2,000-year-old Roman library discovered in Germany

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What remains of the Cologne library. (Hi-flyFoto/Roman-Germanic Museum of Cologne)


Workers in Cologne, Germany have stumbled upon a 2000-year-old library while preparing a car park site for construction. The find, one of many archeological discoveries in the ancient city, has greatly excited archeologists, bibliophiles, and history buffs alike as it is the oldest known library in Germany.

Archeologists initially thought they had found a public meeting space until they noticed the walls had small niches carved into them that were too small to fit statues inside. “They are very particular to libraries—you can see the same ones in the library at Ephesus,” explained Dr. Dirk Schmitz, an archeologist involved in the excavation.

The library dates back to the second century AD, a golden age for the Roman Empire, and would have been built around the same time as many others, such as the Library of Celsus in Turkey. The construction of libraries was vogue at this time, and massive new buildings were put up to both store documents and glorify the builders. The Library of Celsus, for example, was built to commemorate Senator Tiberius Celsus, who was buried inside.

The Library of Celsus

Tourists pose in front of the restored facade of the Library of Celsus in Izmir, Turkey. Its statues, facade, and size made it much larger than many other libraries of the day. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The Cologne library is estimated to have held up to 20,000 parchment scrolls, all of which have long turned to dust. This makes it more extensive than many other libraries of the time, but much smaller than the Bibliotheca Ulpia, which needed separate buildings to hold its Greek and Latin collections, or the famous Library of Alexandria, which was built to house all of the knowledge of the ancient world.

What kind of scrolls could you get there?

The content of the scrolls the library held is the subject of pure speculation, but other libraries are known to have held records, histories, poetry, scientific manuscripts, philosophy, and works of Greek and Roman literature.

Since the Romans held Greek culture and thought in high regard, most major libraries would have had separate sections for both languages. Many upper-class Romans had private libraries and enjoyed reading what we now think of as classics, so it is probable that this library had works by Virgil and Homer.

So, could anybody have gone in and checked out a scroll?

Such a library would have been the domain of well-connected elites, so claims T. Keith Dix of the University of Georgia in his article “Public Libraries” in Ancient Rome: Ideology and Reality. While some Roman libraries were open to the general public, many were not, and the books and scrolls would be available only to those the local authorities liked. Records show that being able to take the books out of the library was rare and most people had to read the scrolls in the room where they got them.

In any case, William V. Harris claims in the book Ancient Literacy that no more than 5-10% of the population of the classical world would have been literate, with some scholarly areas seeing rates near 20%. He also tells us that members of the army tended to be more literate than most.

This is taking a strong definition of the word “literacy” though. The presence of graffiti on many Roman buildings shows that members of the lower classes could write, if poorly.

Since what is now Cologne was the heavily fortified capital of the frontier province of Germania Inferior, it is probable that the city had a decent number of literate citizens between its garrisons, administrators, educators, professionals, and priests who could have been patrons of the library.

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Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans?

A look at the available evidence


And, if we’re going back this far, we’re not talking about human civilizations anymore. Homo sapiens didn’t make their appearance on the planet until just 300,000 years or so ago. That means the question shifts to other species, which is why Gavin called the idea the Silurian hypothesis, after an old Dr. Who episode with intelligent reptiles.

So, could researchers find clear evidence that an ancient species built a relatively short-lived industrial civilization long before our own? Perhaps, for example, some early mammal rose briefly to civilization building during the Paleocene epoch about 60 million years ago. There are fossils, of course. But the fraction of life that gets fossilized is always minuscule and varies a lot depending on time and habitat. It would be easy, therefore, to miss an industrial civilization that only lasted 100,000 years—which would be 500 times longer than our industrial civilization has made it so far.

Given that all direct evidence would be long gone after many millions of years, what kinds of evidence might then still exist? The best way to answer this question is to figure out what evidence we’d leave behind if human civilization collapsed at its current stage of development.

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The seven ancient wonders of the world

by Mike Colagrossi –

The Colossus of Rhodes, Wikimedia Commons. 

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were marvels of architecture, human ingenuity, and engineering on a scale that even the greatest artists of contemporary times would have a hard time replicating today. These man-made structures were all built sometime during the classical era and stretched across the current known western-world at that time. In books and writings that reference the historian Herodotus (484 – 425 BCE) and Callimachus of Cyrene (305 – 240 BCE) from the Museum of Alexandria, scholars over the years discovered the lists of the seven wonders of classical antiquity.

