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

On Top of the World: Images from the Great Pyramid

Image taken from on top of the Great Pyramid

A group of Russian youths has (illegally) climbed the Great Pyramid at Giza at night, and posted some lovely photos online (such as the one above) for all of us law-abiding citizens to drool over.

I was taken by the fact that one of the images featured someone lying in almost the exact location on top of the Great Pyramid as the two ladies were standing in the photo I've posted previously from 1920 - we move through the ghosts of the past no matter where we travel. Compare the difference between skylines in the two following images: the first taken by the Russian adventurers this year, the second taken almost 100 years ago, in 1920. Cairo seems to have grown a little (especially considering the centre of Cairo is in the opposite direction)...

Looking at Khafre's Pyramid

Ladies atop the Great Pyramid

In juxtaposition, the stones on the Great Pyramid and Khafre's pyramid look not to have changed at all. As the old saying goes, "man fears time, time fears the pyramids"...

Pyramid Lines

Giza Pyramids

One of the many amazing facts about the three pyramids of the Giza Plateau in Egypt, built almost 5000 years ago, is that they are aligned remarkably accurately to the cardinal points. How do we know this? Mostly because, um, a few people measured them about a century or more ago, and we just keep repeating what they said.

But no longer do we have to rely on old, possibly inaccurate measurements! Archaeologists Clive Ruggles and Erin Nell undertook a week-long survey of the famous pyramid complex, aiming to clarify the data concerning the main three pyramids' orientation, and also determine the orientations "of as many as possible of the associated structures" surrounding them. To do so, the pair departed from the usual method of using the corners of the buildings, and instead identified a series of points along the best preserved structural segments of each side.

The result? Nell and Ruggles found that the pyramids truly were aligned very accurately to the cardinal points, that there was "only a very slight difference in orientation" between the north-south axes of the two larger pyramids at Giza, those of Khufu and Khafre (approximately 0.5 arc minutes), and that the sides of Khafre's pyramid are actually more perfectly perpendicular than those of the 'Great Pyramid' of Khufu.

But perhaps the most interesting discovery was that the east-west axis of both pyramids was even closer to "true cardinality" than the north-south axis. For many years there has been some debate as to whether the alignment of the pyramids was executed by sighting the circumpolar stars of the northern sky, or via the Sun (using noon shadows or rising point on the equinox). This debate has also sometimes been associated with a debate over Egyptian culture of that time being centered around a 'solar cult' or a 'stellar cult', with a possible change from stellar to solar between Khufu and his son Khafre (note the 're' on the end of the latter's name, denoting the Sun).

Nevertheless, Nell and Ruggles concluded that the main pyramids were probably aligned using the circumpolar stars. However, they also noted from their data that the "broader context of associated structures suggests that the east-west orientation in relation to sunrise or (in one case) sunset may have been a, or even the, key factor in many cases."

Read: "The orientations of the Giza pyramids and associated structures", published in the journal Archaeoastronomy.

Inside Dan Brown's Inferno: The Voynich Manuscript

It is well-known that Dan Brown likes to engage in fun games with his readers, often setting 'treasure hunts' through which they can get access to more information about his work than is readily available. Perhaps the most significant example was the cover of his bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code, in which a number of codes were embedded that, when solved, gave hints to the topics that would be discussed in the next book in the series. By solving these ciphers, I was able to write a book predicting the content of The Lost Symbol some five years before it was released.

With the publication date of Brown's next novel Inferno now set (which, incidentally, seems to have been deliberately chosen in order to encode the value of Pi), what can we find if we search around for other possible clues to the strange topics that Dan Brown might explore this time? Taking a look at his website, we find a number of little puzzles waiting to be solved, one of which takes this form:

Dan Brown's Voynich Code

While at first glance this square of letters and numbers might look like gibberish, it's actually quite easily solved ... Read More »

Graham Hancock Working on 'Fingerprints of the Gods Part 2'

Graham Hancock

Many regular visitors to this site were inspired by, or at least enjoyed, the 'hidden history' bestseller Fingerprints of the Gods, written by Graham Hancock. Those readers will surely be happy to hear that Graham has mentioned on Facebook that he is now working on a sequel to the book, after being inspired by a couple of recent developments:

I thought I’d share two of the developments, one in the field of archaeology, one in the field of geology, that persuaded me some years ago that it was time to begin work on a sequel to Fingerprints of the Gods. Please note, however, that what I’m going to outline in this short post is only a very small part of the much wider range of accumulated evidence I’ll present in the sequel – powerful new discoveries and new understandings in many different fields that have come to light slowly, piece by piece during the past two decades. Taken together, I believe these new findings provide overwhelming support for the thesis I put forward nearly twenty years ago in Fingerprints of a titanic global cataclysm in the window between 13,000 and 12,000 years ago, around the end of the last Ice Age, that wiped out and destroyed almost all traces of a great global civilisation of prehistoric antiquity. I’m already well ahead with the research and I aim to complete writing of the book by December 2014 and to publish in the autumn of 2015.

Emerging from mainstream science – which has so often ridiculed and dismissed my work – the first piece of evidence that made me realise there was a new story to be told was proof that north America was struck by several pieces of a giant fragmenting comet 12,900 years ago (i.e. 10,900 BC), causing an extinction-level event all around the planet, radically changing global climate and initiating the sudden and hitherto unexplained thousand-year deep-freeze right at the end of the Ice Age that geologists call the Younger Dryas.

The second early clue was the discovery in Turkey of an extraordinary 12,000-year old megalithic site called Gobekli Tepe, which is on the scale of Stonehenge but 7,000 years older than any of the other great stone circles known to history anywhere else in the world. Furthermore the best megalithic work at Gobekli Tepi is the oldest and the site was deliberately buried 10,000 years ago only to be rediscovered, and to have its importance and mysterious nature recognised long after the publication of “Fingerprints of the Gods”.

According to orthodox history, the period of 12,000 years ago (10,000 BC) is the "upper palaeolithic", i.e. before "the neolithic", and our ancestors then are only supposed to have been hunter gatherers, and incapable of large-scale stone-cutting and engineering works. Yet the scale and perfection of the 12,000-year old megaliths at Gobekli Tepe speak of a civilisation that had already accumulated -- by that date -- thousands of years of experience of working with and setting up large blocks of stone weighing in the range of 10 to 20 tons each with one piece thought to weigh 50 tons. The site appears literally out of nowhere but even the most sceptical mainstream archaeologists (who recognise its importance but have kept very quiet about its implications for the stories we tell ourselves about the origin of civilisation) now admit that there must be a very long and so-far unrevealed background to the wonders of Gobekli Tepe. That background upsets all established models of the time-line of history and directly supports the thesis of a great civilisation, lost to history between 13,000 and 12,000 years ago, that I controversially put before the public in 1995 with Fingerprints of the Gods.

While the book is still a couple of years away, Graham has another fiction novel out in June – War God, set during the Spanish Conquest of Mexico - and maintains a busy speaking schedule (see his lecture page for appearances).

Graham also notes that anybody advance-purchasing copies of the UK edition of War God can request a personally signed and dedicated bookplate from him, that he will send out to you at his own expense. See the War God section of his website for details.

The Essential Fortean Booklist - Alternative History

Fortean Library Bookshelf

Late last year our good friend Matt Staggs posted a link to the "Nervous Breakdown Reading List: Occult and High Weirdness". This got me to thinking that once the Christmas craziness had settled down, a fun project might be to compile a list of books that any Fortean should definitely have on their bookshelf. But how to approach the compilation?

My thought was that the process could be done in two-steps. Firstly, I'll put out a general call (first one below) for NOMINATIONS of books to a certain Fortean category (to simplify things a bit). From that list of nominations, a short-list will be compiled based on the number of nominations, which will then be PUT TO A VOTE to determine the order of importance. I'm thinking some parts of the process may end up being a little organic, but this should provide us with a reasonably fair end result.

This week I'm looking for nominations for the 'Alternative History' category:

Nominations have now closed! Thank you for your suggestions.

The Essential Fortean Booklist


Please list a maximum of ten books that you think are required reading/reference material for a Fortean, in the comments section below. This may be for a number of reasons, from historical/sociological importance through to scientific importance. Note: this means it does not necessarily have to be the *best* or most *scientifically valid* book on a topic - the criteria is simply that it deserves to be on the bookshelf.

Note that the number of nominations may be crucial in making the short-list, so you shouldn't decide to not post a certain book just because it has already been mentioned.

