Geen categorie, guatemala, maya, mesoamerica

New Maya beekeepers discovered

The ancient city of Nakum, northeastern Guatemala, seemed to be the place to be for beekeeping. Beneath a ritual platform, dated to be from 100 BC to 300 AD, a “foot-long, barrel-shaped ceramic tube with covers at each end” was discovered. It is nearly identical to wooden beehives from northern Yucatan.

While honey was probably a popular product and a commodity, this is the first time a stone beehive has been discovered.


europe, Europe, Geen categorie, germany

One of Germany’s oldest libraries discovered

A newly discovered site in Cologne is most definitely the remains of the oldest verifiable library in Germany. It was built around 1,800 years ago. The archaeologists are certain of their interpretation because the ancient wall they discovered was full of “unusual, niche-like divisions”, much like in other Roman libraries (like the one in Ephesus they used to compare their findings with). The niches, measuring 80 by 50 cm, were too small for statues.

Because of the measurements of the building, 20 by 9 meters, standing two stories tall and with a later extension added, the library must have been relatively large. It could have contained 20,000 scrolls.

Since the library was situated in the southwest corner of the forum, it was probably open to the general public.

The ruins were discovered while digging for a new Protestant church community centre. Some of the remains will be preserved in the new structure.




europe, Europe, Geen categorie

The Voynich manuscript still has not been decoded

Yes, it is the time of the year again. The mysterious Voynich Manuscript of which we have reported earlier (see “Read more here”) has allegedly been decoded yet again.

This time it was Gerard Chesire of the University of Bristol who only needed two weeks to crack the code. A great feat since dozens of scientists, amateurs, decoders, etc. have never succeeded. Chesire writes in his paper that the manuscript is written in a previously unknown “seldom written” proto-Romance language, which sounds like a possible cop-out.

Even though the purpose of this site is to bundle articles concerning history while keeping them bite-size, a personal interest makes us take a closer look into the statements of Gerard Chesire.

He claims that the manuscript was written by Dominican nuns as a reference work for Maria of Castile, queen of Aragon. He has yet to translate the entire text which is obviously needed to check his claim as previously many have “translated” small words already using their own theories.


It did not take long for rebuttals to be published. Lisa Fagin Davis, who has a PhD in Medieval Studies from Yale University and has catalogued medieval manuscript collections at Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, the Walters Art Museum, Wellesley College, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Boston Public Library, and several private collections and has written about codicology in manuscripts, states there is no proto-Romance language. She states that Chesire looks at a word he thinks he can understand due to its proximity to a drawing and then keeps on looking in medieval Romance-language dictionaries until he finds a compatible word.

The only way to disprove Fagin Davis’ hypothesis is for Chesire to translate large chunks of the manuscript instead of a few words as he has now done. It has also been pointed out that the translations that he made were either already known (the Zodiac sign names being of Romance origin even though they were probably written down later) or educated guesses based on what had already been discovered.

One of the claims is that the translations were difficult because it is not only written in proto-Romance but also features Latin phrases and abbreviations, something that had already been posited by author and lawyer Joseph Martin Feely in 1943 and pushed again by television writer Nicholas Gibbs (see “read more”).

The Daily Mail has given some pictures and translations from Chesire (see the link under “sources”).

The second picture shows a miscarriage or abortion. This is quite clear as abortions are flushed out of a woman’ body through a pipe [!]. “omor néna” thus means “dead baby” and is a mash-up of Romanian (which is an eastern Romance language and not a Slavic language) and Spanish. Furthermore there is “palina” from Italian and a fish called “mars” from French (which now became the month “March”). The same goes for “abril” which became the month April in Catalan, Galician, Occitan, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish (but is also used in Dutch, English and German which are not Romance languages).

Thus it seems true that Chesire is cherry-picking his solutions. Also, as noted above, some researchers believe that the names of the Zodiac signs have been added later and are thus possibly unrelated to the text in the manuscript.

Another critic, J.K. Petersen from Voynich Portal, a website dedicated to translating the manuscript, points out that Chesire is not consistent in breaking up his words. On a picture of a possible eruption, he takes a certain letter (the letters are named EVA-ot as a way to digitally communicate which letters they are talking about) and makes it part of a word, but a few lines further on, he uses it as a standalone letter. Considering there are no spaces between words in the text, this is subjective. Again, a full translation of the manuscript is the only way to check his theory.

His translation of this picture has nothing to do with an eruption and thus his work method of beginning with pictures and translating them can be called into question.

