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

Document Suggesting That Jesus Had a Wife is Proven to be Authentic

'Jesus wife' papyrus

Dating tests performed on a controversial piece of papyrus which suggests that Jesus had a wife have found that, contrary to claims of a hoax, it is indeed an ancient document:

Since Harvard professor of divinity Karen L. King publicized the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” in 2012, scientists and theologians have fiercely debated the authenticity of the fragment — the only known papyrus containing the words “Jesus said to them, my wife.” Biblical scholars have argued that the 1- by 3-inch chunk of papyrus is modern, “oddly written” and a “clumsy forgery.” But results from recent chemical and handwriting analyses say otherwise.

...Scientists used a technique called micro-Raman spectroscopy, which measures the way objects scatter photons from a laser, to determine the chemical composition of the ink used to write the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” The chemical composition of the ink dated back to between the sixth and ninth centuries, or earlier, and matched other samples from the same time period.

A second study examined the fragment’s handwriting to verify its authenticity. King, at Harvard Divinity School, weighed all the evidence and concluded that the fragment is likely a product of early Christians, not a forgery. The findings were presented in a series of studies published Thursday in the Harvard Theological Review.

Note that this does not necessarily prove that Jesus was married, but it certainly provides additional evidence for those wanting to build such a case (though if you're a fiction writer who think s novel based around that idea could be a bestseller, you're about a decade late...).

Ancient Mummy Has Tattoo of an Angel on Her Inner Thigh

1300-year-old Tattooed Sudanese Mummy

New research is revealing the secrets of ancient mummies of the British Museum. Using CAT scanners and infra-red reflectography, new details about the mummies' lives have been uncovered, such as the angelic tattoo found on the inner thigh of a 1300-year-old Sudanese woman:

One of the mummies, whose remains were found just seven years ago, was so well preserved that archaeologists could almost make out the tattoo on her skin on the inner thigh of her right leg with the naked eye. Infra-red technology helped define it more clearly.

The woman, aged between 20 and 35, had been buried wrapped in a linen and woollen cloth and her remains had mummified in the dry heat. The tattoo has been deciphered by curators and spells out in ancient Greek – M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael.

The owner of the tattoo was a woman who died in about AD 700 and lived in a Christian community on the banks of the Nile.

The tattoo represents the symbol of the Archangel Michael, who features in both the Old and New Testaments. The symbol has previously been found in ancient churches and on stone tablets, but never before in the form of a tattoo.

“You can see her tattoo really clearly using infra red reflectography,” said Dr Antoine, “The tattoo on her right inner thigh represents a monogram that spells Michael in ancient Greek.

“She is the first evidence of a tattoo from this period. This is a very rare find.”

Link: 1300 year-old mummy and her intimate tattoo

Archaeologists Discover 9000-Year-Old 'Wand' Near Thirty Decapitated Bodies

9000-year-old 'wand' carved with human faces

Archaeologists have discovered a 9,000-year-old 'wand' with two human faces engraved on it in southern Syria, near a burial site where 30 headless skeletons had been previously discovered:

The item, made of cow bone, is thought to date from the late 9th millennium BC. Archaeologists excavated it from Tell Qarassa, an Early Neolithic site. This is among the few archaeological sites not damaged in the fighting in Syria, which on Saturday marked its third anniversary.

The wand was found near a burial site, where 30 headless skeletons were discovered previously. Archaeologists say the findings shed light on the rituals of people who lived in the Neolithic period. Other findings at the site indicate that its inhabitants in the Neolithic period were some of the world's first farmers.

...The cow-bone wand, found by archaeologists during digs at Tell Qarassa in 2007 and 2009, was possibly used in a burial ritual, archaeologists believe."This small bone object from a funerary layer can be related to monumental statuary of the same period in the southern Levant and south-east Anatolia that probably depicted powerful supernatural beings," the experts said.

Link: Archaeologists in Syria find ancient 'wand' engraved with human faces

"Not Fit to Be Printed": The Suppressed Alchemical Papers of the Great Scientist Sir Isaac Newton

William Blake's Painting of Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton's influence on the modern scientific worldview is profound, and despite a paradigm change in physics a century ago through the discoveries of the quantum world, many people still see the world through the prism (no pun intended) of 'Newtonian' physics. Indeed, that scientific philosophy has now become synonymous with a purely mechanical cosmos, stripped of superstition, magic, and even the impact of consciousness, via the loss of free will. It is a worldview, however, that may have horrified Newton himself.

