Friday, March 6, 2009
Abraham Ortelius, in Parergon, Antwerp, 1595
Osher Collection, University of Southern Maine
The elegant design of this map complements the geographic delineation with embellishments illustrating the history of the Roman Empire. These include medallion portraits of Romulus and Remus, a text panel containing a brief history of the Roman Empire, and a genealogical diagram of the lineage of the Roman emperors.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Alexander the Great had such astonishing success that he became a near-mythical figure in his own lifetime, while stories about his exploits went on to form a staple of regional literature and fable from Europe to the borders of China. By the age of just 33 he had conquered most of the known world and created an empire that would shape the cultures of the Mediterranean and the Near and Middle East for centuries to come. What motivated this prodigy? Where did he acquire the unshakeable self-belief that would propel him beyond the borders of the known and into the realm of legend? Perhaps the key moment in Alexander’s career, the crucial encounter that was to guide his destiny, was his visit to the Oracle of Ammon at the Siwa Oasis, deep in the North African desert. Although the story of this visit has become a legend, it remains shrouded in mystery.
In 332 BCE Alexander ‘invaded’ Egypt. In practice he had already defeated the forces of Darius III, king of Persia, in the Near East, and Darius had fled back to Persia. Egypt, which had never been a willing subject of the Persian king, was left essentially unguarded and welcomed the arrival of Alexander as a redeemer and liberator. He was to spend several months in the country, and given his otherwise relentless programme of conquest this period has often been seen as a sort of holiday, or at best an eccentric sideshow to his main pursuit.
Egypt was logistically important for Alexander, securing him a strong coastal base and strengthening his communications with Greece. It was key to his strategy of wresting control of the Mediterranean trade routes from the Phoenicians. But the country also held a deeper appeal for Alexander, raised on tales of the old gods by his mother, Olympia, and educated by his tutor, Aristotle, to believe that Egypt was the cradle of civilisation and the birthplace of philosophy. As he progressed down the Nile towards the ancient capital at Memphis, Egypt’s stunning temples, awesome pyramids and ancient religion exerted still greater fascination for him.
On 14 November 332 BCE, Alexander was crowned pharaoh and acclaimed as a living god. This was at odds with Greek tradition, which frowned on deification of the living, but might have chimed with Alexander’s growing conviction that he was marked by the gods or in some way chosen for greatness. Did he have a divine mission? Was he, even, divine himself? His line traced their ancestry back to Hercules, a demi-god and the son of Zeus. Perhaps Alexander already believed the connection might be more direct. The Egyptians had proclaimed him to be a son of the gods and the greatest of the Egyptian gods, Amun- Ra, was considered to be simply another name for Zeus. Over the next two months Alexander spent a great deal of money refurbishing Egyptian temples and doing honour to their divine patrons. He also studied Egyptian customs and tradition.
At the start of 331BCE Alexander left Memphis and travelled back north to the coast, where he founded Alexandria, strategically placing it to become a great trading centre. He then travelled east along the coast of what the ancients called Libya, receiving tributes, before turning south and, accompanied only by a small escort and some guides, striking deep into the hostile desert. His target was the Oasis of Siwa, home of the oracle of the god Ammon (the Libyan form of Amun-Ra). The journey was difficult and dangerous. Two centuries earlier the Persian king Cambyses had sent an army to conquer Siwa, but it vanished into the desert and was never heard of again. No pharaoh had ever been. Alexander’s companions tried to persuade him not to risk the journey, but he would not listen. He was a great fan of oracles and had absolute faith in their utterances. After his visit to Siwa, for instance, he would continue to consult the oracle for the rest of his life, sending questions back over vast distances from his camps in the heart of Asia.
As they struggled through the desert Alexander’s party were assailed by near disaster on more than one occasion. First they ran out of water, but were saved by a sudden rainstorm. Then they became lost in a massive sandstorm, but were apparently led out of trouble by a pair of ravens. Was Alexander’s divinity asserting itself?
Finally, exhausted and bedraggled, the party reached the Oasis at Siwa. Alexander did not wait to rest or recuperate, but immediately made his way to the temple of Ammon, the Ammoneion, home of the oracle. Here the high priest greeted him with the Greek words ‘O, pai dios’ – ‘Oh, son of god’ – exactly what the young conqueror wished to hear, although the Graeco-Roman historian Plutarch later suggested that the priest had actually mispronounced the phrase ‘O, paidion’ – ‘Oh, my son’.
Alexander was then accorded the rare honour of being invited into the adyton, the inner sanctum or holy-of-holies, to question the oracle. Exactly what was asked, and how it was answered, will never be known. On re-emerging into the temple forecourt Alexander would only tell his companions that he had received the answer he sought, and that he would only tell the ‘secret prophecies’ to his mother, and only face to face on his return to Macedon. However, it is generally assumed that Alexander asked about his paternity – specifically, whether or not he was of divine paternity. According to various ancient historians, Alexander first asked whether any of the assassins who had murdered his father, Philip, were still alive. Supposedly he was told to rephrase his question, because, in fact, his father was not mortal. He then asked a more direct question, and was told that yes, he was the son of Ammon (which, to Alexander, would have meant Zeus).
Let us assume that this is what really happened. Possibly Alexander was simply being told what he expected to hear by canny priests who wished to ensure the good will of a powerful patron (if so, it worked; Alexander made magnificent offerings to the oracle). Possibly it was a genuine revelation to him to learn that he was the son of a god, a semi-divine being fit for some awesome destiny.
Whatever he heard within the shady, incense-heavy inner sanctum of the ancient temple hidden deep within the desert, it had a profound effect on Alexander. Over the next eight years he was to drive his army across the empire of Persia and deep into uncharted territory, conquering nations to the borders of China and into India, crossing huge mountain ranges and ‘impassable’ deserts, overcoming all odds to become the richest man in the world and the greatest conqueror in history.
