Secret HistoryS


Counterfeit Fossils Undermine Research Projects

Counterfeit Fossil
© The Archaeology News Network
Fake fossils are duping scientists and museums, a senior paleontologist has warned, after a scholar was forced to retract a controversial essay that stated the cheetah originated in China.

According to Li Chun, associate researcher at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, counterfeits are now widespread and have become a serious risk to genuine study projects.

"I believe many scholars are victims of fake fossils," he said, before estimating that more than 80 percent of marine reptile specimens on display in Chinese museums "have been altered or artificially combined to varying degrees".

"Without professional training in paleontology, it's impossible for researchers to recognize fakes from the real thing."

Li's alert follows the debunking last month of an essay co-authored by Huang Ji, a Chinese scientist, and Danish researcher Per Christiansen in 2008 about an alleged new species of cheetah.

The key piece of evidence was a fossilized skull unearthed in Gansu province that dated back 2.5 million years.

"Primitive Late Pliocene Cheetah, and Evolution of the Cheetah Lineage," which appeared in 2009 in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, an international journal, stated the "new species" was the oldest cheetah ever found, which overturned people's belief that the animal originated in North America.

On Aug 21, the journal published a retraction.


Ancient Mayan Theater Was Political Tool

Mayan theater
© Luis Alberto Martos/INAHThe remains of the Mayan theater.
A unique Mayan theater has been unearthed in Mexico, according to researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Found at the archaeological site of Plan de Ayutla, in Ocosingo, Chiapas, the 1,200-year-old theater did not seem to be a place for art and culture, but was rather used by Mayan elite to legitimize their power and subjugate local minority groups.

"It was a unique theater, since it was found in an acropolis, 137 feet above the other plazas. The stage lay within a palace complex," Luis Alberto Martos López, director of the research project, said in a statement.

Located near the North Acropolis, the theater was enclosed by buildings dating to 250-550 B.C. on all sides. A 26-foot-long façade of one of these buildings was torn down around 850 A.D. to create the forum and make it work as an acoustic shell.

According to Martos López, the unusual architecture makes the theater stand out.


Lost Medieval Church Discovered Beneath Parking Lot

Richard III
© University of LeicesterRichard III and his queen, Anne of Neville, appear in a stained glass window in Cardiff Castle.
The hunt for King Richard III's grave is heating up, with archaeologists announcing today (Sept. 5) that they have located the church where the king was buried in 1485.

"The discoveries so far leave us in no doubt that we are on the site of Leicester's Franciscan Friary, meaning we have crossed the first significant hurdle of the investigation," Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the dig, said in a statement.

Buckley and his colleagues have been excavating a parking lot in Leicester, England, since Aug. 25. They are searching for Greyfriars church, said to be the final resting place of Richard III, who died in battle during the War of the Roses, an English civil war. A century later, Shakespeare would immortalize Richard III in a play of the same name.

After his death in the Battle of Bosworth Field, Richard III was brought to Leicester and buried at Greyfriars. The location of the grave, and the church itself, was eventually lost to history, though University of Leicester archaeologists traced the likely location to beneath the parking lot for the Leicester City Council offices.

The team announced last week that their first two trenches turned up glazed floor-tile fragments, medieval roof tile and other building fragments, suggesting that they were digging in the right place to find Greyfriars. Now, a third trench has revealed the alignment of the building's walls.


World's Oldest Pyramid Found in Crimea?

Simferopil/Aqmescit - A Ukrainian scientist discovered the oldest pyramid in the world. Most interestingly, it was found in the most beautiful corner of the country, in Crimea.

As the ICTV channel reported, the finding was revealed by accident, when during his test alternative methods of finding water Ukrainian scientist Vitalii Goh discovered underground unknown object, which proved to be a giant pyramid of 45 meters in height and a length of about 72 meters. Goh said that the pyramid was built during the time of the dinosaurs.

"Crimean pyramid" has a truncated top, like a Mayan pyramid, but its appearance is more like an Egyptian. It is hollow inside, and a mummy of unknown creature is buried under the foundation.

"Under the foundation is a small body in the form of a mummy long 1.3-1.4 meters with a crown on his head."

"There is a resonance chamber of so-called Sphinx. The pyramids were built in the era of the dinosaurs," says the scientist in an interview with ICTV.

It remains unknown who build the pyramid. The unique building is the oldest on the planet, says Vitalii Goh.


Denisovan Genome: Relationships Between Ancient Denisovans and Present-Day Humans Revealed

Denisovan hominin
© MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology This is a replica of the finger bone fragment of a Denisovan hominin on a human hand.
Max Planck researchers have described the Denisovan genome, illuminating the relationships between Denisovans and present-day humans.

