Rennes-le-Château

Rennes-le-Château (Rènnas del Castèl in Occitan) is a small medieval castle village and a commune in the Aude département in Languedoc in southwestern France. It is known internationally, and receives tens of thousands of visitors per year, for being at the center of various conspiracy theories. Starting in the 1950s, a local restaurant owner, in order to increase business, had spread rumours of a hidden treasure found by a 19th century priest. The story achieved national fame in France, and was then enhanced and expanded by various hoaxsters, who claimed that the priest, Father Bérenger Saunière, had found proof of a secret society known as the Priory of Sion. The story and society were later proven to be a hoax, but became the origin for hypotheses in documentaries and bestselling books such as Holy Blood Holy Grail and the fiction thriller The Da Vinci Code.

The legend of Rennes-le-Château is one of the most complicated treasure-hunting stories of all time. It is steeped in the movements of pre-medieval European dynasties and encompasses a whole host of historical unsolved mysteries. Enthusiasts believe the secret of Rennes-le- Château could reveal the whereabouts of the Holy Grail, or the Ark of the Covenant, or indeed almost any other lost treasure. The story involves mysterious societies like the Knights Templar, the Freemasons and the Priory of Sion. Researchers say that many of those who have been told any of the real details have died in suspicious circumstances. Their fate, and the village’s enigmatic story, all revolved around the arrival of one man.


Bérenger Saunière

On 1st June 1885, a recently ordained priest entered the hot, dusty, hilltop village of Rennes-le-Château in the French Pyrenees. Bérenger Saunière was an ambitious young cleric, and was very unimpressed by the dilapidated ninth century church and the uninhabitable presbytery, although he stayed. In October of that year Saunière was banished from the region for a short time for committing a public order offence when he campaigned against the ruling Republican Party.

During this exile from his parish he formed a friendship with the wealthy and respected Countess of Chambord, who loaned him a large sum to rebuild the village church. He began the restoration work five years later, starting with the altar. As he removed the heavy stone lintel, the ancient pillar on which it stood cracked, and inside it Saunière found three wooden tubes containing parchments. After finding another scrap of paper in a pillar supporting the pulpit, Saunière immediately began digging up parts of the church and its yard. Helped in this by his housekeeper, Marie Denarnaud, Saunière recorded in his personal diary on 21st September 1891, ‘Excavated a grave. Found a tomb.’ What was found in the tomb is unknown, but over the following years Saunière led a very odd life. He built an elaborate estate, which had gardens full of exotic flora and fauna. The whole structure was said to be a recreation of Mary Magdalene’s walk from Magdala to Bethania.

Aerial View of Rennes-le-Château

The earliest church of which there is any evidence on the site of the present church may be as old as the eighth century. However, this original church was almost certainly in ruins during the 10th or 11th century, when another church was built upon the site - remnants of which can be seen in Romanesque pillared arcades on the north side of the apse. It is this 10th or 11th century church which had survived in poor repair. (An architectural report of 1845 reporting that it required extensive repairs.) This second church was renovated in the late 1800s by the local priest, Bérenger Saunière, though the source of his funds at the time was controversial and some of the additions to the church appear unusual to modern eyes.

One of the new features added to the church was an inscription above the front door: “Terribilis est locus iste” (This is a place of awe). Inside the church, one of the added figures was of a devil holding up the holy water stoup (rare, but other examples exist in other churches around France). The decorations chosen by Saunière were selected from a catalogue published by Giscard, sculptor and painter in Toulouse who - among other things - offered statues and sculptural features for church refurbishment. Pages from the Catalogue of Giscard and Co were reproduced in a book by Marie de Saint-Gély first published in 1989. The figures and statues chosen by Saunière were not specially made.

Saunière also funded the construction of another structure dedicated to Mary Magdalene, named after his church, a tower on the side of a nearby mountain which he used as his library, with a promenade linking it to the Villa Bethanie, which was not actually used by the priest. He stated during his trial that it was intended for retired priests. Note that "magdala" also means "tower" in Aramaic and Hebrew, so perhaps there is some sort of pun involved. The inscription above the entrance is taken from the Common Dedication of a Church, which in full reads [Entrance Antiphon Cf. Gen 28:17]: "This is a place of awe; this is God's house, the gate of heaven, and it shall be called the royal court of God." The first part of the passage is situated in the entrance of the church - the rest of the passage is actually inscribed over the arches on the two doors of the church.

Sauniere's church was re-dedicated in 1897 by his bishop, Monsigor Billard, following Sauniere's renovations and redecorations. Saunière lived in splendour and was said to hold accounts in various major banks. He was known to visit Paris and mix with famous people, but regional church authorities grew tired of his strange behaviour and tried to discipline him. Saunière said he needed to answer to nobody but the Pontiff and resigned his seat. The villagers of Rennes-le-Château chose to attend Mass at Saunière’s private chapel rather than attend the one provided by the officially installed new priest.

On 17th January 1917 Saunière had a serious seizure, and shortly before his death explained how he had come to find his wealth. The priest who heard the details was so disgusted he denied Saunière absolution and last rites. But Denarnaud also knew the secret and promised to reveal it on her deathbed. Unfortunately she suffered a debilitating stroke and could not talk when she died in 1953. Others who may have understood some aspects of the mysteries suffered horrific fates. Many people believe Denarnaud’s carer, Noel Corbu, may have learnt something from her before her death, but he was killed in a car accident in the same year.

Another local priest, Jean- Antoine-Maurice Gelis, was said to know details during Saunière’s time, but he grew so paranoid that he would let only his niece into his presbytery. On All Saints’ Eve 1897, he was found killed by four blows from an axe. During an investigation in 1956 the corpses of three men who had been shot were found in Saunière’s garden, and in 1967 Fakhur el Islam, a courier carrying Saunière’s secret documents, was found dead on train tracks near Melun in Germany. It is believed that a secretive society called the Priory of Sion is behind much of the strange history of Rennes-le-Château. The group is said to have strong connections with Freemasons and legends of the Holy Grail. It has been a registered organisation in France since 1956 and has over a thousand members, some of whom are extremely high profile.

The Grand Master until 1963 was Jean Cocteau, and past leaders have included Claude Debussy, Leonardo de Vinci and Isaac Newton. Yet, despite this air of respectability, the organisation is still said to be untraceable. Saunière himself was not so secretive about the treasure though, and it is believed he left many clues in the buildings he erected and the monuments he left.

The design of the church in Rennes-le-Château itself is supposed to be a clue about the treasure. One theory is that Saunière’s wealth came about by his discovery of details relating to an old Christian secret, which he then used to blackmail the Roman Catholic Church. One of the stained glass windows he had commissioned after rebuilding the church depicts both Mary and Joseph holding babies, which has lead some to suspect Saunière had proof that Christ had a twin. Similarly, it has been considered that perhaps the priest found evidence that Jesus did not die on the cross, but moved to Europe and had a family with Mary Magdalene.

Many of the blackmail ideas seem to revolve around elaborate conspiracy theories, but there are also legends of real, sparkling, mystical treasure. Rennes-le- Château is believed to have been the third largest town in the Visigoth kingdom, when it was known as Rheddae. Visgoths were said to have looted Rome of all its riches in 410 AD and were also believed to have stolen great wealth from Greece and Jerusalem. It was never disclosed exactly where the Visigoths finally buried their treasure, although the fortress of Rheddae was always considered a strong possibility.

Another theory combines aspects of both treasure and religious secrecy. It is suggested that the Cathars, a Christian group who were considered a threat by the Roman Catholic Church, buried something of immense religious importance near Rennes-le-Château before they were destroyed. Some have suggested that this great spiritual treasure may have been the Holy Grail or Ark of the Covenant. The great French classical artist, Nicolas Poussin, is also said to have known of the secrets of Rennes-le-Château. He apparently included clues in a number of his paintings; particularly one called Les Bergers d’Arcadie which features a tomb that closely resembles one found near to Rennes-le- Château.

Many factors pointing to the truth behind Saunière’s wealth are still available for study. But despite the best efforts of countless experts, these mysteries remain hidden. Did Saunière find a legendary religious artifact, a horde of ancient treasure, or some terrible Christian secret? The answers may, one day, be revealed, but for now, Saunière and his money continue to be a curious puzzle.

(Sources : 100 Most Strangest Mysteries by Matt Lamy; and Wikipedia)

(Pic sources :
Pic 1 taken from http://goeurope.about.com/library/graphics/rennes_1.jpg;
Pic 2 taken from http://magonia.haaan.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/sauniere.jpg;
Pic 3 taken from http://www.spiritualholidays.com/graphics/cathars/Rennes-le-Chateau.jpg)
15:41 | 4 komentar

Mokele-Mbembe

Mokele-Mbembe is an unknown dinosaur-like animal of Central Africa, with size of an elephant or larger, length up to 35 feet, shoulder height 5–7 feet. Mokèlé-mbèmbé: meaning "one who stops the flow of rivers" in the Lingala language, is the name given to a large water dwelling cryptid found in legends and folklore of the Congo River basin. It is sometimes described as a living creature and sometimes as a spirit. It could be considered loosely analogous to the Loch Ness Monster in Western culture. Its skin is smooth, reddish-brown or brownish-gray. Amphibious, moves singly or in pairs. Active early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It has various names: Am ali, Badigui, Irizim a, Isiququm adevu, Jago-Nini, Le’kela-bembe (Baka/Ubangi), Mbokälemuembe (in Cameroon), Mbulu-em’bembe or M’kuoo-m’bemboo (Denya/Bantu), M’(O)ké-n’bé, Nwe (Ewondo/Bantu), N’yamala. Said to live in the forest but feed in the lake, makes a deep-throated, trumpeting growl, vegetarian diet, prefers the applelike fruit of lianas (Landolphia mannii and L. owariensis) with white blossoms, known locally as Malombo.