Only the mutiny of his army in the far eastern lands prevented him from going ever further. It is hard not to see these as the actions of one who believes he is something more than a man. Certainly in coins that were later minted bearing his likeness, he wears the horns of Zeus-Ammon, the mark of the god, while in his own lifetime he proclaimed his own divinity and ordered that he be worshipped as a god.
The conquests of Alexander created a vast Hellenic empire, which, although it broke up into smaller kingdoms shortly after his death, profoundly influenced the history and culture of the Near and Middle East for centuries to come. Was all this driven by the secret revelation vouchsafed in that mysterious temple? Alexander’s attraction to the Ammoneion transcended death, for he asked to be buried there. His body was brought back to Egypt, but his tomb has never been found. Most scholars expect to find it in Alexandria, but some believe that they have located it already, near Siwa. The desert sands hide many mysteries.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Atlantis - The greatest legend of them all.
The story of Atlantis is perhaps the greatest legend of all. But is it more than just a legend? In plain language did Atlantis really exist? To investigate further why not pick from one of the many options listed below. The truth might astonish you..
Return to Atlantis.
Many believe that even today the influence of this once great island is real and apparent. They feel that sooner or later the second flourishing of this mighty Kingdom will bestride the world.
Not as an all conquering power but as an explosion of ideas that will herald the greatest era of peace and stability the Earth has ever known.
Reservoir of knowledge. NASCA is an organisation devoted to areas of science that are otherwise poorly covered.
Our aim is to explore and investigate the frontiers of this great reservoir of knowledge for the benefit of all.
The Main Ingredient. One of the prime necessities in exploring the world of the strange and unusual is an open mind.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Diego de Almagro was born in the town of Almagro in central Spain. He was of humble origins, having been abandoned as an infant on the steps of a local church.
Little else is known of his life before 1514, the year he accompanied PEDRO ARIAS DE ÁVILA on an expedition to Panama. Almagro became associated with FRANCISCO PIZARRO, with whom he entered into a partnership for the exploration and conquest of what is now Peru. From 1524 to 1528, he explored the northwest coast of South America in conjunction with Pizarro, taking part in military campaigns against Indians. In one encounter in 1525, he was wounded and lost an eye as well as some fingers.
Almagro provided financial support for Pizarro’s 1531 expedition against the Inca Indians. In 1533, he took part in the campaign that secured Quito in present-day Ecuador. Later that year, Almagro arrived at Cajamarca, Peru, where he joined Pizarro with a force of 200 men and played an important role in the conquest of the Inca. Although he received no gold for his participation, he was granted governorship of the lands south of Cuzco.
A conflict between Almagro and Pizarro was averted when, in December 1534, Almagro was appointed governor of the newly organized Peruvian province of New Toledo and given permission to lead an expedition of conquest southward.
Almagro, with a force of about 750 Spaniards and thousands of allied Indians, left Cuzco, northwest of Lake Titicaca, in July 1535. Inspired by reports of a civilization rich in gold and other valuables, Almagro led his men southward along the central ANDES MOUNTAINS into what is now Bolivia and northern Argentina. Having set out in the midst of the South American winter season, the Spanish suffered great hardships in the severe cold of the high Andes. At the San Francisco Pass, the expedition turned westward and reached the coastal Copiapó Valley. Almagro and his men continued southward along the coastal plain of present-day Chile into the Central Valley. Along the way, they were repeatedly attacked by Araucanian Indians. One of his lieutenants, Gómez de Alvarado, explored southward to the Itata River, north of what is now the city of Concepcíon. Failing to locate an advanced civilization comparable to the Inca, Almagro decided to head back northward to Peru. The return journey took the Spanish through the Atacama Desert, along the north coast of Chile, where many died of thirst.
By early 1537, Almagro had reached Arequipa in southern Peru, and from there he recrossed the Andes to Cuzco. At Cuzco, he found the Inca, under Manco, in open revolt against the Spanish. Almagro succeeded in suppressing the uprising but became embroiled in a conflict with Francisco Pizarro and his brother HERNANDO PIZARRO over who had the right to rule Cuzco and the northern provinces of Peru. Forces under Hernando Pizarro captured Almagro at Cuzco in April 1538. He was put to death by the garrote; his body was then publicly beheaded in the town square. In 1541, Almagro’s half-Indian son, Diego, known as “the Lad,” led a campaign against the Pizarros and, in revenge for his father’s death, killed Francisco Pizarro.
Diego de Almagro’s exploration south of Peru into Chile extended Spanish domination along the west coast of South America. On his return journey, he led his men on the first European crossing of the Atacama Desert.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Now, here's a model of biblical proportions. A retired farmer has spent more than 30 years building an enormous scale model of Herod's temple - and it is still not finished.
Alec Garrard, 78, has dedicated a massive 33,000 hours to constructing the ancient temple, which measures a whopping 20ft by 12ft
But Mr Garrard, who started the epic project in his 40s, says his masterpiece will not be finished in his lifetime
"I have also sculpted and painted 4,000 figures, measuring just half an inch and all wearing their correct costumes"
Visitors come from all over the world to see the model and Mr Garrard provides binoculars so they can see all the details
The pensioner has hand-baked and painted every clay brick and tile and even sculpted 4,000 tiny human figures to populate the courtyards
"I personally know all the top archaeologists from Jerusalem and I've had experts from the British Museum visit," he says
He then started to construct the amazing 1:100 scale model, which is now housed in a huge building in his back garden
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Google Ocean has made an intriguing find. It seems to have found the remnants of a great city on the ocean floor in the location that legend claims Atlantis once thrived. Read about it below and see the photos and a video.
The Greek philosopher Plato is responsible for modern man having any idea that the great city of Atlantis ever existed at all. Plato’s descriptions of Atlantis have fueled the imagination of men throughout the ages. No evidence of the Lost Continent has ever been found, leaving many to believe it is all just myth. Legend, myth or reality, no one has really known for sure. But books, art, movies and fantasies have continued to keep the myth alive and have blurred the lines between fact and fiction, if those lines were ever there to begin with.
