January 12, 2013
A modern re-construction of the Ice Man at the South Tyrol Museum in Austria.
I. A Hike Into The Pre-Historic World
In 1991, two German tourists hiking in the Austrian Alps accidentally discovered one of the world's most ancient murder victims. The victim died alone, crawling through the snow, in the icy Austrian Alps 1300 years before the Great Pyramid rose from the Egyptian desert in 2566 BC. The victim was killed roughly 3,000 years before the coming of Christ - in roughly the year 3300 B.C.
Helmut and Erika Simon had unwittingly discovered, and originally documented, the incredibly well-preserved "natural mummy" of a 5,000 year old murder victim known today at the "Ice Man".
The Simons first believed they had found a murder victim or the body of a long missing lost hiker and alerted the police. Yet, this body, with the tattered remainder of with his barbarian hunting gear, weaponry and internal organs surprisingly intact, would be become one of the strangest and most remarkable finds in all of European history.
This body's discovery is made all the more remarkable due to the amount of scientific information that this body has provided to us about the ancient, prehistoric world.
After learning of the find from police, a small expedition was sent out to retrieve the mysterious natural mummy for identification. Scientists at the nearby Austrian University of Innsbruck in Tyrol were the first to determine that the body was not the remains of an unfortunate local hiker but in fact prehistoric remains.
II. 6th Millenium BC
Using the modern technique of paleoforensics and carbon dating, scientists eventually dated the body of the "Ice Man" near 3300 BC. "Ozti" named after the Otztal range of mountains in Austria where he was uncovered was a 5 foot 5 inch, 110 pound 45 year-old-man who have lived over 5,413 years ago.
The age of this man's body alone is mind-boggling. First, due to it's incredible preservation. Second, due to the fact that finally here was undeniable proof of a moderately advanced Stone Age culture active in Southern Europe. Third, and most shocking of all, was that the tools found with the Ice Man's corpse place this culture at doorstep to the Bronze Age nearly 2,000 years ahead of the curve for the rest of Europe.
5,000 years ago, at the time of Ötzi, was the Stone Age for this portion of Europe. Yet, Ötzi was found with a copper axe head... almost 2000 years before the Bronze Age (1700 BC - 1150 BC) that made copper a widespread tool material.
How can this be explained? Was this truly part of his equipment? Was this the first proof of an elaborate hoax?
To understand the distance from us, as modern men, and The Ice Man - we must first understand the Ages of Man. The term "Paleolithic" or Stone Age comes from three historical categories that mark man's intellectual and physical ascent from animal. It is the second of three major ages of mankind. They include Stone, Bronze (including Copper), and the modern age of Iron.
The occurrence of the Ages of Man depended largely on factors inherent in each continent that they took place within. In ancient Mesopotamia, roughly Iraq, Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran, the Bronze Age, named by the most widely used technology of the period namely bronze, started near 2900 BC.
In Southern Europe near Italy, due to the harsh wintery climates and a lack of large communities, the Bronze Age began in 1700 BC with farming societies that are known today as the Terramare.
So where was this innovation, the copper axe head, created for the Ice Man?
The Ice Man lived at the end of of Stone Age in Southern Europe. His civilization was made up of a handful of sophisticated hunter-gatherers with only a few scattered major population centers. The remains of a Central European population center in prehistoric Tyrol in Austria shows farming settlements dating back to 5000 B.C. It's logical to believe that The Ice Man knew about this prehistoric city.
Could he have purchased this rare axe there? If so, was he murdered for it? And if this is also so, why didn't his attackers steal the copper axe head from his dead body? Did the Ice Man kill or injure his attackers and then flee into the mountains?
There in the mountains was where the body of Ötzi The Ice Man was found. The Ice Man's bruised, wounded corpse, complete with unhealed wounds sustained near to the time of his death was found nearly 100 snowy miles from ancient Tyrol.
Never reaching his destination, his corpse was found lodged in the melting ice in the Oztal Alps in Austria near the Austrian/Italian border 5,000 years after he died of his wounds.
III. Death Of A 5,000 Year Old Hunter-Gatherer
University researchers in Tyrol display the Ice Man find. Photo by Werner Nosko.
The only answers we can find are in the body of The Ice Man.
Violence contributing to Ötzi's death: cerebral trauma, fractures on the left side of rib cage, deep defensive wounds to the hands and a stone arrowhead embedded in flesh of his right shoulder with a matching tear in his clothing. This last wound showed no formation of scar tissue leading scientists in 2001 to believe he died with this wound.
Ötzi's clothes were sophisticated. He wore a cloak made of woven grass and a coat, a belt, a pair of leggings, a loincloth and shoes, all made of leather of different skins. He also wore a bearskin cap with a leather chin strap. The shoes were waterproof and wide, seemingly designed for walking across the snow; they were constructed using bearskin for the soles, deer hide for the top panels, and a netting made of tree bark.
