Monday, August 11, 2014

Mystery of giant holes in Siberia



Huge holes have been discovered in a Siberian region nicknamed "the end of the world," reports the 'Siberian Times.' First a 260-foot-wide crater caught the world's attention in early July, and now researchers and reindeer herders have uncovered two more: one with a diameter of around 50 feet, and another — which nearly swallowed the herders who stumbled across it — with a diameter of only about 13 feet but an estimated depth of up to 328 feet, 'Gizmodo' reports.


This frame grab made on July 16, 2014, shows a crater discovered recently in the Yamal Peninsula in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia.

Huge, mysterious gaping holes in Northern Siberia may not be such a mystery anymore. One scientist has pinned down a cause and, spoiler alert, it's not aliens or weapons testing, as had been theorized.
The first hole discovered in the Yamal Peninsula, which is 260 feet wide, is likely a sinkhole caused by melting ice or permafrost, University of Alaska geophysicist Vladimir Romanovsky tells LiveScience.

But rather than swallowing the earth as it opened up, he speculates, the hole "actually erupted outside," tossing dirt around the rim. (One caveat: Romanovsky hasn't seen the holes himself, but he has spoken to Russian colleagues who have, notes PRI.)

He suspects natural gas caused pressure to build as the water collected in an underground cavity, and the dirt—which is reportedly piled more than 3 feet high around the edge of the crater — was eventually expelled.

Plants around the crater suggests the hole is several years old, but closer inspection is needed to determine the exact age. Romanovsky thinks climate change played a role, which means "we will probably see this happen more often now," he says. But questions remain, notes LiveScience: Where did the natural gas come from, and why is the hole so even and round?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Early Earth could have been habitable


Hell on Earth: Despite being bombarded by 1000-kilometre wide asteroids, the environment of Earth could have been suitable for life, say researchers (Simone Marchi )

Stuart Gary
ABC


Isolated pockets of liquid water may have existed on the infant Earth even while it was being smashed by giant asteroids that boiled the oceans and created vast seas of magma, a new study suggests.

This means there could have been habitable regions on the Earth during its violent early period, say the authors in today's issue of the journal Nature.

But, they add, any life emerging during Earth's first half billion years would need to have been resistant to extreme conditions, and capable of spreading from the few stable niches existing at that time.

The constant mixing and burial of the Earth's crust by the unrelenting bombardment of asteroids, comets and meteors, during this Hadean epoch, means the geological history of this time -- and whether life existed then -- is poorly understood.

Dr Simone Marchi of the Southwest Research Institute, in Boulder Colorado, and colleagues, have developed a computer model that provides the most detailed picture yet of the Hadean epoch.
Some simulations show up to four large impacts involving 1000-kilometre wide asteroids capable of causing global sterilisation of any life existing at the time.

The simulations also found up to seven asteroids over 500 kilometres wide would have collided with the Earth, each capable of causing global ocean vaporisation, producing a steam atmosphere, and magma oceans, with the most recent occurring four billion years ago.

The researchers found every major part of the Earth would have been affected at one point or another.
Despite all this, the researchers say, there is evidence that there could have been habitable environments at the time.

"We found that the magma oceans were likely to be regional events, so at any given time there were some locations that were calm," says Marchi.

"That means liquid water could have existed in one place or another throughout the 500 million years of the Hadean period."

Marchi says the bombardment by 1000-kilometre wide asteroids would have completely wiped out any life existing at the time and, if that was the case, then life must have started over again after those large collisions.

Moon craters

Marchi and colleagues found the peak bombardment of the early Earth occurred soon after the formation of the Moon and gradually tapered off until the simulation ended 3.5 billion years ago, by which time the number of impacts was negligible.

They determined Earth's early impact history by examining the heavily cratered surface of the Moon which provides a record of the number of impact events and the size of the objects that caused them.

"The moon's surface is on average much older than the surface of the Earth, because the Moon is basically a dead body in which geological evolution is reduced to a minimal level," says Marchi.

"We found the populations of different sized impactors hitting the Moon is very similar to the size distribution of asteroids in the main asteroid belt today. This was also true for Mercury and the oldest surfaces on Mars."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fossil of biggest-known flying seabird found


The bird's wings were twice as long as the biggest modern-day seabird, the royal albatross, say scientists (Source: Liz Bradford)

AFP

Fossilised bird bones uncovered in the US represent the largest flying bird in history, with a wingspan of 6.4 metres, say researchers.

