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

Alan Moore and John Higgs Discuss the 20th Century

Our good friend John Higgs - author of the acclaimed recent book Stranger Than We Can Imagine - recently chatted with comics maestro Alan Moore (who has also recently released a new, acclaimed comic series, Providence) about a shared interest - the 'hidden threads of history' that helped form the cloth of the 20th century, and in particular the influence of science fiction and horror on modern western culture. The 23 (ahem!) minute long video is embedded above for your enjoyment.

The discussion ranges from Lovecraft to George Lucas, but also finishes with Moore reiterating a point he's made before - that somehow, fictional (or 'imaginal') elements have a habit of bleeding across into reality:

I believe that the membrane between fiction and fact is porous and semi-permeable, and I have become used to my most ridiculous ideas - whether that be coming up with V for Vendetta and then suddenly seeing a load of Guy Fawkes mask anarchists invading the world stage...or having come up with the idea related to my film project Jimmy's End of having a sinister clown manifesting in various locations around Northampton, and returning from holiday and finding that a sinister clown had manifested in Northampton, at the end of my street, about a hundred yards from my front door. You start to get the impression that sometimes things can kind of percolate through from the realm of ideas into the realm of actuality.

Moore has also, of course, previously mentioned bumping into another of his characters, John Constantine.

Two gentlemen with fascinating insights into the the making of modern culture - recommended viewing!

Related:

News Briefs 02-11-2015

Only 5 days left to invest in a collector's edition UFO book by the legend, Jacques Vallee - get in!

Thanks @THEJimHarold and @m1k3y.

Quote of the Day:

When convention and science offer us no answers, might we not finally turn to the fantastic as a plausibility?

Dana Scully (The X-Files)

The Ancient and the Astronauts: Space Station Crew Tasked with Photographing Mysterious Ancient Structures in Kazakhstan

 Steppe Geoglyphs

Late last year we mentioned a stunning discovery in northern Kazakhstan: more than fifty massive, ancient geoglyphs that had gone undetected until found by a researcher using Google Earth.

NASA has recently joined the effort to learn more about these mysterious sites, and a couple of weeks ago they released satellite photographs of some of the figures. And they have now also put photography of the region on a task list for astronauts aboard the International Space Station, though they note that “it may take some time for the crew to take imagery... since we are under the mercy of sun elevation angles, weather constraints and crew schedule".

The glyphs were first discovered in 2007 by 'armchair archaeologist' Dmitriy Dey, a Kazakh economist, after being inspired to search for ancient structures in the landscape of his homeland using Google Earth after watching a Discovery Channel documentary. He has continued his meticulous search since then, and has now documented some 260 structures.

Kazakhstan Geoglyphs

And professional archaeologists are now suggesting that, like other 'recent' discoveries such as Gobekli Tepe, the Kazakhstan glyphs are changing the way we look at early peoples:

Persis B. Clarkson, an archaeologist at the University of Winnipeg who viewed some of Mr. Dey’s images, said these figures and similar ones in Peru and Chile were changing views about early nomads.

“The idea that foragers could amass the numbers of people necessary to undertake large-scale projects — like creating the Kazakhstan geoglyphs — has caused archaeologists to deeply rethink the nature and timing of sophisticated large-scale human organization as one that predates settled and civilized societies,” Dr. Clarkson wrote in an email.

“Enormous efforts” went into the structures, agreed Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, an archaeologist from Cambridge University and a lecturer at Vilnius University in Lithuania, who visited two of the sites last year. She said by email that she was dubious about calling the structures geoglyphs — a term applied to the enigmatic Nazca Lines in Peru that depict animals and plants — because geoglyphs “define art rather than objects with function.”

Dr. Matuzeviciute and two archaeologists from Kostanay University, Andrey Logvin and Irina Shevnina, discussed the figures at a meeting of European archaeologists in Istanbul last year.

Artifacts from near some of the structures, such as spear-heads, date back to a Neolithic settlement that lived in the area around 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, suggesting the geoglyphs are close to twice the age of the Egyptian pyramids. But other preliminary tests of some construction material used resulted in a date of around 800 BCE - so for now the actual date they were built remains an unanswered question.

In any case, this is certainly an ongoing investigation that we will surely be keeping a close eye on!

