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

Drone's-Eye View of the Pyramids of Nubia

Around 3000 years ago, a number of pyramids were built in northern Africa - not in Egypt though, where the New Kingdom era had recently come to an end, but in neighbouring Sudan. The pyramids of the 'Kingdom of Kush' are generally smaller, and are characterised by much steeper sides than their Egyptian counterparts. The video above gives a different perspective on these unique structures.

In a melding of modern-day technology and 3,000-year-old artifacts, a team supported by National Geographic is getting some of the first glimpses into ancient pyramids, temples, and burial sites sprawled across the Sudanese desert.

The part of the site that draws the most attention is the underground burial chamber of a Nubian king who conquered Egypt in 715 B.C., but today the action is far above ground as National Geographic engineer, Alan Turchik, flies a remote-controlled quadcopter camera over the site to gain a broader perspective of the area.

“The best part with the helicopter is I can fly over and gain this connection between all the other burial sites, between the pyramid and the temple, and get an understanding of what that is from the air,” says Turchik.

Link: Amazing Drone Footage of Nubian Pyramids

That Time Canada Almost Botched the End of World War II By Signing on the Wrong Line...

Error on Japanese Instrument of Surrender

We've all been there. You've got to fill out a long form, and halfway through you realise that you put your first name in the surname space, or put today's date instead of your birthdate, or signed your name on the wrong line.

Most times it's a simple matter of asking for another form, or correcting your mistake and handing it over with a sheepish apology. But what if you screwed up one of the most important documents of the 20th century? That's exactly what Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave did when signing the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2nd, 1945 - the document that marked the official end of World War II.

After Japanese officials had signed the document, and General Douglas MacArthur had countersigned it in his role as 'Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers', the individual representatives of the Allies then added their own signatures: first the U.S. representative, followed by China, the U.K, the U.S.S.R. and Australia. But when Colonel Cosgrave scribbled his moniker, he made the mistake of putting it below the line, instead of above.

The error has been attributed to Cosgrave being blind in one eye, as a result of a World War I injury. It has to be said though, that looking at the form it seems an easy mistake to make, if you were feeling a bit nervous and rushed: in looking for the appropriate spot to sign, one would look for and find 'Dominion of Canada Representative', before the eyes naturally dropped down to the next line. Which, unfortunately for Col. Cosgrave, was the line reserved for the French representative, not him.

Each subsequent representative then continued signing their name one line below where they should have been, until it came time for the New Zealand delegate to add the final signature...but there was no line. Undaunted, he simply added his signature in the white space beneath.

The unfortunate result, however, was that names were being signed to spaces that were titled for other representatives - and any legal document generally has to be done exactly by the books, lest it be considered invalid. And when we're talking about ending the worst conflict in human history, that's not something you want to happen.

Happily, it didn't take long to resolve:

When the Japanese delegation protested – could they accept a botched surrender document? – Douglas MacArthur’s famously brusque chief of staff General Richard Sutherland scratched out the now-incorrect list of Allied delegates and handwrote the correct titles under each signature, adding his initials to each correction to forestall further protest. The Japanese were then dismissed from the USS Missouri with a short “Now it’s all fine” from Gen. Sutherland.

Regardless, we can only assume Colonel Cosgrave was left rather red-faced by his faux pas...being Canadian, he was probably quick to say sorry. Sadly for him though, his mistake has been preserved for future generations to see, as the historic document is on display at Japan’s Edo-Tokyo Museum (the Allied copy has no such error).

Link: High-res of the Instrument of Japanese Surrender

Join the Search for the Lost Cities of Ancient Peru

Earlier this month I posted a TED talk by (and additional documentary about) 'space archaeologist' Sarah Parcak. That TED talk was a rather brief overview of the million dollar TED prize winner and her plans for 'citizen archaeology' via satellites, but the above talk is more recent, and devoted to discussing the start of the project, in particular its focus on lost archaeological sites in Peru:

Around the world, hundreds of thousands of lost ancient sites lie buried and hidden from view. Satellite archaeologist Sarah Parcak is determined to find them before looters do. With the 2016 TED Prize, Parcak is building an online citizen-science tool called GlobalXplorer that will train an army of volunteer explorers to find and protect the world's hidden heritage. In this talk, she offers a preview of the first place they'll look: Peru — the home of Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines and other archaeological wonders waiting to be discovered.