Their findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show the bird's wings were twice as long as the biggest modern-day seabird, the royal albatross.

Coupled with its long beak and sharp bony teeth, Pelagornis sandersi's enormous wings likely helped the bird master long periods of gliding over water in search of seafood some 25 to 28 million years ago.

However, the bird might have needed some help getting airborne, given that its wings were simply too long to flap easily from the ground.

Scientists believe it may have made a running start downhill, or used air gusts - much like a hang glider - to make its way aloft.

Once in the air, the bird could probably soar for miles without ever flapping its wings, says study author Dan Ksepka of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.
"That's important in the ocean, where food is patchy," he says.

P. sandersi lived after the dinosaurs became extinct but before the first humans are known to have inhabited North America.

Excavation

The bird's wing and leg bones along with its complete skull were first discovered in 1983 near Charleston, South Carolina, during excavation work for a new international airport.

"The upper wing bone alone was longer than my arm," says Ksepka, recalling that a backhoe was called in to help unearth the bones.

The bone measurements suggest that the bird's wingspan was between 6.06 and 7.38 metres, according to the researchers.

The previous size record holder was an extinct, 6-million-year-old bird found in Argentina, named Argentavis magnificens. Its wingspan was estimated at about 6.4 metres.

The fossils of the P. sandersi shed light on the flying ability of a remarkable bird, but also raise new questions about the group of bony toothed seabirds known as pelagornithids, which disappeared some 2.5 million years ago.

These ancient birds were "remarkably efficient fliers" that were found across all seven continents, making "the cause of their ultimate extinction all of the more mysterious," say Ksepka and colleauges.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

'Earth-like' planet Kepler-186f discovered by NASA scientists


Scientists have found an Earth-sized world orbiting in a life-friendly zone around a distant star for the first time.

The discovery, announced on Thursday, is the closest scientists have come so far to finding a true Earth twin.

The star, known as Kepler-186 and located about 500 light years away in the constellation Cygnus, is smaller and redder than the sun.

The star's outermost planet, designated Kepler-186f, receives about one-third the radiation from its parent star as Earth gets from the sun, meaning that high noon on this world would be roughly akin to Earth an hour before sunset, said astronomer Thomas Barclay from NASA's Ames Research Centre.
The planet is the right distance from its host star for water - if any exists - to be liquid on the surface, a condition that scientists suspect is necessary for life.

"This planet is an Earth cousin, not an Earth twin," said Mr Barclay, who is among a team of scientists reporting on the discovery in the journal Science this week.

NASA launched its Kepler space telescope in 2009 to search about 150,000 target stars for signs of any planets passing by, or transiting, relative to the telescope's point of view.

Analysis of archived Kepler data continues. From Kepler's observational perch, a planet about the size and location of Earth orbiting a sun-like star would blot out only about 80 to 100 photons out of every million as it transits.

The pattern is repeated every 365 days and at least three transits would be needed to rule out other possibilities, so the search takes time.

"It's very challenging to find Earth analogs," Mr Barclay said.

"Most candidates don't pan out, but things change as we get more measurements."

Scientists do not know anything about the atmosphere of Kepler-186f, but it will be a target for future telescopes that can scan for telltale chemicals that may be linked to life.

"This planet is in the habitable zone, but that's doesn't mean it is habitable," Mr Barclay said.
So far, scientists have found nearly 1,800 planets beyond the solar system.

"The past year has seen a lot of progress in the search for Earth-like planets," astronomer David Charbonneau from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics wrote in an email.

"Kepler-168f is significant because it is the first exoplanet that is the same temperature and is (almost) the same size as Earth.

"For me the impact is to prove that yes, such planets really do exist. Now we can point to a star and say: 'There lies an Earth-like planet'."

Reuters

Monday, April 28, 2014

Jerusalem: 2,700 year old inscription discovered


In Antiquities Authority excavations in the city of David clay crockery dated to the 8th and 7th centuries BC were discovered. One is possibly inscribed with the name a biblical character.

Rina Feingold

In excavations performed by the Antiquities Authority in the area of the Gihon Spring a layer filled with exciting findings was uncovered – in which are thousands of broken pieces of clay crockery, clay candles and figurines. The experts estimate that they are from the end of the first temple period.