The list we currently reference today was compiled in the Middle Ages and only includes places that the ancient Greeks had visited or conquered. Only one of the seven ancient wonders still stands – and arguably one of the most famous ones at that, the Great Pyramid of Giza.

From a time spanning roughly between 2650 – 3rd Century BCE, these masterpieces dotted the landscapes for a variety of purposes. Some were great tombs housing the remains of powerful kings, monolithic statues praising great deities and others were frankly just about testing the limits of what was possible in the early technological and civilized prowess of mankind.

While the majority of these constructions were destroyed, in 2007 over 100 million people voted to declare a New Seven Wonders of the World. Many of these places are UNESCO Heritage Sites. UNESCO was not responsible for this new list, but nonetheless, people felt that these newly championed wonders represented a shared global heritage throughout the entire world.

This new list is equally as monumental and powerful as the one that preceded it, boasting such man-made creations like the Roman Colosseum or the Incan city of Machu Picchu. There have been many differing lists put out through the years with some criteria even including natural wonders of the world.  The only official list – due to Herodotus’ efforts which has stood the test of time – is the original ancient wonders of the world.

So without further ado, this is the full ancient list in its entirety.

Flickr, Creative Commons, Jorge Lascar.

Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt

The Great Pyramid, commissioned and built by the Pharaoh Khufu, is one of the oldest buildings in existence. It is 456 ft. high and thought to be nearly 4500 years old. It is the largest and oldest of all of the ancient pyramids. Its magnificence and construction has puzzled scholars for years. It’s made of some 2 million stone blocks that weigh around 2 to 30 tons each.

Recently in 2013, archaeologists discovered the first primary historical document during the construction of the pyramid. Logbooks over 4500 years old titled the Diary of Merer recorded the daily activities of workers who helped build the pyramid. These papyri described the transportation of limestone from a harbor nearby. The Great Pyramid is the only ancient wonder still in existence.

Flickr, Creative Commons. 

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were supposedly built around 600 BC. Herodotus claimed that the walls stretched for 56 miles, 80 feet thick and reached 320 feet high. Records state that it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1st century BCE. Their existence is debated as the history was not chronicled in Babylonian records but through exterior sources. According to ancient sources, the gardens were built by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II for his wife Amytis in 600 BCE.

The Hanging Gardens were most likely built as huge rooftop gardens with foundations of multi-level terraces. With a column structure, they would have been filled in with dirt to allow large areas of plants and trees to grow. Over the years as this lush vegetation began to grow over the sides, it would give the effect that the plants hanging down were floating in a mountain landscape. This would have been a sight to behold in Babylon.

Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece

The Statue of Zeus was sculpted and built in 435 BCE. It was 40 feet tall and stood for hundreds of years before being destroyed by Christian leaders in the 5th and 6th centuries. The statue was a chryselephantine statue – made of ivory and gold. There are no remains of the statue nor were there many picture representations of it either. Doubts remain about the full scope of this wonder, but there is much to be known about Zeus’s builder, Phidias an Athenian sculptor.

The Statue of Zeus resided in a temple in the City of Olympia, which was an important cultural center for the ancient Greeks. It was home to the original Olympic games and its patron deity was the God of Gods – Zeus. Descriptions of the statue are sparse but it’s believed that the parts of the body were made of ivory, while Zeus’ beard and clothes were made of gold. A coin from that time shows his likeness and archeologists posit that he would have been holding a Victory in his right hand and scepter in his other hand. The cloak was ornamented with many bright colors.

Wikimedia Commons

Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Temple of Artemis took over 120 years to be built before being completed in 550 BCE. It was dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis. Ephesus was a Greek Colony in Asia minor and the construction project was sponsored by King Croesus of Lydia. Many ancient accounts were awestruck by the beauty of power that this structure elicited.

It was supported by 127 60 foot columns, with the max height of the temple standing 425 feet high and stretching back some 225 feet. In 356 BCE, a man named Herostratus sought out to set fire to the temple. His reasoning was to achieve everlasting fame and be associated with destroying something so wonderful. The Ephesians wanted to make sure his name would not stand the test of time, but historians wrote it down anyways. Years later, Alexander the Great would propose to rebuild the temple but the Ephesians refused.

