Where we attempt to fill you in on everything they forgot to teach you at school

Dinosaurs and Dragon Bones

 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

"Eric Prokopi, 39, was sentenced by US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein for smuggling a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus skeleton from Mongolia into the United States by making false statements to US officials, including that the then-unassembled bones were merely reptile fossils from Great Britain.

Once assembled, the skeleton was sold by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions for more than $1 million before it was seized by the U.S. government and returned to Mongolia."


Robert Plot's 1677 work The Natural History of Oxford-shire featured a drawing of the bone of a giant dug up by Plot himself. The image is now recognised as one of the earliest known western illustrations of a dinosaur bone.

In 1811, at the age of twelve, Mary Anning and her brother Joseph dug up a four foot skull on the Blue Lias cliffs in Lyme Regis in Dorset. A few months later, Mary found the rest of the skeleton. Henry Hoste Henley of Sandringham, Norfolk, who was lord of the manor of Colway, near Lyme Regis, paid the family twenty-three pounds for it. Hoste then sold the skeleton to William Bullock, a well-known collector, who displayed it in London. Mary Anning's family were fossil hunters who would sell the curiosities they found to tourists visiting the area. Once considered little more than a mud-lark, today Mary is recognised as one of the most important figures in 19th century palaeontology.

It was not until 1824 that William Buckland - president of the Geological Society of London - wrote the first full account of a dinosaur detailing the discovery of fossilised giant reptile bones from a creature which he christened Megalosaurus ("great lizard").

The taxon Dinosauria (from which we get the word dinosaur) was formally named in 1842 by paleontologist Sir Richard Owen, who used it to refer to the "distinct tribe or sub-order of Saurian Reptiles" whose fossilised remains were by now being being discovered and catalogued around the world.

By the the latter half of the 19th century fossils were being discovered and catalogued with such ferocity that in America two palaeontologists - Edward Drinker Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and Othniel Charles Marsh of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale - became bitter rivals. These former colleagues became engaged in what came to be known as the Bone Wars - between 1877 and 1892, both paleontologists used their wealth and influence to finance their own expeditions and to procure services and dinosaur bones from fossil hunters. By the end of the Bone Wars, both men had exhausted their funds in the pursuit of paleontological supremacy.

Long, long before Plot unearthed his giant's bone -circa 300 BC - the Chinese book Shennong Bencao Jing ("Divine Farmer's Materia Medica") documented the medicnal use of "dragon bones" ("longgu") and "dragon teeth" ("longchi"):

"Dragon bone is sweet and balanced. It mainly treats heart and abdominal demonic influx, spiritual miasma, and old ghosts; it also treats cough and counterflow of qi, diarrhea and dysentery with pus and blood, vaginal discharge, hardness and binding in the abdomen, and fright epilepsy in children. Dragon teeth mainly treats epilepsy, madness, manic running about, binding qi below the heart, inability to catch one's breath, and various kinds of spasms. It kills spiritual disrupters. Protracted taking may make the body light, enable one to communicate with the spirit light, and lengthen one's life span."

Dragon bone is still used in Chinese medicine today. In 2002 samples of dragon bone and dragon tooth obtained from the market place were analysed by several Chinese institutes. The results showed that they contained the bones of stegodons (long-legged saber-toothed elephants), wooly mammoths, wooly rhinoceros, and hipparions (three-toed horses) among other long extinct species. [1]

In 2006 Li Chui, a farmer in Shaping Village in Ruyang County, central China's Henan Province, unearthed a large quantity of dragon bones - enough, he thought, to make him quite a bit of money at the then going rate of 1.4 yuan per kg. The dealer who Li Chui spoke to about selling the bones reported the find to the Beijing-based Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Scientists from the institute spent the next two years on the site. They concluded that the bones belonged to Asia's tallest and heaviest dinosaur that may have lived as long ago as one hundred million years. They named it the Yellow River Dinosaur.[2]

