Ancient Origins

Execution by Elephant Was a Brutal Form of Capital Punishment For 2,000 Years

Historic illustration of execution by elephant. Source: Pixaterra / Adobe Stock

Elephants are one of the smartest and most powerful animals in the world. It is no wonder then that these magnificent beasts were exploited and trained to be brutal executioners.


Mysterious Roundel Older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids Found in Czech Republic

: An artist’s depiction of what the 7,000-year-old Neolithic roundel structure found near Prague would have looked like.Source: Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences

A stunning Neolithic roundel structure that is older than Stonehenge has been announced by Czech Republic archaeologists.


Jotunheim: Outsized Tales from the Norse Land of the Giants

Jotunheim, land of the giants in Norse mythology, was the source of many antagonists and adventures for our mythical heroes. Source: lobard / Adobe Stock

In Norse mythology, the cosmos consisted of nine realms. Some realms we know a lot about, others remain largely a mystery. 


Ancient Aphrodisiacal and ‘Cure-All’ Plant Rediscovered!

Comparison of Ferula drudeana plants with representations of silphion. Source: CC BY 4.0

Pliny the Elder claimed Emperor Nero consumed the last stalk of silphion, which was believed to have gone extinct almost 2000 years ago


The Moche Uncensored! 15 Surprising Erotic Ceramics of Peru

Moche pottery depicting copulation. Museo Larco – Lima, Perú

The Moche were a mysterious civilization who ruled the northern coast of Peru beginning 2,000 years ago.


Meta-Study Shows Ancient Maya were at High Risk of Mercury Poisoning

Temple of the Great Jaguar at Tikal in Guatemala, where high levels of mercury have been found. Source: IBRESTER / Adobe Stock

The Maya Empire dominated large swaths of Mesoamerica for more than 3,000 years.


Typhon and Echidna: Monster Makers of Greek Mythology

Typhon and Echidna were parents to a pantheon of Greek monsters. Statue of Echidna in Parco dei Mostri, Bomarzo, Italy  Source: Public Domain

Greek mythology is full of terrible monsters. Although it is difficult to choose the worst or most terrible of the Greek monsters, Typhon and Echidna are strong contenders. 


Ancient Dreamtime Myths Unraveled in Australian Rock Shelter Art

The central portion of the Australian rock shelter art at Marra Wonga, Queensland,  with an extensive wall of petroglyphs and stencils.

Archaeologists working with Aboriginal artists in Australia have interpreted rock shelter art with extraordinary findings. This artistic blend of astronomy, mythology and the Dreamtime is like no other on Earth.


Blades of Destiny: The Ancient Tools And Weapons That Crafted History

Attirampakkam stone tools  (Ophelia S/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

It is widely accepted that Homo sapiens were the first species to develop effective tools, but humans were not the first primate to make or use stone tools. 


1,000-Year-Old Cañada de la Virgen Monument Given Protected Status in Mexico

Cañada de la Virgen is a protected national monument in Mexico. Source: INAH

Mexico has a new protected archaeological monument. The site is a 1,000-year-old ceremonial center of the Otomi or Hnahnu people, an indigenous group that still inhabits the area around the Sierra Madre mountains.


Mount Olympus, Dwelling Place of the Gods: Myth vs Reality

Fantasy illustration of the palaces of the gods on Mount Olympus.	Source: Max79im / Adobe Stock

Few mountains have had greater impact on the history of Western civilization than the mountain situated on the Aegean coast on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia, referred to as Mount Olympus. 


Hyperion: Titan God of Heavenly Light, Son of Gaia and Uranus

In the wars between the Olympians and the Titans, known as the Titanomachy, Hyperion, the heavenly light, does battle with Zeus, the sky and thunder god. Source: rudall30 / Adobe Stock

In Disney’s 1997 film Hercules, the Titans are portrayed as natural disasters personified in the form of monolithic, terrible beings.


The Battleground Origins of Jujutsu

Jujutsu practitioner tightening their belt. Source: Soloviova Liudmyla / Adobe Stock

It’s likely that if you’ve ever seen a Hollywood action film you’ve probably heard of jujutsu. Thanks to films like The Matrix and the John Wick franchise, jujutsu is more in the public eye than ever before. But what most people don’t know is that jujutsu’s origins go back to the 8th century Japanese warrior class. Jujutsu, once a weapon of war, has evolved over the centuries into something quite different. Still a popular martial art in its own right today, it has gone on to form the basis of many more modern fighting styles. It has a long and rich history worth studying.

