Secret HistoryS


Excavation of Islands Around Britain to Establish Origins of Neolithic Period

Archaeologists at the University of Liverpool are investigating three island groups around Britain to further understanding of why, in approximately 4,000 BC, humans altered their lifestyle from hunting and gathering to farming the land.

Some scholars believe that this change occurred due to colonists from the continent moving into Britain, bringing farming and pottery-making skills with them, but others argue that the indigenous population of Britain adopted this new lifestyle gradually on their own terms.

© University of Liverpool
To shed new light on the debate, archaeologists, in collaboration with the University of Southampton, are excavating three island groups in the western seaways and producing oceanographic models to understand what sailing across this area would have been like in 4,000 BC. The team will also construct a database of 5th and 4th millennium occupation sites.

The work aims to use evidence gathered from the seaways to answer significant questions about the processes and timing of the transition from a society that hunted wild animals to people that farmed the land as their primary means of survival.


Ancient stone structures in the Middle East are reminiscent of the Nazca lines of Peru

David Kennedy at the University of Western Australia in Perth is an armchair archaeologist. He has just found thousands of ancient stone structures in the Middle East that are reminiscent of the Nazca lines of Peru - simply by using Google Earth and vintage aerial photographs. New Scientist takes a virtual tour.

Grounded kite

Using Google Earth and aerial photographs taken in the 1920s, Kennedy uncovered over 2000 "kites" throughout the Arabian peninsula. These stony structures, each with a number of graceful "tails", were used as animal traps. Gazelle and oryx were funnelled between the tails towards the kite's "head". Kennedy says that once the head was packed with animals, the tail was blocked and the hunters killed the game. Found in Jordan, the head of this structure - the Safawi kite - is around 200 metres across, and its tails are 600, 900 and 1300 metres long.

© Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East


North-South vs East-West Long-Distance Love

Indians in Tepee
© Wikimedia CommonsThe Interior of the Hut of a Mandan Dipäuch. Mixed media on paper by Karl Bodmer 1833 – 1834.

Indigenous Americans may have had a harder time making a long-distance love connection or returning to an ancestral homeland to marry the descendant of grandfather's girl-next-door because of the difficulty of traveling along the north to south axis of the Americas.

Human populations living on the east to west orientation of Eurasia, however, had better luck.

Evolutionary biologists at Brown and Stanford Universities found that genetic differences in indigenous American peoples were greater than those of indigenous Eurasian populations. This suggested that populations in the Americas tended to stay separated after moving north or south, and the researchers propose geography kept people apart.

Throughout history, people could hypothetically travel from Spain to China along a corridor of relatively similar climates.

But to travel from Cahokia in what is now Illinois to Cuzco, Peru, an indigenous American would have had to leave their accustomed temperate climate. They would then pass through thousands of miles of different environments before finding a climate like the one they left behind.


Discovery of "Oetzi" the iceman: 20 years ago today

© UnknownScientists have recreated the face of "Oetzi," who is believed to have been slightly over 5 foot, 2 inches tall and around 46 years old.
Twenty years ago today Oetzi, the iceman was found frozen in the Alps.

Oetzi, as scientists named the well-preserved remains of this splendidly preserved Stone Age hunter, is believed to have lived in Europe between 5,375 and 5,128 years ago. When the mummified remains were discovered by a couple of German hikers in the Otztal Alps between Austria and Italy, the body was in relatively good shape, thus providing researchers with a rare opportunity to turn back the clock.

He is believed to have lived until he was 45 or 46 but then died a violent death. A flint arrowhead had penetrated his skin and researchers say that the arrow cut a major blood vessel in the man's left arm. That led to heavy bleeding and possibly paralysis of the arm. The body also showed evidence of a deep hand wound as well as several abrasions and bruises. A similarly well-preserved copper axe was also found near the remains, leading some to suggest that Oetzi belonged to a warrior class.


The mysterious disappearance (or not) of the physicist who discovered neutrons (or not)

© Unknown
In 1938, Ettore Majorana boarded a ship to Naples, and never got off at the other end. Since then people have been debating what happened to the physicist, and whether or not he had a larger part in the history of physics than he's given credit for.

Enrico Fermi, the brilliant physicist who developed the first nuclear reactor and won the Nobel prize for his explorations of radioactivity, might possibly have been eclipsed in his own time by one of his colleagues. Five years younger than Fermi, Ettore Majorana was a rising star in physics when he disappeared in 1938, at the age of 32. Rumors have been swirling around his disappearance since the moment he failed to step off the boat that he was spotted boarding in March - a boat set for Naples.