Few (if any) would argue that it is wrong to want to preserve the remains of these amazing creatures which are, after all, finite - there are only so many bones embedded in ancient rock and buried beneath the earth. Some, however, say that with so many people wanting to own fossils there's a danger that we could all lose out. In a recent article on io9.com, scientist and columnist Mika McKinnon wrote "A privately-owned fossil is like privately-owned art, a collectable lost from public view for the pleasure of a special few. While I understand that is exactly the appeal of being rich and privileged, it seems deeply unfair to hide something created by our planet away from public access [...] When a beautiful fossil that has high scientific value is purchased by a collector for their personal enjoyment, that scientific utility is lost to the entire planet." [3]

We've come an amazingly long way in a short few hundred years in our understanding of dinosaurs via their remains. It's tragic enough that many fossils have already been ground down or boiled away in the name of medicine, it would be awful to think that one day the most magnificent which survive might only be viewed by a wealthy elite. Becoming as rare and legendary to the average person as dragon's bones.

[1] http://www.itmonline.org/arts/dragonbone...

[2] http://www.bjreview.com.cn/science/txt/2...

[3] http://io9.com/fossil-poaching-and-the-b...

The Hidden Paintings of Angkor Wat Revealed

Angkor Wat

Modern technology has allowed researchers to reveal previously invisible ancient imagery on the walls of the spectacular Cambodian monument of Angkor Wat:

Noel Hidalgo Tan, a rock-art researcher from Australia, was working on an excavation at Angkor Wat in 2010 when bits of the red pigment caught his eye. He took some photos with a bright flash. Then he put his photos through through decorrelation stretch analysis, which exaggerate the colour contrast. The technique is commonly used to enhance rock art as well as NASA’s Opportunity Rover’s Martian landscapes.

All of a sudden, monkeys, elephants, boats and buildings leapt out from the walls. Tan eventually found 200 of these paintings all over the temple... One particular stretch on the highest tier in Angkor Wat’s central tower features elaborate scenes with musical instruments and people on horseback.

'Invisible' paintings of Angkor Wat revealed

Archaeologists believe the murals were painted centuries after Angkor Wat was constructed, as a number show Buddhist iconography (the monument was a Hindu temple until the late 12th century).

Link: Algorithm Reveals 200 Lost Paintings On Angkor Wat's Ancient Walls

Original Paper: The Hidden Paintings of Angkor Wat

You might also like:

Oak Apple Day: The Merry Month of May Meets its End

The Garland King and Queen, Castleton, Derbyshire

May is an important month in the British folklore calendar, falling as it does midway between spring equinox and summer solstice. It is the month when the rising sap reaches its culmination; buds become blooms, lambs are in the field, and chicks are in the nest. The Old English name for the month was Þrimilci-mōnaþ (“month of three milkings”) while the modern name is thought by some to derive from the pre-Christian goddess Maia to whom a pregnant sow would be ritually sacrificed on the first of the month. Associations with fertility and with plenty are abundantly clear in both cases.

Although many surviving customs such as the crowning of May Queens (young women picked for their beauty and virtue to act as May personified for the day), dancing around the Maypole (a relic of pre-historic dendrolatry, or phallic pagan fertility symbol, depending on who you ask/believe), and so on, chiefly take place on May Day there are many varied traditions spread throughout the month. As we approach May’s end we come upon a curious cluster of events centred upon today’s date - the 29th.

In 1660 British Parliament declared the 29th of May a public holiday in commemoration Charles II’s escape after the Battle of Worcester nine years earlier. Charles II is said to have evaded capture by Parliamentarians by climbing an oak tree (The Royal Oak in Boscobel Wood, Shropshire) and hiding amongst its leaves, so the holiday came to be nicknamed Oak Apple Day.

Around Dorset, Oak Apple Day was once known as Shit-Sack Day or Shick-Sack Day. There was a custom of adorning the door of one’s home with oak leaves on the day and Oak Apple loyalists would visit any undecorated house and place a wreath of stinging nettles on the door singing:
“Shit Sack, penny a rag
Bang his head in Cromwell’s bag
All done up in a bundle”
Similarly, people not seen to be wearing a sprig of oak themselves were sometimes beaten with nettles or pelted with eggs.

