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Gizmodo.com's Astronomers Spot Unprecedented Flashes From Our Galaxy's Black Hole mentions Sgr A*'s companion gas cloud G2 and that Wikipedia article uses the term perinigricon, but that mentions peribothron as a synonym.
So which term for an object's orbit's closest approach to a black hole is most frequently used; perinigricon or peribothron? And what are the origins of these competing terms?
I don't work with black holes, but I've been in the field of astrophysics for several years now, and until I read this question, I had never heard of either the two terms.
But a query on NASA/ADS, the primary database for "professional" astronomical papers (both refereed and non-refereed) yields 54 hits for "peribothron" vs. only 10 hits for "perinigricon". Not a lot.
As your links reveal, the etymological origin of peribothron/-nigricon is "near the black hole" in Greek and Latin, respectively. The reason has been to conform with terms such as perihelion, meaning "near the Sun". The first to use the Greek version in the literature was Frank & Rees (1976) who write in a footnote:
$^star$We are grateful to W. R. Stoeger for suggesting this word, derived from the Greek bothros, a pit.
William Stoeger was the second author Martin Rees' student (and Stephen Hawking's classmate).
The first to use the Latin version seems to have been Schödel et al. (2002), but they don't offer any explanation for the term.
An apsis (plural apsides / ˈ æ p s ɪ d iː z / AP-sih-deez, from Greek "orbit") is the farthest or nearest point in the orbit of a planetary body about its primary body. The apsides of Earth's orbit of the Sun are two: the aphelion, where Earth is farthest from the sun, and the perihelion, where it is nearest. "Apsides" can also refer to the distance of the extreme range of an object orbiting a host body.
The apsides refer to the farthest (1) and nearest (2) points reached by an orbiting planetary body (1 and 2) with respect to a primary, or host, body (3).
*The line of apsides is the line connecting positions 1 and 2.
*The table names the (two) apsides of a planetary body (X, "orbiter") orbiting the host body indicated:
|(1) farthest||(X) orbiter||(3) host||(2) nearest|
For example, the Moon's two apsides are the farthest point, apogee, and the nearest point, perigee, of its orbit around the host Earth. The Earth's two apsides are the farthest point, aphelion, and the nearest point, perihelion, of its orbit around the host Sun. The terms aphelion and perihelion apply in the same way to the orbits of Jupiter and the other planets, the comets, and the asteroids of the Solar System.
Links between astronomy, the life stories of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) and other deities.
The fundamental point to bear in mind when comparing gods is that ultimately they all resolve into the Sun. They're all in essence "emblems" of the Sun. If that is kept in mind all the time, then apparent dissimilarities can often be resolved.
If you understand that the entire Jesus story is solar allegory, then it all becomes clear. Born of a virgin at the time of the winter solstice and crucified between two thieves at the vernal equinox is a description of the sun's passage through the zodiac.
The "crucifixion" is the key point. This refers to the "plane of the ecliptic", that is, the path traced out by the sun through the zodiac, crossing the equator (passing over. passover) at the vernal equinox. Old star charts showed the ecliptic as two semi circles either side of the equator (we show it as a sine curve now):
At the crossing from one side to the other at the equinox, it once was believed to form a 90 deg cross. This is the "crucifixion" and is the origin of the universal cross-in-a-circle motif.
The Roman Army's patron was Sol Invictus -- the Unconquered Sun. He was depicted as a man on a cross. Among the Aztecs in Mexico, Quetzalcoatl was also born of a virgin at the winter solstice and shown on a cross between two thieves at the vernal equinox. There are surviving pictures of this. The Spanish friars were horrified when they discovered this and went to great lengths to destroy all of the evidence. Christians have been very thorough at destroying evidence of crucified deities around the world in order to maintain Christ's exclusivity. Protection of brand image, you could say.
This is known as the "Mosaic mythos" (from Moses) and is universal to all mankind.
The two thieves are star constellations. probably Sagittarius and Scorpio. that are chased away into the night like thieves by the risen sun/son.
Everything is "astrotheological."
"The lamb that taketh away the sins of the world."
The "lamb" is the sun rising in Aries (Aries the ram, lamb, or sheep). the "Sins of the world" are the cold dark days of winter that are swept away by the lengthening days and the approach of summer.
One has to bear in mind that this mythos was developed during the last ice age 10 or 15 millennia years ago. The winters in the Northern Hemisphere would have been brutal. The vernal equinox is the most important day of the year. It was a matter of life and death for agricultural societies to know when the days are now longer than the nights and the earth will begin to warm ready for planting. This is completely lost on modern people because geography is not taught in schools anymore.
If you read Godfrey Higgins' books The Celtic Druids 1 and Anacalypsis, 2 he goes into great detail explaining this mythos, and how it was transmitted to the West from India by way of Babylon.
As far as Krishna is concerned, the point made by Higgins and others is that the Indian Brahmins have lost the mythos. That's why Krishna's "birthday" is not at the winter solstice, but is held in August. They lost the connection a long time ago, so none of the Krishna stories seem to support the mythos. The necessary corrections between the lunar and solar calendars have not been made, so the date drifted over the centuries. There are apparently villages in India where it is celebrated in December.
If you read the account of Krishna's last days, it is a crazy mishmash of unrelated ideas, and it is not all clear what finally happens to him. There is reference to a tree, and an arrow, which could conceivably have impaled Krishna on the tree and thus "crucified" him. There is no clear idea of when this happened. His "disappearance" day is supposed to be sometime in February, which is not too far from the vernal equinox. However, it is not celebrated as Christ's "disappearance day" is celebrated. Clearly, those who transmitted this story did not understand it.
What is celebrated at this time of the year is "Holi," or the Festival of Colors. This is just described as a "spring festival," with an obscure legend attached to it concerning:
- Holika, a demoness in Hindu Vedic scriptures, and
Interestingly, Holi is celebrated with much fervor over a period of 16 days in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh, India, in:
- Mathura, which was Krishna's birthplace, and
While no connection is made with the equinox, or any "crucifixion", I note that in early paintings of this event from the 16th century CE, the colors that are being thrown are only red. Nowadays all colors are used. This suggests, and I saw this somewhere, that this is the "blood of the lamb," i.e. the Sun in Aries.
