Ancient Origins Magazine


From the lush Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the fiery forges of Asgard, Ancient Origins Magazine scours the planet to reveal the history of the ancient world.

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!

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AO Magazine - September 2019

In ancient times, the typical response to crime was revenge, and blood feuds between families, communities, and even nations could endure for centuries.  Nearly 5,000 years ago, King Hammurabi of Babylon made the first known steps in history towards establishing a code of laws that would reduce crime and put a stop to the endless blood feuds, and in those days, “an eye for an eye” was the way to go. It was felt the punishment for a crime should equal the severity of the crime itself – no more, no less.

In crime-ridden civilizations of the past, it was not just ancient people behaving badly, but the gods and demi-gods of legend who took the dark path too, and for angering them, the punishment was much more severe. Think eternal damnation and eons of pain and punishment!

Since then, humanity has attempted to grapple with crime and establish law and order, sometimes succeeding, and at other times failing miserably. But we must look on the bright side; nowadays women are no longer forced to wear metal mule masks for gossiping, men are not required to prove their ‘equipment’ works in divorce courts, thieves don’t get their noses sliced off before being sent to a city of noseless criminals, execution is no longer at the pointy end of a kangaroo bone, and a person’s guilt does not hinge on the way they chew their rice!

In humanity’s defense, in an unfair world, we’ve always tried to bring balance, and so we cannot forget some of our glorious achievements, such as the amazing wonders of the ancient world, and the marvelous golden ratio, or ‘divine proportion’ that helped make them so.

The dead get a final say, as we try to crack the ancient cold cases of bog body murders, where criminals and kings faced the same fate.

Dr. Roberto Volterri takes us through the strange experiments on the eyes of murdered corpses – will we one day be able to view the last, terrifying image – perhaps the killer itself – captured in a victim’s last moments? The implications are immense!

Finally, we visit with Richard Beeby & Sarah Smart who are helping bring back ancient burial traditions with their Mid-England Barrow; within which both the dead and the living can find peace.

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AO Magazine - August 2019

Every corner of the Earth has now been mapped, photographed, measured and scanned and— courtesy of Google—we can explore every inch of it, from the streets of Rome to the jungles of Guatemala. But beneath our feet is a world that remains largely unseen. Google’s cameras have yet to reach the subterranean world – the endless tunnels, caves, caverns, and even cities! Perhaps that’s what makes ‘the underworld’ so captivating.  It’s a little slice of our planet that remains hidden, silent, and mysterious.

Caves have always held an attraction for humans. They have witnessed our evolution, serving as shelters, homes, refuges, and strongholds. But beyond physical need, those dark and silent spaces have served as a gateway to the ‘otherworld’. In ancient legend and mythology, they are places where the dead cross to the afterlife, and where gods and beasts dwell. 

In this issue, we visit the place where humankind first left their mark – Sterkfontein caves in South Africa – where over two million years ago, individuals from five species of pre-humans ventured underground, but never escaped alive. We dig into the world beneath Mexico’s City of the Gods, the vast labyrinth of caves and tunnels that extend below the great site of Teotihuacan. We examine the land of subterranean cities – Cappadocia, in Turkey – where for thousands of years, people carved out their lives; tombs, temples, and towns deep below the surface. And we delve into one of the most enigmatic cave systems in the Americas – Cueva de Los Tayos in Ecuador – with a first-hand account of Ancient Origins’ own expedition into this intriguing and, at times, dangerous network of caves.

We escort you through the deepest realms, journeying to the underworld, populated by gods, beasts, and characters of ancient legend; from guardians of hell in Greek, Norse, Hindu and Chinese mythology, to gods of justice, and demons of death. From the deepest chasms, we soar to the highest mountains, turning to Tibet where a very unique form of funerary rite takes place – sky burial. In these high-altitude ceremonies, human corpses are offered to vultures as a final, honorable service to nature.  

