Sumerian Texts: Do These Tablets Reveal Secrets About Alien Life?

Sumerian Tablet - Cuneiform 001

Trilingual cuneiform inscription of Xerxes at Van Fortress in Turkey, written in Old Persian, Akkadian, and Elamite

In 1849, Sir Austen Henry Layard, English Archaeologist and global explorer, found himself among the ruins of ancient Bablyon in southern Mesopotamia. It was there he discovered the first pieces of what would eventually become one of Archaeology’s most controversial puzzles: Cuneiform Tablets.

Within this incredible ancient text are stories that have an uncanny resemblance to the Biblical stories of creation, deities, and even a reference to a great flood and a giant ark to survive it.

Specialists have spent decades trying to decipher these intricate symbols. One of the more fascinating aspects of cuneiform script is the evolution of the characters from the original pictogram Sumerian language to the wedge shaped strokes of Akkadian and Assyrian writing.
But the idea that this ancient civilization knew of distant star systems and had interacted with extraterrestrial life started with a controversial researcher and author named Zecharia Sitchin. His “Ancient Alien Theory” attributes the beginnings of Mesopotamian society to a race of beings known as the Annunaki, who traveled from a distant 12th planet called Nibiru.

Gods Among Us

Sumerian Texts 4 - Cylinder Seal

 

One element of the tablets that is hotly debated within archaeology circles is the nature of these Annunaki. Considered by the mainstream to be metaphors for a creation myth, the stories of the Annunaki can actually be found in other texts, specifically the book of Genesis in the Hebrew and Christian religions, but with many of the names altered or changed.

From the creation of “heaven and earth” out of “a watery abyss” to the notion of being created in a higher being’s image, and even in the familiar “Adam and Eve” and “Noah’s Ark” stories, there is no question that these stories maintain eerily similar depictions of the origins of our species. But the question is, if these tablets are older than the Bible, then what elements of these stories are myth and how much of it is true?

There is a school of thought that has concluded that not only is the planet Nibiru real, but that the Annunaki were a powerful race of extraterrestrials with the capacity for genetic experimentation and manipulation. One of the more compelling arguments for this is the fact that science has recently revealed that there probably was a global catastrophic flood that took place about 10,000 years ago. This could account for a major loss of human population and could have essentially hit the reset button on civilization as human beings were forced to start over from scratch. Was there an “Ark” or ship of some kind that was able to save a small percentage of the population, to later rebuild society? If so, was this simply a metaphor for an alien spaceship or an actual wooden boat? According to the followers of Sitchin’s school of thought, if these stories were metaphors, it was for the technology used by these powerful beings.

So Where are They Now?

But the question remains, “If our species was the result of genetic experimentation by alien life, where are they now?”
Nearly 31,000 of these ancient clay tablets are now housed in the British Museum, most of which still have yet to be translated. Many of these texts are fragmented and incomplete, making context difficult to piece together at times.

Sumerian Blog 3 - Cyrus Cylinder

What’s fascinating about the Cuneiform writings is that over the course of several thousand years, from the earliest form of pictograph writings to the re-interpretation of the old characters into the wedge shaped indentations of the various later Mesopotamian civilizations, the way in which the language was written changed dramatically. There isn’t one hard and fast rule for translation.

In the above image, we see an example of the wedge shaped writing, which allowed a scribe to effectively use one tool to quickly press into a soft clay tablet from right to left. As the languages evolved, so to did the writing system, and between 4,000 BC and 500 BC the meanings of words changed to reflect the influence of the Semitic people that conquered Mesopotamia. In the original pictograph form any character could have various meanings depending on context. Over time, the writing shifted increasingly and the number of characters was reduced from over 1,500 symbols to about 600 signs.

But Why Earth?

Sitchin held a pretty unique view regarding the reasons for the Annunaki presence here on Earth. According to his research, He concluded that these beings, “evolved after Nibiru entered the solar system and first arrived on Earth probably 450,000 years ago, looking for minerals, especially gold, which they found and mined in Africa. Sitchin states that these “gods” were the rank-and-file workers of the colonial expedition to Earth from planet Nibiru.” (wikipedia.com)

It’s a theory that has been ruled out as quite simply preposterous by academics and peer reviewed Archaeologists around the world since it was first proposed. There are many Ancient Alien theorists who refuse to consider Sitchin’s contributions due to his lack of empirical evidence and the fact that his is a translation of the tablets that many Cuneiform experts do not agree with.
However, many modern researchers believe that some of Zecharia Sitchin’s work is legitimate and could be used to help in the translation of other tablets creating a context for the names and stories of these ancient people. Among this new breed of researcher are explorers like Michael Tellinger, who claims to have found forensic evidence to support many of the unsubstantiated claims that Sitchin made in the last century. Tellinger holds that there is in fact evidence of gold mining in parts of South Africa and that some of the references in Sitchin’s translation of the Sumerian texts can be attributed to actual places there, with landmarks and megalithic structures that fit the narrative perfectly.


Sumerian Texts 2- DeitiesThe bottom line is Cuneiform experts are few and far between and there are thousands of tablets yet to be dated and deciphered in order to draw a definitive conclusion about the nature of these creation stories and historical information. Regardless of whether or not it is true, it’s a fascinating theory that we would love to explore firsthand.

Tell us what you think. Would you travel to South Africa to see the evidence for yourself? Would you be interested in learning Cuneiform to help in the deciphering of some of the most ancient texts in the world?

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The Emerald Tablets – A 38,000 Year Old Alchemist’s Guidebook Shrouded in Mystery.

Emerald Tablet
Even a little bit of research into the mysterious text we call the “Emerald Tablets” will quickly leave you baffled. While the translations reveal ancient secrets once known only by Hermetic Magicians, Alchemists and other Initiates, the origins of this work are not so clear at all.