Higgins says that Krishna was the "presiding genius" for the age of Aries. Similarly, Buddha holds the same position for the age of Taurus. This is why Buddha frequently appears with bulls.
The mythos has been preserved by Christianity, more by accident than design, since the Christians simply pasted their festivals onto the pre-existing pagan festivals. likr"
- Saturnalia, the ancient Roman festival of Saturn in December after the Winter Solstice that was transformed into Christmas, in spite of references in the Bible to Christ's birth being in the Fall
These were at the correct times of the year because the pagans had not forgotten the ultimate meaning of the mythos.
All religions have two components. the exoteric, outward literal meaning intended for the "rabble" or "vulgar" people, as Higgins describes them, and an esoteric, hidden inner secret meaning (sacred means secret), only known to the initiated priests and Brahmins. Consider Gnosticism, the Kaballah, Masonry, etc.
These are the allegories: Higgins concludes that the entire Jesus story is solar allegory, that all of Genesis is allegory, and that the story of Noah's Flood is allegory. As time passed, the Priests and Brahmins lost the keys to the allegories, and became ignorant and deceitful. When they didn't understand the complex allegories, they made stuff up, which is why Hinduism is such a confusing mixture of beliefs.
The great Max Muller, the renowned Sanskritist at Oxford University during the 19th century, said the westerners are doing the Hindus a favor by making sense out of their degenerated religion.
Why does all this matter? here's why: In my humble opinion. At the moment humanity is doing a good job of trashing the planet. global climate change, environmental destruction, species extinction, you name it.
The reason for this is that we have disconnected our gods from their origins in the natural world, and most particularly, the Sun. We worship gods as though they are independent "beings" that inhabit some perfect world uncontaminated by the material world. We come to actively despise the "material " world, regarding it as a place of misery that we need to abandon as soon as possible, so who cares if it's trashed. You will find very few religious people who could be described as environmentalists, because they regard that as akin to "Paganism," or worshiping nature instead of the "true god" -- because, of course, it is.
All Pagan religions were practiced in natural locations. groves of trees, mountain tops, springs, rivers, lakes, caves and so forth. All these were sacred places to the ancients. The builders of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in Southern England did not build a temple to Krishna or any other all-powerful deity. They built a solar observatory, and went to a great deal of effort to do so. The 60-ton megaliths were hauled from over 200 miles away. The quarry from whence they came was recently discovered.
This demonstrates the importance they attached to these solar events. All neolithic passage tombs, such as Newgrange -- just to the north of Dublin in Ireland, are aligned on the winter solstice, and a single shaft of sunlight will penetrate right to the back of the tomb on that day (if the sky is clear!).
This disconnect is the source of our misery. We need to restore the solar connection to all our deities, and acknowledge the solstices and equinoxes as our forefathers did in days of yore. We need to remember that all our deities are nothing but emblems of the Sun, from whence cometh all life.
"The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff."
All the higher elements, of which we and all life are composed, were created in the explosions of supernovae, blasting out across the universe. The ancients intuitively understood that, and worshipped the "heavens" accordingly.
The following books were referred to in the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "The Celtic Druids," by Godfrey Higgins. Cosimo Classics (2007). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Also available on Google Books.
How you may have arrived here:
Original posting: 2016-AUG-24.
Latest update : 2016-AUG-25.
Author: Charles Alban
Perihelion and aphelion
The perihelion (q) and aphelion (Q) are the nearest and farthest points respectively of a body's direct orbit around the Sun.
Comparing osculating elements at a specific epoch to effectively those at a different epoch will generate differences. The time-of-perihelion-passage as one of six osculating elements is not an exact prediction (other than for a generic 2-body model) of the actual minimum distance to the Sun using the full dynamical model. Precise predictions of perihelion passage require numerical integration.
Inner planets and outer planets
The image below-left features the inner planets: their orbits, orbital nodes, and the points of perihelion (green dot) and aphelion (red dot), as seen from above Earth's northern pole and Earth's ecliptic plane, which is coplanar with Earth's orbital plane. From this orientation, the planets are situated outward from the Sun as Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, with all planets travelling their orbits counterclockwise around the Sun. The reference Earth-orbit is colored yellow and represents the orbital plane of reference. For Mercury, Venus, and Mars, the section of orbit tilted above the plane of reference is here shaded blue the section below the plane is shaded violet/pink.
The image below-right shows the outer planets: the orbits, orbital nodes, and the points of perihelion (green dot) and aphelion (red dot) of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—as seen from above the reference orbital plane, all travelling their orbits counterclockwise. For each planet the section of orbit tilted above the reference orbital plane is colored blue the section below the plane is violet/pink.
The two orbital nodes are the two end points of the "line of nodes" where a tilted orbit intersects the plane of reference  here they may be 'seen' where the blue section of an orbit becomes violet/pink.
The two images below show the positions of perihelion (q) and the aphelion (Q) in the orbits of the planets of the Solar System. 
Lines of apsides
The chart shows the extreme range—from the closest approach (perihelion) to farthest point (aphelion)—of several orbiting celestial bodies of the Solar System: the planets, the known dwarf planets, including Ceres, and Halley's Comet. The length of the horizontal bars correspond to the extreme range of the orbit of the indicated body around the Sun. These extreme distances (between perihelion and aphelion) are the lines of apsides of the orbits of various objects around a host body.
Earth perihelion and aphelion
Currently, the Earth reaches perihelion in early January, approximately 14 days after the December solstice. At perihelion, the Earth's center is about astronomical units (AU) or 147098070km (91,402,500miles) from the Sun's center. In contrast, the Earth reaches aphelion currently in early July, approximately 14 days after the June solstice. The aphelion distance between the Earth's and Sun's centers is currently about or 152097700km (94,509,100miles).
