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

German Archaeologists Suggest the Great Pyramid was Built Before Khufu?

The Great Pyramid of Giza

Two German archaeologists, and the institutions they were working with, have been punished for allegedly stealing samples of Pharaoh Khufu's cartouche from the Great Pyramid. But perhaps just as controversial is another aspect of the pair's work, which I've bolded in the extract from Al Ahram below:

Egypt's ministry of antiquities has decided to impose penalties on two German amateur archaeologists who stole samples of King Khufu's cartouche from a small compartment above his burial chamber in the great pyramid.

During a meeting Sunday, the Permanent Committee of the Ministry of the State of Antiquities (MSA) condemned such action and described it as a great violation of Egypt's ancient heritage, and the great pyramid in particular - the only surviving monument of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the MSA, Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, told Ahram Online that the committee has prohibited any archaeological cooperation between the MSA and Dresden University, who supported the work of the German archaeologists, as well as the scientific laboratory where the stolen and smuggled samples were analysed.

The findings of both archaeologists have been rejected, as they were carried out by amateurs not expert archaeologists, Maqsoud asserted.

The results cast doubt on the construction date of the great pyramid and consequently the pharaoh for which it was built. The results suggest that the pyramid was built in an era proceeding [sic] Khufu's reign.

"This is totally false and nonsensical," said Ahmed Saeed, professor of ancient Egyptian civilisation at Cairo University. He explains that accurate scientific research dates the cartouche within an era after the reign of Khufu.

While I certainly don't condone damage or theft from one of the greatest monuments on the planet, the news has a bit of a Gantenbrink vibe to it doesn't it?

Archae-orgy-ly: Mystery Humans Spiced Up Ancients’ Rampant Sex Lives

Stone Age Sex

Oh, so you thought meetings at the Royal Society, with all those scientific types would be boring, sterile affairs? Not so! Look at the raunchy subject matter those lascivious lab-coats are drooling over at the moment:

New genome sequences from two extinct human relatives suggest that these ‘archaic’ groups bred with humans and with each other more extensively than was previously known.

The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a different archaic human group, the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November at a meeting at the Royal Society in London. They suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet unknown human ancestor from Asia.

“What it begins to suggest is that we’re looking at a ‘Lord of the Rings’-type world — that there were many hominid populations,” says Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London who was at the meeting but was not involved in the work.

Pretty sure the Lord of the Rings comment isn't meant to imply that the Flores hobbits were the 'mystery humans' that joined in the pants-less free-for-all, though it does conjure up some imagery...

Link: Mystery humans spiced up ancients’ rampant sex lives

Graham Hancock on the Joe Rogan Experience

Our good friend, alternative history author (and fiction novelist) Graham Hancock stopped by the JRE podcast today and had an extended chat with Joe Rogan about everything from psychedelics to newly discovered ancient megalithic sites that will be explored in his upcoming 'sequel' to his groundbreaking 1995 book Fingerprints of the Gods.

As always with the JRE podcast, NSFW language warning.

I'm Not Saying It Was Dentists, But...

King Pacal at the dentist

At last, the truth about King Pacal. The man wasn't piloting a spaceship...he just had some wisdom teeth to pull.

(via @Brandtkofton)

Help Solve the Mystery of Ancient African Coins Found in Australia

Last month I posted a story about the mystery of ancient African coins discovered in northern Australia. In 1944, Royal Australian Air Force serviceman Maurie Isenberg discovered five coins dating back to Africa in the 12th century on a beach, some 10,000km (and 900 years) from their point of origin. How they got there is unknown.

For those interested in finding the answer to the mystery, you can now become a part of a crowd-funding project that aims to solve the puzzle, and which will document every step of the journey:

We call ourselves the 'Past Masters' and we are a multidisciplinary team of anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, and enthusiastic members of the public. We are affiliated with Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, and other institutions. Working closely with traditional Aboriginal Australians, sea rangers, and members of Norforce, a predominantly Aboriginal army unit, we seek answers to the mystery of the discovery of ancient African coins 8,000 miles from Kilwa (Tanzania) in north Australia in 1944.