Digs caves in the riverbank. Aggressively defends its territory. Said to overturn canoes and destroy the occupants by lashing its tail. Its flesh is said to be poisonous.The male has a single long horn or tusk. Serpentine head. Flexible neck, 6–12 feet long and as thick as a man’s thigh. Feet are like an elephant’s with long and muscular tail. Numerous expeditions were undertaken to discover uncharted Africa. During these, there were some sightings that have been argued by cryptozoologists to involve some unidentified dinosaur-like creature. Additionally, there have been several specific Mokele-mbembe-hunting expeditions. Although several of the expeditions have reported close-encounters, none have been able to provide incontrovertible proof that the creature exists. The sole evidence that has been found is the presence of widespread folklore and anecdotal accounts covering a considerable period of time.


Pygmy hunters are said to have speared and killed a MOKELE-MBEMBE at Lake Télé around 1959

In the mid-eighteenth century, French missionaries in the area of Gabon or the western Republic of the Congo reported finding clawed tracks about 3 feet in circumference and 7–8 feet apart. Capt. Freiherr von Stein zu Lausnitz collected information on the Mokele-mbembe in the Republic of the Congo for the German government during the Likuala-Kongo Expedition of 1913. Natives told him it had smooth skin, was the size of an elephant, had a long and flexible neck, and had a long tusk or horn. He was shown a path made by the animal to get at its preferred food, a white liana blossom. Ivan T. Sanderson and Gerald Russell heard a loud roar and saw a huge animal swim out from a submerged cave in Mamfe Pool on the Cross River, Cameroon, in 1932 or 1933. All they could see was a dark head larger than a hippo’s, which created a wave when it submerged. Several months earlier, they had come across large, hippolike tracks near the river. About 1935, Firman Mosomele saw a Mokele-mbembe in the Likouala aux Herbes River near Epéna, Republic of the Congo. It had a reddish-brown, snakelike head, and its neck was 6–8 feet long.

Around 1959, a Mokele-mbembe was killed by Pygmies at Lake Télé, Republic of the Congo, by putting up a barrier in a waterway that the animal used to enter the lake; the cornered animal was then speared to death. They cut it up and ate the meat, but everyone is said to have died shortly afterward. In the 1960s, Nicolas Mondongo was hunting for monkeys along the Likouala aux Herbes River between Bandéko and Mokengui when a huge animal reared out of the water about 40 feet away. Its head and neck together were 6 feet in length, and it had four sturdy legs and a long tail. Mondongo watched it for three minutes before it submerged.

In February 1980, Roy Mackal and James Powell went on a reconnaissance expedition that reached Epéna on the Likouala aux Herbes River, Republic of the Congo, and they collected firsthand reports of the Mokele-mbembe. The Herman Regusters Expedition to Lake Télé, Republic of the Congo, from October 9 to December 9, 1981, made several observations of disturbances in the water caused by a large animal. A long neck was seen for five minutes during one encounter and for a few seconds on another occasion. On November 4, Regusters heard and recorded an animal making a loud growl. Roy Mackal, Richard Greenwell, and Justin Wilkinson conducted an expedition to the Likouala Region, Republic of the Congo, from October 27 to December 3, 1981. They encountered an odd wake made by a large animal in the Likouala River between Itanga and Mahounda and examined the trail made by an unknown animal upstream from Djeké months earlier and discovered by Emmanuel Moungoumela.

A Congolese expedition led by zoologist Marcellin Agnagna surveyed the Likouala Swamp and Lake Télé area from April 3 to May 17, 1983. For twenty minutes on May 1, Agnagna and others saw a 15-foot animal with a wide back and long neck swimming in the lake; though the animal was observed through the telephoto lens of a movie camera, the film was on an incorrect setting and proved worthless. The expedition also found recent footprints near Djeké. The British Operation Congo, led by William Gibbons from January to June 1986, returned from Lake Télé with little evidence, though it confirmed the existence of turtles, pythons, and crocodiles in the lake.

A Japanese film crew led by Tatsuo Watanabe shot a controversial video in September 1992 showing fifteen seconds of what they thought was a Mokele-mbembe crossing Lake Télé. A village security officer at Moloundou, Cameroon, saw a Le’kela-bembe in the Boumba River in February 2000. The animal stopped swimming downstream when it saw a ferry and moved away upstream.

Possible explanations based on researchs and expeditions :

(1) Sauropod dinosaurs, herbivorous quadrupeds that ranged in total body length from 20 to 145 feet, had small heads, long necks, long tails, and massive limbs. They had five toes on all four limbs, with at most a single clawed toe on each forefoot and perhaps three on the hind feet. There were two types of sauropods, distinguished primarily from characteristics of the teeth: large animals with thick, spoon-shaped teeth, such as Brachiosaurus, and smaller animals with longer snouts and thin, pegshaped teeth, such as Diplodocus. The earliest sauropod fossil is Vulcanodon, a 33- foot animal from Zimbabwe and dating from the Early Jurassic, 200 million years ago; other early species have been found in Germany and China. Sub-Saharan African sauropods include Barosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Dicraeosaurus from Tanzania and Janenschia and Malawisaurus from Malawi. Presumably, the last sauropods died off at the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago.

(2) Ouranosaurus, a 24-foot, bipedal iguanodontid dinosaur, was excavated in the Sahara Desert in Niger in 1966. Its distinctive dorsal spines are 2 feet high and may have supported a sail-like membrane. This explanation was proposed by Herman Regusters, who misidentified the fossil as a sauropod and alleged that one vertebra was radiocarbon-dated as only a few thousand years old. In fact, the remains date from the early Cretaceous, some 110 million years ago.

(3) An unknown species of giant Monitor (Varanidae) or Iguana (Iguanidae) lizard. Both groups include semiaquatic species, and some iguanas are herbivorous.

(4) Large African softshell turtle (Trionyx triunguis), called Ndendeki by locals living in the Lake Télé area and said to grow up to 15 feet in diameter. Marcellin Agnagna’s 1983 sighting may have involved this turtle.

(5) An African elephant (Loxodonta africana) swimming with its trunk raised.

(6) The Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), which can grow to over 20 feet long.

(7) During the rainy season, Hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibius) are said to hibernate in caves along the riverbanks. If disturbed, one of them might surprise and confuse the unwary traveler. This might explain Ivan Sanderson’s sighting in Mamfe Pool, Cameroon.

(8) The West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) grows to about 12 feet in length and might be mistaken for a larger animal if encountered suddenly. It may be found in certain rivers of the Republic of the Congo.

(Source : Mysterious Creatures “A Guide To Cryptozoology” by George M. Eberhart; and Wikipedia)

(Pics Source : pic 1 taken from http://www.cryptomundo.com/wp-content/mokelereb.jpg; pic 2 taken from Mysterious Creatures “A Guide To Cryptozoology” by George M. Eberhart page 346)
05:36 | 3 komentar

Seances Phenomena

Seances are an age-old way for the living to communicate with the dead. The popular image of a group sitting round a table, holding hands, with the room lights flickering, is a little over-dramatic, but not so far from the truth. Many people believe the collective energy of a number of participants or ‘sitters’ helps attract spirits. Generally, there should also be an experienced medium, who channels the messages and helps control the sitting. Although séances had a reputation for trickery and fraudulent practices in the past, a talented and honest medium can make them an interesting way to explore contacting spirits. Before a séance can begin, it is necessary to have a particular spirit, which the sitters want to reach in mind. The contact spirit will often know that the séance is going to happen, and will want to talk. The room must be a peaceful environment, and the sitters must be comfortable and undisturbed. They should then sit in a circle, or around a table, and may hold hands if they wish although that is not essential. Together, they mentally call the spirit they are searching for.

Often the medium enters a trance-like state and will begin channelling messages from the spirit world. Sometimes this coincides with odd physical experiences, such as a cool breeze wafting through, strange perfumes, or a tickling sensation. Often sitters also feel a slight pain corresponding to how the spirit died – for example, a chest pain is felt with a spirit who died of a heart attack. Hopefully, the medium finds the spirit the sitters have asked for, but other spirits are sometimes also eager to chat. The medium leads the discussion, and allows it to continue for as long as the sitters want.

Often the spirit voices of the deceased speak through a metal trumpet that has been coated with luminous paint and which floats around the seance room. At trumpet seances—almost invariably conducted in complete darkness—the horn rises, apparently lifted by spirit hands, and the voices of the departed are heard speaking through the instrument. Theoretically, these voices manifest independently from the medium.

Trumpet mediums are popular at Spiritualist camps, and husband and wife teams often travel the circle of summer camps giving demonstrations. Skeptics suggest that the reason for such male and female partnerships among trumpet mediums is the simple fact that many more voice tones may be imitated by the mediums during the course of a seance. The materialization of an old coin, a ring, a bracelet, or a semiprecious stone from the spirit world to a sitter attending a seance is called an “apport” (from the French apporter, “to bring”).

According to mediums, spirit friends bring these objects from great distances to lay before the sitters. Sometimes, according to mediums, these objects come from old treasure chests that have lain lost and forgotten beneath the land or sea for ages. On other occasions, the apports are said to be items lost by owners who are now dead and presented as gifts to their living relatives in attendance at the seance. Spirit photography is one phenomenon of the seance room which seems to function as effectively in a spontaneous situation—such as snapping a photograph in a graveyard or a haunted house—as in the trappings of the sitting room. Psychic photography is nearly as old as photography itself. Since the earliest daguerrotypes, people have been taking pictures that have shown unexplainable objects and figures in the background. The idea that such figures and objects could have originated because of some paranormal influence has been rejected by the great majority of scientists. Hazy, spectral figures have been credited to the faulty processing of film. Clearly discernible and even recognizable features on the ghostly faces have been attributed to deliberate fakery.

In the early days of photography, such skepticism was understandable because of the many steps of processing that a photograph had to undergo before it could be examined. With loading and unloading of the film and darkroom operations that sometimes took hours, the opportunities for switching the plates were so great that even the most openminded person could not help becoming suspicious if shown the photograph of spirit forms appearing over his or her shoulder after the portrait had been taken. Technological advances in photography have managed to eliminate many such objections and, at the same time, created many more.