Conflicting information, confusing speculation and heated opinion surround the Emerald Tablets text. In fact, depending on what you read or who you trust, this body of work is a mere 1,200 years old … or a whopping 38,000!

The Tablets have been described as rectangular green slabs or plaques with exquisite, bas-relief lettering. A lettering which appears similar to the ancient Phoenician script. And while the many translations over the centuries all source their origin from these carved emerald stones, the “original” objects are nowhere to be found … at least not to this day.

If there is a set of emerald stones carved with alchemical secrets, where might they be? Some say they’re buried within a vault somewhere on the Giza plateau. Other say they’re within the equally mysterious (and hidden) Ark of the Covenant.

From Base Metal To Gold – The Transmutation of Consciousness

To explain it in the most basic terms, the text of the Emerald Tablets is a summary of the principles of alchemy. It is where the “Secrets of the Philosopher’s Stone” is described.

And those secrets are all about transmutation

Transmutation, from an alchemist’s point of view, is about turning “base metal” into “gold.” How these two “prima materia” (first matter) are actually defined, however, is up to the reader …

While some argue that the alchemist’s power comes from a formula which literally turns one physical substance into another (base metal to gold), modern day mystics sometimes argue that this is the language of symbolism. “Base metal”, in the language of the mystics, refers to base human consciousness, while “gold” refers to the transmutation of the ordinary human into a conscious creator or enlightened being.

Pyramid Chamber or Sri Lankan Cave? The Mysterious Origins of the Emerald Tablets

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Occult history buffs and students tend to agree that the Tablets were originally uncovered around 1350 bce, in a hidden chamber under the Egyptian pyramid of Cheops. But this is not the only tale of their discovery.

Another legend tells a tale of Hermes, (not the Roman messenger god of Quicksilver, but a 5th century philosopher) who happened to be traveling in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka). He discovered the Emerald Tablets, so the story goes, hidden in a cave.

After studying them, Hermes learned the secret of traveling in “both heaven and earth.” The legend goes on to say that he spent the remainder of his life traveling across Asia and the Middle East serving as both healer and teacher.

(Interestingly enough, the sacred Hindu text called Mahanirvanatantra claims the Buddha was the very same person of Hermes. As it turns out, both are referred to as the “Son of the Moon” in several other Hindu texts.)

Atlantis, Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant

Another mystery surrounding the Tablets is its author. Some say it was written by an Atlantean Priest-King named Thoth (in an incarnation as Hermes Trismegistus) back around 36,000 bce. Others argue it was one of Adam’s sons, (of Adam & Eve fame), who is to be credited. Still others say it was an Arab named Balinas between the 6th and 8th centuries of our current era, who first wrote down the secrets of the alchemists.

What we do know is this: the self-named author within the translated texts is one “Hermes Trismegistus.” But the first appearance of the text that we know of was written in Arabic by Balinas, some time between 500-799 ce. Balinas claims to have uncovered the text within a vault found beneath a statue of Hermes in central Turkey. He also writes that within the vault he found an old man sitting atop a gold throne. This old man held the tablets in his arms.

Some Jewish mystics, on the other hand, say that Seth (Adam’s son), is the real author. In the “Seth Origins camp” the Emerald Tablets were later in Noah’s hands, who took them aboard his ark. Following those 40 days and nights, Noah supposedly then hid the Emerald Tablets deep within a cave, somewhere near Hebron. Later, so this story goes, they were discovered by Abraham’s wife, Sarah.

Yet another version of the Tablets’ origins tells of Hermes (another of Abraham’s sons) giving them to Moses’s daughter Miriam. Miriam then allegedly placed them in the Ark of the Covenant, where they’re said to remain even today.

“The First Time”

Thoth

Despite the mystery surrounding the Tablets (and the origins of alchemy in general), among alchemists today and those in the past there is almost complete agreement: alchemy’s origins lay in the pre-pharaonic land of Egypt. It was a gift from the gods during the “First Time,” or Zep Tepi.
According to this legend, a group of gods or godlike beings arrived in Egypt. These beings shared with the people an advanced technology which enabled them to literally transform matter. It was during this time that Thoth was said to have crafted or brought the Emerald Tablets to humanity.
Exactly when was this “First Time”? … more than 12,000 years ago.
Source Book for Egyptian Mysteries and Western Religions?

One of the key “truths” revealed in the Emerald Tablets is the notion of “As Above, So Below”. If indeed, the origins of this message come from some long-lost tablets, that means all the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians is itself but a copy of something much older.

Could the Emerald Tablets be the source book for both the Egyptian Mystery Schools and all western religious traditions? We know that Judaism, Islam and Christianity all share certain principles which link back to Abrahamic traditions. But students of the Emerald Tablets argue that those Abraham-based precepts can all be sourced within the far older Hermetic principles revealed in the Emerald Tablets.

Certainly if the principles and mysteries outlined within the Emerald Tablets date back to the “First Time” it would be easy to see how they could have reached and influence the likes of Abraham, Moses and those early Hebrews. But like the rest of the Tablets’ mysteries, we can’t know for sure if their origins truly date back to such an ancient, pre-flood era.

In fact, we can’t even be certain there actually is a set of Emerald Tablets, despite their fame across the centuries …

Evidence of Actual Tablets?

However you choose to interpret the texts as they’ve been translated down through the ages, one thing with far less room for interpretation is the existence of the Tablets at all. Despite compelling arguments by sages, alchemists and mystics, we have yet to find (or re-find) the stones.

Were there indeed slabs of emerald carved with formulae for magic by an ancient King of a long lost world? If so, where did it go?

Freemasonry’s Famous Tablet Translators

Did translators such as Balinas, Sir Isaac Newton, Aleister Crowley or Albertus Magnus actually see these Tablets? If not, what reason would any of them have to invent a story of its existence at all?