Was an African or Arab or a Portuguese shipwreck implicated? Marooned Indonesian sailors? Had Aborigines traveled to Kilwa in days of old?
Our preliminary site survey of the remote Wessels Islands received global publicity in June 2013. In more than 20 countries, hundreds of television, radio, and newspaper articles were posted. CNN, Huffington Post, NBC, BBC, Channel Islam International, China Post, French Tribune, Voice of Russia, Der Speigel, Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand, and others covered the story. Our expedition has captured the imagination of people everywhere.

The standard view of Australian history is that British explorer Captain James Cook discovered the land Downunder in 1770. What these African coins suggest is that Australia has a far older history and that indigenous Australians were a part of the vast Indian Ocean maritime silk route that linked East Africa, Arabia, Persia, India, China and Indonesia. With your help, in our major expedition planned for Summer 2014 (the Australian Winter) we can put an end to the prevailing and outdated 'myth of isolation' and help reveal an infinitely richer past involving many peoples over the millennia. We seek answers in a search for shipwrecks, in an analysis of ancient rock art, and in the stories of the Dreaming.

Link: Solve the Mystery of Australia’s African Coins

Graham Hancock Visits the Ancient Megalithic Site of Göbekli Tepe

Alternative history author Graham Hancock is currently researching a follow-up to his bestselling book Fingerprints of the Gods, and he recently visited a site that surely would have been in that book if its age was known at the time: the Turkish megalithic site of Göbekli Tepe, which is thought to be a (mind-shattering) 12,000 years old. The above short video, filmed and edited by Hugh Newman last month during the 'Origins of Civilization' tour organised by Megalithomania and Andrew Collins, has some nice images of the site, as well as some commentary from Graham and Andrew.

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Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla's Laboratory in 1894

Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla's Laboratory

Your double dose of awesome for today: a photo of Mark Twain visiting Nikola Tesla's laboratory in 1894. The image is a ten-minute (!) time-lapse photograph taken for an article in the Century, and in it Twain illuminates one of Tesla's wireless light globes:

Refining his theory on wireless communication, the inventor realized that electrical energy could be transmitted in two distinctly different ways, one as radiation through the air, and the other as conduction through the ground. Today this difference corresponds to FM and AM radio.

...Tesla began to realize that he could design vacuum tubes which would respond only when a precise combination of two or more circuits were being triggered. One of the lamps held by Twain was illuminated in this manner, its dual circuit triggered by a correspopnding dual circuit created by two cables laid around the room.

Source: Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla

(h/t @Memizon and @History_Pics)

The Mystical Origins of Zero

Indian representation of zero (image by Alex Bellos)

British writer Alex Bellos has written a fascinating piece for the Guardian ("Nirvana by Numbers") which explores the possible mystical origins of one of the most important 'inventions' in mathematics: the number zero:

India was not the only civilization to have a place value number system. Babylon and China did too. But India revolutionized numbers by adding the second piece of the jigsaw: the number zero.

Place value systems require a strategy to describe the case when there is nothing in a position. The Babylonians used a marker to represent nothing; the Chinese used a space to represent nothing.

Only the Indians introduced a symbol, 0, and treated it as if it was a normal digit just like all the others from 1 to 9. Invention of the number zero was possibly the greatest conceptual leap in the history of mathematics.

But why did the Indians make this leap and not China or Babylon? My trip to India, for a BBC radio documentary, was to investigate why this was the case.

India made another contribution to world culture as well as zero: the idea of nirvana, the transcendent state of "nothingness", when you are liberated from suffering and desires. In fact, the word used in philosophical texts to mean nothing, or the void, is "shunya", the same word later used to mean zero.

For George Gheverghese Joseph, a maths historian at the University of Manchester, the invention of zero happened when an unknown Indian mathematician about two thousand years realized that "this philosophical and cultural concept would also be useful in a mathematical sense."

