Secret HistoryS


Marilyn Monroe mystery: Where are her FBI files?

Marilyn mania in full swing on the eve of the 50th anniversary of her death, her FBI files are still mysteriously censored.

© AP Photo/Courtesy Running PressIn this undated publicity photo courtesy Running Press, Marilyn Monroe is shown wearing a knife-pleated gold lamé gown made from “one complete circle of fabric.” She wore this dress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. A half-century later, 50s bombshell Marilyn Monroe is a new generation's pop-culture phenomenon. Monroe died August 5, 1962.
Like many of the stars of her era, Marilyn Monroe's movements, relationships and comments weren't just devoured by fans - they were followed closely by the FBI.

Records kept on Monroe, many of which were filed under "Foreign Counterintelligence," have intrigued many who have sought to learn more about the film star, including those who investigated her death.

In connection with the 50th anniversary of Monroe's death on 5 August, The Associated Press has attempted under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the most complete record of the bureau's monitoring of Monroe.

Nearly nine months later - after several requests and an appeal - obtaining a more complete record of how the FBI investigated Monroe in the months before she died have been stymied by an effort to simply find the files.

The FBI says it no longer has the files it compiled on Monroe; the National Archives - the usual destination for such material - says it doesn't have them either.

Finding out precisely when the records were moved - as the FBI says has happened - required the filing of yet another, still-pending Freedom of Information Act request.


The Mysterious Affair at Kents Cavern

© (Photo) Courtesy of Torquay Museum; (teeth, inset) Natural History Museum of London/Torquay Museum/University of Hull, Dept. of EngineeringSloppy dig, uncertain date? Archaeologists have raised questions about the reliability of excavations conducted by Arthur Ogilvie (right, with white beard) at Kents Cavern, which could compromise radiocarbon dating of a human jawbone found there.
The twee town of Torquay, on England's Devon coast, has two major claims to fame: It was the birthplace and longtime home of mystery writer Agatha Christie, and it's the home of Kents Cavern, one of the United Kingdom's most important archaeological sites.

Last year, researchers reported that an upper jaw found in the cave could be the oldest modern human fossil in Europe. But a new study questions that claim, arguing that the date of the jawbone may never be known with certainty. The controversy has an important bearing on debates about the spread of Homo sapiens out of Africa.

"One bad date can rewrite the entire prehistory of our species in Europe," says Paul Pettitt, an archaeologist at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom and co-author of the new study, which is in press at the European Journal of Archaeology. But members of the original team, who published their dating results last year in Nature, have responded sharply to the criticisms.

The new study's conclusions, says Thomas Higham, a radiocarbon dating expert at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and lead author of the Nature paper, "expose a breathtaking ignorance of the [new] developments in scientific approaches to the past."

Kents Cavern has been excavated numerous times since the 1820s by some of the United Kingdom's most famous archaeologists. In 1927, Arthur Ogilvie, then curator of the Torquay Museum, discovered the partial jawbone, which includes three teeth.

Over the years, researchers have debated whether the fossil was that of a modern human or a Neandertal, as well as how old it was. In 1989, scientists at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit attempted to directly date the bone and came up with an age of approximately 35,000 years. (All dates in this story are calibrated to account for fluctuations in atmospheric radiocarbon over time.)


Evidence Suggest Mayans Used Chocolate As A Flavoring As Well

Cacao Beans
© piotreknik / Shutterstock
Archeologists have long known that cacao was important to the ancient Mayans who used it to make beverages and perform rituals, but some recently discovered evidence shows that these people added cacao to flavor their food as far back as 2,500 years ago.

Traces of chocolate that were found on plate fragments could be evidence of a Mayan precursor for modern Mexican dishes like mole, the chocolate-based sauce served with chicken or beef.

Earlier this week, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History announced the discovery, which was based on artifacts taken from the Paso del Macho archaeological site in Yucatan in 2001.

"This is the first time it has been found on a plate used for serving food," archaeologist Tomas Gallareta said. "It is unlikely that it was ground there (on the plate), because for that they probably used metates (grinding stones)."

