On his recent visit to Egypt, U.S. President Barack Obama toured the pyramids of Giza, escorted by you-know-who...
How come Zahi didn't show me around the place when I visited?
The most popular page on the Daily Grail (besides the front page) is my listing of esoteric and historical sites that you can 'visit' through Google Earth (accessed over 220,000 times thus far). And there's obviously no shortage of people hunting for strange things imaged by Google's satellites - over the years we've had news of Atlantis being supposedly discovered, and various instances of alleged 'UFOs'.
Well, for all you anomaly hunters, here's a site you might like: Google Earth Anomalies.
Perhaps one of the most interesting features on the site is the Utah Geoglyphs:
Ed Payne from Lindon, Utah has made some amazing discoveries using Google Earth. An incredible series of ancient lines, circles and shapes has been documented similar to the famous landscape lines in Nazca, Peru except these lines exist on the American landscape. The circular features, and various linear shapes are connected by lines and they appear to be ancient in origin found in very remote locations in Utah. Many of the geoglyphs have been partially hidden by nature and some of the lines have been turned into modern roads. Some long lines continue up to the edges of tall cliffs where they are abruptly cut off by a vertical drop.
The site contains direct links to online Google Maps to verify the 'discoveries' are genuine locations, and you can also find the coordinates if you want to browse them on Google Earth.
Dr Zahi Hawass has always had a voracious appetite for media coverage. At the moment though, he's had to enter damage control after two separate media interviews in which he made questionable comments about the Jewish people. Last month he posted on his website a "Clarification of Remarks on Jewish History", aimed at defusing a growing controversy about remarks he made on Egyptian TV on February 11, 2009, including "For 18 centuries they were dispersed throughout the world. They went to America and took control of its economy. They have a plan. Although they are few in number, they control the entire world." The Big Z's clarification of these remarks was that he had been misunderstood: what he was doing was contrasting "the relative unity of the international Jewish community with the political fragmentation that we see among the Arabs."
The concept of killing women, children and elderly people… seems to run in the blood of the Jews of Palestine. [In fact,] it seems to have become part of the false faith of this people, who is tormenting us in our [own] homeland.
“When I speak of the Jewish faith, I do not mean their [original] faith, but the faith that they forged and contaminated with their poison, which is aimed against all of mankind… The only thing that the Jews have learned from history is methods of tyranny and torment – so much so that they have become artists in this field. They have done to the Palestinians what Pharaoh and Sargon [of Akkad] did to the Jews…
Yesterday, Dr Hawass posted a "further clarification" of his remarks on his website, saying "they were addressed to Middle Eastern readers, and thus were written in a rhetorical style meant to communicate specifically with this audience." Hrmmm.
To be fair, it is a common error when discussing these sensitive topics to mean a specific group or individuals, but in saying the words come across as generalising about a complete population or culture - though some of the comments are hard to rationalise away in that manner. It's also worth noting this 2002 article by Robert Bauval on the very topic of Egyptology and Anti-Semitism, which has other dubious comments about Jews from Zahi, as well as rather odd accusations towards Robert himself about being "a Jew".
This probably stems from earlier tensions in Egypt with the Sphinx expedition involving John Anthony West and Boris Said, with the "redating" of the Sphinx often being viewed by modern Egyptians as an attempt to steal their history. Bauval explores some of these tensions and conspiracy theories in his book Secret Chamber, noting also that a later (officially sanctioned) Giza expedition by the Cayce-aligned Schor Foundation proposed to wear the 'Star of David' logo on their t-shirts (being the logo of Joe Schor's Foundation).
Then add to those the involvement of people such as Lambert Dolphin in Giza expeditions over the years, and incidents such as the controversial gold capping of the Great Pyramid at the Millennium (echoing Masonic prophecies), and we start getting a bit lost in Zionist-Masonic-Christian Fundamentalist-New Age conspiracy theories. So forgive me for not even trying to dig further into this topic...
