Secret HistoryS


New Zealand: Meteorite Magic in Mokoia

Eyewitness Account Sir- In tonight's Herald I saw Mr Irvine's idea of the cause of the rumble at 12.30pm today. I take the honour to correct this. I was near No 1 pole, by the tramway powerhouse, when I happened to look up, and saw a huge white ball fly from the sun in a westerly direction. It had a tail like a meteor and gradually faded off into a long silver-like line, which remained in the sky for several minutes after the ball disappeared, and then faded away like puffs of smoke. Soon after the ball disappeared I heard an explosion like the boom of a heavy gun. Perhaps astronomers can give us a reason for this. I am, etc. ONE WHO SAW IT. Aromoho, November 26, 1908.
Mokoia is famous for much more than its purple house and pet shop in the middle of nowhere. Indeed, it is a place held in high regard by many international museums and research papers around the world. Scientists have travelled to Mokoia from many countries to scrabble around farmland in the hope of taking a rare and outer-worldly item back home with them.

A submarine explosion was thought by many to be the cause of a loud rumble heard near Whanganui in November 1908.

Mr Stone, manager of the gasworks there, was nearing his home at about 12.30pm when he saw a bright flash zooming to the earth from high in the sky. His family came out of their house to see the cause of the loud explosive noise that followed the light, and witnessed a smoke trail that appeared for three or four minutes.

People throughout the Hawera district had also heard the unusual noise, described by one resident of Kakaramea as sounding at first like loud thunder (the day was clear and sunny) and then like "a big mob of horses trotting over the wood planking of a fairly long bridge, and there was a rattling angry noise with it, very similar to a gale of wind rushing through the rigging of a ship".


US: Archaic Texan Rock Art Reveals Prehistoric Culture

©'The Ecstatic Shaman' - the radiant hair of this small figure identifies it as an entranced shaman. Hair, because of its growth and regeneration, is one of the most magical parts of the human body, and is therefore thought to be vulnerable to supernatural influences. This superstition is expressed in the Biblical tale of Samson, whose power resided in his uncut hair, and in folk magic that considers hair and nail clippings necessary for many charms and spells. Many of the inverted flying or falling figures in the Pecos River style pictographs are shown with streaming unbound hair, one of the characteristics that illustrates the symbolic flight of the shaman between the worlds of the living and the dead; the shaman at the height of his mystical power and immune to attack by evil spirits. This figure from Panther Cave is duplicated at nearby Lookout Shelter, and at Rattlesnake Canyon on the Rio Grande above Langtry. Variations on the theme of unbound hair are found throughout the Lower Pecos region in Texas and northern Coahuila.
Thousands of years ago, Native American groups painted art under cliff overhangs along the Rio Grande. The arid climate preserved hundreds of these vivid pieces. Archaeologist Solveig Turpin discusses what the art reveals about changes in climate and the social structure of early Americans, and why it has become difficult to study.

When you think of the Texas-Mexico border, you probably think about the desert, the border fence, immigration. But does art ever come to mind? Well, in today's debates about the border, you don't often hear about this. But the borderlands are a treasure trove of archaeological history. Along the Rio Grande, the river that separates Texas and Mexico, in hidden rock shelters, under cliff overhangs, you can find hundreds of mysterious drawings of humans and animals. The area has one of the highest concentrations of archaic rock art in all of North America. I bet you didn't know that.

But the people who painted them were not the tribes we think from the old Westerns and history class. They lived in the area long before the Comanches or the Apaches ever came through. The art is not hundreds, but thousands of years old. And my next guest says this is some of the oldest religious art in North America. And archaeologists on both sides of the border are studying these sites to piece together who created the art and why.

Let me introduce my guest. Dr. Solveig Turpin is a retired archaeologist who has studied the rock art in the region for decades. She's a former director of the Borderlands Archaeological Research Unit at the University of Texas at Austin. She's author of the book "The Indigenous Art of Coahuila," about rock art in Northern Mexico. She joins us here at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, which has a terrific collection of the artwork in the museum. If you're coming to San Antonio, stop at the Witte and take a look at it. Thank you for joining us.