Was this some clever ruse to shroud certain factions of society in mystery? To keep the bulk of humanity from asking too many questions for fear of powerful magician’s reprise?

Certainly Newton, Crowley and Magnus were all very likely to have been Freemasons, wielding great power in their time. Would whispered rumors of Egyptian magic used by these men as means to another end?

We may never know the answers to the mystery behind the Emerald Tablets’ origins, their true nature or even their existence at all. What we do know is that the information as it has come down to us reveals secrets which alchemists throughout the ages had long sought to keep hidden from the world. Information you and I may use to transform matter … or perhaps, even ourselves.

What’s your take on the Emerald Tablets? Leave a comment below, we read each and every one.

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Britain’s Atlantis: Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past

15-mesolithic-fishing-v2Archaeologists are searching for the lost tribes of prehistoric Britain – at the bottom of the North Sea.

In a unique and ground-breaking operation, scientists plan to search for evidence of Stone Age human activity on Britain’s very own ‘Atlantis’ – a vast prehistoric land, once located between England and southern Scandinavia, which was engulfed by rising sea levels some 7500 years ago.

The archaeologists hope to find evidence of flint tool manufacture, plant pollen and the DNA of plant and animal species used by the  long-lost land’s ancient inhabitants. Due to be launched later this month, the multi-million pound project is the largest of its kind ever attempted anywhere in the world and will lead to the development by British scientists of an entire range of new scientific techniques and capabilities.

Past survey work in the  southern part of the North Sea has identified some of the vanished territory’s original river valleys – and it is two of those now-long-drowned valleys that the scientists will target in their search.

They plan to recover ancient pollen, insects and plant and animal DNA and to use high definition survey techniques to accurately rediscover what the lost Stone Age landscape looked like, what vegetation flourished there and how humans impacted on and used the environment.

The project will reveal, for the very first time, the culture and lifestyle of the dozens of generations of prehistoric Brits who flourished there for 6000 years until it finally disappeared beneath the waves in the mid sixth millennium BC.

This real British Atlantis originally covered some 100,000 square miles of what is now the North Sea  (a long-lost territory around the size of modern Britain).  However, following the end of the Ice Age, thousands of cubic miles of sub-Arctic ice started to melt and sea levels began to rise worldwide. The major period of ice melt and consequent sea level rise,  that specifically affected the southern part of the North Sea region, occurred between 8000 BC and 6000BC.

During that period of sea level rise, what were then coastal zones became increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic flooding. It is likely that massive storm surges – some up to 15 foot high – would have devastated large areas, probably on average around four times a century.

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Due to the concentration of human hunter-gatherer activity in food-rich coastal and estuarine areas, such surges would have almost certainly drowned hundreds of people each time.

Gradually, most of the 100,000 square miles became permanently inundated – and by 6500 BC, the remnants of the dwindling North Sea territory had become a 140 mile long, approximately 100 mile wide island covering thousands of square miles (partly where the North Sea’s Dogger Bank is today). But, over the centuries, it gradually shrank and was finally overwhelmed by the  waves in around 5500 BC. It is conceivable that at least some of its last inhabitants would not have been able to escape.

It’s hoped that their research will reveal where the inhabitants lived, what they ate and what their environment looked like.

The expedition also hopes to discover whether they were culturally more advanced than previously believed. Plant DNA, recently obtained from another ‘drowned’ landscape (the Solent, between the Isle of Wight and  mainland England) suggests that Stone Age people in that area  were eating (and therefore importing or possibly growing) wheat some 2000 years earlier than previously thought.

Now the scientists plan to systematically search for similar wheat or other domesticated species DNA  evidence in what was once dry land under the North Sea.

Within the next few weeks the scientists will start sinking bore holes into the  drowned Stone Age land surfaces in order to extract samples of ancient earth.

Hundreds of such samples will be taken to the laboratories at the universities of Bradford, Warwick, Lampeter, St. Andrews and Birmingham where scientists will separate out seeds, pollen, potential DNA material and tiny fragments of broken flint (the tale-tale evidence of flint tool manufacture).

Using sonar and high definition seismic equipment, the archaeologists will also produce more refined 3D maps of the original landscape and its topography. It’s conceivable that they may even locate  man-made Stone Age structures, potentially the remains of any timbers used for ritual monuments or hunting drive-ways.

The research is likely to transform the academic world’s understanding of pre-agricultural British society. That is because the vast majority of pre-agricultural Britons almost certainly lived in now-long-drowned coastal environments – and very few such areas have ever been systematically investigated.

The project may also revolutionize the world’s understanding of the spread of agriculture. Until very recently all the available evidence suggested that once agricultural knowledge had reached an area, it quickly triggered rapid economic and social change. But the recent very early wheat DNA evidence from the Solent, if confirmed in the upcoming ‘North Sea Atlantis’ investigation, would totally contradict that understanding of the process. Instead, it may be that agricultural knowledge spread widely at least 2000 years earlier than previously thought but had no significant economic or social impact for scores of generations.

The research will also, for the first time, reveal how humans and other animal and plant species adapted to the sea level rise catastrophe which hit many areas of the world after a natural version of ‘global warming’ brought the last Ice Age to an end.

Bradford and Nottingham  universities are now developing new computer software that will enable them to accurately model how plants, animals and ultimately humans recolonized much of Britain (including Britain’s North Sea Atlantis) after the extreme cold of the Ice Age – and how species then tried to adapt to  rising sea levels and periodic salt water infiltration and flooding that increasingly resulted from it.

The archaeologist leading the entire North Sea investigation, Professor Vince Gaffney of the University of Bradford,  believes that the project will transform the academic world’s understanding of how northern Europe was re-colonized by humanity when climatic conditions became warmer some 12,000 years ago.

