Ancient Origins: Artifacts and Anomalies (FULL DOCUMENTARY) Alien Technology, Ancient UFO, Sightings

Ancient Origins: Artifacts and Anomalies (FULL DOCUMENTARY) Alien Technology, Ancient UFO, Sightings

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(dramatic music) - [Narrator] Number 10: Heavenly music. One of the most extraordinary temples in the world is found near the village of Hampi in Southwestern India. The Vitthala temple is not only stunningly beautiful, but also has 56 pillars sculpted to look like musical instruments.

And if they are gently tapped, they actually produce the sounds of string, percussion and wind instruments. And as if that weren't astounding enough, if the pillars are struck with a piece of sandalwood, they produce the first four notes of the Indian musical scale: Sa, Re, Ga, Ma. Vitthala was the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu and the music is dedicated to him. But how this heavenly sound is produced is a complete mystery.

Number nine: UFOs. Since 2013, over a hundred sightings of UFOs have been reported at Kongka Pass near Ladakh, close to the Indian-China border. Drones and satellites have been ruled out by army officials and astronomers who have studied the phenomena, say they're not meteors either, though two sightings have been dismissed as the planets Jupiter and Venus, which in the thin high altitude atmosphere of Ladakh are clearly visible. There is great concern as to their significance because evidently the border is a highly sensitive area.

Most of these so-called UFOs are yellowish spheres and appear to lift off in the Chinese side and slowly cross the sky for a few hours before disappearing. Number eight: Twins! Twins! Everywhere. India has one of the lowest instances of twin births in the world. However, the remote village of Kodinhi in the Malappuram district of India challenges this statistic. It may look like an ordinary village, but as you walk down the street, you see something most peculiar. It seems as if every other person you meet there is a twin.

There are actually more than 400 pairs of twins in this small village of no more than 2000 families. The national average for India is about nine in 1,000 births. In Kodinhi, it is 45. Researchers from many universities throughout the world have collected DNA samples, but as yet can offer no explanation for this strange phenomenon. Number seven: Floating stones. In Hindu mythology, Lord Rama built a bridge from Pamban Island to Sri Lanka's Mannar Island so that he could rescue his wife, who'd been kidnapped by the king of Lanka.

The bridge, submerged since around 1500 AD, is still there. It's famous for having been built with floating stones. And indeed many of the stones in the area do float, but it would appear that this bridge is an entirely natural formation of limestone. And the floating stones are made of pumice, a type of lava formed during volcanic eruptions. If there's water nearby blobs of high temperature lava freeze instantly the moment they fall into it, icy bubbles form in the lava, which once melted, leaves pockets and thus creates its spongy form.

And this pumice can indeed float in water. Number six: A growing statue. Yaganti is a temple of Lord Shiva with a genuine, fully documented and unsolved mystery. Built in the 15th century in the Konal district of India There's a sculpture of a sacred bull calf known as Nandi in front of the temple. The locals claim that the idol used to be much smaller than it is at present, but until recently, this has been dismissed as nothing more than myth-making.

The Archeological Survey of India decided to investigate the claim. And they have confirmed that indeed, the statue is increasing in size by one inch every 20 years. There are pillars surrounding the idol, temple staff have already had to remove one of them because of this mysterious growth.

To date, there is no explanation for this curious phenomena. Number five: Bewildered birds. Jatinga is a village on a narrow ridge located in the state of Assam in India. Every summer, it suffers from major monsoons. These being large scale sea breezes, they occur when the temperature on the land is either significantly warmer or cooler than the nearby ocean.

On moonless and foggy dark nights between the hours of 6:00 PM and 9:30 PM birds descend in vast numbers, drawn to the lights of the village. They become disorientated and land with no attempt to fly again. The phenomenon of disorientation in fog is well known to motorcyclists and can lead to uncontrollable hunting. When the rider starts pushing the handlebars clockwise and counterclockwise in rapid succession, as if trying to find the right direction to travel.

It is thought that something similar is happening to these birds, particularly when they're disturbed by high velocity winds at their roost. Number four: Strange gift from aliens? Was Krishna's gigantic butterball, a 250 ton granite boulder placed on a slippery slope in Mahabalipuram India, by aliens. It's certainly very difficult to explain why this 20 foot high boulder came to be there. Erosion, water flow and wind have been ruled out, particularly as it's balanced on a four foot ridge. And given that it's been there for at least 1200 years, there's no evidence of technological sophistication in this remote village. It is a complete puzzle.

In 1908, the governor of Madras tried to move it using seven elephants, but it wouldn't budge. Although it's popularly known as Krishna's gigantic butterball, this name was invented by a tour guide in 1969. Its original name is Vaan Irai Kal, which translated means "Stone of the Sky God". No wonder that some people think it's a gift from extraterrestrials.