At All Saints Church, Northampton (www.allsaintsnorthampton.co.uk) a statue of King Charles II which sits on the parapet of the portico is garlanded with oak leaves at noon every Oak Apple day. Underneath the statue is the inscription This Statue was erected in memory of King Charles II who gave a thousand tun of timber towards the rebuilding of this church and to this town seven years chimney money collected in it.
During the English Civil War, Northampton – with an already long history of religious dissent – supported the Parliamentarians; even providing boots for Cromwell’s New Model Army. After regaining the throne, Charles II went so far as to take revenge upon Northampton by ordering the destruction of the town walls and the partial demolition of its castle. Despite all this, the Earl of Northampton had remained a friend and confident of Charles’ throughout the interregnum and it was he who persuaded the King to contribute the timber and repeal seven year’s chimney tax in order to build the church. The decoration of Charles’ statue is followed by a celebration of the Holy Communion according to the Book of Common Prayer - a book whose use was famously outlawed under Cromwell.

Maypole dancing at the Downton Cuckoo Fair. near to Downton, Wiltshire

Traditional May Day celebrations had very much fallen out of favour during the interregnum of England, Scotland and Ireland – a period of which began with the execution of Charles I in January 1649 and was ended in July 1660 Charles II, took to the throne. During this period maypole dancing was outlawed, denounced as “a Heathenish vanity, generally abused to superstition and wickedness” by Oliver Cromwell’s Puritans. So it was that many of the former May Day customs came to be re-adopted and incorporated as part of the new Oak Apple Day celebrations.

In Castleton, Derbyshire (www.castleton.co.uk) the 29th is Garland King Day. The Garland King rides a cart-horse wearing a large wooden frame completely covered in flowers and greenery so that only his legs are visible. At the apex of the King’s floral finery is fixed a posy of especially fine flowers and this is known as the Queen. Following the King is a second Queen, on horseback like himself. Up until 1956 the Queen (or 'the Woman' as she was then) was always a man in female dress. The Garland King leads a procession which makes its way through the village, via the six public houses (naturally), into the churchyard. There the great garland is hoisted up on ropes to the top of the church tower, and the Queen posy is laid at the foot of the village War Memorial.

In Aston on Clun, Shropshire, May 29th is Arbour Day (www.arbordayuk.co.uk). A Black Poplar tree which stands at the centre of the village is dressed with flags each Arbour Day. The ceremony’s origins are claimed by the village to have their roots in ancient tree-dressing rites dedicated to Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of Fertility. On Arbor Day in Aston on Clun in 1786, local Squire John Marston of the Oaker Estate married Mary Carter of Sibdon. They arrived back at the Arbor Tree to see it dressed with flags, and the villagers having fun. The Marstons were so taken with the joy of the celebrations that they set up a trust to pay for the care of the tree and the flags, until the mid 1950’s, when Hopesay Parish Council took up the task. In 1995, the 300+ year old Black Poplar tree was toppled in a fierce storm. It was replaced by a sapling which had been taken from the tree twenty years earlier, and it is this thirty-nine year old tree which now takes centre stage.

On the 29th villagers of Wishford in Wiltshire celebrate the right to collect wood from the nearby Forest of Grovely which was granted in the Middle Ages, and confirmed by the Forest Court in 1603. An oak bough is taken, decorated and then hanged from the tower of Saint Giles' Church. In order to maintain their charter, the villagers must proclaim their right at a special ceremony in Salisbury Cathedral, where they repeat the ancient refrain: "Grovely, Grovely and all Grovely!". A banner emblazoned with the same slogan is paraded through the village before dancing, drinking and feasting take place.

So, praise Bridgid the exalted one! All hail the mighty trees and their spirits! God Save the King! And a very happy Shit-Sack Day to you, one and all!

Vandalism in the Great Pyramid: The Focus Shifts to Zahi Hawass

The Khufu Cartouche, Before and After

Late last year we reported on a case of alleged vandalism in the Great Pyramid of Giza. According to reports, two German researchers investigating the age of the famous monument chipped some of the red paint off the only royal cartouche to be found anywhere within the pyramid. As a consequence of the alleged vandalism, six Egyptians were jailed in February for their role in allowing the vandalism to take place.