Digging deeper, J.K. Petersen shows that Chesire uses the letters f/ph and u/v on a rare character (< 50 times used in the manuscript out of 38,000 words) even though they are widely used in Latin. His translations also feature Germanic and Persian words. Some translations are also cherry-picked: he uses “om” as a ground word for people (om is a person, omas are mothers/babies, omo is man) but “omenas” becomes “to take charge”.

In the end, it is unclear how Chesire translated the short word next to the picture as “eruption” or “volcano”. It is possible that he got tunnel vision to get to the conclusion that since Vulcano (on an island north of Sicily) erupted in 1444 and the manuscript is dated to be from somewhere between 1404 and 1438 that this piece must be about Vulcano.

Chesire places the text on Ischia, an island near Naples, but does not really explain as to why he thinks this, besides the island’s language having “insufficient similarity with Italics to be described as proto-Italic”. It is possibly cherry-picked to link the manuscript to queen Maria who was from Naples (and thus suddenly the manuscript had been written for her use). He also uses her to explain the proto-Romance language as being a mishmash of all languages and dialects from the western Mediterranean (even though this means only a very select handful of people would have any use for such a language at all and certainly not kings and queens who, 700 years after the fall of the Latin Roman Empire would still speak Latin).

He also believes that the letters are like our alphabet going from a to z even though there is no agreed upon alphabet or even an agreed understanding how many letters there are. He just states that those that basically do not fit his theory are from “different graphic origins” or “indicate particular uses” or are “phonetic accents”.

So it seems that the only proof is in translating all of the text, even though Chesire has already written about unknown letters and other difficulties that might arise. This means that for now it is nothing more but a new theory based on previous findings, some (possible) discoveries of his own and (un)educated guesses possibly forced upon him by tunnel vision.


Sources: (The article of Dr Gerard Chesire) (About Dr Lisa Fagin Davis)

Cheshire reCAsT

Read more here:

Geen categorie, guatemala, maya, mesoamerica


The ancient Maya city of Nixtun-Ch’ich, in northern Guatemala, might not ring a bell, but a new study which has started in 2013 and uses GPS, reveals the city was compact for a reason: it is the only Mayan city to be build in a grid cell pattern.

It has major streets going from east to west, intersected with streets going north to south, just like modern city blocks. Normally, Mayan cities are just spread out for miles.

Pavements were made in plaster. This and pieces of bones and charcoal show the city was created before 500 BC, meaning the first thought of archaeologists Pugh and Rice, that the city was based on the only other city with a grid based system, Teotihuacán, was false as that city was constructed 900 years later.

Nixtun-Ch’ich is thus constructed in a phase during which Mayans went from hunter-gatherers to farming.

Rice believes the pattern might have been meant to resemble the scales of a crocodile with a long defensive wall being the gash gods made in the crocodile’s neck. Because the animal lives on land and in the water, it is a very symbolic animal to the Mayans and features in one of the origin myths in which its blood was used to create Earth.

This sort of grid probably did not catch on because other Mayan cities grew organically: villages or settlements decided to work together for mutual protection and were thus not so carefully planned.



europe, Europe, Geen categorie, greece

Oldest part of the Odyssey still not old enough

Near the Temple of Zeus on Olympia, on the Peloponnesos, a tablet containing 13 verses of the famous Odyssey was discovered by a group of Greek and German archaeologists.

The verses are from the fourteenth Rhapsody in which Odysseus arrived at the island of Ithaca, where he was the king, and meets his old friend Eumaeus.

The tablet is probably from before the third century AD, making it the oldest piece of the Odyssey currently known but that would still mean that there is a gap of 1,500 years between the original writing and this tablet.


The Odyssey is an epic poem, written by Homer as a sequel to the Illiad. The two are the oldest known still existing pieces of Western literature. The Odyssey is about king Odysseus’ ten year long trip from Troy, after the Trojan War, to the island of Ithaca.

It is written in an amalgam of Ancient Greek dialects and features a non-linear plot.

The Telegony, a lost piece of work by probably Cinaethon of Sparta, was a sequel to The Odyssey.


Read about a funny Odyssey theory here:


Sources: (Dutch article)

easter island, Geen categorie, Oceania

Colourful Easter island moai

In 1935, a moai, a 5-ton-heavy statue of Easter island, named Pou Hakanononga or “god of the tuna fishers” was donated to Belgium. It stands in the Arts and History Museum  in Brussels.

Research on the statue, in the framework of the “Oceania exhibit”, revealed the existence of colour pigment on the statue. The pigment is from the time the statue was created and thus, researchers concluded, the statue was painted on.