Link: NASA Adds to Evidence of Mysterious Ancient Earthworks

(h/t @m1k3y)

Secret Pyramid Chambers: New Project Will Use Latest Technology to Search for Hidden Rooms in the Monuments of Egypt

For more fascinating stories like this one, like The Daily Grail on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

"Just because a mystery is 4500 years old, doesn't mean it can't be solved". So proclaims the PR video above for the 'Scan Pyramids Mission', a new project announced yesterday that will employ various high-tech methods to study four of Egypt's largest pyramids, searching for hidden chambers and clues to the methods of construction used to build them.

The project, to be coordinated by Cairo University and the Heritage Innovation Preservation (HIP) Institute, will kick off next month, and is expected to run through until the end of 2016. The Bent Pyramid at Dahshur will be the first target, followed by the nearby Red Pyramid - and then the largest two of the three pyramids at Giza, those attributed to Khufu (Cheops) and Khafre (Chephren).

“This special group will study these pyramids to see whether there are still any hidden chambers or other secrets” inside them, Minister of Antiquities Mamduh al-Damati announced at a news conference.

Non-destructive high technologies will be implemented. Two infrared thermography missions will establish a thermal map of the pyramids to reveal differences in density: one brief conducted by the expert Jean-Claude Barré from LedLiquid, whereas the other, running for at least a year, will be led by Université Laval of Quebec. Their goal is to identify if there are any voids behind the faces of the pyramids. Two missions using muons radiography also aim to verify and accurately visualize the presence of unknown structures within the monuments. These techniques are being developed in Japan by the teams of KEK (High Energy Accelerator research Organization) and Nagoya University. “Many theories have been proposed, either explaining their construction or their structural anomalies, but we are physicists and engineers, not archaeologists”, insists Hany Helal, Professor at Cairo University and former Minister of Research and the higher education and Coordinator of the project, head of mission for the Faculty of Engineering of Cairo. “Our goal is to use techniques to get concrete results. Then the Egyptologists will interpret them.”

In parallel to the exploration missions, the company Iconem will realize a photogrammetry campaign using drones, to rebuild the Giza plateau and the site of Dahshur with all their monuments in 3D, with a unique centimeter precision. These models will be made available to researchers and the public in open data by the HIP Institute, a non-profit structure of general interest.

Pyramid scan

The search for secret chambers in the pyramids of ancient Egypt is certainly a topic that excites the inner Indiana Jones in most of us - from archaeologists seeking a cache of objects that might lead to a better understanding of Egyptian culture, to New Agers dreaming of an Atlantean 'Hall of Records' or advanced alien technology.

Regular readers of The Daily Grail will know that the Giza Plateau has a long history of being searched for secret chambers:

  • In the late 1960s, the 'Joint Pyramid Project' investigated Khafre's pyramid looking for hidden rooms
  • in the 1970s Stanford Research International (SRI) (along with Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment) examined both Khufu and Khafre's pyramids, as well as the Sphinx
  • In 1986 a French duo performed a microgravimeter survey (as well as doing some old-fashioned drilling) in the Great Pyramid
  • In 1987 a Japanese team used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) equipment in the Great Pyramid and around the Sphinx
  • In 1991 French engineer Jean Kerisel performed another scan of the Great Pyramid using GPR and microgravimetry
  • In 1992 German engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink famously sent a robot up the 'air shafts', discovering what seemed to be a tiny 'secret door' at the end, possibly hinting at a secret chamber beyond. Other teams have continued to follow-up on this work in the decades since
  • In the late 1990s the ARE-connected Schor Foundation scanned around the Great Sphinx, as well as doing some further investigation inside the Great Pyramid, and exploration of the 'water shafts' beneath Khafre's causeway
  • More recently French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin put forward a theory about secret chambers in the Great Pyramid based on the layout of supporting stones in the King's Chamber

It's such a dense and controversial history that you really need a book to cover it all - and in fact, others have already done that. For more in-depth discussion of the search for hidden chambers in Egypt, see the books Giza: The Truth by Ian Lawton and Chris Ogilvie-Herald, and Secret Chamber by Robert Bauval. There's also a ton of information in the related stories linked at the bottom of this article.

One can only wonder: if they do end up finding hidden chambers, how much 'destructive' excavation will be allowed by the Egyptian authorities within these most-famous of monuments, in order to gain access to what lies within?

Link: Official Website for the Scan Pyramids Mission

Link: PDF Brochure for the Scan Pyramids Mission

Related stories:

CSI Turin: The Shroud's DNA

Image

The case isn't closed yet on Christendom's most famous relic. A team of investigators from the Università di Pavia got a second crack at the Vatican's dirty laundry, opening up a whole new can of worms.

