Secret HistoryS


Egyptian tomb mystery may be world's first protractor

© Jane Maria HamiltonA new angle
The bizarre object to the right was found in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian architect. For over 100 years, it has languished while archaeologists debated its function.

Now, a physicist has thrown her hat into the ring, arguing that it is the world's first known protractor. The intriguing suggestion - which has drawn scepticism from archaeologists - is based on the numbers encoded within the carvings on its surface.

The architect Kha helped to build pharaohs' tombs during the 18th dynasty, around 1400 BC. His own tomb was discovered intact in 1906 by archaeologist Ernesto Schiaparelli in Deir-al-Medina, near the Valley of the Kings. Among Kha's belongings were measuring instruments including cubit rods, a levelling device that resembles a modern set square, and what appeared to be an oddly shaped empty wooden case with a hinged lid.

Schiaparelli thought this last object had held another levelling instrument. The museum in Turin, Italy, where the items are now exhibited identifies it as the case of a balancing scale.


Africa: 20-Million-Year-Old Ape Skull Unearthed in Uganda

map, uganda
© AFP/GraphicMap of Uganda showing the remote northeast Karamoja region where the ape skull was found
A team of Ugandan and French paleontologists announced Tuesday they had found a 20-million-year-old ape skull in northeastern Uganda, saying it could shed light on the region's evolutionary history.

"This is the first time that the complete skull of an ape of this age has been found ... it is a highly important fossil and it will certainly put Uganda on the map in terms of the scientific world," Martin Pickford, a paleontologist from the College de France in Paris, told journalists in Kampala.

The fossilised skull belonged to a male Ugandapitchecus Major, a remote cousin of today's great apes which roamed the region around 20 million years ago.

The team discovered the remains on July 18 while looking for fossils in the remants of an extinct volcano in Uganda's remote northeastern Karamoja region.

Preliminary studies of the fossil showed that the tree-climbing herbivore, roughly 10 years old when it died, had a head the size of a chimpanzees but a brain the size of a baboons, Pickford said.


"Spectacular" Three-Cat Monolith Unearthed in Mexico

3 Cat Monolith
© INAH via APThe "Triad of Felines" carved rock found in Chalcatzingo, Mexico.

With a little help from archaeologists, three giant cats have slunk into view after spending thousands of years underground in central Mexico.

Carved in a vaguely Olmec style into a stone monolith, the seated jaguars - or possibly mountain lions - may have been part of a decorative hillside wall that was crawling with big-cat carvings, experts suggest.

The circa 700 B.C. carving, dubbed the "Triad of Felines" by archaeologists, was found about 60 miles (a hundred kilometers) south of Mexico City at Chalcatzingo, an archaeological site known to have had ties to the Olmec civilization.

Measuring about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and 3.6 feet (1.1 meters) wide, the carving was originally set within a hillside and was designed to be clearly visible from a village below, experts say.

The discovery is only the latest of about 40 large stone carvings found at Chalcatzingo since 1935 - many of them depicting cats, said David Grove, an anthropologist at the University of Florida who conducted research at Chalcatzingo for 30 years beginning in the 1970s.

As an example of Olmec-style art, Grove added, "Triad of Felines" is "spectacular."


Half of European men share King Tut's DNA

© Unknown
London - Up to 70 percent of British men and half of all Western European men are related to the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, geneticists in Switzerland said.

Scientists at Zurich-based DNA genealogy centre, iGENEA, reconstructed the DNA profile of the boy Pharaoh, who ascended the throne at the age of nine, his father Akhenaten and grandfather Amenhotep III, based on a film that was made for the Discovery Channel.

The results showed that King Tut belonged to a genetic profile group, known as haplogroup R1b1a2, to which more than 50 percent of all men in Western Europe belong, indicating that they share a common ancestor.

Among modern-day Egyptians this haplogroup contingent is below 1 percent, according to iGENEA.

"It was very interesting to discover that he belonged to a genetic group in Europe -- there were many possible groups in Egypt that the DNA could have belonged to," said Roman Scholz, director of the iGENEA Centre.

Around 70 percent of Spanish and 60 percent of French men also belong to the genetic group of the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.


Rome, Italy: Archaeologists unearth 2,000-year-old mosaic depicting the Greek god Apollo surrounded by muses

A 2,000-year-old mosaic in Rome depicting the Greek god Apollo has been unearthed by archaeologists near the Colosseum.

Excavations in the bowels of an ancient Roman hill have turned up the well-preserved, late 1st century wall mosaic with a figure of Apollo, nude except for a colourful mantle over a shoulder and surrounded by muses.

The mosaic-covered wall is 16 meters (53 feet) wide and at least 2 meters (6.6 feet) high. Officials think the wall continues down some 8 meters (26.5 feet) more.