With modern 10-second processing of film and the use of an observer’s own camera, the opportunity for trickery in the seance room has been greatly lowered. But computer technology has been able to create seamless photographs of an endless array of ghosts, phantoms, and spirit forms. Ghost sites and spirit photographs are popular on the Internet and available for scrutiny by skeptic and believer alike. Perhaps the ultimate in seance phenomena is the materialization of a spirit form that is in some way recognizable to one or more of the sitters. This is often accomplished through the utilization of a cabinet from which the materialized spirit emerges and communicates with those gathered around the medium. Spirit cabinets may be elaborate wooden structures or they may simply be blankets strung across wires in order to give the medium some privacy while in trance.

“The miracle of materialization,” Maurice Barbanell (1902–1981) writes in This Is Spiritualism (1959), “is that in a few minutes there is reproduced in the seance room the birth which normally takes nine months in the mother’s womb.” Numerous researchers, as well as Spiritualists, have claimed to have seen a nearly invisible cord which links the materialized spirit figure to the medium and have all made the obvious comparison to an umbilical cord. If, indeed, disembodied spirits are capable of fashioning temporary physical bodies for their ethereal personalities, just what kind of substance could be used for such a remarkable materialization? The name that Spiritualists give to such a substance is “ectoplasm,” and they contend that it is drawn from the medium’s body.

Maurice Barbanell claims that ectoplasm is ideoplastic by nature, which is to suggest that it may be molded by the psychic “womb” of the medium into a representation of the human body. Barbanell gives “spirit chemists” the credit for compounding ectoplasm until it assumes a human form that “breathes, walks, and talks, and is apparently complete even to fingernails.” French researcher Dr. Charles Richet (1850–1935) christened ectoplasm in the 1920s, but Baron Albert von Schrenck Notzing (1862–1929), a German investigator of the paranormal, gained a medium’s permission to “amputate” some of the material and to analyze it. He found it to be a colorless, odorless, slightly alkaline fluid with traces of skin discs, minute particles of flesh, sputum, and granulates of the mucous membrane. Few contemporary mediums attempt to produce ectoplasmic materializations in the seance room.

Today, the vast majority of seances conducted by professional mediums fit into the categories of “direct-voice” communication, during which the spirit guide speaks directly to the sitters through a medium who appears in a deep state of trance; “twilight” communication, during which the medium in a very light altered state of consciousness relays messages from the guide in a conversational exchange with the sitters; or a “reading,” in which the medium in a fully conscious state presents a series of images and messages that are “shown” or “told” by spirits who have some personal connection to the sitters.

Some parapsychologists who have witnessed a wide range of the phenomena of the seance room under test conditions state that all such manifestations may be the result of conscious or unconscious fraud on the part of the medium. These researchers also point out that the intelligence exhibited by the “spirits” appears to be always on a level with that of the medium through whom they manifest. Such critics go on to state that the spirits can be controlled by the power of suggestion and can be made to respond to questions which have no basis in reality. Many investigators have discovered that they can as readily establish communication with an imaginary person as with a real one.

Other parapsychologists accept a great deal of the phenomena of the seance room, but they deny that the source of the manifestations comes from spirits. These investigators have found that in many seances conducted under controlled conditions, the information relayed often rises far above the medium’s known objective intelligence, but they argue that there are a number of ways by which the subjective mind can be elevated above the threshold of ordinary consciousness to the point where various phenomena may be produced. When mediums induce the trance state which summons the spirit control, they may sincerely believe that their physical body is possessed by an outside intelligence. When the subjective mind is operating under the suggestion that it is being controlled by the spirit of a deceased person, it can become marvelously adept at filling in the details of that person’s life on Earth.

For many individuals who hold certain religious views, it is abhorrent for anyone to claim the ability to talk to the dead. At best, in this view, such claimants are frauds and charlatans. At worst, they are committing a grave sin. And if the phenomena of the seance room is really due to as-yet unknown faculties of the human mind, then the sins of mediums are doubled if they claim that manifestations originating in their subconscious come from discarnate entities.

Spiritualists will answer such charges by stating that the more conservative religions promise their congregations a life eternal, but spirit mediums offer tangible proof that the human soul does survive the act of physical death. They will assert that millions of stricken hearts have been healed by the consolation afforded by the conviction that they have truly communicated with the spirits of loved ones who have gone on before. They will argue that the sincere medium is no more a fraud than the sincere pastor, priest, or rabbi. And when parapsychologists claim that the phenomena of the seance room are controlled by the subconscious of the medium, Spiritualists insist that these researchers are basing their conclusions on a hypothesis influenced by mechanistic psychology and a materialistic society.

Parapsychologists counter by stating that the subjective mind of the medium operates under the suggestion that it is being controlled by the spirit of a deceased person. The medium has conditioned his or her subjective mind to that pervading premise by a selective education, environment, and religious beliefs; therefore, any display of paranormal abilities, such as clairvoyance, telepathy, or precognition, will be attributed to the interaction of spirit entities.

(Sources : 100 Most Strangest mysteries by Matt Lamy; and Encyclopedia of Unusual and Unexplained Things)

(Pic source : 100 Most Strangest Mysteries by Matt Lamy page 148)
10:17 | 0 komentar

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill is a 40-metre (130-ft.) high man-made chalk mound near Avebury in the English county of Wiltshire. This is the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe and one of the world's largest. Its purpose however, is still highly debated. Lying low in the Kennet valley in Wiltshire, southern England, the site stands amid the prehistoric sacred landscape surrounding the present day village of Avebury, and contains a complex of Neolithic monuments, including an enormous henge (a roughly circular flat area enclosed by a boundary earthwork), stone circles, stone alignments, and burial chambers. But what was the purpose of such a massive undertaking of organization and manpower? The imposing earthwork structure of Silbury Hill stands at 128 feet high, its flattened top is 98 feet across, and its diameter at the base is 547 feet. The huge 125 foot wide ditch that surrounds Silbury was the source of much material which makes up the mound, an amazing 8,756,880 cubic feet of chalk and soil.

It has been estimated that construction of the monument would have taken the efforts of 1,500 to 2,000 men working for a year, 300 to 400 men working more than five years, or 60 to 80 men working for more than 25 years. In all, an estimated 4 to 6 million man hours, though some have suggested a figure as high as 18 million hours. Because of its dimensions, Silbury has often been compared with the Great Pyramid in Egypt. According to a radiocarbon date recently obtained from an antler pick fragment, Silbury probably achieved its final form between 2490 B.C. and 2340 B.C.

There is at present no consensus of opinion amongst archaeologists as to how many building phases there were at the huge earthwork at Silbury, though we know its builder used tools of stone, bone, wood, and antler in its construction. The late Richard Atkinson who excavated mound in the late 1960’s, hypothesized three separate phases. In the first of Atkinson’s phases (Silbury I), dated to around 2700 B.C., the earthwork consisted of a low gravel-built mound covered in alternating layers of chalk rubble and turf, around 18 feet high and about 115 feet across. Atkinson believed that Silbury II was begun about 200 years later, and consisted of a much larger mound constructed over the top of Silbury I. In this phase, the earthwork had a diameter at its base of about 246 feet, with a height of 66 feet. Silbury III was the hills final form, basically the earthwork we see today. Atkinson thought that the structure of Silbury III had been built up in tiers of chalk, only the upper two of which are now visible on the monument. Each of these horizontal steps was inclined inwards at an angle of 60 degrees, to provide the monument with stability; the tiers were then filled in with soil, probably from the ditch at the base of the mound.

Despite Atkinson’s three-phase theory, the latest evidence from surveys of parts of Silbury has revealed the possibility of there being only one construction phase at the site. Only a complete survey of the whole monument will decide this issue. There have been three main excavations undertaken at Silbury Hill in an attempt to fathom its mystery. The first of these was carried out by the Duke of Northumberland in 1776, who hired a team of Cornish miners to dig down the top of the mound. However, they found nothing of note, and as the workers did not fill in the shaft properly after investigations were finished, their excavation led ultimately to the partial collapse of the summit of the mound in 2000. Antiquarian Dean Mereweather supervised the excavation of a tunnel from the side of the hill to its core in 1849, but this shed little light on the function of Silbury Hill.

Professor Richard Atkinson’s BBC-sponsored excavations of the enigmatic earthwork, which took place from 1968 to 1970, have been the most comprehensive investigations of the site to date. One of the Atkinson’s three trenches followed Mereweather’s tunnel, but there were no sensational find. In fact, precious few artefacts at all, no burials, and no clues to the function of the structure were found. However, from his work at the site, Atkinson was able to arrive at his theory about how the mound had been constructed. Atkinson’s excavations also revealed considerable environmental evidence, including the presence of flying ants in the turf of the building, which has been used to suggest that construction of the earthwork was begun in the month of August, interpreted by some a coinciding with the Celtic Festival of Lughnasadh or Lammas.

Eventhough Silbury was constructed 2,000 years before, there is evidence of Celtic culture in Britain. Although most archaeologists are at loss to explain the function of Silbury Hill, there has been no shortage of theories put forward in the 300 years of investigations at the site. The belief of the 18th and 19th century investigators was that the earthwork represented the burial mound of an ancient British king. IN fact, local folklore suggests that the hill is the resting place of an unknown King Sil (or Zel), or that it contains a life-size statue of Sil sitting on top of a golden horse.

Another legend tells that the Devil was a bout to empty a huge apron full of soil on the nearby town of Marlborough, but was forced to drop it at Silbury by the magic of the priests of nearby Avebury. Though folklore often contains a grain of truth, no human remains have ever been discovered in excavations at the hill, although it has to be admitted that not all of the structure has been investigated. Other theories about the earthwork include that the flattened top of Silbury functioned as a platform for druid sacrifices, or that the structure was a Temple to Mercury, a giant sundial, an astronomical observatory, a symbolic representation of the Mother Goddess, a power source for passing alien spaceships, or a center for meetings and legal proceedings.