One of the most significant discoveries is a clay bowl with an incomplete inscription on it. According to estimations, the name closest to the partial one found on the bowl is Zechariah Ben Benayah.

Due to the lack of some of the letters, the archeologists can’t determine with certainty whether the object belong to the biblical character mentioned in Chronicles. 
 
Antiquities Authority archeologists Joe Uziel and Nachshon Zanton, who discovered the bowl, date the letters inscribed in the clay to the 7-8th century BC, and attribute the bowl to the time between the monarchy of Hezekiah to the destruction of Jerusalem in the days of king Zedekiah.

The purpose of the inscription is not clear, but the archeologists claim that the bowl could have contained an offering, and it is probable that it carried the name of the he who was offering, or he who was receiving the offering.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

History Channel: Myth Hunters



Following the success of the first series, the second series of Myth Hunters reveals more true stories of quests after legendary objects – hordes of lost Spanish gold, the Temple of Solomon, the body of King Arthur, the relics of Joan of Arc; objects that offer their finder either unlimited power or wealth - or both.

For most of us, these are the stuff of fantasy and movies as seen in Indiana Jones or The Mummy; but these are the real stories of real adventurers who thought these myths were true.

These true life action adventures are exciting stories filmed in HD. The thirteen-part series features dramatic reconstruction, expert witness testimonies, specially shot location material and archive footage.

 Season One



  1. The Quest For Noah's Ark

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  2. Hitler And The Spear Of Destiny

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  3. The Hunt For Pirate Treasure

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  4. The Real King Solomon's Mines

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  5. The Missing Eighth Wonder of The World

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  6. The Lost Sword Of The Samurai

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  7. Himmler And The Holy Grail

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  8. The Hunt For The Book Of Spells

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  9. The Lost City Of El Dorado

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  10. The Nazis And The Book Of Power

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  11. Raider Ron And The Lost Ark

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  12. The Search For The Crystal Skulls

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

  13. The Quest For The True Cross

    The story of real life quests after some of history's greatest legends. From the Nazis' search for the Holy Grail, to the Americans who hunted for pirate treasure in Vietnam; from the true story of the crystal skulls to the mystery of King Solomon's mines - this series uncovers the truth behind some of the most fabulous, romantic and deranged treasure hunts in modern history.

     Season Two

     

    1. The Search for King Arthur's Bones

      As famed archaeologist stared into an empty pit, had he finally realised his boyhood ambition and found the final resting place of King Arthur? The search for the bones of King Arthur reached fever pitch at the turn of the 20th century. Frederick Bligh Bond was one of Britain's leading archaeologist and he was determined to prove that King Arthur, the wielder of Excalibur, the founder of Camelot and the Lord of the Round Table, had been real. The story goes that, in 1191, the monks of Glastonbury Abbey uncovered the body of a gigantic man. Wounded several times in the head, he had succumbed to one last fatal blow. The bones of his wife, along with a tress of her beautiful golden hair, shared his large oak coffin. An ancient lead cross found with the burial was inscribed "Here lies buried the famous king Arthur with Guinevere his second wife, in the Isle of Avalon". To find the grave, Bligh Bond pioneered new techniques in archaeology, which revealed stunning details of the Abbey. During the excavation he's visited by colleagues - and a 10 year old boy, Ralegh Radford, who's captivated by his mission. Bligh Bond's findings amaze the Church, but later he confesses that he'd been communicating with the Abbey's long dead, mediaeval monks in seances. The Church was outraged and Bligh Bond was pulled off the site, disgraced, and the excavation closed down. 30 years on the quest is taken up by Ralegh Radford, an ambitious and talented archaeologist. Excavating under the Abbey he came upon a pit - and found himself staring into that gigantic man's grave - the grave of King Arthur. Had he really found the legendary king's final resting place?
    2. The Secret of Superstition Mountain