Although that is, to put it politely, somewhat unlikely, no explanation has ever been found for the existence and location of this remarkable lump of granite. Number three: Showing off. Veerabhadra temple, known as the Lepakshi temple, is one of the most beautiful architectural structures in India and was built in the 16th century on a granite hill, which almost perfectly resembles the shape of a tortoise. The temple is laid out in three parts, the assembly hall, an antechamber, and the main part, a sanctum sanctorum. The entrance to the sanctum sanctorum has sculptures and paintings over every inch of its ceilings, walls and columns. Its 70 pillars are decorated with representations of divine beings, musicians, dancers, saints, and 14 avatars of the god Shiva.

Amongst them, there is a mysterious pillar. Its base does not touch the floor. This amazing piece of architectural brilliance has provoked much speculation. Initial thoughts were that if it had touched the ground, it might have distorted the roof and nearby pillars. However, it's now thought that it was done intentionally to demonstrate the technical genius of the architects and builders.

Some believe that by sliding blessings written on paper beneath the pillar, good fortune will come their way. Number two: All hail the goddess. It's sometimes said that nature is cruel, but nothing could prepare anyone for the bizarre discoveries at Roopkund Lake, popularly known as Skeleton Lake in the Chamoli district of Northern India, 16,000 feet above sea level is a frozen lake that was full of skeletons.

In 1942, having heard about it, the British government was gravely concerned. Fearing a Japanese invasion into Europe, they presumed that the skeletons were the remains of Japanese soldiers, a front guard of more to come. However on close inspection scientists realized that the bones were not from Japanese soldiers. The bodies dated from around 850 AD.

All of them had died in exactly the same way, from blows to the head. Close inspection ruled out weapons. It was bewildering, but the mystery was solved when researchers heard about a traditional Himalayan folk song.

It tells of a goddess who was so angry people had trespassed on her mountain that she flung hailstones at them that were as hard as iron. In 2004, scientists came to the same conclusion. All 200 had died from a severe and sudden hail storm. Number one: Spooky. There's a 17th century fort in the state of Rajasthan, India, that is so spooky that the authorities have put up a notice prohibiting anyone from entering before sunrise or after sunset.

This is the mysterious Bhangarh Fort. Architecturally, the fort is beautiful, with temples and gardens that are open to the public. However tourists frequently complain of a creepy, heavy feeling that descends upon them as they enter the fort.

There are even stories, that in the past, visitors in the night had disappeared and never heard of again. According to legends, it certainly has a rather dark history. A powerful monk called Baba Balu Nath, ordered that no house in the precincts of the fort could be taller than his. And that if the shadows of those houses fell upon his, the entire fort town will be destroyed by the gods.

In another legend, a black magic wizard named MK Singhai fell in love with a princess. He gave her a love potion, but she refused it and threw it on a boulder that rolled and crushed the wizard to death. But before he'd handed her the potion he'd said that if she refused it, all the townsfolk would die. And shortly afterwards, the fort was invaded by the Mughals and all the inhabitants were killed.

It is said that the ghosts of the wizard and princess haunt the fort, hence the disturbing atmosphere that visitors have reported. The top 10 lesser known pyramids. (dramatic music) Number 10: The Bent Pyramid. Most of the pyramids we know are perfectly pyramidal, but what about the bent one? Most of the pyramids in Egypt have sides that are angled typically at about 51 degrees.

However, the one built for Sneferu, who reigned from 2613 to 2589 BC, is most peculiar. It's often called the Bent Pyramid. It's other names are Rhomboidal or Blunted Pyramid. Halfway up, the angle of inclination changes from 55 to 43 degrees. Was this a deliberate innovation in pyramid design? Probably not.

It appears to have been modified during its construction. There is evidence that its accretion layers were unstable. In the accretion method of building, a solid central core was first constructed. Then it was expanded by the addition of small rectangular blocks that tilted or lent inwards against the main core. And to stabilize the Sneferu pyramid, the builders simply made the upper half less steep.

There were other construction issues with the pyramid too. It appears that the architect was experimenting, to put it politely, perhaps saying that he didn't quite know what he was doing would be more honest. Archeologists are of the opinion that as it was the largest pyramid built to that date, they hadn't quite got the hang of it. Number nine: Seashell Pyramids. Pyramids are fairly common throughout the world.

This has led some to think that these cultures shared their ideas. However, in truth, a pyramid shape is the easiest way to construct a tall structure. So it's likely that each culture evolved the style independently. Certainly there is no strong evidence of shared cultures, though there are very interesting speculations.

There are also vast differences about how the pyramids were constructed in different parts of the world. For example, the Brazilian pyramids, older than the European ones were constructed from sea shells. Some took centuries to build as the process was so onerous. Sadly, fewer than 10% of these remain. They were mistaken for rubbish dumps of discarded shells and simply cleared for road building. Number eight: Pure folly.