Dr Eran Elhaik, geneticist and expert on paleogenomics, has made world history by developing the first DNA test to compare modern-day people’s DNA to that of ancient people who lived thousands of years ago. Will you soon discover that you are related to a Roman gladiator…or a famous Egyptian Pharaoh? Speaking of fame, the infamous Elizabeth Bathory was a 16th-century countess recorded as one of the most prolific serial killers in history. But was she instead the victim of political betrayal?You be the judge!

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AO Magazine - July 2019

Most of us look back in horror at the practices of ancient healers – boring holes in the skull to treat head injuries, anesthetic-free amputations, and mercury-laden contraceptive concoctions.

Despite the lack of technology available in the past, it is also tempting to scoff at some of the commonly-held beliefs about everyday maladies: cavities caused by tooth worms, seizures induced by demonic possession, and female ‘hysteria’ the result of a ‘wandering womb’ that could glide freely about the body, causing havoc.  

But for all its inaccuracies, ancient medical practices were in many cases innovative and practical, and in other cases, simply astounding.  We know, for example, that many cases of trepanation – the earliest form of brain surgery, dating back 10,000 years – were actually successful!

In this issue, we explore the intuitive medicine of the Native American tradition, as well as the advanced medical practices of the Stonehenge builders. We delve into ancient beliefs in Mesopotamia concerning the origins of disease, and we hear from a master brewer about the long tradition of brewing beer infused with healing herbs. We also examine some of the ways ancient people dealt with devastating war injuries.

But it’s not all blood, gore, and disease. Among the quirkier accounts of medical practices, we have bathing in donkey milk, consuming bottles of snake oil, and smelling (and even tasting!) urine. And surprisingly, some of it really worked!

Also in this edition, we look at another surprising accomplishment of the past – the Maya construction of the Bridge to Yaxchilan, the longest bridge of the ancient world.  And the award-winning structural engineer behind its discovery tells us exactly how they did it.

The Ancient Origins Magazine wouldn’t be complete without a bit of the weird and unknown, and with that in mind, we introduce you to bestiaries, the books of beasts that graced medieval shelves. We also present the Tamam Shud Enigma, a cold case with ancient connections that has never been solved – can you crack the code?


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AO Magazine - June 2019

It is said that history is written by the victors, but what if it were written only by the victims? Such is the case with our knowledge of the Vikings. Their brutal savagery, their raiding and terrorizing, and their relentless, bloodthirsty attacks were recorded almost exclusively by their victims – the understandably terrified monks whose monasteries they destroyed and looted. But this must give us cause to question whether we really have the whole picture. 

There is no doubt that for coastal settlements in medieval Europe, the Vikings meant bad news. But do they really deserve their bad boy reputation, or did they just suffer from poor public relations?  

Were the Vikings really any more violent than other warriors of the period? During the same period, Christian rulers, like Charlemagne, were decapitating non-converters in their thousands, and Arab armies were raiding, invading, and plundering their way across Asia Minor. Violence hardly made the Vikings unique in the 9th and 10th centuries!

In this issue, we aim to bring together a more complete picture of the Vikings, from their invasions to their inventions, and from terror to technology. We unravel their complex beliefs about magic and the afterlife and delve into their culture, society, and even their accomplishments—presenting a picture of the Vikings that is more than beards, beer, and berserk barbarians. 

We go deep with Maritime Archaeologist Massimiliano as he and his research team rescue a Viking-style shipwreck that’s nearly 1,000 years old, using the very latest scanning technology to preserve the one-of-a-kind treasure.

Also in this edition, we delve even more into that which is hidden – the occult. Well-known horror writer HP Lovecraft penned the Necronomicon – or did he? How can a dangerous grimoire exist and yet not exist? Dr. Roberto Volterri exposes the true origin of the infamous and controversial tome.

Ancient secrets are not only for initiates. Time-honored knowledge is passed down from fathers to their children, as it has been done since time immemorial. For Father’s Day, we are reminded of fatherly advice given 4,600 years ago, from a Sumerian King to his son, that is still applicable today.

