dry land discoveries – news archive 1999

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archive is about the various discoveries in 1999 which have helped to

create the ‘paradigm shift’

in the historical sciences that characterises the ‘new

appreciation’ of the ancient world.


Morien Institute welcomes contributions

from everywhere in the world. Wherever you are, if your traditional prehistory

has been challenged by new discoveries, please

send us the press reports

webpage URLs and magazine stories

1997 | 1998

| 2000

| 2001 | 2002


“5,000-year old map of the Moon unearthed”

The oldest map of the Moon has been found in an Irish cave, and scientists think that humans began their lunar mapping at least 5,000 years ago. Discovered by Dr. Philip Stooke of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, the stone carving is ” … complete with arcs that fit the real markings of the Moon … ”

The Daily Telegraph reported on April 23rd 1999 that it had been discovered in the neolithic Knowth stone chamber in County Meath, north of Dublin, that arch?ologists still refer to as a tomb. Dr Stooke told that newspaper:

“I was amazed when I saw it. It is without doubt a map of the Moon, the most ancient ever found.”

Previous to this the oldest known map of the Moon had been the one drawn by

Leonardo da Vinci in about 1505. Dr. Stooke told the newspaper that he had been

puzzled for years as to why there was no map of the Moon older than 500 years.

“His search of manuscripts and records of Neolithic excavations led him to Knowth and a stone he found there contained a series of arcs on its right hand side. He placed a map of the Moon over the markings and

they lined up.”

The complex around Knowth and New Grange in the Boyne valley has been radiocarbon dated to around 3000-3100 BC, at the time of major Taurid meteor storms. Could the carver have seen an asteroid hit the Moon during that period of Taurid bombardment, and did it cause a noticeably new crater or craters visible from Earth? Something prompted the 5,000-year-old carver to record the map of the Moon, and it may well have been a temporary celestial event such as a collision with an asteroid that was witnessed by the map-maker.


underwater discoveries news archive


Shangri-la is found – in the wrong place

This headline

in The Observer on June 27 1999 brought a wry smile, as it was

written by Paul Sieveking, editor of Fortean

Times, and that usually guarantees an interesting read. There

was no disappointment as he opened the article with the words:

“One might assume that aerial and satellite mapping technologies meant

that most big ‘lost’ cities and monuments

have already been discovered; but this is not borne out by recent news.”

It seems that

on November 8 1998, an American expedition in Tibet discovered a waterfall

some 115 feet high at the base of a 4,000ft cliff in the Upper Tsangpo

Gorge (the world’s deepest canyon),

in the easternmost Himalayas. The waterfall had long figured in local

legends, and was sought in 1924 by British botanist, Francis Kingdom-Ward,

who eventually concluded that it did not exist after failing to find it.

Indeed, Sieveking told that the gorge was only 225 feet wide at this point

and that it had failed to show up on satellite photographs.

“Rebecca Martin, the director of the National Geographic Society’s

Expeditions Board, claimed this January that the hidden waterfall was

Shangri-la, but it does not bear much relation to the Himalayan paradise

described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel ‘Lost Horizon’.”

With the

sub-heading “Lost Worlds”,

the article outlined other claims for the location of the mysterious and

legendary Shangri-la, mentioning that the scholar, Xuan Ke, had a year

earlier placed it to the southeast in China’s Yunnan Province, near the

city of Zhong-dian, which was originally known as Shanbala. Referring

to how in Tibetan tradition there once existed a pre-Buddhist kingdom

known as Shambhala, Sieveking went on to tell that Charles Allen, the

author of several books on the subject, had placed Shangri-la/Shambhala

in the far west of Tibet near to the Indian border.

This excellent

round-up of recent news about ‘Lost Worlds’

then jumped to Africa:


there is the Eredo monument, 500 square miles surrounded by a ditch and

adobe rampart 70ft high, discovered in 1994 by Dr Patrick Darling in the

rainforests of Nigeria and surveyed in secret by his team from Bournemouth

University, but not publicised until last month.

“The 100-mile rampart, which Dr Darling believes once enclosed a palace,

has been carbon-dated back 1,200 years and is thought to have been constructed

by the Ijebu kingdom. Local people link the Erodo to Bilikisu Sungbo (the

Queen of Sheba), which would add another two millennia to its age.”

Also in Africa, the article told of excavations in the Sudan, where arch?ologists had been digging at the city of Soba, part of the long lost Christian African kingdom of Aiwa:

“The city, which contains up to 25 churches and the last Egyptian-style

temple and pyramid ever built, could once have had a population of 30,000.

At its peak in the ninth century, the kingdom covered 120,000 square miles.

It vanished from history after falling to the Muslims in 1504.”

While we

stop to ponder on just how many ancient civilisations and their settlements

have been similarly ‘lost’

to history, especially in the americas following the ‘European

reconaissance’, it is heartening to hear that some of those

cultures which suffered from the racist attitudes of the early colonists

and explorers are beginning to have their rightful place in human history

restored by recent discoveries. Sieveking continued his round-up with:

“An expedition from the University of East London has just discovered

a 1,400-year-old Mayan metropolis in the jungle near the Mexico/Guatemala

border. It covers up to 12 square miles, making it one of the largest

cities in the world at that time, with an estimated population of more

than 50,000. There are at least 10 pyramids, the tallest rising about

200 feet above the forest floor, and seven ceremonial plazas.”