While it was already known the statues had been coloured, this precise research allowed the researchers to give an estimate how the statue looked like when coloured.


From the newsletter of the Arts and History Museum, 01/04/2018.


Read more:


Nieuwsbrief, Museum Kunst & Geschiedenis, 01/04/2018

Link to the website of the museum:

aztec, Geen categorie, mesoamerica

Understanding the Aztecs a bit better

The most famous calendar stone used by the Aztecs might have depicted Moctezuma II.

It was this ruler that commissioned the disc in 1511. After only eight years, the Conquistadors levelled the capital and the sun dial disappeared until it was found in 1790 beneath the city’s main plaza, Zócalo.

It was thought that the calendar stone featured the god Tonatiuh at the center. Now, archaeologist David Stuart of the University of Texas believes the figure in the center might be Moctezuma II, placing him figuratively at the center of the universe.


By El Comandante – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


He bases himself on a comparative study of statues and a re-interpretation of the glyphs on the disc. One glyph reads “One Flint”, the year in which the god Huitzilopochtli migrated from his homeland to the valley of Mexico at the start of the Aztec civilisation. Another glyph represents the headdress worn by the ruler, a xiuhhuitzolli. According to David Stuart, Aztecs would interpret these two glyphs as the king being a god.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation. Some, like archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, state that the headdress-glyph is part of a longer word and thus unrelated to the ruler. Archaeologist Patrick Hajovsky of the Southwestern University states that while that glyph could suggest Moctezuma II, the central figure could thus also show Huitzilopochtli.


europe, Europe, Geen categorie, Japan

Re-using a Picasso painting

It seems famous painter Pablo Picasso used one of his own paintings to paint “Mother and Child by the Sea” in 1902. The painting is considered to be a masterpiece from his blue period and is on show in the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone, Kanagawa, Japan.

The discovery is not that surprising: it is known a young and beginning Picasso did this often but until now it was impossible to discover what he painted over exactly.

Hyper-spectral imaging technology showed that the original painting was about a woman, possibly holding a baby.

Check the link to see both paintings.



belgium, europe, Europe, Geen categorie, the netherlands

Atlas Maior will stay put

The 11-part big atlas Atlas Maior made in 1663 by Joan Blaeu was sold for 600.000 euro to the Phoebus Foundation, funded by Fernand Huts, the owner of an international logistics service provider and port operator.

The atlas is 3.000 pages long, contains 594 charts and is UNESCO World Heritage. It will be displayed in the Mercatorhuis, a museum featuring multiple atlases.

It is currently unknown whether the Foundation bought the Atlas Maior with one part missing or whether the newspaper got their information wrong since the Atlas Maior has 12 parts.

Joan Blaeu was a Dutch cartographer who was the first to incorporate the heliocentric theory into mapping. He died in 1673, a year after his studio burned down.



europe, Europe, france, Geen categorie

Children being murdered, cheating and a dirty priest: a regular day in 1880.

Joachim Martin was the carpenter who worked in the chateau of Picomtal in 1880-1881. That is almost all we currently know about the man.

When he redid the parquet of the chateau in 1880-1881, he wrote down 72 passages in pencil on the wood, realising his messages would not be read for decades after he was gone. This realisation gave him the opportunity to spill his heart out.

News reports are still sparse and only the smuttiest details have surfaced. One of them, for example, is that around midnight somewhere in 1868 the mistress of an old friend and neighbour named Benjamin was in labour in the stables. Joachim knew the child would not survive as four out of the six children she had already had, were murdered by that friend and buried in the same stables. Joachim did not report them since the mother of the friend was his father’s mistress. Considering Benjamin was trying to seduce Joachim’s wife, it probably was a difficult decision to make.

He also complained about the dirty-minded priest, abbé Lagier. Apparently, the priest had an unhealthy obsession with sex: he asked questions like how did you do it and how many times a month? It resulted in a petition to get rid of the priest though the priest’s personal questions were probably rooted in the Church’s quest to stop non-procreation intercourse.

The priest was also, according to Joachim, a terrible healer (guérisseur). Yet, getting rid of him would mean losing an important member of society. Still, the petition asked for a protestant, and thus probably married, priest. It indicates that the people did not care about which Christian religion they followed. The request is also strange because there were barely any Protestants in the village.


His writings were known since 2014 but only recently reached the public.

To see some of the writings, hit the BBC link in Sources.


Sources:–misdaad-en-religie–geheim-dagboek-uit-1880-gevonden-/ (Dutch article)