Wikimedia Commons

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

The Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus was built in 351 BCE and rose to around 135 feet high. Its status as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world doesn’t derive from its size or strength, but because of the intricacies of the sculpture reliefs it had to adorn its four walls.

The building was designed by Greek architects and four leading sculptors who were responsible for each side. There were 36 columns and 10-foot statues of Greeks battling Amazons, marble chariots and step pyramids leading to the pinnacle of the structure. Some of these pieces of art have survived today. It was damaged over time by a number of earthquakes before being totally destroyed and ransacked in 1494 by European Crusaders.

Wikimedia Commons

Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue dedicated to the god Helios. It was constructed between 292 and 280 BCE. At 110 feet tall it overlooked the harbor of Rhodes and stood on a base similar to the Statue of Liberty – which was modeled on the Colossus. The statue was commissioned after the Rhodians defeated an invading army in 304 BCE. Notably, the statue only stood for 56 years before being knocked out by an earthquake.

The statue was made purely out of bronze. Its ruins had become an attraction for over 800 years following its fall. Some ancient sources claimed that some of the fingers of the Colossus were larger than many statues at that time. Eventually, the ruins were sold to a Jewish merchant in 654.

Wikimedia Commons

Lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt

In an age far before skyscrapers, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the tallest buildings in the world for many centuries. Between the 3rd century BCE and 1300 AD, the Lighthouse of Alexandria stood nearly 440 feet tall in Egypt. The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos, commissioned by Ptolemy I Soter.

Its construction was completed in 280 BCE. It was the third tallest building following the pyramids. A mirror built inside the lighthouse allowed it to be seen as far out as 35 miles into the sea. It was built with a square base and topped off in a circular fashion to build it out to its final height. Many depictions can be found throughout the historical record.


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Meet Hypatia, the ancient mathematician who helped preserve seminal texts

Her dramatic death often overshadows her epic life, but it shouldn’t

 By Brianna Bibel, Biochemistry, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory –
Hypatia the Mathematician.

Illustration by Matteo Farinella

The mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher Hypatia is considered the first known female mathematician and one of the “last great thinkers” of Alexandria, the sophisticated Ancient Egyptian city.

Why the last? Tension between religious and secular factions seeking control over the city boiled over in the early 400s, leading to her violent murder and turning her into a martyr for scientists, pagans, and atheists.

Hypatia’s death is much better recorded than her life – historians aren’t even sure when she was born (sometime around 350 CE). But there is plenty of evidence that Hypatia was a tremendous scholar.

If you wanted to learn math and astronomy in Alexandria, it helped if your dad was Theon, the last known member of Alexandria’s museum (not a museum in the sense we use the word now but more of a “university”). Theon taught Hypatia and sought her help with some of his commentaries – republications of someone else’s work with notes interpreting and explaining various parts.

Commentaries such as these played an important role in preserving and advancing ancient Greek works at a time when such works were seen by many as “pagan” and opposed to Christian ideals. Many historians believe that at least one of the commentaries attributed to her father, the third book of Theon’s version of Ptolemy’s Almagest, an astronomical text used widely until the 16th century, was actually written by Hypatia.

This authorship debate sometimes overshadows works that are conclusively hers, including commentaries written under her own name on topics including geometry, number theory, and astronomy. If it weren’t for Hypatia, works like On the Conics of Apllonius, which introduces hyperbolas, parabolas, and ellipses, would likely have been forgotten, because their concepts were written in dense jargon – Hypatia was skilled at translating complex mathematical topics in terms the general public could understand.

Unfortunately, these commentaries have been lost – most of what we know about Hypatia’s work is from letters to her and passing references in historical accounts. Some people have credited her with developing a device called an astrolabe (an astronomical calculator of sorts). While she did teach her students about them, and likely helped design more elaborate versions, it was probably invented by someone else.

Hypatia also became a renowned Neoplatonic philosopher, rising to lead the Platonic School at Alexandria and giving public lectures in addition to private lessons. Hypatia’s association with “science” and “learning” led her to be labeled a “pagan,” a dangerous thing at a time when paganism was seen by many as a kind of “religious rival” threatening to pull people away from Christianity. But Hypatia taught students of all backgrounds. People came from all over the world to hear her speak, and she held great respect from the male-dominated society.