A little

further down in Central America, in Nicaragua, Sieveking finished his

interesting article by reporting that:


October, a Costa Rican documentary maker, Jos? Cortes, travelling through

the Indio Maiz reservation in southern Nicaragua, stumbled upon 62 basalt

columns up to 36ft tall. Cortes showed his film to Costa Rican experts,

who suggested the columns might be evidence of the Cariai settlement which

Columbus described in 1503 as being the most advanced civilisation he

had seen. Further investigation seemed to indicate the columns were natural

geological formations, but the issue remained undecided.”


underwater discoveries news archive


Wooden door to the past – ancient science at Seahenge?


neo-pagans and modern druids protest at the ‘sacrilege’

of digging up Seahenge, Michael Pitts writing in the ‘Science’

section of The

Guardian on July 29 1999 reported

that scientists have a far more interesting story to tell. The recently

discovered prehistoric circle of wooden posts at Holme-next-the-Sea, on

the Norfolk coast in eastern England, is causing great excitement amongst


One of the first to visit the site was Francis Pryor, president of the Council for

British Archaeology, who told The Guardian:

“Holme provides a dimension almost always completely lacking …”

Pitts went on to report that arch?ologists have for years been discovering empty holes in the ground that once held wooden posts:

“In plan the arrangements, that date from around 4,000 to 5,000 years

ago, look like Stonehenge. The biggest, nine concentric pit rings spanning

95 metres, was discovered at Stanton

Drew, Somerset, in 1997.”

Questions as

to exactly what might have stood in the holes have been asked ever since

the first remains of wooden ‘temples’

were discovered, and Pitts reported that the discovery at Holme might

offer the first tantalising answer. He interviewed Maisie Taylor, a wood

consultant at nearby Flag Fen, a large wooden late bronze age site preserved

in wetland near Peterborough, who told him:

“English carpentry begins in the bronze age … It’s very rare to have

both the chips and the timbers from one place. This will tell us about

what tools were used and how people reduced trees to usable timber. It

looks as if the final trimming was done on site. We will be able to say

what was done first in the woods”

He went on to

explain that there are “huge differences”

between woodworking with a stone axe and a metal axe, but only subtle

changes since the arrival of metal tools some 4,000 years ago. The Early

Bronze Age discovery at Holme was described by Pitts as one which:

” … stands at the origins of the tradition that produced Elizabethan

timber framed buildings, fighting ships and the spire of Salisbury cathedral.”

The writer also interviewed David Miles, English Heritage’s new chief arch?ologist, who had only been in the job for a day when the story blew up.

“Never in 25 years of archaeology have I seen a site attract such a

range of opinions and interests. It is amazingly evocative. But it is

not what people in the past would have seen.”

It is that, Pitts

explained, which primarily concerns English Heritage. After consulting

with marine specialists at Portsmouth and Newcastle universities, with

the Norfolk Wildlife Trust (Holme Dunes is

an important National Nature Reserve) and their own scientists,

he reported, English Heritage decided to excavate.

“Already the protective peat – and with it any archaeological evidence

for what happened around the timber ring – had gone. The beach was getting

steeper, the waves more powerful. Sea borers had got into the wood. And

the naturalists would be happy to see the back of it. The last timbers

were expected to be pulled out tomorrow: altogether, some 55 oak posts

in an egg-shaped ring 22 feet across surrounded the upturned stump of

a tree, over eight feet long.”

The article also carried an interview with Mark Brennand of the Norfolk Archaeological Unit, who has been directing the dig. Of the upturned tree stump, Brennand told Pitts:

“It was quite a beast, much longer than I had expected.”

The ancient

timbers have excited the tree ring people, too, reported Pitts. He interviewed

Cathy Groves, researcher at Sheffield University dendrochronology laboratory,

who has so far looked at five pieces – four posts and the tree. But already

the results are intriguing. European scientists have so far compiled an

unbroken tree ring date line reaching back to 4989 BC. In prehistoric

Britain, however, the coverage is patchy. Groves describes it as “like

a string vest – continuous, but very thin in places”. Local

environmental effects like flooding often retard tree growth, and mask

the long term “climatic signal”.

She has not yet been able to use the rings to date Holme:

Copyright 1999 BBC Online

Probabaly the most interesting piece of information in the article concerns the tree rings, and the possibilities of getting an accurate date. Groves told The Guardian:

“But if we can count the rings in every post, we’ll be able to

date it accurate to one year.”

The program that matches the Holme rings to the master chronology says the central tree was felled in the spring, while the four examined posts were cut sometime between October and March – at least six months later, reported Pitts.

The program that matches the Holme rings to the master chronology

says the central tree was felled in the spring, while the four examined

posts were cut sometime between October and March – at least six months

later, reported Pitts. Arch?ologists originally thought the timber might

have come from one tree – a rearrangement of a once living creature in

a sculpture of death. But Groves pooh-poohed that:

“Two of the four posts may be from the same tree, but the other two

certainly are not.”

Gerry McCormac at the radiocarbon laboratory at Queen’s University, Belfast, hopes soon to provide an independent age by high precision dating of samples from several tree rings. He will match the results to a master curve of long term atmospheric radiocarbon variation.

“This ‘wiggle-matching’ should date the

felling of the tree to within a decade. At the moment all McCormac can

say is that it was felled around 3,800 to 4,200 years ago, which would

place it beside the later phases at Stonehenge, and smaller rings of posts

found under bronze age burial mounds.”


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