And more burning questions are answered in the strange and alarming tale of Spontaneous Human Combustion!

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AO Magazine - May 2019

Ancient natural disasters including meteor strikes, tsunamis, volcanos, and floods had a devastating effect on the fragile psychological coping mechanisms of our forebearers. Having little external autonomy over such overwhelming cataclysmic events, they projected omnipotent power onto their gods, and believed natural disasters were punishment for personal wrongdoings or worse, the whims of peeved gods. In order not to succumb to debilitating, frantic fear, they developed rituals and sacrifices designed to appease those same gods to avert disasters and to gain some perceived sense of control. The pallet of naturally occurring phenomena was often colored with animated superhuman attributes in order to make sense of an unpredictable and dangerous world.

In this issue, we look at ten deadly volcanos – Vesuvius, Santorini, Hekla, Fuji, Krakatoa and more – which must have seemed like angry gods spewing their wrath, leaving destruction in their wake and changing the landscape forever.

Sometimes it is not only the world that changes, but our deepest faith and beliefs. Could it be that the event describing the conversion of Paul the Apostle, was, in fact, an exploding meteor? The implication would be that a cosmic phenomenon nudged Christianity in its infancy, gaining momentum over 2,000 years to become a major world religion and changing the course of history.

In yet another ancient disaster, author David Hatcher Childress proposes that Easter Island, the Lost Land of Hiva, was struck by a terrifying tidal wave that buried the famous moai statues in many layers of mud and muck, so that all we see now are their iconic heads.

We also interview associate professor Martin Sweatman, who proposes a well-grounded theory that major catastrophes, such as ancient comet impacts were recorded by ancient man, and hidden in plain sight, to act as a warning to later generations. But what of our own future? Is the Earth going to reach its ‘sell-by date’ at around 3000 AD? Evidence suggests we should at least be prepared for something big!

Humans have always recorded and feared an apocalypse or ‘end of times’ when the gods would wipe out life on earth in one fell swoop.  Modern ‘preppers’ and Doomsday preachers might be surprised to learn that the world almost did come to an end in 536 AD!  It was a climatic calamity of epic proportions: “The sun became dark and its darkness lasted for 18 months”.

It seems that when Mother Nature loses her cool the effects are disastrous, but May is the month that we celebrate Mother’s Day, and Martini Fisher looks at the ancient concept of the Mother goddess as an embodiment of both creation and destruction.

As a nice diversion from disaster and catastrophe, we take a fascinating look at our ancient cousins, the Neanderthals. Evolutionary biologist Clive Finlayson, Director of Excavations at Neanderthal sites in Gibraltar, breaks down decades of misperceptions about these long extinct hominids. He challenges the popular perception that so-called primitive Neanderthals were outsmarted in the evolutionary race by Modern Humans, and controversially claims they were thinking, speaking people just like you and me.

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AO Magazine - April 2019

Some of us are self-confessed island lovers, hooked on the idyllic vision of island living, while others fear the dark truths that may lie beneath the deceiving quaintness of island settings. But whatever our feeling, human beings, and even our ancient hominin ancestors, have been obsessed by islands and their mysterious, haunting charm since our time began.

Hundreds of thousands of islands populate our world and countless more remain in the realm of legend and folklore. Most of the world’s islands are well-explored, their secrets plundered long ago, but a few remain mysterious, like those that appear to drift aimlessly across our oceans – is there any truth behind the floating islands of ancient legend? Historian of cartography Chet Van Duzer takes you on a journey to find the answer, from the mythical paradise islands of Chinese philosophical texts to the floating islands of Homer’s Odyssey.