Historian Socrates Scholasticus wrote of her:

She not unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in coming to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.

Hypatia was a master networker – she had an “in” with many powerful figures in the ancient world, including the governor of Alexandria, Orestes. This popularity likely spawned jealousy in archbishop Cyril, already in a foul mood due to a feud with Orestes over control of the city. Orestes was a Christian, but he didn’t think the Christian Church should encroach on “civil government.” Cyril, on the other hand, wanted the church to have more control in secular affairs. The argument led to Cyril’s monks trying to assassinate Orestes, but they only succeeded at putting Orestes on high alert. But they didn’t have to look far for an easier target – Hypatia regularly traveled around, giving public lectures proudly espousing “pagan” views.

She was also a target for other reasons: as a close acquaintance to Orestes, Hypatia likely advised him regarding the feud, and some of Cyril’s followers saw her as getting in the way of conflict resolution, even accusing her of using witchcraft to sow divide. In 415 or 416, a mob of Christian zealots attacked Hypatia’s carriage on the streets of Alexandria, dragged her into a church, and violently killed her and burned her body.

Hypatia’s brutal death turned her life into a “martyr story” that has been used by scientists, pagans, and atheists throughout the ages as evidence of long-standing discrimination and the “evils” of the Christian Church. But another version of her story to remember is that of a powerful woman considered a world leader in philosophy and mathematics at a time when most women were confined to domestic duties.

This piece was produced in partnership with Sloan Science & Film, an initiative of the Museum of the Moving Image that publishes science-based film guides, including for Alejandro Amenábar’s feature Agora (2009). The film stars Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, and Oscar Isaac as her student. It was awarded the Sloan Feature Film Prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival for its realistic and compelling portrayal of science.

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How Irish Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley Defied Elizabeth I And Conquered A Man’s World



A 2,000-Year-Old Mystery Papyrus Reveals Its Secrets

For centuries, no one could read it.




Ancient human DNA found in dirt, not fossils



Oldest human fossil found outside Africa rewrites migration timeline

A section of jawbone discovered in Israel appears to be the earliest modern human fossil ever...
A section of jawbone discovered in Israel appears to be the earliest modern human fossil ever found outside of Africa, pushing back the date of human migration into the Middle East by at least 50,000 years (Credit: Gerhard Weber, University of Vienna)

The origin story for modern humans is constantly being revised, but the general gist is that Homo Sapiens first arose several hundred thousand years ago in the area we now call Ethiopia, before migrating out of Africa about 100,000 years ago. Now, a jawbone discovered in a cave in Israel pushes back the date of our African exodus by at least 50,000 years.

The deep history of our species is murky, but a combination of genetic studies and fossil discoveries has let us piece together the basics. It was long thought that Homo Sapiens were about 200,000 years old, and had remained on the African continent until between 90,000 and 120,000 years ago, when we began spreading across the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

But that story has been upset by more recent discoveries. Back in June 2017, archaeologists found fossils and stone tools in Morocco dating back more than 300,000 years, indicating that modern humans were widespread across Africa earlier than previously thought. A more outlandish study even went so far as to claim that humans and chimps split from their last common ancestor in Europe, not Africa, millions of years ago. That study, however, has been widely contested.

The newest revelation is a little more believable, and actually fits in nicely with the Morocco fossils. A team led by researchers from Tel Aviv University and Binghamton University has found bones and tools in Misliya Cave, Israel, and used several different methods to date it to between 177,000 and 194,000 years ago – making it the earliest modern human fossil ever found outside of Africa by at least 50,000 years.

“Misliya is an exciting discovery,” says Rolf Quam, co-author of the study. “It provides the clearest evidence yet that our ancestors first migrated out of Africa much earlier than we previously believed. It also means that modern humans were potentially meeting and interacting during a longer period of time with other archaic human groups, providing more opportunity for cultural and biological exchanges.”

The fossil is an upper left section of jawbone, including most of the teeth. It was found alongside a range of stone tools, and when these were independently dated, they returned a similar age range.

Extrapolating the exact species from a small section of bone can be tough, so the researchers ran micro-CT scans of the fossil and made 3D models of it to study the internal structures of the teeth. Certain characteristics that are commonly seen in Neanderthals were missing, while other features that are only known to occur in modern humans were present and accounted for.

