. The rituals detailed in the document indicate the secret society had a fascination with eye surgery and ophthalmology, though it seems members of the secret society were not themselves eye doctors.

"This opens up a window for people who study the history of ideas and the history of secret societies," said computer scientist Kevin Knight of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, part of the international team that finally cracked the Copiale Cipher. "Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason is because so many documents are enciphered."

To break the Copiale Cipher, Knight and colleagues Beáta Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer of Uppsala University in Sweden tracked down the original manuscript, which was found in the East Berlin Academy after the Cold War and is now in a private collection. They then transcribed a machine-readable version of the text, using a computer program created by Knight to help quantify the co-occurrences of certain symbols and other patterns.


Archaeologists protest removal of Muslim graves

Bethlehem -
© MaanImages/StringerA general view of the Mamilla graveyard in Jerusalem on 9 May 2006 upon
which the Simon Wiesenthal Center is constructing the Museum of Tolerance.
The "surreptitious and unscientific" removal of hundreds of bodies from ancient Muslim graves in Jerusalem violates international and Israeli law, a group of archaeologists warned Friday.

Some 84 archaeologists and and professors of archaeology from universities and research centers around the world signed a letter appealing to Jerusalem's mayor, the Israeli Antiquities Authority and the Simon Wiesenthal Center to abandon plans to build a Museum of Tolerance on the historic Mamilla cemetery.

The cemetery is the burial ground of thousands of Muslim leaders, Sufi saints and Jerusalem families dating back to at least the 12th century. It is said to have been in use as early as the seventh century, when the companions of the Prophet Muhammad were reputedly buried.