Most of the Egyptian pyramids were tombs and monuments built to honor a deceased Pharaoh, a source of national pride and sadness at the loss of a king. But there's one that is more likely to raise a smile than a tear. This belongs not to a noble Pharaoh, but to an eccentric Englishman in the late 1700s. His name was John Fuller, but he was better known at the time as Mad Jack Fuller.

In 1777, age 20, he inherited large estates in Sussex, England, and several Jamaican plantations. Rich at last, he let his enthusiasms run riot. He became a member of parliament and would ride there in grand style with heavily armed servants. He was a drunk and often let his temper get the better of him.

In 1810, he insulted the speaker in parliament, a kind of political referee, by calling him "The insignificant little fellow in the wig." He was seized by the Sergeant at Arms and expelled from the building. His passion was for follies, utterly pointless buildings that looked fun or grand. On his lands, he built a classical temple, a tower, an obelisk and a spire. The spire came about because he once bragged that he could see the spire of the local church from his estate.

He couldn't, and because he hated to be wrong, he just built an exact replica in his grounds to prove that he could. But his most peculiar folly was to build a pyramid on the estate to house his body. Apparently he wanted to make sure his relatives couldn't eat him.

His exact words were that if he were buried, "The worms would eat me. The ducks would eat the worms and my relations will eat the ducks. No way." It's rumored that he was interred at a beautifully arranged table in a full dinner suit with a bottle of fine claret beside him.

Renovations in the 1980s, unfortunately proved this to be just one of his many jests. Number seven: The goddess of victory. If someone mentions Nike, it's likely they're referring to a shoe, but Nike in ancient Greek culture was actually the goddess of victory. After the First World War a pyramid was built in the US with the goddess Nike purchased on top, signifying the victory over the German armies. And of what was the pyramid constructed? Captured German helmets. These pointed helmets, known as Pickelhaube, were gathered in huge quantities, 12,000 in total, to make the pyramid as the centerpiece of a fundraising campaign to help pay off the national debts accrued during the war.

Number six: Grim pyramids. In 1884, attendees of a science conference in the US proposed that the Egyptian pyramids were actually natural hills with the stones placed upon them. This idea came from Herodotus, the respected Greek historian who lived in the fifth century BC.

They were ridiculed for this proposal. However, they would've been correct if they'd been referring to most of the pyramids in Central America or Mesoamerica. The pyramids of La Quemada are set into the hills. One of them, the Votive Pyramid, had a small temple at the top where votive offerings were left for the gods. Another one, the Sacrificial Pyramid, was as grim as it sounds. Human sacrifices were made there.

The victim's bodies were thrown down the wooden steps and eaten. During the sacrifice their heads were cut off, drilled and displayed on stakes on the pyramid. It makes modern day religion seem quite tame in comparison. Thank goodness. Number five: The power of the pyramids.

Do pyramids have special powers? In 1990, Moscow scientist Dr. Alexander Golod began building pyramids following years of research into their possible mysterious powers. He theorized that they have energy forces that bring benefits to humans and the environment. His structures are modern and made of fiberglass.

The largest was over 150 feet tall and weighed 55 tons. He makes quite a number of claims: That immune systems are boosted, medicines become more effective with fewer side effects, agricultural seeds show a 30 to a 100% increase in yield. They repair the ozone layer. Viruses and bacteria are less pathogenic, radioactive materials become inert and following experiments in Russian jails, that prisoners become less violent. Although he had a huge following in Russia, no other scientists have replicated his results and they obviously don't have any beneficial effect on the weather, as, in 2017, his large one in Moscow was destroyed by a storm. Number four: Upgraded pyramids.

The Egyptian pyramids were mostly built from limestone, Nummulite for the main construction and tura for the covering. The Romans decided that concrete would be better. Roman concrete is incredibly strong, made as it is from volcanic ash.

The pyramid of Gaius Cestius was built between 18 and 12 BC, and is much steeper than any Egyptian pyramid, as a result of using concrete. Not much is known about Gaius Cestius except that he was a magistrate and a member of the powerful Septemviri Epulonum, who as one of the four religious corporations of ancient Rome, organized feasts and banquets at festivals and games. Number three: A different angle on pyramids. The Romans weren't the only ones who built steep pyramids. The Nubian pyramids have sides that are inclined at an astonishing 70 degrees.

In fact, it's thought that Gaius Cestius got his ideas whilst on campaigns in the Middle East. There's a huge number of pyramids in Nubia, a region between Khartoum in Central Sudan and Aswan in Southern Egypt. So far, in excess of 350 pyramids have been discovered.

This is about twice the number in Egypt. They were built long after the Egyptian ones, round about 700 BC, nearly 2000 years after the Egyptians. It's thought that they were emulating their neighbors.