Renu Jain, professor of mathematics at Jiwaji University in Gwalior, was my guide at the temple. She agreed that Indian ideas of spiritual nothingness led to mathematical zero. "Zero denotes nothing. But in India it was derived from the concept of shunya. Shunya means a sort of salvation," she said. "When all our desires are nullified, then we go to nirvana or shunya or total salvation."

In the modern world it is common to see religion and science as always in conflict. Yet in ancient India, one cannot untangle mathematics and mysticism.

You can listen to Alex Bellos' full 28 minute radio documentary on the topic at the BBC website.

Full Article: Nirvana By The Numbers

Altxerri Cave Paintings: Pushing Back Europe's History (even) Further

When the cave paintings in Altamira were first discovered in the XIXth century, there were many historians who labeled them as a hoax, scoffing at the notion that men of the Stone Age could have not only the intelligence, but also the artistic refinement to create images of such a life-like quality. Later, when the age of the paintings was finally confirmed, the famous painter Pablo Picasso visited the cave located in northern Spain & said “after Altamira, everything is decadence,” as a way to express his respects for the mastery of the anonymous artist(s) who decided to create a time-capsule of their natural environment.

Since then, even older cave paintings have been discovered throughout Europe, including the equally famous cave of Lascaux (France) & Chauvet, which with an age of 30-32,000 years were considered the oldest representation of pictorial art in Europe... until now.

A team of archeologists from the Cantabria University in Spain have just announced that the cave paintings in the Altxerri cave system --located in the Basque country, and originally discovered in 1962-- are approximately 39,000 years old, 3000 years older than Altamira. To give you a sense of perspective, that's the same number of years separating us from the biblical king David!

The investigation was launched in 2011 when Cantabria University members Aitor Ruiz and César González decided to concentrate on the upper Altxerri B gallery to date the paintings there. “It became immediately apparent that we were dealing with a completely independent grouping from the lower gallery,” noted Ruiz. It was then determined that a chronology for Altxerri B should be established. Diego Garate, a specialist in Upper Paleolithic cave art from the University of Toulouse, was brought on board.

As it was not possible to use the paintings for a direct dating – because they consist of non-organic material – the team employed other indicators such as bone fragments discovered in the gallery. A separate geological study showed that the mineral and other deposits in the cave, which had been sealed for thousands of years, were also different to those in the lower gallery, “which supports the dating of the paintings.”

Would this new discovery force us to push back the arrival of modern humans into the Old Continent, or does it simply indicate Cro-Magnons arrived to a level of sophistication we hadn't credited them with at a much early age?

...Or better yet: could these paintings be the work of those other humans inhabiting Europe, the 'brutish' Neanderthals?

All I know is that the tale of our origins is being edited & re-written more quickly than a soap opera. We've still got a lot to learn about the days of our (ancestors') lives.

PyramidLand: The Plan to Turn the Giza Pyramids into an Amusement Park

Great Pyramid Amusement Park Ride

Forget replacing the lost capstone on the Great Pyramid with a gold pyramidion to celebrate the rise of the Masonic New World Order. This sounds like an altogether much more sane plan:

Do you ever look at the ancient pyramids in Egypt and think, "Why isn't there a gigantic carnival ride on top of those?" Well, you wouldn't be alone. Because somebody asked that very question in 1931.

In a series of illustrations under the bold headline, "Mammoth Flying Swing to Give Bird's Eye Pyramid View," we see the pyramids as they could have been — the main attractions in Giza's own version of Disneyland.

Signed by Art Williamson in the June 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Invention magazine, the illustrations show three cars swirling around the top of a pyramid, driven by a huge electric motor. Judging from the pictures, it looks like would-be riders first had to get about two-thirds of the way up the pyramid. The thrill seekers then were supposed to board the ride by crossing a gangplank that gives me vertigo just looking at it.

More information and images at Gizmodo.

Link: The 1931 Plan To Turn The Pyramids Into an Amusement Park