archaeology

Ancient forbidden Christian text of Jesus’ ‘secret teachings’ to his ‘brother’ found

Biblical scholars have discovered the first-known original Greek copy of an ancient forbidden Christian text that purportedly describes Jesus’ secret teachings to his “brother” James, an early leader of the Church. Geoffrey Smith and Brent Landau, religious studies scholars at The University of Texas at Austin, located the rare text in Oxford University archives earlier this year. The experts found several fifth- or sixth-century A.D. Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James, one of the books from an ancient collection known as the Nag Hammadi library. Previously, the text was thought to be preserved only via translations in the Egyptian Coptic language. Only a small number of texts from the Nag Hammadi library, a collection of 13 Coptic Gnostic books discovered in Egypt in 1945, have been found in Greek, their original language of composition. Also known as the “Gnostic Gospels,” the books are seen as key documents for understanding Gnosticism, an ancient belief system. The First Apocalypse of James, like the other books in the Nag Hammadi library, was deemed heretical or forbidden by the church because it fell outside of the fourth-century religious boundaries that defined the 27-book New Testament. Experts were thrilled by the discovery of the ancient fragments, which are owned by the Egypt Exploration Society. “To say that we were excited once we realized what we’d found is an understatement,” said Smith, an assistant professor of religious studies, in a statement. “We never suspected that Greek fragments of the First Apocalypse of James survived from antiquity. But there they were, right in front of us.” The document is said to describe Jesus’ secret teachings to his “brother” James. Details of the “heavenly realm” and future events, such as James’ inevitable death, are revealed, according to The University of Texas at Austin. “The text supplements the biblical account of Jesus’ life and ministry,” Smith added. There are a number of interpretations of references to Jesus’ siblings in biblical texts. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark, for example, refer to Jesus’ brothers, including James. James, also known as “James the Just” was a leader of the early church – one interpretation of “brother” may thus be a close spiritual relationship as opposed to a fraternal biological link. The First Apocalypse of James describes James as not Jesus’ brother “materially.” Other interpretations describe James as Jesus’ step-brother or cousin. The manuscript, which uses neat, uniform handwriting and words separated into syllables, was probably a teacher’s model used to help students read and write, according to the experts. “The scribe has divided most of the text into syllables by using mid-dots. Such divisions are very uncommon in ancient manuscripts, but they do show up frequently in manuscripts that were used in educational contexts,” said Landau, a lecturer in the UT Austin Department of Religious Studies, in the statement. Landau notes that the teacher who produced the manuscript likely “had a particular affinity for the text.” The document, he explains, appears to be a complete copy of the forbidden ancient text.

Fascinating!!    🙂

Tyrannosaurus Rex’s little arms may have been used for ‘vicious slashing’, scientist claims

The Tyrannosaurus Rex was one of the scariest killers in the history of Planet Earth. But its fearsome image was undermined a little by the ridiculousness of its puny arms, which were among the smallest of all dinosaurs when considered proportionally against the size of its body. Now one scientist has claimed the tiny arms were actually “vicious weapons” equipped with four-inch claws which would have allowed it to eviscerate its unfortunate prey. Steven Stanley, a palaeontologist working at the University of Hawaii, gave a presentation to The Geological Society of America last week in which he claimed nature equipped the monster with “formidable weaponry”. The research flies in the face of previous suggestions that the T-Rex was a lover as well as a fighter, which used its little arms to clasp its partner close during sex. “Its short, strong forelimbs and large claws would have permitted T-Rex, whether mounted on a victim’s back or grasping it with its jaws, to inflict four gashes a metre or more long and several centimetres deep within a few seconds,” said Stanley, according to New Scientist. “And it could have repeated this multiple times in rapid succession.” Other scientists have cast doubt on these claims, with Jakob Vinther, a paleobiologist from the University of Bristol, suggesting Stanley’s argument was “illogical”. The T-Rex’s stubby extremities were just three feet long, meaning it would have needed to get extremely close to its victims if it wanted to rend them limb from limb. And the arms really were used for lovemaking, the claws would hardly have made the encounter very comfortable. Previous research suggested the T-Rex was more of a sensitive lover than you might think. The terrifying meat-eater, which stood 20 feet tall and had jaws bristling with serrated teeth up to nine inches long, was believed to have had a snout as sensitive to touch as human fingertips. A team of researchers suggested two rexy beasts would rub their noses together during foreplay, before getting down to the monstrous act of physical love.