You can sign up to be a beta tester, and receive updates on the project, at the GlobalXplorer website. More details about the venture can be found in the article "Finding the legendary lost cultures of ancient Peru".

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The Man Who Discovered the 'Bosnian Pyramid' Answers Critics

We have, over the years, posted a number of stories that have taken a skeptical view of the 'Bosnian Pyramid', most notably in sharing the negative view of our friend, geologist Robert Schoch. It is only fair that we also provide 'right-of-reply', so to speak, so above you'll find a recent presentation by Semir 'Sam' Osmanagić, the original discoverer of the 'pyramid' back in 2005, who more than a decade later continues to excavate the location.

Discoverer of the Bosnian Pyramids Dr. Sam Osmanagich, Ph.D. (www.samosmanagich.com) answers sceptics such as Dr. Zahi Hawass, Dr. Robert Schoch, Dr. Antoni Harding and Graham Hancock.
Bosnian Pyramids fulfilled ten scientific criteria for pyramids: geometry, side orientation, artificial construction material, astronomical features, inner chambers, underground tunnels, water flows, location of energy potent place, sacred geometry and energy phenomena. So why so many mainstream and some alternative researchers are against this project?

Regardless of what you think about the 'Bosnian pyramid', Osmanagic certainly puts on an entertaining presentation.

(thanks to Michael for the heads-up)

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Why Spend Thousands on a Copy of the Voynich Manuscript, When You Can Just Download It?

Voynich Manuscript Fold-out

As mentioned in yesterday's news, a Spanish publisher has been given the rights to print 898 exact replicas of the enigmatic Voynich manuscript:

It’s one of the world’s most mysterious books, a centuries-old manuscript written in an unknown or coded language that no one has cracked. Scholars have spent their lives puzzling over the Voynich manuscript, whose intriguing mix of elegant writing and drawings of strange plants and naked women has some believing it holds magical powers.

The weathered book is locked away in a vault at Yale university’s Beinecke library, emerging only occasionally. But after a 10-year appeal for access, Siloe, a small publishing house in northern Spain has secured the right to clone the document... Siloe, which specialises in making facsimiles of old manuscripts, has bought the rights to make 898 exact replicas of the Voynich – so faithful that every stain, hole, sewn-up tear in the parchment will be reproduced.

What should be noted, for those who started salivating at the idea of owning their own copy of the Voynich Manuscript only to baulk at the thousands of pounds that each copy will cost, is that the folio is already freely available in digital form online, at Yale University's Beinecke library website.

Amazingly, Voynich voyeur Rene Zandbergen notes that more than 90% of the online access to the Beinecke library is only for the Voynich manuscript.

Why? Because, as long-time Grail readers will know, everyone's got their own theory about the decoding of the manuscript, or who wrote it. From this 1978 book released by the National Security Agency (NSA) about the 'elegant enigma' of the Voynich manuscript, through to this recent arXiv.org paper arguing that it was written by Edward Kelley, offsider to the famed Elizabethan mage John Dee, this is a mystery that has occupied the attention of many over the past few decades.

Here's a full-length documentary on the topic for those interested:

What are you waiting for? Go download yourself a copy, and get to work...

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What Created This 'Melted Limestone' Beside the Pyramids of Giza?

Everyone loves a good pyramid anomaly, and geologist Robert Schoch (best known for his involvement in the 'redating the Great Sphinx' controversy) has posted an interesting curiosity on his Facebook page. During a tour group visit to the Giza plateau, Dr Schoch took some time to look at a strange patch of limestone not far from the pyramids, which appears to have been 'melted' by some strong heat source.

Schoch's interest - beyond pure curiosity - comes from his research into possible 'plasma events' in the ancient past, as discussed in his book Forgotten Civilisation: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future (he touches on the topic in this essay on his website as well).