      In the Wild West, one legend of lost gold endures above all others. The story begins after a few years after the American civil war. A young cowhand, raised in the Wild West hears of a tale from a stranger as he sits around a camp fire. It's a story of greed, duplicity and cold-blooded murder all fuelled by an insatiable lust for gold. Dick Holmes is hooked. A mysterious German - or was he a Dutchman - struggled out of the Superstition Mountains in Arizona in 1868. His name, he said, was Jacob Waltz, and in his pockets were samples of rock filled with gold. There was, he said, a mine with the richest seam imaginable deep in the mountains. Later, as Jacob Waltz falls critically ill, Dick Holmes seizes his chance to hear his deathbed confession. He manages to tell Holmes a few cryptic clues before dying. Underneath the Dutchman's bed Brownie finds a box. It contains 48 hundred dollars worth of high-grade ore. Proof that the mine is real. But Dick Holmes has to stop his search when he is injured by a horse. The mantle is passed to his son, Brownie. He meets up with a famous amateur treasure hunter, Adolph Ruth. Ruth sets off into the Superstition Mountains. He never returns. An expedition is mounted to find him. It came across his clothes, containing a detailed map of the where the mine was and a note with the words "veni, vidi, vici"- "I came. I saw I conquered". He must have found the mine. Weeks later his body was discovered, crumpled in a gully. It had two bullets in the head. What had happened? And had he found the mine?
    3. The Hunt for the Garden of Eden

      It's one of the most powerful and enduring myths ever created. The Garden of Eden. It is the very definition of paradise: a land of endless plenty where there is no work, no sorrow, no hunger and no disease. But could it be true? Did the Garden of Eden exist as a real place? The only clues to its whereabouts lie in the Bible, which states that the garden is the source of four major rivers: the Tigris, Euphrates and Pishon and Gihon. The sources of Tigris and Euphrates are easy to find, as they are up in the Torus mountains. However they are hundreds of miles apart. So the key to finding Eden would be to locate the other two rivers' sources. The trouble is no one has any idea where the Pishon and Gihon are. The names have long since fallen into disuse. One maverick scholar thinks he may have cracked the code. Professor Juris Zanis thinks he knows where Eden really was and why it really disappeared. To find the answer, Zarins took a multi disciplinary approach; using geology, anthropology, archaeology, linguistics and hydrology. Zarins started to look at the cultures who inhabited the area where the Tigris and Euphrates Meet: Southern Mesopotamia. He believes that the Sumerians who lived 7000 years ago created large-scale urban settlements: the world's first cities. Among their legends was a bountiful garden, a paradise called Dilmun. Dilmun sits on the East coast of Bahrain. Could this be the remnants of the Garden of Eden? Now he had to confirm the stories of the Sumerians using the latest land sat technology. This would give Zarins a "birds eye view" from space at the geology of the region, able to view the rock formations clearly both on land and underwater. Would it give him the final confirmation that he had found the fabled Garden of Eden?
    4. The Search for Our Lady of Atocha

      This is a story of one man's magnificent obsession. It would cost him terrible personal tragedy and sixteen years of his life, but it would ultimately end in triumph. Mel Fisher was a chicken farmer from Indiana. From an early age he had fallen in love with diving - in particular diving for treasure. Fisher became obsessed with the lost Spanish Galleon the Nuestra Senora de Atocha ("Our Lady of Atocha"), that had sunk off the Florida coast. It was loaded with fabulous treasure looted from the New World - including copper, silver, gold, tobacco, emeralds, jewellery, and indigo. But she was caught in a hurricane 35 miles off Key West in the Florida Keys and sank. 265 people drowned. Mel uprooted his wife and four children: and took them to Florida in his hunt for the Atocha. For sixteen years they found nothing. In the middle of these lean years, as money ran short, tragedy struck. On July 13, 1975 Mel's oldest son Dirk, his wife Angel, and diver Rick Gage died after their boat capsized during their quest for the treasure. Mel kept going through these hard times thanks to his motto; Today's the Day. Finally, on July 20th, 1985, his son, Kane Fisher, captain of the salvage vessel Dauntless, sent a jubilant message to his father's headquarters, "Put away the charts; we've found the main pile!" Ecstatic crew members described the find as looking like a reef of silver bars. At long last, the wreck's "motherlode" had been found. But this is not the end of the story -it continues today with Mel's grandson - Sean...
    5. The Lost Library of Ivan the Terrible