Now modern technology meets ancient mythology through Google Ocean. The search engine giant has extended their program, Google Earth, to allow web users to explore the oceans through thousands of images of underwater landscapes. I’m not quite sure how they have gotten the images. I strongly suspect they don’t have little Volkswagons getting them the way they are getting the images for Google Earth.
Bernie Bamford, 38, of Chester, England found the formation of perfect grids on the ocean floor. The grids are laid out like city blocks and in such a way that it would be difficult to believe they aren’t man made. Its co-ordinates are 31 15′15.53N 24 15′30.53W. What has been found is roughly the size of Wales and it is in the primary location that scientist believe the Lost Continent would have been, near the Canary Islands off the coast of north west Africa.
Last night, Atlantis experts confirmed that the location of the grids are in a place likely to have once been the great city. Archaeologists who have looked at the evidence say that it warrants further investigation. All in all, its intriguing to think that the legend of Atlantis might actually be true and the ruins of the great civilization might be found, by Google no less.
Plato described Atlantis as a highly evolved civilization, very advanced for the time in terms of science, literature and culture. The island was ‘larger than Libya and Asia put together’. According to Plato, the island was disappeared shortly after a failed attempt to conquer Greece. Earthquakes and floods destroyed the island kingdom about 9,000 B.C. So says the legend.
Google Earth, Google Ocean (and Google Mars) are giving us unparalleled access to never before seen places. Its truly fascinating and the possibilities are exciting and fun to imagine.
Unfortunately, Google has debunked the theory that Atlantis has been discovered. Just since I started writing this article, they have come out with a statement explaining away the grid system as trails used by sonar from boats collecting data from the ocean floor.
A spokeswoman said: “It’s true that many amazing discoveries have been made in Google Earth including a pristine forest in Mozambique that is home to previously unknown species and the remains of an Ancient Roman villa.
“In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artefact of the data collection process.
“Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor.
“The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data.
“The fact that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world’s oceans.”
Who knew there were so many boats taking sonar maps of the ocean floor in such a precise pattern! That doesn’t seem logical. Besides, that’s no where near as exciting an explanation as finding Atlantis. Sigh.
THIS is the amazing image which could show the fabled sunken city of Atlantis.
It shows a perfect rectangle the size of Wales lying on the bed of the Atlantic Ocean nearly 3½ miles down.
A host of criss-crossing lines, looking like a map of a vast metropolis, are enclosed by the boundary.
They seem too vast and organised to be caused naturally.
And last night the possibility of an extraordinary discovery had oceanographers and geophysicists captivated.
The site lies 620 miles off the west coast of Africa near the Canary Islands — a location for Atlantis seemingly suggested by the ancient philosopher Plato.
He believed it was an island civilisation sunk by an earthquake and floods around 9,700BC — nearly 12,000 years ago.
The “grid” showed up on Google Ocean, a Google Earth extension that uses a combination of satellite images and marine surveys.
Last night Dr Charles Orser, curator of historical archaeology at New York State University — and one of the world’s leading authorities on Atlantis — called it “fascinating”.
He said: “The site is one of the most prominent places for the proposed location of Atlantis, as described by Plato. Even if it turns out to be geographical, this definitely deserves a closer look.”
The legend of Atlantis has captured the imagination of scholars for centuries.
And in the 1970s it spawned a hit TV series, Man From Atlantis, in which Patrick Duffy played a webbed hero who could live underwater.
Sea here ... location of grid on Google
Situated in an area called the Madeira Abyssal Plane, the grid was spotted by aeronautical engineer Bernie Bamford as he browsed through Google Ocean.
Bernie, 38, of Chester, said: “It looks like an aerial map of Milton Keynes. It must be man-made.”
Google today claimed the criss-crossing lines were sonar data collected as boats mapped the ocean floor.
But the internet giant said “blank spots” within the lines could not be explained.
A spokeswoman said: “Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor.
“The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data.
“The fact that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world’s oceans.”
Hopes that the lost city of Atlantis had been found on Google Earth have been shattered.
Keen observers had spotted what appeared to be the outline of a vast city - the size of Wales - on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
But the criss-crossing lines, located 600 miles west of the Canary Islands, were explained by Google as sonar data collected as boats mapped the ocean floor.
A spokeswoman said: "It's true that many amazing discoveries have been made in Google Earth including a pristine forest in Mozambique that is home to previously unknown species and the remains of an Ancient Roman villa.
"In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artefact of the data collection process.
"Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor.
"The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data.
"The fact that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world's oceans."
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The Alexandrian inventor, physicist, and mathematician Hero was a creative mind of the second century CE. Hero lived, worked, and taught at Alexandria. Influenced by Aristotle and the atomists, he also built on the work of the mechanical engineer Ctesibius. Hero wrote Pneumatica and Automatapoeica, which described his ideas on physical forces and mechanisms to displace weight, water, and air. He was interested in land measurement, wrote on surveying, and invented a forerunner of the theodolite, a surveyor’s instrument for measuring angles.
Hero was fascinated by actions upon air and water. He argued that air is a material substance that exists within an apparently empty container. He analyzed the displacement of air by pouring water into a jar. He experimented with compression and argued for the presence of vacuums in nature. He was one of the founders of theories of kinetic energy. He explained the action of fire on substances according to the Aristotelian theory that heavy objects fall toward the center while lighter objects ascend toward the heavens. Hero invented a steam mechanism that featured a cauldron of boiling water that released steam through a small tube entering a sphere with two pipes at right angles. As the steam was forced through the pipes the sphere rotated.Another device heated air that filled a container of oil; the oil was forced by the air into tubes held within statues; the oil dripped from the stone hands holding cups for libations. Hero also experimented with pistons, valves, pneumatics, and hydraulics. Most of his inventions were, however, used as toys or for tricks to amuse the rich. For example, Hero contrived a device that, by forcing air through small valves, would produce the appearance and sound of bird’s singing. Another device used principles of heat and air pressure: it was a device made of an iron cauldron filled with water that was heated by a fire. Steam was forced through a small opening at the top of the device, which provided sufficient force to cause a small ball to hang and dance just above the opening.
