Secret HistoryS


Cave art reveals ancient view of cosmos

Cave Art_1
© Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood / Antiquity Publications Ltd.The image drawn in this black charcoal pictograph found in a Tennessee cave is also found on prehistoric, religious artifacts.
Some of the oldest art in the United States maps humanity's place in the cosmos, as aligned with an ancient religion.

A team of scientists has uncovered a series of engravings and drawings strategically placed in open air and within caves by prehistoric groups of Native American settlers that depict their cosmological understanding of the world around them.

"The subject matter of this artwork, what they were drawing pictures of, we knew all along was mythological, cosmological," Jan Simek, an archaeologist at the University of Tennessee said. "They draw pictures of bird men that are important characters in their origin stories and in their hero legends, and so we knew it was a religious thing and because of that, we knew that it potentially referred to this multitiered universe that was the foundation of their cosmology."

Simek and his team studied art from 44 open-air locations and 50 cave sites. The earliest depiction of this kind of cosmological stratification dates to around 6,000 years ago, but most of the art is more recent, from around the 11th to 17th centuries.

The researchers noticed that certain kinds of drawings and engravings only appear in specific areas of the plateau. For instance, open-air spots in high elevations touched by the sun feature "upper world" artistic renderings that include depictions of weather forces, heavenly bodies and characters that can exert influence on humans.


Amazingly untouched royal tomb found in Peru

A rare, undisturbed royal tomb has been unearthed in Peru, revealing the graves of three Wari queens buried alongside gold and silver riches and possible human sacrifices.

Though the surrounding site has been looted many times, this mausoleum has managed to evade grave robbers for hundreds of years, archaeologists say.

Long before the Inca built Machu Picchu, the Wari empire flourished between A.D. 700 and 1000 throughout much of present-day Peru. At a time when Paris had just 25,000 residents, the Wari capital Huari was home to 40,000 people at its height, according to National Geographic, which reported the find.

Despite their reach, the Wari have remained somewhat mysterious, and it is rare for archaeologists to find burials that have not been ravaged by grave robbers. In hauling away treasures, looters destroy archaeological context and information, leaving researchers grasping for answers about how ancient people lived.

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Archaeologists unearth Roman frontier fort and settlement in England

Located near the small coastal town of Maryport in northwestern England, remains of the ancient Roman fort of Alauna were first uncovered by amateur archaeologist Joseph Robinson in the late 19th century. Among the finds were an assemblage of no less that 22 stone altars, some bearing inscriptions, that tell a story of successive Roman commanders who commanded this, one of Imperial Rome's northernmost outposts during the height of the Roman Empire's expanse. The altars now grace the nearby Senhouse Museum, which serves as a popular tourist attraction.

Now a team of archaeologists and volunteers have returned to the site where the original stone altars were found to uncover more clues about the layout of the fort and its associated settlement, and about the lives of the military officers and soldiers who manned this remote garrison. Led by Newcastle University's Professor Ian Haynes and site director Tony Wilmott, the archaeologists have been here before.

Says Haynes: "The last two years' excavations focused on the area in which the altars were discovered in 1870.

 This year sees some further work at the 1870 site and the start of a three year project focusing on the place where, in 1880, local bank manager and amateur archaeologist Joseph Robinson uncovered further altars and two possible temples.

 Photographs and other documents from the 1880s indicate that the antiquarian investigation only unearthed part of the site and it is clear that much remains to be discovered." [1]

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Prehistoric paintings reveal native Americans' cosmology

Cave Art
© Jan Simek, Alan Cressler, Nicholas Herrmann and Sarah Sherwood/Antiquity Publications Ltd.This art features a bird holding ceremonial maces and a ceremonial monolithic axe transforming into a human face.
A large, sophisticated civilization that once built one of the largest cities in the world left behind hundreds of works of art, carved or painted on rocks in the open air or deep in caves in the Appalachian Mountains in the Southeastern United States, archaeologists have reported.

That art work, some of it 6,000 years old, tells a unified story, the view the Native Americans had of the universe they lived in, according to archaeologists. It was a layered cosmology, similar to civilizations from ancient Greece to modern religions, full of spirits -- good and evil -- and colors -- dark and light.

The paintings reflected not only where they were painted, but contemplated the layers of their spiritual world, according to Jan Simek of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Simek, along with Nick Herrmann of Mississippi State University, Alan Cresser of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Sarah Sherwood at the University of the South who published their findings in the current issue of the journal Antiquities.

The people are known to archaeologists as the Mississippians or the Mound builders, named for the ceremonial mounds they built across the area, many of which survive to this day.


Photos could prove Amelia Earhart lived as castaway

© TigharA contact sheet with aerial images of Nikumaroro, the island where Amelia Earhart and her navigator are believed to have survived for a time as castaways.
An array of detailed aerial photos of the remote island where Amelia Earhart may have survived for a time as a castaway, has resurfaced in a New Zealand museum archive, raising hopes for new photographic evidence about the fate of the legendary aviator.

Found by Matthew O'Sullivan, keeper of photographs at the New Zealand Air Force Museum in Christchurch, the images lay forgotten in an unlabeled tin box in the museum's archives.

The box contained five sheets of contact prints -- for a total of 45 photos, complete with negatives -- and a slip of paper with the words "Gardner Island."

Now called Nikumaroro, the uninhabited tropical atoll in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati is believed to be Earhart final resting place by researchers of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR).

The legendary aviator disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937 in a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator.

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Site of earliest known urban warfare threatened by Syrian war

© Courtesy University of Chicago News Office, released in 2005An aerial photograph of part of Hamoukar that dates back to the fourth millennium B.C. During this time Hamoukar was attacked and burned, the first known victim of urban warfare. Today the site is threatened by the effects of a modern-day war.
An ancient city in Syria, which was the site of the earliest known case of urban warfare, now finds itself threatened by the effects of a modern-day war.

