Secret HistoryS


The disappearance of the elephant caused the rise of modern man 400,000 years ago

© Tel Aviv UniversityThis photo shows the dig at Qesem Cave.
Elephants have long been known to be part of the Homo erectus diet. But the significance of this specific food source, in relation to both the survival of Homo erectus and the evolution of modern humans, has never been understood - until now.

When Tel Aviv University researchers Dr. Ran Barkai, Miki Ben-Dor, and Prof. Avi Gopher of TAU's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies examined the published data describing animal bones associated with Homo erectus at the Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov in Israel, they found that elephant bones made up only two to three percent the total. But these low numbers are misleading, they say. While the six-ton animal may have only been represented by a tiny percentage of bones at the site, it actually provided as much as 60 percent of animal-sourced calories.

The elephant, a huge package of food that is easy to hunt, disappeared from the Middle East 400,000 years ago - an event that must have imposed considerable nutritional stress on Homo erectus. Working with Prof. Israel Hershkovitz of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, the researchers connected this evidence about diet with other cultural and anatomical clues and concluded that the new hominids recently discovered at Qesem Cave in Israel - who had to be more agile and knowledgeable to satisfy their dietary needs with smaller and faster prey - took over the Middle Eastern landscape and eventually replaced Homo erectus.

The findings, which have been reported in the journal PLoS One, suggest that the disappearance of elephants 400,000 years ago was the reason that modern humans first appeared in the Middle East. In Africa, elephants disappeared from archaeological sites and Homo sapiens emerged much later - only 200,000 years ago.


Oman: 5,000-Year-Old Burial Sites Discovered in Sohar

5,000 years old in Sohar
© SuppliedA site where the burial places were discovered in Sohar.
An area of 600sqkm has been covered and many new sites have been found, expert says

Muscat: At least 5,000 year old burial sites have been discovered by archaeologists during the two-year-long Sohar Heritage Project, according to a press release from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture on Sunday.

The ministry-run project, which has carried out major survey within Sohar town and surrounding areas, is mainly funded by the industrial sector in the this port town.

"An area of 600sqkm has been covered and many new sites have been found that will shed light on Oman and its glorious past," informs to Biubwa Ali Al Sabri, Director of Excavation and Archaeological Sites at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture.

She added that many of the sites found in Sohar are burial sites belonging to the Wadi Souq period (1900- 1100 BC). "Also older sites that are as old as 5000 years have been found and a distinctive pattern can be seen within the area that stretches from Liwa to Gyal as Shabol," pointed out the Omani archaeology expert.

Magic Wand

Best of the Web: The Existence of Female Shamans: Solving the Mystery of a 35,000-Year-Old Statue

Statue representing a female shaman
Archeologists have discovered previously unknown fragments of a figurine known as the "Lion Man," and are piecing it back together. Could the 35,000-year-old statue actually represent a female shaman? Scientists hope to resolve a decades-long debate.

Using a hand hoe and working in dim light, geologist Otto Völzing burrowed into the earth deep inside the Stadel cave in the Schwäbische Alb mountains of southwestern Germany. His finds were interesting to be sure, but nothing world-shaking: flints and the remnants of food eaten by prehistoric human beings.

Suddenly he struck a hard object -- and splintered a small statuette.

It was 1939 and Völzing didn't have much time. He had just been called up to serve in the military and World War II was about to begin. He quickly packed the pieces into a box and the excavation, which was being financed by the SS, was terminated on the same day.

For the next 30 years, little heed was paid to the pieces. But then, they were reassembled to create one of the most impressive sculptures of the Paleolithic Age.

Called the Lion Man, it is fashioned from the tusk of a mammoth and stands about 30 centimeters (12 inches) tall. Its creator polished it with saliva and leather -- and an experiment showed that it likely took the sculptor about 320 hours to carve the figure.