Hero’s devices were built at a time of slavery when there was no demand for such labor-saving machines. Hero, like most ancient engineers, also turned his skills to military science, working on siege engines, slings, missiles and other ballistics. He also invented an odometer and designed “An Altar Organ blown by the agency of a Wind-mill.”
Boardman, John, Jasper Griffin, and Oswyn Murray. Oxford History of the Classical World.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Hero of Alexandria. The Pneumatics.Translated by Bennet Woodcroft. London: C.Whittingham, 1851.
Leicester, Henry M. The Historical Background of Chemistry. New York: Dover Books, 1971.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
The existence of a city of gold, or El Dorado, was regarded as fact rather than fiction in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Men such as Walter Raleigh and Percy Fawcett from England and Cabeza de Vaca, Francisco Pizarro and Francisco Coronado from Spain undertook costly expeditions in the area that is now Mexico and the southwestern states of the USA. All proved futile and costly in terms of lives, money and reputations, yet the failure of one simply spurred on others. Two locations of 'the city of gold' are shown on this map. Each is plotted in an identical manner to all the other places 'known' to exist, such was their 'factual' status. Cibola was believed to be seven golden cities, while Quivira was not only where the gold mines were but also where Montezuma the Aztec King had sent all his gold to be hidden in its underground caves.
Unfortunately, the Spanish translation of the local word cibola as 'gold' was incorrect for its actual meaning was 'buffalo'. There is a parallel, for the buffalo was certainly one of the most valuable things to those living in this part of the world. As for Quivira? Its fabled caves and passages would no doubt have been in the mountain range in whose shadow it stands. Unfortunately, there is no such mountain range.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Abraham Ortelius, in Parergon, Antwerp, 1595
Osher Collection, University of Southern Maine
This map depicts the entire peninsula of ancient Italy, with a detailed portrayal of topographic features such as coastlines, rivers, lakes and mountains. Political subdivisions are named, and cities are indicated by red symbols in the form of buildings or groups of buildings, the size of the symbol being proportional to the size of the city. A decorative cartouche at the lower center contains imagery from Italian history and mythology.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
We welcome you!
Cryptomundo is a place to enjoy the adventures, treks, theories, and wisdom of some of the most respected leaders in the field of Cryptozoology. This is a place for all ages to share, read, see, and learn about the finds and evidence of the most elusive and rare animals (cryptids) on this planet Earth … Bigfoot, Yeti, Chupacabra, Ivory Billed Woodpecker, Nessie, Yowie, and more. Come back often and be part of the community for Cryptozoology breaking news, new views, fun, and yes occasional humor. We’re glad you’re here and look forward to hearing from you soon.
See more engaging, entertaining, authoritative, and educational content here, everyday, on cryptids than any other place on the planet.
If you would like to contact Cryptomundo with a request, an announcement, or just want to send feedback, you can email us using the contact form. We love to hear from our readers, so drop us a line!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
A hidden holy place in Buddhist mythology, associated with a future Messiah.
The name means “quietude.” Shambhala figures in the Lamaistic Buddhism of Tibet and
A Jesuit missionary, Father Stephen Casella, who died in
Despite the name’s peaceful connotations, lamas have prophesied a future War of Shambhala in which good forces will conquer evil and bring in a golden age. The messianic figure who will then step forth from the holy place is conceived in different ways. He may be a king of Shambhala called Rigden Jye-po. He may be Gesar, a Mongolian legendary hero. He may be Maitreya, the next Buddha, or a forerunner. There seems to be a remote connection with Hindu beliefs about a future world regeneration by a forthcoming avatar of Vishnu.
During the late nineteenth century, Shambhala began attracting the notice of Western esotericists and inspiring fantastic theories. Madame Blavatsky “HPB,” the founder of Theosophy, mentions it in her writings and spells it with variations such as “Shambalah” and “Shamballah.” She makes one assertion that has left an enduring and misleading mark—that Shambhala is in the
Alice Bailey, a latecomer to Theosophy who broke away and started her own esoteric movement, echoes Annie Besant, with elaborations. “Shamballa” was founded by superior beings who came from Venus 18 million years ago. It is built of “etheric physical matter” and, as Theosophists say correctly, is the earthly home of the great spiritual Hierarchy. Bailey gives it several locations, but the
Nearly all of this is Theosophical fancy evolved from a few bits of Lamaistic legend. The
The Shambhala-Agharti mythos became influential for a while after World War I and the revolution in
Ungern-Sternberg told Mongols that he was a reincarnation of Genghis Khan and would revive their past glories. He also pretended to have an understanding with the King of the World in Agharti. Those who knew him best regarded him as a megalomaniac, almost literally insane. His career was brief—he was killed in 1921 in one of the last flickers of anti-Soviet military action. Yet he had an impact. At Urga in
As recorded by Ossendowski, the prophecy runs through a succession of horrors more or less fitting World War I, though not closely enough to be impressive. It refers to the Crescent growing dim, a possible allusion to the decline of Turkey; to the fall of kings (as happened in Germany, Austria, and Russia); to roads covered with wandering crowds—refugees, perhaps. But the fairly good predictions are almost swamped by long, vague outpourings about slaughter and earthquakes and fires and depopulation.