In response to a commenter asking about the temperature needed to melt the rock, Schoch noted that it would require...

...around 1000 degrees C, depending on the specific composition and structure. A major plasma strike, lightning-like, could I believe cause what I saw -- but it still needs more study (I did not post the video, although I do not mind that it was posted as it gets people thinking about this important subject). This is a topic that I am currently researching.

Any other geologists out there want to add their opinion? Is this 'melted limestone' an oddity? And if so, what might be the source: ancient smelter, modern construction works, lightning strike, plasma event? Heck, while we're speculating (rather wildly), given the ancient Egyptians seem to have venerated meteorites, could it have been melted by a meteor strike?

Post your own theory in the comments....

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Million Dollar Prize Will Be Used to Search for Lost Ancient Sites Using Satellite Images and Data

There are two types of 'space archaeology'. There's the type that documents space history - from our own fledgling efforts to travel beyond Earth, to searching for remnants of extraterrestrial civilisations - and then there is archaeology on Earth, done from space. The short TED talk above, in which Sarah Parcak outlines how her team used satellite data to find a lost Egyptian city, is on the latter.

Due to its length, the talk is very short on the details of her work, but Parcak's involvement at TED was for a very interesting reason: she was awarded the 2016 TED prize of a million dollars to further her great wish:

I wish for us to discover the millions of unknown archaeological sites across the globe. By building an online citizen science platform and training a 21st century army of global explorers, we'll find and protect the world's hidden heritage, which contains clues to humankind's collective resilience and creativity.

Parcak will use the funds to launch Global Xplorer, a 'crowd-sourcing' science platform, in 2017. Global Xplorer will enable anyone with a web connection "to discover the next hidden tomb or potential looting pit using satellite technology".

You can sign up for updates - and ultimately to become involved as a 'citizen scientist' at the Global Xplorer website. We've seen many stories in recent times about using satellite data to uncover lost ancient structures and cities (see the 'Related stories' links at the bottom of this post), so perhaps a truly paradigm-shifting discovery could be made in the near future by an 'arm-chair archaeologist' using just their computer.

Given the lack of information in the TED talk, to learn more about Sarah Parcak's work you can read read this Wired article from earlier in the year, or alternatively watch the embedded hour-long documentary below on Parcak and the emerging field of space archaeology.

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TED Can Hold a Grudge: New Graham Hancock TEDx Talk Pasted with Disclaimer About 'Counterfactual Assertions'

Disclaimer on TEDx Talk by Graham Hancock

Read more fascinating articles like this one by liking The Daily Grail on Facebook, and by following us on Twitter.

Just over three years ago, TED took the extraordinary step of removing videos of TEDx presentations by 'alternative history researcher' Graham Hancock and 'maverick biologist' Rupert Sheldrake. This move met with a mountain of opposition, as TED seemed to be censoring certain ideas that challenged the orthodox worldview - and they only inflamed the situation further when they offered bogus reasoning for doing so.

This view - that TED was censoring ideas that challenged the current scientific and historical paradigm - only seemed more likely when, just a month later, they removed the licence of TEDxWestHollywood, with a theme named "Brother can you spare a paradigm", just a couple of weeks before the event was scheduled to take place.

Fast forward to 2016, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. A video posted to YouTube of Graham Hancock giving a talk at TEDxReading (in March this year) - titled "Is the house of history built on foundations of sand?" - has been pasted with the annotation seen above across the centre of the screen: "This talk, which was filmed at an independent TEDx event, falls outside TEDx's curatorial guidelines. Read more below."

And here's what the 'read more below' is:

NOTE from TED: Please be aware that this talk contains outdated and counterfactual assertions, and should not be understood as a representation of modern scholarship on ancient civilizations.

If ancient civilizations interest you, TEDx Talks contain many fascinating and well-researched talks such as:

Sarah Parcak's talk on space arachaeology at TEDxYale:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GKzs...

Leslie van Gelder's talk on cave art at TEDxQueenstown:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYGPc...