Copies of the famous ice age treasure are now on display in New York and Tokyo. The original, however, is heavily damaged -- and no one knows exactly what it looks like. Many fragments were overlooked in the cave when the prewar dig was so abruptly terminated. The figure achieved its current form in 1988. It consists of 220 parts, but about 30 percent of the body is still missing. Large segments of the surface have broken off.

Comment: If you haven't read Laura Knight-Jadczyk's book "The Secret History of the World", you'll want to get it to see how she follows the threads of Shamanism back to the Paleolithic "witches." Also, check out Witches, Comets and Planetary Cataclysms and The Golden Age, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction.


Big Question for 2012: The Great Pyramid's Secret Doors

© Nina/Creative CommonsThe Great Pyramid of Giza.

Will the mystery over the Great Pyramid's secret doors be solved in 2012?

I dare say yes. After almost two decades of failed attempts, chances are now strong that researchers will reveal next year what lies behind the secret doors at the heart of Egypt's most magnificent pyramid.

New revelations on the enduring mystery were already expected this year, following a robot exploration of the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum.

But unrest in Egypt froze the project at its most promising stage, after it produced the first ever images behind one of the Great Pyramid's mysterious doors.

Now the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), once led by the controversial yet charismatic Zahi Hawass, is slowly returning to granting permits for excavations and archaeological research.

"As with other missions, we have had to resubmit our application to be allowed to continue. We are currently waiting for the various committees to formalise the approval," project mission manager Shaun Whitehead, of the exploration company Scoutek UK, told Discovery News.

"Once we're allowed to continue, I have no doubt that we can complete our work in 2012," he added.

Built for the pharaoh Cheops, also known as Khufu, the Great Pyramid is the last remaining wonder of the ancient world.


Part of ancient fortress wall of Philippolis found in Bulgaria's Plovdiv

Part of the ancient fortress wall of Philippopolis was discovered during excavations by EVN Heating in the centre of Plovdiv, Bulgarian National Television said on December 9 2011.

The find, however, will not be exhibited because the roadway has to be covered over again, the report said.
© Svetla Dobreva

Workers who were installing a heating pipeline made the find and stopped work immediately so that archaeologists could carry out an examination of the section of the fortress wall, which is about 50m long and close to two metres wide.

The find gives a new insight to the topography of ancient Phiippopolis.


Canada: Fossil First Discovered in Alberta in 1916 - A New Species of Dinosaur

© The Canadian Press/HO Lukas Panzarin/Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. Artist's rendering of the skull bones of Spinops sternbergorum. A team of international scientists says a newly rediscovered dinosaur species once roamed the planes of southern Alberta
After gathering dust on a shelf for more than 90 years, two previously ignored skulls have been identified as a new dinosaur species which once roamed the plains of southern Alberta.

The bones of the newly named Spinops sternbergorum were originally discovered southeast of Calgary in 1916 by a father and son science team.

Charles and Levi Sternberg - who are now honoured in the new dinosaur's name - sent two partial skulls to London's Natural History Museum and even voiced a hunch that the bones might indicate a previously unknown dinosaur.

But those examining the skulls at the British museum at the time disagreed, labelled the fossils as "rubbish" and the bones were promptly forgotten for years.

Nearly a century later, a team of international scientists rummaging through the museum's collection of bones stumbled upon the skulls, re-examined them closely and found that they belonged to a species unknown until now.


World's Oldest Bedding Discovered in Cave

Ancient Bedding
© Prof. Lyn WadleyStudy researcher Christopher Miller sampling sediments containing the ancient mattresses.

The oldest known bedding - sleeping mats made of mosquito-repellant evergreens that are about 77,000 years old - has been discovered in a South African cave.

This use of medicinal plants, along with other artifacts at the cave, helps reveal how creative these early peoples were, researchers said.

An international team of archaeologists discovered the stack of ancient beds at Sibudu, a cave in a sandstone cliff in South Africa. They consist of compacted stems and leaves of sedges, rushes and grasses stacked in at least 15 layers within a chunk of sediment 10 feet (3 meters) thick.

