Tag Archives | Ancient History

Ancient Egyptians Used Wooden Sleds to Move Pyramid Stones and Overcame Problem of Friction With a Simple But Clever Trick: Wet Sand.

Gizah Pyramids. Photo: Ricardo Liberato (CC)

Gizah Pyramids. Photo: Ricardo Liberato (CC)

The mystery of how the pyramids were built at Giza, Egypt, has fascinated generation after generation of visitors. A new study purports to reveal the simple truth of it, reports the Washington Post:

Few have traveled to the pyramids of Egypt and not wondered how an ancient civilization without modern technology could have constructed structures so large they can be viewed from space. Some have theorized they were built inside out.

On the flakier side, some say aliens did it.

Perhaps the most confounding mystery of all involves how incredibly large stones made their way to the middle of the desert without massive mechanical assistance. No camel, even the Egyptian kind, is that strong.

The truth, researchers at the University of Amsterdam announced this week in a study published in the journal Physical Review Letters, may actually be quite simple. It has long been believed that Egyptians used wooden sleds to haul the stone, but until now it hasn’t been entirely understood how they had overcome the problem of friction. It amounts to nothing more, scientists say, than a “clever trick.”

They likely wet the sand.

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Jesus’s Wife Manuscript Genuine

Papyrus fragment: front. Karen L. King 2012

Papyrus fragment: front. Karen L. King 2012

A couple of years ago Harvard University Divinity professor Karen L. King caused a furore in certain circles by revealing an ancient papyrus fragment that actually refers to Jesus having a wife. The Boston Globe now reports that the papyrus checks out and is not a forgery:

New scientific tests have turned up no evidence of modern forgery in a text written on ancient Egyptian papyrus that refers to Jesus as being married, according to a long-awaited article to be published Thursday in the Harvard Theological Review.

The findings support the argument of Harvard professor Karen L. King that the controversial text, the first-known explicit reference to a married Jesus, is almost certainly an authentic document.

The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” was introduced to the world by King at a conference in Rome 18 months ago. The announcement made headlines around the world, and many of King’s academic peers, as well as the Vatican newspaper, swiftly dismissed it as a fake.

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Why Everyone from the Mormons to the Muslim Brotherhood is Desperate for a Piece of Tutankhamun

Buste de Toutânkhamon (musée du Caire Egypte) (1815597310)We can’t get enough of magical Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. After telling us how Mormons want to posthumously convert Tutankhamun to their religion, Jo Marchant writes at Medium:

…The possibility that Mormon researchers were trying to convert the ancients was a particular, peculiar threat to Egypt’s sense of self, but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t just the Mormons that the Egyptians were worried about: it was all foreigners.

In 2000, Sakuji Yoshimura, the respected director of the Institute of Egyptology at Waseda University in Japan, secured the permission of Egypt’s antiquities service to test Tutankhamun’s DNA. He hoped to determine the king’s lineage by comparing his genetic code to that of several other royal mummies thought to be his relations. But Yoshimura’s project, too, was cancelled, reportedly, just an hour before he was due to take his samples in the Valley of the Kings. The excuse given by the authorities was brief and vague: security reasons.

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The Great Forgetting

Photo: JLantzy

Photo: JLantzy

Lest we forget our once and former culture … Via Deep Ecology Hub:

The Great Forgetting refers to the wealth of knowledge that our culture lost when we adopted our new civilized lifestyle. The knowledge that allowed indigenous cultures to survive, the knowledge that we had once also been tribal and the understanding that we were but one mere culture of thousands. All of this disappeared in a few short generations.

The Great Forgetting accounts for an enourmous cultural collapse as once tribal people found themselves in a new and strange mass centralized society. New beliefs, new ways of life rushed into this cultural vaccuum to fill the void. But without being tested by natural selection over thousands of years this new culture was evolutionarily unstable.

It is only recently that the Great Forgetting has been exposed. Understanding it holds the key to making sense of our destructive culture.

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Prototype For Noah’s Ark Was Round Per 4,000-Year-Old Tablet

Mesopotamian tablet at British Museum

The Mesopotamian tablet at British Museum

So might there be some truth the the biblical story of Noah, his ark and the animals entering two by two? A 4000-year-old stone tablet that’s just gone on display at the British Museum suggests exactly that. Oh, and the ark was round, per this report from AP:

It was a vast boat that saved two of each animal and a handful of humans from a catastrophic flood.

But forget all those images of a long vessel with a pointy bow – the original Noah’s Ark, new research suggests, was round.