“As conditions got warmer, there was a period of just a few thousand years when large areas of Europe’s continental shelf were recolonized by Stone Age humans,” said Professor Gaffney.

“Warmer temperatures melted vast quantities of ice which caused very substantial sea level rise which in turn gradually drowned the most populated parts of the newly recolonized land.

“Because these areas of continental shelf became sea, they have been inaccessible to archaeologists until now.

“However, this project will access new data at a scale never previously attempted.  Novel mapping, DNA extraction and computer modelling representing people, animals and even individual plants will  generate a 4 dimensional model of how Doggerland was colonised and eventually lost to the sea.

 

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Cracking the Maya Code: Timeline of Decipherment

NOVA: Cracking the Maya Code: Premiering Tuesday, April 8 at 8pm ET/PT on PBS (check local listings), NOVA exposes the ancient Maya civilization of Central America and the brilliant leaps of insight that unlocked the door to understanding their intricate and mysterious hieroglyphic script. Pictured: Pages from the Dresden Codex, one of only four Maya books known to have survived the Conquest.  These pages track the planet Venus and helped a 19th century scholar figure out the Maya calendar and astronomy.Credit: Public DomainUsage: This image may be used only in direct promotion of NOVA.  No other rights are granted.  All rights are reserved.  Editorial use only.

When the Spanish conquered the Maya empire in the 16th century, they forced their new subjects to convert to Christianity and speak and write in Spanish. But long before the Maya used the Roman alphabet, they had created their own rich and elegant script featuring more than 800 hieroglyphs. Sadly, the glyphs’ meanings were lost in the decades following the Conquest. Ever since, scholars have struggled to decode these symbols, pronounce the words they form, and understand the stories they tell. In this time line, follow the centuries-long decipherment, which has only recently reached the point where scholars can read more than 90 percent of the glyphs.—Rima Chaddha

 

 

16th century Surviving texts
The quest to decipher Maya hieroglyphs began with the very Spanish invaders whose hegemonic rule did so much to wipe out the ancient Maya script. Among them was the conquistador Hernando Cortes, who led massacres in Mexico but who also, some scholars believe, had the famous Dresden Codex—one of just four Maya illustrated books surviving today—shipped back to Spain. Another was Diego de Landa, a friar bent on replacing indigenous with Christian beliefs. In what amounts to a crime against the cultural heritage of humanity, Landa orchestrated the burning in 1562 of hundreds if not thousands of Maya bark-paper books, which he deemed heretical. Yet four years later, Landa wrote a manuscript about the Maya world called “Relation of the Things of Yucatan”. Together, this manuscript and the Dresden Codex proved essential in the later decoding of the Maya’s calendar system and their advanced understanding of astronomy and mathematics.

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1832 – Counting
Actual decipherment began with an eccentric European genius named Constantine Rafinesque, who boasted of having dabbled in more than a dozen professions, from archeology to zoology. His insatiable thirst for knowledge had led Rafinesque to a reproduction of just five pages of the Dresden Codex, from which he was able to crack the Maya’s system of counting. In 1832, Rafinesque declared in his newsletter, the Atlantic Journal and Friend of Knowledge, that the dots and bars seen in Maya glyphs (like these at left, from the Dresden Codex) represented simple numbers—a dot equaled one and a bar five. Later findings proved him right and also revealed that the Maya even had a symbol for zero, which appeared on Mesoamerican carvings as early as 36 B.C. (Zero didn’t appear in Western Europe until the 12th century.)

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1880 – Math and astronomy
As with many early glyph-related discoveries, serendipity may have played a role in the next major step in decipherment. A librarian with a penchant for mathematics named Ernst Förstemann just happened to work at the Royal Library in Dresden, Germany, which owned the Dresden Codex and after which it was named. He also had access to Landa’s “Relation.” Using his unique skill set, Förstemann decoded the astronomy tables the Maya used to determine when, for example, to wage war (at left are codex pages depicting the planetary cycle of Venus). He also deciphered the Maya system for measuring time, now called the Calendar Round. In this system, dates cycle once every 52 years, much like dates cycle annually in our Gregorian calendar. Later Mayanists used Förstemann’s discoveries to convert Maya dates to Gregorian dates—for instance, the Maya believed the world was created on August 13, 3114 B.C.

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1881 – Photo documentation
Britain’s Alfred Maudslay was a respected diplomat, but he would be best remembered for his work as an amateur Mayanist. Fascinated by scholars’ writings on the Maya and by new advancements in photography, Maudslay set out to create as complete a record as possible of the civilization’s architecture and art. Using a large-format, glass-plate camera, he captured highly detailed images of Maya sites, including clear close-ups of the glyphs. He also prepared papier-mâché casts of several carvings from which accurate drawings were later made. Maudslay had effectively given Maya studies its first systematic corpus, or body, of inscriptions. This helped make further decipherments possible, in part by bringing glyphs to scholars who had limited access to the few surviving Maya texts.

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1930s Giant steps—and missteps
By the 1930s, British researcher Eric Thompson was the world’s foremost expert in glyph studies. His achievements included deciphering signs related to the calendar and astronomy as well as identifying new words from the Maya lexicon. Thompson also developed a numerical cataloguing technique, the “T”-numbering system, for each glyph. This enabled experts to easily discuss symbols that had yet to be fully understood or identified. Nevertheless, glyph studies nearly came to a halt during this time, in large part because Thompson had most scholars convinced that each of the symbols in glyphs stood for entire words or ideas. For instance, the glyph for “west” included a well-known symbol for the sun and an as-yet unidentified symbol depicting a nearly closed hand. Thompson suggested that the hand meant “completion.” And so “west,” where the sun sets, was symbolized by “completion of the sun.” It was a reasonable guess, but one that, along with Thompson’s more general take on the glyphs, would be proven wrong.

