Secret HistoryS


Human Ancestor 'Family' May Not Have Been Related

Early Hominids
© U.S. Bureau of Land ManagementU.S. Bureau of Land Management team members Tom Noble (center) and Neffra Matthews (right) partner with the Government of Tanzania in a recent re-excavation of the famous early hominid footprints discovered by the Leakeys at Laetoli in Tanzania.
Las Vegas - A famous trail of footprints once thought to have been left behind by a family of three human ancestors may have actually been made by four individuals traveling at different times.

In a new examination of Laetoli in northern Tanzania, where a 3.6-million-year-old track of footprints of the bipedal human ancestor Australopithecus is preserved, researchers now argue that the classic understanding of this site is mistaken. The footprints have been buried since the mid-1990s for preservation, but a section recently opened for study as Tanzanian officials make plans for a museum on the site.

Preserved at Laetoli are two lines of hominid prints, along the crisscrossing tracks of early rabbits and other animals. The site is the earliest example of an upright, humanlike gait in our ancestors. Early analysis had suggested the tracks were laid down by three individuals, evolutionary relatives of the famous Australopithecus aferensis "Lucy," discovered in Ethiopia. One Australopithecus walked next to another, while a third, smaller individual trailed behind, stepping in the tracks of one of the larger individuals.


US: Scientists Find Evidence of Roman Period Megadrought

© Daniel Griffin/Laboratory of Tree-Ring ResearchDendrochronologists extract a small, pencil-shaped sample of wood from a tree with a tool called an increment borer. The tiny hole left in the tree's trunk quickly heals as the tree continues to grow.
A new study at the University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research has revealed a previously unknown multi-decade drought period in the second century A.D.

Almost nine hundred years ago, in the mid-12th century, the southwestern U.S. was in the middle of a multi-decade megadrought. It was the most recent extended period of severe drought known for this region. But it was not the first.

The second century A.D. saw an extended dry period of more than 100 years characterized by a multi-decade drought lasting nearly 50 years, says a new study from scientists at the University of Arizona.

UA geoscientists Cody Routson, Connie Woodhouse and Jonathan Overpeck conducted a study of the southern San Juan Mountains in south-central Colorado. The region serves as a primary drainage site for the Rio Grande and San Juan rivers.

"These mountains are very important for both the San Juan River and the Rio Grande River," said Routson, a doctoral candidate in the environmental studies laboratory of the UA's department of geosciences and the primary author of the study, which is upcoming in Geophysical Research Letters.


Scotland: Archaeologists Unearth Treasure Trove from Across the Ages in Argyll

© Moira KerrDr Clare Ellis shows the Neolithic axehead from about 6,000 years ago and a clay pipe dating back to 1760-1820.
A routine archaeological survey at a planned housing development has uncovered a treasure trove of Iron and Bronze Age artefacts.

The find, on a hillside near Oban, includes a Neolithic axe-head dating back 5,000 to 6,000 years, three roundhouses around 2,500 to 3,000 years old and the remains of an 18th-century farmstead and metalwork store.

Other objects include a hoard of stone tools dating back 3,000 years, hundreds of fragments of Bronze Age and late 18th- century pottery, plus a clay pipe from around 1760-1820.

Dr Clare Ellis, of Argyll Archaeology, who was commissioned to survey the site at Glenshellach on the outskirts of Oban by local house-builders M & K MacLeod, said: "It's the largest excavation that has happened in recent years in mainland Argyll in this period of archaeology.


Buddha-Era Relics Found in Nepal

© The Kathmandu Post
Archaeological objects dating back to Gautam Buddha's time have been found at Devdaha in Lumbini (eastern Nepal). The palace of Lord Buddha's maternal uncle is located in Devdaha.

Local people found the remains of a hukka (smoking pot made of clay), bricks, diyo (a small earthen lamp) and a pond under a peepal tree at Bhaluhi's Buddhapath and informed the local administration and the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) of the finding.

According to elderly people in the area, Lord Buddha used to take bath in the area and it has a small temple too.

Following an inspection, archaeological officer of the LDT Himale Upreti said the relics may be traced back to Buddha's times. He said an excavation needs to be carried out in the area to verify the objects.

"Objects dating back to centuries were found here earlier too. However, people were not aware of them and the place remained unnoticed," Upreti said, adding that there might be various other archaeologically important sites in Devdaha.


Sex of Egyptian Child Mummy Remains a Mystery

A 2,000-year-old child mummy visited an Illinois hospital earlier this year so researchers could use imaging technology to look for clues to the child's life and death.

A computed tomography, or CT, scan, conducted in March, revealed a few tantalizing tidbits: a delicate facial structure; the wads of cloth that had been packed around the body; clearly visible internal organs, including the brain; and the severity of the fracture to the back of the child's head, which appears to have occurred after death. Unfortunately, the scan failed to elucidate a basic question about the mummy's identity: its sex.