..and I think I need therapy to get that visual out of my head.  No..  I’m inclined to think that Mr. Stanley is on to something.  But, who knows?  Me may never truly learn..

Slow flow of human immigration may have doomed Neanderthals

What killed off the Neanderthals? It’s a big debate, and now a study says that no matter what the answer, they were doomed anyway. Our close evolutionary cousins enjoyed a long run in Europe and Asia, but they disappeared about 40,000 years ago after modern humans showed up from Africa. The search for an explanation has produced many theories including climate change, epidemics, or inability to compete with the modern humans, who may have had some mental or cultural edge. The new study isn’t intended to argue against those factors, but just to show that they’re not needed to explain the extinction, says Oren Kolodny of Stanford University. He and colleague Marcus Feldman present their approach in a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications. They based their conclusion on a computer simulation that represented small bands of Neanderthals and modern humans in Europe and Asia. These local populations were randomly chosen to go extinct, and then be replaced by another randomly chosen population, with no regard for whether it represented the same species. Neither species was assumed to have any inherent advantage, but there was one crucial difference: Unlike the Neanderthals, the modern humans were supplemented by reinforcements coming in from Africa. It wasn’t a huge wave, but rather “a tiny, tiny trickle of small bands,” Kolodny said. Still, that was enough to tip the balance against the Neanderthals. They generally went extinct when the simulation was run more than a million times under a variety of assumptions. If survival was a game of chance, “it was rigged by the fact that there’s recurring migration,” Kolodny said. “The game was doomed to end with the Neanderthals losing.” Kolodny said the evidence that such migrations actually occurred is suggestive rather than conclusive. Such migrations would not be expected to leave much of an archaeological trace, he said. Experts in human origins said the paper could help scientists pin down the various factors that led to the Neanderthals’ demise. It fits in with other recent attempts to explain the extinction without assuming behavioral differences between Neanderthals and our ancestors, said Wil Roebroeks of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. The notion of such differences is largely disproven, he said. Katerina Harvati of the University of Tuebingen in Germany said while the new work could be useful in solving the extinction mystery, it doesn’t address the question of why modern humans dispersed from Africa into Europe and Asia. It’s important to figure out what was behind that, she said in an email.

Fascinating!!   🙂

Pyramid discovery: Scientists use cosmic rays to find mysterious chamber inside ancient edifice

Scientists have harnessed sophisticated scanning technology to discover a mysterious chamber inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza. The discovery, which was revealed in the journal Nature, has been described as the first discovery of a major new space within the pyramid since the 19th century. An international team of researchers used cosmic-ray imaging to find a 30-meter (98.4 foot) “void” within the Great Pyramid, which is also known as Khufu’s Pyramid for its builder, a 4th Dynasty pharaoh who reigned from 2509 to 2483 B.C. Cosmic ray imaging records the behavior of subatomic particles called muons that penetrate the rock similar to X-rays, only much deeper. The muon scan harnesses special plates that are planted inside and around the pyramid to collect data on the particles, which rain down from the earth’s atmosphere. The particles pass through empty spaces but can be absorbed or deflected by harder surfaces, enabling scientists to study their trajectories and discern what is stone and what is not. Several plates were used to triangulate the void discovered in the Great Pyramid. The technology was also used to analyze the Fukushima nuclear reactor after it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Scientists involved in the pyramid scanning called the find a “breakthrough” that highlighted the usefulness of modern particle physics in archaeology. “This is a premier,” said Mehdi Tayoubi, a co-founder of the ScanPyramids project and president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute. “It could be composed of one or several structures… maybe it could be another Grand Gallery. It could be a chamber, it could be a lot of things.” “It was hidden, I think, since the construction of the pyramid,” he added. Intriguingly, the newly discovered space does not appear to be connected to any known internal passages. Egyptologists, however, say there is unlikely to be any treasure within the hidden space. The pyramid’s ‘void’ is the latest ancient Egyptian discovery to thrill experts. Last month, for example, archaeologists announced the discovery of an ancient temple belonging to King Ramses II. In August experts revealed that they had unearthed three tombs from an ancient “great cemetery” in Egypt’s Nile Valley. A month earlier, archaeologists said that a tomb that may have belonged to the wife of King Tutankhamun had been discovered in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. In June, archaeologists from Yale and the Royal Museum of Art and History in Belgium announced the discovery of the earliest-known ‘billboard-sized’ hieroglyphs in the ancient city of Elkab. Other finds include a 3,000-year-old royal tomb in the Luxor area and the tomb of an ancient gold worker on Sai Island in northern Sudan.