When the great scientist died in 1727, he left behind him a substantial estate, including a library with nearly 1800 books and a large number of manuscripts. He did not, however, leave behind a will. After much debate and argument, it was decided that the manuscripts would be examined by Dr. Thomas Pellet, a member of the Royal Society, with the intention to publish and sell them. Once Pellet had looked over the papers though, the idea of releasing them publicly quickly receded - in the end, only one out of eighty-one items was published. The rest were tagged “Not fit to be Printed”:

Many of these manuscripts were of a theological nature. Theology as such was of course not an issue, but, on the contrary, an asset: After all, Newton was one of the true defenders of the faith against popish plots and Cartesian deism. But Mr. Pellet must have had a bad time when he realised that Newton’s theology was of a very heretical nature. Leafing through piles of apocalyptical interpretations and anti-Athenasian rants, Pellet understood that Newton’s anti-Trinitarianism and idiosyncratic interpretation of Church history should not be made public, lest the image of the great Newton be blemished.

...At the time of his death, Newton’s library contained at least 138 books on alchemy, many of which showed signs of extensive use. This was not unheard of for ‘enlightened scientists’: some were avid book collectors, interested in all sorts of curiosities. The manuscripts, however, proved that Newton’s interest in alchemy went far beyond curiosity. There are thousands of folios with Newton copying from all sorts of alchemical manuscripts, and recent scholarship has shown that he must have been actively involved in the circulation of alchemical knowledge. Not only did he read and copy out entire tracts, Newton even gave detailed descriptions of alchemical experiments he performed himself. How could a hero of modern science be engaged in such occult and ‘unscientific’ practices?

The economist John Maynard Keynes purchased Newton's works - many of which were encoded and needed deciphering - at auction in 1942, and on discovering the alchemical nature of much of it was moved to state that "Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians".

For those interested in learning more, see the Nova feature Newton's Dark Secrets embedded below:

(via Forbidden Histories and Dangerous Minds)

The Ringing Rocks of Stonehenge - Was This the Original 'Rock Concert'?

Stonehenge, by Wigulf (Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 Licence)

A study published this month in the journal Time & Mind has shown that the 'blue stones' of Stonehenge, quarried in the Preseli Hills of Wales and hauled some 200 miles to south-west England, may have been treasured for their sonic properties. Thousands of stones along the Carn Menyn ridge on Mynydd Preseli were tested, and a high proportion of them were found to "ring" when they were struck, a quality that has been highly valued in many ancient cultures.

The principal investigator on the project is a good friend of the Daily Grail, Paul Devereux (author of The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia, available from Amazon US and Amazon UK). Here's what he told BBC News:

It hasn't been considered until now that sound might have been a factor. The percentage of the rocks on the Carn Menyn ridge are ringing rocks, they ring just like a bell. And there's lots of different tones, you could play a tune. In fact, we have had percussionists who have played proper percussion pieces off the rocks.

The research paper, "Stone Age Eyes and Ears: A Visual and Acoustic Pilot Study of Carn Menyn and Environs, Preseli, Wales", is in the March issue of the journal Time and Mind. Check out the BBC news story for audio examples of the 'ringing rocks'.

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Graham Hancock 'Magicians of the Gods' Tour of Australia

Graham Hancock Australian Tour

Good news, Antipodean Grailers: our good friend, 'hidden history' author Graham Hancock, is heading to Australian shores in May for a tour of major cities (and Byron Bay) discussing his 'Magicians of the Gods' research:

Ancient Mysteries, Altered States & The War on Consciousness. This May 2014, Graham Hancock, bestselling British investigative author of Fingerprints of the Gods, Underworld and Supernatural will share his radical theories and philosophy at a series of events across Australia.

Find out more details and book tickets at GrahamHancockTour.com.au.

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Has the Code of the Mysterious Voynich Manuscript Finally Been Cracked?

Taurus in the Voynich Manuscript

'Tis the month for claimed decodings of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript: a couple of weeks ago we posted about researchers wondering if the strange document was actually written in an extinct Mexican language. But now Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bedfordshire in the U.K., has claimed that he has decoded a few of the words of the manuscript and is calling on other scholars to join him in continuing to decipher the document. His approach took a leaf out of history's most famous decoding:

I hit on the idea of identifying proper names in the text, following historic approaches which successfully deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs and other mystery scripts, and I then used those names to work out part of the script. The manuscript has a lot of illustrations of stars and plants. I was able to identify some of these, with their names, by looking at medieval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages, and I then made a start on a decoding, with some exciting results.

In doing so, Professor Bax says he has likely decoded the word 'Taurus' alongside a picture of seven stars which seem to be the Pleiades, and also the word 'kantairon' alongside a picture of the plant Centaury, a known mediaeval herb.