Soft grass went around the foot and in the shoe and functioned like modern socks. The coat, belt, leggings and loincloth were constructed of vertical strips of leather sewn together with sinew. His belt had a pouch sewn to it that contained a cache of useful items: a scraper, drill, flint flake, bone awl and a dried fungus.
Ötzi had over 50 ritual tattoos in the form of groups of lines and crosses on his body including a cruciform tattoo inside his right knee.
Other items found with the Iceman: the mysterious copper axe, a flint-bladed knife, and a quiver of 14 arrows. Two of the arrows, which were broken, were tipped with flint and had fletching (stabilizing fins), while the other 12 were unfinished and untipped.
The arrows were found in a quiver with what is presumed to be a bow string, an unidentified tool, and an antler tool which might have been used for sharpening arrow points. There was also an unfinished yew longbow that was 3 feet long.
In addition, among Ötzi's possessions were berries, two birch bark baskets, and two species of polypore mushrooms with leather strings through them. One of these, the birch fungus, is known to have antibacterial properties, and was likely used for medicinal purposes. The other was a type of tinder fungus, included with part of what appeared to be a complex fire-starting kit. The kit featured pieces of over a dozen different plants, in addition to flint and pyrite for creating sparks.
Ötzi's copper axe was of particular interest, as it is the only such complete prehistoric axe so far discovered. Today, Ötzi's axe remains as much of a mystery as the circumstances that brought about his death.
By dying in the Alps 5,000 years ago, he has provided the modern world with a unique view of Stone Age culture with an unprecedented wealth of scientific information and is regarded as something of a national treasure in Austria today.
 = Cited from Wikipedia's article on ancient Mesopotamia.
Wikipedia, Ötzi The Iceman
Wikipedia, Bronze Age Central Europe
National Geographic, The Iceman Final Hours
Time, The 33rd Century
Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, The Iceman
Nature.com, Iceman's DNA Revealed
December 22, 2012
El Mirador, hidden in the northern of province of El Petén, Guatemala for 2,000 years.
I. Mesoamerican Guatemala
At first glance, modern Guatemala is an unlikely place to find the ancient, lost legacy of the ancient Mayan people. This is for two reasons. Number one, Guatemala is at what was once presumed to be the extreme south of the ancient Mayan empire - an empire that stretched out across the Yucatan Peninsula encompassing Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and southern Mexico.
Number two, starting in 1518 AD, the Spanish Empire re-made the entire country into their own image nearly 500 years ago destroying ancient monuments and history along the way.
When the Spanish Empire was finished conquering Guatemala, they forever changed the native people and their customs transforming the country into a European model while draining the it of it's identity as well as it's silver and gold. Both were used to fuel Spanish wars and swell the ranks of their rising empire.
What could remain today from Mesoamerican culture after a spiritual and economic decimation that was fully realized hundreds of years ago?
Only the impenetrable Central American rain forests in the unexplored, wild lowlands could hold long lost answers and keep these secrets for thousands of years. The jungle alone would shelter the roots of the Mayan culture while the Spanish Empire rose and fell. It also managed to hold these secrets while Guatemala fell into the chaos of civil war after the Spanish left in 1829 AD after a 300 year rule.
The jungle held these secrets until modern archeologists, led by Dr. Richard Hansen Senior Scientist at the Institute for Mesoamerican Research from the Department of Anthropology of the Idaho State University, began an exhaustive campaign of discovery in the northern province of El Petén starting with recovering the Mayan capital in 2008.
II. The Lost Jungle Empire
Six-hundred years before the rise of the Spanish Empire in Central America in the 16th Century, the Mayans were the unquestioned rulers of much of Mexico and Central America for 1,000 years. Recent discoveries made by Dr. Hansen suggest that they ruled from Pre-Columbian northern Guatemala.
From near modern El Petén, the Mayans established a civilization that began in 2000 BC while Stonehenge rose in England and the first horses were being tamed in Europe.
By 600 BC, they had developed the world's first highways, monumental architecture, massive urban planning, agriculture and even turkey farming used to feed massive populations of priests, warriors and peasants.
These Maya, identified by Dr. Hansen as "The Kingdom of the Snake" or "Lords Of Kan" (kan being the Mayan word for snake) were extraordinary in their complexity and depth of knowledge yet were utterly wiped out before the first Conquistadores landed in the New World.
What happened to such a large civilization and why were their monuments so remarkably intact 1100 years after they disappeared?
To attempt to answer such a question we must first understand the ancient history of this region.
