Secret HistoryS


Treasure hunters eye huge silver haul from WWII ship

© Odyssey Marine ExplorationA stern compass of the SS Gairsoppa on the top of the poop deck. When the SS Gairsoppa was torpedoed by a German U-boat, it took its huge silver cargo to a watery grave. Seventy years later, US divers said they are working to recover what may well be the biggest shipwreck haul ever
When the SS Gairsoppa was torpedoed by a German U-boat, it took its huge silver cargo to a watery grave. Seventy years later, US divers said they are working to recover what may well be the biggest shipwreck haul ever.

Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration on Monday confirmed the identity and location of the Gairsoppa and cited official documents indicating the ship was carrying some 219 tons of silver coins and bullion when it sank in 1941 in the North Atlantic some 300 miles (490 kilometers) off the Irish coast.

That's worth about $200 million today, which would make it history's largest recovery of precious metals lost at sea, Odyssey said.

"We've accomplished the first phase of this project -- the location and identification of the target shipwreck -- and now we're hard at work planning for the recovery phase," Odyssey senior project manager Andrew Craig said in a statement.


Turkey: Heracles finally returning to its homeland

The top half of an 1,800-year-old Roman sculpture of the mythological hero Heracles, which was smuggled out of the country 40 years ago, is to return to Turkey in the plane of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to daily Hürriyet.

Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay said he was happy about the imminent return of the top half of the statue, which has been on display at the Boston Museum and added that Turkey would continue to work for the return of cultural artifacts stolen from the country.

© UnknownThe top half of Weary Heracles will meet its lower half which is on display at the Antalya Archaeology Museum.
The bottom half of the statue, known as Weary Heracles, was discovered in 1980 by Professor Jale İnan in Perge, a few years after the top half was smuggled out of the country. "[There have been] 40 years of longing between the top and lower half of the statue," Günay said. Together, the two halves weigh 200 kilograms.


US: American Indian mounds are Florida's hidden monuments

I'm scrabbling, sweating, straining up a steep incline, my running shoes sliding back downhill on the chalky white ground. My hat's in the car where it doesn't belong on this unusually hot March afternoon, and I can feel my forehead starting to sear. Getting myself into this position took three hours in crawling traffic and then a boat ride to Mound Key, in Estero Bay. I have to ask myself: "You agreed to this?''

© Suzanne WilliamsonThe temple mound in Crystal River Archaeological State Park shows its height and a scar from shell removal, which occurred before the preservation of its 14-acre, six-mound complex — said to have been occupied for 1,600 years.
I did. Soon after we moved to Tampa Bay my wife Suzanne began traveling around Florida to photograph American Indian heritage sites. The old bungalow felt empty without her and, besides, she was heading into some remote areas alone. So I tagged along.

These Indian mounds, as they're known, are man-made structures of earth, shells and sand, built by prehistoric and historic civilizations. Beginning as long as 7,000 years ago and continuing into the 1700s, American Indians living in nature transformed it - working without metal tools, pack animals, or the wheel. Florida is rich in these mounds, Suzanne explained, especially along the west coast and around Tampa Bay.


Huge Ancient Roman Shipyard Unearthed in Italy

Roman Shipyard
© The Portus ProjectA computer-created image of the large Roman shipyard that has been uncovered at Portus — the ancient port of Rome. Researchers have uncovered the remains of a massive building close to the distinctive hexagonal basin or 'harbor,' at the center of the port complex.

A large Roman shipyard has been uncovered an ancient port in Rome called Portus, researchers reported yesterday (Sept. 22).

They found the remains of a massive building, dating to the second century, where ancient ships were likely built close to the distinctive hexagonal basin, or "harbor," at the center of the port complex.

"Few Roman Imperial shipyards have been discovered and, if our identification is correct, this would be the largest of its kind in Italy or the Mediterranean," dig director Simon Keay, of the University of Southampton, said in a statement.

Portus was a crucial trade gateway linking Rome to the Mediterranean during the Imperial period (27 B.C. to A.D. 565). The area was initially built during the time of Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98 to 117). Excavation at the site has revealed that it had many uses, including to store grain and as a defensive measure.


Maya Royal Tombs Found With Rare Woman Ruler

Maya Royal Burial

The roughly 2,000-year-old tomb was found underneath another, 1,300-year-old tomb filled with treasures such as jade gorgets - normally used to protect the throat - beads, and ceremonial knives.

The upper tomb's corpse had been badly destroyed by rodents within the last few centuries, but the body was clearly that of another Maya ruler - perhaps another female, based on the small size of a ring found in that tomb.