In fact, fairs did once take place on the summit of the Silbury Hill, but that was in the 18th century. One feature of the massive earthwork which seems to point to a ritual function is a possible spiral path climbing up the structure. A new theory (evidence for which was revealed by a 3-dimensional seismic survey undertaken in 2001) goes against Richard Atkinson’s hypothesis of construction in flat layers for the mound, suggesting rather that Atkinson’s steps may actually be a spiralling ledge. This spiral may have served the dual purpose of an access route to the summit during construction and a pathway to the top for ritual processions. This idea would also link with the profusion of the spiral motif in Neolithic art, as seen for example at the temple /tomb at Newgrange in Ireland. That the mound had somekind of religious significance is given credence by its setting within the complex of ritual, funerary, and ceremonial monuments in the area around Avebury; which itself lies only 20 miles north of the roughly contemporary monument at Stonehenge.

The huge ditch surrounding Silbury, probably once intentionally filled with water, may be further evidence of a ritual function. In the early summer of 2001, a huge straight-edged 33 foot wide mark in the vegetation was identified, extending towards the ditch of the Silbury mound. The vegetation or crop mark indicates a deep man-made ditch under the soil, possibly – as some archaeologists believe – built to channel water from local springs into the most at Silbury Hill. Ditches around prehistoric sites, such as henges and hillforts, may not have always been dug for practical purposes, but could also have had a less tangible function, such as a barrier to separate the religious from the malign influences.

The site of the Silbury monument is also interesting. When originally built, Silbury Hill would probably have been a brilliant white structure surrounded by a shimmering moat. However, rather than placing such an awe-inspiring structure on a hill where it could be seen for miles around, its builders placed Silbury in a valley, so it barely protrudes above the horizon, and is hardly visible from the most of the surrounding monuments. Perhaps this indicate that the ground on which the structure was erected was as important as the building itself, though its lowland setting does emphasise its huge size. Intrigungly, Silbury Hill seems to have retained its importance as a sacred site long after it was built.

Excavations at the hill have revealed a large amount of Roman finds, including a ritual platform cutting into the mound, more than 100 Roman coins in the surrounding ditch, and many Roman shafts and wells. On the adjacent Waden Hill, a Roman-British settlements has been discovered, which suggests (along with the finds on Silbury Hill itself) that Silbury was still a sacred site in the Roman period. There are fascinating parallels here with Newgrange, which also retained ritual significance into the Roman period. The Religious attraction of Silbury seems to have continued into the medieval period, as is suggested by finds of pottery, iron nails, an iron spearhead, and a coin of King Ethelred II (dating to A.D. 1010) at the site. The iron nails were found inside small holes that had been dug for wooden posts, at first thought to indicate a defensive structure – perhaps a fort on the hill. However, these post holes were located on the inside of the terraces, which would mean that they served as revetment rather than defense. Further work on the hill will surely reveal more evidence of medieval interest in Silbury.

Unfortunately, the recent history of Silbury Hill has been rather worrying. In 2000, the collapse of the 1776 excavations shaft (due to heavy rainfall) produced a substantial hole in the top of the earthwork. The one positive aspect of this disaster was that it enabled the English Heritage Society to undertake a seismic survey of the mound to probe the extent of the damage caused by the collapse. Fortunately, the ensuing repair work led to further archaeological investigations of the earthwork, which revealed the possible spiral staircase mentioned previously, and the first secure radiocarbon date from the site, the Silbury mound has been off limits to the public.

The meaning of the mound may be inextricably linked with the surrounding landscape, and the other neighboring monuments, such as the West Kennet Long Barrow (a rectangular earthen burial mound) and the Avebury Henge and stone alignments.

(Sources : Hidden History by Brian Houghton; and Wikipedia)

(Pic source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SilburyHill_gobeirne.jpg)
15:26 | 3 komentar

Incubus and Succubus

According to ancient tradition, there are two main classifications of demons that sexually molest humans. These two were said to be differing aspects of the same demon. But it was generally held that the incubi was male whilst the other, much more prolific and dangerous succubus, was female. The name succubus probably comes from the Latin succubare, meaning “to lie under” and it is possible that the demon was a variant of the Greek Mormo, who was sometimes considered to be both female and sexually voracious. Succubi appear to men as beautiful, sensual women, tempting and promising, but they also may be vampires thirsting for human blood.

While those males who consort with a succubus often meet an untimely end, on occasion their interaction with the entity brings about a horde of demonic children, who will one day gather at his deathbed and hail him as their father. The incubi were said to seduce unsuspecting women by appearing to them in the guise of their husbands or lovers, and as one might suspect, the incubi played an important role in the history of the Inquisition.

Even pious nuns appeared before the tribunals, attesting to their affliction by persistent incubi that tried to persuade them to break their vows of chastity. Epidemics of demon possession and erotomania swept such convents as Loudon, Louviers, Auxonne, and Aixen-Provence. In his book Eros and Evil, R. E. L. Masters remarked on the scant amount of records from the Inquisition concerning the experiences of men who succumbed to seductive succubi in contrast to the enormous number of recorded instances in which women yielded to the sexual attentions of the incubi. Both demons (or various aspects of the one demon) had sexual intercourse with men and women as they slept. The succubus in particular drew the seed from sleeping men, sexually exhausting them, and might have even done so to do them harm. Although initially a terror in ancient Rome, the succubus was to assume greater attention in the early Christian period right through to the Middle Ages, when the demon was thought to plague monks in order to distract them from their holy vows. Monks often experienced erotic dreams and nocturnal emissions, which were credited to the attentions of the succubus during the night.

In his Compendium Malificarum, written some time in the 16th century, the Milanese monk and demonologist Francesco Maria Guazzo details succubi in his list of demons that torment the righteous. He states that these dreams are in fact real and the experiences of the monks, in the throes of their eroticism, were due to a completely physical manifestation of the demon whose desire was not only to break their vows of chastity but to do them actual harm. Guazzo was following the categories of demons, which had been established by the Byzantine thinker, Michael Psellus the Younger. It is thought that Psellus was born around 1018 in the city of Nicodema (now Izmit on the Gulf of Astacus) and that, as a child, he had been exposed to both Greek and Roman culture. Although more associated with the Platonist school of thought, Psellus did outline certain categories of demons, one of which was “terrors of the night” which included beings that both extracted semen and drank blood. This would undoubtedly prove the inspiration for Guazzo many centuries later.

In April 1533, according to old church records, an incubus became enraged when he discovered his human mistress in the arms of the son of the tavernkeeper at Schilttach, near Freiburg. In his furious state of mind, the incubus not only set the tavern ablaze, but he burned the entire village to the ground. Church authorities dealt with the problem of how a spirit could develop a corporeal body by advancing such theories as these: incubi fashion temporary bodies out of water vapor or gases; they have no actual physical bodies, but they possess the power to create an illusion of corporeality; they inhabit recently deceased corpses and animate them for the purpose of sexual intercourse with the living; they actually have material bodies that they can manipulate into any shape they desire.

Father Montague Summers theorized that such demons as the incubi might be composed of that same substance known as ectoplasm from which the spirits of the dead draw their temporary body during materialization seances with mediums. He reasoned that such psychic drainage could occur if a frustrated young person encouraged the attentions of an evil entity by fantasizing about erotic materials.

(Sources : Encyclopedia of Unusual & Unexplained Things; and Encyclopedia of the Undead by DR. Bob Curran)

(Pic Sources : http://www.pantheon.org/areas/gallery/folklore/folklore/incubus.html)
02:31 | 3 komentar

Da Vinci's Mysterious Robot

Around the year A.D. 1495, Leonardo da Vinci designed (and perhaps even built) a mechanical armored knight, probably the first humanoid robot in history. The machinery inside da Vinci’s robot, a cable-and-pulley-driven artificial man was designed to create the illusion that a real person was inside. This robot could sit up, wave its arms, and move its head while opening and closing an anatomically correct jaw. It may even have emitted sounds to the accompaniment of automated musical instruments, such as drums. The design notes for the robot appear in sketchbooks that were rediscovered in the 1950s. It is not known whether or not an attempt was made to build the device. In fact, there were quite a few inventors in medieval times who built machines similar to this to entertain royalty. Da Vinci’s robot was dressed in a typical, late-15th century German-Italian suits of armor. From da Vinci’s designs, it appears that all the joints moved in unison, powered and controlled by a mechanical, analogue-programable controller located within the chest. The legs were powered separately by an external crank assembly driving the cable, which was connected to important locations in the ankle, knee, and hip.

Model of Leonardo's robot with inner workings

One of the scientist that very interested with da Vinci’s Robot is Mark Elling Rosheim, a roboticist who has produced designs for NASA and Lockheed Martin. He is not simply interested in studying da Vinci, but that he would like to be da Vinci. There are certain parallels. Da Vinci was self-taught and often referred to himself as an omo sanze lettere - a man without letters; Rosheim is a high school dropout. Da Vinci was apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio's workshop at age 15; Rosheim filed for his first patent - for a hydraulically powered servomechanism - at age 18. Da Vinci was determined to understand the architecture of the human body. By the time he was 65, he had dissected the corpses of more than 30 men and women of all ages. Rosheim is a student of kinesiology who has paid particular attention to the human wrist. In a basement workshop, he create a prototype of his Omniwrist, a joint that can move in any direction across a full hemisphere, without gears.

In the early 1990s, Rosheim’s twin passions of da Vinci and robotics fatefully converged. After an Italian scholar showed Rosheim some recently recovered da Vinci drawings, Rosheim took a fresh look at what had been dubbed "Leonardo's automobile," a wooden three-wheeled cart. Da Vinci enthusiasts have reconstructed the automobile several times during the past century, but it's never worked. The device seemed destined to join the ranks of da Vinci's grandiose but flawed inventions - what one scholar called his "impossible machines." To Rosheim, the machine was hardly impossible. Immersing himself in the minutiae of each sketch, gleaning inspiration from inventions that came later, he concluded that the device was not simply a spring-powered cart - as novel as that might be for 1478 - but something more radically innovative. Da Vinci's automobile, Rosheim maintains, is actually a robot with its own set of programmable instructions. This "precursor to mobile robots," Rosheim suggests, might even be "the first record of a programmable analog computer in the history of civilization."