A one or two line blurb accompanying the nomination describing the reason for its importance is encouraged and appreciated (and may end up being used in the final presentation of books)!

(You will need to be registered as a Daily Grail user to nominate and vote, to avoid spammers/self-promotion/poll-crashing by external sites.)

I look forward to seeing your recommendations!

Antediluvian Europe

Antediluvian Europe

Readers of this website may well have been intrigued by the thesis in 'hidden history' author Graham Hancock's 2002 book Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization - that during the last Ice Age, sea levels were much lower, and so many traces of ancient cultures may have been lost when coastal areas were submerged when the 'big thaw' occurred. Though many academics have taken issue with the conclusions in Underworld, Hancock certainly was prescient in bringing focus to this aspect of our history, at a time when very few archaeologists were thinking along these lines.

However, in recent years more and more attention has been placed on the search for cultural traces beneath the waves. In 2009 the research network SPLASHCOS was funded "to coordinate and promote research on the underwater landscapes and archaeology of the continental shelf drowned by the sea level rise at the end of the Last Glacial.":

For most of human history on this planet — about 90 per cent of the time — sea levels have been substantially lower than at present, exposing large tracts of territory for human settlement. Europe alone would have had a land area increased by 40 per cent at the maximum sea level regression. Although this has been recognised for many decades, archaeologists have resisted embracing its full implications, barely accepting that most evidence of Palaeolithic marine exploitation must by definition be invisible, believing that nothing has survived or can be found on the seabed, and preferring instead to emphasise the opportunities afforded by lower sea level for improved terrestrial dispersal across land bridges and narrowed sea channels.

In the past decade, opinions have begun to change in response to a number of factors: evidence that marine exploitation and seafaring have a much deeper history in the Pleistocene than previously recognised; the steady accumulation of new underwater Stone Age sites and materials, amounting now to over 3000 in Europe, and often with unusual and spectacular conditions of preservation; availability of new technologies and research strategies for underwater exploration; and the growth of targeted underwater research.

Above all, it has become ever clearer that coastal regions generally support larger concentrations of population than hinterlands, with greater ecological diversity, better groundwater supplies, more equable climatic conditions, more productive conditions for plant and animal life on land, and the availability of marine resources. Since most of the great transformations of world prehistory took place when the sea level was lower than at present—including the global dispersal of archaic and anatomically modern humans, the origins of fishing and seafaring, the origins and dispersal of early farming economies, and the roots of the earliest civilisations such as those of Mesopotamia and the Aegean—it follows that existing syntheses of world prehistory are likely to be seriously incomplete.

Read more about the recent discoveries at Antiquity: "Submerged Prehistoric Archaeology and Landscapes of the Continental Shelf".

Also, for those interested, Graham Hancock's 2002 documentary, Underworld: Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age:

Ancient Maya Predicted 1991 Eclipse

Solar Eclipse

A new book, Astronomy in the Maya Codices, claims that the ancient Maya accurately predicted astronomical phenomena centuries in advance, including a (relatively) recent eclipse:

Anthropologist husband-wife team, Harvey and Victoria Bricker have devoted their lives to understanding the pre-Columbian Maya and how they understood the world around them. The Brickers conducted most of their work by translating complex hieroglyphics to see what Mayan scribes felt was most important to record on parchment.

By decoding early Mayan hieroglyphics from four different codices housed in Madrid, Paris, Mexico and Dresden, the Brickers tracked how the night sky would have looked to the Mayans when they were alive.

...The Brickers translated the dates cited in the Mayan calendar to correspond with our calendar and then used modern knowledge of planetary orbits and cycles to line up the Maya's data with ours. It was surprisingly accurate.

In fact, the Brickers found the astronomical calendar dated to the 11th or 12th century accurately predicted a solar eclipse to within a day in 1991, centuries after the Mayan civilization had ended. The 1991 eclipse occurred on July 11.

Okay, so after the whole 2012 thing, I guess the Maya are now 1 from 2...

Read the full story at Livescience.

Stone Age Cinema: Cave Art Animations?

Cave art - the first steps of the nascent human mind into expressing itself through drawing and painting? Or were these ancient people already far more accomplished artists than we give them credit for? New research is suggesting that superimposed images found in cave art are not bumbling attempts at depicting animals, but were in fact meant to be viewed as animated scenes.

