Archive for the ‘Monuments’ Category

35 Ancient Pyramids Discovered in Sudan Necropolis

Posted: February 6, 2013 by phaedrap1 in Monuments, News
pyramids discovered at Sedeinga in Sudan
Among the discoveries are pyramids with a circle built inside them, cross-braces connecting the circle to the corners of the pyramid. Outside of Sedeinga only one pyramid is known to have been built in this way.
CREDIT: Photo copyright Vincent Francigny/SEDAU

At least 35 small pyramids, along with graves, have been discovered clustered closely together at a site called Sedeinga in Sudan.

Discovered between 2009 and 2012, researchers are surprised at how densely the pyramids are concentrated. In one field season alone, in 2011, the research team discovered 13 pyramids packed into  roughly 5,381 square feet (500 square meters), or  slightly larger than an NBA basketball court.

They date back around 2,000 years to a time when a kingdom named Kush flourished in Sudan. Kush shared a border with Egypt and, later on, the Roman Empire. The desire of the kingdom’s people to build pyramids was apparently influenced by Egyptian funerary architecture.

At Sedeinga, researchers say, pyramid building continued for centuries. “The density of the pyramids is huge,” said researcher Vincent Francigny, a research associate with the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in an interview with LiveScience. “Because it lasted for hundreds of years they built more, more, more pyramids and after centuries they started to fill all the spaces that were still available in the necropolis.” [See Photos of the Newly Discovered Pyramids]

pyramids discovered at Sedeinga in Sudan
This aerial photo shows a series of pyramids and graves that a team of archaeologists has been exploring at Sedeinga in Sudan. Since 2009 they have discovered at least 35 small pyramids at the site, the largest being 22 feet (7 meters) in width.
CREDIT: Photo copyright B-N Chagny, SEDAU/SFDAS

The biggest pyramids they discovered are about 22 feet (7 meters) wide at their base with the smallest example, likely constructed for the burial of a child, being only 30 inches (750 millimeters) long. The tops of the pyramids are not attached, as the passage of time and the presence of a camel caravan route resulted in damage to the monuments. Francigny said that the tops would have been decorated with a capstone depicting either a bird or a lotus flower on top of a solar orb.

The building continued until, eventually, they ran out of room to build pyramids. “They reached a point where it was so filled with people and graves that they had to reuse the oldest one,” Francigny said.

Francigny is excavation director of the French Archaeological Mission to Sedeinga, the team that made the discoveries. He and team leader Claude Rilly published an article detailing the results of their 2011 field season in the most recent edition of the journal Sudan and Nubia.

The inner circle

Among the discoveries were several pyramids designed with an inner cupola (circular structure) connected to the pyramid corners through cross-braces. Rilly and Francigny noted in their paper that the pyramid design resembles a “French Formal Garden.”

Only one pyramid, outside of Sedeinga, is known to have been constructed this way, and it’s a mystery why the people of Sedeinga were fond of the design. It “did not add either to the solidity or to the external aspect [appearance] of the monument,” Rilly and Francigny write.

A discovery made in 2012 may provide a clue, Francigny said in the interview. “What we found this year is very intriguing,” he said. “A grave of a child and it was covered by only a kind of circle, almost complete, of brick.” It’s possible, he said, that when pyramid building came into fashion at Sedeinga it was combined with a local circle-building tradition called tumulus construction, resulting in pyramids with circles within them.

skeletal remains of a child found at pyramids in sudan
People were buried beside the pyramids in tomb chambers that often held more than one individual. This image shows a child who was buried with necklaces.
CREDIT: Photo copyright Vincent Francigny/SEDAU

An offering for grandma?

The graves beside the pyramids had largely been plundered, possibly in antiquity, by the time archaeologists excavated them. Researchers did find skeletal remains and, in some cases, artifacts.

One of the most interesting new finds was an offering table found by the remains of a pyramid. . It appears to depict the goddess Isis and the jackal-headed god Anubis and includes an inscription, written in Meroitic language, dedicated to a woman named “Aba-la,” which may be a nickname for “grandmother,” Rilly writes.

It reads in translation:

Oh Isis! Oh Osiris!

It is Aba-la.

Make her drink plentiful water;

Make her eat plentiful bread;

Make her be served a good meal.

The offering table with inscription was a final send-off for a woman, possibly a grandmother, given a pyramid burial nearly 2,000 years ago.

By Owen Jarus

Follow LiveScience on Twitter @livescience. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.

For more than fifteen years, Thierry Jamin, French Archaeologist and adventurer, explores the jungles of South Peru in every possible direction, searching for clues of the permanent presence of the Incas in the Amazonian forest, and the legendary lost city of Paititi.
After the discovery of about thirty incredible archeological sites, located in the North of the department of Cuzco, between 2009 and 2011, which include several fortresses, burial and ceremonial, centers, and small Inca cities composed by hundreds of buildings, and many streets, passages, squares…, Thierry Jamin embarks on an incredible journey in Machu Picchu.

A few months ago, Thierry Jamin and his team think they have realized an extraordinary archaeological discovery in the Inca city discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. This discovery was made possible thanks to the testimony of a French engineer who lives in Barcelona-Spain, David Crespy. In 2010, while he was visiting the lost city, David Crespy noticed the presence of a strange “shelter” located in the heart of the city, at the bottom of one of the main buildings.

For him, there was no doubt about it, he was looking at a “door”, an entrance sealed by the Incas. In August, 2011, David Crespy, found by chance an article about Thierry Jamin and his work in the French newspaper the Figaro magazine. Immediately he decided to contact the French researcher.

Thierry Jamin, who has investigated several burial sites in the North of Cusco, listened carefully the story of David Crespy. Quickly he wants to confirm the facts behind the story. Accompanied by archaeologists of the Regional Office of the Culture in Cusco, he was able to visit the site several times. His preliminary findings are unequivocal: it is indeed an entrance, blocked by the Incas at an undetermined moment of History. This one is strangely similar to a burial site, such as the ones Thierry Jamin and his companions often find in the valleys of Lacco and Chunchusmayo.