Back in 1988 an international team announced the Shroud of Turin was 600-700 years old with 95% certainty. The niggling 5% lay in science's inability to duplicate the image, and the shroud's cloth.

The original investigation's protocol called for taking several samples for dating. Luigi Gonnella, the scientific advisor to the Archdiocese of Turin, allowed only one from an outside corner. Instead of dating different sections of the artifact, ensuring the samples were representative of the whole shroud, investigators could only say that corner was from the middle ages.

The problem begins with a fire that badly burnt the relic in 1532, leaving several holes burned on the shroud. Two years later artisans filled them in with a technique called invisible mending. Most likely the tested fibers were from the artisan's repairs, rather than the original cloth. Another circumstance casting doubt on the sample was possible contamination from repeated handling throughout the centuries, skewing the radiocarbon results.

Earlier this year Gianni Barcaccia and pals got their hands on the dust vacuumed off the fibers in 1978, hoping trace the artifact's travels. Over the centuries it's picked up pollen, dust, and other particles from around the globe. Using DNA testing, they've turned up some interesting discoveries. Either the cloth's from medieval times, coming into contact from people from around the world. Or the Shroud of Turin is from the mideast, travelling around the Mediterranean, qne being exposed to different people over a longer time span suggesting it's much older than believed.

Stranger still, Barcaccia and company found data suggesting another hypothesis.

One obvious possibility is that during the course of centuries, individuals of Indian ancestry came into contact with TS. Taking into account the rate of DNA degradation and PCR-biases toward undamaged DNA, the recent contamination scenario is extremely likely. However, one alternative and intriguing possibility is that the linen cloth was weaved in India, as supported perhaps by the original name of TS - Sindon - which appears to derive from Sindia or Sindien, a fabric coming from India.

Check out the full text of Uncovering the sources of DNA found on the Turin Shroud at Nature.

Return to Antikythera: Team Goes in Search of More Lost Treasures of Antiquity

In 1900 Greek sponge divers located the wreck of an ancient Greek ship near Antikythera Island, which is thought to have sunk over 2000 years ago. They salvaged a large number of treasures from the wreck, including hundreds of bronze and marble statues, and more famously, the remains of a mysterious device that has become known as the 'Antikythera Mechanism'. This advanced clockwork machine turned out be "a complex mechanical 'computer' which tracked astronomical phenomena and the cycles of the Solar System."

However, since the original salvage, very little further investigation of the wreck had been done until a new team - under the banner of 'Return to Antikythera' - resumed investigations in October 2012. The latest expedition has just begun, and you can keep up with the latest developments at the website as they are posting updates from the wreck.

What does the wreck still hold? Locals on Antikythera tell tales of giant marble statues lying beyond the sponge divers’ reach. Records from the 1901 salvage indicate at least one large marble statue was dropped during recovery operations, and there are hints that others were dragged into deeper water under the mistaken belief they were just boulders. Meanwhile, ancient technology geeks like us wonder whether the site might be hiding another Antikythera mechanism, more pieces of the original, or at least some clues as to whom this mysterious object belonged to.

For those seeking a more detailed exploration of the history and possible functions of the Antikythera Mechanism, grab a copy of Decoding the Heavens: A 2000-Year-Old Computer and the Century-long Search to Discover Its Secrets, by Jo Marchant.

Link: Return to Antikythera

Beebs of the Gods: Graham Hancock on BBC News

Graham Hancock made an appearance on BBC News yesterday to discuss his recently-released book, Magicians of the Gods [Amazon US & UK].

I can already envision Zahi's screen all smeared in orange juice and Earl Grey...

Previously:

Superhenge: Archaeologists Discover Massive Megalithic Site That May Predate Stonehenge

Durrington Walls Superhenge

British researchers have discovered the remains of a major new prehistoric stone monument that dwarfs the nearby, more well-known site of Stonehenge. Using non-invasive remote sensing technologies, the 'Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project' team found evidence for a row of up to 90 standing stones - some of which may have originally stood 4.5 metres in height - beneath the massive bank of a henge later raised over the top of the megaliths, burying them out of sight for millennia.

The discovery was made at Durrington Walls, one of the largest known henge monuments (measuring 500m in diameter), which is thought to have been built around 4,500 years ago.