In this video, researcher and film-maker Marc Azéma from the University of Toulouse Le Mirail in France reveals how several frames of an animation are superimposed in many animal sketches. A horse painting from the Lascaux caves in France, for example, is made up of many versions of the animal representing different positions of movement. In this video, Azema extracts the individual images and displays them in succession, demonstrating how they play back like a cartoon.

In other examples, motion is represented by juxtaposing drawings of a body in motion. Azéma creates another sequence by picking out motion frames to produce an animation of a running animal.

Apart from layered paintings, ancient humans may have used light tricks to evoke motion on cave walls. Engraved discs of bone have also been found which produce galloping animations when spun on a string, reminiscent of flipbooks.

Full story at New Scientist.

Vale Philip Coppens (1971-2012)

Philip Coppens

The end of the year brings tragic news, with the passing of a very good friend of TDG, researcher and author Philip Coppens. Philip has been closely aligned with this site since almost the very beginning (so much so that I still struggle to type Philip rather than Filip, which he originally went by) - I've posted links to his regular, fascinating online articles over the years, and he contributed a number of features as well to our Darklore print anthology series (Volumes 1 to 5). He was less than a month younger than me, we had very similar interests, and both of us had a similar work ethic to our research, so I certainly felt that he was a kindred spirit. I was lucky enough to meet up with Philip at a Nexus conference here in Australia a few years back, and we had a good, long, personal chat about the whole scene and our experiences over the years. Philip had what I felt was an almost eidetic memory when it came to his research, he could converse at length about any number of Fortean subjects, remembering all the history, people involved, and esoteric connections off the top of his head (something that I struggle with). While he authored a number of books, and was a regular presenter at conferences and recently on TV with Ancient Aliens, for me he will always be remembered as a Fortean researcher with very few peers - you could always count on him to find something fascinating that hadn't been uncovered before. We didn't see eye to eye on a number of conclusions (e.g. the Bosnian pyramid), but we both respected each others' work greatly. I recommend that you browse his website to get a feel for the breadth of knowledge the man had on a wide range of topics.

In the last few months Philip had been suffering from a mystery illness, which was finally recently diagnosed as a rare and very aggressive form of cancer, angiosarcoma. I understand a number of emergency surgeries were necessary in the past few days, and in the end it was all too much, with Philip passing away on December 30th, aged just 41. His wife Kathleen McGowan posted the following message:

My eternal beloved, my grail knight, my poet prince has made his transition. He is in the arms of the angels. In his last words he asked that I thank you all for loving him so much. We were both so greatly blessed. Good night, sweet prince. My love for you knows no boundaries and no time.

Philip's passing also comes on the back of another fantastic researcher, with the death of astronomer and long-time psychical investigator Professor Archie E. Roy, author of the recent book The Eager Dead (and I tried to make it even worse by having an emergency situation myself with anaphylaxis due to a wasp sting).

Farewell to two fellow explorers of the strange, may all the mysteries be revealed to you now. You will be remembered.

Ancient 'Alien' Burial Site Discovered

Elongated Skull

Well next season's series of Ancient Aliens is writing itself...

Close to the small Mexican village of Onavas, south Sonora, archaeologists have uncovered the first pre-Hispanic cemetery of that area, dating to around 1,000 years ago.

The burial ground consists of 25 individuals; 13 have intentional cranial deformation and five also have dental mutilation, cultural practices which are similar to those of pre-Hispanic groups in southern Sinaloa and northern Nayarit, but until now, have not been seen in Sonora.

...For archaeologists, the discovery is exciting new evidence of cranial deformation, something which has not been recorded before in the Sonora cultural groups.

...The archaeologist said that, “Cranial deformation in Mesoamerican cultures was used to differentiate one social group from another and for ritual purposes, while the dental mutilation in cultures such as the Nayarit was seen as a rite of passage into adolescence. This is confirmed by the findings at the Sonora cemetery where the five bodies with dental mutilation are all over 12 years in age.”

However, she continued,“In this case, you cannot recognise any social differences because all the burials seem to have the same characteristics. Nor have we been able to determine why some were wearing ornaments and others not, or why of the 25 skeletons only one was female. “

Video report about the discovery below (Spanish language). Maybe our resident Mexico expert RPJ can fill us in a little more about this fascinating cultural practice: