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

New Full-Length Graham Hancock Video on the Upcoming 'Magician of the Gods'

As we've mentioned previously, our good friend Graham Hancock is working on a new book, Magicians of the Gods, the sequel to Fingerprints of the Gods, to be published in late 2015 or early 2016. This video of a presentation Graham gave at Saint James’s Church, Piccadilly in 2014 reviews some of the key findings in 'Fingerprints' and shares some of the new evidence of the lost civilisation that will go into 'Magicians'. (Graham also gives a short introduction to the video lecture pointing out some of the extra research he's done since this talk was given)

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Ancient Maps Reveal a Thread of Truth Weaved Through Antiquity

Dulcert 1339 map

Have you ever gotten directions from a friend, to a place you’ve never been?  Of course you have; everyone has.  Which means that we’ve all been given, at some point or another, a crudely drawn map, intended to guide us along the landscape to our desired destination.

Now imagine trying to make an accurate map of an entire coast line.  Or of entire continents.  Or the whole world!  It’s a pretty massive undertaking.  The map maker doesn’t even have the benefit of ever having travelled those coastlines and country boundaries.  He or she is flying blind.  So how do they do it?

As discussed previously, mapmaking – or cartography – is a millennium old art.  People have been trying to create a visual representation of the areas in which they travel since before the 7th millennium BCE.  The oldest surviving maps are the Babylonian World Maps of the 9th century BCE, and, while beautiful, they aren’t exactly known for their accuracy (according to these maps the world consists of only Babylon on the Euphrates and Assyria).  But as time went on, mapmakers got better at creating consistently accurate drawings of their surroundings.  They developed universal systems for measuring distances, plotting directions, and estimating the shape of coastlines and continents.  Those systems are as complicated as they are useful.

But it’s not like every map ever made is truly an original work.  Most maps, especially charts out of antiquity, are reproductions or expansions of earlier maps.  Experience with a given chart would determine just how accurate it was, and once the most accurate among the available charts was found, it would then be used as the standard for the area it described.  From there, cartographers could copy it and use it as a component in a larger chart that included the region it depicted.

There are some famous charts, namely the Piri Re’is and the Dulcert 1339 map.  In both cases these are portolan charts, meaning they are nautical maps that use compass bearings as the foundation of their measurement system.  The Piri Re’is chart is widely considered to be the most accurate portolan chart of the 16th century.  It’s a military world map that was created by an Ottoman admiral and cartographer, after whom the chart was named.  It is unique in that it is the earliest chart to show accurate depictions of the coastlines of Africa, as well as the positions of several Caribbean islands, such as the Canary Islands.  It also shows an astonishingly accurate depiction of the east coast of South America, even going so far as to position the new world correctly with reference to the west coast of Africa.

It’s also thought unique for another rather compelling reason…it apparently shows an accurate depiction of the coast of Queen Maud Land.  What is Queen Maud Land, you ask?  Well, Queen Maud Land is the northern edge of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Now, this wouldn’t be as wondrous as it is, were it not for the fact that the Antarctica Peninsula hadn’t been discovered or explored until 1820 at the earliest.  And for the fact that the coastline depicted is currently under a few hundred feet of ice.

So, um…how did an Ottoman admiral know about it, much less accurately draw it on a map in 1513, just twenty-one years following Christopher Columbus’ bumbling discovery of the Americas?

Piri Reis World Map

According to scholars, the Dulcert 1339 portolan chart (mentioned above) – which is an early Medieval chart of the Mediterranean ocean and surrounding lands, and which is thought to have been created by a classical Italian cartographer named Angelino Dulcert (known alternately as Angelino de Dalorto and/or Angelino de Dulceto) – seems to show a reasonably accurate representation of Australia, of all things.  To remind you, Australia wasn’t discovered, according to our history textbooks, until 1606, but yet, the landmass of Australia was included in this map, drawn by an Italian, and in other early European maps three hundred years before that.