The notion that da Vinci was some sort of proto-computer geek is not as far-fetched as it sounds. In a 1996 article in the journal Achademia Leonardi Vinci, Rosheim offered compelling historical and mechanical evidence that da Vinci had designed - and perhaps built - automata. Rosheim pointed to da Vinci's so-called Robot Knight, a cable-and-pulley-driven artificial man, which had been thought to be a simple suit of arms. Citing drawings discovered decades earlier by Italian scholar Carlo Pedretti, Rosheim explained how the figure "sat up, waved its arms, moved its head via a flexible neck, and opened and closed its anatomically correct jaw - possibly emitting sound while accompanied by automated musical instruments such as drums."

The robot, the theory goes, may have been commissioned by the Sforza rulers as court entertainment or an exhibit in a kind of mechanical sculpture garden. A finished drawing of the knight has never been recovered, but Rosheim, armed with mechanical aptitude and a strong knowledge of the history of robotics, was able to extrapolate its use from a patchwork of drawings. Paolo Galluzzi, director of Florence's Institute and Museum of the History of Science, described Rosheim's robot thesis as "absolutely convincing." Galluzzi included the knight in an exhibition and commissioned Rosheim to create a computer model.

In 2002, Rosheim was invited by the BBC to build a prototype. His model was able to walk and wave - proving Rosheim's theory once and for all. Vindicated, Rosheim revisited other da Vinci machines. His searching led to a 1975 article written by Pedretti, the same scholar who had done pivotal research on the knight. The article presented Pedretti's analysis of a new sheet of drawings discovered in a collection at Florence's Uffizi. They were sketched by an anonymous 16th-century draftsman but included copies of da Vinci's technological studies. Pedretti focused on one sketch that clearly outlined the function of the arbalest-like springs in the depiction of da Vinci's baffling three-wheeled cart. They were, he realized, not for power, as earlier scholars had thought, but for steering.

Like an escapement mechanism for clocks, the springs retained movement but didn't generate it. He concluded that the movement must come from somewhere else. So Pedretti looked back at da Vinci's original drawing and noticed a faint circle in the center of one of the car's toothed gears. The little circle, he believed, was almost a suggestion to look for something transparent, something beneath the cart. Perhaps there were larger coil springs, hidden inside the tambours, that would drive the cart. The sketch of the cart is not particularly impressive to look at. On the top of the page is a crudely drawn wagon with some sort of gear mechanism.

The bulk of the page is dominated by a closer view of that mechanism, which combines a crossbow-like arbalest with the grooved gears and verge-and-foliot apparatus found in medieval clocks. On the periphery of the page, as on many Codex pages, there are details of component parts. Though Pedretti had uncovered fragments of robot designs in da Vinci's sketchbooks, he couldn't figure out how they fit together. Rosheim, who had started corresponding with Pedretti after meeting him in 1993, began developing a CAD reconstruction and faxing documents to Pedretti at night. It was like a fill-in-the-blanks puzzle. "There's nothing saying, This is an automaton," Rosheim recalls, explaining how he contrived a robot. "I'm working with napkin sketches. It's very fragmentary stuff - otherwise it would have been done centuries ago."

To divine what the artist envisioned for the cart's undercarriage, Rosheim tried to internalize the da Vinci method, studying myriad other drawings "to load it up into my subconscious" and inventing "an internal calculus to try and figure out everything." One of the biggest breakthroughs, strangely enough, came not from da Vinci's own work but from a drawing Rosheim had of a karakuri, an 18th-century Japanese tea-carrying automaton (often resembling a geisha) - the Sony Qrio of shogunate Japan. The movement of the karakuri was determined by the placement of cams, small appendages on a wheel or shaft that engage a lever and convert rotary power to linear power. (Cams are still found in today's car engines.)

Karakuri Illustration (18th Century Japanese Tea-Carrier)

Looking at the karakuri, Rosheim thought that da Vinci's cart might contain a similar arrangement. Sure enough, he found small camlike protrusions attached to one of the toothed wheels in da Vinci's drawing. The karakuri seemed to provide the missing link to understanding the cart's undercarriage - a perspective not shown in the sketches. Rosheim's epiphany answered questions he'd been unable to resolve: How did the escapement work? How did you regulate the speed - in other words, the clock of the computer? How did that connect to the rest of the drivetrain? Once you understand the cams, the faint circles underneath the middle of the frame of the perspective view suddenly make sense, he says. "Obviously, they connect to one of those levers that's cam-controlled."

Robot Knight cable studies.
(One of the da Vinci's Original Sketch Pages)

The inspiration may have come from 18th-century Japan, but Rosheim says his ideas - unlike previous reconstructions - mesh perfectly with da Vinci's original design. So here you had a small, front-wheel-drive cart no more than 20 inches square - many Codex illustrations are one-to-one scale fabrication drawings - that could, on the basis of spring-loaded power, be triggered via remote control and run a specific course, turning in a programmed direction at a certain point and perhaps even executing a "special effect" or two. What on earth was it for? If Rosheim was able to supply the how of da Vinci's robot cart, Pedretti could offer a why: court entertainment. Da Vinci, he says, would have been 26 when he built the cart.

Three-quarter views Programmable Automaton

It was 1478, and Florence was especially volatile: The Pazzis were conspiring against the reigning Medici family (da Vinci sketched the hanged Bernardo Bandini, who murdered Giuliano de Medici during the plot). The historical record offers no mention of da Vinci having built a cart. Pedretti, however, unearthed a potential clue. "I found a fantastic document, date 1600," Pedretti says. "It's a description of a banquet held in Paris to honor the new queen of France, who was a Medici. On that occasion, Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger observed the presentation of a mechanical lion. It walked, opened its chest, and in place of a heart it had fleurs-de-lis." Pedretti pauses, gathering more papers. "This document, which was totally unknown, says this was a concept similar to one that Leonardo carried out in Lyons on the occasion of Francis I."

It appears da Vinci had engaged in high tech diplomacy circa 1515. The cart, suggests Pedretti, may have been an early study in an emerging da Vinci sideline. Leonardo, he believes, created animated spectacles centuries before the great age of the European automata of Jacques de Vaucansan and Wolfgang von Kempelen. "The irony of the whole thing is that there is not a single hint in Leonardo's manuscripts of this greatest technological invention," Pedretti says. "Imagine to have a lion walk and stand on its legs and open up its chest - this is top technology!" What happened to those pages of drawings that would have revealed the inner workings of these wondrous devices? Perhaps they lie misfiled in some lost archive; perhaps they were destroyed by some church authority in the manner of Albertus Magnus's mechanical woman, smashed by Thomas Aquinas as a work of the devil.

Half a millennium on, the cart could, says Rosheim, not only rewrite the history of robotics but also bring another da Vinci to light: da Vinci the roboticist. "If it was simply a spring-powered cart, it would not be that big a deal," he says. "What's significant is that you can replace or change these cams and alter how it goes about its path - in other words, it's programmable in an analog, mechanical sense. It's the Disney animatronics of its day." The individual parts, interestingly, are not original to da Vinci - gears, cams, and the verge-and-foliot mechanism were all familiar concepts, particularly to clockmaking, the nanotech of da Vinci's day.

Indeed, as the historian Otto Mayr has noted, "clocks and automata, in short, tended to be very much the same thing"; clocks, in 16th-century dictionaries, were considered just one type of automata. But the possibility is that da Vinci married two ideas and created, in essence, a clock on wheels - turning the segmenting of time into the traversing of space - well before anyone else had thought of such a thing. No one could have done it as elegantly, in so compact a package, says Rosheim. "The robot cart is one of the most significant missing links in studying Leonardo. Suddenly, many drawings are making sense."

After weeks of peering at the faded filigree of ancient manuscripts, it’s strange to see da Vinci's drawings in three dimensions. The models look at once primitive and complex, like out-of-time machines, steampunk for the Middle Ages. Rosheim had only one comment on the reconstruction: "They apparently didn't figure out how the escapement mechanism works, because theirs just kind of runs really fast and then runs out of steam." The model, along with another "top secret" reconstruction, will accompany Rosheim’s book, Leonardo's Lost Robots. His model backs up the theory of his original drawing. He said, "As you see in Codex Atlanticus folio 812, Leonardo has one half of the right large gear with cams and the other half with none. This generates a left-right zigzag motion."

In 2005, the Biochemical Engineering Faculty at the University of Connecticut began a recreation of the basic structure of da Vinci’s original robot. Their design will incorporate 21st century technology including vision, speech recognition, and voice command, computer-integrated movements, and a more advanced body structure. The robot will also possess a mobile neck and have the capacity to follow moving objects with its eyes. The recreation will operate in two modes, one which will respond to computer commands and the other to spoken commands. Da Vinci’s original pulleys and gears will be utilized in conjunction with muscle models to imitate natural human movements.

Leonardo's programmable automaton is the first record of a programmable analog computer in the history of civilization. Leonardo's first design effort in planning automata culminating in his fabulous robot knight, of about 1495, a practical demonstration piece based on his pioneering study of biomechanics. Leonardo's sophisticated use of mechanisms at a very early age further highlights his talent. The correct reconstruction of this work will continue to demand expert knowledge in several and widely diverse fields.

For further informations please visit this site

(Sources : Hidden History by Brian Haughton; Wikipedia; http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.11/davinci.html?pg=1&topic=davinci&topic_set=; http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.11/davinci.html?pg=2&topic=davinci&topic_set=; http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.11/davinci.html?pg=3&topic=davinci&topic_set=)

(Pics sources :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leonardo_self.jpg;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leonardo-Robot3.jpg;
http://www.anthrobot.com/press_images/figure02.jpg;
http://www.anthrobot.com/press_images/figure42.jpg;
http://www.anthrobot.com/press_images/figure38.jpg)
05:30 | 7 komentar

Voodoo Mystery

Voodoo is a mysterious, evil religion, stemming from darkest Africa. Many people believe it has been used to bring about the early deaths of unwelcome researchers and to resurrect the zombified bodies of dead believers. Voodoo, also known as Vodun, Vodoun, Voudou or Sevi Lua, originated in the west African countries of Nigeria, Benin and Togo. ‘Voodoo’ is an ancient African word for ‘Great Spirit’, and the religion itself is believed to stretch back many millennia. The first the developed world knew of it was when slave traders started capturing African workers in the sixteenth century, and deporting them to the West Indies. On arriving in the islands, the slaves were forcibly invested in the Catholic faith, but as there were few facilities for them to actually practise this new religion, many slipped back into their native traditions.