      A young archaeologist risks everything in his quest to find one of the world's greatest treasures - the fabled lost library of Ivan the Terrible. It's a story that begins during the 15th century, and the sacking of Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire is approaching from the East, preparing to launch an all-out attack on the city. The Sultan rushes to save its most valuable treasures. The Library is its most valuable, and it's whisked away for safe keeping in Moscow. This was no ordinary library, but the greatest library outside of Rome. Records chronicled hundreds of carts laden with the rarest books, written by the world's greatest minds in history: Aristotle, Plato, Homer. These are reputed to be jewel encrusted tomes that hail from all parts of the globe. Ivan the Terrible's lost library became an obsession of Ignatius Stelletski, an archaeologist and historian. Its discovery would elevate him into the pantheon of history, and acquire wealth beyond his wildest dreams. In the early part of the 20th century he began to search the maze of underground tunnels lying beneath Moscow for the library. In 1914 he discovers a list that catalogues some of the more famous books in the library, including Aristotle's 2nd book of Poetics. The outbreak of World War One forces Stelletski to halt his work. Returning to his flat years later, the professor finds his home sacked, and the vital list gone. But his lifelong passion is undimmed. Stelletski continues undeterred to find the lost library, negotiating his way through all the political intrigue and villainy of 20th century Russia - the October Revolution, the rise of Stalin, and World War II. His search takes him under the Moscow Kremlin, in the Secret Gate to Zhitnev yard, in the bell tower of Ivan the Great Wall at Tseyhgauzskoy, the Round Tower, Borovitckii hill embankment of the Moscow River, and the Kremlin Arsenal Tower. Stelletski dies with the final words on his lips "maktaba", Arabic for library, with a tantalisi.
    6. The Curse of Montezuma's Gold

      A lost treasure of immeasurable wealth - the riches of one of the most powerful empires in the history of the Americas - the Aztecs. Faced with annihilation at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors, Montezuma, the dying Aztec Emperor ordered his treasure trove spirited away and hidden. But despite torturing the Aztec leaders and mounting a vast number of expeditions, the Spanish conquistador Cortez still couldn't find it. For centuries Spanish adventurers would disappear into the hills and caverns of Mexico looking for it. But of course, the Aztecs ranged over a vast area. Many believed that if Montezuma had hidden the gold, it would be far from where the Conquistadors were hunting. Then In 1914, a man named Freddie Crystal walked down Main Street in Kanab, Utah, clutching a treasure map. He claimed that his map revealed the hiding place of King Montezuma's fabled Aztec treasure. When the outsider inquired around town, obliging locals informed Freddie that his map resembled a section of the White Cliffs 35 minutes south of the city limits. The clues to the whereabouts of the treasure lay in the graphic petraglyphs marked on the map. The same petraglyphs were etched on the cliffs around Kanab. To the amazement of the Mormons of small town Kanab, this stranger on a bike was telling them this vast horde of treasure was hidden near their town and there for the taking. 400 years after the death of Montezuma Freddie Crystal came in search for one of the biggest prizes in history. But was the treasure protected by an army of ghostly Aztec warriors and the curse of Montezuma?
    7. The Relics of Joan of Arc

      Forensic pathologist Dr Philippe Charlier, known to the French as the "Indiana Jones of the graveyards" faced his biggest challenge yet: to uncover the truth behind the remains of France's most famous daughter - Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc, maid of visions and miracles, had achieved the seemingly impossible when she broke the military back of the English at the Siege of Orleans in 1429 to successfully see the Dauphin finally crowned Charles VII of France at Reims. But her subsequent capture by the English and trial at Rouen for witchcraft and heresy ended in her being sentenced to death by burning at the stake. In modern day France, Dr Philippe Charlier subjected these fragments to the full panoply of 21st century forensic analysis: mass, infrared and atomic-emission spectrometry; electron microscopy; pollen analysis and DNA analysis. One of the bones was not human but feline. Could it have been a cat burnt along with Joan? Black cats were often burned in the fire of those reputed to be witches. But, its origin was not even European. Charlier found nothing in the organic material that matched anything that would have existed in 15th Century Burgundy. In a final, stunning confirmation: carbon dating placed the fragments of bones between the 7th and 8th Century BC. This was no Joan of Arc, this was an Egyptian Mummy! Black tar-like coating on the fragments had nothing to do with burning, but rather embalming. Somehow an Egyptian mummy had ended up being in an apothecary's jar labelled as the remains of Joan of Arc. Yet may hold the belief that the remains of Joan of Arc are still to be found, and returned to a place of honour.
    8. The Quest for the Minotaur's Labyrinth