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1952 – The sounds of the glyphs
While glyph studies languished in the West, a Russian linguist in Moscow was making his own groundbreaking discoveries. In 1952, Yuri Knorosov postulated that the individual symbols in Maya glyphs stood for phonetic sounds, much like English letters do. Knorosov knew that Maya had too many glyphs to be a true alphabet but too few for each glyph to symbolize an entire word. (Maya’s 800-plus glyphs compare to the several thousand characters of Chinese, for example.) He determined that written Maya, like Egyptian hieroglyphics, contained a combination of these elements. Because “west,” in spoken Maya, is “chik’in,” and “k’in” is the word for sun, the hand represents the syllable “chi,” as Knorosov concluded. Fortunately, American scholars Michael and Sophie Coe began publishing Knorosov’s papers in the U.S. in the late 1950s. Otherwise, his important (though incomplete) findings might have been inaccessible to Western scholars until the end of the Cold War.

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1958 – Uncovering Maya history
Tatiana Proskouriakoff was an architect by trade, but faced with a scarce job market during the Great Depression, the Russian-born American took work drawing reconstructions of the ruins at Piedras Negras, a Classic Maya site on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Later, while examining photographs of the Piedras Negras stelae, or commemorative stone slabs, Proskouriakoff noticed patterns in their dedication dates. The Maya would set up a series of stelae in front of a single temple, one every five years. The first stela in each series always showed a seated figure. Thompson had thought these were gods, but Proskouriakoff convincingly proved that they were kings and that the different markings on the stelae depicted their lives from birth until death. When a ruler died, the Maya at Piedras Negras would begin erecting stelae at another temple, detailing the life story of another ruler. For the first time, as Thompson and others came to agree, the glyphs were found to tell the stories of the Maya.

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1973 – Unveiling a dynasty
Concerned that Maya research was limited to a few experts with special access to key resources, Merle Greene Robertson, an American artist based at the Classic Maya site of Palenque, built a center where anyone could go to study the city’s art and inscriptions. In December 1973, 30 people came to the center at Robertson’s invitation, forming the first major scholarly conference held at a Maya site. Attendees included Robertson’s assistant Linda Schele, who had studied every Palenque inscription firsthand, and Peter Mathews, an undergraduate who had spent the previous year assigning Thompson’s “T”-numbers to the city’s inscriptions. The duo (left, at the site) began piecing together Palenque’s history using a carving from the site called the Tablet of the 96 Glyphs, which researchers vaguely understood to depict a line of royal accession. Within hours, and with a combination of luck and an intimate knowledge of the glyphs, Schele and Mathews accomplished something extraordinary: They unveiled most of Palenque’s dynastic history, including the life stories of six rulers.

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1981 – In their own words
Before all the glyphs could be read aloud in the original Maya, researchers needed to complete Yuri Knorosov’s phonetic decipherment. This began in 1981 when 15-year-old budding Mayanist David Stuart (left, with Linda Schele) discovered that individual Maya words could be written in multiple ways, using different symbols for the same sounds, as in “faze” and “phase.” Eric Thompson’s theory had been that the Maya wrote in rebus, in which symbols are used for whole words. A modern rebus of the phrase “I can see” might include pictures of an eye, a tin can, and the sea. While some glyphs can indeed be read this way, Stuart’s finding—that any symbol with the correct beginning sound can be used to identify that sound in a word glyph—is also true. As a result, a single glyph could be drawn in dozens of ways. With this revelation, scholars could now read many glyphs once considered indecipherable.

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Present – Reviving ancient Maya
Scholars and the modern Maya can now read the majority of glyphs, like these from Copan. They understand how the ancient language was spoken compared to modern Maya and have begun to grasp the lost civilization’s traditions by reading the stories carved on walls and painted on pottery. From these images, they now know, for example, that early Maya scribes held an exalted status, each living like royalty and vying to develop his own glyphic style. Though many traditional Maya scribes today write in the Roman script, there has been a push since the 1980s among Maya to relearn their forebears’ script and use it themselves. Maya are now teaching the written language to one another in workshops, while Maya schoolchildren are learning the glyphs along with the history of their ancestors.

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Shigir Idol has ‘encrypted codes’ and could be 11,000 years old

The Idol is more than 6,000 years older than the UK’s Stonehenge.

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More than twice the age of the Egyptian pyramids, the wooden monument – found in a peat bog in the Urals in 1890 – is 1,500 years older than previously suspected, according to the world’s most advanced dating technology.

‘The first attempt to date the idol was made 107 years after its discovery, in 1997. The first radiocarbon analyses showed that idol was 9,500 calendar years old, which led to disputes in scientific society.

‘Researches were conducted in Mannheim, Germany, at one of the world’s most advanced laboratories using Accelerated Mass Spectrometry, on seven minuscule wooden samples. The results were astonishing, as samples from inside parts of the Idol showed its age as 11,000 calendar years, to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch. We also learned that the sculpture was made from a larch which was at least 157 years old.

‘Clear cuts on the tree trunk leave no doubts that the Idol was made from a freshly cut tree, by stone tools’.

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A Key to Understanding Eurasian Art

The Idol is around the same age as anthropomorphic stone stelae found at the ancient site of Gobekli Tepe in modern-day Turkey.

This confirms that hunters and fishermen from Urals created works of art as developed and as monumental as ancient farmers of the Middle East.

The Idol was preserved ‘as if in a time capsule’ in the peat bog on the western fringes of Siberia.

Experts have surmised that its hieroglyphics contain encoded information on the ‘creation of the world’ from ancient man. It stands 2.8 metres in height but originally was 5.3 metres tall, as high as a two story house.