The royal burials are the first discovered in Nakum, once a densely packed Maya center. Study co-author Wiesław Koszkul and colleagues have been investigating Nakum's surroundings, known as the Cultural Triangle, for decades. (Explore an interactive map of key Maya sites.)

© Wiesław Koszkul, Nakum Archaeological ProjectA woman ruler's skeleton—her head mysteriously placed between two bowls—is one of two royal burials recently found at the Maya ruins of Nakum in Guatemala.
"We think this structure was something like a mausoleum for the royal lineage for at least 400 years," said Koszkul, of the Jagiellonian University Institute of Archaeology in Krakow, Poland.

The Maya royal-tomb discoveries are described in the September issue of the journal Antiquity.


Lock of hair pins down early migration of Aborigines

 Lock of Aboriginal hair A lock of hair is all that is needed to decode the history of an entire race
© BBC News
Lock of Aboriginal hair A lock of hair is all that is needed to decode the history of an entire race

A lock of hair has helped scientists to piece together the genome of Australian Aborigines and rewrite the history of human dispersal around the world.

DNA from the hair demonstrates that indigenous Aboriginal Australians were the first to separate from other modern humans, around 70,000 years ago.

This challenges current theories of a single phase of dispersal from Africa.

An international team of researchers published their findings in the journal Science.


Old Fossils Solve Mystery of Earliest Bird Extinction

Bird bone fragments
© Nicholas LongrichBird fossils are very rare because the bones are fragile and easily damaged.
Many early bird species suffered from the same catastrophic extinction as the dinosaurs, new research has shown.

The meteorite impact that coincided with the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, also saw a rapid decline in primitive bird species.

Only a few bird groups survived through the mass extinction, from which all modern birds are descended.

Researchers at Yale University have published their findings in PNAS this week.


Alaska: Kodiak archaeology project unearths prehistoric questions

© AP Photo/Kodiak Daily Mirror, Wes HannaAlutiiq Museum curator Patrick Saltonstall holds up a 3,000-year-old stone bayonet point Sept. 13, 2011 at the museum in Kodiak, Alaska. The point was recovered during the Kodiak, Alaska community archaeology project.
Going into the community archaeology dig this summer, Alutiiq Museum curator Patrick Saltonstall hoped to find one of the oldest inhabited sites on the Kodiak archipelago.

What Saltonstall and a team of volunteers unearthed this year at the Amak site, near the Salonie Creek Rifle Range, was something different but no less important for understanding the people who lived on Kodiak Island thousands of years ago.

While the ocean is about a mile away from the site today, 3,000 years ago Womens Bay extended farther inland. The Amak site would have been overlooking a beach area at the head of the bay.

Saltonstall said instead of encountering a fishing camp or a winter site as he expected, the artifacts gathered at the site suggest a temporary hunting camp. It offers a glimpse into an aspect of the seasonal life of prehistoric Alutiiq people that has not been well understood or documented.


Sada Mire: Uncovering Somalia's heritage

Sada Mire fled Somalia's civil war as a child, and lived as a refugee in Sweden. But now she is back in the Horn of Africa as an archaeologist, making some incredible discoveries.

Sada Mire is only 35, but she has already revealed a dozen sites that could be candidates for Unesco world heritage status.

© Unknown

She has a fellowship in the department of art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and is head of the department of antiquities in the breakaway territory of Somaliland, in the north-west region of Somalia. She is the only archaeologist working in the region.

It's a remarkable journey for a girl who fled Mogadishu in 1991, aged 14, as Somalia descended into the chaos of civil war.


US: Wyoming - Archeologists digs into Jackson Hole's prehistoric past

© Trey Ratcliff
Some of more than 40,000 artifacts recently discovered at the mouth of Game Creek suggest prehistoric people might have lived in Jackson Hole year round, archeologists say.

Further, radio-carbon dating shows that some of the unearthed artifacts are thousands of years older than expected.

Archeologists began excavating the site last summer after the Wyoming Department of Transportation made plans to widen Highway 26/89/191.

Now, after two summers of digging, the artifacts are beginning to develop a picture of life at the site that ranges over thousands of years, from a roasting pit dated at 10,100 years old to a .38-caliber bullet that is likely from the early 1900s, said Michael Page, a senior archeologist with the Wyoming state archeologist office.

During some periods, the abundance of projectile points crafted from local sources could mean that people lived in the region year round, Page said. By contrast, projectile points from outside the area could suggest people migrated out of the region during some part of the year, most likely winter.