What is Jujutsu?

Jujutsu is a family of Japanese martial arts that specializes in short-ranged, predominantly unarmed combat. It can be used either defensively or offensively and is characterized by a use of throws, holds, and attacks meant to paralyze the opponent.

Jiu-jitsu fighters sparring. (quicklinestudio /Adobe Stock)

The word jujutsu can be broken down into two parts. “Ju” can be translated as gentle, soft, supple, pliable, or yielding. Jutsu can be simply translated as an art/ technique. When we combine these translations it gives us “yielding art”.


Anglo-Saxon Migration Created a ‘European’ Medieval England

Archaeologists excavating a complicated triple burial at England’s Oakington Cambridgeshire site, which was used in the recent Nature study to determine the true impact of Anglo-Saxon migration on medieval eastern and southern England. Source: Nature

The history of the British Isles is marked by several phases of migration and multiple periods of monumental change, including invasions by the Romans, Vikings and the Normans, and mass migration by the Celtics and the Anglo-Saxons. A new genome-based study shows that almost 75% of the population of eastern and southern England came from Anglo-Saxon migrations originating from continental regions bordering the North Sea, especially from the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.

Professor Ian Barnes, a Merit Researcher at the Natural History Museum, who co-authored the Anglo-Saxon migration study, said, “It's great that we've been able to contribute to this extensive study of the early English, as there's almost no ancient DNA (aDNA) work on the Anglo-Saxon period. The results are fascinating and flag up how significant the change in the population was at this time.”

‘Outsider’ Anglo-Saxon Migrations Defined Medieval England

The open-access study, published in Nature, shows that the new Anglo-Saxon migration arrivals from continental Europe interbred with the existing English peoples. This integration was not uniform or deliberate in any way across eastern and southern England, and thus varied from region to region, and community to community.


Archaeologists Puzzle Over Huge Iron Age Ceramic Jar Found in UAE

Top image: Iron age ceramic jar discovered in UAE. Source: Sharjah Museums Authority

The largest Iron Age ceramic jar ever discovered in the UAE dated to 3,000 years ago hints at a bustling trade scene from the 1st millennium BC. 


The First Circumnavigation of the World Happened by Accident, Not Design

Composite image cloves layered over map representing the Magellan-Elcano expedition in the Nao Victoria. Source: Benjamin LEFEBVRE / Adobe Stock & Public domain

In 2022 Spain went all out to celebrate the quincentennial of the arrival of the so-called ‘Spice Route Armada’ which reached Spain on September 6th, 1522, after completing the first recorded circumnavigation of the world. What many people don’t realize is that the brains of the expedition, Ferdinand Magellan, never actually meant to sail around the world. He was actually looking for a trade route to reach the lucrative Maluku Islands of Indonesia, known as the Spice Islands.

The Portuguese explorer was sailing under the Spanish flag, due to a falling out with King Manuel of Portugal, while the Treaty of Tordesillas had effectively carved up the world between the Spanish, who controlled trade routes to the west, and the Portuguese, given control of trade routes to the east.

16th-century engraving by Joannes Stradanus depicting Magellan surrounded by mythological characters and fantastic animals. It represents the discovery of the Magellan Strait and European views of the still-mysterious Americas. (Public domain)


Gre Filla Neolithic Site in Turkey to be Relocated to Avoid Floodwaters

A section of the Gre Filla Neolithic site in Turkey. The site’s temple mound is scheduled to be relocated before the area is flooded.        Source: Arkeofili

Archaeologists in Turkey have spent the past four years excavating at a Neolithic mound in southeastern Turkey that will be flooded once the construction of a huge dam is completed.


Glyphs Upon A Stone Altar: The Petroglyphs Of Mu

Phallic megalith covered with glyphs and author in the Pohnpaid meadow (Image © 1992 Carole Nervig)

Awareness of Nan Madol as a world class archaeological site has grown exponentially over the last decade, especially since achieving World Heritage Site status in 1996. 


Europe’s Famous Mesolithic Pesse Canoe: Earth’s Oldest Known Boat

The Pesse canoe, shown here, believed to be the world's oldest known boat, was made roughly 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic period, from a Scots pine trunk, in the Netherlands region.