Traditionally, archaeologists have divided the history of South America into three distinct periods. They are the Pre-Classic period from 2000 BC to 250 BC, the Classic period from 250 AD to 900 AD and the Calistic Period from 900 AD to 1500 AD.
This last period encompasses the time from end of the Mayan culture up to the end of the Aztecas. The Aztecas, as a recognized historical fact, were wiped out beginning with the arrival of the Spanish in 1518. But could the Aztecas themselves have been responsible for the end the Mayas in 900 AD at the start of the Calistic Period?
In 2008, modern archeologists made an incredible and shocking find in the dense jungle canopy that may provide more answers to this question. This is a new find that archeologists, including experts at the Smithsonian, believe was once the capital of the Mayan world, the lost city of El Mirador - once home to over 200,000 ancient people from the year 700 BC to 900 AD.
III. The Discovery
El Mirador, meaning "observation point" in Spanish, is theorized to have been the heart of a huge Mayan metropolis. The city flourished in the late Pre-Classic period near 300 BC and reached a possible population of 200,000 people by it's sudden end in 900 AD.
To add to this theory's credibility, in 1995 Dr. James O’Kon published a paper that suggested that the Usamacinta River, nearby to El Mirador in Yaxchilán, was the site of the world's largest ancient bridge. Dr. O'Kon also suggested this was in fact a brick-and-mortar suspension bridge. This innovation, built 1000 years before the Brooklyn Bridge, would have served the Maya in transporting warriors and farmers from the nearby north western city of Yaxchilán. Soldiers and merchants from across the country would have had a clear route to and from the Mayan capital providing long-term security and sustenance.
Yet this highway could have also contributed in aiding the Mayan's arch-enemies as well. Obsidian arrowheads and spear tips, that originate near Mexico City hundreds of miles away in ancient Aztec territory, dot the landscape around El Tigre pyramid complex inside of El Mirador.
These remarkably well-preserved weapons also contain DNA evidence about the battles that took place in the city. Researchers are currently analyzing this evidence that they indicate appear to come from two sources - Mayan and Aztec.
This discovery suggests that El Mirador was the site of a ferocious battle inside it's city walls against it's fiercest enemy. It is inconclusive at this point if the Aztecas destroyed the Maya in their capital in 900 AD but the evidence is mounting.
A variety of possible factors have also been identified as contributing to the end of the Maya including ecological collapse, natural catastrophe, disease, cultural evolution, internal revolt, overpopulation or a combination of these factors.
The remaining populations that abandoned cities like El Mirador moved north into the upper Yucatan Peninsula in modern Mexico.
Today, Dr. Hansen is continuing to uncover sprawling plazas, temple structures and ancient monuments but is fighting against drug cartels who discourage research and tourism and cattle barons who continue to slash-and-burn the forests surrounding the El Mirador Basin.
Wikipedia, El Mirador
Wonder Mundo, El Mirador, An Ancient Maya Metropolis
Smithsonian Magazine, El Mirador The Lost City Of The Maya
December 21, 2012
The ruins of the fortress of Alamut in the mountain country of Iran.
I. The Abbasid And The Order Of The Assassins
In 1258 AD, the largest Mongol horde ever assembled, directed by Genghis Khan's grandson Möngke Khan and personally led by his brother Hulagu, completely destroyed the jewel of the Middle East: Baghdad in modern Iraq.
In 1258, Baghdad was the largest city in the world. It was also the seat of the 500 year-old Sunni Islamic Abbasid Caliphate (750 AD – 1258 AD). Up to this point, the powerful Caliphate's rule expanded across North Africa, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Lebanon (see map below).
As the Mongol horde tore through modern Iraq and Iran they burned colossal libraries and madrassas (schools) annihilating all who stood in their path. The armies of Inner Asia filled the ancient Mesopotamian irrigation canals that fed Baghdad with the rotting carcasses of the desert peoples, scattering the best and brightest of the Golden Age of Islam into the barren sands and effectively ending the Abbasid empire.
Two years before Baghdad fell, in 1256 AD, the most feared warriors of the Abbasid were destroyed by the Mongols before they could be an effective military threat the Horde's plan to surround and lay siege to the capital. They fell in their isolated mountain stronghold of Alamut. Today, these men are remembered as the Assassins.
The word "assassin" comes into being to describe the Hashshahsin a secretive military society from the Islamic sect of Shi'a (another large sect of Islam religion antagonistic to the Sunni sect) made up of Persians and Syrians.
The word hash or hashish also comes from the Order whose induction methodology included drugging prospective members with hashish. Christian Crusaders first reported them in 1080 AD.
The word "Hasaneen", another early interpretation of "assassin", literally means followers of Hasan. The Order of Assassins was founded by the dynamic Shi'a leader Hasan-i Sabbah. In the year 1094 AD, Hasan established the Order's permanent base of operations high in the mountains of northern Iran.