In this issue, we dive into the puzzles of island life: mind-blowing seafaring abilities and ancient navigation. Like any sea tale worth its salt, we encounter the bizarre and downright dangerous behavior of a pack of mutineers stranded on a remote island in the Pacific. And then there is the world-famous Easter Island that is yet to give up its secrets. Author and History Channel celebrity David Hatcher Childress raises the unanswered questions, such as how the islanders crafted and moved the gigantic moai statues that dot the island, or why a small, remote population invented their own complex written language that is yet to be deciphered!

Finally, we examine one of the biggest enigmas in paleoanthropology: the mysterious hobbit species of Flores island; a tiny, 3-foot-tall human ancestor whose remains are found nowhere else in the world but an island of Indonesia—and experts still can’t agree on where they came from, why they were so small, and what led to their final demise just 50,000 years ago.

Along this journey we make some surprising discoveries; the first being that the food that fuelled the Vikings – gruel - can actually be pretty tasty as well as filling. We also examine a different perspective of Easter; a resurrection and rebirth celebration with pagan roots that has adapted and transformed over the ages. Finally, we explore the Old Testament story of Samson’s “Jawbone Massacre”, which archaeologist John McHugh reveals is full of hidden messages and Mesopotamian occult divination.

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AO Magazine - March 2019

Blanketed across the country of Ireland and reaching as far as the rugged and windswept islands off its coast, are tens of thousands of sites that tell a story about its ancient past. Long-forgotten tombs, majestic mounds, megaliths, and imposing castles stand as they have for hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years. Their history is interwoven within a rich tapestry of folk tales, legends, and mythology, which bring to life the beliefs, culture, and knowledge of the ancient people that constructed them all those years ago.

In this issue, we delve into an amazing astronomical event that takes place each year - the March Equinox - and how it plays out at Loughcrew Cairns, while Anthony Murphy gives you an insider perspective on his discovery of ‘Dronehenge’, a previously unknown megalithic monument discovered near one of Ireland’s most iconic sites – Newgrange.

Inside this issue you’ll also find out the true story of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. You’d never guess that a saint had a life that was even more amazing than some of the myths that are told about him. And then we examine the life story of another interesting character from Ireland’s history. But she was no saint! The tales of the swashbuckling pirate queen Grace O’Malley will remind you that there’s two sides to every story.
David Halpin has joined us in this issue to examine Ireland’s mysterious origin story, a legendary tale which includes Egyptian royalty and godlike fairies. And there are many times that history mixes with mystery both in Ireland and abroad, so check out five of the biggest mysteries that face historians examining what went on in ancient Ireland. 

The Baghdad Battery is another source of fascination and confusion for many scholars. Could the 2,000-year-old artifact be the world’s first a battery? Dr. Robert Volterri decided to find out!

Finally, we explore the history and possible future of Japan’s Aokigahara forest, a site once held as sacred but now notorious as one of the most popular places in the world to commit suicide. But many people are not resigned to this being the forest’s fate and there are strong hopes and actions to try to turn the dark story around.

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AO Magazine - February 2019

They say war never changes. War is a recurring and omnipresent human phenomenon that has existed throughout history. In the ancient world, warfare was more than fighting itself.  It was an integral part of daily life that encompassed political, economic, and cultural spheres. And then, there was the religious realm, where kings ruled by divine mandate and fortunes in battle were determined by heavenly forces and powerful war gods (ten of whom you’ll meet in this issue).

Ancient Warfare is often glorified in the mythologies and legends of these war gods and goddesses, as well as in tales of nobility, sacrifice, bravery, and conquests by powerful generals and warriors. But we contrast this view with a look at the brutality and horrors that are ubiquitous to war, told here through the story of Becerrillo, an attack dog of the Spanish conquistadors that left trails of blood and bodies in his wake. 

Warfare has left its imprint in the pierced armor and shattered remains of millions of warriors and civilians around the world, each carrying their own story. Our featured contributor, James McBride, a forensic anthropologist, recreates some of their stories through art, and shares how both ancient and modern soldiers have used therapeutic art practices to cope with the trauma of war.