A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia – modern-day Iraq – reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle – as well as the key instruction that animals should enter “two by two.”

The tablet went on display at the British Museum on Friday, and soon engineers will follow the ancient instructions to see whether the vessel could actually have sailed.

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The Crumbling Ancient Texts That May Hold Life-Saving Cures

Loc timbuktu manuscripts amm0001rsAstonishing lost medical science being unearthed from ancient texts smuggled out of Timbuktu to avoid Al-Qaeda? It may sound like the plot of a Dan Brown potboiler but it appears to be true based on this first hand report by Amy Maxmen who went to Mali for Nautilus:

…Subjects in the collections, spanning the 13th through 17th century, include the Koran, Sufism, philosophy, law, medicine, astronomy, and more. Haidara stresses the need for climate-controlled safe-houses for the manuscripts, so that academics can begin to study the books to learn about African history. He thinks the books might also contain information about cures for maladies that persist today. “Every book has answers, and if you analyze them you can learn solutions,” he says. “Everything that exists now, existed before now.” One prime example of this constancy is a plague that has afflicted humans at least since ancient times and currently kills approximately 1.2 million people per year: malaria.

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King Tut’s Mummified Erection May Provide Angle On Ancient Religious Conflict

800px-Howard_Carter_in_the_King_Tutankhamen's_tomb

Pic: Harry Burton (PD)

King Tutankhamun’s father was Ahkenaten, who among other things instituted a new heliocentric religion that led to the persecution of Egypt’s priestly class. Tut (incidentally, my favorite honky) rolled back much of his father’s radical changes, apparently something the priests wished him to continue in death.

Via HuffPost:

Egypt’s King Tutankhamun was embalmed in an unusual way, including having his penis mummified at a 90-degree angle, in an effort to combat a religious revolution unleashed by his father, a new study suggests.

The pharaoh was buried in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings without a heart (or a replacement artifact known as a heart scarab); his penis was mummified erect; and his mummy and coffins were covered in a thick layer of black liquid that appear to have resulted in the boy-king catching fire.

These anomalies have received both scholarly and media attention in recent years, and a new paper in the journal Études et Travaux by Egyptologist Salima Ikram, a professor at the American University in Cairo, proposes a reason why they, and other Tutankhamun burial anomalies, exist.

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Happy Saturnalia To All!

SaturnaliaA celebration dear to the hearts of the Disinformation team at this time of year is Saturnalia, one of the most popular Roman festivals. It was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of social roles, in which slaves and masters ostensibly switched places, with expectantly humorous results. Saturnalia was introduced around 217 BC to raise citizen morale after a crushing military defeat. Originally celebrated for a day, on December 17th, its popularity saw it grow until it became a week-long extravaganza, ending on the 23rd. Our favorite exposition of Saturnalia has long been the Electric Sheep comic strip, no longer easily available on the web, but we dug in the crates and are pleased to bring it to you. We did find it here and in a video created from the original website posted to Funny or Die:
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Genetic Analysis Suggests Ancient Humans Interbred Extensively Neanderthals, Denisovans And An “Unknown Population”

neanderthalNature hints that modern humans have a mysterious X factor ancestor:

Genome analysis suggests there was interbreeding between modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and an unknown archaic population. Updated genome sequences from two extinct relatives of modern humans 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 member of an archaic human group called the Denisovans, were presented on 18 November at a meeting on ancient DNA at the Royal Society in London. The results suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet-unknown human ancestor from Asia.

All modern humans whose ancestry originates outside of Africa owe about 2% of their genome to Neanderthals. Certain populations living in Oceania, such as Papua New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals, share about 4% of their DNA with Denisovans.

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Ancient Hunting Spear Predates Humans By 85,000 Years

spearDo the origins of civilization on Earth reach back significantly farther than we have realized? Discovery reports:

Remains of the oldest known stone-tipped throwing spears, described in a new paper, are so ancient that they actually predate the earliest known fossils for our species by 85,000 years.

There are a couple possible implications, and both are mind-blowing. The first is that our species could be much older than previously thought, which would forever change the existing human family tree.

The second, and more likely at this point, is that a predecessor species to ours was extremely crafty and clever, making sophisticated tools long before Homo sapiens emerged.

The new paper, published in the latest PLoS ONE, focuses on the newly identified stone-tipped spears, which date to 280,000 years ago. They were found at an Ethiopian Stone Age site known as Gademotta.

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