The connotations of evil and fear that are associated with vodun originated primarily from the white plantation owners’ obsession with the threat of slave revolts, for they and their overseers were outnumbered 16 to 1 by the field hands whom they worked unmercifully in the broiling Haitian sun. As the black population increased and the white demand for slave labor remained unceasing, vodun began to take on an anti-white liturgy. Several “messiahs” emerged among the slaves, who were subsequently put to death by the whites in the “big houses.”

A number of laws began to be passed forbidding any plantation owner to allow “night dances” among his Negroes. In 1791, a slave revolt took place under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743–1803) which was to lead to Haiti’s independence from France in 1804. Although L’Ouverture died in a Napoleonic prison, his generals had become sufficiently inspired by his example to continue the struggle for freedom until the myth of white supremacy was banished from the island. After the Concordat of 1860, when relations were once again reestablished with France, the priests who came to Haiti found the vestiges of Catholicism kept alive in vodun. The clergy fulminated against vodun from the pulpits but did not actively campaign against their rival priesthood until 1896 when an impatient monseigneur tried to organize an anti-vodun league without success.

It wasn’t until 1940 that the Catholic Church launched a violent campaign of renunciation directed at the adherents of vodun. The priests went about their methodic attack with such zeal that the government was forced to intercede and command them to temper the fires of their campaign. Today there are more than 60 million people who practice vodun worldwide, largely where Haitian emigrants have settled in Benin, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Togo, various cities in the United States, and, of course, in Haiti. In South America, there are many religions similar to vodun, such as Umbanda, Quimbanda, or Candomble. A male priest of vodun is called a houngan or hungan; his female counterpart, a mambo. The place where one practices vodun is a series of buildings called a humfort or hounfou.

A “congregation” is called a hunsi or hounsis, and the hungan cures, divines, and cares for them through the good graces of a loa, his guiding spirit. Their religion was founded on the idea of one supreme God – an unknowable but almighty force. Under Him there lies a network of ‘Loa’ or spirits, which are broadly equivalent to the Christian idea of patron saints. Each Loa represents a different area of life and has certain qualities. For example, if a farmer was worried about his crops he would focus his worship on the Loa known as ‘Zaka’, the spirit of agriculture. Despite the similarity between these African faiths, and their own, the French and Spanish conquerors refused to accept that these enslaved savages could have their own indigenous religion. Fearing that they were actually worshipping the devil, Voodoo was banned, and slave leaders and priests were beaten into confessing that their rituals were evil.

However, the Voodoo faith was continued in secret, particularly in Haiti. Over time it even adopted some aspects of the Catholic religion, as descendants of the original slaves spread throughout across the Caribbean. The belief of West Indian workers mixed with Voodoo practices of slaves taken to the American southlands and a centre for the faith was soon created in New Orleans with its fertile blend of French, Spanish and African cultures. Today, 15% of New Orleans citizens, and 60 million people worldwide, practise Voodoo.

In 1996 it was also made the official faith of Benin. Despite this official recognition, there is still a great deal of mystery and fear attached to Voodoo rituals. At the centre of the temple there is a post used to contact spirits, and a highly decorated altar. There is a feast before the ceremony, and a particular pattern relating to the Loa being worshipped is outlined on the temple floor. Dancing and chanting accompanied by beats from rattles and religious drums called Tamboulas begins. One of the dancers is said to be possessed by the Loa, enters a trance and behaves just as the Loa would. An animal, normally a chicken, goat, sheep or dog, is sacrificed and their blood is collected. This is used to sate the hunger of the Loa.

There is also the matter of the voodoo doll and voodoo curses. Anthropologist Walter Cannon spent several years collecting examples of “voodoo death,” instances in which men and women died as a result of being the recipient of a curse, an alleged supernatural visitation, or the breaking of some tribal or cultural taboo. The question that Cannon sought to answer was, “How can an ominous and persistent state of fear end the life of a human?” Fear, one of the most powerful and deeprooted of the emotions, has its effects mediated through the nervous system and the endocrine apparatus, the “sympathetic-adrenal system.” Cannon has hypothesized that, “if these powerful emotions prevail and the bodily forces are fully mobilized for action, and if this state of extreme perturbation continues for an uncontrolled possession of the organism for a considerable period . . . dire results may ensue.” Cannon has suggested, then, that “vodun death” may result from a state of shock due to a persistent and continuous outpouring of adrenalin and a depletion of the adrenal corticosteroid hormones. Such a constant agitation caused by an abiding sense of fear could consequently induce a fatal reduction in blood pressure. Cannon assessed voodoo death as a real phenomenon set in motion by “shocking emotional stress to obvious or repressed terror.”

Voodoo black magic is performed by Caplatas or Bokors who place curses, and stick pins in Voodoo dolls to cause people pain and suffering. However, this use of Voodoo is very rare, and the faith is promoted by its followers as being a wonderful way to understand the human condition and the world around us.

Even though some of the practices seem a little strange, are they really much different from evangelist rituals or even archaic Catholic rites? However, those who practise Voodoo say these rumours and myths have been borne out of ignorance and misplaced fear. Voodoo, they say, is actually a peaceful religion very similar in emphasis to the Catholic faith. They say it should cause no feeling of trepidation in anybody. As with many of Humanity’s mysteries, a little tolerance and understanding goes a long way to revealing the truth.

(Sources : Encyclopedia of Unusual and Unexplained Things; 100 Most Strangest Mysteries by Matt Lamy)
(Pic sources : Pic 1 (Doll used in the African/West Indian practice of voodoo) taken from 100 Most Strangest Mysteries page 200)
08:06 | 4 komentar

Talos The Giant Bronze Man Of Crete

Tálos (Greek Τάλως; Latin Talus) or Tálon (Greek Τάλων), in the Cretan tales incorporated into Greek mythology, was a giant man of bronze who protected Europa in Crete, circling the island's shores three times daily while guarding it. The ideas of Talos vary widely, with one consistent detail: in Greek imagery outside Crete, Talos is always being vanquished: he seems to have been an enigmatic figure to the Greeks themselves. Originally, Talos was a figure of Cretan legend, though there are many diverse myths to account for his origins. After Zeus kidnapped Europa and took her to Crete, he gave her three presents to demonstrate his love, one of which was the giant bronze automaton Talos. In another version of the tale, the giant was forged by Hephaestus and the Cyclopes and given to Minos, king of Crete. According to yet another myth, Talos was the son of Cris and father of Phaestos, or he was Minos’s brother. Others have said that he was in fact a bull, probably identical to the Cretan Minotaur in the Labyrinth.

According to the ancient writer Apollodorus of Rhodes’s Argonautica he may have been the last of a generation of men of bronze, originally sprung from the ash trees and who survived to the age of the demigods. Talos, or Talus, in the ancient Cretan dialect means “sun”, and in Crete the god Zeus was also given the same name, Zeus Tallaios. Talos was the guardian of the island of Crete, and made a circuit of the island’s coast three times daily, to prevent an enemy invasion, and also to stop the inhabitants from leaving without Minos’s permission. He also travelled thrice yearly to the village of Crete, carrying with him bronze tablets on which were described Minos’s sacred laws, and was responsible for these laws being obeyed in the country.

Talos was said to hurl enormous boulders and other debris at approaching enemy vessels so that they would not land on the island. If the enemy got through this initial bombardment, the bronze giant would leap into a fire until he glow red-hot, and would then clasp the strangers in his burning embrace as they landed in the island. It was also said that Talos was once in the possession of the Sardinians, and that when they refused to hand over the brazen man to Minos, Talos leapt into a fire, clasping them to his breast and killing them with their mouths open. From this incident, apparently comes the expression “sardonic laugh”, which is applied to those who laugh at their own or other’s troubles.

Jason and the Argonauts encountered Talos as they approached Crete on their way home from obtaining the Golden Fleece. The giant kept their boat, the Argo, at bay by hurling great boulders towards it, which he had broken off from the cliffs. Medea, the witch accompanying Jason, helped them escape Talos’s destructive blows by using her magic. It is recorded that Talos had a single red vein covered by a thin skin running from his neck to his heel, bound shut by a bronze nail. This nail sealed in the divine ichor (an oily substance often referred to as the blood of the gods), which enabled his metal limbs to move. This was the one vulnerable spot on his body.

In the Argonautica, Medea bewitched the giant with a hostile gaze and invoke Keres (spirits of death) with songs and prayers. As Talos was attempting to hurl boulders to repel these wailing spirits, he accidentally grazed his ankle on a sharp stone at a spot where his vulnerable vein lay concealed. He collapsed to the ground with a great crash, causing the divine ichor to gush out like molten lead. In another version, Medea enchanted the bronze man and deceived him into thinking that she would give him a secret potion to make him immortal if he would let her stop on the island. Talos agreed and drank the potion, which immediately put him to sleep. Medea went to him in his sleep and pulled the plug from his ankle, whereupon he died.

Winged Talos armed with a stone. Silver Coin from Phaistos, Crete (ca. 300/280-270 B.C.)

Others believed that the Argonaut Poeas (father of Philoctetes, who was to fight in the Trojan War) pierced the giant’s vein with an arrow. After Talos’s death, the Argo was able to land safely on Crete. Coins depicting Talos, dating from the fourth to the third centuries B.C. have been found in the Cretan city of Phaistos. A late fifth-century A.D. red-figure krater (vase) shows the Dioskouroi (hero-gods Castor and Polydeukes) catching the dying Talos, as Medea, in Oriental dress, stands at the side in front of the Argo, holding an embroidered sack (presumably containing her magic potions and drugs).