Winston Churchill once famously said: “History is written by the victors”, and this applies most particularly to war. Featured author David G. Jones, a university lecturer and veteran of the Canadian Army, challenges the accepted view of Sun Tzu’s famous manual ‘The Art of War’, and claims that rather than being a ruthless tyrant, the First Emperor of China may have been one of the greatest peace-makers in history.

And was there ever really a Trojan War? Researcher Petros Koutoupis brings into question the traditional account of the Trojan War and the supposed discovery of Troy.

Today, wars may be fought from 30,000 feet up with precision GPS-guided bombs, combat drones, and stealth aircraft, but the art of forging ancient weapons has not yet died. Traditional Master Swordsmith Rob Miller tells us why he keeps this lost art alive in the modern day.

On a lighter note, we highlight a wonderful project by Cambridge University linguistics specialist, Dr Martin Worthington, who is reviving the ancient Babylonian language 2,000 years after falling out of use! We examine the odd phenomenon of mass hysteria which shows us that while social and political contexts—and even war—have changed over the centuries, human psychology has, for better or worse, largely remained the same.

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AO Magazine - January 2019

Over the last 20,000 years, North America has undergone an immense transformation, and, like most societies, many aspects of its history are controversial, divisive, and indeed tragic. But in our January issue, which throws a spotlight on North America, we examine some of its special achievements. We look at the accomplishments of the Hopewell Culture, which swept over a vast territory of the continent over 2,000 years ago, constructing great burial mounds and elaborate earthworks encoded with celestial alignments. We also feature the living images of the Hopewell people, and their predecessors the Adena, brought to life in vivid recreations by the sensational artist Marcia K Moore. 

Turning to the Colonial era, we travel along an ancient road of the 1600s – the King’s Highway. Stretching more than 1300 miles across 10 states, it is the oldest road still in continuous use in the United States, yet it is the events that took place along this road that also give it a special place in American history. 

The past hasn’t shared all its secrets though. We revisit an unsolved mystery and wonder what really happened to the early English settlers of Roanoke Island who vanished completely, leaving behind a coded message? What is the truth behind more than 1000 skeletons of giant stature found across the continent? And who really won the race to reach the New World first?

In our January issue, we cover a range of fascinating subjects from Medieval belief in fairies to Ancient Egyptian fashion. But this issue also holds a very personal connection to me. In ‘Mungalla: An Australian Story’, we hear of an early pioneer in Australia’s history who stood up to his peers and fought for the rights and safety of the Aboriginal people who were being decimated by Europeans at the time. That man is my great, great grandfather and it is only recently that his amazing story has become known to me. In the month that Australians celebrate their National day, what better story to tell than one in which indigenous and non-indigenous people lived and worked alongside each other in harmony. For me, it offers a positive vision for Australia’s future rather than simply a focus on its turbulent past.

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AO Magazine - December 2018

Christmas is just around the corner, so we couldn’t let December go by without shining a spotlight on the ancient origins of an occasion celebrated by an estimated two billion people every year.
Christmas preserves our roots as we live out the traditions our forebears started so long ago – gift-giving and feasts from the Romans; wreaths and evergreen trees from the pagans; cooked turkey from Native Americans; Santa Claus from an ancient Greek saint; and the Yule log from Old Norse traditions. 

From the Celts to the Christians and the Vikings to the Victorians, they have all added traditions to the rich tapestry of the holiday we call Christmas. 

And while we are talking about the endurance of old customs, we also turn to a particular luxury item beloved by many – chocolate. A rich concoction created in South America over 3,000 years ago, and once seen as a gift from the gods, chocolate has made its way from the hands of Aztec nobles to the pockets of children across the world. 

Along with beliefs and ritual, ancient wisdom has been passed down through the ages to help make the wintertime a little more bearable. We’ve included some easy-to-do traditional remedies that have been used since time immemorial to help you beat those winter bugs.

