The First Monster

One of the weirdest animals ever to live on the earth has just been discovered…and it’s also the heaviest creature the planet has supported, beating out the blue whale which we always presumed was the heaviest thing that existed.

It’s also a mystery.

Perucetus Colossus swam in the shallow coastal waters of Peru 39 million years ago…and perhaps elsewhere, who knows? This is the first sign we’ve found of a monster that was the length of an articulated bus, just a few bones. Bizarre bones.

Though this monster was shorter than the blue whale, its bones were extremely dense, contributing to its great weight. There are some suggestions why the bones were so dense, but no one is wholly sure.

“The estimated skeletal mass of P. colossus exceeds that of any known mammal or aquatic vertebrate,” says a new study by an international team of scientists, led by Giovanni Bianucci of the University of Pisa. That’s a surprise. Whales were supposed to have evolved to their current size and no modern whales show any of the strange adaptations that this prehistoric one did.

A recreation from those bones shows the beast was huge, round, with tiny hind limbs, short webbed paws, a tiny, flat, pointed snout, and a round tail.

Eli Amson, curator of fossil mammals at the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany, and co-author of the paper, says, “Actually the drawing is quite conservative in its depiction of the animal. The truth is, it probably was something even weirder, but difficult for us to picture.”

That we are only now stumbling across a creature so vast tells us all we need to know about the deep past. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what existed and the picture we do have is made up of fragments. There are mysteries still to be uncovered.

The Old Ways

There’s a network of hidden tracks in the UK which is thousands of years old yet which remains invisible to most people.

Holloways are deep trenches – sometimes about fifteen feet deep – which look like mere lines of hedges from the fields but become visible from the air. They’re old drovers’ routes and trade paths worn deep into the soil and the sandstone by the constant movement of cattle and people over millennia. Some date back to the Neolithic.

As the tracks eroded into gullies, they created a unique temperate ecology in the sunken depths that allows rare plants such as spreading bellflowers, naval wort and hearts tongue ferns to thrive.

Many of the holloways have legends attached. Robert Macfarlane tracks along some of them in his book The Old Ways and there’s a certain frisson to realise you’re following in 2,000-year-old footsteps.

The name comes from the Old English ‘hola weg’ which means ‘sunken road’. This week Natural England embarked on a survey to quantify all the holloways, many of which have not been recorded. There are hundreds in Dorset alone. Many are overgrown with nettles and briar and have been impassable and unexplored for decades.

Nobody knows the full extent of the network, but the 3D survey will map it and also record the rich hidden environment the holloways maintain.

America’s Lost Civilisation

Not many Americans realise their country has a vast prehistoric legacy that comes close to equalling that of the great monument builders of Stonehenge or the Great Pyramid. There’s a reason for that.

Take Monks Mound in Illinois, just one of several vast prehistoric ritual sites in the country. Aligned to true north, the earthworks and causeway is part of a huge ritual complex including more than a hundred other mounds and a woodhenge – a wooden circle like the one found near Stonehenge. Archaeologist William Romain says it’s designers conceived it as an Axis Mundi – a junction between heaven and earth to observe the stars.

Yet when archaeologist Dr A R Crook investigated it in 1914, he said it was a natural formation…because he couldn’t believe Native Americans could build something so complex. As developers prepared to demolish it, other archaeologists rushed in and discovered many levels of construction and buried artefacts. They attributed it to an unknown white race…because they couldn’t believe etc etc

We have a dewy-eyed view of the evidence-based scientific process, but it’s still rooted in the same human prejudices as everything else. Monks Mound is at least one thousand years old, but it’s been connected culturally to the Serpent Mound in Ohio which has now been dated to at least ten thousand years.

There are several other sites along the Mississippi River basin which have been systematically destroyed.

The remaining parts of one in Newark, Ohio, now lies within a private country club and golf course. The promotion material says, “it is designed around famous prehistoric Native American Earthworks that come into play on eleven of the holes.” Hard to imagine that happening in many other places.

The alignments, the henge-making and the geometry suggest a shared knowledge-base that reaches across America, across the Americas and perhaps (whisper it) even further afield.

Prejudice has denied generations of Americans the knowledge of a sophisticated, star-gazing prehistoric culture, a lost history that should reshape the way the world sees the Americas, and America sees itself.

You can find all the fully-referenced archaeological papers in America Before by Graham Hancock.

The Lost Civilisation Of The Amazon

Evidence is emerging of a Lost Civilisation in the Amazon basin equal or greater than other world civilisations.

In 1541, a Franciscan friar Brother Gaspar de Carvajal documented the first voyage along the Amazon by Europeans. He wrote of vast cities with technological achievements beyond any known, an epic highway network and astonishing art, as well as a society governed by women with a fierce female army (which is why it’s known as the Amazon).

The account was lost for 300 years and when it was found in an archive, it was dismissed as a fantasy because everyone knew Amazon culture only existed for 1000 years. And no one had found any evidence of these things. It was a place of ‘savages’.

Because of that belief little archaeology has been carried out.

We know the Spaniards devastated the population by bringing smallpox. They also took measles, flu and more. What we’ve only just learned is those diseases wiped out 99% of the population – 99% of wisdom holders, technologists, farmers and more – reducing cities to villages. The jungle reclaimed what was there.

This was also supposed to be a relatively recently occupied continent with people traipsing over from Siberia. We now have evidence people were living there 50,000 years ago, deep into the last Ice Age.

This brings me to the rarely-deployed Rule 4: Everything is Economics. Hugely expensive archaeological expeditions are only funded if it is believed that discoveries will exceed costs. So the belief always comes first and discoveries that are outside current knowledge aren’t made. Which is very circular.

The race is now on to discover the truth about this mysterious but advanced civilisation and it will not only rewrite the history (and the cultural standing) of South America but also of the world.