It's no surprise that Majorana was the center of such a mystery. During his life, he was famously enigmatic. There is evidence that he came up with the proof of the neutron before the official confirmation by James Chadwick, but did not publish his findings. Majorana, it is said, was sure that someone else would discover them and unlike almost everyone else in his profession he hated the spotlight. Fermi, though only slightly older, took it upon himself to mentor Majorana, including hounding him into publishing his paper about some particles, like photons, being their own antiparticles. This brought attention to Majorana; attention he responded to by working in near-complete isolation for years.


Did zombies roam medieval Ireland? Sleep on it

Two early medieval skeletons were unearthed recently in Ireland with large stones wedged into their mouths - evidence, archaeologists say, that it was feared the individuals would rise from their graves like zombies.

The skeletons, which were featured in a British documentary last week, emerged during a series of digs carried out between 2005 and 2009 at Kilteasheen, near Loch Key in Ireland, by a team of archaeologists led by Chris Read from the Institute of Technology in Sligo, Ireland and Thomas Finan from the University of St. Louis.

© Chris ReadThis 8th-century skeleton was found in Ireland recently with a large stone shoved in its mouth. Archaeologists say it's possible that citizens feared he would rise from his grave like a zombie.
The project recovered a total of 137 skeletons, although archaeologists believe that some 3,000 skeletons spanning from 700 to 1400 are still buried at the site.

The "deviant burials" were comprised of two men who were buried there at different times in the 700s.


New finds at ancient burial mound near Bulgarian village

© Julia LazarovaArchaeologist Daniela Agre, photographed in 2005 with Thracian artifacts found near Yambol.
A team of archaeologists has reported significant finds in a burial mound from the time of Roman Thrace near the Bulgarian village of Borissovo.

Findings in a tomb, estimated to date from the first and second centuries and believed to have been that of a wealthy noble, include a number of artifacts that archaeologists say were placed there to serve the occupant in the afterlife.

These include a very rare object from the time, a portable table, a stylishly decorated large circular plate, a special form of drinking vessel which archaeologists jokingly dubbed a champagne cup. The latter, according to archaeologist Daniela Agre of the National Archaeological Institute and Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, has no equivalent among previous finds in the country.

The team also found a decoration from a burial chariot, although previously illegal treasure hunters previously dug up and almost completely destroyed the chariot itself, according to a report by Bulgarian-language mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa.

The chariot decoration includes four eagles whose wings intertwine with dragons' heads. Each eagle's head is different and overall decoration, which also includes other elements, served as the "face" of the vehicle.


Scotland: Archaeologists probe Abbey Craig secrets

© PAThe fort is on the site of the Wallace Monument in Stirling
Archaeologists are leading volunteers in a four-day dig to uncover the hidden history beneath one of Scotland's most famous landmarks.

Experts are hoping to discover more about a tribe that lived in the fort below Abbey Craig in Stirling, on the site of the National Wallace monument.

The fort was destroyed in 780 AD, more than 500 years before William Wallace watched the English army approach.

The dig is one of a series of events to mark Scottish archaeology month.

Archaeologists first discovered the 1,300-year-old fort 10 years ago and concluded it was engulfed by a ferocious fire that fused together - or vitrified - the stone walls during a siege.


Riddle in the Sands: Thousands of Strange 'Nazca Lines' Discovered in the Middle East

© David BoyerAncient mystery: The stone wheels are thought to be 2,000 years old
Peru's Nazca Lines, the mysterious geoglyphs etched into the desert centuries ago by indigenous groups, are world famous - and now thousands of similar patterns have been found in the Middle East.

Satellite and aerial photography has revealed mysterious stone 'wheels' that are more numerous and older than the Nazca Lines in countries such as Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

The structures are thought to date back 2,000 years, but why they were built is baffling archaeologists and historians.


New Archeological Discovery May Change Historical Date of Tbilisi

Metekhi Bridge

While exploring the vicinity of the 40 martyrs' church, Georgian archaeologists have discovered the remains of an ancient mother-fortress at the Metekhi Bridge, located in the old part of Tbilisi. This find could potentially change the historical date that Tbilisi was actually founded.

Scientists found that layers of the ancient palace date back to an earlier period than current historical records suggest. It is during the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali that Tbilisi was previously believed to have been founded. They also found the fence of the fortress, which dates back to the fourth century. This discovery confirms the version that the territory of current Tbilisi was populated before the era of the King Vakhtang Gorgasali.

"This discovery may completely change the history of the founding of Tbilisi, as these ancient constructions existed before Gorgasali discovered hot water and ordered the construction of a city there," Merab Dzneladze, instructor of the ongoing archaeological expedition told Georgia Today.

Scientists also discovered ancient baths there, which they say were constructed in the first and second centuries AD. Scientists are also exploring several dishes and some jewelry that was found in the sepulcher of an 11-12 year-old girl.