The dates of perihelion and aphelion change over time due to precession and other orbital factors, which follow cyclical patterns known as Milankovitch cycles. In the short term, such dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.  This significant variation is due to the presence of the Moon: while the Earth–Moon barycenter is moving on a stable orbit around the Sun, the position of the Earth's center which is on average about 4700km (2,900miles) from the barycenter, could be shifted in any direction from it—and this affects the timing of the actual closest approach between the Sun's and the Earth's centers (which in turn defines the timing of perihelion in a given year). 
Because of the increased distance at aphelion, only 93.55% of the radiation from the Sun falls on a given area of Earth's surface as does at perihelion, but this does not account for the seasons, which result instead from the tilt of Earth's axis of 23.4° away from perpendicular to the plane of Earth's orbit.  Indeed, at both perihelion and aphelion it is summer in one hemisphere while it is winter in the other one. Winter falls on the hemisphere where sunlight strikes least directly, and summer falls where sunlight strikes most directly, regardless of the Earth's distance from the Sun.
In the northern hemisphere, summer occurs at the same time as aphelion, when solar radiation is lowest. Despite this, summers in the northern hemisphere are on average 2.3C-change warmer than in the southern hemisphere, because the northern hemisphere contains larger land masses, which are easier to heat than the seas. 
Perihelion and aphelion do however have an indirect effect on the seasons: because Earth's orbital speed is minimum at aphelion and maximum at perihelion, the planet takes longer to orbit from June solstice to September equinox than it does from December solstice to March equinox. Therefore, summer in the northern hemisphere lasts slightly longer (93 days) than summer in the southern hemisphere (89 days). 
Astronomers commonly express the timing of perihelion relative to the First Point of Aries not in terms of days and hours, but rather as an angle of orbital displacement, the so-called longitude of the periapsis (also called longitude of the pericenter). For the orbit of the Earth, this is called the longitude of perihelion, and in 2000 it was about 282.895° by the year 2010, this had advanced by a small fraction of a degree to about 283.067°. 
For the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, the time of apsis is often expressed in terms of a time relative to seasons, since this determines the contribution of the elliptical orbit to seasonal variations. The variation of the seasons is primarily controlled by the annual cycle of the elevation angle of the Sun, which is a result of the tilt of the axis of the Earth measured from the plane of the ecliptic. The Earth's eccentricity and other orbital elements are not constant, but vary slowly due to the perturbing effects of the planets and other objects in the solar system (Milankovitch cycles).
On a very long time scale, the dates of the perihelion and of the aphelion progress through the seasons, and they make one complete cycle in 22,000 to 26,000 years. There is a corresponding movement of the position of the stars as seen from Earth that is called the apsidal precession. (This is closely related to the precession of the axes.) The dates and times of the perihelions and aphelions for several past and future years are listed in the following table: 
|width=95||Date !||width=80||Time (UT)||width=95||Date !||width=80||Time (UT)|
|2010||January 3||00:09||July 6||11:30|
|2011||January 3||18:32||July 4||14:54|
|2012||January 5||00:32||July 5||03:32|
|2013||January 2||04:38||July 5||14:44|
|2014||January 4||11:59||July 4||00:13|
|2015||January 4||06:36||July 6||19:40|
|2016||January 2||22:49||July 4||16:24|
|2017||January 4||14:18||July 3||20:11|
|2018||January 3||05:35||July 6||16:47|
|2019||January 3||05:20||July 4||22:11|
|2020||January 5||07:48||July 4||11:35|
|2021||January 2||13:51||July 5||22:27|
|2022||January 4||06:55||July 4||07:11|
|2023||January 4||16:17||July 6||20:07|
|2024||January 3||00:39||July 5||05:06|
|2025||January 4||13:28||July 3||19:55|
|2026||January 3||17:16||July 6||17:31|
|2027||January 3||02:33||July 5||05:06|
|2028||January 5||12:28||July 3||22:18|
|2029||January 2||18:13||July 6||05:12|
The following table shows the distances of the planets and dwarf planets from the Sun at their perihelion and aphelion. 
|Type of body||Body||Distance from Sun at perihelion||Distance from Sun at aphelion||difference (%)||insolation|
|Planet||46001009km (28,583,702miles)||69817445km (43,382,549miles)||34%||57%|
|107476170km (66,782,600miles)||108942780km (67,693,910miles)||1.3%||2.8%|
|147098291km (91,402,640miles)||152098233km (94,509,460miles)||3.3%||6.5%|
|206655215km (128,409,597miles)||249232432km (154,865,853miles)||17%||31%|
|740679835km (460,237,112miles)||816001807km (507,040,016miles)||9.2%||18%|
|1349823615km (838,741,509miles)||1503509229km (934,237,322miles)||10%||19%|
|2734998229km (1,699,449,110miles)||3006318143km (1,868,039,489miles)||9.0%||17%|
|4459753056km (-2,147,483,648miles)||4537039826km (-2,147,483,648miles)||1.7%||3.4%|
|Dwarf planet||380951528km (236,712,305miles)||446428973km (277,398,103miles)||15%||27%|
|4436756954km (-2,147,483,648miles)||7376124302km (-2,147,483,648miles)||40%||64%|
|5157623774km (-2,147,483,648miles)||7706399149km (-2,147,483,648miles)||33%||55%|
|5671928586km (-2,147,483,648miles)||7894762625km (-2,147,483,648miles)||28%||48%|
|5765732799km (-2,147,483,648miles)||14594512904km (-2,147,483,648miles)||60%||84%|
Comparable is used with to or with in line with the previous discussion, with a marked preference in current usage for to:
We find ourselves in a situation comparable to mediaeval times.
Social mobility is, in fact, comparable with most countries in Europe.
Comparison as the noun equivalent of compare can be followed by either with or to:
Poussin’s approach bears closest comparison to Michelangelo’s.
Prices for real estate in Tbilisi cannot stand comparison with Western capitals or indeed Moscow.
The phrase in comparison to is more often used than in comparison with, but by comparison with is more frequent than by comparison to:
The film is utterly benign in comparison to some of the more violent movies of today.
The standard is pitiable in comparison with other countries.
By comparison with North Sea oil production, it is a drop in the ocean.