But according to Egypt researcher Robert Bauval, there is evidence that clearly shows that the samples of paint that are now missing from the cartouche disappeared sometime between 2004 and 2006, when Zahi Hawass, the former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, was in charge of the Giza Plateau. The evidence is in the form of photos taken by another researcher of ancient Egypt, geologist Robert Schoch (see image at the top of this post):

Dr. Zahi Hawass, the ex-minister of Antiquities, gave an interview to Masry El Youm on the 10th December 2013 in which he accused the Germans of stealing the Cartouche of Khufu and demanding that they and the 6 Egyptians who allegedly assisted them be severely punished. Hawass also accused the new Minister of Antiquities of being responsible for this crime. But a week later, on the 17 December 2013, inspectors of antiquities investigated the Relief Chamber in the Great Pyramid and found that the Cartouche was still there, although some paint sample had been scrapped off. This can be clearly seen from the three white marks on the top left part of the Cartouche. The inspectors presented official photographs of the Cartouche to the Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim (see photo. 1).

In March 2014 the author Robert Bauval and professor Dr. Robert Schoch of Boston University provided official photographs from 2006 to the Minister of Antiquities, Mohammad Ibrahim, showing that the Cartouche was exactly the same as in the photographs of December 2013 supplied by the Inspectors. Dr. Schoch also provided another official photograph taken in 2004 showing that the Cartouche was untouched. These official photographs prove conclusively that the sample of paint from the Cartouche was taken between 2004 and 2006, when Dr. Zahi Hawass was responsible for the Giza Pyramids. There is also official photographic and video evidence that Dr. Hawass inspected the Cartouche several times after 2006 but omitted to report the crime.

Although a new investigation has been approved by the Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim on the 27 March 2014, no action has been taken so far, and the 6 innocent Egyptians remain in jail. It is hope that a new investigation will be carried out as soon as possible so that the truth about the Cartouche is confirmed and that these innocent men be freed.

I'm not sure that this new evidence completely exonerates those involved - after all, the two German researchers still really shouldn't have been allowed to do what they did - but this evidence certainly does seem to shift responsibility when it comes to the specific accusation of damage to the Khufu cartouche. I actually noted in my original post that the Germans seemed to be chipping away at a distance from the cartouche, so this new evidence confirms my thoughts.

So who took the paint from the Khufu cartouche?

Link: The Scandal Of The Cartouche Of Khufu In The Great Pyramid: The Truth


Angkor Revealed through Laser Pulses

Indiana Jones meets Han Solo (oh wait): In 2012, a team of archeologists lead by Dr. Damian Evans used an helicopter equipped with a LIDAR system, to reveal the magnificence of Angkor Wat's architecture, buried beneath the dense jungle foliage for the last 6 centuries. Their work has uncovered roads, canals, ponds, field walls, occupation mounds, and other never-before-seen structures of the ancient capital of the Khmer empire.

Before the arrival of airborne laser scanning technology known as lidar (for light detection and ranging), archaeologists working in Angkor had to hack through thick jungle or painstakingly analyze aerial photos and satellite images — essentially guessing at what was beneath the dense canopy. Lidar has revolutionized tropical archaeology in Mesoamerica in recent years, but this is the first time the technique has been used in Asia. “Almost within minutes of receiving the data, we clicked a few buttons, and millions of data points coalesced into cities in front of us,” says Damian Evans of the University of Sydney, Australia, who spearheaded the $250 million lidar mission. “We were all a little bit speechless.”