The Nubian pyramids, though steeper, are much smaller than the Egyptian structures. And rather than entombing their dead, they buried them beneath the pyramids. Unfortunately many have been damaged.

Their materials have been removed to use as building materials. Fortunately though, they're now protected after the five sites were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Number two: Avoid this one.

It's possibly not a good idea to visit a pyramid in a minefield. That is the fate of a pyramid near the second greatest ancient city of Cambodia, Koh Ker. It was originally the capital of the Khmer empire, but is less visited than the more famous Angkor Wat, because it's hidden in dense forest and under the ground has thousands of leftover mines from the 20th century conflicts. If you do visit and survive the mines, you'll find a magnificent pyramid there. Mortar wasn't used.

It's held together by the weight of the huge blocks of stone used in its construction. Some researchers believe that there's a hidden entrance that leads underground to the pyramid, but until that's found, visitors have to use wooden steps that have been recently added to replace the stone ones that have been damaged. Number one: Prosaic pyramids. Most pyramids have quasi-religious connotations, but ones built in ancient Greece appear to have had a very different use. They were first described by the ancient Greek writer, Pausanias, who in the second century AD wrote, "On the way from Argos to Epidoria, there is one on the right, a building made very like a pyramid and on it in relief are wrought shields of the argyle shape.

This one appears to have been destroyed, but at Hellenikon, here are ruins of a similar structure." The decorations described by Pausanias give the clue as to their use. They were built on defensive sites and simply housed guards who were on watch duty. Just a guard hut, but an impressive one nonetheless.

(dramatic music) Number 10: Solstice splendors. The Taj Mahal in Hindi means "The Crown of the Palaces". Commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, it took about 20 years to build and was completed in 1653. Made of ivory white marble, it is a mausoleum constructed as the final resting place of the Shah's favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the most expensive buildings of all time, costing the equivalent of nearly 1 trillion US dollars.

It is perfectly aligned north-south. However, recently it was realized that other parts of the grounds had special alignments too. There are two pavilions that guard the mausoleum and the minarets. At the summer solstice, dawn breaks precisely over the pavilion to the northeast and the sun sets over the one to the southeast. At the winter solstice, the exact opposite occurs, of course. It's theorized that the architects used this alignment to ensure the Taj Mahal's perfect north-south alignment.

Number nine: Symbol citadel. Above the sacred valley in Southern Peru stands the astounding 15th century Inca citadel, Machu Picchu. With its polished dry stone walls, it's built in the classical Inca style. There are three main buildings, the Temple of the Sun, the Room of the Three Windows and a ritual stone used as an astronomic clock or calendar. It was built around 1450. Strangely, it was abandoned a century later, but not because of the Spanish invasions.

No one is sure why it was deserted. Indeed it was completely unknown to the wider world until it was found by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911. Even though researchers and tourists have visited it in their thousands, it's only recently that a major new discovery has been made. Just a 15 minute walk away from the citadel is a cave decorated with paintings of a man and a llama and a mysterious geometric symbol. Though no one knows the significance of this find, it's thought to predate the 13th century Inca civilization.

Number eight: Voids and errors at Giza. For over a hundred years, no major discoveries had been made about the Great Pyramid of Giza. But recently there have been two. First in May 2019, archeologists discovered an immense void above the grand gallery. Its volume is almost the same as the grand gallery, which leads to Khufu's burial chamber and for whom the pyramid was built.

The void is around a hundred feet long, and was found using high energy particle scanners. It's not yet been explored though. Undoubtedly, it will be in the near future. Indeed at the moment, it's uncertain whether it's a single space or a series of voids and its purpose is a mystery.

The second discovery has challenged the view that the pyramid is geometrically perfect. Following the use of cutting edge laser technology, it was found that the pyramid is lopsided. It's base is nearly six inches longer on the west than on the east. This hadn't been spotted before because much of the pyramid is missing.

The casing stones, limestone slabs that smoothed the otherwise stepped pyramid have largely been removed, making earlier accurate measurements impossible. Number seven: Well past its sell-by date. To watch the horrors in the Colosseum, ancient Romans around 80 AD needed a ticket. This oval ampitheater held between 50 and 80,000 spectators who were treated to gladiatorial contests, mock sea battles, executions, classical drama, reenactments of famous battles and animal hunts. Because it was essential that the spectators were seated quickly and efficiently, they were given tickets that guided them through 72 numbered gates. Recently restoration experts washed these engraved numbers for the first time ever.

To their surprise they found that they were coated with red paint made from iron oxide and clay. It's amazing to think that despite having been exposed to the elements for two millennia, the paint looks almost new. Number six: More powerful than assumed.

The legendary ruler King Minas, gave the ancient Mediterranean civilization of Crete its name, the Minoans. According to the myths King Minas commanded the architect Daedalus, to create a labyrinth within his palace to house his fearsome half-man half-bull Minotaur. And to ensure that anyone who entered would not find their way out again, unguided.

