ancient civilizations

New Stonehenge-like structures found

Fans of histories of ancient England and neighboring lands will be thrilled to find that Stonehenge was not alone among great earthworks of ancient times.
Hundreds of old earthworks resembling those at Stonehenge were built in the Amazon rainforest, a whole continent away, scientists have discovered after flying drones over the area.
The findings prove for the first time that prehistoric settlers in Brazil cleared large wooded areas to create huge enclosure. The ss-composite-image-2017-2-6-17-54-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8.jpgrainforests at that time were supposed to be “pristine,” or untouched by human mechanics. Obviously, these forests were encroached upon, although not despoiled.
The enclosures, in the western Brazilian Amazon, have been concealed for centuries by trees, but modern deforestation has allowed 450 earthworks to emerge from the undergrowth. Scientists from the UK and Brazil flew drones over the site and officially spotted the hinges. The earthworks are also known by archaeologists as “geoglyphs” and date from around the year zero.
Jennifer Watling, a researcher at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography in Sao Paulo, said the funcction of the sites represents Neolithic causeway enclosures, such as Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England “It is likely the geoglyphs were  used…for public gathering, rigtual sites,” Dr. Watling said. Although the English Stonehenge is 2,500 years older than the Brazilian geoglyphs, they probably represent a similar period in social development.
This discovery also reverses the assumption that the rainforest ecosystem has been untouched by humans.
“The fact that these sites lay hidden for centuries beneath more mature rainforest really challenges the idea that Amazonian forests are ‘pristine ecosystems,’ “ said Dr. Watling.





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Mummy is a lot of “croc”

Mummies of animals have long been part of the deeply complex Egyptian religion. The still unearthed Labyrinth of Egypt was said to hold hundreds of crocodile mummies and hundreds more mummies of human beings.

But crocodile mummies aren’t that hard to find in the many tombs of the once-great culture. The crocodile was said the be the material incarnation of the god Sobek, much as Thoth was known as an stork-like bird and Horus was portrayed as a falcon. Egyptians didn’t worship crocodiles, but they considered large and ornate mummies of crocodiles as an offering to the great god, Sobek.egyptian-giant-crocodile-mummy-is-full-of-surprises1

Scientists had a look recently at a croc mummy that more unusual than most; it was extremely large, possibly containing a monster reptile. But when they did a 3-D CT scan of the mummy at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, they found not only two full-grown crocodiles, but dozens of individually wrapped baby crocodiles. There are only a few of this kind of multi-croc mummies to be found in the world.

The Egyptians used all sorts of stuffing (linen, wood, rope and plant stems) to make the mummy take on the shape of a huge crocodile.

Since November, visitors to the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities can do a virtual autopsy on the 3,000-year-old mummy, using an interactive visualization tool. They also can do a post-mortem exam of an Egyptian priest. They can examine the ancient remains layer by layer, learning about the age at death, physical features, and the mummification process.

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Enter the wooly mammoth?

Wooly Mammoth

Wooly Mammoth

Fantastic World

Most of us are familial with “Jurassic Park,” which brought cloned dinosaurs back to current-day Earth. But “Pleistocene Park”? That’s what scientists are calling an imagined frozen corner of Siberia, where there would be a wildlife refuge for an ancient ecosystem that could slow global warming.

They would have cold-resistant animals who can graze and trumple the tundra, which exposes the underlying soil to frigid air and protects it from a thaw that would let carbon gases into the atmosphere. Animals that are checked okay for this cold-weather haven are bison, oxen, moose, horses and reindeer. But scientists say that one thing is missing—wooly mammoths.

It sounds crazy but some scientists want to clone the wooly mammoth from ancient DNA. Never mind that live, usable DNA still hasn’t been recovered from any frozen mammoth. One team of scientists is trying to clone the giant animal but creating a mammoth egg and inserting it in an elephant’s uterus. The other teams are attempting gene splicing with existing elephants. They admit that the goal wouldn’t be achieved until the far future, if at all.

While the clone-happy scientists dream on, environmentalists want to know how we would find the right foods to feed the mammoth, how we would provide it company (clone more mammoths?), would an elephant be an effective or even tolerant mother to a mammoth baby, how it would relate to other animals around it, and is the air is right for such ancient animals to breath? The earth has gone through a lot of changes since wooly mammoths walked the earth.

Fun to think about, but I think this scientific fantasy is just that—a fantasy.

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Pyramids in Peril


If things weren’t bad enough with the Islamic State or ISIL capturing and torturing captives, and destroying ancient artworks, but now they are blowing up whole buildings.

A new video on social media shows ISIL destroying a 2,500-year-old temple of Nabu, a tribute to the Babylonian god of wisdom.
And get this, the video ends with a threat to blow up the famous Pyramids of Egypt!