Sarah Kenderdine's talk on museums of the future at TEDxGateway:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXhtw...

Here's the video for those interested in watching. Happily, the silly placard over the video can be removed rather simply by clicking on the settings button, and turning off 'annotations':

Graham Hancock has responded on his Facebook page to this latest TED controversy, noting his surprise at what has happened, as he had taken great care this time not to provide TED with any ammunition for another video deletion:

I was very careful with this talk. Indeed I did something I've never done before which was to read it to make sure no slip of the tongue, or over-running of the extremely limited time allocated, could be used by TED to delete it from Youtube as they did with my last one.

I don't like reading talks from a carefully pre-prepared script, but having done so in this single case I am quite certain that the ideas I present are NOT "outdated and counter-factual" as TED allege and I challenge them to provide evidence to support this smear.

Hancock says this latest move has solidified the idea to him that "TED is a tool of the dominator society that seeks to keep us all asleep, and that believes itself to be the fount and guardian of all legitimate knowledge".

Graham Hancock's most recent book is Magicians of the Gods, and it is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

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Archaeologists Find Elongated Skull of a Woman with Jewel-Encrusted Teeth at Teotihuacan

Elongated skull of the  Lady of Tlailotlacan

Coming soon to Ancient Aliens: archaeologists in Mexico have unearthed a unique 'elongated skull' with ornate custom dental work while excavating at the ancient city of Teotihuacan. The skeletal remains belong to a woman - dubbed 'The Lady of Tlailotlacan' - who was 35 to 40 years old at the time of her death, around 350-400 CE:

Her teeth are of particular note. The central incisors in her upper jaw are embedded with round pyrite stones. This technique required cutting a hole in the enamel of the tooth and inserting the decorative stones. It was practiced in the Mayan cities of southern Mexico (see the jade tooth inserts found in Uxul on the Yucatan peninsula), Guatemala and Belize. One incisor in her lower jaw was replaced with a prosthetic made of serpentine, a green stone carved in the shape of a tooth. This was not of local manufacture and she must have worn it for many years because it shows signs of wear and tartar growth. Researchers are currently studying this tooth looking for evidence of how it was affixed to the jaw, possibly with a cement-like adhesive or some kind of fiber that held it in place.

Her grill isn’t the most extreme of her body mods. The shape of her skull is elongated, an intentional cranial shaping of the tabular erect type produced by fronto-occipital compression likely with a cradleboard when she was a child and her bones were still soft. Hers is an extreme example of the practice. This kind of skull shaping isn’t typical of the Central Highlands. It too is more frequently found in the south.

Her teeth and skull make hers one of the most extensively modified bodies ever discovered at Teotihuacan. It also confirms that the residents of Tlailotlacan weren’t only labourers who were brought to or moved to the big city for work, but people of wealth and status as well. The Lady of Tlailotlacan’s modifications were reserved for the Maya elites.

Below is a video of the skeletal remains:

Link: Woman with stone tooth inserts, long skull found in Teotihuacan

Newly Decoded Text on Antikythera Mechanism Gives New Insights Into the Functions of an 'Ancient Computer'

Antikythera Mechanism (Brett Seymour / WHOI)

The enigmatic 'Antikythera Mechanism' has been back in the news recently, with researchers unveiling the results of a decade-long project to decipher tiny inscriptions on the device. Previous research had largely focused on the mechanics of the 'ancient computer' that was salvaged from a shipwreck in 1901 by sponge divers.

The approximately 2100-year-old clock-like device could be used to calculate the movements of the Sun, Moon and planets, as well as predict eclipses, using a system of gearwheels, with the user able to 'travel' backwards and forwards in time by winding a handle.

In a special issue of the journal Almagest, researchers have broken down the various sections of the mechanism. Firstly, the front:

The bronze plate known as the “Front Cover” of the Antikythera Mechanism had inscriptions on its outside face... The texts give data on synodic cycles for the five planets, and it may be conjectured that lost lines described the behaviour of the Sun and Moon. The data strongly support the idea that planetary motions were displayed on the front face of the Mechanism using simple epicyclic or eccentric models. Previously unattested long and accurate period relations are given for Venus and Saturn, which are favourable for geared representation and probably of Greek, rather than Babylonian, origin.