In order to confirm the existence of cavities in the basement of the building, in December 2011 Thierry and his team submit and official request to the Ministry of Culture in Lima, to perform a geophysical survey with the help of electromagnetic (EM) conductivity instruments. This license was granted a few months later.

Realized between April 9th and April 12th 2012, the electromagnetic survey not only confirmed the presence of an underground room but several! Just Behind the famous entrance, a staircase was also discovered. The two main paths seem to lead to specific chambers, including to the main squared one. The different techniques used by the French researcher(s), (Molecular Frequencies Discriminator) allowed them to highlight the presence of important archaeological material, including deposits of metal and a large quantity of gold and silver!

Thierry Jamin is now preparing the next step: the opening of the entrance sealed by the Incas more than five centuries ago. On May 22nd 2012, he officially submitted a request for authorization to the Peruvian authorities which would allow his team to proceed with the opening of the burial chambers.

This project, “Machu Picchu 2012″, is now extended to a period of six months. At stake, an extraordinary archaeological treasure and some new revelations about the forgotten History of the Inca Empire. Soon you will see Machu Picchu from a brand new perspective…

By HeritageDaily

A restoration of the ancient Colosseum in Rome has revealed previously unseen red, blue and green frescoes, a world away from its famous monochrome facade.

Another discovery of the recent restoration of an internal passageway is a selection of graffiti and drawings of phallic symbols.

Experts believe some of the graffiti may date from the 3rd century, after the Colosseum was restored following a fire in AD 217.

Brightly coloured fragments of frescoes were found during a restoration of a passageway inside the ColosseumBrightly coloured fragments of frescoes were found during a restoration of a passageway inside the Colosseum

A restorer stands in front a wall with remains of frescoes and graffiti A restorer stands in front a wall with remains of frescoes and graffiti


The findings were part of a long-delayed restoration of Rome's ColosseumThe findings were part of a long-delayed restoration of Rome’s Colosseum

The findings paint an all together more colourful appearance than archeologists had previously thought of the famous 50,000-seat amphitheatre.

The discoveries were announced today, and officials have said the passageway will be open to the public later on this year.

The frescoes were found in a passageway situated between the second and third levels of the Colosseum.

This is the highest level of seating, and is a wooden gallery reserved for the lowest classes and furthest from the action in the arena.

Huge amounts of calcified rock and dirt had hidden the frescoes, which were revealed during a cleaning and restoration project, which began in November.

The ancient graffiti, seen here in red in the background, was another discovery of the restorationThe ancient graffiti, seen here in red in the background, was another discovery of the restoration


The frescoes were hidden under decades of calcified rock and grime, and were revealed after the surfaces were cleanedThe frescoes were hidden under decades of calcified rock and grime, and were revealed after the surfaces were cleaned

Archaeologist Alessandro Danesi shows brightly coloured fragments of frescoes inside a corridor of the ColosseumArchaeologist Alessandro Danesi shows brightly coloured fragments of frescoes inside a corridor of the Colosseum


The traces confirm that while the Colosseum today is known as a mix of monochrome gray rock, red brick and moss-covered marble, its interior halls used to be a multitude of colours.


It was built between 72 and 80 AD and was originally used for gladiator contests, and re-enacting sea battles.

It was the largest ever built in the Roman Empire, and was built of concrete and stone.

In its heyday it could seat 50,000 spectators on three tiers of seating.

The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era.

It was then used for a variety of purposes, including housing and and a Christian shrine.

The exterior of the building is visited by millions of tourists each year.

The team also discovered ancient sketches by spectators who painted crowns and palm trees, symbols of victory celebrating the success of gladiators they supported.

The Latin word ‘VIND’, referring to victory or revenge, was also found.

‘We’re used to thinking that during excavations, archaeological surprises are a risk for builders and for the city’s development,’ said Rome archaeological heritage superintendent Mariarosaria Barbera.

‘This is a beautiful archaeological surprise Even in a monument as well known as this one, studied all over the world, there are still new things to discover.’

Colosseum director Rosella Rea said less than one per cent of the painted surfaces of the Colosseum remain.

‘The insides, the galleries, all the corridors and transverse hallways were completely coloured. We need to imagine a building with extreme contrasts of colour, this was a surprise.’

A frescoe reading 'vind' was found - it means victory or revengeA frescoe reading ‘vind’ was found – it means victory or revenge


The traces confirmed that while the Colosseum today is a fairly monochrome colour, it used to have halls decked in colour The traces confirmed that while the Colosseum today is a fairly monochrome colour, it used to have halls decked in colour


Paul Milligan
MailOnline – Petra – was a “fairy city of pink sandstone”, mysterious, legendary and long forgotten.

More than 3,000 temples, tombs and thousands of caves carved out of sandstone rocks, all was lost to the western world, and erased from our memory for over a thousand years.

Ancient city of Petra was built in the harsh desert of southern Jordan and situated in Mt. Seir, about 80 kilometers south of the Dead Sea and 2,775 feet above sea-leve. It lwas first inhabited by a Semitic-speaking tribe of the Edomites, mentioned in the Bible as descendants of Esau, the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.


From the first century B.C. to the third century A.D., Petra was one of the most influential and prosperous commercial centres in antiquity.

History has long been very silent in regard to the life, art and religion of the Edomites, but slowly, archaeologists begin to unveil Petra’s oldest secrets.


Recently, a team of international archaeologists led by Professor Susan Alcock of the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP) unearthed terrace farming at ancient desert city of Petra dated to the first century.

The discovery is an evidence into successful and extensive water management and agricultural production in and around the ancient desert city.

This development seems to be due to the ingenuity and enterprise of the ancient Nabataeans, whose prosperous kingdom had its capital at Petra until the beginning of the second century.


The successful terrace farming of wheat, grapes and possibly olives, resulted in a vast, green, agricultural “suburb” to Petra in an otherwise inhospitable, arid landscape. This terrace farming remained extensive and robust through the third century.

