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

Sphinx and the City - 360° Aerial Panoramas of the Giza Plateau

The Sphinx Stands Guard As Cairo Encroaches

Anybody that visits the Great Sphinx and pyramids at the Giza Plateau is usually shocked at how close these ancient monuments are to the city of Cairo, which literally stops at the gate of the plateau. In ths shot above, we see the Great Sphinx standing guard as 15-million-plus people go about their business immediately to its east.

The photo is a screenshot taken from a fantastic series of panoramas of the plateau, freely available to browse on the internet, provided by AirPano.com. The embedded version is a little flaky, so here's a direct link to the full page:

360° Aerial Panorama of the Giza Plateau

Make sure you full-screen the page for the full effect! For those with limited bandwidth, or who are viewing on mobile devices, you can choose other options ">at the entry page that I linked above.

There are some astounding views of various locations around the monuments of Giza - once you enter the panorama, which shows a fairly hazy view of the area around Khafre's pyramid (the '2nd' pyramid), you can then click on other locations to be taken to that view, including the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, and the Sphinx/Valley Temples.

How did AirPano collect these amazing panorama images? Just like the aliens that built the Giza pyramids, they used UFOs (or possibly remote-controlled drone-copters) to fly a panoramic camera up to certain points above the plateau in order to get the best possible view of these jaw-dropping structures. Below is a short video feature showing the copters in action - wish they shared more video, because it's a unique piece of footage when you fly up into the air from beside the Sphinx!

Enjoy! Just don't complain to me when you finish checking it all out and half the day has disappeared...

(via @Bennu)

Newton's Belief in Spirits May Have Led to the Theory of Gravity

Blake's Illustration of Newton

For those who would like to see irrationalism and magical thinking stamped out (*cough* Dawkins *cough*), here's a prime example of how silly black/white us vs them thinking is: Isaac Newton's theory of gravity may have arisen from his interest in the spirit world

[Newton'] belief in spirits and what the alchemists called active principles almost certainly allowed him to conceive gravity in the mathematical form that we still use today.

In Newton's time, the natural philosophers had turned their backs on astrology and with it, the idea that influences could simply leap across empty space. Instead impulses had to be transmitted through things touching one another. So, if there was a force coming from the Sun that moved the planets, then it had to do so through a medium.

Perhaps it was a fluid, driven to circulate by the rotation of the sun, which carried the planets around. This was the thinking of French philosopher René Descartes.

Yet Newton could not make the mechanical solution of Descartes work. The vortices simply could not reproduce the changes in speed of the planets as they approached the sun.

Alchemy offered a way out by having as a philosophical underpinning that non-material influences – spirits – existed. These needed no physical contact and could induce transformations or movement through the triggering of "active principles" within an object.

Primed to believe in these ideas, Newton discovered a simple, elegant mathematical equation that described the behaviour of gravity without the need for an intervening fluid. Gravity apparently worked across empty space. He called this principle "action at a distance" and instead of "spirit" began using the word "force" to better reflect its mathematical character.

His equation also reveals the "active principle" that governs an object's response to gravity. It is mass. With such direct analogies to spirits and active principles, Newton must surely have felt some sort of vindication for his alchemical beliefs.

The theory of gravity was so successful that it became one of the triggers for the Age of Enlightenment. Although hardly anyone now believes in the concept of alchemy, we do still believe that gravity can exert an influence across empty space. Engineers still use Newton's maths to launch satellites and send spacecraft to distant planets.

So was Sir Isaac a scientist or a sorcerer? In truth, he was a bit of both. And that was why he could succeed where others had failed.

I find it rather amusing that Richard Dawkins is a fan of the poetry of W.B. Yeats, considering the latter's inspiration in mysticism and occultism. Dawkins famously brushed that complication aside by saying "oh Yeats wrote a lot of pretty words; whether they mean anything is another matter." That's not as easily done when it comes to Newton I'd imagine...

BBC: Was Newton a Scientist or a Sorcerer?

Ancient Papyrus Refers to Wife of Jesus

Papyrus referring to wife of Jesus

Does the scrap of papyrus pictured above reveal that Jesus was married? Discovered by Karen L. King, a historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, the fragment of Coptic writing features a phrase never seen before: "Jesus said to them, ‘My wife ...’"