After these, the last part of the prophecy is more interesting, not as a forecast but as a just-possible influence in a surprising quarter. Its assessment requires a glance at the context of the early 1920s. Thanks partly to Ungern-Sternberg, the hope of a Shambhalic Messiah grew more specific and even political. The Panchen Lama, at the great monastery of Shigatse, claimed that a predecessor had received a message from the King of the World, written on golden tablets. Expelled in 1923 through a dispute with the more powerful Dalai Lama, he traveled north in the direction of
Alexandra David-Neel, a student of Lamaism who translated the Gesar epic, saw a shrine with an image of the hero, before which a woman prayed for a son who could fight for him. She was assured several times that he was already in the world and would be manifested in fifteen years. According to her own account, the bard who dictated the epic to her gave her a flower that was a present from Gesar himself—a blue flower of a species that bloomed in July, though it was winter at the time. Another Western inquirer was the distinguished Russian artist and anthropologist Nicholas Roerich, remembered especially as Stravinsky’s collaborator in devising rituals for his ballet The Rite of Spring. Hearing of the ferment in
Communist progress in
Hardly any of this is well attested, though prominent Nazis such as Himmler held bizarre beliefs, and at least one expedition did go to
Hitler might have seen himself and his movement in this passage. Purification of the earth “by the death of nations” could apply to the extermination of Jews and other condemned breeds: the word genocide was coined to define this aspect of the Führer’s policy when in power. The King concludes: “In the fiftieth year only three great kingdoms will appear, which shall exist happily for seventy-one years. Afterwards there will be eighteen years of war and destruction. Then the peoples of Agharti will come up from their subterranean caves to the surface of the earth.”
This carries the story as far as 2029. Here, it is only the first of the time periods that is interesting. The fiftieth year from the prophetic pronouncement was 1940. In that year,
There is a strange sequel. While Communist rule in
Ashe, Geoffrey. Avalonian Quest.
———. Dawn behind the Dawn.
Ossendowski, Ferdinand. Beasts, Men and Gods.
Roerich, Nicholas. Altai-Himalaya.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
AUSTRALIAN GIANT MONITOR seen in 1979 by herpetologist Frank Gordon in the Wattagan Mountains, New South Wales. (William M. Rebsamen/Fortean Picture Library)
Unknown LIZARD of Australia.
Variant names: Burrunjor (in Northern Territory), Mungoon-galli, Murra murri (in the Blue Mountains), Whowie (in Riverina).
Physical description: Length, 20–30 feet or more.
Behavior: Attacks cattle.
Distribution: Northern New South Wales; Arnhem Land, Northern Territory; Cape York, Queensland.
Significant sightings: In 1975, a group of bushwalkers found large tracks and tail marks at the edge of the Wallangambe Wilderness in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.
On December 27, 1975, a farmer near Cessnock, New South Wales, saw a bulky, 30-foot monitor lizard moving through scrub brush. It was mottled gray in color, with dark stripes along the back and tail, and stood 3 feet off the ground.
In early 1979, herpetologist Frank Gordon was driving his Land Rover in the Wattagan Mountains in New South Wales south of Canberra when he saw a reptile 27–30 feet long by the side of the road. It rose up and ran away on all four legs into the neighboring woods.
In July 1979, cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy was called to a freshly plowed field by a farmer. Across the field were thirty or so tracks that seemed to have been made by an enormous lizard. While most of the tracks had been ruined by rain, Gilroy was able to make a plaster cast of one that had been preserved.
(1) The Perentie (Varanus giganteus), Australia’s largest lizard, grows to 8 feet long; some individuals might attain 10 feet. It is cream-colored, with dark-brown speckles, and it occurs from western Queensland to the coast of Western Australia.
(2) Surviving Megalania prisca, a 15- to 21- foot lizard that lived in central Australia in the Pliocene and Pleistocene (2 million–20,000 years ago). At 1,300 pounds, it weighed ten times as much as the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and was probably an active predator and scavenger. Its teeth were nearly 1 inch long. At least some specimens had a sagittal crest.
Sources: Rex Gilroy, “Cessnock’s Fantastic 30 Ft. Lizard Monsters,” Strange Phenomena and Psychic Australian, March 1979; Rex Gilroy, “Australia’s Lizard Monsters,” Fortean Times, no. 37 (Spring 1982): 32–33; Rex Gilroy, “Giant Lizards of the Australian Bush,” Australasian Ufologist 4, no. 4 (2000): 17–20.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
In Travels in the Netherworld , Bryan J. Cuevas examines a fascinating but little-known genre of Tibetan narrative literature about the d^'elok , ordinary men and women who claim to have died, traveled through hell, and then returned from the afterlife. These narratives enjoy audiences ranging from the most sophisticated monastic scholars to pious townsfolk, villagers, and nomads. Their accounts emphasize the universal Buddhist principles of impermanence and worldly suffering, the fluctuations of karma, and the feasibility of obtaining a favorable rebirth through virtue and merit. Providing a clear, detailed analysis of four vivid return-from-death tales, including the stories of a Tibetan housewife, a lama, a young noble woman, and a Buddhist monk, Cuevas argues that these narratives express ideas about death and the afterlife that held wide currency among all classes of faithful Buddhists in Tibet.
Relying on a diversity of traditional Tibetan sources, Buddhist canonical scriptures, scholastic textbooks, ritual and meditation manuals, and medical treatises, in addition to the d^'elok works themselves, Cuevas surveys a broad range of popular Tibetan Buddhist ideas about death and dying. He explores beliefs about the vulnerability of the soul and its journey beyond death, karmic retribution and the terrors of hell, the nature of demons and demonic possession, ghosts, and reanimated corpses. Cuevas argues that these extraordinary accounts exhibit flexibility between social and religious categories that are conventionally polarized and concludes that, contrary to the accepted wisdom, such rigid divisions as elite and folk, monastic and lay religion are not sufficiently representative of traditional Tibetan Buddhism on the ground. This study offers innovative perspectives on popular religion in Tibet and fills a gap in an important field of Tibetan literature.