      When a British Spy and adventurer go on a quest to find the mythical Labyrinth, he uncovers a secret that would rewrite history. Greek Mythology tells of the Labyrinth, an elaborate maze designed and built by the legendary artificer Daealus for King Minos of Crete. Its function was to hold the Minotaur, a mythical creature that was half man and half bull. Daedalus had so cunningly made the Labyrinth that he could barely escape it after he built it. Theseus was aided by Ariadne, who provided him with a skein of thread, so he could find his way out again. But was the Labyrinth the stuff of legend - or could it really have existed? The search for the Labyrinth became an obsession for Sir Arthur Evans. In his early years he was an adventurer, a spy, and a journalist. His adventures took him to the Balkans - where he often travelled packing a sidearm. In the late 1870's he wrote extensively about the region, reporting on the suppression of the Christian insurrectionists by the armed forces of the Ottoman Empire. His passion for antiquities drove him on a quest to find the Labyrinth. Evan's attention was drawn to a site in Crete. Evans believed that Crete was the home of the Labyrinth. When he began to excavate he uncovered a magnificent palace, filled with beautiful artwork - could this be the fabled labyrinth? It appeared to be a complex maze of rooms and corridors. The palace featured pieces of art featuring bulls. Could this be the cradle of the Minoan civilisation? More than that - he uncovered writing that had never been seen before. It pre-dated Phoenician, Greek and Egyptian script. Could Crete in fact, have been the cradle of all western civilisation?
    9. The Legend of Kruger's Millions

      A local newspaper editor and businessman in South Africa unwittingly finds himself at the epicentre of a legend of buried gold. It's a story that began nearly 100 years ago. In the midst of the Boer War South African President Paul Kruger orders his gold bullion in the form of coins to be shipped out of Pretoria, away from the approaching British Army. In charge of the bullion was Fritz Duquesne. On the way to Mozambique, Duquesne buried the treasure near the small town of Ermelo, where he intended to return to reclaim it. But it was not to be. Duquesne was captured and deported from South Africa. The legend of Kruger's millions was born. As for Fritz Duquesne - in World War Two his hatred for the Allies caused him to become a master spy operating in New York. He was caught and finally jailed. Eighty years after the Boer War, Athol Stark unwittingly found himself caught up in the legend. A group of Zulu men asks Athol to help them search for the gold; they discover a strong box buried in the soil. Inside are Kruger Pounds. Athol Stark searches for the Kruger gold himself, and discovers a small statue of President Paul Kruger buried in the ground near his house. The discovery slips out to the media, treasure hunters descend upon Ermelo convinced the gold is there. Gold fever strikes Ermelo - and Athol discovers more of the valuable Kruger gold. Today, Athol continues to search for the Kruger Millions, and is the head of a treasure-hunting syndicate, where it's only a matter of time before once again, he strikes gold...
    10. The Nazi Hunt for Atlantis

      When an ambitious young scientist was sent on a quest by Himmler to find the lost people of Atlantis, little did he know it would become an expedition embroiled in political intrigue and lost integrity. Ernst Schaefer was one of the great explorers and scientists during the interwar years. By 1937, he had led two American-backed expeditions to the Himalayas to study geology and ornithology, his great specialism. But he was desperate for a third trip. The trouble was, with Nazism on the rise, American money could not be found. Schaefer managed to raise 80% of his funds from German companies, but he still needed more. Then he received a summons from Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. Himmler said that he would back Schaefer on two conditions. The first was that the expedition would add anthropology to its list of sciences. Himmler revealed that he was convinced that Tibet contained the remnants of a long lost race - the "Hyberboreans." Referred to by the German philosopher Nietzsche, these were said to be an Aryan people with remarkable skills. They had been the people of Atlantis - a people, legend said, that had created the first civilisation of all. All other civilisations - the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Chinese, even the Incas, had learned from these Hyperboreans. Plato had written that Atlantis had disappeared beneath the waves and despite many explorers, no one had ever found it, though there have always been several candidates. Himmler's point was that Atlantis may be lost, but its people lived on in the Himalayas. Schaefer's task, Himmler said, was to find these Hyperboreans and prove that the Germans were their direct descendants. Himmler's second stipulation was that all members of the expedition would become members of the SS. Schaefer agreed to both demands. Propelled by the Nazi Party, it would be an expedition that would lead him ultimately into a tale of mountain madness, greed and sacrifice.
    11. The Lost Jewels of Helen of Troy