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Submerged Greek Village Discovered off the Coast of Greece

A sunken Bronze Age village dating to perhaps 2,500 B.C. has been discovered by researchers diving off the coast of Greece.

diver_greece_c2b76711b4c017ddad47ad2e8438adfc.nbcnews-ux-600-480A diver picks through the ruins of the city at Lambayanna beach. University of Geneva

A team from the University of Geneva was undergoing diving training in 2014 at Lambayanna beach in Kiladha Bay, an area south of Athens rich in ancient settlements and artifacts. While training, they found evidence of an entire village hidden beneath the waves. They returned in force in 2015 to perform a serious inspection of the site.

The remains of a wall or street in the sunken village. University of Geneva

Several buildings are evident among the ruins, still prominent though of course extremely eroded by time. They match the type built in the Greek Bronze Age, although there are also defensive walls and towers of a “massive nature, unknown in Greece until now,” as lead researcher Julien Beck described them to Spero News. He called the site an “archaeologist’s paradise.” The expedition is being overseen by the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece.

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32 Victims of Human Sacrifice at Cahokia Were Locals, Not ‘Foreign’ Captives, Study Finds

The practice of human sacrifice in America’s largest prehistoric city was more subtle and complex than experts once thought, new research suggests.

Recent studies into the remains of sacrificial victims at the ancient city of Cahokia reveal that those who were killed were not captives taken from outlying regions, as many archaeologists had believed.

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An artist envisions a mass sacrifice of young women in Cahokia around 1000 CE that may have filled one of the more notorious graves in Mound 72 (Credit: Herb Roe)

Instead, they may have been residents of the same community that killed them.

When Cahokia was at its peak 900 years ago, it was the largest city in what’s now the United States, a metropolis of about 15,000 people in southwestern Illinois, whose economic and cultural influence reached from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

But one of the many mysteries lingering among the city’s ruins, just outside modern-day St. Louis, is a burial mound excavated in the 1960s and found to contain more than 270 bodies — almost all of them young women killed as victims of human sacrifice.

Dated to between 1000 and 1100 CE, their remains were mostly buried in large pits, laid out in neat rows, and bearing few signs of physical trauma, perhaps killed by strangulation or blood-letting.

But the mound also contained a striking group of outliers: a separate deposit of some 39 men and women, ranging in age from 15 to 45, who — unlike the rest — had been subjected to all manner of physical violence: brutal fractures, shot with stone points still embedded in their bones, even decapitation.

For more than 50 years, archaeologists have puzzled over the grisly scenes found in the mound, known as Mound 72.

“It is the significant site in this region and foundational to our understanding of Mississippian culture within this region and beyond,” said Dr. Phil Slater, an anthropologist at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey who took part in the new study.

“One of the big questions raised by the finds at Mound 72 focused on the mass burial events. Those appear to be unique, certainly unique to have so many such features within a single small mound.”

For decades, the prevailing theory has been that its victims were forcibly brought to Cahokia from regions under the city’s control, and sacrificed as offerings to its rulers, its dead, or its deities.

Cahokia illustration
An artist’s depiction shows central Cahokia around the year 1150 (Cahokia Mounds Museum Society/ Art Grossman)

“The initial interpretation of the burials of young women suggested they represented ‘tribute’ from outlying communities,” Slater said.

“Our analysis provide[s] … evidence that suggests the young women may have come from within the region, if not from Cahokia itself.”

What’s more, the research done by Slater and his colleagues finds that the same is true for the 39 victims of the more violent, traumatic deaths in the mound.

They’re not only local, the results show; they also turn out to be the most biologically different from the rest of the dead found in the mound. And yet, they’re also the most similar to each other, suggesting that they may have been members of a unique, and perhaps isolated, population within Cahokia.

Slater and colleagues Dr. Kristin Hedman and Dr. Andrew Thompson revisited Mound 72 with a focus on the victims’ teeth — studying both their chemistry and their physical structure.

The team analyzed 203 teeth from 109 of the people found in 3 separate burials in the mound.

Mound 72 Feature 214 Cahokia burial
The mass grave known as Feature 214, thought to be one of the earliest mass burials in the mound, contained 24 bodies arranged in two layers and dated to around the year 1000. (Photo: St. Louis Community College)

Among them: a grave known as Feature 214, thought to be one of the earliest mass burials in the mound, featuring 24 bodies arranged in two layers and dated to around the year 1000;

and also Feature 105, dated to around 1050, where more than 50 were buried in two layers of two rows, aligned shoulder to shoulder;

and finally Feature 229, which included two layers of human remains — an upper layer of 15 men and women, whose remains were gently laid to rest on cedar litters, and 229-lower — the mass grave of 39 men and women whose mutilated bodies appear to have been dumped, rather than peacefully interred.

“They appear,” Slated said, “to have been lined up and pushed in.”

“We now have the opportunity to take another look at some of these [features] and challenge some of the earlier interpretations,” he added.

“Who were the individuals buried in Mound 72 and what do their deaths and burials signify?”

In their search for answers, the team looked, in part, for chemical clues in the victims’ teeth.

Specifically, they wanted to measure the levels of the element strontium that they contained. Strontium occurs naturally in groundwater as it leaches in from local rock formations. But different regions have different levels of various strontium isotopes, depending on their geology.

So as humans eat and drink, the concentrations of strontium that are specific to the local food and water supply become bound in their teeth.

In this way, teeth can be analyzed to reveal their owner’s geographical history, allowing scientists to determine whether people were born in the same region where they were buried, or whether they immigrated from elsewhere.

This method holds particular promise for researching Cahokia, noted Dr. Thomas Emerson, director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, since the city’s rapid growth had been widely attributed to immigration from outlying areas.

“With the development of strontium analysis, there became a way to actually test the immigration hypothesis by looking at the bodies of the people buried at Cahokia,” he said.