The fools in ISIL think that these structures were “built by infidels.” But the so-called infidels didn’t know about Mohammed then, so how can they be blamed? And the craftsmanship that went into building the pyramids is so exacting that even engineers today are not sure how the ancient Egyptians achieved such a craft. I was in Cairo (when it was safe to go) and I have to say the Sphinx and Pyramids simply took my breath away. I was willing to believe that, as some alternative Egyptologists think, that the Sphinx itself was built about 10,000 years ago, when there was plenty of rainwater in that area of the world. The Sphinx has may tell-tale marks of water damage.

But the pyramids are more than just rock-solid buildings; they hold a secret fascination for many people all over the world. What did they mean? What did each room mean? Were they tombs and tombs only? Since a body was never found in the Great Pyramid, there are many questions to be asked.

But if these buildings were suddenly blown up and taken away from the world, would there be a cry of pain heard throughout the globe? Surely the Egyptian government has a sacred duty to keep the pyramids safe from harm. And ISIL must be stopped.Screen-Shot-2016-06-09-at-10.27.44-AM-640x480.png

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Unicorns found (sort of)


If you think unicorns are just mythical beasts who never really existed, get ready for a shock.

Archeologists in Siberia have unearthed remains of a beast that was strikingly similar to a unicorn, large tusk at the prow and all. However, these beasts weren’t exactly slender and horse-like. They were a bit more like rhinoceroses with much bigger horns.

The Siberian unicorn – Elasmotherium sibiricum – last walked the Earth about 29,000 years ago, according to a report by the American Journal of Applied Sciences.

The unicorn skull was found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan.

It reportedly stood about 6 feet 6 inches tall, measured around 15 feet long, and weighed about 8,000 pounds.
As Science Alert explains, “That’s closer to woolly mammoth-sized than horse-sized.”
Still, it was a unicorn and is being classified as such.
So go on unicorn lovers, you can still believe. The animal discover may be a bit larger and uglier, but it just may have an still-unfound related species that figures so highly in fantasy fiction.

Here’s a video that shows an artists rendering of the beast:

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A lost underground arises

Fantastic world

The prehistoric cave paintings of Lescaux, France, have been a wonder that millions have gone to see. The paintings of animals and other objects were painted with meticulous care by people living in the region 18,000 years ago. The cave paintings became a Unesco World Heritage treasure since 1979.

However, by 1963, scientists had discovered that the throngs of tourists breathing and bringing in moist air were ruining the fragile microclimate of the cave and endangering the art. The French closed off the caves, but always wanted to find some way to make the artwork accessible to the public again. Finally, they decided a few years ago to reproduce the paintings and show them in a special museum in the same area, in the Dordogne region of France.

It took three years for artists make faithful copies of the artwork, engraving, sculpting, chiseling by hand and using small paintbrushes, even some tools used in dentistry. The art experts are now transporting 46 separate segments that make up the full copy of the Lescaux paintings and putting them in a semi-buried hillside in Montiganac, near the cave where the Lescaux paintings were found.

There are almost 2,000 cave paintings of rhinos, horses, deer, bison and panthers. The artists said they were humbled by the experience of re-creating the artwork.

“They are extraordinary technicians,” Francis Ringback, artistic director of the project told The Guardian newspaper. “Reproducing animal likenesses from memory and with their highly vivid movements.”

The end product will look as much like the real thing as possible. It will have the same darkness, smells, humidity and temperature. Visitors even will be greeted by a sounds of a dog barking, which was what the caves discoverers first heard in 1940.

The $63,168 million dollar project used cutting-edge technology to mirror the original as closely as possible. Three-dimensional scans were projected on walls, which let artists “trace” the originals using natural pigments. This is the second life-size replica of ancient cave paintings to be completed in a year in France. Before this project, President Francois Hollande inaugurated a facsimile of Grotte Chalet, containing prehistoric art dating back 36,000 years.

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Wake up, Nefertiti!

Fantastic World.

Lots of strange news has been coming out of Egypt lately. First, some scientists, using infrared and modulated thermography (don’t ask me what that means) have been peering through the rocks of the pyramids of Giza, looking for hidden hallways and empty chambers. The Scan Pyramids project, which was launched in October of last year is looking for some tantalizing things. Looking for areas with poor insulation, cracks, and openings in the seemingly smooth-sided pyramids, the project leaders hope to find cavities and chambers beneath the rocks.

Lost treasure chambers? A long-forgotten library of priceless books? Who knows? But it will take the rest of this year for Scan Pyramids to work it out..

However, while those scientists use drones to take images of the pyramids, other Egyptologists surmise they may have found the tomb of the fabled Nefertiti, the queen of Akhenaten. He was the pharaoh who became a heretic when he proposed a religion based on a single god—the Aten, or sun disk. Almost nothing is known of what became of Akhenaten and Nefertiti after their fall from grace, but many Egyptologists believe that Nefertiti was a co-regent with her king during his later years of rule. When he died, she might have become the mysterious Smenkhare, a pharaoh named in the Egyptian histories, but one who left no royal tomb.