Around 5,500 years ago, before writing was even invented, the people of an ancient city called Hamoukar, located in modern-day Syria, were subjected to the horrors of urban warfare, the earliest case of this style of combat that scholars know about.

They were assaulted by a force armed with slingshots and clay balls. The attackers, possibly from a city named Uruk and perhaps motivated by Hamoukar's access to copper, succeeded in taking the city, destroying part of it through fire.

"The attack must have been swift and intense. Buildings collapsed, burning out of control, burying everything in them under vast piles of rubble," Clemens Reichel, one of the team leaders of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute's Hamoukar Expedition, said in a 2007 University of Chicago news story.

Today, more than 5 millennia after the battle, the horrors of urban warfare are being revisited on the modern-day people of Syria. But rather than slingshots, they face automatic gunfire, helicopter gunships and, as Western intelligence agencies have now verified, chemical weapons.

The conflict has killed more than 60,000 people and resulted in more than a million refugees being forced to flee the country. It has also damaged and otherwise put in peril numerous historical sites, including Hamoukar.


New signs of language surface in mystery Voynich text

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© Beinecke RareBook and Manuscript Library, Yale UniversityBeautiful as well as cryptic.
A mysterious and beautiful 15th-century text that some researchers have recently deemed to be gibberish may not be a hoax after all. A new study suggests the text shares quantifiable features with genuine language, and so may contain a coded message.

That verdict emerges from a statistical technique that puts a figure on the information content of elements in a text or code, even if their meaning is unknown. The technique could also be used to determine whether there is meaning in genomes, possible messages from aliens or even the signals between neurons in the brain.

The Voynich manuscript has baffled and captivated researchers since book dealer Wilfred Voynich found it in an Italian monastery in 1912. It contains illustrations of naked nymphs, unidentifiable plants, astrological diagrams and pages and pages of text in an unidentified alphabet.

Although the patterns of word lengths and symbol combinations in the text are similar to those in real languages, several recent studies have suggested that the book was a clever 15th-century hoax designed to dupe Renaissance book collectors, and that the words have no meaning. One study showed that techniques known to 16th-century cryptographers would have allowed someone to create these patterns using a nonsense set of characters. Another study concluded that the statistical properties of the script are consistent with gibberish.


Ruins of Maya city discovered in remote jungle

Ancient Maya City
© National Institute of Anthropology and HistoryArchaeologist Ivan Sprajc led an international team of experts to study the Maya site.
An entire Maya city full of pyramids and palatial complexes has been discovered in a remote jungle in southeastern Mexico, archaeologists report.

Covered in thick vegetation, the ruins were found in Campeche, a province in the western Yucatán peninsula that's littered with Maya complexes and artifacts. The newfound site is dubbed Chactún and it stretches over roughly 54 acres (22 hectares). Researchers think the city was occupied between during the Late Classic Maya period, from roughly 600 A.D. until 900 A.D., when the civilization mysteriously collapsed.

"It is one of the largest sites in the Central Lowlands, comparable in its extent and the magnitude of its buildings with Becan, Nadzcaan and El Palmar in Campeche," archaeologist Ivan Sprajc said in a statement from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

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Revealed: Bush ancestor was heavily invested in kidnapping Africans into slavery

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© Shutterstock George W. Bush At The New Hampshire Presidential Candidates Youth Forum, January 2000".

Thomas "Beau" Walker, the great-great-great grandfather to U.S. President George W. Bush, was a notorious slave trader who either personally led or heavily invested in expeditions to kidnap Africans from their homeland and bring them to America as slaves, a journalist and historian announced this week.

Word of the presidential ancestor came by way of retired journalist and genealogist Roger Hughes and historian Joseph Opala, who illustrated their findings to Slate.

They made the discovery by comparing the signatures of known Bush ancestor Thomas Walker with a notorious slave trader of the day who bore the same name. Stacked side-by-side, the signatures looked almost exactly the same.

They also recovered several letters Walker wrote, in which he complains about the cost of the people he's kidnapped.

"Times on the coast is by no means as favourable as I expected," Walker reportedly wrote. "Slaves is at the price of 150 [illegible] and the coast seemes [sic] to be lin'd with vessels of all kind."

"I have purchased seventeen fine negroes and am this day proceeding down the coast to try what I do can there," another of Walker's letters reads. "Slaves is at a very greate [sic] price."

There were at least two other known slave-owners in the Bush family, according to Hughes.

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Captive kids forced to act in Shakespeare's day

The Globe Theater
© Public DomainKids in Shakespeare's plays at London's Globe Theater may have been lucky compared to some of their contemporaries; new research shows that many boy players were exploited and abused.
In Shakespeare's England, many kids were coerced into acting careers not by stage moms but by "child catchers," new research shows.

Elizabethan-era boy players were prized in adult theater companies for their prepubescent looks and high-pitched voices, which allowed them to act in female roles alongside men. But some boy players were put into all-children acting troupes, and not all of them voluntarily; rather many were systematically exploited and abused, according to an Oxford University scholar.

While writing his new book Shakespeare in Company (Oxford University Press), Bart van Es found that child catchers seized young boys on their way to school, handing them over to theater company bosses that forced the kids to perform on stage or else face whipping. Van Es even found documents that show Queen Elizabeth I herself signed commissions allowing theaters to kidnap children, he said.

"Technically these warrants were designed to allow the Master of the Children to 'take up' boys for service in the Chapel Royal," which was a group of priests and singers established to serve the British monarchy, van Es explained.

"But the reality was very different. It was well known that the Children of the Chapel Royal was really an acting company, and the Queen did nothing to intervene," van Es said in a statement.