"The inhabitants would have collected the sedges and rushes from along the uThongathi River, located directly below the site, and laid the plants on the floor of the shelter,"said researcher Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The oldest mats the scientists discovered are approximately 50,000 years older than other known examples of plant bedding. All told, these layers reveal mat-making over a period of about 40,000 years.

"The preservation of material at Sibudu is really exceptional," said researcher Christopher Miller, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany.


Best of the Web: Mayans Never Predicted World To End In 2012?

© unknown
Mexico: If you are worried the world will end next year based on the Mayan calendar, relax: the end of time is still far off.

So say Mayan experts who want to dispel any belief that the ancient Mayans predicted a world apocalypse next year.

The Mayan calendar marks the end of a 5,126 year old cycle around December 21, 2012 which should bring the return of Bolon Yokte, a Mayan god associated with war and creation.

Author Jose Arguelles called the date "the ending of time as we know it" in a 1987 book that spawned an army of Mayan theorists, whose speculations on a cataclysmic end abound online. But specialists meeting at this ancient Mayan city in southern Mexico say it merely marks the termination of one period of creation and the beginning of another.

"We have to be clear about this. There is no prophecy for 2012," said Erik Velasquez, an etchings specialist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). "It's a marketing fallacy."


Cores Reveal When Dead Sea "Died"

When the dead sea died
© SPLAragonite and gypsum deposits at the edge of the Dead Sea record the region's climate history
Sediments drilled from beneath the Dead Sea reveal that this most remarkable of water bodies all but disappeared 120,000 years ago.

It is a discovery of high concern say scientists because it demonstrates just how dry the Middle East can become during Earth's warm phases.

In such ancient times, few if any humans were living around the Dead Sea.

Today, its feed waters are intercepted by large populations and the lake level is declining rapidly.

"The reason the Dead Sea is going down is because virtually all of the fresh water flowing into it is being taken by the countries around it," said Steve Goldstein, a geochemist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, US.


Archaeologists Unearth Artifacts, Creating Fuller Picture of WWII

Years after the end of the world's greatest conflict, new research reveals the true nature and extent of its impact

© Laudanksy/NARA FILE # 111-SC-191475 War and Conflict Book# 1168)Allied invasion force landing on the beaches of Saipan in the Mariana Islands in the summer of 1944.
Between 1939 and 1945, the world was engulfed in a conflict fought on almost every continent and ocean, involving every world power, and ultimately costing more than 50 million people, both soldiers and civilians, their lives. More than a dozen nations, among them the United States, Great Britain, and the U.S.S.R, fought on the side of the Allies, joining forces against the Axis powers - primarily Germany, Italy, and Japan - who, at the apex of their power, controlled or were poised to control large swaths of Europe, Africa, the Pacific Ocean, and East and Southeast Asia. Perhaps the greatest difference between World War II and the wars and conflicts that preceded it was its ubiquity.

For the first time, there were no clearly defined front lines where battles began and ended, were won and lost. Instead, according to University College London archaeologist Gabriel Moshenska, who studies the archaeology of modern conflict, "Everyone was on the front line and that transformed the world. World War II made the modern world what it is more than any single event in history," he says. "It changed the technology we use, it changed art and literature and the world's legal, international, and political structures - everything from nations to families."

This new kind of warfare, for archaeologists, requires a different approach to studying military action. The traditional methodology of battlefield archaeology - identifying a battle's location, unearthing weapons and defensive structures, and evaluating historical and literary texts - is not sufficient to understand World War II's geographic reach and social impact. What is needed, according to Tony Pollard, Director of the Center for Battlefield Archaeology at University of Glasgow, is a new kind of archaeology, one that he has dubbed "conflict archaeology." "Conflict archaeology is valuable because it places the violent events of warfare within their wider social context," he says, allowing for a broader understanding of twentieth- and twenty-first-century war.