Although the decipherment is still at the very beginning stages, Professor Bax says his research already "shows conclusively that the manuscript is not a hoax, as some have claimed, and is probably a treatise on nature, perhaps in a Near Eastern or Asian language".

Professor Bax has made the paper available for download on his website, and you can also watch this 47 minute video in which he 'superficially' outlines his research:

We'll have to wait and see if this latest theory (in a very long line) is the one. What do you think?

Link: 600 year old mystery manuscript decoded by University of Bedfordshire professor

Link: Stephen Bax's Website

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Music from the Butt: Recreating Music Hidden in a 500-Year-Old Painting

Bosch's Music on the Bum

The Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych painted around the year 1500 by the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, and its three panels - taking up almost four meters in width - are crammed full of tiny details ranging from the Garden of Eden to a Hellish landscape in which its inhabitants are being tortured. So many details are present, in fact, that if you were to look very closely at the painting you might find some interesting things. Amelia, a music and information systems double major at Oklahoma Christian University, sure did:

Luke and I were looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and discovered, much to our amusement, music written upon the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell. I decided to transcribe it into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants of this era.

So yes this is LITERALLY the 600-year-old butt song from hell.

Click through to listen to Hieronymous Bosch's butt-music from hell. Also: a choral version.

Is the Mysterious Voynich Manuscript Written in an Extinct Mexican Language?

Fold-out page from the Voynich Manuscript

Debate has long raged over the provenance of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, a document filled with strange illustrations and text written in a language that has never been decoded. Though the codex has been dated to around the time of the Renaissance, it first came to modern attention in 1912 when it was purchased by antique book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, whose name has been attached to it ever since.

Theories about the Voynich Manuscript have ranged from it being a prank by a Renaissance artist, through to an artefact given to Roger Bacon by future time-travelers, and decoded by an alien held at Area 51 (sounds legit!). The latest in the long list of Voynich theories is the claim, by a botanist and retired information technology researcher, that the Voynich Manuscript contains illustrations of plants native to Mexico, and that the text is likely written in an extinct form of the Nahuatl language:

Previously, many researchers assumed that the manuscript must have originated in Europe, where it was found. But botanist Arthur Tucker of Delaware State University in Dover noticed similarities between certain plants in the manuscript and illustrations of plants in 16th century records from Mexico.

Tucker began collecting copies of Mexican botanical books out of curiosity about the history of herbs there. "Quite by accident, I ran across the Voynich and it was a Homer Simpson moment of D'oh! Of course – this matches my other codices and the artwork of 16th century Mexico."

The most striking example was an illustration of a soap plant (xiuhamolli) in a Mexican book dated 1552. Tucker and Rexford Talbert, a retired information technology researcher at the US Department of Defense and NASA, connected a total of 37 of the 303 plants, six animals and one mineral illustrated in the Voynich manuscript to 16th century species in the region that lies between Texas, California and Nicaragua. They think many of the plants could have come from what is now central Mexico.

On the basis of these similarities, the pair suggests that the manuscript came from the New World, and that it might be written in an extinct form of the Mexican language Nahuatl. Deciphering the names of these plants could therefore help crack the Voynich code.

It's worth noting, however, that the pair are not the first to suggest that the language might be related to Nahuatl - in a 2001 book, James Comegys claimed that the manuscript was "a medical text in Nahuatl attributable to Francisco Hernandez and his Aztec Ticiti collaborators".

And it's definitely worth keeping a healthy dose of skepticism at hand, as there are a number of valid objections to their Voynich theory. But it's all good fun = you never know, the final answer to the mystery might surprise us...

(h/t Delaiah)

Link: Mexican Plants Could Break Code on Gibberish Manuscript

Source Paper: "A Preliminary Analysis of the Botany, Zoology, and Mineralogy of the Voynich Manuscript "

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Mysterious Pyramids that Predate the Great Pyramid Were Not Constructed For Burials

Newly Discovered Step Pyramid, (photo via Tell Edfu Project)

As mentioned in Tuesday's news briefs, there's an interesting story doing the rounds today about (the ruins of) a newly discovered step pyramid that predates the construction of the Great Pyramid. What I found particularly interesting is that the pyramid was one of seven pyramids scattered around Egypt, all of which did not have a funerary purpose:

Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements, have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet (18.4 x 18.6 m).

The purpose of these seven pyramids is a mystery. They may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king in the southern provinces.

"The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan," said Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute who led the work at the Edfu pyramid. On the east side of the newly uncovered pyramid, his team found the remains of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made — a discovery that is important for understanding this kind of pyramid since it provides clues as to what they were used for.

Link: 4,600-Year-Old Step Pyramid Uncovered in Egypt