Fragments recovered from the site were tested by a joint team of scientists that included experts at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

The chemical tests revealed a "ratio of theobromine and caffeine compounds that provide a strong indicator of cacao usage," according to a statement from the college.


Samson Legend Gains Substance with New Find

Ancient Seal
© Zvi LedermanThe seal depicts a man with long hair fighting a large animal with a feline tail.
A small stone seal found in Israel could be the first archaeological evidence of the story of Samson, the Bible's most famous strongman.

Less than an inch in diameter, the seal depicts a man with long hair fighting a large animal with a feline tail.

The seal was excavated at the Tell Beit Shemesh site in the Judaean Hills near Jerusalem at a level that dates to roughly the 11th century BC.

Biblically speaking, this was during the time when the Jews were led by leaders known as Judges, one of whom was Samson.

The location where the stone seal was unearthed, close to the Sorek river that marked the ancient border between Israelite and Philistine territories, suggests the figure could represent the Biblical slayer of Philistines.

A character that jumped from the Old Testament into legend, Samson was given supernatural strength by God to overcome his enemies.

The strength, which Samson discovered after encountering a lion and ripping it apart with his bare hands, was contained in his long hair.


Changing views: Stone age man had 'feminine side'

neolithic skull
© Unknown
Dr. Karina Croucher, who has studied buried remains of people living between 7,500 and 10,000 years ago across the Middle East, says the stereotypical view of how Neolithic men and women lived is wrong.

Unlike today, she argues, it was normal for men and women to show compassion for each other- and gender was not so clearly defined.

The researcher argues male bias in archaeology has distorted our understanding of how ancient peoples lived, in a new book published by Oxford University Press.

Of the 40 people buried in a "death pit" in South Eastern Turkey where she was part of an excavation team, there were equal numbers of men and women.

Her theory is also based, in part, by the find of a teenage girl's skull buried carefully by the pit, called Kim by the team.

The girl - between 15 and 17 years old - whose face has been reconstructed by Chris Rynn and Caroline Wilkinson, now at Dundee University with Stuart Campbell from The University of Manchester, was deeply cared for by the men and women who tended the site. The facial reconstruction creates an emotive picture of the girl who lived 7,500 years ago.

Kim was carefully placed next to the death pit. The pit contained the fragmented remains of around 40 people, along with animal remains, pottery, flint, obsidian, and other material culture. It also displays signs of cannibalism.

Though the finds to modern eyes are gruesome, Dr. Croucher says, they show a compassionate side to both Neolithic men and women.


Archaeologists find 2,500-year-old chocolate spread on a plate

© UnknownYucatan: The peninsula is a rich source of Mayan artefacts
It's a discovery to challenge even the most ardent cocoa addict: Archaeologists have found traces of chocolate thought to be 2,500 years old. The choc of ages was discovered on a plate in the Yucatan peninsula, the first time chocolate residue has been found on a plate rather than a cup. The find suggests chocolate may have been used as a condiment or sauce with solid food, as well as for drinking.

Experts have long thought cacao beans and pods were mainly used in pre-Hispanic cultures as a beverage, made either by crushing the beans and mixing them with liquids or by fermenting the pulp that surrounds the beans in the pod. Such a drink was believed to have been reserved for the tribal elite.

But the discovery announced this week by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History expands the conception of how chocolate may have been used in ancient Mexico. It would also suggest that there may be ancient roots for traditional dishes eaten in Mexico today, such as mole, the chocolate-based sauce often served with meats.


Oldest Poison Pushes Back Ancient Civilization 20,000 Years

Border Cave
© Courtesy Paola Villa, University of ColoradoBorder Cave in South Africa was occupied by humans for tens of thousands of years.
The late Stone Age may have had an earlier start in Africa than previously thought - by some 20,000 years.

A new analysis of artifacts from a cave in South Africa reveals that the residents were carving bone tools, using pigments, making beads and even using poison 44,000 years ago. These sorts of artifacts had previously been linked to the San culture, which was thought to have emerged around 20,000 years ago.

"Our research proves that the Later Stone Age emerged in South Africa far earlier than has been believed and occurred at about the same time as the arrival of modern humans in Europe," study researcher Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, said in a statement.