Based on surface finds and comparative data collected by other researchers in the area, however, it is clear that this type of farming continued to some extent for many centuries, until the end of the first millennium (between A.D. 800 and 1000).


It was time, when ancient Petra was under extensive cultivation is a testament to past strategies of land management, and is all the more striking in light of the area’s dry and dusty environment today.


Dating the start of extensive terrace farming at Petra to the beginning of the common era has important historical implications, according to Cloke, because this date coincides closely with the Roman annexation of the Nabataean Kingdom in A.D. 106.

“No doubt the explosion of agricultural activity in the first century and the increased wealth that resulted from the wine and oil production made Petra an exceptionally attractive prize for Rome,” researcher Christian Cloke, a doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati, and one of the researchers involved in the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP), said.

“The region around Petra not only grew enough food to meet its own needs, but also would have been able to provide olives, olive oil, grapes and wine for trade. This robust agricultural production would have made the region a valuable asset for supplying Roman forces on the empire’s eastern frontier.”


This canyon dam and water pipe were part of ancient Petra’s complex water-management system.
On large stretches of land north of Petra, inhabitants built complex and extensive systems to dam wadis (riverbeds) and redirect winter rainwater to hillside terraces used for farming.

Rainfall in the region occurs only between October and March, often in brief, torrential downpours, so it was important for Petra’s inhabitants to capture and store all available water for later use during the dry season. Over the centuries, the Nabataeans of Petra became experts at doing so.

“Perhaps most significantly,” said Cloke, “it’s clear that they had considerable knowledge of their surrounding topography and climate. The Nabataeans differentiated watersheds and the zones of use for water: water collected and stored in the city itself was not cannibalized for agricultural uses.”

Scientists presented their findings on Jan. 4, 2013 at the Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting in Seattle, in a paper titled “On the Rocks: Landscape Modification and Archaeological Features in Petra’s Hinterland.”

2,750-year-old temple discovered in Israel

Posted: December 27, 2012 by phaedrap1 in Monuments, Science
Tags: ,


An overhead view of the excavation site (Skyview/Israeli Antiquities Authority)Israeli archeologists have discovered the remains of an ancient temple that is nearly 3,000 years old and was once home to a ritual cult.

“The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judaea at the time of the First Temple,” excavation directors Anna Eirikh, Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz said in a statement released by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The temple remains were discovered at the Tel Motza site, located to the west of Jerusalem. The Israeli Antiquities Authority has been conducting excavation efforts at the site and says that along with the temple remains itself, the findings include a “cache of sacred vessels” estimated to be 2,750 years old.

“Among other finds, the site has yielded pottery figurines of men, one of them bearded, whose significance is still unknown,” the statement from Khalaily and Kisilevitz reads.

NBC’s Cosmic Log notes that the discovery was made during preparations for a new section of Israel’s Highway 1. Because of the number of historical sites and artifacts in and near Jerusalem, the Israeli government typically conducts similar archeological excavation efforts before beginning construction on major infrastructure projects.

Two head figurines discovered at the 2,750-year-old site (Clara Amit, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)Dating back to the Iron Age, the temple was designed in accordance with similar layouts for other religious buildings from that era, according to the Israeli government. More from its analysis:

“The walls of the structure are massive, and it includes a wide, east-facing entrance, conforming to the tradition of temple construction in the ancient Near East: The rays of the sun rising in the east would have illuminated the object placed inside the temple first, symbolizing the divine presence within. A square structure which was probably an altar was exposed in the temple courtyard, and the cache of sacred vessels was found near the structure.”

The excavation directors said they will continue to examine the findings and conduct further digs while preparations for the highway construction continue.

“The find of the sacred structure, together with the accompanying cache of sacred vessels, and especially the significant coastal influence evident in the anthropomorphic figurines, still require extensive research,” they said.

Eric Pfeiffer  Yahoo News

Hidden in the middle of the jungle, archaeologists are trying to uncover ancient secrets of Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City.

It is a place that has remained unknown to most of the outside world for centauries and even today, very few people are aware of its existence.

Ciudad Perdida, Spanish for “Lost City,” is one of Colombia’s most spectacular cultural heritage sites.

The “Lost City ” was inhabited by the Tayrona people until the end of the 16th century and tucked away within the lush jungles of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta not far from the Colombian coastline.

Ciudad Perdida, is made up of hundreds of stone terraces and rings, which archaeologists believe were used as foundations for temples, dwellings and plazas.


Ciudad Perdida is situated atop a mountain in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a UNESCO-inscribed Biosphere Reserve. Photo: poirpom/flickr


Although the Tayrona built more than 250 towns across a 2,000 square mile area, few are as large or as impressive as Ciudad Perdida, which is believed to have been a regional center of political, social and economic power, home to around 3,000 people.


After diseases introduced by the Spanish forced the Tayrona to abandon the city, it was forgotten until 1975, when looters accidentally rediscovered the site in their search for pre-Columbian treasures.It was taken over in 1976 by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH), which began clearing forest and researching the site.

In 2009, GHF began working in partnership with ICANH to preserve Ciudad Perdida’s ancient features and to engage the local communities as major stakeholders in the site’s sustainable development.

In August this year, the growing global interest in Ciudad Perdida provided the lead story for CCTV’s Americas Now, an international broadcast news magazine.


View of the center area of Ciudad Perdida (“Lost City”) in north-eastern Colombia. Image credit: Wanderingstan

The program followed a tour group led by Dr. Santiago Giraldo, Director of GHF’s Colombia Heritage Program, as they trekked to the Lost City. Along the way, they met members of the Kogi indigenous tribe – descendants of the Tayrona – who are helped by the Tayrona Foundation for Archaeological and Environmental Research (FIAAT), which Dr. Giraldo helped to establish.

“What we would like, with the indigenous community and the peasant community, is to keep things at a manageable level, so that they have better livelihoods, but it does not get out of hand,” Dr. Giraldo said.