You will also find a feature on a very unique Australian town, where 80 percent of residents live underground. Plus, we examine the bizarre and unexplained phenomenon of raining objects, from frogs to fish, snakes, rocks, and even money!
No matter how you observe or relive ancient traditions, we hope you will enjoy our last issue for 2018 and join us in celebrating the season of new beginnings.

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AO Magazine - November 2018

Our ability to change perspectives and accept new interpretations of past events is what makes history vital and meaningful. Just when a consensus is reached about how our ancestors once lived and what knowledge they possessed, another discovery occurs that upends it all. 

A key example of this was the discovery of Göbekli Tepe, now recognized as one of the most important archaeological and architectural discoveries of the 21st century. Massive carved stones, some 11,500-years-old, were crafted and arranged to precisely align with astronomical phenomena by prehistoric people who had not yet invented the wheel, let alone agriculture. They were hunter-gatherers, yet they had constructed the first, largest, and most complex religious sanctuary the world had ever seen. In this issue, we unravel the secrets of Göbekli Tepe. Through an exclusive interview with Dr Robert Schoch, we learn about the sophisticated science behind its construction and how its builders sought to cope with cataclysmic disasters, while Freddy Silva throws a spotlight on the site’s astronomical alignments. 

In the spirit of shaking up old ideas and seeking new perspectives, we also turn to Thanksgiving, an annual celebration in November that is considered a vital part of American history and identity. We share the traditional story that is taught across schools, from podiums, and around dinner tables, but we also challenge this familiar narrative by relaying the perspective of the Wampanoag native people who encountered the newly arrived colonists all those generations ago, presenting a very different outlook on this famous historic holiday!

Elsewhere, you’ll find features on the samurai warriors of Feudal Japan, and one of their most shocking practices – ritual self-disembowelment.  We also take you back to ancient Greece, where you’ll hear about one of the most bizarre deaths in history – it involves an eagle, a tortoise, and one very unfortunate chap with a bald head! And don’t miss our mouth-watering Medieval recipe – cinnamon chicken soup. 
In this issue, we hope to spur some new perspectives in our readers, as well as ignite excitement about our ever-changing understanding of our past. Happy reading! 

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AO Magazine - October 2018

Given the insatiable appetite for all-things ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it is somewhat of a surprise that so little is known or shared about a mysterious civilization that emerged in the Indus Valley at least 5,000 years ago in what is now Pakistan and India. With impeccably-planned cities such as Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, advanced hydraulic engineering, precise measuring systems, impressive metallurgy, and an intriguing writing that remains undeciphered, the Indus Valley civilization was every bit as impressive as their ancient Egyptian counterpart. Yet, without being able to read the records they left behind, much about this ancient civilization remains a giant mystery. 

In this issue, we investigate one of the greatest puzzles to emerge out of the Mohenjo Daro excavations: the shocking case of more than 40 skeletons found scattered in the streets of the ancient city. What caused such seemingly instant mass death? Was it a gruesome massacre? A powerful ancient weapon? It turns out the truth is something else altogether! 

And while we are throwing a spotlight on the Indus Valley civilization, we also turn to a country and culture shaped by its people – India. From marvellous megaliths to mystical mudras, and even a plant cultivated in India thousands of years ago that most of us still have on hand in our own kitchens. 

Readers who hear the call of the Norsemen in their hearts will enjoy the account of the ‘mythical’ Viking sunstone that turned out to be very real. Speaking of hearing – have you heard of the perplexing archaeoacoustics in Malta’s Hypogeum? And you’re not alone if you’ve ever had difficulty with a salesman; you’ll appreciate the oldest known customer service complaint ever found.

Never fear! We couldn’t let October go by without delving into the ancient origins of this month’s most famous holiday and tradition – Halloween! Did you know that this night-time festival, most popularly celebrated in North America, can trace its deepest roots to the Celts who lived 2,000 years ago? Become a ghost hunter, and track Halloween back through the millennia. 

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