Essentially, both with and to are correct prepositions to use after compare, comparable, or comparison, although it may be worth checking the regional and grammatical context of the sentence when making your choice.
Definitions of Astronomy Vs. Astrology
The most basic difference between astronomy and astrology is that they mean two entirely different things.
Astronomy is a natural science involving the study of the sun, moon, stars, planets, and other celestial or extraterrestrial objects and phenomena. People who study astronomy (astronomers) study space with research and observation based on the scientific method.
Astrology is not a science, but rather a type of divination — the practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means — that happens to involve the forecasting or prediction of events through the observation and interpretation of many of those celestial bodies.
Although it was considered part of mainstream science until the late 1600s, astrology is no longer considered scientifically reliable. Astrology is more akin to a system of beliefs rather than anything provable by the scientific method.
People who study astrology (astrologists) attempt to learn about how the way celestial bodies (namely the planets and the stars) moving affects people and events on earth. Some consider astrology to be a pseudoscience, while others claim that astrology is proven by evidence (even though the “evidence” is generally just based on subjective personal experience).
4. Draconian Starseed Traits
Draconian starseeds are from the Draco constellation. Draco means dragon, therefore many Draconian starseeds are linked to dragons and reptiles of various kinds. The Reptilian race, Lifgarians, grays and other draconians come from Draco. There are some Draconians who are selfish and some say “evil”, while others are here to help wake humanity and raise consciousness. You’ll see debates going both ways when it comes to Reptilians and Grays, particularly. But YOU know your heart better than anyone online!
Here’s the general Draconian starseed traits:
- drawn to science, math, and technology
- leaders in their fields and communities
- don’t take kindly to authority higher than themselves
- when they’re not in alignment, can be money-hungry and manipulative
- when in alignment and from a higher dimension, want to unite people and work towards a common goal
- talented at leading, building, and coordinating efforts
- always finish what they start
- attracted to reptiles, amphibians and dragons
- may have lizard-like physical characteristics: thin, long faces, thin bodies, lizard-like eyes and facial features
- lower body temperature
- drawn to the sun and warmth (prefer warmer climates)
- adept at fitting in, like a “chameleon”
- find jobs in politics, community leaders, military, architecture, construction
Gray Starseed Traits (the Grays):
- you’ve been misunderstood your whole life
- a large head with a disproportionately smaller body
- you don’t have much (or any) hair on your body
- an intense interest in human genetics and DNA (maybe you even have a career in this field)
- lower body temperature
- an interest or occupation in healing and/or medicine
- you may have a photographic memory
- extremely awakened spiritually
- dark brown (almost black) eyes
- you’re drawn to the Dracos constellation
- an interest in or fascinaton with dragons
- you have problems showing your emotions to others and being vulnerable
- you work best with a well-organized team
Reptilian Starseed Traits:
- lower body temperature
- you find yourself being cold more often than not – you crave warm weather and the sun (without having a thyroid or medical disorder)
- drawn to reptiles and amphibians – lizards, turtles, snakes, etc.
- you’ve had visions and dreams of the Ouroboros symbol
- adept at fitting in, like a chameleon
- you’re a natural leader and work well leading a team, organization, or government
- you don’t feel right being at the bottom of the hierarchy
- inventing and creating new ways to accomplish old tasks is your thing!
- you’ve been misunderstood your entire life
- people often tell you you are “cold” or void of emotions
Ancient Origins Magazine
Discover ancient technologies, lost civilizations, and strange mysteries that still puzzle us today. Experience the power and people, the weapons and wisdom of the ancient world. With boundary-breaking research, nothing is left out!
The German-born American architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe once said: “Architecture wrote the history of the epochs and gave them their names”. From the Classical and Hellenistic to the Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque, each era has been defined and remembered for its awe-inspiring and monumental creations.
The story of architecture is, in fact, the story of humanity. Each architectural accomplishment reflects the social, economic and technological achievements in human history, and opens a window on the priorities, ambitions, power, and vision of civilizations past.
Architecture in ancient times frequently displayed a unification between the divine and mortal world. Monuments performed important practical functions, but they also held a symbolic role, serving as a link between the earth and the heavens. In many civilizations, the creative force applied in the practice of architecture was likened to the creative force of God himself.
In this issue, we journey through time and place to explore some of the world’s most impressive constructions, from the soaring ziggurats of Mesopotamia to the unique buildings of the Ancestral Puebloans in Mule Canyon, the magnificent stepwells of ancient India, and the jaw-dropping rock-cut tombs of Lycia. We also look at some of the greatest architectural tragedies – the burning of Notre-Dame de Paris and the destruction of Palmyra at the hands of terrorists– and examine latest progress to rebuild, revive, or simply remember these amazing historic sites.
While skyscrapers, suspension bridges, and now 3D-printed buildings are marvels of modern engineering, the key pioneering moments in architectural history have left a lasting impact on our buildings to his day, and have changed the shape of architecture for all time.
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On January 9, 1493, Christopher Columbus was sailing in the Caribbean Sea when he reported seeing three mermaids rise out of the sea. Writing in his ship log, he revealed that they were not as beautiful as typically depicted in paintings, but that they did have a human face.
Columbus’ report was not particularly unusual for his era. In centuries past, the world’s oceans were thought to be full of sea monsters, sirens, krakens, and other bewildering creatures. We now know that most of these cryptids, or “hidden animals”, described in the Middle Ages correspond with species that had not yet been classified by science, such as whales, walruses, and giant squids.
Sadly, Columbus had not seen mermaids but most likely manatees – a marine mammal related to the elephant which, from a distance, can appear human-like they have round heads which they can turn from side to side, their forearms bend at the elbow, and they nurse their young in the same way humans do. In fact, the scientific name for manatees is Sirenia, a name reminiscent of sirens, the mythical mermaids of ancient Greece.
It is at this collision point between the fantastical creatures of folklore and the animals not yet discovered by science, that we find the field of cryptozoology, which is dedicated to the study of animals rumored but not proven to exist. Some animals we know today, like the gorilla and platypus, were once cryptids but are now recognized by science. Others, like bigfoot, sasquatch or the Loch Ness monster continue to tempt the hopeful with the possibility of their existence.