A boulder with carved markings, believed to be a map of the area around Ciudad Perdida. Image credit:

Among those in the tour group featured on Americas Now was Dr. Barra O’Dannabhain, an archaeologist from the University College Cork in Ireland.

It was his first visit to the site, which he called one of the most impressive he’s ever seen. He insisted on the need to conserve it.


Ciudad Perdida has remained unknown to the outside world for a very long time. Image credit: Rutacol

“This has a relevance beyond Colombia,” he said, “because the story of Ciudad Perdida is of a vibrant, impressive culture that was wiped out by contact with Europeans…

We owe it to the dead generations, and also to their descendants who still inhabit the area today, to tell more about the story of what happened there.” based on information provided by Global Heritage Fund

sarcophagus of ancient egyptian pharaoh
The mummy of Merneptah was encased in a series of four sarcophagi, set one within the other. After his tomb was robbed, more than 3,000 years ago, he was reburied elsewhere and his two outer sarcophagi boxes were broken up.
CREDIT: General Antiquites Egyptiennes du Musee du Caire: The Royal Mummies Le Caire, 1912, public domain

The largest ancient Egyptian sarcophagus has been identified in a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, say archaeologists who are re-assembling the giant box that was reduced to fragments more than 3,000 years ago.

Made of red granite, the royal sarcophagus was built for Merneptah, an Egyptian pharaoh who lived more than 3,200 years ago. A warrior king, he defeated the Libyans and a group called the “Sea Peoples” in a great battle.

He also waged a campaign in the Levant attacking, among others, a group he called “Israel” (the first mention of the people). When he died, his mummy was enclosed in a series of four stone sarcophagi, one nestled within the other.

Archaeologists are re-assembling the outermost of these nested sarcophagi, its size dwarfing the researchers working on it. It is more than 13 feet (4 meters) long, 7 feet (2.3 m) wide and towers more than 8 feet (2.5 m) above the ground. It was originally quite colorful and has a lid that is still intact. [See Photos of Pharaoh’s Sarcophagus]

sarcophagus of ancient egyptian pharaoh
The lid of the second sarcophagus bearing an image of Merneptah. This would have been completely enclosed by the outer sarcophagus box and lid.
CREDIT: Photo courtesy Wikimedia

“This as far as I know is about the largest of any of the royal sarcophagi,” said project director Edwin Brock, a research associate at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, in an interview with LiveScience.

Brock explained the four sarcophagi would probably have been brought inside the tomb already nested together, with the king’s mummy inside.

Holes in the entrance shaft to the tomb indicate a pulley system of sorts, with ropes and wooden beams, used to bring the sarcophagi in. When the workers got to the burial chamber they found they couldn’t get the sarcophagi box through the door. Ultimately, they had to destroy the chamber’s door jams and build new ones.

“I always like to wonder about the conversation that might have taken place between the tomb builders and the people from the quarry,” said Brock in a presentation he gave recently at an Egyptology symposium in Toronto. “This study has shown a lot of interesting little human aspects about ancient Egypt [that] perhaps makes them look less godlike.”

sarcophagus of ancient egyptian pharaoh
Archaeologist Lyla Pinch Brock at work reconstructing a giant outer sarcophagus box belonging to Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah.
CREDIT: Photo courtesy Edwin Brock

When he first examined fragments from Merneptah’s tomb in the 1980s, they were “piled up in no particular order” in a side chamber. Even when put together, the fragments made up just one-third of the box, meaning researchers had to reconstruct the rest.

Brock’s efforts got a boost with the launch of a full reconstruction project (affiliated with the Royal Ontario Museum) that started in March 2011.  (Merneptah’s tomb has been recently re-opened to the public.)

The four sarcophagi

Not only was the pharaoh’s outer sarcophagus huge but the fact that he used four of them, made of stone, is unusual. “Merneptah’s unique in having been provided with four stone sarcophagi to enclose his mummified coffined remains,” said Brock in his presentation. [The 10 Weirdest Ways We Deal With the Dead]

Within the outer sarcophagus was a second granite sarcophagus box with a cartouche-shaped oval lid that depicts Merneptah. Within that was a third sarcophagus that was taken out and reused in antiquity by another ruler named Psusennes I. Within this was a fourth sarcophagus, made of travertine (a form of limestone), that originally held the mummy of Merneptah.

Only a few fragments of this last box survive today; the mummy itself was reburied in antiquity after the tomb was robbed more than 3,000 years ago. It was after this robbery that the outer sarcophagus box, and the second box within it, were broken apart (the lids for both boxes being kept intact). They were destroyed not only for their parts but also to help get at the third box (that was reused by Psusennes).

Fire was used in breaking apart the outer sarcophagus box.

“Scorch marks, spalling [splinters] and circular cracking on various locations of the interior and exterior of the box attest to the use of fire to heat parts of the box, followed by rapid cooling with water to weaken the granite,” writes Brock in his symposium abstract, adding that dolerite hammer stones also appear to have been used.

Why so big?

Why Merneptah built himself such a giant sarcophagus is unknown. Other pharaohs used multiple sarcophagi, although none, it appears, with an outer box as big as this.

Brock points out that Merneptah’s father, Ramesses II, and grandfather, Seti I, both great builders, were apparently each buried in one travertine sarcophagus.

The decorations on Merneptah’s different sarcophagi offer a clue as to why he built four of them. They contain illustrations “from two compositions that describe the sun god’s journey at night, one is called the ‘Book of Gates’ and one is called the ‘Amduat,'” Brock said. These books are divided into 12 sections, or “hours.”

sarcophagus of ancient egyptian pharaoh
This scene depicts hour five of the “Amduat,” a book that also chronicles the sun god’s journey at night. In this section he passes through the cavern of a god named Sokar. When re-assembling the box archaeologists had to temporarily leave an opening that allowed them to work on the interior.
CREDIT: Photo courtesy Edwin Brock

He notes that the same hours tend to be repeated on the box and lids of Merneptah’s sarcophagi. One motif the king appears particularly fond of is the opening scenes of the “Book of Gates,” including one depicting a realm that exists before the sun god enters the netherworld, according to Egyptologist Erik Hornung’s book “The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife” (Cornell University Press, 1999, translation from German). “Upon his entry into the realm of the dead, the sun god is greeted not by individual deities but by the collective of the dead, who are designated the ‘gods of the west’ and located in the western mountain range,” Hornung writes.