"Travels in the Netherworld is well researched, a pleasure to read, and relevant to the interests of students, scholars, and general readers concerned with Tibetan civilization, Buddhist studies, near-death experiences, and the literary depiction of death and post-mortem itineraries. Bryan Cuevas's new book is a noteworthy addition to our knowledge of the rich Tibetan heritage of traditions exploring the life beyond." --Matthew T. Kapstein, The University of Chicago and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris)
"The narratives explored in Travels in the Netherworld have been shared by clerics and laity alike for centuries. In this book, Cuevas convincingly demonstrates that stories of death and return were created, told, and retold by women, men, monks, aristocrats, and commoners. Perhaps more than any other form of Buddhist literature, these stories evoke Tibetan concerns about virtue, vice, life, and death in a world defined by uncertainty -- all portrayed through the drama of compelling personal narratives. Cuevas has ensured that the tales of Tibetan revenants will enjoy a long life among contemporary readers, and that such tales must be a central literary source for our ever-evolving appreciation of Buddhism as a living religion. It is sure to revive the study of death in Tibet." --Kurtis R. Schaeffer, author of Dreaming the Great Brahmin: Tibetan Traditions of the Buddhist Poet-Saint Saraha
"Just as the Tibetan spirit mediums described in this book return from the dead and entertain the living with stories of their adventures in the other world, so too the author, Bryan Cuevas, breathes new life into Tibetan concepts of the afterlife. The author's fascinating story casts important new light on a side of Buddhism usually kept in the dark: moral teachings on karmic causation, the daily concerns of common people, the layout of the other world, and the workings of religious narratives. Anyone interested in near-death experience will want to read this lively and provocative book." --Stephen F. Teiser, author of Reinventing the Wheel: Paintings of Rebirth in Medieval Buddhist Temples
216 pages; ISBN13: 978-0-19-534116-4ISBN10: 0-19-534116-3
Bryan J. Cuevas is Associate Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies in the Department of Religion at Florida State University. He is the author of The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and co-editor of The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The Bauche map (1754) shows the Antarctic continent without ice, divided into two great islands, a fact not re-established until 1958....
Phillip Bauche was a French geographer of the 18th century who also drew a map that clearly shows Antarctica except that Bauche's map shows Antarctica two separate land masses, with detailed shorelines. For many years the map was generally considered to be wrong because when Antarctica was discovered it actually looked nothing what Bauche had drawn. Then in 1958 a seismic survey of Antarctica was carried out which surprisingly showed that Antarctica was indeed two archipelago islands covered by a thick layer of ice that made it appear as only one land mass and not only that, but that the general topography of the lands beneath the ice matches the drawings on the Bauche map in every detail. So how on earth this can be in any way possible? This map means that Bauche was in possession of a correct map showing Antarctica 100 years before it was discovered and not only that, but without any ice on it. Antarctica has not been in an ice free condition for a minimum of at least 10,000 years and many scientists believe that the period of time to be more like several million years.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The Orontius Finaeus map was found in 1960 by Charles Hapgood and it too, apparently shows the continent of Antarctica along with the accurate outlines of Antarctic rivers that are now covered by thick glaciers. The map was found in the Library of Congress in Washington DC where it had been sitting unstudied for a great many years. In the map the continent and coastline is shown to be ice free and, like the Piri Reis map, it too shows an accurate depiction of the Ross Sea which today is totally hidden beneath a floating ice shelf several hundred meters thick.
Studies of actual core samples taken from the Antarctic ice shelf have also clearly revealed numerous layers of strata in the ice showing that the area has indeed gone through several periods of dramatic environmental change. Some sedimentary deposits that were found in the samples were from sea water that had flowed into the area and were even actually datable. The tests show that the sediments were deposited sometime around 4000 years ago which indicates that the Ross Sea would have had to have been flowing and free from ice at the time for the deposits to have occurred.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Alfred the Great effectively saved Anglo-Saxon England from being overwhelmed by the Danes.. Yet Alfred was wise enough to realise that his military successes were only temporary. A more permanent measure of protection was needed against the growing threat of the Danes.
Alfred began a policy encouraging the formation of fortified towns, or burhs, throughout his lands, such that no place in Wessex was more than 20 miles from a town. In exchange for free plots of land within the towns, settlers provided a defense force. The burhs were also encouraged to become centres of commerce and local government. These burhs were located primarily along the coast and the borders of Alfred's lands.
Alfred's son Edward the Elder continued his father's policy of establishing fortified towns, and he and his sister Aethelflaed of Mercia built a new double row of burhs along the old Roman road of Watling Street, which marked the border of the Danelaw as it ran from the Mersey to Essex.
The burhs were remarkable for their time in that they used a regular grid pattern of streets - not unlike the old Roman towns. Indeed, in many cases pre-existing Roman town sites were re-used to create Saxon towns. Why re-use Roman sites? Three main reasons can be found.
First, the Roman towns were sited at key points along the old Roman network of roads. In other words, communication was a key factor in siting Saxon towns. Chester and Gloucester are two examples of towns sited at major road intersections, though they were established by Alfred's successors.
Second, the Roman towns had basic fortifications in place. Walled towns such as Portchester were already defensible. Other Roman towns had earthwork defenses that could easily be repaired and strengthened.
Third, the growth of Christianity influenced the choice of town sites. In areas where the Roman church was strongest (i.e. the south and east), a conscious choice was made to establish sees in metropolitan centres. Contrast this with the Celtic church, which concentrated its efforts on evangelizing in the countryside.
Other Saxon burhs were established on entirely new sites. In this class of burh we find Wallingford, Wareham, and Wilton, among others. Some, such as Lewes, Lyng, and Lydford, were built on promontories of land, with a simple ditch and bank combination adding to the natural defenses.
In cases where Roman towns were reused to create burhs the Saxons did not necessarily follow the Roman street pattern. Although frequently the main street was reused, as at Chichester and Winchester, the Saxons often built their houses upon the firm foundations of the Roman street, with the new streets running alongside.
Of the burhs that have survived as modern towns, little remains to be seen of the Saxon settlements. In some cases the modern streets follow the Saxon street plan, as at Winchester, Cricklade, Chichester, and Wallingford. Remnants of the defensive ditch and bank can be seen at Wallingford, Wareham, Maaldon, Witham, and Cricklade.