Knossus, which dates from about 7,000 BC, is the oldest city in Europe. Within the metropolis is Crete's most famous structure: The palace of Knossus. Recent excavations have shown that the city is three times larger than was previously thought. Newly discovered graves have been found. Many of them containing imported goods of great value and rarity.

It's now believed that Knossus was a major trade hub of the ancient world, as these items come, not only from nearby Greece, but also from Egypt and Mesopotamia, or as it's now known, the Near East. Number five: Animal-aided excavations. Recently, a borrowing badger dug up a crematorium urn near Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in Southern England. Archeologists rushed to the site and found a bronze age grave, dated possibly to around 2,000 BC. Apart from the cremated human remains, they found a copper chisel with an ornate bone handle and bronze saw.

The deceased appears to have been an archer as it also contained an archery wrist guard and shaft straighteners. All were in near perfect condition despite being about 4,000 years old. Number four: Veterans tidy up. The Stonehenge badger was a comparatively skilled excavator, certainly compared with a 70 den strong colony living just a few miles away. These amateurs left their finds strewn all over the place.

This presents a problem for archeologists who like to map all their finds. Fortunately, a team of military veterans was brought in to take over from the badgers. This proved to be a great success. They found the sixth century remains of 27 Anglo-Saxon warriors buried with jewelry, bone combs, spears, and knives, a remarkable and rare find.

Number three: Protestors ensure site's ruination. Over 4,000 years ago, prehistoric bronze age Britons built a ritual burial site on the coast of Norfolk. It was a timber circle of 55 split oak trunks that had an upturned tree route at its center.

Its function seemed a little gory. It appears to be a mortuary enclosure for excarnation. The ancient practice of stripping the flesh from a body before burying just the deceased's skeleton. Seahenge, as it was nicknamed in 1998, though, properly known as Holme I, became not just the site of an ancient burial, but also of modern protests, led by Neo-pagans and New Age movements. Over the millennia, the wooden structure had been preserved beneath the mud. Unfortunately in recent times, the mud had shifted and it was exposed to corrosive oxygen and salt water.

English Heritage wanted to remove Seahenge and treat the wood. The protestors claimed spiritual ownership of the site, claiming that removing it would be an insult to the ancient religion and its followers. Eventually English Heritage won. And after many years of specialized treatment, it is now on show at the nearby King's Lynn Museum and open to the public. Recently, a second older ring has been discovered nearby. Holme II is at least a hundred years older than Seahenge and it's thought that the two were used together.

Unfortunately it is deteriorating and will not last much longer as English Heritage, bruised by the previous controversy, refuses to have anything to do with it. Number two: Wat - new discoveries? Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one of the world's largest religious monuments and was built in the early 12th century as the center of the Khmer empire. In 2012, the foundations of an entire city were unearthed, including eight towers, a spiral and concealed paintings. The spiral is like nothing ever found before.

It's made of sand and nearly a mile long and flowing in rectangular lines. The paintings cannot be seen by the naked eye. After digital enhancement, they show gods, animals, musical scenes and horsemen.

The most spectacular find, however, is the lost city of Mahendraparvata or the Mountain of the Great Indra, a Hindu god. Though referenced in ancient texts, it was always assumed to be mythical. However, helicopter-mounted laser scanning technology called LIDAR, exposed the foundations, which include 30 previously unknown temples and a complex grid-like network of roads and water dykes.

Mahendraparvata predates Angkor Wat by at least 350 years. Ground based expeditions unfortunately are hampered by bogs, thick forests and perhaps most dangerous of all, thousands of landmines left over from the Vietnam war. Number one: Stone city. Archeologists at one of the new seven wonders of the world, the ancient city of Petra in Southern Jordan, have uncovered a major new find despite 200 years of excavations.

The massive metropolis is carved from Arabian Desert cliffs, 2,000 years old, it comprises homes, forts, tombs and places of worship and truly is a wonder to behold. In 2016, a mammoth structure was found about half a mile from the city. It's a giant rectangular platform with pillars, terraced walls and an immense stairway. As yet its purpose is unknown, but archeological work there is intense. (dramatic music) Number 10: Planning permission denied. Plans to construct a nursery in the Arnona district of Jerusalem came to an abrupt halt.

In that ancient city you only get planning permission once antiquity officials have visited to ensure that the site has nothing of archeological significance, but it had. Once exploratory excavations had started, the site turned out to have been a Mikvah, an ancient Jewish ritual bath around 2,000 years old. The walls coated in plaster and mud, retched with images, mysterious symbols, and to the archeologists' delight, some ancient Aramatic script, which as yet has defied translation. The images include a boat, palm trees and a menorah, a seven-branched candelabrum. This is an extremely rare finding, dated as it is from the end of the second temple period when the Romans destroyed much of Jerusalem and its temple.