How is that possible?

There are those, namely the famous Finnish-Swedish historian of cartography Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, who believe that these early maps are not of the medieval period at all, but are copies of charts from much, much older cartographic traditions.  He analysed the mathematics of these maps, and others, and came to the conclusion that their content, accuracy, and structure was notably superior to the charts of classical scholars such as Ptolemy and Eratosthenes, but that they employed the same elements in their construction.[1]

Nordenskiöld isn’t alone though, as you might imagine.  From his work has sprung strong argument, from people such as Arlington Mallery and Charles Hapgood, that these maps are evidence of an advanced culture having circumnavigated the globe long before Ferdinand Magellan.[2]  Of course, with such a fantastical claim comes the scorn of the academic community, and their criticisms are not without merit (especially when you include Erik von Daniken as an ally of Hapgood and Mallery), but none yet have fully refuted Hapgood’s nor Nordenskiöld’s analyses.

So is there a middle ground?  Can we not accept that there is more to these maps than modern cartographers want to admit, while not yet asserting that they prove the case for a pre-historic civilization?  As mentioned, maps from antiquity are almost always copies of earlier maps, enhanced and expanded, correcting the mistakes of previous generations.  Piri Re’is and Dulcert 1339 are no exception…the question is from what older maps did the Ottoman and Italian cartographers copy their greatest works?

 


[1] Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, Facsimile-Atlas to the Early History of Cartography with Reproductions of the Most Important Maps Printed in the XV and XVI Centuries, trans. Johan Adolf Ekelöf (Stockholm, 1889; reprinted, New York: Dover, 1973).

[2] Charles H. Hapgood. Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age. Illinois 1997, Adventures Unlimited Press (Originally 1966).

 

Listen to the 3000-Year-Old Trumpets of King Tutankhamun

Among the treasures found when Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb was opened in 1923 were two ornate trumpets, one made of silver and the other of bronze. In 1939, BBC radio broadcast the sound of the trumpets to listeners around the world. And, thanks to the internet, now you can too. Hopefully their sound doesn't summon up any ancient Egyptian demons to enact foul curses upon those listening. Hey, wait a minute, BBC broadcast the sound in 1939...

(via @MattStaggs)

Are These Amazing Underwater Structures Evidence for a Lost Civilisation?

Graham Hancock at Yonaguni

Our good friend Graham Hancock is currently 'periscope down' in writer's terms, submerged in the first stages of writing the 'sequel' to his massive bestseller Fingerprints of the Gods, currently under the working title of Magicians of the Gods. As an early piece of provocation, however, he's released the short video below showing him submerged in a different way - at strange underwater sites that some have suggested were shaped by human hands, and which were above water during the last Ice Age.

Whether they are natural or man-made, one thing is certain - these are spectacular dive sites. For those who might want to dive them one day, the locations featured in the video are: Kerama (Aka Jima), Yonaguni, Chatan and Aguni.

Natural or man-made? You decide. (Point of information. Sea level rose just over 120 metres - 400 feet - at the end of the last Ice Age. All the structures seen here would have been above water until about 12,000 years ago).

You can learn more about Graham's work at his website, and I also suggest liking his Facebook page and/or following him on Twitter.

Evidence Mounts for Early Greek Celestial Expertise

 

Greek wine cup or star chart?

It is often rightly said that the birthplace of science is ancient Greece.  Our best and brightest minds today are said to be standing on the shoulders of giants.  That’s usually a nod to the humbled genius of Sir Isaac Newton who uttered something similar in a letter to Robert Hooke in 1676.  Though we all know Newton was not of the humble sort.

That famous phrase, which now adorns the cover of Stephen Hawking’s anthology of classical science papers, is correctly attributed to Bernard of Chartres, a French philosopher and genius in his own right:

“We are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants, and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter. And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants.”