There's been recent attempts to employ LIDAR in the detection & study of historic shipwrecks. Let's hope the technology becomes more widespread, so that it can be used in the discovery of ruins so ancient, by now they are situated beneath sea level *cough*Atlantis*cough*

Link: Angkor's Sprawling Cityscapes Revealed

Evans' paper (PDF): Uncovering archaeological landscapes at Angkor using lidar

You might also like:

Graham Hancock, Live

Magicians of the Gods Tour 2014

It takes a fair event to get me out of the house away from Daily Grail and family duties, but it wasn't a difficult decision last night when best-selling author Graham Hancock stopped into my hometown of Brisbane on his 'Magicians of the Gods' tour to talk about everything from consciousness to UFOs to lost megalithic cultures. Nevertheless, with doors opening at 5pm, and Graham going on stage at 6pm sharp, getting to the show on time through rush-hour traffic - given its location at the wonderful Old Museum just outside the CBD - was not without its difficulties. On the bright side, the fact that I arrived right on 6pm meant that a host of convenient parking spots right near the building had just become available to me. On the down side, it started pouring rain at the exact time I hopped out of my vehicle. Lucky for that close park!

Arriving at the Old Museum, my first encounter with staff was a happy one. Rather than a paper ticketing system, a simple flash of my driver's licence allowed me entry as they ticked my name off on an iPad - no sacrificial trees required. Though one of the last to arrive at this sold-out event, every one of the still-spare seats in the house offered a fine view of the stage, and the media screen behind it. The MC quickly ran through the sequence of events for the night, etiquette tips (phones to silent, etc), and other information - an often neglected, but very helpful start to the event. Then, Graham Hancock walked to the stage to rapturous applause, for his first (of three!) presentation of the night.

This first talk was related to his fiction outing, War God. Although I'd imagine for many of his devoted 'alternative history' fans that this talk may have felt like the ancillary one of the evening, for me – given I'm very familiar with many of the topics discussed in his other talks on consciousness and lost cultures – this proved to be an absolutely fascinating exploration of the cataclysmic historical period when ... Read More »

The Heretic Volume 5

The Heretic Volume 5

Volume 5 of The Heretic Magazine is now available for sale, and returns with another stellar line-up of material from the likes of Robert Bauval, Chris Ogilvie-Herald, Ralph Ellis, Robert Eisenman, and...me!

Our current edition contains over 15 fascinating articles written by a variety of cross disciplinary experts and subject area enthusiasts in the fields of Alternative History, Lost Civilisations and Technologies, Mysteries and Conundrums, Rennes-le-Château, the Occult, Politics, Science and more. No magazine offers more specialized esoteric content than The Heretic.

Edited and collated by Andrew Gough, Volume 5 features (alphabetically) Robert Bauval, Dawn Bramadat, Duncan Burden, Patrice Chaplin, Robert Eisenman, Ralph Ellis, Lorraine Evans, Robert Feather, Brien Foerster, Andrew Gough, Chris Ogilvie-Herald, Mark Oxbrow, Graham Phillips, Ian Robertson, Freddy Silva and Greg Taylor. Once again we have compiled a stellar collection of thought-provoking articles and features. See a full list of the content inside Volume 5.

The Heretic is available in two digital formats: firstly as a multi-touch iBook for iPad and secondly as a Kindle edition. The two versions are very different and the richest experience will be gained from the iPad version, but the Kindle edition is there for those readers who own a Kindle but not an iPad.

Here's editor Andrew Gough introducing the latest edition:

The Heretic's website has direct links for purchasing the magazine from both the iTunes store and various Amazons around the world.

Link: The Heretic Magazine

The Origins of Consciousness in the Technological Age

Here's a fascinating panel discussion on "The Origins of Consciousness in the Technological Age " involving Graham Hancock, futurist (and Darklore contributor) Mark Pesce, Dennis McKenna and Mitch Schultz (creator of the documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule).

Which reminds me that Graham will be touring Australia in a few weeks - if you're near one of the lecture locations, make sure you take the opportunity to get to one of his presentations:

Hancock will be presenting his radical theories and philosophy at a series of events across Australia including Melbourne, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Sydney and Perth. A formidable story teller, Hancock will deliver keynote presentations that draw on his vast body of research, weaving recurring historical themes with profound questions such as: What happens after we die? What is the nature of consciousness? How and when did human culture emerge and what lessons can be learnt from our past?