There are various ways to interpret the myth of the giant bronze man of Crete. The story certainly has overtones of the very similar fate of Achilles during the Trojan War, and perhaps they had the same source. A political interpretation would suggest that Talos represented the Minoan fleet armed with metal weapons. When the mainland Greeks from the Argo defeated Talos, the power of Crete vanished and the control of the Greek world was transferred to the mainland. Or perhaps the harbors of Crete were infested with pirates and Talos represented the Minoan guard against pirates in the form of three watches which sent out patrols.

The poet Robert Graves has suggested that Talos’s single vein belongs to the mystery of early bronze casting by the “cire-perdue” (lost wax) method, which involves the sculptor producing a model in clay that is then coated with wax. This model is then covered with a perforated clay mold. When heated, the mold will lose the wax (hence the name of the method) as it runs out of the holes in the plaster. The metal in liquid form is then poured into the space formerly occupied by the wax.

A religious/ritual interpretation has been suggested by the discovery of Minoan seal stones dating from 1500 B.C., showing a goddess or priestess paddling a boat to seaside shrines, indicating a similar divine circumnavigation of the island to that of the bronze giant. As Talos is the Cretan word for the sun, Robert Graves has suggested that he would, as the sun, have circled Crete originally only once a day. And because Talos, a bronze image of the sun, was also called Taurus (a bull) and the Cretan year was divided into three seasons, his thrice-yearly visit to the villages could have been a royal progress of the Sun King, wearing his ritual bull mask. Another theory is that Talos represents the first fully operational robot in history.

It has been calculated that if Talos could circuit Crete three times a day, it would mean that he had an average speed of 155 miles per hour. Proponents of this view point out that when the giant was wounded in the ankle, what poured out seems similar to molten lead. In general, the Greeks were fascinated with automata of all kinds, often using them in theatre productions and religious ceremonies. There is some history of ancient robotics, albeit in primitive form.

In 350 B.C. the brilliant Greek mathematician Archytas built a mechanical bird, dubbed The Pigeon, that was propelled by steam. It was one of histories earliest studies of flight, as well as possibly the first model airplane. In 322 B.C. the Greek philosopher Aristotle, perhaps foreseeing the development of robots, wrote “If every tool, when ordered, or even of its own accord, could do the work that befits it…then there would be no need either of apprentices for the master workers or of slaves for the lords. “In the late third century B.C. the Greek inventor and physicist Ctesibius of Alexandria designed water clocks with movable figures on them, which kept more accurate time than any clock invented until the 17th century.

Even though Talos was probably a figure of myth, the giant bronze man of Crete was perhaps the prototype of all modern robots.

(Sources : Hidden History by Brian Haughton; and Wikipedia)
(Pics sources :
http://bama.ua.edu/~ksummers/projects/jason/talos.jpg;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Didrachm_Phaistos_obverse_CdM.jpg)
16:37 | 3 komentar

Shergar's Mysterious Disappearance

The kidnapping of champion racehorse Shergar remains one of Britain’s most baffling whodunnits. For two decades, the disappearance of the celebrated Derby winner has been shrouded in a fog of mystery and conspiracy theories. Shergar (born 1978. Sire: Great Nephew, Dam: Sharmeen) was an acclaimed racehorse, and winner of the 1981 Epsom Derby by a record 10 lengths, the longest winning margin in the race's 226-year history. This victory earned him a spot in The Observer newspaper's 100 Most Memorable Sporting Moments of the Twentieth Century. A bay colt with a distinctive white blaze, Shergar was named European Horse of the Year in 1981. Bred by his owner Prince Karim Aga Khan IV in County Kildare, close to the stud from which he was kidnapped, Shergar began training with Michael Stoute at Newmarket. His debut race in 1981 was the Guardian Classic Trial at Sandown Park. Racing correspondent Richard Baerlein, after watching the colt win by 10 lengths famously advised race-goers that "at 8-1, Shergar for the Derby, now is the time to bet like men".

After winning the Chester Vase by 12 lengths, Shergar started odds-on favourite at Epsom, ridden by 19-year-old jockey Walter Swinburn, also entering his first Derby. Swinburn recalled that early in the race Shergar "found his own pace and lobbed along as the leaders went off at a million miles an hour, with me just putting my hands down on his withers and letting him travel at his own speed". Shergar pulled to the front early and went further clear, so far that John Matthias on the runner-up Glint Of Gold thought he had won: "I told myself I'd achieved my life's ambition. Only then did I discover there was another horse on the horizon."



Shergar being ridden by Walter Swinburn

Shergar's next race was the Irish Derby Stakes, ridden by Lester Piggott. The apparent ease with which Shergar passed the rest of the runners, winning by 4 lengths, caused commentator Peter O'Sullevan to exclaim: "He's only in an exercise canter!" The horse became a national hero in Ireland.

Seeking to exploit Shergar's value at its peak, the Aga Khan sold 34 shares in the horse for £250,000 each, keeping six for himself, producing a valuation of £10 million, then a record for a stallion standing at stud in Europe. Among the buyers were bloodstock millionaire John Magnier and Shergar's vet Stan Cosgrove.

The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot was also won by 4 lengths. After that came his only failure as a three year old when for some reason he didn't run anywhere near his best and could only manage fourth place in the St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster. Swinburn was sending out distress signals with two furlongs to go, and Shergar finished behind Cut Above, a horse he had beaten comprehensively in the Irish Derby. Lester Piggott's view is that "he must have been over the top by then" but, whatever the explanation, Shergar's racing career was over. His six wins had won £436,000 in prize money.

On February 8, 1983, armed men burst into Shergar’s stable in Ballymany, County Kildare, and forced head groom Jim Fitzgerald to load the horse onto a vehicle, which was then towed away. Shergar was never seen again. Days later, Fitzgerald received an anonymous ransom demand of £2 million for the safe return of the champion wonder horse. What happened next set the tone for a police operation that has been called “a caricature of police bungling”. Fitzgerald called the stud farm manager, who called Shergar’s vet, Cosgrove. The vet then called a racing associate, Sean Berry, who in turn called Alan Dukes, the Irish Finance Minister. Not until eight hours had elapsed did anyone call the Gardaí.

Their immediate investigation was not helped by a smart piece of planning by the gang, which had selected the same day as the biggest horse sales in the country, when horseboxes had passed along every road in Ireland. Leading the investigation into the kidnapping was trilby-wearing Chief Superintendent Jim "Spud" Murphy, who became a media hero. His detection techniques were unconventional and a variety of clairvoyants, psychics and diviners were called in to help. During one interview Mr Murphy told reporters: “A clue... that is what we haven’t got.”


Despite numerous reported sightings and rumours of secret negotiations in the days following the kidnap there was little new information and a news hungry press pack began to focus their attention on Mr Murphy. During one press conference six photographers turned up wearing trilbies, identical to the police chief, after which Mr Murphy was given a much lower public profile.

While the police searched every farm, stable and outhouse in the Irish Republic, the gang members set about seeking a ransom. Initially, they requested negotiations with three racing journalists, including Derek Thompson. He was dispatched to negotiate in the full glare of the media circus that descended on Ireland. The day after the kidnap, he took a call at 1.15am from someone claiming to be a kidnapper. He expected it to be traced, but was later told it had not been. "The man who does the tracing goes off duty at midnight," the police told him.

Away from the TV cameras, the real kidnappers had got in touch with the Aga Khan's Paris office. But Shergar’s primary owner, the Aga Khan, refused to give in for fear of setting a precedent in the sport. Shergar’s vet, Stan Cosgrove, believes the kidnappers made the mistake of thinking that the Aga Khan was the sole owner of the horse and would be only too willing to part with his millions. In fact, Shergar was owned by thirty-four separate individuals in a syndicate, most of whom had no intention of paying up. Cosgrove was deputed to collect the evidence, which was to be left at a hotel reception. Unfortunately, a conspicuous Special Branch presence warned off the gang. The furious kidnappers made a further call threatening to kill the horse and the Aga Khan's negotiators.

Eventually, however, a photograph of the horse's face next to a newspaper was sent to the police, but the owners were still not satisfied. What the gang did not know was that the syndicate had no intention of paying because they wanted to deter future kidnappings. Syndicate member Sir Jake Astor explained: "We were going to negotiate, but we were not going to pay." Had they paid the money for Shergar's release, they reasoned, every racehorse in the world would have become a target for kidnappers.

Four days after the abduction, the kidnappers made their last call. A former gunman with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) recently confessed that the IRA was behind the bungled kidnapping, but the group has never accepted responsibility for the crime. Even so, Shergar was taken at the height of the IRA’s military campaign against the British, and at a time when it was desperate for funds to buy weapons. Given its plight at the time, a theft of such magnitude seems far from implausible.

Over the last twenty years there have been numerous reported sightings of Shergar, but none have proved conclusive. Some claim to have seen him racing in Libya, others believe that gunrunners took him to Marseille. Conspiracy theories abound, too, concerning Mafia involvement. Shergar’s kidnapping remains one of the greatest mysteries of the 1980s. To this day, no body has been found. The case remains open.

(Sources : Conspiracy Theories by Kate Tuckett; and Wikipedia)
(Pics sources :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shergarface.jpg;
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/00439/news-graphics-008-_439490a.jpg)
15:33 | 2 komentar

The Great Ancient City of Knossos

Knossos was the most important town in Crete in prehistoric times. Homer speaks of the existence of one hundred cities in Crete at the time of the Trojan War and mentions Knossos first, then Gortyn, Miletos, Phaistos and others. He describes Knossos as “vast” and “a great city”. Knossos is situated on a hill 3.1 miles southeast of the city of Heraklion, the modern capital of the Aegean island of Crete. Knossos was constructed by the Bronze Age Minoan civilization, named for the legendary King Minos of Crete. The Minoan culture existed on the island for around 1500 years, from 2600 to 1100 B.C., and was at its height from 18th to 16th centuries B.C. The main feature of the extraordinary site at Knossos is the Great Palace, a huge complex of rooms, halls, and courtyards covering approximately 205,278 square feet. The Palace of Knossos is closely associated in Greek myth with Theseus, Ariadne, and the dreaded Minotaur. But how was this magnificent civilization destroyed? The destruction is apparent but its cause is not.