For the king repeating scenes like this over and over may have been important, it’s “as though they’re trying to enclose the [king’s] body with these magical shells that have power of resurrection,” Brock said.

The research was presented at a Toronto symposium that ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 and was organized by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities and the Royal Ontario Museum’s Friends of Ancient Egypt.


Owen Jarus


Killer Cave May Have Inspired Myth of Hades

Posted: November 30, 2012 by phaedrap1 in Monuments, Occult, Science
Alepotrypa cave in southern Greece
A giant cave called Alepotrypa that might have helped serve as the inspiration for the mythic ancient Greek underworld Hades may have supported complex settlements in its heyday. Here, the cave’s main chamber.
CREDIT: Gianluca Cantoro, Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas.

A giant cave that might have helped serve as the inspiration for the mythic ancient Greek underworld Hades once housed hundreds of people, potentially making it one of the oldest and most important prehistoric villages in Europe before it collapsed and killed everyone inside, researchers say.

The complex settlement seen in this cave suggests, along with other sites from about the same time, that early prehistoric Europe may have been more complex than previously thought.

The cave, located in southern Greece and discovered in 1958, is called Alepotrypa, which means “foxhole.”


“The legend is that in a village nearby, a guy was hunting for foxes with his dog, and the dog went into the hole and the man went after the dog and discovered the cave,” said researcher Michael Galaty, an archaeologist at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. “The story’s probably apocryphal — depending on who you ask in the village, they all claim it was their grandfather who found the cave.” [See Photos of Alepotrypa Cave]

A prehistoric cathedral

After its discovery, Greek officials originally saw the cave as a potential tourist attraction. However, when archaeologists realized the historical secrets it might hold, they led efforts to keep tourism from inadvertently destroying the site.

Alepotrypa cave in southern Greece
Researcher Takis Karkanas analyzing deposits in Alepotrypa Cave.
CREDIT: Attila Gyucha.

The main chamber of the cave is about 200 feet (60 meters) tall and up to about 330 feet (100 m) wide. Altogether, the cave is nearly 3,300 feet (1,000 m) long, large enough to have its own lake, in which famed explorer Jacques Cousteau once scuba-dived.

“If you’ve ever seen ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ this might make you recall the mines of Moria — the cave is really that impressive,” Galaty told LiveScience.

Excavations that have taken place at Alepotrypa since 1970 uncovered tools, pottery, obsidian and even silver and copper artifacts that date back to the Neolithic or New Stone Age, which in Greece began about 9,000 years ago.

“Alepotrypa existed right before the Bronze Age in Mycenaean Greece, so we’re kind of seeing the beginnings of things that produced the age of heroes in Greece,” Galaty said.

Cave dwellers apparently used the cavern not only as a shelter, but also as a cemetery and place of ritual.

“You have to imagine the place torchlit, filled with people lighting bonfires and burying the dead,” Galaty said. “It was quite like a prehistoric cathedral, a pilgrimage site that attracted people from all over the region and perhaps from further afield.”

Cave settlements

The cave apparently went through a series of occupations and abandonments.

“Alepotrypa was at a perfect place to intercept sea trade from Africa all the way to the eastern Mediterranean, being right at the southern tip of Greece,” Galaty said.

Alepotrypa cave in southern Greece
An adult human burial at the open-air site near the Alepotrypa cave.
CREDIT: Michael Galaty.

Settlement at the cave abruptly ended when its entrance collapsed about 5,000 years ago, perhaps due to an earthquake, burying cave dwellers alive.

“It is and was an amazing place, the closest thing we have to a Neolithic Pompeii,” Galaty said, referring to the ancient Roman town of Pompeii, which was buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted nearly 2,000 years ago. Ash entombed and preserved Pompeii, and excavations there have given archaeologists extraordinarily detailed views of life during that time. In much the same way, the final cave collapse left everything in place in Alepotrypa, with everything inside getting a pearly mineral coating over the years.

Intriguingly, people apparently performed burials in the cave while conducting rituals that involved burning huge amounts of dung and depositing large amounts of colored and finely painted pottery.

“The burial sites and rituals that took place really do give the cave an underworld feel. It’s like Hades, complete with its own River Styx,” Galaty added, referring to the river that in Greek myth served as the boundary between the mortal realm and the netherworld. [Science Fact or Fantasy? 20 Imaginary Worlds]

Alepotrypa archaeology

For about 40 years, excavations at Alepotrypa were largely the singlehanded work of Greek archaeologist Giorgos Papathanassopoulos. In the last three years, Papathanassopoulos has reached out to other archaeologists, who have helped uncover a wealth of new insights on the site.

For instance, surveys around the cave now show there was a settlement outside. Altogether, hundreds of people may have lived at the site in its heyday, making it one of the largest, most complex known Neolithic villages in Europe.

In addition, analysis by researcher Panagiotis Karkanas at the Ephoreia of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of Southern Greece in Athens and his colleagues is confirming that rituals were conducted there regularly.

Much remains unknown about the cave. For instance, “we don’t know how much deeper deposits go. For all we know, we might have Neanderthals down there,” Galaty said. “The next bay over, you have Neanderthal artifacts in caves, so it’s hard to believe there wouldn’t be such evidence in Alepotrypa. We just haven’t dug deep enough to know.”

Chemical analysis of the pottery can also shed light on its origins.

“Giorgos Papathanassopoulos has always argued this pottery was not local to the site, but came from elsewhere — that the cave was a kind of pilgrimage site where important people were buried, leading to the fanciful idea that this was the original entrance to Hades, that it was the source of the Greek fascination with the underworld,” Galaty said.

Chemical analysis of the bones can yield similar insights. “Are people actually bringing bodies from distant locales to bury?” Galaty said.