© EPAAncient: A worker restores part of a mosaic mural depicting Apollo and the Muses found at an archaeological site under the Terme di Traiano in Rome
© Associated PressWork of art: Excavations in the bowels of the ancient Roman hill have turned up the well-preserved, late 1st Century wall mosaic with a figure of Apollo, naked except for a colourful mantle over a shoulder
Archaeologists say the wall appears to be in a tunnel built to help support Trajan's Baths, named for the emperor who ruled from 98 till 117. The mosaic apparently embellished a room where wealthy Romans gathered to hear music and discuss art.


The 12,000 years old unexplained structure at Göbekli Tepe, Turkey

Göbekli Tepe, is a hilltop sanctuary erected on the highest point of an elongated mountain ridge some 15 km northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa, in southeastern Turkey and 500 miles away from Istanbul, Turkey. It is the most astonishing archaeological discovery in modern times and also thought to be the oldest advanced civilization on Earth.

Watch the video below to see details as reported by the History Channel:


New York, US: Traces of a 19th-Century Village Have Been Excavated in Central Park

Think about this when you're relaxing in Central Park over the weekend: An entire community once lived there, with homes and several churches and at least one school, right in the park (before it was the park). We're talking about Seneca Village, a largely African-American community of some 260 people that existed from the 1820s until 1857, when they were evicted so that Central Park could be created. They lived in the area between 81st and 89th Streets and 7th and 8th Avenues, in what is now part of Central Park, east of Central Park West.

For many years, three professors from City College, Columbia, and NYU had sought to gain permission to dig in the park, seeking artifacts from this community. They had documentary records of Seneca Village, including maps of houses, newspaper accounts, affidavits, and church records. They had radar that showed where homes existed. But the city wouldn't let them excavate -- until 8 weeks ago. Today marks the last day of their dig. We spoke to archaeologist Nan Rothschild of Columbia, who told us about what they found...and what it means.


Explorer Who Discovered Titanic Sets Sights on Ancient Ruins

Oceanographer Robert Ballard, best known for discovering the Titanic wreck, has new plans to plumb the depths of the seas.

Ballard said Thursday that his latest deep-sea venture will send crews combing through the Black, Aegean and Mediterranean seas for artifacts from ship wrecks and ancient civilizations.

His research vessel, the E/V Nautilus, set out from a port in Turkey last week on a four-month mission that will use four remote-operated vehicles and sonar technology to explore lost cities, as well as hydrothermal vents and undersea volcanoes.

At a news conference at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, Ballard said that while he has a general idea of what his crew might find, the exploration is about looking for the unknown.

"We're fascinated by extremely confusing parts of our planet and we say 'let's go there and see if we can figure it out," said Ballard, a co-leader of the mission who is planning to join the ship later.


Ancient Reindeer Engraving Among Britain's Oldest Rock Art

Rock Art
© George NashThis faint engraving depicts the antlers, torso and legs of a reindeer. It was found in 2010 in a cave on the Welsh Gower Peninsula.

A faint engraving of a reindeer in a South Wales cave looks to be among the oldest rock art known in Britain.

Researchers completed an analysis on July 27 that dated the image at roughly 12,600 years or older, putting it about on par with Britain's oldest known rock art.

The archeologist who discovered the engraving, George Nash, from the University of Bristol, said he believed it could be even older.

Nash discovered the engraving while visiting the cave with a group in September 2010. But dating - using a technique that looks at the decay of traces of radioactive uranium and thorium in the stalagmite crust deposited over the engraving - was only just completed.

The engraving's location is being kept secret to prevent vandalism, because the cave in which it is located is open to the public, said Nash, who also works with the environmental firm SLR consulting.

In 2003, the first British rock art from the Upper Paleolithic, which ended about 12,000 years ago, was discovered in Creswell Crags in England. A dating analysis put these engravings at roughly the same minimum age as Nash's more recent find. Rock art created since the end of the Upper Paleolithic is more common in Britain.


US: Archaeology team returns to historic New York fort site

Even after years of excavations at the 18th-century military outpost that inspired James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, archaeologist David Starbuck says there's still plenty of history waiting to be unearthed.

Starbuck is overseeing an archaeological field project at Fort William Henry in the southern Adirondack tourist village of Lake George. It's his fifth summertime dig at the reconstructed French and Indian War fort and 21st overall under the auspices of Adirondack Community College.

Starbuck-led teams conducted excavations at Fort William Henry from 1997 to 2000, turning up, among other things, the charred wooden foundations of the fort the British built here in 1755 and the French captured and burned after a weeklong siege in August 1757. Scores of the fort's soldiers and civilians were killed by Indian allies of the French in what became known as the massacre at Fort William Henry. The siege and its aftermath were retold in Cooper's novel and several film versions of his book, including the 1991 adaptation starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

All of which makes the fort, in Starbuck's estimation, the most famous of the nation's French and Indian War sites, most of which are concentrated in the Northeast. Visitors to the fort are encouraged to watch the archaeology work unfold and question the diggers about what they're doing. Hopefully, such interactions will give people a better understanding of the fort's role in a little-known yet vital part of American history, Starbuck said.

"Schools don't teach it, so sites like this have to tell the story," he said. "We need to convey to people why people did what they did, that it's not just a good guy versus a bad guy thing."