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

... The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday, Dr. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their conclusions.

Even with many questions unsettled, the discovery could reignite the debate over whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his wife and whether he had a female disciple. These debates date to the early centuries of Christianity, scholars say. But they are relevant today, when global Christianity is roiling over the place of women in ministry and the boundaries of marriage.

While this news will no doubt re-ignite the debate whether Jesus had a wife, King has no desire for her discovery to be lumped in the Da Vinci Code basket: "At least, don’t say this proves Dan Brown was right.” She also cautioned that the text should not be taken as proof that Jesus was actually married, given it was probably written a number of centuries after his time. The text was probably written centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early, historically reliable Christian literature is silent on the question, she said. According to King though, it does appear to show that there was at least an early Christian tradition that Jesus was married.

Other scholars have urged caution, including New Testament scholar Ben Witherington, who noted that the importance of the news might depend on your perspective:

[King] does have a dog in this hunt... She's an advocate for the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Judas, telling us of early Christian experiences of various kinds, particularly of the Gnostic kind... In view of the largely ascetic character of Gnosticism, it is likely that we are dealing with the 'sister-wife' phenomenon, and the reference is to a strictly spiritual relationship, which is close but does not involve sexual intimacy,

Me, I'm just waiting for the conspiracy theories, and hopefully a Twitter hashtag of "#JesusSaid to them, 'My wife...'", to fill us in on the rest of the sentence.

Link to download the paper.

Graham Hancock interviewed for New Dawn magazine

Grab yourself a beverage of choice, find a comfy chair, and enjoy Graham Hancock discuss everything from hidden history to lost civilisations, the origins of consciousness and altered states of being. The interview is by Andrew Gough for New Dawn magazine, and is over two hours long: I warned you about the comfy chair. It's a comprehensive interview, and Graham talks about things he's never publicly discussed before.

Graham will also be in Australia this October for the Origins of Consciousness Tour, along with Dennis McKenna and Mitch Schultz. So check the tour dates and capital cities, and snag yourself a ticket before they all sell out. Mitch is an honorary Australian, but it's a rare event for Graham to visit the land down under.

Previously on the Daily Grail:

Google Pyramid-View

Google Pyramid View

We've all been amazed at the way Google has been able to provide online images of nearly every street, in every city, via its Street View photography. But here's a cool little side-project: they've now included dozens of photo tours of ancient Mexican monuments - including Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza and Palenque - with the cooperation of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH):

Google collected the all-around views by having riders pedal camera-equipped tricycles around the Mexican sites, with INAH's cooperation. INAH said the photo project started two years ago. Thirty sites have been added to Google Street View so far, with the aim of having more than 80 sites online by the end of the year. Eventually, all 189 of the archaeological sites under INAH's custody will be cataloged, the institute said.

No word yet on whether any of the ancient pyramids' wi-fi data has been collected...

Full story and links at Cosmic Log

Ancient 'Fort' May Have Been Peruvian Version of Stonehenge

Aerial photograph of Chankillo

In the coastal desert of Peru lies a strange structure some 2300-years-old, consisting of what appears to be a fort atop a hill, but with a vertebrae-like line of 13 towers constructed on a raised area to its south-east.

The fort is odd from a military point of view because it would have been almost impossible to defend: it has numerous entrances and no source of water inside. Then there are the towers, which are several hundred metres from the hilltop fort, lie in a straight line and serve no discernible defensive role.

So in 2007, archaeologists put forward a new interpretation. They suggested the site may have been a place of worship and a solar observatory, like Stonehenge, rather than a fort.

Their main evidence was that the towers line up with the sunrise on important dates such as summer and winter solstice.

Today, Amelia Sparavigna at the Politecnico di Torino in Italy adds some evidence using a program developed for calculating the position of the sun in the sky to determine how much sunlight should fall on solar panels.

According to Sparavigna, "the observing points are situated so that, on the solstices, the sunrises and sunsets line up with the towers at either end of the line, suggesting that this ancient civilization had a solar calendar". She goes on to suggest that this method of observing the sun's path during the year may have been used to help determine the optimum time for planting crops.