Fascinating!!  For more, click on the text above.

9.7-million-year-old teeth discovery in Germany could re-write human history

The great ape teeth found in Eppelsheim last year could topple the understanding of our earliest history. Herbert Lutz, head of the excavation team, tells Deutsche Welle what the find means to him — and how it almost didn’t happen. A little over a year ago, a team of archaeologists in southwestern Germany uncovered two teeth where the Rhine River used to flow, in the town of Eppelsheim near Mainz. The news of the discovery was announced this week, because the team that performed the excavation wanted to make sure that what they had found was as significant as they initially thought. Herbert Lutz heads that team at the Natural History Museum in Mainz.

Fascinating!!  To read the rest of this article, click on the text above.   🙂

Was Santa Claus’ grave discovered? Experts may have found final resting place of St. Nicholas

Archaeologists may be close to finding the grave of St. Nicholas beneath a church in southern Turkey. St. Nicholas, a 4th-century Greek Bishop who became famous for his acts of generosity, is the historical inspiration for Santa Claus. On the Saint’s death in 343, he was buried in a church in the ancient city of Myra. The modern Turkish town of Demre now stands on the site once occupied by Myra. Experts say they have likely identified the Saint’s tomb beneath the ancient St. Nicholas Church in Demre. Cemil Karabayram, Director of Surveying and Monuments for the province of Antalya, told the Hurriyet newspaper that electronic surveys have revealed a “special section” beneath the church that may contain St. Nicholas’s tomb. “We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of St. Nicholas,” he told Hurriyet. “We appointed eight academics of different branches to work here.” Archaeologists are employing CT-scanning technology and geo-radars in the church. They are now planning to carefully remove mosaics from the stone floor of the church before they can access the grave believed to contain St. Nicholas’s body. It has long been believed that the Saint’s bones were removed from the Demre site in the 11th century and taken to Bari in Italy, where the Basilica di San Nicola was built to house the remains. Citing records studied by the archaeologists, however, Karabayram says that another set of remains may have been taken to Italy. The church where the Saint’s bones were originally interred was rebuilt during the 11th century, records say. “According to these notes, this church was demolished and rebuilt,” Karabayram told Hurriyet. “During the reconstruction, traders in Bari took the bones. But it is said that these bones did not belong to St. Nicholas but to another priest.”

Fascinating!!

Mystery of Great Pyramid may be solved, researchers say

It has long been known that the rock was extracted eight miles away in Tura and that granite used in the monumental structure was quarried 533 miles away in Aswan. However, archaeologists have disagreed over how the material was transported to Giza, now part of modern-day Cairo, for construction of Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb in 2600 BC. Now that mystery could be a step further to being solved after the discovery of an ancient scroll of papyrus, a ceremonial boat and a network of waterways, reported the Mail on Sunday. The new evidence shows that thousands of laborers transported 170,000 tons of limestone along the River Nile in wooden boats built with planks and rope. The 2.5-ton blocks were ferried through a system of specially designed canals before arriving at an inland port built just yards away from the base of the Great Pyramid. The papyrus scroll is the only firsthand record of how the pyramid was built, and was written by an overseer named Merer. He explained in detail how the limestone was moved from the quarry in Tura to Giza using the Bronze Age waterways. Archaeologist Mark Lehner has also uncovered evidence of a waterway underneath the plateau the pyramid sits on. He said: “We’ve outlined the central canal basin, which we think was the primary delivery area to the foot of the Giza Plateau.”

Fascinating!!  To see photos, and a video, click on the text above.    🙂