Greek mythology immortalized Crete and Knossos with its legends. According to the Greeks, Mount Ida which is on Crete was the location where Rhea, the Earth Mother, gave birth to Zeus. He was fed by nature a diet of honey and goat’s milk, was tended by a group of nymphs, and was guarded by an army of youths against his father, Cronis, whose reign was threatened by Zeus’s existence. Zeus fathered a son, Minos, who became the King of Knossos, Crete, and the rest of Aegean. King Minos built his palace in the city of Knossos, and had a son, Androgeus. Androgeus, according to the myth, was a strong, athletic youth. He was sent to represent Crete in the Athenian games and was successful in winning many events.


Theseus fighting the Minotaur, as illustrated on an Attic black-figure vase in Palace of Knossos

The King of Athens murdered Androgeus out of jealousy. When Minos heard about the death of his son, he was enraged and he deployed the mighty Cretan fleet. The fleet took Athens and instead of destroying the city, Minos decreed that every nine years Athens was obligated to send seven young men and seven virgin women. King Minos threw them into a labyrinth where they were sacrificed to his fierce, bovine monster, the Minotaur.

Theseus, the Athenian King’s son, volunteered to be one of the seven sacrificial young men with the intention of killing the Minotaur and end the suffering of Athens. If he succeeded in his mission, he told his father that he would raise white sails instead of the black sails.

Theseus arrived at the palace of the Cretan King, and with the help of Minos’s daughter, Ariadne, who fell in love with Theseus, he was able to kill the Minotaur. In returning home, Theseus, in his excitement, forgot to change the sails on the ship from black to white. The King of Athens saw the black sails. Thinking that his son’s plan failed and that Theseus was dead, the king flung himself into the sea and died.

The major excavations conducted in Crete since the end of the 19th century have brought to light the remains of a great civilizations, the first advanced civilizations in Europe. The ruins at Knossos were discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos, a Cretan merchant and antiquarian. He conducted the first excavations at Kephala Hill. After Kalokairinos, several people attempted to continue the excavations, an archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered Troy, was fully intending to excavate Knossos until his death. But it was not until March 16, 1900 when another archaeologist, Arthur Evans was able to purchase the entire site and conduct massive excavations. The excavation and restoration of Knossos, is inseparable from the individual Evans.

Sir Arthur John Evans, the English archaeologist who excavated the Palace of Knossos

Arthur Evans, the English excavator of Knossos, named it the Minoan Civilization after the legendary Minos. The centre of the Minoan civilization was Knossos, where excavations have revealed the actual palace of King Minos with its well-stocked magazines, royal apartments, shrines, the large central court and the throne room, in which the throne of Minos was discovered, the oldest throne in Europe. The palace is about 130 meters on a side and since the Roman period has been suggested as the source of the myth of the Labyrinth, an elaborate mazelike structure constructed for King Minos of Crete and designed by the legendary artificer Daedalus to hold the Minotaur, a creature that was half man and half bull and was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus.

The location of the labyrinth of legend has long been a question for Minoan studies. It might have been the name of the palace or of some portion of the palace. It is possible that the palace was a great sacrificial center and could have been named the Labyrinth. Its layout certainly is labyrinthine, in the sense of intricate and confusing. Many other possibilities have been suggested. The modern meaning of labyrinth as a twisting maze is based on the myth. Several out-of-epoch advances in the construction of the palace is thought to have originated the myth of Atlantis.

The famous gypsum throne, found by Evans in situ in the Throne Room of the Palace of Knossos, is probably the oldest known throne in Europe

There are even dark hints in archaeological findings at Knossos (and elsewhere on Crete) of the practice of human sacrifice, as is suggested by the myth of Athens sending 14 girls and boys every seven years to be devoured by the Minotaur. The work of Evans and his team at Knossos revealed (among other things) the main palace, a large area of the Minoan city, and various cemeteries. Evans carried out much restoration work at the Palace of Minos, as he called it, much of it controversial, and the palace in its present form has been said by some archaeologist to be as much due to Evan’s imagination and pre-conceptions as to the ancient Minoans.

Since Evan’s time, further excavations at Knossos have been undertaken by the British School of Archaeology at Athens and the Archaeological Service of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. The hilltop on which Knossos is situated has an extremely long history of human habitation. People were living there from Neolithic times (7000 B.C. – 3000 B.C.) continually up until the Roman period. Evans believed that Knossos was destroyed by a powerful seismic event. Between 1700 B.C. and 1450 B.C., Minoan civilization was at its peak, with the city of Knossos and the surrounding settlement having a population of perhaps as many as 100,000. During this period the Minoan centers survived two major earthquakes, the most serious of which probably occurred in the mid-17th century B.C. (though some researchers date it to as late as 1450 B.C.), and was caused by a massive volcanic eruption on the Cycladic island of Thera (modern Santorini) 62 miles away from Crete. The explosion from this eruption was even greater than the atomic blast at Hiroshima, and blasted the island of Thera into three separate parts. Finally, in the mid-15th century B.C., due to a combination of the accumulative effects of earthquake damage, periodic invasions from the Greek mainland, and the collapse of their trade networks, the Minoan civilization began to decline. However, most experts have since decided that Crete was invaded and destroyed. The debate continued as to which group of people was responsible for the massive destruction. Many experts believe that is was either the Dorians, the Achaens, or the Mycenaeans.

Magazine 4 with giant pithoi. The compartments in the floor were for grain and produce.

When Evans began digging in 1900, the remains of the walls lay close to the surface. After a few weeks, Evans discovered the remains of buildings spanning over an area of 8,480 square feet. The remains of the palace itself covered five and a half acres. The palace was originally built in 2000 BC. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1700 BC after a massive earthquake and again rebuilt and modified in 1500 BC after a devastating fire. At its most modern, the palace provided drainage sumps, luxurious bathrooms, ventilation systems, ground-water conduits and waste chutes. Evans unearthed other wonders of Knossos as well.

Thousands of artifacts found helped identify the various rooms and their functions. Kitchens, residences, storerooms, bathrooms, workshops, and ceremonial rooms were discovered. The artifacts included pottery, stone and metal work and other lovely, colorful works of art, revealing the level of artistry the Minoan people possessed. In one of the old storerooms that Evans discovered in the palace at Knossos, stood rows of huge, vase-like jars that once contained oil. The oil vessels were ornamented in rich, elegant detail. Evans measured the volume of each of the containers and calculated that the inventory of the storeroom contained around 19,000 gallons of oil. Some pottery had a foreign origin, particularly Egyptian.

The Egyptian pottery were from particular periods in Egyptian history and helped date three periods of Minoan history, an Early Minoan Period from 3000 to 2000 BC, a Middle Minoan Period, proceeding until 1600 BC and a Late Minoan Period lasting until around 1250 BC. Evans also found stone and metal artifacts. Some of his findings predated the earliest period of Minoan history, dating back to Neolithic times. Originally Evans believed the artifacts were ten thousand years old, but later experts dated these stone artifacts to be five thousand years old. Many bronze objects that were used daily in ancient Knossos were also found.

Some bronze statues and figurines were discovered in conjunction with ceremonial rooms. Other works of art recovered from Knossos included terra cotta figurines of goddesses. Faience, though the technique was probably imported from Egypt, was among the art forms mastered by ancient Cretans. Evans uncovered two large faience figurines. Both statues were wearing the typical Minoan court costume consisting of a wide skirt with a tight, stiff bodice collar and exposed breasts. Evans identified the larger statue as a snake goddess or a mother goddess. The smaller one is generally accepted as her daughter or a priestess.

There is evidence that Knossos’s link with Theseus and the Minotaur was kept alive long after the Minoans ceased to exist. This comes mainly in the form of coinage, and examples include a silver coin from Knossos dated 500 to 413 B.C., which depicts a running Minotaur on one side and a maze or labyrinth on the reverse. Another coin shows the head of Ariadne surrounded by a labyrinth. The Minotaur and labyrinth were also extremely popular in the Roman period, and numerous mosaics illustrate the Knossos labyrinth. The most spectacular of these is probably that from a Roman villa near Salzburg, in western Austria, dating to the fifth century A.D. However, some researchers do not believe the Minotaur originates with the architecture of the Palace at Knossos. They point out the difference between a labyrinth, which has only one path to the center, and a maze, which can have many. Indeed it is tempting to see the labyrinth as relating to the maze as a symbol of the mysteries of life and death.

An abstract concept connected with religious ritual, where the Minotaur waiting at the center of the labyrinth represents something concealed in the heart of all of us. The story of the 14 youths brought from Athens to Knossos as a sacrifice to the Minotaur has always been thought of as simple myth. But there is archaeological evidence that perhaps gives some support to this horrific tale. In 1979, in the basement of the North House within the Knossos complex, excavators discovered 337 human bones. Analysis of these bones showed that they represented at least four individuals, all children. Further examination of the bones revealed the grisly detail that 79 of them showed traces of cut marks made by a fine blade, which bone specialist Louis Binford interpreted as being made to remove the flesh. Ruling out the possibility that the defleshing of the bones was part of a burial rite (only lumps of flesh had been removed, not every piece), excavator of the site Peter warren, Professor of Classical Archaeology, at the University of Bristol, concluded that the children were probably ritually sacrificed and then eaten.

The site of Knossos offered valuable information in understanding Europe’s earliest literate civilization. Evans’s work enlightened the history of not only Knossos, but also the surrounding cultures. However, the information had brought even more questions. The answers must be found by a closer examination of the site of Knossos. Otherwise, they are doomed to remain a mystery.

(Sources : Knossos (A Complete Guide To The Palace Of Minos) by Anna Michailidou; Hidden History by Brian Haughton; Wikipedia; and http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/archaeology/sites/europe/knossos.html)

(Pics sources : Pic 1 (General view of the Palace of Knossos from the north-east), 2, 3, 4 taken from Knossos (A Complete Guide To The palace of Minos) by Anna Michailidou page 89, 14, 19, 32. Pic 5 taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cnosso98.jpg)
06:08 | 1 komentar

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