The Battle of Marathon 490 BC during the Persian Greek Wars. King Darious I of Persia sent his son in law Mardonius to invade Greece in 492 BC. The Persian Forces conquered Thrace and Macedonia before their fleet was devastated by a storm. Mardonia was forced to return to Asia. A second Persian invasion force crossed the Aegean sea. After conquering Eretria, the Persian Army under Datis (15,000 strong) landed near Marathon. (Marathon is 24 miles northeast of Athens.) General Miltiades, general in the Greek army gathered a force of 10,000 Athenians and 1,000 Plataean citizen Soldiers.
The ancient world was characterised by a number of epic struggles between mighty civilisations; Egypt vs Nubia, Rome vs Carthage, Greece vs Persia. The last of these had a major impact on the subsequent course of Western history, as the eventual victory of the Greeks allowed them to maintain their independence for another 300 years, during which time Greek culture and science flowered into the period now known as the Golden Age, helping to determine the shape of subsequent Western culture and thought.
Among the key incidents in the history of the conflict between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states it sought to subdue were the disastrous fates that befell enormous Persian fleets no less than three times. According to ancient sources literally hundreds of ships and thousands of men sank to the bottom of the Aegean, where high rates of deposition of protective silt may well have preserved them for two-and-half millennia, offering a treasure trove of unparalleled archaeological significance to anyone who can locate them.
Darius and Xerxes
In the 5th century BCE the Persian Empire had conquered most of the known world and incorporated lands from the Himalayas to the Balkans, from the Upper Nile to the shores of the Caspian. Under the Persian aegis fell several of the Greek city-states of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), while the actions and attitude of the independent states of the Greek mainland irked the Persian emperors. Greek states such as Athens and Eretria had meddled in the affairs of Asia Minor, fomenting rebellions against the Persian overlords, and Darius the Great, emperor of Persia, determined to punish them. In 492 BCE he dispatched an army under his general and son-in-law Mardonius.
The sea monsters of Athos
Mardonius crossed the Hellespont that separated Asia Minor from Europe and marched down the Aegean coast of Greece, accompanied by a mighty fleet to offer naval and logistical support. The fleet sailed across the Aegean to the mainland and followed the coast down to Acanthus. To progress further it needed to detour around the peninsula of Mount Athos, which jutted out into the sea. According to Herodotus, whose Histories are the primary source for the Greco–Persian war, as the fleet ‘made to double Mount Athos’:
A violent North wind sprang up, against which nothing could contend, and handled a large number of the ships with much rudeness, shattering them and driving them aground upon Athos. It is said that the number of the ships destroyed was little short of 300; and the men who perished were more than 20,000. For the sea about Athos abounds in monsters beyond all others; and so a portion were seized and devoured by these animals, while others were dashed violently against the rocks; some, who did not know how to swim, were engulfed; and some died of the cold.
Without naval support Mardonius was forced to turn back and the invasion was postponed for two years. The Persian’s second invasion, in 490 BCE, was no more successful, and before he could plan a third attempt Darius died. It was left to his successor Xerxes to punish the upstart Greek states.
The greatest force the world had ever seen
By 480 BCE Xerxes had gathered what was probably the largest army in human history up to that point. It was said that he wept upon witnessing the serried ranks, overcome by the thought that within a few decades so many men would no longer be alive. The ancient estimates are probably wildly exaggerated – one speaks of the total land and sea forces numbering 2,641,610 men, accompanied by the same number of camp followers and hangers-on, giving more than 5 million people. Modern scholars scoff at these estimates, and it is widely assumed that they are out by a factor of ten. Nonetheless, Xerxes’ army was unprecedented in scale and diversity, comprising warriors from 46 different nations, including many Greek states and colonies that were inimical to the mainland alliance of Athens and Sparta, which led the Greek resistance.
Accompanying the army was a vast fleet, said to number 1,207 triremes (battle galleys propelled by three rows of oars) and countless smaller support, troop transport and cargo vessels. The ships were drawn from Phoenicia, Egypt, Cyprus and Asia Minor, including many of the Greek states under Persian control, and therefore represented a unique cross-section of naval technology and design of the period.
The Magnesian disaster and the Hollows of Euboea
Determined to take no chances with the treacherous waters off Mount Athos, Xerxes had had a canal dug across the isthmus that separated the mountain from the mainland. He had decreed that it should be wide enough to admit two galleys abreast, and the work took two years. Ultimately this extravagant gesture was to little avail – although the fleet successfully negotiated the Athos peninsula, large numbers of ships were lost in two massive storms.
One struck the fleet as it was anchored off the coast of Magnesia in an unfavourable location where there was room for only a few ships in the relative safety of the bay, forcing the others to moor in rows eight deep, which left the outermost ships stuck far out to sea. When a fierce east wind blew up in the morning, only a few of the ships could be dragged up to safety on the beach. According to Herodotus, the ships caught in the open sea were exposed to the gale and dashed against the rocks and coast at Pelion, Cape Sepias,Meliboea and Casthanaea.
The Greeks put this stroke of good fortune (from their point of view) down to the intercession of Boreas, god of the north wind. Divine providence or not, the disaster cost the Persians both ships and loot. Herodotus tells us:
The most conservative estimate of how many ships were lost in this disaster is 400, along with innumerable personnel, and so much valuable property that a Magnesian called Ameinocles the son of Cretines, who owned land near Sepias, profited immensely from this naval catastrophe. In the following days and months gold and silver cups were washed ashore in large numbers for him to pick up; he also found Persian treasure-chests, and in general became immensely wealthy.
While the main body of the fleet was suffering off the Magnesian coast, a detached squadron of 200 ships was attempting to round Euboea to outflank the Greek fleet. They too suffered from the storm. According to Herodotus the high winds smashed the ships against the shoreline known as the ‘Hollows of Euboea’, and all 200 of the galleys were lost.