One can certainly see why this sentiment has been adopted by those wishing to give credit (or some credit) to their predecessors.  And when it comes to the knowledge we have in the realm of science, it cannot be denied that much of it is due to the incredible insights of the classical Greek Masters.  Those masters, it seems, actually worked out more about the world in which we live, than most are currently aware.

There’s a cup, currently on display at the Lamia Archaeological Museum in Greece.  It’s not an ordinary cup by modern standards, but it wasn’t really thought to be all that special either.  It’s just an ancient, two-handled wine cup with stylized animals artfully dancing around its surface.  Of course, it has historic value, it is roughly 2,600 years old after all, but there are better examples of Greek pottery on display in that same museum.

This thinking has just taken a drastic detour though…

This cup, the style of which is known as a skyphos, is currently being studied with great interest, as a possible origin, or at least one of the first known stellar calendars.  Up until recently, this particular cup was thought to depict simple, random animals frolicking around the rim, but new analysis by John Barnes, a classical archaeology doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri, suggests that it may in fact be much more than that.

Barnes recently spoke with Live Science magazine and offered an enticing look at his research.  He says that the animals seen on this cup are actually fairly accurate depictions of constellations, showing a progression over the period of perhaps an entire year.  According to Barnes, it’s unlikely to be an actual star chart or celestial calendar, and is probably more of an attempt to represent time in a more general way, using constellations as the foundation.

This is perhaps not immediately as impressive to you as it is to others, since we’ve long thought the Greeks famous for their celestial knowledge base, and in fact most of today’s known constellations were named in the classical Greek period.  If correct in his conclusions, which have been published in the science journal Hesperia[1], Barnes claims that the impact would be revolutionary, simply because it may mean that many other examples of pottery and Greek art that have previously been thought to have only random or simple stylizations, are in fact examples of the earliest star charts in the history of mankind.

"If we go back and re-evaluate other animal scenes that might have been originally categorized as hunting scenes or animal friezes, then maybe we can find more [depictions of constellations] and get a greater understanding of how the ancient Greeks viewed the night sky," Barnes told Live Science.

Antykithera Mechanism

This is an incredible insight, but in light of other recent realisations about Ancient Greek artefacts, it brings an even larger issue further into focus.

A study recently conducted by researchers from the National University of Quilmes (Argentina), has caused quite a stir in the archaeological, historical, and fringe science circles.  This study focuses on the origin and construction of the famed Antykithera Mechanism[2].

Called, by some, the first computer in existence, the Antykithera Mechanism is an enigma.  First found in an ocean wreck off the coast of the small island of Antykithera (hence the name), it sat unexamined in a drawer in the same museum in which the above skyphos is on display.  No one had any idea how important this strange artefact is to our understanding of history.

Once it was rediscovered – so to speak – and analysis began, researchers found that it is in fact a highly complex machine, with gears and dials and delicate inscriptions that seem to match up with star alignments.  This led everyone (or nearly everyone) to believe that it’s an ancient sextant or star map.  The problem is that it’s been dated, through radiometric decay measurements, to have originated around 100-150 BCE.  That, in and of itself, was a problem, as it was believed that no one of that era could have conceived of, much less built such a device.

The idea that it had some purpose related to using the stars for navigation at sea, has slowly come to be accepted as fact, or as close to fact as we can get.  Until, that is, this new research threw all the accepted knowledge out the window.

The Argentinian researchers have been scouring the device for clues as to its origin and age, and they struck upon an incredible bit of information.  It seems that a dial on the back of the artefact contains an inscription that clearly corresponds to a solar eclipse that we know happened on May 12, 205 BCE, easily 100 years earlier than previously thought possible.  That alone tells us that whoever made it had not only the technical skill to create something so mechanically advanced that nothing like it was seen for at least another 500-1000 years, but they also had celestial knowledge that is far more advanced than anything known in the the entirety of Greek antiquity.