The Later Stone Age in Africa occurred at the same time as Europe's Upper Paleolithic Period, when modern humans moved into Europe from Africa and met the Neanderthals about 45,000 years ago.

"[T]he differences in technology and culture between the two areas are very strong, showing the people of the two regions chose very different paths to the evolution of technology and society," Villa said.


Tomb of Mayan Prince Discovered in Jungle Ruins

Mayan Tomb Artifact
© Uxul Archaeological Project/University of BonnIn the ruins of a royal complex in the Mayan city of Uxul, archaeologists found a tomb they believe belonged to a prince, who died 1,300 years ago. Here's one of the ceramic vessels they found buried with him.
Excavators have uncovered what they believe to be the 1,300-year-old remains of a Mayan prince entombed within a royal complex of the ancient city of Uxul, located in Mexico near the Guatemalan border.

The fossilized man, who researchers estimate was between 20 and 25 when he died, was found lying on his back, with his arms folded inside a tomb 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) below the floor in a building within the city's royal complex.

When the researchers first slipped a camera into the tomb to peek at what was inside they saw ceramics at the feet of the skeleton, said Kai Delvendahl, field director for the project with the University of Bonn.

They found a total of nine pieces of ceramics, including a plate painted in the distinctively black-lined Mayan Codex-Style covering the man's skull. At Mayan sites, it is not uncommon to find plates placed over the skulls of the deceased, Delvendahl, said. [See Photos of Mayan Prince's Tomb]

The other ceramics offered additional clues. One bore hieroglyphics reading: "[This is] the drinking vessel of the young man/prince." A second vessel also bore a mention of a young man or prince.

However, if this young man had been a prince, he did not appear to be in line for the throne, the researchers believe, since certain status markers, such as jade jewelry, were not found.


Archeologists Unearth Extraordinary Human Sculpture in Turkey

© Jennifer JacksonFront view of the Suppiluliuma statue.
A beautiful and colossal human sculpture is one of the latest cultural treasures unearthed by an international team at the Tayinat Archaeological Project (TAP) excavation site in southeastern Turkey. A large semi-circular column base, ornately decorated on one side, was also discovered. Both pieces are from a monumental gate complex that provided access to the upper citadel of Kunulua, capital of the Neo-Hittite Kingdom of Patina (ca. 1000-738 BC).

"These newly discovered Tayinat sculptures are the product of a vibrant local Neo-Hittite sculptural tradition," said Professor Tim Harrison, the Tayinat Project director and professor of Near Eastern Archaeology in the University of Toronto's Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. "They provide a vivid glimpse into the innovative character and sophistication of the Iron Age cultures that emerged in the eastern Mediterranean following the collapse of the great imperial powers of the Bronze Age at the end of the second millennium BC."

Arrow Down

Remains Recovered from WWII Seaplane in Quebec

© Parks CanadaMarc-André Bernier, Chief of the Underwater Archaeological Service at Parks Canada, studies the wreck of a Catalina American World War II Plane which went down in November 1942 off the coast of Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan.
Canada - A special U.S. military team has almost finished its month-long mission off Quebec's north shore to recover the bodies of five crew who drowned 70 years ago when their U.S. Army seaplane slid into the waters.

The wind was fierce and the waves were surging on that day 70 years ago in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, a small fishing village.

In 1942, the village became the site of an emergency airstrip on the U.S. military's so-called "Crimson Route," a strategic air corridor to Europe through Maine and Newfoundland.

Late in the afternoon on Nov. 2, 1942, most of the village stopped to watch a U.S. Army seaplane taxi from the harbour.

But the plane - a PBY Catalina - struggled to clear the water. Vibert recalls the towering waves of the Gulf lashing at the cockpit during its second take-off attempt.

"I counted five waves, but there may have been more," recalls Josephine Vibert, who was getting married that very day and still lives in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan. "After the last one, water started entering their plane."

The town's fishermen braved the frothing waters to find four crew members clinging to the fuselage.

Just moments after the survivors were hauled aboard the local fishing boats, the plane, along with the five remaining crew members, slipped beneath waves, never to be seen again.