Number nine: Bad tenants beware. 2,200 years ago, a group of young Turkish men decided to rent out a property that they'd inherited in Teos. Nowadays leases are typically in electronic form or printed on paper, but not back then.

Extraordinary as it may seem, the details were chiseled onto a stone stella, standing five feet tall and erected at the site's Dionysius temple. These students or Neos were a strict bunch, because in addition to the names of the tenants and witnesses, the occupation rules were listed along with severe punishments that would be meted out for missed rent, inappropriate use of the building or damage to it. They also insisted on a vacant possession of their property, three days a year without rebate. This carved rental agreement is the only such example, found anywhere in the world and gives researchers a rare insight into the early Mediterranean society and its draconian laws.

Number eight: Philip was here. Some things never change, Nowadays, it's not uncommon that when a location is visited by a major dignitary or celebrity, some kind of plaque or memorial will be made in their honor. The same thing happened in antiquity. The Romans built forts throughout Bulgaria. Indeed the famous Sostra fortress has been studied since 2002 by the Bulgarian National Museum of History. It housed up to a thousand soldiers according to the base of the statue found nearby.

Eventually the fort grew into a major town with a civilian population. In 2016, a roadside pillar was discovered nearby with 19 lines of Latin on the seven foot tall object. According to the inscription, it was erected to honor the Roman emperor, Philip the Arab and his son Philip the Younger. It's assumed that the emperor had visited the site around 244 AD as he traveled across the Balkans to solidify his command. Number seven: Symbols in the land of plenty.

The K'omox are an indigenous people who, for thousands of years occupied the shores of Eastern Vancouver Island on the west of Canada. They call that area the land of plenty. They had a sophisticated culture, which included masked dances and rhythmic songs. In 2015, their modern council, known as the K'omox First Nation or K'omoks Indian Band, gathered for a barbecue in the K'omox Valley.

Following their traditions, they started to dig a roasting pit and they were surprised to find that they were excavating large numbers of ancient sea shells. They realized that they'd stumbled upon something of historical significance. The following year, a team of archeologists began a formal excavation.

They found not just shells, but over 18 mysterious flat stones and tablets, along with clear evidence of a long lost village. Each stone was inscribed with a symbol, including images of a feather, a tree, and what is known to be a fertility symbol. Experts are trying to decipher the inscriptions, but with their being over 2,000 years old and badly worn, this is proving very difficult.

Simon Fraser University is hopeful that, following laser scanning, the mystery will be solved. Number six: Ancient messages of love. In 1962 American country style rock and roll duo The Everly Brothers, released a song, "That's old fashioned" with the line "And we carve our initials in the old oak tree."

They certainly weren't the first and certainly won't be the last to do that. But if you're on an island more or less devoid of trees, what you do when you and your lover want to declare your love and make your mark? Answer, carve it into the rocks. And that's what happened at least two and a half thousand years ago on the Greek island of Astypalaia. The island is largely made up of dolomite limestone, a fairly soft mineral that makes up about 2% of the Earth's crust and is commonly used after crushing, treating and purifying as a medicine to neutralize stomach acid. Apart from quite a few rather explicit drawings, the lovers on this island have written charming messages about their mutual affection.

The standard of literacy is quite remarkable, showing that in ancient Greece, ordinary folk were more highly educated than previously thought. Number five: One word, a vital clue. In 2016, archeologists found a broken stella in the Krasnodar region of Russia. They were a bit puzzled, the pillar was made of marble, which is not native to the region. The site was originally called Phanagoria, an ancient Greek colony, founded in the sixth century BC.

The city was immensely important as it was the economic and cultural center of the Black Sea territory. It is known to have been destroyed in the 10th century AD by Viking invaders from Scandinavia known as the Rus and possibly the source of the name Russia. Archeologists have successfully translated the ancient Persian script. It praises King Darius I's victory over Greece's attempts to subdue his country Persia, in 494 BC. No one was sure where the Greek resistance had been crushed and the script held the answer. It was Miletus, a city in present day Turkey.

It is presumed that the stella was erected in Miletus where marble is found and, sometime later, transported to Phanagoria, probably as nothing more than a ship's ballast. Although it had an ignoble end, it has revealed important clues for historians of ancient Greece and its struggles against disruptive colonies. Number four: Who was Gargilius Antiquus? To historians interested in ancient Rome, Gargilius Antiquus is a familiar name. It was known that he ruled part of the Roman empire, but which part? No one knew, that is until very recently when archeologists found a huge rock underwater off Israel's Mediterranean coast. Several lines of Latin were inscribed on what appears to have been the base of the statue. They specifically mentioned Antiquus as the Roman governor of Judea in around 130 AD.