 

And the results showed that, based on their chemical traces, the dead were largely, but not exclusively, local to the floodplain where Cahokia was built, known as the American Bottom.

Of those buried in Feature 105, for instance, about 7 percent of the teeth revealed levels of strontium that were not consistent with the immediate Cahokia area.

In Feature 214, 36 percent of the teeth turned out to have non-local signatures.

And for those who had been carefully buried in the upper layer of Feature 229, 17 percent of the teeth contained non-local levels of strontium.

But for the people buried below them, who had been violently killed and dumped, their teeth were all exclusively within the range of Cahokia’s strontium ratios — and they also displayed the smallest degree of variation in their chemistry.

What’s more, Slater said, the physical measurements of their teeth revealed even more surprising results.

The shapes and sizes of the mutilated victims’ teeth were uniquely similar to each other, and were also different from the morphologies of the teeth of the other victims.

“The 229-lower feature stood out among the four [features], because it seems to have been composed of a distinct sub-population within Cahokia,” he said.

“Both the strontium and dental data of the group show that they separate themselves from the rest of Mound 72.”

Taken together, Slater said, the data suggest that these mutilated victims were all local to the Cahokia region, but also physically different in some ways from the general population.

“It is possible that Feature 229-lower represents a small group that lived in the region — as is suggested by the strontium data — but was isolated from others for a long enough period of time to acquire similar dental characteristics that we tested for,” he said.

Beyond the scope of those 39 individuals, the findings obtained throughout Mound 72 suggest that the 270 people buried there were not all immigrants, or captives from raids into distant territories, as some experts had suggested.

Instead, it seems that the sacrificed were themselves Cahokians — or at least a relatively consistent mixture of immigrants and locals, with native Cahokians forming the majority of the group, a mixture found even in common, non-sacrificial graves in the city.

It’s a prospect that opens up a new set of questions, Slater said.

Cahokia_Mound_72
Mound 72 as it appears today.

“On the surface, these results refute interpretations that these people were [killed as] tribute from outside communities and suggest that they were actually local people from within the American Bottom and part of the Cahokia population in some way,” he said.

“However, their unique burial contexts indicate special — either good or bad — treatment in death.

“This actually raises just as many questions as it answers: Why were these groups of people all buried at the same times?

“Why were some being killed and buried, as in Feature 229-lower?

“How were these groups integrated to the rest of Cahokia’s population socially or politically?

“These are things we still don’t know.”

As part of ongoing research called the Cahokia Collapse Project, the team is now planning to study strontium levels in other regions that interacted with Cahokia, in an effort to clarify where some of its immigrants might have come from.

For now, Slater says, their research offers valuable new insights into the nature of life and death in what was once America’s largest city.

“An important value of this specific [study] lies in providing multiple lines of evidence … to try and understand who these people were – and Cahokia at large,” Slater said.

“It is also important to realize that just because someone has ‘answered’ a question previously, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t revisit it with a new perspective or new, improved methodology.

“That’s part of the collective advancement of science.”

The team reports their findings in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.


Great Blue Hole off Belize yields new clues to fall of Mayan civilisation

Research supports theory that drought and climate conditions reduced Mayans from a regional power to survivors abandoning cities to virtual extinction.

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A massive underwater sinkhole surrounded by reefs, caves and sharks has provided archaeologists with clues in the mystery of the fall of the Mayan civilization, according to new research.

Scientists from Rice University and Louisiana State University found evidence in Belize’s Great Blue Hole, a 400ft-deep cave in a barrier reef, that supports the theory that drought and climate conditions pushed the Mayans from a regional power to a smattering of rival survivors and finally a virtually lost civilization.

The researchers took sediment samples from both the ancient sinkhole and the central Belize lagoon corresponding to the era of the Mayan decline, between 800 and1000 AD. In those samples they tested the ratio of aluminum and titanium – a sign of heavy rainfall from tropical cyclones pounding the element out of the rock and into the sea. Their study on the lagoon, which has yet to be published, complements one published last year in Scientific Reports on the Hole, and found relatively little titanium, meaning there had been fewer tropical cyclones and longer droughts than normal during those two centuries.

Evidence of droughts as a factor in Mayan civilization’s long decline has been growing for years, including stalagmite evidence found in 2012, but the Great Blue Hole is better aligned with the path of storm systems passing over the ancient Mayan capital city of Tikal. The Yucatan peninsula lacks natural water resources, so the Mayans relied on rainfall that accumulated in limestone sinkholes – natural sinkholes called cenotes (sometimes also used for religious rituals) and manmade cisterns called chultunes. Several prolonged periods of drought, like those the evidence suggests, could have quickly drained the Mayans’ stores of potable water.

Famine, unrest and war are natural consequences of a water crisis – the Mayans farmed on difficult soil and lived in a fractious, combative culture. By 900 AD any Mayan cities had been abandoned; a second period of droughts may have tipped the scales for other cities, as dirty water spread disease, dry weather killed crops and rival groups fought and fled in search of resources.

Scientists have been puzzled for decades by the question of why the Mayans abandoned their cities and apparently forsook a civilization that gave them a script, elaborate art and architecture, sport, agriculture, trade and a three-tiered concept of time. Scientists have suggested war, climate, disease and politics as possible causes. Supporters of the drought hypothesis sometimes argue that it can assimilate many factors into a larger theory of systemic collapse.

1f18d35f-ea61-4936-add5-5f354c93c0ad-2060x1236 Mayan ruins at Tulum in Quintana Roo, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Photograph: Dallas and John Heaton/Alamy

The major city of Chichen Itza, along the coast of the peninsula, thrived for about a century after 1000AD, almost certainly taking in Mayans who arrived from the arid south to build a revised iteration of Mayan culture in the north. Then, the Blue Hole research shows, a second period of droughts drained the peninsula, coinciding with the estimated time that Chichen Itza also quickly declined. Mayans did however continue to live there, albeit in smaller numbers, surviving the fall of their civilization, the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and the changes of the centuries until the present day.