Although none of the stones have yet been excavated a unique sarsen standing stone, "The Cuckoo Stone", remains in the adjacent field and this suggests that other stones may have come from local sources.

...Previous, intensive study of the area around Stonehenge had led archaeologists to believe that only Stonehenge and a smaller henge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue possessed significant stone structures. The latest surveys now provide evidence that Stonehenge's largest neighbour, Durrington Walls, had an earlier phase which included a large row of standing stones probably of local origin and that the context of the preservation of these stones is exceptional and the configuration unique to British archaeology.

Location of new Superhenge

The discovery of these buried megaliths has significant implications for British archaeology. As the enclosure at Durrington Walls was built about a century after the Stonehenge sarsen circle, the newly discovered stone row is likely from an earlier period than this. With evidence of up to 90 stones discovered, some of massive size, this could demonstrate an earlier phase of megalithic architecture previously unrecognised.

The discovery also reimagines the landscape that was already in place when Stonehenge was being constructed.

"This discovery of a major new stone monument, which has been preserved to a remarkable extent, has significant implications for our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting," said Professor Vince Gaffney, one of the archaeologists leading the project. "Not only does this new evidence demonstrate a completely unexpected phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, the new stone row could well be contemporary with the famous Stonehenge sarsen circle or even earlier."

This new discovery - see computer-visualisation below - will quite literally rewrite the history of books of Great Britain.

(h/t Fintan)

Time Travel Rookie Error: Aiming at Days That Never Existed

Rookie Time Travel Error

Like the Daily Grail on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter for more fascinating articles like this one.

In the year 1752, British and (soon-to-be) American citizens went to bed on the night of September 2nd...and all woke up on September 14th. How did they lose 11 days?

From Roman times, the Western world had worked with a calendar developed by Julius Caesar - the 'Julian Calendar'. But this calendar wasn't perfectly accurate, with its years actually being around 11 minutes out. Which isn't so bad over a few years, but after a millennium or two adds up to days.

By 1582 the mistake had multiplied out to 10 days, and the Catholic Church didn't like what it was doing to the timing of Easter. So Pope Gregory XIII instituted a new calendar - the one we use today (the Gregorian calendar) - but to do so the error needed to be corrected. Pope Gregory therefore decreed that that October 4th 1582 would become October 15th.

Protestants weren't such big fans of the Catholics, so they weren't about to listen to any papal decrees. It took them another 170 years to start instituting the change to the Gregorian calendar, with Britain and its colonies (including the soon to be United States) not changing over until 1752.

By that time, the error in the Julian calendar had built up to 11 days - so to fix the problem, in 1752 September 2nd was immediately followed by September 14th. Children with birth certificates showing each of those two dates were only born a day apart.

And if that isn't confusing enough: at that time the year began on March 25th, but with the calendar revision this was shifted to January 1 - so the year 1752 ran from March 25 to December 31, with September only being 19 days long as well.

This change in calendar results in some odd historical quirks, such as George Washington's birth certificate showing that he was born on February 11, 1731, while his birthday is now celebrated by us on February 22nd, 1732.

An important historical note to remember when setting the dates on your DeLorean!

Introducing 'Magicians of the Gods'

If you thought the last cool thing worth waiting for in 2015 was the release of Episode VII, you're probably not a fan of Alternative History.

For us, there's the long-awaited publication of Graham Hancock's Magicians of the Gods --September 10 in the UK, one month later in the US-- 20 years after his international bet-seller Fingerprints of the Gods implanted the seed for a paradigm shift in our appreciation of the ancient past; a seed which has flourished and blossomed not only because of the Graham's international acclaim, but also because of the archeological evidence discovered after "Fingerprints..." which have proved his basic thesis --the existence of an advanced civilization of megalithic builders, with great knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, which was destroyed after the end of the last Ice Age but not before managing to inculcate their knowledge all around our planet-- to be very much on the right track.

Even though he rightly points out how ours is a species suffering from amnesia, I truly believe Graham's name has secured an enduring place in the annals of History; if nothing else, for inspiring an entire generation to look at our ancient legacy --our heritage as human beings and inhabitants of this wonderful and troubled world-- with fresh new eyes; offering us a vantage view from which to appreciate where we came from, how we got here, and where we are destined to go... if we deign to learn the lessons of our forefathers, that is.

You can pre-order your copy of Magicians of the Gods by clicking here.