In practice neither of these disasters made too much of a dent in the Persian fleet, vast as it was, but they helped to prevent it from gaining a tactical advantage over the outnumbered Greek navy, which got the better of subsequent naval engagements, including a battle in the Artemision Channel in which many Persian galleys were destroyed. These naval victories halted the Persian advance and effectively ended Xerxes’ hopes of a swift and crushing victory in the war as a whole. Without naval support, Xerxes felt compelled to pull the bulk of his forces out of the Balkans, leaving Mardonius to pursue the war, which proved beyond him. Eventually the Persians were forced out of Greece forever.
Even if Herodotus was exaggerating the numbers of galleys and men involved and the numbers lost during the Persian invasions, the potential value of the wrecked fleets could be huge. There could be the remains of hundreds of ships, thousands of men and huge quantities of weapons, armour, stores and supplies and loot of all types resting at the bottom of the Aegean. All of it dates back 2,500 years to a period about which there is scant archaeological evidence, at least for ships and naval technology. The size and diversity of the Persian invasion forces mean that the remains would offer a unique picture of peoples and military and naval technology, not just from Persia and Greece but from across the ancient world. For the acquisitive there is also the promise of large quantities of precious objects and precious metals, like the ‘gold and silver cups … and Persian treasure chests’ mentioned by Herodotus.
The ultimate prize for archaeologists, however, would be the discovery of the wreck of a trireme, the large galleys that constituted ships of the line for ancient navies. No trireme has ever been found, and historians are still in the dark about many aspects of this potent ancient naval technology. When a replica trireme was constructed, for instance, it was found that it could not match the performance capabilities ascribed to ancient galleys, which were much faster than modern experts are able to explain. Finding one of 1,000+ plus sunken galleys of the Persian invasion fleets could help to resolve decades of academic disputes. According to Dr Robert Hohlfelder, a maritime archaeologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder: ‘Underwater archaeologists have wish lists. A trireme is certainly one of the top ones on most people’s lists. And I think this [the waters off Mount Athos] is one of the best places to look for them.’
However, there are reasons why trireme remains have proved so elusive. Since ancient galleys did not use ballast, they did not sink when wrecked but floated on the surface. Ancient sources record how they were salvaged simply by being towed back to land, where they were either repaired or recycled for other purposes. Cargo would sometimes act as ballast, dragging a ship to the bottom, which is why ancient cargo ships have been recovered, but triremes were war galleys and hence did not carry heavy cargoes in their hold. The heaviest part of the trireme was probably the bronze ram on the prow that was used to smash enemy ships, and these may be lying on the bottom of the Aegean awaiting recovery, along with metal arms and armour carried by those on board.
Preserved in the deep
The Mediterranean is one of the most intensively exploited seas in the world, and has been so for millennia. This applies to treasure hunting and looting of wrecks, and there is considerable concern that many of the best/most accessible ancient wrecks have already been stripped of anything valuable, damaging and rendering them useless for archaeology in the process. Similarly, the prevalence of dragnet trawling, where fishermen drag heavily weighted booms with attached nets along the bottom of the sea, destroying everything in their path, has probably damaged or obliterated many ancient wrecks.
But the experts hope that the context of the Persian fleet wrecks may have preserved them from the looters. The fleets came to grief in deep water, especially the biggest potential wreck focus, off Mount Athos, where the sea bottom drops sharply to depths of 600 metres (2,000 feet) or more. This area is also quite remote, which should have helped to protect it from looters. An additional benefit is that silt is deposited quite fast in the Aegean, so that any remains may have been rapidly covered in a layer of preserving and protective silt.
Looking for the Persian fleets
In recent years the story of the Persian fleets has gained a new profile thanks to a concerted international effort to locate and study the wrecks, an effort made possible by new technology. The Persian Wars Shipwreck Survey (PWSS) – a joint programme by the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research and the Canadian Archaeological Institute at Athens, together with various other academics and institutions – uses side-scan sonar, mini-submarines and submarine remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) to map and explore the locations described by Herodotus.
In its three seasons of exploration so far the PWSS has explored the waters off the Mount Athos peninsula, the Hollows of Euboea (off the coast of southern Euboea) and the Artemision Channel, site of a major naval battle. The results have not been breathtaking. So far one of the main discoveries has been the location of the wreck of a cargo ship off Mount Athos, which was carrying amphorae identified as being from Mende, a Greek city to the west of Mount Athos. This could mean that the ship had nothing to do with Darius’ fleet (it could date from up to a century earlier), or it could have been a supply ship carrying material requisitioned by the Persian invaders.
The headline discovery, however, has been attributed to the help of an octopus, likened to one of Herodotus’ ‘monsters beyond all others’. Alerted to the fact that local fishermen hauling in their catch had chanced upon two bronze helmets from the classical period (500–323 BCE), the PWSS crew searched in the same area and spotted a large jar on the seabed. The jar was home to an octopus, a creature renowned for occasionally retrieving sunken objects and squirreling them away in its lair. Sure enough, the octopoid loot proved to include a bronze sauroter – a pointed spear butt or butt-spike that fitted onto the end of a Greek hoplite’s (infantryman) spear, allowing it to be stuck into the ground and also making it a double-ended weapon. Finding the weapon accessory where two pieces of armour have also been recovered has strengthened belief that the wrecks of the Persian fleet (which included many Greek soldiers from the vassal states in Asia Minor, as well as from Greek states inimical to Athens and Sparta) do lie in the area.
The PWSS team has had less luck in the waters around Euboea, but it plans to return in 2006 to continue mapping the sea floor and looking for promising targets to investigate using its submersibles. It also warns, however, that academics are not the only ones equipped with such technology. Katerina Dellaporta, director of underwater antiquities for Greece and one of the survey’s leaders, has warned, ‘Before, looters would only do scuba diving. But now, the technology [such as ROVs] allows everybody to have access to deeper waters.’ While the assertion that ‘everybody’ might get access to deep water is perhaps an overstatement (buying and operating an ROV costs tens–hundreds of thousands), it is to be hoped that archaeologists and not looters are the first to locate the lost wrecks of the great fleets of Darius and Xerxes.