Ironically, Sparavigna also notes that the ancient archaeological site is now sadly under threat from new construction work planned by...agricultural companies.

Download the paper from Arxiv.org

Tattoos of a 2500-Year-Old Siberian Princess

2500 year old tattoo on a Siberian Princess

Just in case you thought getting a tattoo made you a cool, hip thing: do you want to be like your great, great, great ... great grandma?

The intricate patterns of 2,500-year-old tattoos - some from the body of a Siberian 'princess' preserved in the permafrost - have been revealed in Russia.

The remarkable body art includes mythological creatures and experts say the elaborate drawings were a sign of age and status for the ancient nomadic Pazyryk people, described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.

Full story at the Daily Mail

'Lost Pyramids' of Egypt Found Using Google Earth?

Lost Pyramids of Egypt in Google Earth

Does this Google Earth image show a previously undiscovered ancient Egyptian pyramid complex? Satellite archaeology researcher Angela Micol has found two such complexes in her scans of Google Earth imagery, and has passed them on to Egyptologists for possible verification.

One of the complex sites contains a distinct, four-sided, truncated, pyramidal shape that is approximately 140 feet in width. This site contains three smaller mounds in a very clear formation, similar to the diagonal alignment of the Giza Plateau pyramids.

The second possible site contains four mounds with a larger, triangular-shaped plateau. The two larger mounds at this site are approximately 250 feet in width, with two smaller mounds approximately 100 feet in width. This site complex is arranged in a very clear formation with the large plateau, or butte, nearby in a triangular shape with a width of approximately 600 feet.

The sites have been verified as undiscovered by Egyptologist and pyramid expert Nabil Selim. Nabil’s discoveries include the pyramid called Sinki at Abydos and the Dry Moat surrounding the Step pyramid Complex at Saqqara. Nabil has stated the smaller 100 foot “mounds”, at one of the proposed complex sites, are a similar size as the 13th Dynasty Egyptian pyramids, if a square base can be discovered.

Next Steps

The Egyptian sites have been sent to Egyptologists and researchers for further investigation and “ground truthing”. Angela has stated, “The images speak for themselves. It’s very obvious what the sites may contain but field research is needed to verify they are, in fact, pyramids and evidence should be gathered to determine their origins. It is my hunch there is much more to these sites and with the use of Infrared imagery, we can see the extent of the proposed complexes in greater detail.”

Full story at Archaeology News Network; see also the Google Earth Anomalies website for more imagery.

(via @VinBrown)

Update: Google Earth Tour of Mysterious Locations

Evidence for Earliest Modern Humans Pushed Back By 20,000 Years

The orthodox view of the emergence of modern human culture has received a major jolt, with new evidence from South Africa pushing the 'official' date back some 20,000 years - twice as far back as previously thought (to 42,000BCE).

The earliest unambiguous evidence for modern human behaviour has been discovered by an international team of researchers in a South African cave. The artefacts are near identical to modern-day tools of the indigenous African San bush people.

Although 75,000-year-old evidence for human innovation has previously been found in southern Africa, the meaning of these artefacts has been difficult to interpret.

"These were things that seem symbolic, but there's no direct link to those people. We don't know what they were thinking," explained co-author Dr Lucinda Backwell of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

These new discoveries, however, resemble modern day tools used by San hunter-gatherers so clearly as to remove any doubt as to their purpose.

"You can hold [one of the] ancient artefacts in your left hand and a modern artefact in your right and they're exactly the same. It's incredible… the functions are very, very clear," Dr Backwell told the BBC.

Read the full story at the BBC.

Five Men Stand Beneath an Atomic Bomb Explosion

"What you guys doing?"

"Oh nothing, just waiting FOR AN ATOMIC BOMB TO EXPLODE ABOVE OUR HEADS!"

On July 19, 1957, five men stood at Ground Zero of an atomic test that was being conducted at the Nevada Test Site. This was the test of a 2KT (kiloton) MB-1 nuclear air-to-air rocket launched from an F-89 Scorpion interceptor. The nuclear missile detonated 10,000 ft above their heads.

A reel-to-reel tape recorder was present to record their experience. You can see and hear the men react to the shock wave moments after the detonation.

Read more about it at NPR.