Sabbah, and the Shi'a imams who followed him, used the religious organization to secure military power within the Abbasid empire due to their indispensable and lethal abilities. Hasan-i Sabban was so successful that he is still referred to as "Sayyidna" meaning "Our Master" in Arabic.
II. From Missionary To Master
Let us next look at the man the Golden Hordes of Genghis Khan and Christian Crusaders learned to fear. Let us look at the life of Hasan-i Sabbah, the Grand Master of Assassins.
Sabbah himself began life near modern Tehran in Rayy, Iran. He spent his early life as a wandering Persian missionary of the Ismali tradition learning and teaching mathematics, astronomy and history. While he was traveling in Egypt in 1071 AD, at the age of 17, his teaching and his connections to the former government of the Sunni Fatmid Caliphate brought Sabban to the attention of the highest of the local authorities - who promptly imprisoned him.
The crime: heresy and inciting unrest - both capital offenses.
The Abbasid Caliphate (750 AD – 1258 AD) reached from northern Africa past modern Saudi Arabia. Alamut was located near the Tabaristan region. (Larger View)
Hasan was not executed but was eventually released. He was taken from the desert prison in Egypt and deported back to Iran. There, he continued his missionary work in northern Iran where he gathered many Shi'a and Ismali followers in the mountain fortress called Alamut. In Arabic Alamut means "Eagle's Teaching" or alternatively "Eagle's Nest".
The famous story of the founding of Alamut is that the crafty Hasan-i Sabbah asked the Governor of medieval Tehran to buy a piece of land "large enough to covered by the skin of a cow". The official, in his haste to be seen as doing a favor for the popular missionalry, agreed. Saban then cut the cow hide into hundreds of tiny pieces and spread them over the mountainside.
It was here at Alamut, in the Alborz Mountains in the Tabaristan region 60 miles north of modern Tehran and south of the Caspian Sea, that Hasan-i Sabah would become known as The Old Man Of The Mountain.
He was named after his reclusive habit of permanent entrenchment in the near impenetrable stronghold in the mountains. Something from the Egyptian prison must simmered deeply within Sabban as he turned the religious order into a merciless society devoted to committing politically aimed murders. From the Eagle's Nest he used the same feverish zeal that he had once pursued knowledge and religious release with to seek out enemies and threats and eliminate them.
Hasan-i Sabbah lived in Alamut from 1094 AD to 1124 AD, ordering his men to seek out political leaders, sheiks, and English crusaders of his day and executing them.
The structural system of Ismali Missionary service that Sabbah was trained in started at the lowest position of "footsoldier" or "Fida'i", followed by "Rafik" or "comrade", and finally the "Da'I" or "missionary".
Sabbah, a Da'I himself, modeled his own secret society of assassins much in the same way. Alamut's order started at the top with himself as "Grand Headmaster", then “Greater Propagandists”, followed by "Propagandists", then the "Companions" (also called Rafiks), and the "Adherents" ("Lasiqs" also known by the Ismali title "Fida'i"). Interchangeable titles among the lower ranks meant that Sabbah could double his foot-soldiers and sergeants - or disavow them from the "inner order" after they failed or succeeded "too well". This is much like the modern concept of "plausible deniability".
It was from among these new enlistees, the Lasiqs or Fida'i, who were trained to become some of the most feared assassins - the newest and most zealous of the Assassins. These men were often self-sacrificing agents or suicide bombers of their day - carrying poisoned daggers to court or into madrassas. There they would assassinate key figures despite without fear of any consequences afterward. It's worth noting that Fida'i also means "sacrifice" in Arabic.
The Lasiqs were fully indoctrinated much like today's suicide bombers are. They were brainwashed with the fanatical belief that they would be rewarded with Paradise after their murderous mission as a martyr ended. Sabbah himself set up this indoctrination by drugging initiates in the cult, drugging them with hashish and then allowing them access to his personal gardens and harems which he described to them as Heaven itself. A heaven that would await them after their mission was complete.
Hasan-i Sabbah survived many intrigues in his mountain fortress before Alamut was eventually passed on to new Grand Masters and then to Shi'a imams before Hulagu besieged it in 1256 AD.
After Hulagu's Mongol guard murdered the current ruler of Alamut, Khudavand Khurshah who had surrendered after a long battle, he took possession of the vast libraries of Alamut - one of the last of the great repositories of knowledge in the ancient Middle Eastern world to survive the Mongol invasion. Afterwards, Alamut was demolished to it's very foundations.
 = Cited from a story recounted on Alamut.com
National Geographic, Iran's Castle Of The Assassins
Hub Pages, Battle Of Baghdad
Disinfo, Hasan bin Sabbah
Encyclopedia Iranica, Ismaili History