Cow Skull

US: No bones about it, this mastodon dig was big: 5,000 bones found in Colorado dig

© Denver Museum of Nature & Science Steve Holen, curator of archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, stands behind a giant, prehistoric bison skull unearthed at the fossil dig at Ziegler Reservoir.
Reinforcements called in as Colorado excavation turns up 5,000 large bones

Diggers at an excavation in west-central Colorado turned up almost 5,000 large bones in seven weeks from mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, bison, horses, deer and camels. They also uncovered thousands and thousands of smaller remains, such as rodent teeth and salamander vertebrae.

The scientists in charge knew early on that this dig would require more shovel work than they could do alone, so they called in reinforcements, including 15 educators from the surrounding valley. These teacher-volunteers worked alongside the scientists and other volunteer diggers, turning up clues to the creatures that inhabited this area between 150,000 and 50,000 years ago.

The dig ended July 3, having yielded 4,826 large bones in seven weeks and leaving the teacher-volunteers with lessons to pass on to their students.


It's polar o'bear: Scientists reveal giant mammals' ancestry can be traced to IRELAND

Across the globe, there are hundreds of millions of people who lay claim to Irish ancestry, however tenuous the link.

Now it seems that polar bears can join the club.

A DNA study suggests that every polar bear alive today is descended from a single female brown bear living in Ireland during the last Ice Age, 10,000 to 110,000 years ago.
© ReutersSurprising ancestry: Modern polar bears such as Walker, who lives at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie, Scotland, are descended from Irish brown bears, according to a new study

Arrow Down

How Allied bombing raids in World War Two caused havoc... on the climate: Contrails kept morning temperatures down

The devastating impact of Allied bombers on the enemy played a pivotal role in winning the Second World War - but today they could tell us more about the impact that flying has on our climate, scientists claimed.

Researchers have examined meteorological data from wartime bombing raids to see exactly what effect thousands of aircraft have on the skies.

Analysis of Met Office and military records revealed significant change to the sky on May 11, 1944, when 1,444 aircraft took off from airfields across south-east England.

© Press AssociationLeaving a mark: Vapour trails from B-17 planes above the skies of south-east England as they head for Germany during the Second World War


Mexico Finds 2 Sculptures of Mayan Warriors

© AP Photo/Moyses ZunigaOne of two pre-hispanic stone sculptures that were recently found in the archeological site of Tonina, near Ocosingo, southern Mexico is seen Wednesday, July 6, 2011.
Mexican archaeologists have found two 1,300-year-old limestone sculptures of captured Mayan warriors that they say could shed light on the alliances and wars among Mayan cities during the civilization's twilight.

The life-size, elaborate sculptures of two warriors sitting cross-legged with hands tied behind their backs were found in May in the archaeological site of Tonina in southern Chiapas state along with two stone ballgame scoreboards.

The 5-foot (1.5-meter) tall sculptures have hieroglyphic inscriptions on their loincloths and chest that say the warriors belonged to the city of Copan, archaeologist Juan Yadeun said in a news release Wednesday.

Yadeun said the discovery proves warriors from Copan helped those in Palenque during the city's' 26-year war against Tonina for control of the Usumacinta river.

"The finding of the two captives of Copan is physical evidence that corroborates (the city's) alliance with Palenque in its fight against Tonina," said Yauden, who oversees the Tonina site for Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.


Canada: Exploring the Wreck of HMS Investigator

© Bill Grimshaw / The Toronto Star Marc-Andre Bernier of Parks Canada with the wheel of HMS Breadalbane, a ship that hunted for Franklin’s wrecks before sinking in 1853.
Marc-André Bernier is like an expectant father as he peers lovingly over the sonar image. The Parks Canada archeologist sees his baby, a 160-year-old shipwreck at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

The picture shows HMS Investigator, a British ship sent to find the famous 1845 Franklin expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. Like HMS Erebus and HMS Terror that Sir John Franklin led to their frigid fates, the Investigator was abandoned in April 1853 after it became trapped in ice 150 metres off the north shore of Banks Island.