The analyses of an international team of researchers led by Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, show that the genetic variation of Denisovans was extremely low, suggesting that although they were present in large parts of Asia, their population was never large for long periods of time. In addition, a comprehensive list documents the genetic changes that set apart modern humans from their archaic relatives. Some of these changes concern genes that are associated with brain function or nervous system development.

In 2010 Svante Pääbo and his colleagues sequenced DNA that they isolated from a finger bone fragment discovered in the Denisova Cave in southern Siberia. They found that it belonged to a young girl of a previously unknown group of archaic humans that they called "Denisovans." Thanks to a novel technique which splits the DNA double helix so that each of its two strands can be used for sequencing, the team was able to sequence every position in the Denisovan genome about 30 times over. The thus generated genome sequence shows a quality similar to genomes that have been determined from present-day humans.

In a new study, which is published in this week's issue of the journal Science, Svante Pääbo and his colleagues compare the Denisovan genome with those of the Neandertals and eleven modern humans from around the world. Their findings confirm a previous study according to which modern populations from the islands of southeastern Asia share genes with the Denisovans. In addition, the genomes of people from East Asia, and South America include slightly more genes from Neandertals than those of people in Europe: "The excess archaic material in East Asia is more closely related to Neandertals than to Denisovans, so we estimate that the proportion of Neandertal ancestry in Europe is lower than in eastern Asia," the Leipzig researchers report.

"This is an extinct genome sequence of unprecedented accuracy," says Matthias Meyer, the lead author of the study. "For most of the genome we can even determine the differences between the two sets of chromosomes that the Deniosovan girl inherited from her mother and father." From this the researchers can tell that genetic variation of the Denisovans was lower than in present-day humans. This is likely due to that an initially small Denisovan population that grew quickly while spreading over a wide geographic range. "If future research of the Neandertal genome shows that their population size changed over time in similar ways, it may well be that a single population expanding out of Africa gave rise to both the Denisovans and the Neandertals," says Svante Pääbo, who led the study.


Dating of New Zealand Wreck Suggests Visitors Pre-Dated Cook

Ancient Shipwreck
© Ripiro BeachOne of many shipwrecks along the Kaipara Coast
While speculation may still remain as to the identity of a shipwreck found 30 years ago by locals at Pouto Point, near Dargaville, recent radio carbon dating of wood reveals it is New Zealand's oldest shipwreck.

The preliminary findings suggest the ill-fated ship sank around 1705, pre-dating Captain Cook's voyages by some 65 years .

Speaking at the Dargaville Museum this week, dendrochronologist, Dr Jonathan Palmer cautioned that his findings required further work before his research could be confirmed and published.

The wreck was discovered in 1982 by a local team led by Kaipara shipwreck explorer Noel Hilliam. A portion of a cross-member and rib was salvaged by the team, before the wreck was lost back to the sea under 30 metres of sand.

The wood (complete with iron nails) has been confirmed as teak (tectona grandis) and crepe myrtle (lagerstromei spp), both tropical woods, likely used for refitting at either Genoa or Java.

Dr Palmer said carbon-dating varied due to radio carbon fluctuations in the atmosphere at any given time.

However, when combined with tree ring sequencing (which gives a better idea of the dates), a series of radio carbon dating on each wood over 10-year periods, the calibration of wiggle matches of the carbon dating, the time allowed for sapwood to be removed and building and rebuilding of the ship, dates become more definitive.

He said the evidence highlighted the possibility of the area being frequented earlier than previously thought.


Rare Find: Feathered Dinosaur Feasted On Flying Food

© Xing et alHolotype of Sinocalliopteryx gigas.
University of Alberta researchers found evidence that a feathered, but flightless dinosaur was able to snag and consume small flying dinosaurs.

The U of A paleontology team found the fossilized remains of three flying dinosaurs in the belly of a raptor-like predator called Sinocalliopteryx. Sinocalliopteryx was about two meters in length and roughly the size of a modern-day wolf.

Sinocalliopteryx's flying meals were three Confuciusornis. Confuciusornis was one of the earliest birds and had a crude version of a modern bird's skeleton and muscles. The researchers say such primitive birds were probably limited to slow take-offs and short flights.

According to the researchers, this is the first time a predator has been linked to the killing of multiple flying dinosaurs.

Scott Persons, a U of A paleontology student and research coauthor, says Sinocalliopteryx may have used stealth to stock the flyers. "Sinocalliopteryx didn't have wings or the physical tools needed to be an adept tree climber," said Persons.

Persons explains Sinocalliopteryx had feathers or hair-like fuzz covering its body creating a level of insulation that helped maintain a warm body temperature and high metabolism that required a lot of food to fuel.