This site, along with others in Europe, might help confirm that complex societies arose earlier than currently thought on the continent.

Papathanassopoulos, Karkanas and Galaty, along with Anastasia Papathanasiou, William Parkinson, Daniel Pullen and their colleagues, will detail this year’s findings at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America on Jan. 6 in Seattle.

Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor


Georgia Guidestones
More photos are located here.

Amidst the rolling pasture land and lines of pine in the northeast corner of Georgia stands an enigma–a 19 foot tall megalithic structure overlooking the quiet countryside like a gray sentinel. Only a handful of people know who designed this massive structure, and they aren’t talking. Like other large stone monuments such as England’s Stonehenge, controversy surrounds the Georgia Guidestones–are they a celestial temple, a sacrificial altar, or simply a monument to conservation? However, unlike the silence cloaking its prehistoric counterparts, the towering granite of the Georgia Guidestones speaks its own story, for carved into the faces of the stones are ten simple guides urging the preservation of the planet on which we live.

The mystery of the Georgia Guidestones began late on a Friday afternoon in June of 1979, when a well-dressed stranger, identifying himself only as Mr. Christian, walked into the Elberton Granite Finishing Company’s offices on Tate Street, and inquired of the firm’s President Joe H. Fendley, Sr. as to the cost of building a large monument to conservation. Fendley explained to the man that the company normally worked on a wholesale basis, and did not deal directly with individuals, but the stranger persisted. He told Fendley that he represented a small group of Americans who wished to remain anonymous. He outlined a plan for a monument in granite, which intrigued Fendley enough that he put Mr. Christian in touch with both of the local banks.

According to Wyatt C. Martin, President of the Granite City Bank, the stranger showed up at his office 30 minutes later introducing himself as R.C. Christian. The man repeated his proposal, and suggested that Martin be the intermediary for the project. Being a bank president, Mr. Martin insisted that Mr. Christian reveal his real identity so that Martin could verify his ability to finance the project. When Martin was satisfied that everything was on the level, he agreed to carry it out, and pledged never to reveal Mr. R.C. Christian’s true identity.

Mr. Christian told Martin that he and his sponsors selected Georgia as the location for the monument because of the availability of high quality granite, the mild climate, and the fact that his great-grandmother was a native Georgian. He also emphasized that the monument should be erected in a remote area, away from the main tourist centers. Martin suggested that, to work within the funds available, a local site should be selected because of the cost of transporting the massive stones Christian had in mind. The men spent a day inspecting various sites, and finally selected a five acre plot on the farm of Mildred and Wayne Mullenix. The plot also happens to be the highest point in Elbert county.

A few weeks later, Joe Fendley began work on the monument. The stones were quarried from the company’s Pyramid Blue Granite, and Fendley claimed that the sheer size of the stones, as well as the exacting specifications set forth by the sponsors made the project one of the most challenging ever for his company. He suggested that “those specifications were so precise that they had to be compiled by experts on stone as well as construction.” In 1980 the stones were erected. Once the project was completed, Wyatt Martin delivered his file on the affair to the anonymous sponsors and that the secret of their identity was sealed.

In accordance with Mr. Christian’s wishes, the Guidestones are located in one of the least touristy parts of the state. Elberton’s one claim to fame is the title “Granite Capitol of the World,” and aside from the rather tranquil scenery, there isn’t much to be found in the area. However, because of their proximity to a state highway, the Guidestones are easy to access–about a hundred yards to the east of Georgia Highway 77, 7.2 miles North of Elberton, and 7.8 miles South of Hartwell. The only sign for the stones is a rather small, green affair just at the turn in, but if you keep your eyes open on the east side of the road, you can’t miss them.

While the ground under the Guidestones may be the highest spot in the county, it’s in no danger of being mistaken for a mountain. It’s actually a gentle rise in the general landscape with a view of a close horizon all the way around. The Guidestones are situated in a fenced off section of a pasture, so along with a view of sloping green fields walled in by stands of pine and oak, you may be treated to a close encounter with a few cattle. Don’t worry though, they’re on the other side of the barbed wire, and are more interested in chewing their cud than bothering visitors.

Next to the Guidestones lies a flat granite slab inscribed with the technical data on the stones–height, weight, and different languages carved into them. It also bears an inscription indicating that a time capsule was to be buried under the spot, but includes no dates, so it’s a safe guess that a capsule was never placed there.

Visitors have made comparisons between the Guidestones and other megalithic structures. Some have gone so far as to call them America’s Stonehenge. In reality, this title belongs more appropriately to Sam Hill’s exact replica of Stonehenge in Washington. While the Guidestones do convey a sense of stately endurance similar to Stonehenge, they have none of the ancient aura possessed by Britain’s megalith. Rather, the Guidestones express youth and openness–something still growing, rather than something in decay. Indeed, R.C. Christian said that after completion, he hoped other conservation-minded groups would erect even more stones in an outer ring and carry the monument’s message in more languages.

The slender center stone, which the builders call the Gnomen, towers between four wider uprights topped with a capstone that just touches the corners of the four outer stones. These outer slabs are the ones actually carved with the guides, and point out from the Gnomen like spokes in an X shape. The individual letters of the guides are four inches tall, and about a half inch deep, and thus easy to read all the way to the top. The ten guides are translated into eight different languages–English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Swahili, and Hindi–one language on each side of the outer stones.

R.C. Christian said that he and the sponsors spent years planning the monument, and the ten guides for the conservation of humankind and the earth were a carefully worded, moralistic appeal to all people, regardless of national, religious, or political borders. The English version of the guides are:

  • Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  • Guide reproduction wisely-improving fitness and diversity.
  • Unite humanity with a living new language.
  • Rule Passion-Faith-Tradition-and all things with tempered reason.
  • Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  • Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  • Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  • Balance personal rights with social duties.
  • Prize truth-beauty-love-seeking harmony with the infinite.
  • Be not a cancer on the earth – Leave room for nature – Leave room for nature.