"The dismaying part is the pelvis is collapsed, which means the physical anthropologists cannot do traditional measurements on the pelvis to determine its sex, so we still don't know if it's a boy or a girl," said Sarah Wisseman, an archaeologist with the Illinois State Archeological Survey, whose book The Virtual Mummy (University of Illinois Press, 2003) describes this research.


Long Pilgrimages Revealed in Ancient Sudan Art

© Bogdan ZurawskiThe common dead are shown in agony in this medieval artwork. The emotion they display, and the fact that they, along with the first born, are naked, suggest that this painting may have had a European artist.
Excavations of a series of medieval churches in central Sudan have revealed a treasure trove of art, including a European-influenced work, along with evidence of journeys undertaken by travelers from western Europe that were equivalent to the distance between New York City and the Grand Canyon.

A visit by a Catalonian man named Benesec is recorded in one of the churches, along with visits from other pilgrims of the Middle Ages, according to lead researcher Bogdan Zurawski of the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

The discoveries were made at Banganarti and Selib, two sites along the Nile that were part of Makuria, a Christian kingdom ruled by a dynasty of kings throughout the Middle Ages.

The art there tells stories of kings, saints, pilgrims and even a female demon, said Zurawski, who presented his findings recently at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.


Humans ventured as far as Torquay more than 40,000 years ago

The early humans were pioneers who took advantage of a temporary warm spell to visit Britain during the last ice age

© Chris Collins/Natural History Museum, London/Torquay MuseumJawbone and teeth reveal humans living at the edge of what was then the habitable world.
A fragment of human jaw unearthed in a prehistoric cave in Torquay is the earliest evidence of modern humans in north-west Europe, scientists say.

The tiny piece of upper jaw was excavated from Kents Cave on the town's border in the 1920s but its significance was not fully realised until scientists checked its age with advanced techniques that have only now become available.

The fresh analysis at Oxford University dated the bone and three teeth to a period between 44,200 and 41,500 years ago, when a temporary warm spell lasting perhaps only a thousand years, made Britain habitable.

The age of the remains puts modern humans at the edge of the habitable world at the time and increases the period over which they shared the land with Neanderthals, our close relatives who evolved in Europe and Asia.


First Known Europeans Identified

Molar Tooth
© Stefano BenazziA baby molar tooth from what is believed to be the remains of the first European anatomically modern human.

Europe's earliest known modern humans existed around 45,000 years ago in a southern Italian prehistoric cave, according to new research.

The discovery means that members of our own species have been present in Europe longer than previously thought, sharing turf with Neanderthals for at least 5,000 years.

"During this time it is very likely that some contact must have been achieved, but there is no direct evidence for it," Stefano Benazzi, a physical anthropologist at the University of Vienna, told Discovery News.

He explained that "Neanderthals must have survived until about 40,000 years ago."

Before the findings of Benazzi and his team, the first known modern humans in Europe came from Romania and dated to 40,000 years ago. Early Upper Paleolithic modern human cultures are documented in the Near East to about 45,000 years ago, which previously left a gap of 5,000 years between these Homo sapiens and the ones from Romania.

"With our findings, the gap is filled," said Benazzi, whose research was published this week in the journal Nature.

Cow Skull

'Magic' Viking Sunstone Just Natural Crystal

Stone Compass
© Guy Ropars, University of RennesThe researchers, lead by Guy Ropars of the University of Rennes in France, build their own Viking sunstone compass from a calcite crystal. The two beams of light can be seen on the reflective surface inside.

Before the invention of the magnetic compass, navigating with a sundial would have been difficult, particularly on overcast days. Ancient Viking lore suggests that they had a magical tool to find the sun, even when the star was hidden.

Researchers have now discovered the crystal that would have made such a magical apparatus possible. The Vikings could have used a common calcite crystal, called an Icelandic spar, to find the sun in the high latitudes where they would have had to battle long twilights and cloudy skies to navigate. This special "sunstone" could find the direction of the sun even when it was out of view because it plays a trick with the light.

"The Vikings could have discovered this, simply by choosing a transparent crystal and looking through it through a small hole in a screen," study researcher Guy Ropars wrote in an email to LiveScience. "The understanding of the complete mechanism and the knowledge of the polarization of light is not necessary."


Iran: 40,000-Year-Old Engravings Discovered in Central Province

Ancient Engravings
© IRNAThe photo shows a rock bearing one of the 40,000-year-old hand pattern engravings, which have recently been discovered in the Teimareh region near the city of Khomein in Central Province.
Tehran -- Eleven engravings, which are believed to date back to 40,000 years ago, have been discovered in the Teimareh region near the city of Khomein in Central Province.

The engravings depict patterns of hands, expert of ancient stone engravings Mohammad Nasseri told the Persian service of the IRNA on Sunday.

Although the engravings date back to 40,000 years ago, some Elamite pictographs, some marks of the Pahlavi and Arabic scripts, and a number of cup-shaped motifs have been etched around each engraving, he added.

According to the semiotics, the hand patterns and the cup-shaped motifs refer to a temple or a place of worship, Nasseri stated.