The only evidence of the incredible discovery made last July is four hours of underwater video and the black-and-gold sonar image that conjures up a child in the womb.

Located eight metres below the water's surface, the upper deck of the vessel is strewn with broken timber, from 158 years of seasonal ice forming and breaking up, and drifting icebergs. Of its three decks, only the top one is visible. The other two are covered from the outside by a century and a half of ocean silt.

Bernier, who is from Kapuskasing, Ont., will lead a team of six underwater archeologists below the surface of the sea (which is expected to be about 0C this time of year) and lay hands on something that has stalked their imaginations for years. They expect to set up their camp Sunday and spend about two weeks exploring the wreck.


Stone Age Human Tomb Crammed with Thousands of Bones on Scottish Island Unearthed

© The History BlogThe newly excavated Tomb of the Otters in Scotland.
A 5,000 years old burial site with thousands of human skeleton parts belonging to the Neolithic, or the New Stone Age, has been unearthed on South Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

The site, which was found in 2010, has finally been excavated, though partially, which archaeologists believe belong to the prehistoric times.

According to Julie Gibson, county archaeologist for Orkney, human bones found inside the burial are of mix of genders and age groups, including children and babies.

Initial excavation of the site had also revealed bones of prehistoric otters (semi-aquatic mammals), giving the Orkney Islands tomb the name of "Tomb of the Otters".

Orkney is also the location of the Neolithic Tomb of the Eagles, which was excavated in 1976 and found to contain around 16,000 human bones along with hundreds of sea eagle bones. Hence, the name.

Orkney has some of the most preserved and "undisturbed" stone-built Neolithic settlements. Skara Brae, a Neolithic village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site now, is one such dwelling that has revealed about art and culture of the prehistoric era.

As with the latest excavation of the tomb archaeologists look forward to know more about the Orkney's Neolithic human's community, here are a few pictures of the ancient tombs:

Cow Skull

Ziegler Reservoir Fossil Site Sets Mastodon Record

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during a press conference
© Heather Rousseau/Aspen Daily NewsColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during a press conference Thursday held by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science at the Ice Age Discovery Center in Snowmass Village on Thursday. The press conference wrapped up a seven-week ice age dig at Ziegler Reservoir that ended last weekend. In the foreground are recently-unearthed ice age bones. Behind in the crowd is Hickenlooper’s son resting in a chair, state Sen. Gail Schwartz, and Snowmass Mayor Bill Boineau, standing back right.
Theories abound about how the scores of prehistoric animals unearthed at Ziegler Reservoir - including the most mastodons ever found in one site - all met their fates in the same place.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has his own: "I think it was the huckleberries, a rare type," he said, drawing laughs during a press conference Thursday in Snowmass Village.

The governor and Dr. Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science addressed reporters and members of partner organizations as part of the wrap-up of a dig unprecedented in state history. After nearly 70 days of digging, the museum announced what Johnson, its chief curator, called a "staggering" total of 4,826 bones.

"It is a true treasure trove and is one of the finest mastodon sites in the world," Johnson said. "We have crushed Boney Springs," a site in Missouri where 31 individual mastodons were found.

Better Earth

US: Local Man Makes Prehistoric Discovery in His Own Backyard

© KENS 5
Somewhere in Comal County is a small parcel of private land full of breathtaking views. Hidden amidst the beauty is a mysterious entrance to the unknown.

Inside, there is not much space and it quickly goes from dry to wet. That's because it's a cave full of spring-fed water. And there are plenty of creatures living inside.

"There's a small colony of bats in there," said William "BT" Price, who owns the land.

Price bought the land where the hidden cave is located two years ago. Now, he's a retired banker who had become an explorer of his own backyard.

The cave is at least a mile in length but goes further. Price and friends are constantly pushing the limits by going into areas where the water and ceiling are separated by inches.

"It can be very dangerous -- very, very dangerous -- if it's not done right," said Price.