Misliya Cave in Israel, where the earliest human fossil outside of Africa was found

Although the Misliya fossil is clearly human, it does have some Neanderthal characteristics, but this is to be expected. After all, the Middle East at that time acted as a corridor for migration out of Africa, so several human groups would have met and mingled in the area, cross-breeding in the process.

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Article Image Chocolate being prepared the Mayan way at Ixcacao farm in Belize. (Credit: Shutterstock). 


Money is one of the most important concepts in human history. Love it or hate it, we’ve devoted a lot of time to it. While we use paper currencies today, some of the items used as cash throughout history have been a little less recognizable, and some choices are hilarious in hindsight.

On the islands of Palau and Yap, four-ton stone rings called Rai stones are still used for measuring wealth and traditional purposes. In New France during the 18th century, playing cards became legal currency as gold and silver supplies dwindled. Colonial Virginia used tobacco, and British Canada used beaver pelts instead of metal coins.

But perhaps the strangest currency belonged to the Mayan people, who used cacao beans, the basis of chocolate, to pay their taxes and trade with one another.

Wait, cacao beans?

In a paper published in Economic Anthropologyby Joanne Baron of the Bard Early College Network, the argument is made that depictions of cacao beans in Mayan artwork gradually shift from treating it as food with some value in bartering to treating it as money used both to shop and pay taxes.

The Maya, like every other culture, depicted everyday lives in their art. While the earliest artwork didn’t show very many cacao beans, by the 8th century it was depicted on everything. While many of the early images show it being used as food, later images show it being offered as a tribute to the nobility or used in trade.

Nearly 200 pieces of artwork depict cacao beans being used to pay tribute and taxes, which Baron argues made them a functioning currency, as there was little chance the nobility could use that many beans as anything other than money. One cited study suggests that of the 11 million beans paid as taxes per year only two million were consumed. There isn’t much else to do with nine million beans you won’t eat unless you’re using them as cash.

It is possible that the Maya just started to depict cacao beans more often in their art without having made them officially money. However, the later recorded use of cacao beans as currency by the Aztecs supports the idea that the Maya did the same.

Why did they find these beans so valuable?

Mesoamericans have been cultivating cacao since nearly 2000 BCE and the bean originally had value as the basis for a mildly alcoholic drink. Later, a frothy, nonalcoholic drink similar to hot chocolate was developed. This refreshing drink rapidly became more popular than its predecessor and was used in offerings to the Gods. Chocolate was so adored that the cacao plant had its own deity who was regularly worshiped.

Maya pouring chocolateAn indigenous Mexican pouring chocolate from a standing position, as depicted in the Codex Tudela.

It seems that the value of a cacao bean was always related to its intrinsic value as food, with the beans that were largest, roundest, and best colored having the highest value. However, the 16th-century naturalist Francisco Hernández informs us that while there were four kinds of beans, only the smallest type was used to make hot chocolate. The larger beans were still appraised by their ability to be made into beverages but were only used for exchange.

The Spanish conquerors of México also observed that since the qualities of a good bean were determined by looks the appearance of a bad bean could be altered to fool an absent-minded customer.

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10 Times Great Philosophers Revealed Their Personalities

Pythagoras was a cult leader, Socrates loved to dance + 8 other revelations

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Think of how many celebrities you know with personal lives for the world to see. How many of them do you share hobbies with? How many of them have made a humanizing slip-up?

People have been gossiping about celebrity lifestyles since the dawn of fame, but we often focus our attention on the lives of actors, athletes, and attention seekers. Famous academics and philosophers usually get a little more privacy.

This doesn’t mean their lives are any less interesting, however. An entire book, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, was written on the subject in the third century. A new edition reminds us that even eggheads can be just as amusing as rock stars.

Here are some of the most demystifying life stories of 10 famous philosophers. Take some of the details here with a grain of salt though, the book is rather uncritically written, and many details lack sources. Other details are supposedly confirmed by sources long since lost.

This hasn’t stopped other philosophers, Nietzsche and Montaigne among them, from admiring the text and it shouldn’t stop you.



Socrates is held in extremely high esteem as both a great philosopher and academia’s great martyr. In Diogenes’ biography, we are reminded of Socrates the man. He tells us of how Socrates served in the army, was often found socializing downtown, and edited his friends’ plays—including Euripides, one of the big three ancient Greek tragedians.