In this issue, we delve into the curious world of cryptids, exploring what facts are behind the legends of Olgoi-Khorkhoi, the Mongolian death worm of the Gobi Desert Camazotz, the batman of Mesoamerica Kraken, the giant, ship-destroying sea creature of Scandinavian folklore Unicorns, and the dinosaur-like monsters said to lurk in the depths of lakes. Of course, we could not leave out the world’s most captivating cryptid – bigfoot, and his related ‘cousins’, the yeti, yowie and sasquatch. What is behind the global phenomenon of hairy hominid sightings? We also hear from a cryptozoologist who tells us what it is really like out in the field searching for cryptids, and we leave you with the ultimate cryptid film list!
Skeptics love to poke fun at cryptids research, but there is one thing that both cryptozoologists and scientists can agree on – there are a lot of strange creatures out there whose existence has yet to be proven.
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It was the French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) who said: "Let China sleep, for when she awakes, she will shake the world". With the largest standing army on the planet, the second biggest economy and one fifth of the world's population, Napoleon’s statement has proved prophetic, as China has proceeded to shake the world to its very foundation. It is only by examining its extraordinary past that we can begin to understand this astounding rise to power.
China has one of the oldest and longest lasting civilizations in history. It also boasts the largest number of inventions that have influenced us today, including the compass, gunpowder, paper, and printing. For many centuries, the sophistication of its culture, science, and technology outshined the rest of the world.
But make no mistake, throughout four millennia of Chinese history, there were not only golden years of innovation, noble emperors, and cultured philosophers and scholars, but also centuries of unimaginable turmoil, ruthless rulers, and devastating wars.
In this issue, we look at some of the greatest splendours of ancient China, such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Leshan Giant Buddha we spotlight its rich religious and philosophical tradition and we highlight some of its greatest creations, like the world-famous terracotta army of the First Emperor.
We also delve into its turbulent and checkered past, including the reign of its most tyrannical concubine turned empress, and a devastating defeat in history’s largest naval battle.
One thing is for sure, the history of the planet's most populous country is one of the most fascinating, dramatic, and influential in the world.
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There are more than six billion people on the planet that worship a god or gods in one form or another. But humanity’s belief in god has fundamentally changed. Today, most adherents of a religion believe in a benevolent, merciful, and loving god (or gods). But it was not always this way.
In the ancient world, gods and goddesses were believed to cast their wrath and fury upon the world, bringing droughts and floods, sickness, crop failures, plagues, and endless disasters. There were, of course, benevolent deities too – protectors, providers, healers, creators, and saviors, but their favor could not always be counted on, and keeping them appeased with offerings, rituals, or sacrifice, was of utmost importance.
Religious beliefs were so intricately woven into the fabric of existence that major events, such as wars, the rise and fall of rulers, and natural disasters and even the ordinary events of daily life, were all believed to be under the will of the gods - nothing happened on earth unless first decreed in the heavens.
In many ways, these gods of old have never truly left us. Tales of their battles, bickering and conquests have influenced the course of our language and narrative. In fact, we pay homage to them daily – every Thursday (Thor’s Day), for example, we recall the Norse god Thor, the almighty god of thunder, while in February, we recollect Februus, the Roman god of purification. Traces of these ancient gods are also found in our modern-day symbols – the caduceus of god Mercury remains a symbol of trade and commerce, while the rod of Greek god Asclepius is a symbol used by healthcare and medical practices around the world.
Not only have the ancient gods never truly disappeared, but a revival in polytheistic beliefs is stirring once more. Nordic paganism is now Iceland’s fastest-growing religion, with the construction of the first temple to Thor and Odin in over 1,000 years, and all across Europe, we are seeing a renewed interest and adherence to old pagan traditions. Will we see the rise of the ancient gods once more?
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We once attempted to solve one of history’s little mysteries – the location of some missing artifacts in Ecuador which provided evidence of contact between Mesopotamia and South America in ancient times. The search led us into hidden vaults within the Central Bank of Ecuador. Then it landed us in front of some influential religious figures, who suggested we drop the search if we wished to remain unharmed.
Some mysteries, like the missing relics in Ecuador, are not unsolved. They are buried by a few to prevent people hearing a different story, perhaps an inconvenient truth.
Others are genuine puzzles that may never be solved, like the baffling prehistoric ‘cart ruts’ of Malta that criss-cross across the landscape like a complex network of tracks found at a busy railway station, or the meaning of a set of strange hieroglyphic symbols of the Phaistos Disc, a 3,500-year-old clay plate found in the ruins of a Minoan palace in Greece. So much time has passed since their creation that scientists and historians alike struggle to find any evidence at all to solve these ancient riddles.
In this issue, we delve into some of history’s most head-scratching conundrums, like the 12 th century account of two children with green-hued skin that emerged from a field in rural England, or the tale of a man that arrived at Tokyo Airport with a passport issued by the non-existent country of Taured – are they just urban legends or is their truth behind these historic tales?
We also turn to one of the greatest enigmas in history – the Holy Grail – the alleged cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper and that Joseph of Arimathea used to collect Jesus’s blood at his crucifixion. Over the centuries, thousands of scholars have attempted to find, understand or decipher the legend of the grail, but have any of them found the answer?
While scientific advancements have turned up more mysteries from our ancient past – like traces of an ancient unknown species encoded in our DNA – they have also enabled us to solve many of history’s biggest riddles, including ancient cold cases, strange structures, undeciphered scripts, inexplicable historical accounts and mystifying ancient technology.
Join us on a journey through the great unanswered questions of our time, which continue to captivate and intrigue us to this day.
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For many people, mummies conjure up images of horrifying, linen-wrapped monstrosities, arms reaching out from the dark, dusty tombs in which they have emerged. Fueled by legends and pop culture, superstitions remain strong even today – opening a mummy’s tomb is sure to lead to certain death, or at the very least, a lifetime of bad luck!