      It is one of the most romantic images ever photographed - Sophia, wife of the flamboyant adventurer-turned-archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, decked in fabulous bronze age jewels. Schliemann had unearthed the jewels when excavating Troy. For years he had been on a quest to prove that the tales of Helen, Achilles and Agamemnon weren't just a story - but real history. He had searched for the site of Troy for many years, suffered mockery and abuse, but now he had found it. Not only that, but he had unearthed these extraordinary diadems - "the Jewels of Helen of Troy" - and a host of other artefacts that he dubbed "King Priam's Treasure." As far as Schliemann was concerned, he had been vindicated - he had found proof that Helen of Troy and the site of the city itself existed. Schliemann squirreled the The "Jewels of Helen" out of Turkey to Berlin - where they seem to have vanished off the face of the earth In the years that followed Schliemann's reputation and his methods were trashed. His excavation of Troy was deemed to be reckless, bulldozing through the site regardless, mixing layers in an irresponsible way and his dating was shown to be wildly inaccurate. More recent work has uncovered a much more likely candidate for Troy. But even if he was wrong about that, where were those fabulous jewels in the photograph? Even if they may not have been worn by Helen, they were clearly ancient and of huge value. Then in 1993, they re-appeared - in the Pushkin Museum in St Petersburg. The truth about them can at last be revealed.
    12. The Secret Within the Dead Sea Scroll

      Could a Jewish Treasure lost when the Temple was sacked be hidden in caves in Jordan? John Marco Allegro, a maverick young scholar was convinced it was. It began with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946. Here at last were ancient texts that seemed to prove the existence of Christ as a historical person. But of the 972 scrolls found in the caves of Jordan, one was completely different. For a start, it consisted of two thin rolls not of papyrus but copper. But the real surprise was when the scroll was examined by John Allegro. What he read amazed him. It was a list of 64 locations with descriptions of items that had been buried at each one. Allegro realised that he was looking at clues to finding a massive haul of treasure - worth millions in today's money. The scroll seemed to be dated around AD70, the year the emperor Titus razed the temple of Jerusalem to the ground. The story had always been that the Temple's treasure had been taken away and hidden. Surely this was it? But his bosses refused to believe the scroll was real. The weights in Talents were simply too big to be true. If accurate, it listed all the known silver in the world at the time and a quarter of all the world's gold. But Allegro was undeterred and with the help of king Hussein no less, mounted two expeditions into Jordan. What followed was a tale of adventure, jeopardy and discovery.
    13. The Shogun's Lost Treasure

      The Tokugawa treasure legend is Japan's most famous story of its kind. The story is rooted in the 1860's, when the Tokugawa Shogun was about to be destroyed by the new, incoming Meji government. A high-ranking official in the shogunate ordered their gold coins to be buried in order to keep the treasure from falling into the Meji's hands, and to store military funds for a future attack against the government. Legend tells of a treasure worth ten trillion yen buried in Mount Akagi, in the Gunma Prefecture. The legend originated with Mizuno Tomoyoshi, born in 1851 as the third son of a Tokugawa retainer. Mizuno received a mysterious letter from a former neighbour, Nakajima Kurando, who was an employee in the financial magistrate as an investigator, who fought against the imperial forces and had been missing since 1868. Nakajima had an illicit relationship with Mizuno's mother, and as a result of his relationship he helped transport the gold from Yamanashi Prefecture to Mount Haruna during the first four months of 1868. However, when Nakajima later returned for the money in Mount Haruna it had been moved and he believed it was reburied on Mount Akagi. Legend has it that the local financial magistrate, Oguri, ordered the treasure to be moved to a more secure location. That final location was Mount Akagi, And there is a dark twist to the tale: to keep the location secret, the 1500 porters who helped dig and transport the shogunate's money had been killed and buried with the gold. After years of research Tomoyoshi used his own money to start digging in the most likely locations in 1888. The quest for the lost treasure of the last shogunate has driven three generations of the Mizuno family, down to the most recent "heir", Mizuno Tomoyuki who still digs around the mountains of Gunma today.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Harvard University: Expeditions and Discoveries




Allard, Carel, 1648–ca. 1709. Planisphaerii Coelestis Hemisphaerium Septentrional. Amsterdam: Covens et Mortier, 1730. MAP-LC G3190 1730 .A4. Harvard Map Collection, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


The Expeditions and Discoveries collection includes 185 historic maps, dating from 1626 to the 20th century.
With the hundreds of maps illustrating texts, and the twenty atlases (numbering 1,547 pages) in the collection, the cartographic materials in Expeditions provide compelling visual documentation of exploration and scientific discovery in the modern and early modern age.

Browse