Perhaps most amusingly, Diogenes tells us that Socrates loved to dance and thought that “such exercise helped to keep the body in good condition.” He also learned how to play the lyre as an old man, just like your crazy uncle during his mid-life crisis, and “he saw no absurdity in learning a new accomplishment.”

In a showing of tremendous wit, when his wife told him he suffered unjustly, he asked her, “Would you have me suffer justly?” He also supposedly told a man that he would regret both getting married and being single, perhaps explaining that last remark.


Alexander and Aristotle

Aristotle teaching Alexander the Great. Engraving by Charles Laplante (Public domain, via Wikimedia Common)

Plato’s most famous student, Aristotle would go on to touch every branch of human thought that existed at the time. He tutored Alexander the great, wrote an ethical theory that still has a punch, and founded his own academy in Athens.

The most interesting detail that Diogenes tells us about Aristotle is that he had a lisp or stutter. Given that many of Aristotle’s works were given as lectures and recorded later, we must imagine that he either embraced it or worked around it. Diogenes gives us sources for this claim, but his book has long since become the authority on the matter. Accurate or not, Aristotle makes it on to many lists of celebrities with speech impediments.



Original Artwork: Engraving by Ambrose Tardieu (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Thales is the first philosopher in the western intellectual tradition and is most famous for his argument that water is the fundamental substance of the universe. He was also a noted mathematician, businessman, and sage.

Diogenes reminds us of his sharp wit. He records that when asked if there was a difference between life and death Thales responded that there was not. When he was then asked, “Why then, do you not die?” Thales retorted “Because it makes no difference.” On another occasion, he was asked which was older, nighttime or daytime. He replied, “Night is older, by one day.”


Plato and Aristotle

Plato (left) and his student Aristotle (Right) as imagined by Raphael.

Plato’s contribution to western thought is impossible to overstate. Philosopher Alfred Whitehead went so far as to suggest that all of European philosophy was “a series of footnotes to Plato.

Diogenes tells us a great many things about him. His name, allegedly, was given to him by his wrestling coach on account of his “robust figure”—the name is derived from the Greek word platys, meaning ‘broad’. Plato was skilled enough to participate in the Isthmian Games, which attracted athletes from all over Greece.

Platon was a common name, however, it would be strange for a family so wealthy and noble as Plato’s not to name him for an immediate male relative. Diogenes tells us that Plato’s real name was Aristocles, but this is impossible to confirm. Plato also called himself “Plato” later in his life, making the issue more difficult. In any case, we might know one of the greatest thinkers of all time by his stage name!

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The Voynich manuscript: Will this medieval mystery ever be solved?

Frayed, browned and in fragile condition, the Voynich manuscript currently resides deep in a basement at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library but digitized copies of it are available for free online.

Examining images from the manuscript.
Examining images from the manuscript.

Since it came to light over 100 years ago, many have tried and failed to decode the text — from US Army cryptographers to ordinary citizens postulating theories in the deepest corners of Reddit.

Its author and original title are unknown, and it is named for the collector and bookseller Wilfrid Voynich, who purchased it in 1912.

Ever since Voynich showed it off to the world, the incomprehensible text and cryptic illustrations have spurred countless theories about its meaning, origin, and the identity of its author. Some thought it might have been written by Leonardo Da Vinci or maybe even an autistic monk, others felt it might simply be an elaborate prank.

So what do we really know about the Voynich manuscript? Why has it captivated the imagination of so many through the decades? And will its mysteries ever be solved?

Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America and a longtime Voynich scholar, says the first recorded appearance of the manuscript was when it was bought in the late 16th century by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, who believed it had been written by 13th century British philosopher and alchemist Roger Bacon.

Some of illustrations in the book resemble known plants, others less so.
Some of illustrations in the book resemble known plants, others less so.

It then apparently traveled around Europe, disappearing for 250 years, before eventually being acquired by Voynich. Although Voynich never revealed where he got the manuscript, Davis says that his wife disclosed after his death that he had bought it from Jesuits outside of Rome.

In 2011, carbon-dating revealed the parchment dates back to the early 15th century, somewhere between 1404 to 1438. Analysis of the ink confirmed it was consistent with what was used during that period.

That dating rules out some of the names postulated as being the author, like Bacon, Da Vinci and Voynich himself. But beyond those facts, the manuscript offers more questions than answers.