But in the ancient world, mummification was an honored tradition in which the deceased was ceremonially prepared for the afterlife, often through an elaborate and highly skilled process that was imbued with deep religious significance. So successful was this mummification process, in many instances, that the stomach of the deceased may still contain the last meal they ate before death.
To look upon a mummy is to come face to face with our past. The remains of these ancient humans provide a window into the lives, health, culture, and deaths of individuals that have long gone. Today’s scientists treat them with great care, realizing that within them can be found knowledge of times passed. But it was not always this way.
Mummies have been ground into paint, boiled down into medicines, burned as fuel, and paraded around as entertainment. They were a commodity, a curiosity and a prized relic of an ancient age – the properties of which were believed to be both mystical and powerful.
In this issue, we bring to life the unknown worlds of the long-dead - exploring the near-perfect remains of ‘incorruptible’ medieval saints, unraveling the mystery of a mummified Persian princess bearing signs of a violent death, investigating the identity of the ‘Screaming Mummy’ who met a gruesome end, and celebrating the thousands of mummies – both human and animal – that have been discovered across the world, providing deep insights into the people of our past.
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The famous American astronomer, Edwin Krupp, once said that “across the whole face of the earth, are found mysterious ruins of ancient monuments with astronomical significance. They mark the same kind of commitment that transported us to the moon and our spacecraft to the surface of Mars.”
For centuries, people have marveled at ancient structures such as the pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, Newgrange, and thousands of other equally impressive sites, pondering how such immense works were undertaken, and awe-struck by the amount of effort and commitment that must have been poured into their construction.
But these sites become even more amazing when the deeper layer is revealed – astronomical alignments, symbolic layouts and representations of cosmic order embedded in the very placement of the stones. Many of these sites are not just simple monuments, but complex constructions that enshrine the remarkable achievements of ancient astronomers. They reflect a vision of mankind’s efforts to integrate culture and religion with the mysteries of the cosmos.
Archaeoastronomy draws upon archaeological evidence and mythological traditions to reveal how ancient humans perceived celestial phenomena, and how their understanding of the skies became intricately woven into their monuments and into the very fabric of their existence and daily life.
It is a ‘new’ field, having only been officially recognized since the 1970s, but in just a few decades, experts have come to learn much about these ancient astronomers and how they connected stars and stones to develop timekeeping, weather prediction, navigation, agriculture and a rich mythology and belief system, which have profoundly marked our world and our own modern understanding of astronomy.
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The ancient Maya created one of the most famous civilizations in the world. Even today, people are still astounded by their monumental city structures at sites like Uxmal, Tikal, and Chichén Itzá. We trek through these awe-inspiring Mesoamerican locations where elite priests and powerful royals managed their people and lands.
The Maya had advanced knowledge of math, astronomy, and agricultural techniques, and in this issue we look at how they applied their skills so cleverly to life. They also developed their own writing system and used the hieroglyphs to tell their factual and mythological stories on decorated temple walls, pottery, and monuments. This special July-August issue reveals some of the rich religious beliefs held by the ancient Maya to explain how humanity arrived here and what happens in the Underworld when our days are done.
This issue provides insight on some of the darker ancient Maya traditions, such as bloodletting and human sacrifice. Thankfully, those practices have been cast aside by later generations, but other, more peaceful actions, such as creating foamy chocolate drinks and caring for stingless bees, are still cherished by their descendants today.
It seems the ancient Maya people had everything going for them…but then their civilization suddenly stopped. They abandoned their most precious city centers and stopped writing about their rulers. Why the ancient Maya civilization fell is one of the greatest archaeological mysteries. So, of course we explore the most popular, science-backed beliefs about what led to their dramatic end.
While the people have left us, their stories and influence remains. Whether it is through genetic ties, curiosity, a visit to the amazing sites, or by incorporating their tasty crops into our own kitchens (tomatoes, chilies, chocolate…the list goes on), everyone has felt the impact of the ancient Maya!
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The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it all up in 1844, when he said: “We infer the spirit of the nation in great measure from the language, which is a sort of monument to which each individual in a course of many hundred years has contributed a stone.”
Languages are indeed a monument to our past. History is embedded in the content and structure of the 6,500+ languages spoken in the world today. Even when unwritten, language is the most powerful tool we have as humans to preserve our past knowledge, making possible both the living of a common history and the telling of it.
The emergence of language, a powerful engine of intellect and creativity, was a defining moment in the evolution of modern humans. Yet, how, when and where it came into being is still unknown and has intrigued many great minds over the centuries. They are questions for which we may never hold the answers.
The annals of history are also full of languages that have died out, cultures and societies that have come to an end, leaving no speakers at all. As many as half of the world’s tongues are expected to be extinct by the end of this century, erasing living documents of history. There is hope, however, as many nations are working hard to keep alive their critically endangered languages.
In this issue, we celebrate the wonder of words and explore the fascinating history of mankind’s most incredible creation. Language is, after all, at the very heart of human nature.
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In faintly preserved Paleolithic rock etchings made by early humans, in the lines of millennia-old historical texts, and among intricate illustrations of medieval manuscripts, we find displays and descriptions of all manner of strange and astonishing people, both real and unreal. The archaeological record also yields its fair share of ‘odd bodies’ – abnormally elongated skulls, gem-encrusted teeth, bizarre hybrid burials that combine animals and humans into grotesque beasts reminiscent of the mythological chimeras of ancient cultures, and surprising artificial body parts, including peg legs with horse hooves, and a warrior knight with a dagger hand!
In this issue, we take you on a journey through the weird and wonderful world of odd bodies, odd burials, and odd people. Some are purely mythological, like the part-human, part-animal therianthropes and headless Blemmyes of medieval folklore some are unexplained, like the stigmatics that bear the marks and wounds of Christ’s crucifixion and others are rooted in reality. Yes, wearing dead man dentures and stretching one’s head into alien-like contortions were once in fashion!
When it comes to strange bodies of the ancient world, there is perhaps none as perplexing as that of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, ruler of Egypt’s prosperous 18th Dynasty. Represented in numerous art pieces, Akhenaten’s slender neck, long face with sharp chin, narrow, almond-shaped eyes, spindly arms, rounded thighs and buttocks, and drooping belly, have long puzzled scholars – were his features genetic or aesthetic? Guest contributor Jonathon Perrin offers a new explanation that may solve the riddle.