Climate change and drought have been cited as likely causes in the decline of other civilizations. Yale archaeologist Harvey Weiss and University of Massachusetts climatologist Raymond Bradley argue that massive droughts changed history in the Middle East, devastating the Akkadian empire and Egypt’s Old Kingdom around 2200 BC; that sometime after 500 AD drought and floods forced Peru’s Moche civilization north; and that almost a thousand years later similar problems caused the Anazasi to abandon their cities in the North American south-west.

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BBC News: Breakthrough in world’s oldest undeciphered writing

This from an article written by the BBC on 25 October 2012. Let’s revisit this…

The world’s oldest undeciphered writing system, which has so far defied attempts to uncover its 5,000-year-old secrets, could be about to be decoded by Oxford University academics.

_63514348_protoelamite464Experts working on proto-Elamite hope they are on the point of ‘a breakthrough.

This international research project is already casting light on a lost bronze age middle eastern society where enslaved workers lived on rations close to the starvation level.

“I think we are finally on the point of making a breakthrough,” says Jacob Dahl, fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and director of the Ancient World Research Cluster.

Dr Dahl’s secret weapon is being able to see this writing more clearly than ever before.

In a room high up in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, above the Egyptian mummies and fragments of early civilisations, a big black dome is clicking away and flashing out light.

This device, part sci-fi, part-DIY, is providing the most detailed and high quality images ever taken of these elusive symbols cut into clay tablets. This is Indiana Jones with software.

This way of capturing images, developed by academics in Oxford and Southampton, is being used to help decode a writing system called proto-Elamite, used between around 3200BC and 2900BC in a region now in the south west of modern Iran.

And the Oxford team think that they could be on the brink of understanding this last great remaining cache of undeciphered texts from the ancient world.

Tablet computer

Dr Dahl, from the Oriental Studies Faculty, shipped his image-making device on the Eurostar to the Louvre Museum in Paris, which holds the most important collection of this writing.

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Jacob Dahl wants the public and other academics to help with an online decipherment of the texts

The clay tablets were put inside this machine, the Reflectance Transformation Imaging System, which uses a combination of 76 separate photographic lights and computer processing to capture every groove and notch on the surface of the clay tablets.

It allows a virtual image to be turned around, as though being held up to the light at every possible angle.

These images will be publicly available online, with the aim of using a kind of academic crowdsourcing.

He says it’s misleading to think that codebreaking is about some lonely genius suddenly understanding the meaning of a word. What works more often is patient teamwork and the sharing of theories. Putting the images online should accelerate this process.

Making it even harder to decode is the fact that it’s unlike any other ancient writing style. There are no bi-lingual texts and few helpful overlaps to provide a key to these otherwise arbitrary looking dashes and circles and symbols.

This is a writing system – and not a spoken language – so there’s no way of knowing how words sounded, which might have provided some phonetic clues.

Dr Dahl says that one of the really important historical significances of this proto-Elamite writing is that it was the first ever recorded case of one society adopting writing from another neighbouring group.

But infuriatingly for the codebreakers, when these proto-Elamites borrowed the concept of writing from the Mesopotamians, they made up an entirely different set of symbols.

Why they should make the intellectual leap to embrace writing and then at the same time re-invent it in a different local form remains a puzzle.

But it provides a fascinating snapshot of how ideas can both spread and change.

In terms of written history, this is the very remote past. But there is also something very direct and almost intimate about it too.

You can see fingernail marks in the clay. These neat little symbols and drawings are clearly the work of an intelligent mind.

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 A set of 76 lights are used in the capturing of images of surface marks in the ancient tablets

 

Dr Dahl remains passionate about what this work says about such societies, digging into the deepest roots of civilisation. This is about where so much begins. For instance, proto-Elamite was the first writing ever to use syllables.

If Macbeth talked about the “last syllable of recorded time”, the proto-Elamites were there for the first.

And with sufficient support, Dr Dahl says that within two years this last great lost writing could be fully understood.

 

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French archaeology students find 560,000-year-old tooth

Two students have found a human tooth from about 560,000 years ago in a famous prehistoric cave in south-western France, a discovery praised by archaeologists as the oldest human body part ever discovered in the country and being rare from that period in Europe.

 

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The tooth was found last week during excavations at Tautavel, one of Europe’s most important prehistoric sites, where about 40 volunteers are working under the supervision of scientists.

Palaeoanthropologist Tony Chevalier, researcher at Tautavel’s archaeological laboratory, called it a “major discovery”.

Chevalier told The Associated Press that the adult tooth would help fill a gap between the very few oldest human fossils, notably found in Spain and Germany, and more recent ones.

Thousands of finds on the site include prehistoric tools and bones from animals, especially horses, reindeers and buffaloes.

“We believe these men have lived for a long time in the cave or have regularly come back into it,” Chevalier said. “We also know that the area was quite cold at the time. It was a steppe, with no trees. There had to be some long periods with snow.”

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There have been excavations at the cave for about 50 years and it is famous for the discovery of 450,000 human skull in the early 1970s, known by scientists as the “Tautavel Man”.

Professor Chris Stringer, merit researcher in human origins at the Natural History Museum of London, wrote in an email to the AP that “well-dated teeth of this age are very important as they probably belonged to the species Homo heidelbergensis, which is already known from Arago (in Tautavel) in France, Mauer in Germany and Boxgrove in England”.

“If the tooth has calculus (tartar) attached to it, this may also provide direct evidence of the diet of these ancient humans,” he added.

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