It’s that sense of mystery that has captured the public imagination, and compelled so many to attempt to decipher its meaning.

Davis concludes “It’s magical. It really is. There’s nothing like it.”



Debate stirs over mysterious “void” found inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid

6 pictures

A new imaging technique is suggesting there is a large, previously undiscovered void inside the Great...
A new imaging technique is suggesting there is a large, previously undiscovered void inside the Great Pyramid of Giza(Credit: HIP Institute)

A team of scientists has discovered a mysterious “big void” inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest pyramid in the Giza complex. The void was discovered using a novel scanning technology called cosmic-ray muon radiography, and while the scanning team is suggesting this could be an undiscovered inner structure, some Egyptologists are not convinced.

The ScanPyramids project was launched in 2015The project is scanning several major Egyptian sites using a variety of new imaging technologyThe team explored the Great Pyramid of Giza in 2016The muon particle imaging process involves three separate detection techniques

The scanning project, called ScanPyramids, was launched in late 2015 and set out to scan four specific Egyptian pyramids using a variety of new and innovative scanning technologies. In the case of the Great Pyramid, the team deployed a scanning technique that detects the path of muon particles, an elementary particle that is created when cosmic rays collide with atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The team developed three separate muon-detection techniques and investigated the path of these particles through the Great Pyramid. The path of muons is straight unless they hit a dense or solid object, and then they can be slightly deflected. By measuring these particle tracks scientists can identify whether they are moving through solid rock or if there are empty spaces.

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists recently revealed the discovery of a large void above the Grand Gallery in the Great Pyramid. The discovery was confirmed using all three muon detection processes and it is suspected to be about 30 meters (100 ft) long.

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The Chinese may have beaten the famous voyage of Columbus by 70 years

By April Holloway,
November 17, 2017 8:14 pm Last Updated: November 17, 2017 8:14 pm

There are a few controversial claims floating around that the Americas were reached by oversea cultures before Columbus made his well-known visit to the “New World” in 1492. For example, Italian physicist and philologist Lucio Russo has presented the argument that the ancient Greeks reached America long before Columbus.

Another intriguing argument suggests the Chinese “discovered” the Americas 70 years prior to the famous voyage.

The suggestion that the Chinese arrival predated Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas is a major argument of the amateur historian Gavin Menzies. In fact, it seems that Menzies has made his career by going against the mainstream view of the past.


Three of his more debated books are “1421: The Year China Discovered the World,”a book claiming a Chinese fleet led by Admiral Zheng He reached the Americas in 1421; its sequel “1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance”; and a text that mainstream thinkers regularly mock, “The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed.”

A Chinese map from 1418 seems to show parts of North and South America, according to Menzies.

The supposed map from 1418 showing some of the Americas. (Public domain)
The supposed map from 1418 showing some of the Americas. (Public domain)

You may wonder about Menzies’s claims. In the text “Who Discovered America: The Untold History of the Peopling of the Americas,” Menzies argues a Chinese map from 1418 provides evidence for his argument that the Chinese explored the Americas in 1421.

Specifically, Menzies makes mention to a map charted by Admiral Zheng He which appears to show North American rivers and coasts and something of South America. DNA studies are also used as his evidence for indigenous Americans being related to the waves of Asian settlers he asserts reached the Americas.

Menzies says the map helps explain the Chinese names of some places in Peru.

A Christie’s Auctions’ appraiser has allegedly confirmed the authenticity of the map. Historians are also said to have stated the map was written in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Menzies says that the map’s validity can also be used to explain the Chinese names of several towns and regions in Peru.

Menzies has been repeatedly criticized and mocked by the mainstream academic community.

Woodblock print representing Zheng He's ships. (Public domain)
Woodblock print representing Zheng He’s ships. (Public domain)

For example, University of London history professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto has suggested that Menzies’s books are “the historical equivalent of stories about Elvis Presley in (the supermarket) and close encounters with alien hamsters.”

While it’s true Menzies may not be correct in his claims, it is extremely unfortunate that a person courageous enough to make his assertions has been so widely mocked for presenting an idea that dares to go against the mainstream.

Republished with permission. Read the original at

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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In Beyond Science, The Epoch Times explores research and accounts related to phenomena and theories that challenge our current knowledge. We delve into ideas that stimulate the imagination and open up new possibilities.