Nefertiti, often called the most beautiful woman in history, also seemed to disappear into nowhere. Her tomb and body has never been found.

Now, Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves believes that her tomb is behind that of Tutankhamen, the famous boy king’s. When Howard Carter found “King Tut” in 1922, the opening of the tomb was the wonder of the world. Here was the burial place of a boy of about 19, who had only been on the throne shortly. The tomb appeared to be hastily put together with many items recycled from other burials.

Tut was the son of Akhenaten, but no one is sure who his mother was. It could have been Nefertiti or it could have been Kiya, a minor wife of Akhenaten. The excitement comes into the story when Reeves identified what he called two doorways or entrances behind the current walls of Tut’s burial chamber. They may lead to just more storage chambers or to another royal tomb.

Reeves builds a case that Nefertiti was Tut’s mother, that she was interred first in the rock-cut tomb. Then, when Tut died so suddenly, room was made at the front of Nefertiti’s tomb for the boy’s remains. So, if someone were to drill behind one of those doors, there just discover an astonishingly lavish tomb dedicated to the royal queen.

Reeves peppers his theory with a lot of details that people other than Egyptologists can’t follow, such as saying Tut’s tomb is in a corridor that turns right, rather than left, indicating it was originally for a queen. He also says that items in Tut’s tomb were not designed for him, and that the famous gold mask that lies in the Cairo Egyptian History Museum does not even resemble the boy king at all.

No one will really know if Nefertiti is behind he door, but former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass, who has no more power in Egypt, disregards the whole theory. He says no one should be drilling on that priceless tomb door. That’s because he thinks he already found Nefertiti’s body (which was broadcast on a cable television program and proved to be most unconvincing.)

So, keep tuned. There are power upheavals in Egypt everyday, and no one knows who might authorize drilling behind Tut’s tomb. However, as geologist and Egyptology fan Robert Schoch, Ph.D., reports, the tourism industry is in such bad shape that it would be easy to understand  if Egypt would take the gamble to take a peek behind the wall.

The world is waiting for Nefertiti to arise.

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When cats were gods in Egypt

Cats have pretty much taken over the Internet. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t send me a cat video or I don’t get streams of cat photos on Facebook. So, why not take a look at a time when cats were really popular—when they were worshipped as animal representations of gods in Ancient Egypt.


Historians figure that cats basically domesticated themselves when poking around human habitats and finding tasty goodies, mice and rats,  in the granaries of great civilizations. Humans, when they found that cats dispensed with vermin, became friendly with the animals and tolerated, if not encouraged, their presence. This happened in about 2,000 BC (or earlier)  and some say the Persians were the first to take in cats and the brought them to Egypt.

Egypt had an incredibly complex religious system with most of the gods taking on animal shape, or quasi-human shape (with animal heads and human bodies). These were not to be taken literally, and though the sacred animals in Egypt were treated better than many humans, Egyptians always knew that the animals were simply symbols of the mighty gods who ran their lives.

The Egyptians took to the cat with a vengeance (other sacred animals were bulls, ibises, jackals, hippopotomi, some snakes, and falcons). Although there are not many artistic representations of cats until about 2400 B.C., although there is a tomb relief from as early as the 6th Dynasty (2250 BC) that shows a marsh scene with a cat climbing a papyrus stalk to rob bird’s nests. (Always into trouble, even millennia ago.)

Cats usually didn’t show up in tomb art early on, but in the New Kingdom, after 1550 BC, cats became common in depictions of domestic scenes. Cats were often shown under the chair of a noble couple. Children were often shown in the same position, obviously drawn smaller than in life.

Official priestly observances of Egyptian religion didn’t always show what the populace believed, and it seemed to take until the New Kingdom for references to the Great Cat (Bast or Bastet, depending on what authority you consult), who was first lauded for its ability to kill snakes, and thus thwart the evil serpent Apophisis, who attacked the sun-god Ra on his nightly journey to the underworld.

There were two sides to the cat in Egypt, one, Sekhmet, honoring the lioness side of the feline, and Bastet, who represented the home-loving and gentle cat. Bastet also was well regarded for her superb mothering skills.

However, no town was as involved with cat worship as Bubastis, which boasted a large cattery, a cult devoted to cats, and mummification and royal burial of deceased cats.

Mummifying animals became important in the Egyptian civilization’s Late Period, and there are whole cemeteries of bulls, baboons, crocodiles, and dogs. Cat coffins were made in the shape of a cat and often had bronze heads. Large cemeteries of cat mummies were found in Beni Hasen, Bubastis, and Saqqara. People also donated bronze statuettes of cats to local temples to make sure they stayed on the good side of the goddess Bastet.