This was just before the famous Bar Kokhba uprising, the Jewish revolt against Roman rule that occurred in the years, AD 132 to 136. So that mystery is solved. He ruled Judea. Number three: The land of dead fire. There is very little water in Jordan's Black Desert, as the name implies.

And yet 2,000 years ago, an area within it known as Jebel Qurma, appears to have supported a large population living in green pastures, abundantly populated with wildlife. Recently, rock etchings have been uncovered in their thousands, that are inscribed with drawings and text that tell of this distant verdant past. The script is called Safaitic, which is related to old Arabic, but a nightmare to figure out because there's little consistency in letter shapes, spelling or grammar. Some etchings are just people's names. Some express concern about loved ones who are missing in battle. And one suggests that there was tension between the Jebel Qurma society, their Nabataean neighbors who built the beautiful city of Petra.

It says, "I'm on the lookout for Nabataeans." The petroglyphs or rock art show images of lions, antelopes, horses, and ostriches. Myriad heaps of charcoal clearly indicate the existence of water as this shows that trees must have existed here 2,000 years ago.

Though no one is sure why this area dried up so dramatically. Number two: Words or symbols. Until 2003, it was thought that the written Chinese language was created about 3,600 years ago at the tail end of the Shang dynasty.

Characters were found carved into animal bones, which became known as the Oracle Bones. However, following the discovery of neolithic shards near Shanghai, this has been pushed back by an astonishing 1400 years. 200 fragments of jade, bone, wood, ivory, pottery, and stone all with clear linguistic inscriptions have been excavated at the remarkable Zhuangqiao excavation site. Number one: Writings on the wall.

Europeans have always been accused of bringing death and destruction to the lands they conquered. Though this is true to some extent, there is evidence that initially, at least, it wasn't always the case. "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue", goes the popular verse, and two years later, he discovered the Caribbean island of Mona. The natives there lived in immense deep cave networks and decorated their walls with drawings and writings.

In 2013, Mona's caves were revisited by scholars. It was already known that the walls were richly adorned with superb images of hunters, animals, and landscapes, but the researchers discovered something new. It was always thought that the Caribbean folk had no written language. This was probably true of their own language, but on the walls the scholars found phrases, clumsily written in Spanish and Latin and to their surprise, lots of Christian symbols. It suggests that in those early years, the colonists had taught them writing, albeit not of their native tongue and had introduced them to Christianity. (dramatic music) Ancient sailors' maps known as Portolan charts, were always believed to have been compiled by medieval European map makers from contemporary sources.

Some researchers have argued that the existence of the mysterious Piri Reis Map, one of the oldest known surviving maps showing the Americas is evidence against this hypothesis. Recently, one researcher published his theory that these nautical charts are impossibly accurate, not just for medieval Europe, but also for other likely sources, the Byzantines and the Arabs. So who made them and when? Portolan charts or maps were a type of map common in the 14th and 16th centuries.

Such charts were drawn up to guide navigators from port to port, but are now considered to have been reliable for sailing across an ocean as they did not consider the Earth's curvature. These marine charts were generally inscribed on a whole sheet of sheepskin vellum and were created with the aid of a magnetic compass. They were also intended to be used with a compass. Typical Portolan charts showed coastal contours and the location of harbors and ports, while almost all inland features are ignored. The map was crisscrossed with straight lines, connecting opposite shores by any one of 32 directions of the mariner's compass, thus allowing navigation.

The earliest dating surviving Portolan chart was produced at Genoa, Italy by Pietro Vesconte in 1311, and is believed to mark the beginning of professional cartography. Around 130 Portolan charts survive. The majority of which were made in Italy or Catalonia, though, a few originate in Portugal. The Italian Portolans usually cover only Western Europe and the Mediterranean basin, but some Catalan charts can be interpreted as world maps. The origin of Portolan charts is much debated. Since the 19th century, the charts have been a subject of intense research and conflicting opinions.

It still remains today one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the history of science, putting together a chart showing the whole Mediterranean 700 years ago, seems an impossible task without some way to fix absolute positions by astronomical navigation. It is indeed a puzzle why so little is known of the origins and production of Portolan charts. The most popular hypothesis among cartographic historians is that Portolans were somehow assembled together from the collected knowledge of medieval European sailors, possibly enhanced by older knowledge from Byzantine and Arab sources. Evelyn Edson, author of the 2007 book, "The World Map: 1300 - 1492" commented on the mysterious origin of Portolan charts.

"People maybe think the Romans made the first ones and they've been lost, or the Phoenicians or even aliens. It certainly seems related to the introduction of the compass in the 11th century, but there's nothing at all to explain how they were made. It's been very tempting for people over the years to try to make up the answer."