How Spanish, not English, was nearly the world’s language
Professor of History, Yale University

Want to know the reason much of North America speaks English and not Spanish? It all boils down to a single day in the English Channel in August of 1588, says Yale University history professor John Lewis Gaddis. The Spanish Armada was cleverly chased out of British waters by a rag-tag British fleet that set old ships on fire and pointed them right at the anchored Spanish fleet, causing the Spaniards to cut anchor and flee. Because of the way the wind was blowing, the Spanish ships had to sail all the way around the British Isles (about 2,000 nautical miles) to get home and were soundly defeated. That led, John posits, to the rise of the British empire. John’s latest book is the fascinating On Grand Strategy.

(For more information visit:


The Tacoma Bridge collapse of 1940 in Washington, USA was a calamity of the world’s third longest suspension bridge back then and had a crucial impact on engineering. It caused the governing of the modeling of all the long-span bridges in the future.

Worst structural collapses: The iconic Tacoma bridge collapses to the winds.

Image credits: University of Washington Libraries Digital Collection’s photostream/Flickr , Botaurus-stellaris/Wikimedia

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was an iconic, long-span bridge built in the state of Washington in the USA in the 1930s. It was opened to traffic on t July 1940. Leon Moisseiff planned the building’s design to be far more flexible than the acceptable standard ratios.

On 7 November 1940, strong winds of 40 mph battered the area and the bridge oscillated significantly. The bridge towers were made of strong, structural carbon steel, yet they proved no match for the violent movements which eventually caused the bridge to collapse. Fortunately, there were no fatalities except for a dog. The estimated loss from the mishap was $6.4 million.

(For more on other engineering disasters visit:


Boy unearths lost treasure of 10th century Danish king

Published  2018 Apr 17

Danish king coin found 2

Written by Isabella Gómez and Christina Zdanowicz, CNN —
A 13-year-old boy and an amateur archaeologist have helped to uncover a unique stash of lost treasure thought to be associated with the legendary Danish King “Harry Bluetooth,” who brought Christianity to Denmark in the 10th century.
René Schön and his student Luca Malaschnitschenko are reported to have been scouring a field with metal detectors in January, on the German island of Rügen close to Denmark in the Baltic sea, when they chanced upon what they believed to be a piece of aluminum.

Only on closer inspection did they realize it was silver, German national news agency DPA reported.

Thanks to their find, archaeologists from the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, embarked on an excavation of the 400 square meter site last weekend.

The excavation uncovered more than 600 coins and pieces of silver, including, jewelry, neck rings, brooches, pearls and a Thor’s hammer dating back to the late 10th century.

According to a statement released by the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern State Office for Culture and Historic Preservation, approximately 100 coins from the salvaged treasure trove are thought to have belonged to Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson who reigned from around AD958 to 986 and whose name is today linked to bluetooth technology.

“This is the largest single find of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic Sea region and is therefore of outstanding importance,” excavation director Michael Schirren told DPA.
Among the discoveries were several silver coins bearing images of a Christian cross, believed by historians to be among Denmark’s first independent coins.

The Viking-born king is regarded by historians as the founder of the Danish empire and is credited with unifying the country under one flag.

He is believed to have converted to Christianity some time around 960, a decision that historians link to a decline in pagan traditions throughout the kingdom.



Abandoned Train – – Abandoned Steam Engine Train – Skeleton Coast – Namibia – 622ccc3f121cfb3e345284d4ca685a13 – “Dead End” by Keith Alexander, South African visual artist.















The Tewa Village in Hopiland

Heady feelings of triumph for the people of the central New Mexico pueblos didn’t last long after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  Governor Otermín’s attempted return reminded the Puebloans that the Spanish would eventually return, and remembering how they seemed to stand in the path of any conquering army, they decided to relocate.  When the Spanish did return, many more relocated, and after the failed revolt in 1696,many pueblos were abandoned entirely, out of fear of retribution.  Some of these refuges found a home on the Hopi First Mesa [in what is, today, Arizona].

For the full story, see the chapter entitled The Tewa Village in Hopi in the book Forgotten Tales of New Mexico by Ellen Dornan published by The History Press. ISBN: 978-1609494858. $13.00. 176 pages. 5″x7″.