On the 4 sides of the capstone an additional message is written in four dead languages– Classical Greek, Sanskrit, Babylonian Cuneiform, and Egyptian Hieroglyphs.

  • Let these be guidestones to an age of reason.

Aside from their obvious role as bearers of a written message, the stones also mark certain celestial alignments. The four outer uprights point to the limits of the moon’s declination over the course of a year. An oblique hole drilled from the south to the north side of the Gnomen aligns with the North Star. A small window is cut in the middle of the Gnomen, and aligns with the positions of the rising sun at the Summer and Winter Solstices. Sunlight beams through a 7/8 inch hole in the capstone at noon, and shines on the south face of the Gnomen. At noon of each day, the spot of light can be used to determine the day of the year.

Controversies have blazed around the stones since their erection in 1980. The pastor of a local church warned that the stones would lead to blood sacrifices on the spot where they stood. Some people view the guides as a mandate for mass extermination of a majority of the world’s population, and the establishment of an Orwellian control of the planet by one governing body. Others view the Guidestones as evidence of some occult force bent on destroying the Judeo-Christian beliefs held by many Americans. In truth, Pagan groups have held ceremonies at the Guidestones–weddings and celebrations of the solstices and equinoxes–but nothing involving blood sacrifice, and so far, no single government has taken control of the planet.

Regardless, the stones still maintain their quiet vigil, ambivalent to the religious and political beliefs of the people who come to see them. Likely, they will continue to stand long after the quarrels we find so important today are mere footnotes in the history text of some student in the distant future.

Statistical Information on the Georgia Guidestones

Overall Height: 19 feet 3 inches
Amount of Granite: 951 cubic feet
Weight: 237,746 pounds

Four Upright Stones:
6ft 6in wide; 16ft 4in high; 1ft 7in thick 42,437 lbs each on average

3 ft 3in.wide; 16ft 4in high; 1ft 7in thick, Weight 20,957 lbs

Cap Stone: 6ft 6in wide, 9ft 8in long; 1ft 7in thick, Weight 24, 832 lbs

Outer Support Stones (bases): 7ft 4in long; 2ft 0in wide; 1ft 4in thick Weight 4,875 lbs each on average.

Center Support Stone: 4ft 21/2in long; 2ft 2in wide; 1ft;7in thick Weight 2,707 lbs

  © 1995: Brian Collier and Comforts of Home

History in the Remaking — Göbekli Tepe

Posted: October 21, 2012 by phaedrap1 in Monuments, News
Tags: ,
A temple complex in Turkey that predates even the pyramids is rewriting the story of human evolution.
They call it potbelly hill, after the soft, round contour of this final lookout in southeastern Turkey. To the north are forested mountains. East of the hill lies the biblical plain of Harran, and to the south is the Syrian border, visible 20 miles away, pointing toward the ancient lands of Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent, the region that gave rise to human civilization. And under our feet, according to archeologist Klaus Schmidt, are the stones that mark the spot—the exact spot—where humans began that ascent.Standing on the hill at dawn, overseeing a team of 40 Kurdish diggers, the German-born archeologist waves a hand over his discovery here, a revolution in the story of human origins. Schmidt has uncovered a vast and beautiful temple complex, a structure so ancient that it may be the very first thing human beings ever built. The site isn’t just old, it redefines old: the temple was built 11,500 years ago—a staggering 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid, and more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge first took shape. The ruins are so early that they predate villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture—the first embers of civilization. In fact, Schmidt thinks the temple itself, built after the end of the last Ice Age by hunter-gatherers, became that ember—the spark that launched mankind toward farming, urban life, and all that followed.

Göbekli Tepe—the name in Turkish for “potbelly hill”—lays art and religion squarely at the start of that journey. After a dozen years of patient work, Schmidt has uncovered what he thinks is definitive proof that a huge ceremonial site flourished here, a “Rome of the Ice Age,” as he puts it, where hunter-gatherers met to build a complex religious community. Across the hill, he has found carved and polished circles of stone, with terrazzo flooring and double benches. All the circles feature massive T-shaped pillars that evoke the monoliths of Easter Island.

Though not as large as Stonehenge—the biggest circle is 30 yards across, the tallest pillars 17 feet high—the ruins are astonishing in number. Last year Schmidt found his third and fourth examples of the temples. Ground-penetrating radar indicates that another 15 to 20 such monumental ruins lie under the surface. Schmidt’s German-Turkish team has also uncovered some 50 of the huge pillars, including two found in his most recent dig season that are not just the biggest yet, but, according to carbon dating, are the oldest monumental artworks in the world.

The new discoveries are finally beginning to reshape the slow-moving consensus of archeology. Göbekli Tepe is “unbelievably big and amazing, at a ridiculously early date,” according to Ian Hodder, director of Stanford’s archeology program. Enthusing over the “huge great stones and fantastic, highly refined art” at Göbekli, Hodder—who has spent decades on rival Neolithic sites—says: “Many people think that it changes everythingIt overturns the whole apple cart. All our theories were wrong.”

Schmidt’s thesis is simple and bold: it was the urge to worship that brought mankind together in the very first urban conglomerations. The need to build and maintain this temple, he says, drove the builders to seek stable food sources, like grains and animals that could be domesticated, and then to settle down to guard their new way of life. The temple begat the city.

This theory reverses a standard chronology of human origins, in which primitive man went through a “Neolithic revolution” 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. In the old model, shepherds and farmers appeared first, and then created pottery, villages, cities, specialized labor, kings, writing, art, and—somewhere on the way to the airplane—organized religion. As far back as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, thinkers have argued that the social compact of cities came first, and only then the “high” religions with their great temples, a paradigm still taught in American high schools.

Religion now appears so early in civilized life—earlier than civilized life, if Schmidt is correct—that some think it may be less a product of culture than a cause of it, less a revelation than a genetic inheritance. The archeologist Jacques Cauvin once posited that “the beginning of the gods was the beginning of agriculture,” and Göbekli may prove his case.