The dial at the center of the front face of the Antikythera Mechanism was surrounded by two scales, one representing the zodiac, the other the Egyptian calendar year. The Zodiac Scale was inscribed with the names of the zodiacal signs as well as series of index letters in alphabetic order, while the Egyptian Calendar Scale was inscribed with the Greek names of the Egyptian months. In addition, two rectangular plates, the remains of which survived displaced from their original positions, bore an inscription, called the Parapegma Inscription, comprising an alphabetically indexed list of annually repeating astronomical events relating to the Sun and to fixed stars.

The new discoveries about the mechanism were made possible by modern imaging technologies ("computed tomography and polynomial textual mapping") being applied to the tiny engraved text found on it - some of which were barely 1mm in height!

Antikythera Mechanism text

On the back of the mechanism they found dials showing lunar calendars, a 'Games' (i.e. an athletic competition, such as the Olympic Games) calendar, and information about predicting eclipses:

The rear face of the Mechanism consisted of a rectangular "Back Plate" dominated by two large spiral dials. The upper five-turn Metonic Dial represented a 235-lunar-month calendrical cycle while the lower four-turn Saros Dial represented a 223-lunar-month eclipse prediction cycle. A subsidiary quadrant "Games" dial was situated inside the Metonic Dial, and a subsidiary three-sector Exeligmos Dial inside the Saros Dial. Preserved text inscribed around the dials (from the lower right quarter of the plate), probably representing about a quarter of the original inscription, provided further information associated with the predictions of eclipses.

The Metonic Dial inscriptions imply a calendrical scheme similar to that described by Geminos. It was intended to be a version of the calendar of Corinth as it was practiced either at Corinth itself or in some locality of Epirus. The Games dial shows six competitions, four Panhellenic (Olympics, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemean) plus Naa (Dodona) and very probably Halieia (Rhodes).

On the Saros dial there were probably originally about 50 or 51 month cells with a lunar and/or solar eclipse prediction, each carrying a "glyph" and an index letter. Predicted eclipse times (in equinoctial hours) on the glyphs were calculated as times of true syzygy according to solar and lunar models that both involved anomaly, with the simple Exeligmos dial extending the predictions over three or more Saros cycles.

The additional information referred to by index letters from the Saros dial was grouped into paragraphs; that for lunar eclipse prediction probably ran down one side of the plate, and that for solar eclipse prediction down the other. Statements about direction may imply a meteorological aspect by referring to predictions of winds attending the eclipses. Five references to colour and size at eclipse are the only Greco-Roman source known to us that suggests prediction of eclipse colors, and might conceivably be linked with astrology.

The press have run with this 'astrology' attribution, but it's just a small part of what this research has uncovered, and even then I think it's still just a 'possibility' (note the wording above, "might conceivably").

The researchers also translated text that was inscribed on a plate - possibly a protective cover - that was found lying against the rear face of the Antikythera Mechanism in situ on the shipwreck. Only small fragments remain of this plate, but some of the text was, amazingly, preserved "as offsets on a layer of accreted matter that built up against it". It was found that the text on this plate provided "a systematic description of the dials, pointers, and other external features of the Mechanism, beginning with the front face and continuing with the rear face."

The best preserved passages include descriptions of features on lost parts of the Mechanism: a display of pointers bearing small spheres representing the Sun and planets on the front dial, and a dial on the upper back face representing a 76-year "Kallippic" calendrical cycle.

Lastly, the research team was able to use the 'data' that drove the device to guess at the likely location of the person who compiled it, finding that it corresponded to observations from a latitude of around 35 degrees - that ruled out Egypt the north of Greece, but matches the island of Rhodes.

It is hoped that ongoing excavation of the shipwreck will uncover more fragments of gears and inscriptions that could shed further light on this amazing contraption.

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