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Think of the word ‘magic’, and it may conjure up images of wands, witches, or the wizarding world of Harry Potter. But in ancient times, magic wasn’t about an awesome display of fantastical feats. It was a way for people to make sense of and take control their lives. Magic, overlapping with notions of science, medicine, and religion, was a resource for navigating an uncertain world.
It was everywhere – magic was a source of protection, a means for healing, a way to enact justice, a method for predicting and controlling future events, and a practice to farewell the dead and ensure their safe onwards journey. From birth until death, magic permeated all aspects of life and was called upon to accomplish things beyond the scope of human abilities.
In this edition, we illuminate the ancient and medieval world of magic – mythological tales of the Tengu, mischievous tricksters of Japanese legend Middle Eastern folktales of magical flying carpets, made famous by Walt Disney’s Aladdin and magic rings of power that have made numerous appearances throughout history. Did an Ancient Egyptian ring protect archaeologist Howard Carter from the mummy’s curse, when many others were struck down?
But where does superstition end and reality begin? Did Merlin the Magician, the famous wizard of King Arthur’s court, really exist? And is there any truth to the bizarre accounts of Icelandic ‘necropants’ made from the skin of a dead man?
Whilst some tales may be closer to fiction than fact, expert contributor Brian Hoggard reveals solid archaeological evidence for the mysterious and eerie rituals for magical house protection, including witch-bottles, concealed shoes, horse skulls, and even dried cats!
An issue on magic wouldn’t be complete without a spotlight on John Dee, the Master of Magic himself, occult magician and astrologer of the English Royal Court, nor without delving into the dark and frightening world of grimoires and the dangers of dark magic.
But welcome to your ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’ class we’ve included some healing herbs and spells that the ancients relied upon to combat dark forces. Enjoy this magical issue!
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Gold. It is history’s most coveted asset. It has inspired some of humanity’s greatest achievements, stirred passions for power and glory, commanded veneration, and provoked greed, slavery, and even murder. There is no other object that has played such a significant role in shaping human history as this illustrious metal.
It began its journey as a symbol of omnipotence, equated with gods, purity and immortality, and it was buried with the dead – a certain entry into heaven. But make no mistake, gold’s most central role in history has been as a powerful and unbreakable symbol of wealth, status, and power. It has adorned the heads of kings and the necks of queens it has shone from the tops of pyramids and it has been displayed to cheering crowds by victorious rulers in triumphal processions.
In this issue, we trace the colorful and dramatic story of gold through the ages, from mythological tales with morals, like the story of King Midas and his golden touch and the way Golden Apples reflect some of humanity’s biggest vices, to the ambitious quests of ancient alchemists and civilizations to acquire the pure, shining substance.
We also reflect on the way gold transforms individual lives, as treasure hunters confront the highs and lows of striking it rich, and the impact gold hoards can have on a whole culture, such as the discovery of the magnificent South African Mapungubwe Gold Collection.
Finally, join us as we trek alongside explorers searching for the legendary lost city of El Dorado and get a special peek inside the labs of some of the best scientific minds looking for information on the supposed burial shroud of Jesus. Answers to these mysteries shine bright in the distance.
What Archaeologists Really Think About Ancient Aliens, Lost Colonies, And Fingerprints Of The Gods
It's no secret that far more people watch TV shows like the History Channel's 'Ancient Aliens' than attend lectures by professional archaeologists and historians. Millions of people tune in to watch TV series and docu-dramas with a questionable grip on facts about the past. The stories spun by producers and writers may have some basis in truth, but they're largely stories -- they're compelling stories, though, and they're aimed at a general audience the way that most academic output isn't.
People are also reading books about ancient aliens and other forms of pseudoarchaeology, according to archaeologist Donald Holly. He starts a recent open-access book review section in the journal American Antiquity by asking archaeologists to entertain the idea of pseudoarchaeology -- just for a little bit -- so that we can create better teachable moments, whether we're talking to students or to anyone interested in our jobs. People who read these books are not ignorant or obstinate, he points out, but rather undecided about alternative archaeological explanations and clearly interested in understanding the past. "It's time we talk to the guy sitting next to us on the airplane," Holly asserts. In collecting nine reviews of popular-on-Amazon pseudo-archaeology books by professional archaeologists, Holly hopes that this will both "offer the silent and curious majority that is interested in these works a professional perspective on them" and give archaeologists unfamiliar with the books a pseudoarchaeology primer.
The article starts out with two reviews of books whose main premise is that we need advanced humans -- or nonhumans -- to make sense of past developments. First up, Graham Hancock's Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization, reviewed by Ken Feder, an archaeologist famous for his anti-pseudoarchaeology book Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology. The gist of Fingerprints is that an extraordinarily advanced civilization roamed the seas thousands of years ago, giving advice to the people they found in places like Egypt and Peru and helping them establish their own civilizations. In return, these advanced peoples were treated as gods, particularly after some cataclysmic event wiped them out. Feder's main problems with Hancock's book include the fact that he cherry-picked his data, not bothering to address all the evidence that he relies on very old and discredited fringe thinkers and that he can't conceive of cultural evolution.
In the second review, The Ancient Alien Question, archaeologist Jeb Card points out, as does Feder, that the origins of this idea lay in Victorian mysticism and Theosophy, a movement that "blended hermetic magic, spiritualism, Western curiosity abut Eastern religion, colonial racism, and misconceptions of evolution into a worldview of root races, lost continents, and ascended masters who originated on Venus or other worlds." The author of The Ancient Alien Question, Philip Coppens, was a regular on the Ancient Aliens TV series and presents academic research as if science itself is mysterious. Most problematic, Card finds, is Coppens' invokation of "the destruction of the Library of Alexandria and other book burnings as suppression of ancient truth without recognizing his own call for the destruction of the scientific order, replacing scientific investigation with a new history of mysticism and myth."
Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. (Image via wikimedia commons user Teomancimit, used under . [+] a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.)