Unless, of course, we consider John Barnes ideas about the skyphos.  When we do that, it seems plausible that what we think we know about Greek celestial knowledge amounts to jack…well you know.

These findings, both of which are still under a great deal of scrutiny, could ultimately lead to a complete reorganising of our understanding of not only what the Greeks knew, but when they knew it and what they did with it.

Exciting things are on the horizon.

 

[1] Barnes, John T. Asteras Eipein: An Archaic View of the Constellations from Halai.  Hesperia (2014), Volume 83, Issue 2.  Page(s): 257-276 http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2972/hesperia.83.2.0257

[2] Carman, Christián C.; Evans, James. On the epoch of the Antikythera mechanism and its eclipse predictor. Archive for History of Exact Sciences November 2014, Volume 68, Issue 6, pp 693-774 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00407-014-0145-5

Ancient Humans Carved Geometric Art Half a Million Years Ago

Earliest Engraving

After analysing a collection of 166 freshwater mussel shells found at Trinil, on the banks of the Bengawan Solo river in East Java - the site of the famous 'Java Man' find in 1886, researchers have come to a stunning conclusion:

Using an electron microscope, scientists found a zigzag set of grooves incised into one shell. The marks push back the date for the earliest known geometric engravings by our ancestors by at least 300,000 years.

According to one of the researchers, Wil Roebroeks of Lieden University in The Netherlands, "the simple zigzag on the shell is the earliest engraving known thus far in the history of humankind. But: we have no clue why somebody made it half a million years ago, and we explicitly refrain from speculating on it" in terms of art or symbolism".

Link: Oldest engraving rewrites view of human history

Abstract: Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving

The Only Pie Graph About Pyramids You Will Ever Need

Pyramid Pie Chart

Looking for a better understanding of ancient pyramids? Be sure to consult this handy pie chart for all you need to know...

(via @andrewducker)

Archaeologists Uncover the World's Largest Ancient Stone Block at Baalbek

Trilithon stone at Baalbek

The above image, of the “Hajjar al-Hibla” (Stone of the Pregnant Woman) in the quarry at Baalbek, Lebanon, is one of my favourite historical pictures ever. The massive monolith has widely been regarded as the heaviest stone block ever cut by humans, with an estimated weight of around 1250 tons.

Little did we know, however, that a bigger monolith lurked nearby. In fact, right beside it. Archaeologists have excavated another block beside the Hajjar al-Hibla, that dwarfs it, clocking in at an almost unimaginable 1650 tons:

Below the “Hajjar al-Hibla” and directly beside of it, there is another megalithic stone block, even bigger than the first one: it measures ca. 19,60x6x5,5m. In order to determine the exact height, the trenches should be extended in one of the next archaeological expeditions at the site. The second block weighs 1,650 tons. Archaeologists concluded that the block was meant to be transported without being cut. This means, that it is the biggest known ancient stone block.

And here it is, lying to the immediate right of its more well-known sibling.

Largest monolith in the world

I'm calling it.

Is the Phaistos Disc an Homage to Motherhood?

The Phaistos Disc

Is the Phaistos Disc an homage to motherhood?  Academia is undecided.

Discovered in 1908 in the Minoan Palace-site dedicated to Phaistos – a Minoan deity – by Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier, the Phaistos disc has been an enigma for more than 100 years.  Oft written about, rarely understood, never truly deciphered, the Phaistos disc is a remnant of a civilisation long dead, a civilisation connected most intimately to classical Greece, and possibly even…Atlantis.

There are those who believe, with some credibility, that the great Atlantean society was in fact the Minoan peoples situated on the volcanic islands of Santorini and Crete.  Some researchers claim that the massive volcanic eruption centered in Santorini’s Thera, was the very same cataclysmic event described in Plato’s Criteas and Timeas, the event which caused the demise of the so-called island of Atlantis.  Details are scant, of course, since all of the modern conjecture about Atlantis is based on best guesses and ancient legends, but of the many Atlantis theories, the Minoan eruption theory is among the more believable.