Highlights from his talks include:

  • An update on his theories first proposed in the book ‘Fingerprints of the Gods’ - Hancock provides compelling new evidence that supports his research into a technologically advanced ancient civilisation that was destroyed in a catastrophic event during the end of the last ice age. This will include findings from his own fieldwork into the recent astonishing archaeological discoveries at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey and Ganung Padang in Indonesia, which has forced scientists reconsider
    the age of human culture.
  • The War on Consciousness: An extended version of Hancocks controversial TED talk that was banned, then reinstated after an immense public backlash. Hancock sees the “war on drugs” as more like a war on consciousness and an affront to adult liberty. He reveals a personal account of the transformative power of shamanism, ayahuasca and altered states – a story which Russell Brand went on to publish when he was guest editor of the New Statesman magazine last year.
  • Past research into biblical mysteries and also more recent research into the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs in Mexico, including the intriguing hidden story behind the tragic confrontation between Moctezuma and Cortés.

Always captivating, continually surprising and forever pushing the boundaries, Hancock entertains, educates and inspires. His presentations take the audience on a dazzling journey through time, delivering a profound message that invites us to challenge conventional paradigms, whilst offering rigorous evidence of much
more profound mysteries.

More information and tickets are available at the website (or click the image below).

Graham Hancock Australian Tour

Document Suggesting That Jesus Had a Wife is Proven to be Authentic

'Jesus wife' papyrus

Dating tests performed on a controversial piece of papyrus which suggests that Jesus had a wife have found that, contrary to claims of a hoax, it is indeed an ancient document:

Since Harvard professor of divinity Karen L. King publicized the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” in 2012, scientists and theologians have fiercely debated the authenticity of the fragment — the only known papyrus containing the words “Jesus said to them, my wife.” Biblical scholars have argued that the 1- by 3-inch chunk of papyrus is modern, “oddly written” and a “clumsy forgery.” But results from recent chemical and handwriting analyses say otherwise.

...Scientists used a technique called micro-Raman spectroscopy, which measures the way objects scatter photons from a laser, to determine the chemical composition of the ink used to write the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” The chemical composition of the ink dated back to between the sixth and ninth centuries, or earlier, and matched other samples from the same time period.

A second study examined the fragment’s handwriting to verify its authenticity. King, at Harvard Divinity School, weighed all the evidence and concluded that the fragment is likely a product of early Christians, not a forgery. The findings were presented in a series of studies published Thursday in the Harvard Theological Review.

Note that this does not necessarily prove that Jesus was married, but it certainly provides additional evidence for those wanting to build such a case (though if you're a fiction writer who think s novel based around that idea could be a bestseller, you're about a decade late...).

Ancient Mummy Has Tattoo of an Angel on Her Inner Thigh

1300-year-old Tattooed Sudanese Mummy

New research is revealing the secrets of ancient mummies of the British Museum. Using CAT scanners and infra-red reflectography, new details about the mummies' lives have been uncovered, such as the angelic tattoo found on the inner thigh of a 1300-year-old Sudanese woman:

One of the mummies, whose remains were found just seven years ago, was so well preserved that archaeologists could almost make out the tattoo on her skin on the inner thigh of her right leg with the naked eye. Infra-red technology helped define it more clearly.

The woman, aged between 20 and 35, had been buried wrapped in a linen and woollen cloth and her remains had mummified in the dry heat. The tattoo has been deciphered by curators and spells out in ancient Greek – M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael.

The owner of the tattoo was a woman who died in about AD 700 and lived in a Christian community on the banks of the Nile.

The tattoo represents the symbol of the Archangel Michael, who features in both the Old and New Testaments. The symbol has previously been found in ancient churches and on stone tablets, but never before in the form of a tattoo.

“You can see her tattoo really clearly using infra red reflectography,” said Dr Antoine, “The tattoo on her right inner thigh represents a monogram that spells Michael in ancient Greek.

“She is the first evidence of a tattoo from this period. This is a very rare find.”

Link: 1300 year-old mummy and her intimate tattoo