Other books in the review section focus on specific sites or cultures and illustrate that the popular author has artificially selected which information to present. Andrew Collins' book Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods, reviewed by archaeologist Eric Cline, deals with the Neolithic site in Turkey that Collins tries to connect to the biblical Garden of Eden by treating the Bible as incontrovertible fact. Black Genesis: The Prehistoric Origins of Ancient Egypt by Robert Bauval and Thomas Brophy, reviewed by archaeologist Ethan Watrall, misunderstands both astronomy and the Bible to show that the Egyptian state was "black African" yet also manages to accurately point out that academic archaeology has for a long time ignored sub-Saharan Africa.
The southwestern U.S. is covered by Gary David's Star Shrines and Earthworks of the Desert Southwest, reviewed by archaeologist Stephen Lekson. While Lekson admits that David is on to something with his "loose, journalistic style," the "content [of the book] is fantastic, it is phenomenal, it is flabbergasting, it is. a mish-mash." Archaeologist Kory Cooper tackles Iron Age America Before Columbus by William Conner, which suggests that there is evidence of iron smelting sites in prehistoric North America. Cooper's highest praise is that it "would make a useful reference for an Introduction to Logic course because the book is a veritable catalogue of logical fallacies." And archaeologist Benjamin Auerbach reviews The Ancient Giants Who Ruled America: The Missing Skeletons and the Great Smithsonian Cover-Up by Richard Dewhurst, who uses old newspaper articles to claim that not only were the skeletons of giants found in the U.S., but that the most well-known science museum in the country tried to hide the evidence. Auerbach points out that he personally has studied many of the skeletons Dewhurst mentions and "none had statures over six feet." The selective evidence in these books is clearly problematic, but not as problematic as the motif underlying many pseudoarchaeology books.
The primary theme among these popular pseudoarchaeology books that professionals have a major problem with is ethnocentrism, or the idea that we can judge other cultures based on the yardstick of our own. But racism figures in here too. Archaeologist Larry Zimmerman reviews The Lost Colonies of Ancient America by Frank Joseph, who insists that mainstream archaeologists are the ones ignoring information on transoceanic voyages and that any number of past civilizations may have colonized the New World first. Zimmerman, though, notes that "Joseph echoes half a millennium of speculation geared toward inventing a deep Old World history in the Americas, thereby challenging the primacy of American Indians in the hemisphere, or at least implying their inferiority, their poor stewardship of the land, and the need to civilize them, all in the service of Manifest Destiny and justification for taking their land." Similarly, John Ruskamp's Asiatic Echoes: The Identification of Chinese Pictograms in Pre-Columbian North American Rock Writing, reviewed by archaeologist Angus Quinlan, puts forth the idea that pictograms found in North American rock art are Chinese script characters left by an otherwise archaeologically invisible trip across the Pacific. The similarity is substantial, Ruskamp insists, but Quinlan calls it "another illustration of deductive thinking at its worst." Further, Quinlan points out that these sorts of interpretations that try to shoehorn in foreign visitors to explain New World culture are "disrespectful of the Native American cultures that used rock art in their sociocultural routines."
Native American pictograph (painted rock art) from a panel of images found in Horseshoe/Barrier . [+] Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. (Image via wikimedia commons user Scott Catron, used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.)
Archaeologists are trained as anthropologists to recognize and celebrate the diversity of humanity, both today and in the past. Eric Cline succinctly explains this in his review, noting "pseudoarchaeologists cannot accept the fact that the mere humans might have come up with great innovations such as the domestication of plants and animals or built great architectural masterpieces such as the Sphinx all on their own rather, they frequently seek or invoke divine, or even alien, assistance to explain how these came to be."
Pseudoarchaeology books are problematic for archaeologists for a number of reasons. First, of course, they tend to present misinformation, cherry-picked from legitimate (and not-so-legitimate) sources that is often taken as fact because it's presented as fact. Archaeologists, as scientists, can no more select what data to consider than a chemist can select which laws of chemistry to follow. Second, pseudoarchaeology seems like a legitimate body of scholarship because authors tend to cite one another, creating a body of information that, however outlandish it sounds, fits together. Archaeology also does this, but as scientists, we are invested in improving our understanding of the past rather than in protecting our own theories the way pseudoarchaeologists do.
But these books are perhaps most problematic for archaeologists because, as Lekson notes, "alternative archaeology is more interesting than the stuff we write. more interesting to more people, that is." Academic archaeologists are not trained to write readably, which means there is a large opening for authors to connect with the "guy on the airplane." Archaeologists like Brian Fagan who do write more approachable books have to walk a fine line between making data interesting and not making extraordinary claims.
Unfortunately, tales of ancient aliens and extraordinary humans creating the Pyramids as a communication device are often more fascinating than slow cultural change. We as archaeologists need to find a way to showcase the humanity of the past and get across the idea that ancient humans were intelligent, capable, and innovative -- that those of us alive today are the product of that long history of innovation, and that we are continuing the tradition of our early ancestors by inventing cars, computers, and, yes, even pseudoarchaeology.
For more on pseudoarchaeology books, you can read the American Antiquity book reviews here, or check out the fantastic blog by Jason Colavito, the "skeptical xenoarchaeologist," who critiqued Hancock's recent appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast. And if you want to take a class in pseudoarchaeology, Ethan Watrall has put his fall 2015 Michigan State University course online, with all course material freely available to anyone who's interested.
Johnson, Paul, A History of the Jews (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), 134.
Kidger, Mark, The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomer’s View (Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ, 1999), 235.
Origen, The Ante-Nicene Father, Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 Vol 4 , (Buffalo: C.L. Pub. Co., 1885), 422.
Pliny the Elder, Holland, Philemon, Pliny’s Natural History in Thirty-Seven Books (London: Barclay, 1847-49), 65.
Roberts, Alexander et al., The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 . Vol. VI, (Grand Rapids (MI): Eerdmans, 1957), 129.
Strabo, The Geography of Strabo Vol. 7, ( Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), 203.
Williamson, G. M. The World of Josephus (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1964), 78.