Perhaps the most famous of the Portolan-like maps is the Piri Reis map. This manuscript is one of the oldest known surviving maps showing the Americas and first came to light in 1929 when historians working in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, then Constantinople, discovered it in a pile of rubble. It's currently located in the library of the Topkapi Palace though is not usually on display to the public.

The map dates to the year 1513, and was drawn on gazelle skin by an admiral in the Ottoman Turkish fleet called Piri Reis. It includes a web of crisscrossing lines known as rhumb lines, common on late medieval mariners' charts and thought to have been used in plotting out a course. Close examination of the document has shown that it was originally a map of the whole world, but has been torn into pieces at some time in its history. Such an early map showing America is obviously of considerable historical interest, but some would argue that its importance lies not merely in its depiction of the Americas. In his book "Map of the Ancient Sea Kings", first published in 1966, Charles Hapgood, a historian and geographer at the University of New Hampshire put forward the controversial theory that the land mass joined to the southern part of South America at the bottom of the map can only be a depiction of Antarctica, hundreds of years before it was discovered.

The apparently detailed rendering of the Antarctic coastline on the chart, including what Hapgood believed was an accurate depiction of Queen Maud Land, shown without its glaciers, which would suggest incredibly, that the continent was mapped in remote pre-history before it became completely covered in ice. But how was stone age man able to survey and chart the region of Antarctica at such an early period in human history? Hapgood suggested the existence of now forgotten prehistoric seafaring civilizations whose achievements included journeying from pole to pole and mapping the entire surface of the Earth at some time in the remote past. He theorized that these civilizations had left a legacy of maps, which were hand copied over thousands of years, perhaps by expert seafaring cultures, such as the Minoans of Crete and the Phoenicians. For Hapgood, the Piri Reis map was in effect, a compilation of these ancient maps.

The sources for Piri Reis's map are somewhat of a mystery, but most researchers believe they would've included the works of Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy, second century AD, various Portuguese maps and Christopher Columbus. In fact, Reis himself states in his notes on the charts that he copied from Columbus's maps. Many features on the Piri Reis map, including place names and representations in the West Indies show that he was using at least one of Columbus's maps to draw his own chart. Another indication that Reis was using medieval European maps is the depiction near the top of the chart of a ship next to a fish, which carries two people on its back. This note attached to this illustration, quotes a medieval story from the life of the Irish Saint Brendan.

This has obviously been reproduced by Piri Reis from one of his source maps, proving that one of them at least, was of medieval European origin. Most scholars now believe that the Piri Reis map is no more accurate than would be expected for a 16th century Portolan chart, deriving information from existing geographical knowledge and often pure conjecture. There is no reason to believe that Piri Reis based his map on the work of a hypothetical ancient super culture, certainly it's possible that he had an ancient source of material that is now lost to us. But beyond that, the Piri Reis map should be appreciated for what it is, a strikingly beautiful and historically important document of medieval history.

In March 2016, Roel Nicolai, a Dutch geodetic scientist who obtained his doctorate degree from Utrecht University for a dissertation entitled "A critical review of the hypothesis of a medieval origin for Portolan Charts." in this thesis, Nicolai puts forth a theory that Portolan charts were made using techniques that were simply not available to medieval Europeans. Nicolai was able to show that Portolans achieved their accuracy by making the use of what appears to be a primitive version of the Mercator projection, nearly 300 years before it was introduced by cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569.

The Mercator projection is a cylindrical map projection, which is a mathematical method of projecting spherical data onto a flat surface that would prove vital to navigation, as straight lines drawn on the map equal straight lines at sea. Nicolai said of some of the discoveries he made during his research, "The Portolan maps I've researched all seem to be made using the Mercator projection. They've all clearly been produced on medieval parchment, but those map makers probably didn't realize the accuracy of the maps they were producing. We immediately recognize the shapes of the Mediterranean, but even in the late middle ages, that shape was far from established on maps. Nobody really knew how all of the Mediterranean shorelines ran. There are obvious differences of scale and orientation between different areas on Portolan maps, not only does that demonstrate clearly that they were not collated from different maps, it also shows that most medieval cartographers were not familiar with the techniques used to produce these different sources."

Nicolai's research also revealed that it was not until the 19th century that cartographers were able to achieve the accuracy shown on the Portolans. Unfortunately, through Nicolai's work, it shows that the origin of Portolan charts goes back much further than previously believed. He is still unsure of their actual place of origin. He believes that the accuracy of the Portolans exceeds the navigational ability of the Arabs of the time, and also the scientific knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Although Nicolai is unclear on the origins of Portolan charts, he is certain that they were not based on the seafaring knowledge of some lost ancient civilization as Charles Hapgood believed. He commented, "Perhaps we should reevaluate what we think was the state of science in antiquity.

As long as this doesn't generate any speculation on so-called lost civilizations. As far as these Portolans are concerned, we'll just have to think our way back step by step." (dramatic music)

2023-07-15 00:04

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