The builders of Göbekli Tepe could not write or leave other explanations of their work. Schmidt speculates that nomadic bands from hundreds of miles in every direction were already gathering here for rituals, feasting, and initiation rites before the first stones were cut. The religious purpose of the site is implicit in its size and location. “You don’t move 10-ton stones for no reason,” Schmidt observes. “Temples like to be on high sites,” he adds, waving an arm over the stony, round hilltop. “Sanctuaries like to be away from the mundane world.”

Unlike most discoveries from the ancient world, Göbekli Tepe was found intact, the stones upright, the order and artistry of the work plain even to the un-trained eye. Most startling is the elaborate carving found on about half of the 50 pillars Schmidt has unearthed. There are a few abstract symbols, but the site is almost covered in graceful, naturalistic sculptures and bas-reliefs of the animals that were central to the imagination of hunter-gatherers. Wild boar and cattle are depicted, along with totems of power and intelligence, like lions, foxes, and leopards. Many of the biggest pillars are carved with arms, including shoulders, elbows, and jointed fingers. The T shapes appear to be towering humanoids but have no faces, hinting at the worship of ancestors or humanlike deities. “In the Bible it talks about how God created man in his image,” says Johns Hopkins archeologist Glenn Schwartz. Göbekli Tepe “is the first time you can see humans with that idea, that they resemble gods.”

The temples thus offer unexpected proof that mankind emerged from the 140,000-year reign of hunter-gatherers with a ready vocabulary of spiritual imagery, and capable of huge logistical, economic, and political efforts. A Catholic born in Franconia, Germany, Schmidt wanders the site in a white turban, pointing out the evidence of that transition. “The people here invented agriculture. They were the inventors of cultivated plants, of domestic architecture,” he says.

Göbekli sits at the Fertile Crescent’s northernmost tip, a productive borderland on the shoulder of forests and within sight of plains. The hill was ideally situated for ancient hunters. Wild gazelles still migrate past twice a year as they did 11 millennia ago, and birds fly overhead in long skeins. Genetic mapping shows that the first domestication of wheat was in this immediate area—perhaps at a mountain visible in the distance—a few centuries after Göbekli’s founding. Animal husbandry also began near here—the first domesticated pigs came from the surrounding area in about 8000 B.C., and cattle were domesticated in Turkey before 6500 B.C. Pottery followed. Those discoveries then flowed out to places like Çatalhöyük, the oldest-known Neolithic village, which is 300 miles to the west.

The artists of Göbekli Tepe depicted swarms of what Schmidt calls “scary, nasty” creatures: spiders, scorpions, snakes, triple-fanged monsters, and, most common of all, carrion birds. The single largest carving shows a vulture poised over a headless human. Schmidt theorizes that human corpses were ex-posed here on the hilltop for consumption by birds—what a Tibetan would call a sky burial. Sifting the tons of dirt removed from the site has produced very few human bones, however, perhaps because they were removed to distant homes for ancestor worship. Absence is the source of Schmidt’s great theoretical claim. “There are no traces of daily life,” he explains. “No fire pits. No trash heaps. There is no water here.” Everything from food to flint had to be imported, so the site “was not a village,” Schmidt says. Since the temples predate any known settlement anywhere, Schmidt concludes that man’s first house was a house of worship: “First the temple, then the city,” he insists.

Some archeologists, like Hodder, the Neolithic specialist, wonder if Schmidt has simply missed evidence of a village or if his dating of the site is too precise. But the real reason the ruins at Göbekli remain almost unknown, not yet incorporated in textbooks, is that the evidence is too strong, not too weak. “The problem with this discovery,” as Schwartz of Johns Hopkins puts it, “is that it is unique.” No other monumental sites from the era have been found. Before Göbekli, humans drew stick figures on cave walls, shaped clay into tiny dolls, and perhaps piled up small stones for shelter or worship. Even after Göbekli, there is little evidence of sophisticated building. Dating of ancient sites is highly contested, but Çatalhöyük is probably about 1,500 years younger than Göbekli, and features no carvings or grand constructions. The walls of Jericho, thought until now to be the oldest monumental construction by man, were probably started more than a thousand years after Göbekli. Huge temples did emerge again—but the next unambiguous example dates from 5,000 years later, in southern Iraq.

The site is such an outlier that an American archeologist who stumbled on it in the 1960s simply walked away, unable to interpret what he saw. On a hunch, Schmidt followed the American’s notes to the hilltop 15 years ago, a day he still recalls with a huge grin. He saw carved flint everywhere, and recognized a Neolithic quarry on an adjacent hill, with unfinished slabs of limestone hinting at some monument buried nearby. “In one minute—in one second—it was clear,” the bearded, sun-browned archeologist recalls. He too considered walking away, he says, knowing that if he stayed, he would have to spend the rest of his life digging on the hill.

Now 55 and a staff member at the German Archaeological Institute, Schmidt has joined a long line of his countrymen here, reaching back to Heinrich Schliemann, the discoverer of Troy. He has settled in, marrying a Turkish woman and making a home in a modest “dig house” in the narrow streets of old Urfa. Decades of work lie ahead.

Disputes are normal at the site—the workers, Schmidt laments, are divided into three separate clans who feud constantly. (“Three groups,” the archeologist says, exasperated. “Not two. Three!”) So far Schmidt has uncovered less than 5 percent of the site, and he plans to leave some temples untouched so that future researchers can examine them with more sophisticated tools.

Whatever mysterious rituals were conducted in the temples, they ended abruptly before 8000 B.C., when the entire site was buried, deliberately and all at once, Schmidt believes. The temples had been in decline for a thousand years—later circles are less than half the size of the early ones, indicating a lack of resources or motivation among the worshipers. This “clear digression” followed by a sudden burial marks “the end of a very strange culture,” Schmidt says. But it was also the birth of a new, settled civilization, humanity having now exchanged the hilltops of hunters for the valleys of farmers and shepherds. New ways of life demand new religious practices, Schmidt suggests, and “when you have new gods, you have to get rid of the old ones.”


Patrick Symmes