Of course, all of that is moot, as it pertains to the Phaistos Disc, if we cannot understand what it says, and thus far we cannot.

The Phaistos Disc, much like other linguistic puzzles – such as the Voynich Manuscript – has been the focus of much study and debate, and until recently all theories about its content were on relatively equal footing.  To date there have been no less than 23 decipherment attempts, all of which claimed some measure of success.  Both linguistic and symbolic interpretations have been put forward, but none has offered any sign of a congruent, predictable language or system of communication…until now.

On October 20 of this year, Associate Director and Erasmus Coordinator of the Technological Education Institute of Crete, Gareth Owens, presented his own findings and theory about the meaning of the cryptic symbols imprinted on either side of the disc.  Owens claims to have deciphered most of the symbols and describes it as “the first Minoan CD-ROM featuring a prayer to a mother”.  He identifies several words emerging from the symbols, most pertaining to motherhood, and believes that it is an homage to a Minoan deity connected to fertility, pregnancy, and birth.

Owens’ confidence in his interpretation, which was a joint effort in conjunction with linguist and Professor of Phonetics at Oxford, Dr. John Coleman, lead him to claim that the Phaistos Disc can now be used as a Rosetta Stone for the ancient Minoan language.

The Phaistos Disc

Though, as with any ancient artifact of this nature, his theory isn’t accepted by all.  Researcher and expert on symbolism and ancient language traditions, and author of the book The Decipherment of the Phaistos Disc, Dilip Rajeev disagrees with Owens, calling his interpretation “implausible”.

The basis for this objection is in the assertion that the disc is not an alphabetic text, as Owen’s suggests, but is instead decipherable as a body of symbolic text, similar to traditional Chinese kanji.  The difference, according to Rajeev, is that symbolic characters depend on association with other characters to derive meaning.  For instance, when one symbol appears on its own, it can have a particular meaning, but when paired with other symbols that meaning changes, sometimes drastically.  In alphabetical texts, such associations are much less important.

When viewed this way, Owens’ interpretation of the disc is certainly called into question.  Though we’ve all heard these claims and counter claims before.  You’ll recall that the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript has been thought solved several times too, though in each case, as with Phaistos Disc, the claims are inevitably marred by competing theories and minor details in disagreement with each other.  It may be that these artefacts are truly indecipherable, after all, they’ve held their secrets this long.  No doubt though, researchers will continue to chip away at the meaning behind the symbols, and may, eventually, provide us with definitive explanations for these mysteries.

Breaking Rocks: Great Pyramid Vandals Get 5 Years Prison

Vandalism in the Great Pyramid

Late last year we covered the story of two German 'amateur archaeologists' who had chipped some stone off the wall in the relieving chambers of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, with the goal of dating it to see if the orthodox timeline for the pyramid's construction held up. I noted at the time that despite their lack of credentials, the pair seemed to have official permission to do some research within the pyramid, and that heads might roll as a result.

Fast forward a year, and that is exactly what has happened:

An Egyptian court sentenced three Germans and six Egyptians to five years jail on Tuesday for stealing fragments of a pharaonic artifact from Cairo's Great Pyramid, a judicial source said.

A court in Giza, south of the capital, sentenced in absentia three Germans -- who had claimed they were researchers -- for stealing pieces of an ancient scroll bearing the name of the Pharaoh Khufu, as well as rock samples, the source said.

Six Egyptians, including three employees of the antiquities ministry, two pyramid guards and the director of a travel agency, were also jailed for five years for aiding the robbery, the source said.

I'm not sure what this "ancient scroll bearing the name of Khufu" is though - unless there is some confusion and they are referring to Khufu's name being written on the stone wall of the relieving chamber.

And the rolling heads may get bigger in the near future as well, with Zahi Hawass now under investigation over claims he helped the German vandals.

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