One of the most interesting artifact discoveries was the finding of the Pesse canoe in 1955. This unique boat is considered to be the oldest boat in existence and is estimated to be around 10,000 years old.


Red-Pink Granite Sarcophagus of Ramses II’s Secretary Found at Saqqara

Sarcophagus of Ramses II’s royal secretary discovered in Saqqara, Egypt. Source: MOTA

The pink-red granite sarcophagus of Ptahmweia, a royal secretary during the reign of Ramses II (1279-1213 BC) of the Nineteenth Dynasty, has been discovered at the Saqqara necropolis. 


Everyday Viking Life: More Farmers Than Fighters

Viking woman enjoying daily pastoral life on the homestead.             Source: selenit / Adobe Stock

The Vikings, the seafaring Norse pirates and traders from the Scandinavian region, left an indelible mark on history, particularly European history, as they raided, looted, pillaged, and conquered.


Evidence of Opium Use By Canaanites in 14th Century BC Found

One of the 14th-century-BC Canaanite burials at Tel Yehud associated with vessels containing traces of opium. Source: Assaf Peretz / Israel Antiquities Authority

Human beings have been using hallucinogenic or psychoactive drugs to experience pleasurable sensations or induce altered states of consciousness for thousands of years. 


3,000-year-old Gold Funeral Mask Illuminates Yellow River Civilization

The rare, gold Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC ) funeral mask recently recovered from a noble’s tomb at Zhengzhou, China. Source: Xinhua

A 3000-year-old gold funeral mask dated to the Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC) has been unearthed by archaeologists on the Yellow River about 600 kilometers (373 miles) northwest of Shanghai. 


Why Was Gout The Kingliest of Ailments?

Gout can be caused by large amounts of red meat and alcohol, a common diet of historical kings        Source: diter / Adobe Stock

When we think of historically significant diseases we tend to think of diseases like the bubonic plague, cholera, tuberculosis, or more recently, COVID-19.


Hestia: Greek Goddess of the Hearth and Home

Hestia, the Greek goddess of the hearth and home, holding the flame of life. Source: matiasdelcarmine / Adobe Stock

A woman stands next to a large flame, with a staff in one hand and tending to the fire with the other. This is Hestia, the Greek goddess of the hearth, home, and family. 


Ramesses II Era Tomb Found in Distant Israeli Beach Cave Is Astounding!

What began as an accidental discovery of a natural Israeli cave became a manmade Ramesses II era tomb full of artifacts, bronze and clay, from nearly 3,300 years ago! Source: Emil Algam / Israel Antiquities Authority

In what they refer to as an “exceptional and amazing” discovery, a team of Israeli archaeologists recently unearthed an ancient burial cave within the borders of Palmahim Beach National Park on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline.


Colne Priory – Revisiting the Excavation Of The Earls Of Oxford’s Tomb Sites

Tomb of Richard de Vere the 11th Earl of Oxford - died 1417 - and his second wife Alice. He commanded the English centre under Henry V at Agincourt, and was involved in the king’s French campaigning. (Image: © Rebecca Batley)

No trace of the medieval Colne Priory in Essex remains above ground, as the site is now occupied by a later building of the same name, and in private ownership.


Mysterious Cases of Living Fossils, Suspended Animation, and Hibernation

Frog brooch of amber and bronze on a rock, representative of living fossils.	Source: ISliM / Adobe Stock

We all know that fossils, by their very nature, are dead. Of course, nothing can survive the conditions of pressure, depth and time required to petrify wood, see saplings mature into massive trees, transmogrify vegetation into coal or metamorphose mud into solid rock.


Oldest Fossilized Heart Ever Found is 380 Million Years Old

Using the latest technology, the researchers were able to examine the Gogo fish fossil (show here) and identify its 380-million-year-old, 3D preserved fossilized heart. (Yasmine Phillips, Curtin University / Western Australia Museum)

"A mind-boggling, jaw-dropping” 380-million-year-old fossilized heart has been discovered in Western Australia, preserved inside a now extinct prehistoric fish known as the Gogo.


Medieval Scientists Tried to Make Little People with Semen, Blood, and an Animal Womb

Medieval alchemists believed they could create a mini artificial human. Source: lidiia / Adobe Stock

The question of how to create life does not just go back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, when the eponymous character used forbidden science to create life. 


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