German Authorities Detonate 550-Pound WWII Bomb In Munich

Explosives experts in Germany have detonated the remains of a 550-pound World War II bomb in central Munich. The dapd news agency cited a police spokesman as saying the bomb was successfully destroyed Tuesday evening. Still, burning debris caused fires in several nearby buildings that had been evacuated after the bomb was discovered Monday in the Schwabing district.

Efforts to defuse the bomb failed and experts decided to pack it with explosives and detonate it rather than risk an uncontrolled explosion. Allied airplanes dropped millions of tons of ordnance on Germany during World War II in an effort to cripple the Nazi war machine. Tens of thousands of unexploded bombs are believed still to be lying in the ground in Germany.
© AP Photo/dapd, Simon AschenbrennerThis combination photo taken from a video shows the controlled detonation of the remains of a 550-pound World War II bomb in central Munich, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. Efforts to defuse the bomb failed and experts decided to pack it with explosives and detonate it rather than risk an uncontrolled explosion.


Archeologists Find Rare Stone Age Figures

Ancient Ram
© Yael Yolovitch, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities AuthorityThis limestone figurine of a ram, found in Israel, is about 9,500 years old.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) said archaeologists have uncovered two 9,500-year-old animal figurines in excavations just outside of Jerusalem.

Found at the Tel Moza site, one of the Neolithic figures is a limestone ram with precisely carved spiral horns. The other is a more abstract sculpture of a wild bovine fashioned from dolomite, according to the IAA. Both are about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.

The figurines were found near the remains of an ancient, round building, dating back to a dynamic time in the region's history when humans were transitioning from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one of farming and settling in villages.

The animal figurines then may have been associated with the process of animal domestication, an IAA statement said, though one excavator at the site, Hamoudi Khalaily, believes they may have been "good-luck statues" to ensure hunting success.

Excavations at Tel Moza are taking place ahead of the expansion of Highway 1, the main road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Arrow Up

Slavery Is Detroit's Big, Bad Secret. Why Don't We Know Anything About It?

© Deadline DetroitJoseph Campau was one of many wealthy Detroiters who owned slaves during the city's first 120 years.
Metro Detroiters love to celebrate their local history, especially when it involves the noble, magnificent and world-class chapters of the past: The auto industry. Motown Records. The Underground Railroad. Diego Rivera. Coney Islands.

On the other hand, local history has its crazy uncles. Those are chapters that are fascinating and important, yet rarely discussed, hidden in the back room. Henry Ford's anti-Semitism, the Free Press' 19th Century racism and the auto companies' early abuse of workers come to mind.

Then there is the granddaddy of all forgotten local history. The subject no one talks about, virtually ever. The most overlooked topic of them all.


Slavery in Detroit has remained an enormous secret. It is an essential chapter in Detroit's 311-year story, but it has been pushed back into archives and covered up by decades of neglect and denial. Few people, even well-informed college graduates, know anything about it. Yet slavery is a phenomenon that played a key role in the growth of Detroit, and it lasted about 120 years, more than a third of Detroit's existence.

When metro Detroiters talk about slavery, they talk about black men and women picking cotton in Georgia and Mississippi because that is what students in southeastern Michigan learn in school.

Yet slavery is very much homegrown. What has been called the "national sin" is also Detroit's sin. It is the origin of our racial crisis, our peculiar institution, our "necessary evil." Slavery belongs to Detroit just like slavery belongs to Charleston, Monticello and New Orleans.

Many roads, schools and communities across southeast Michigan carry the names of old, prominent families that owned slaves: Macomb, Campau; Beaubien; McDougall; Abbott; Brush; Cass; Hamtramck; Gouin; Meldrum; Dequindre; Beaufait; Groesbeck; Livernois and Rivard, among many others.

Detroit's first mayor, John R. Williams, the namesake of two streets in Detroit - John R and Williams - owned slaves. The Catholic Church in Detroit was heavily involved in slavery - priests owned slaves and baptized them, and at least one slave worked on the construction of Ste. Anne's Church around 1800. The men who funded the founding of the Free Press in 1831 were ex-slave owners, and the paper supported slavery during the national debate before the Civil War.

The work of slaves was a key to Detroit's growth. And just like in the South, slavery in Detroit was reinforced by violence. Slaves worked without any pay for their entire lives, under threat of the lash and death.

Owners used their power over slaves to steal their labor and enrich themselves. Slaves arrived in Detroit stripped of their identity, culture, family and often their name. They were frequently maimed from torture.

Slaves died, often young, and were buried in graveyards that were soon forgotten, and then paved over by later generations of Detroiters, and their bones remain underfoot in America's blackest big city, and their stories continue to be unknown in a region where race always has been a consuming issue.