There is some disturbing evidence that not all the cats in the kitty coffins died a natural death. Most put this down to overpopulation in the catteries. Then, as now, cats can multiply like rabbits.

Still, there is no doubt that Egyptians loved their little furballs, probably more than modern cat owners do. There is a great deal of cat statuary that shows them draped with jewelry and with pierced ears for earrings.

How many Internet pictures have you seen with cats sporting earrings?




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Did snake get his fangs into Cleopatra?

Fantastic World

Sometimes people just can’t a good legend alone. Take the story of Cleopatra VII of Egypt, the last ruler of the Egyptian civilization. After she and her lover Marc Antony made a number of tactical blunders against Octavian of Rome, they were trapped in Alexandria, while Roman soldiers slew many of the Egyptian troops.

Cleopatra took shelter in a nearby temple and refused to come out, sending servant girls for her her food and necessities. When it became apparent that Octavian meant to capture Cleopatra and parade her, vanquished, through the streets of Rome,snake-947367_1920-300x224she decided on suicide. The legend is that she had servant girls sneak in poisonous snakes, hidden in a basket of figs. When two servants allowed themselves to be bitten by the so-called asp (out of loyalty to their queen), then Cleopatra took the snake to her chest and it gave her the killing bite.

Well, according to Dr. Andrew Gray, curator of herpetology at Manchester Museum, the local poisonous snakes around Egypt would have been much too big to have hidden in a basket of figs. The snake in question had to either be a cobra or a viper (“asp” is an old word for a viper or cobra), and both tend to be about four to five feet long. Also, there is only a 10 percent chance that the poisonous snake’s bite would be deadly because often they give “dry bites” (non-venomous) just to keep annoying creatures, like humans, away. They need to conserve their venom, Dr. Gray told, because they rely on it for hunting for food.

The idea that the cobra or viper would bite two serving girls first before finally chomping on Cleopatra is most unlikely, he said.

“It just wouldn’t happen,” he said. “That’s not to say they (cobras) aren’t dangerous: the venom causes necrosis and will certainly kill you, but quite slowly.”  It also would be a quite painful death and not the quick suicide of the Cleopatra legend. In the old story, Octavian became suspicious when no one came in and out of the temple, so he sent in soldiers, who found Cleopatra on a bed, with an asp on her chest.

Hard to say what really happened, since archeologists still haven’t found the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, thus her body or mummy cannot be examined.  Meanwhile, the royal city of Alexandra remained a major city in Egypt for many decades until it was so riven with earthquakes and storms that much of the populace moved inland and founded Cairo. Cleopatra’s palace and her pleasure island were recently discovered by divers, who say that most of the buildings showed signs of earthquake damage.

Did Cleopatra commit suicide at all or did Octavian just kill her? Most likely she did commit suicide as she was a proud woman and the last of her line. She did not want to be mocked at the hands of the Romans. Her son by Julius Caesar had already been killed by Roman troops, and with her radiant youth and sex appeal fading, she probably found no further reason to go on living.

Cleopatra will always be strongly associated with snakes, in any case. She kept hundreds of non-poisonous royal pythons in her palace and wore a crown with a snake on it. She was also considered the living embodiment of the goddess Isis, who could take on the shape of a snake.

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Playing keep-away from the Islamic State

Fantastic World

The terrorist group ISIS or ISIL is doing more than slaughtering and enslaving large populations in the Middle East, it also is destroying much of Iraq’s and Syria’s precious ancient artwork.

Not only have priceless statues and shrines been demolished, but the sacred writings that chronicle Iraq’s history are at risk of being lost forever. So, technicians at the Baghdad National Library are taking steps to preserve the writings digitally.

Most of the writings, telling of sultans and kings of old, are written on crinkled, yellowing paper are in fragile condition. Some manuscripts are torn from years of use and from aging. Others were partially burned dying the last Gulf War. Some are virtually fossilized over time. Restoring precious Iraqi document

Employees of the museum are using specialized techniques to preserve the most precious documents.

“Once restoration for some of the older documents from the Ottoman era, 200 to 250 years ago, is completed, we will begin to photograph those onto microfilm,” Mazin Ibrahim Ismail, head of the microfilm department, told U.S. News and World Report. This process will preserve the writings and help them survive any future threat. ”

The books that have fossilized into stone are the hardest to restore, said Fatma Khudair, a senior worker in the restoration department. “We apply steam using a specialized tool to try to loosen and separate the pages. Sometimes we are able to save these books and then apply other restoration techniques, but with others, the damage is irreversible.”

In 2003, when the United States and other countries invaded Iraq, arsonists set fire to the library, destroying 25 percent of its books and 60 percent of the archives.

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