Here's a new video on the restoration of the Step Pyramid of Djoser (and uncovering of his massive granite sarcophagus), featuring - of course - Dr Zahi Hawass. Djoser's pyramid is one of the earliest examples of monumental work on a truly massive scale, predating the Giza pyramids by a couple of centuries.
Whatever you think of Dr Hawass, he's not boring to watch (give him a cape and a big pipe organ and it would be perfect) - just a shame there's not more coverage of the actual granite sarcophagus rather than the Big Z's mug. Still, great to see these sorts of short videos coming out of Egypt. Archaeology projects could take a leaf out of Zahi's book here - I'm sure there would be a pretty sizeable audience out there interested in seeing updates from digs around the world.
The most excellent PBS documentary series Nova has recently been filming a feature on the Great Sphinx at Giza which is due to air at the end of the year. They've even managed to get that shrinking violet, Dr Zahi Hawass, in front of the camera (amazing, I know) - and the Big Z has added an article to his website with information about his participation (along with Mark Lehner and Rainer Stadelmann), and three specific facets of his work with the Sphinx (original conservation, protection from groundwater, and laser scanning of the monument to preserve a record of it).
The research on protecting the Sphinx from groundwater also allowed Dr Hawass to put the boot into the alternative history triumvirate of Hancock, West and Bauval, via some new results from drilling within the Sphinx enclosure:
Perhaps the most important result of the groundwater project was that it enabled us to put to rest speculation about mysterious underground tunnels and chambers carved below the Sphinx by “ancient civilizations.” For years, I have debated people like John Anthony West, Robert Bauval, and Graham Hancock, who say that survivors of a lost civilization 10,000 years ago left secrets buried beneath the Sphinx. These people also claim that the erosion of the Sphinx was caused by water, and that this necessarily means that it dates back to long before the Old Kingdom. None of their theories has any basis in fact, but their supporters have insisted that we should drill holes to try and find these hidden chambers. I have always refused to permit such a project in the past, because there was no scientific basis for it. Because such drilling was a necessary part of our work to protect the Sphinx from groundwater, however, we did finally drill in the vicinity of the statue, and we found that there were no hidden passages or chambers there. The Sphinx is indeed a guardian of civilization and the record of the past, but it is the civilization of Egypt’s Old Kingdom that created it.
There was also discussion of the redating of the Sphinx, but without mention of Robert Schoch or John Anthony West. Instead, the question was restricted to "the debate over whether the Sphinx dates to the reign of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid, or to that of Khafre, for whom the second pyramid of Giza was built." Rainer Stadelmann provided the argument for the theory that the Sphinx was built during the reign of Khufu, while Dr Z and Mark Lehner argued for the 'orthodox' dating from the reign of Khafre.
Previously on TDG:
Okay, if you're only going to read one article this week, read this article at Wired on the Georgia Guidestones. One of the great American mysteries, the Guidestones have intrigued me for years - we've even got an article commissioned for Darklore Volume 4 on the topic - but there has been very little information available publicly. In short - in 1980 a megalithic monument was commissioned in Elberton, Georgia by a mysterious man/group, which features precise astronomical alignments, and messages for post-apocalyptic survivors of some impending cataclysm.
Rather than being a superficial travel piece, Randall Sullivan's story digs really deep into the mystery; he interviews most of the people central to the story (excepting, of course, the mysterious R.C. Christian), including the banker who helped get the project underway, and who communicated with 'Christian' for more than two decades. Martin's memories give insights into the mind(s) behind the project, a facet which has largely been missing from the puzzle:
The tall and courtly Martin—the only man in Elberton besides Fendley known to have met R. C. Christian face-to-face—is now 78. "Fendley called me and said, 'A kook over here wants some kind of crazy monument,'" Martin says. "But when this fella showed up he was wearing a very nice, expensive suit, which made me take him a little more seriously. And he was well-spoken, obviously an educated person." Martin was naturally taken aback when the man told him straight out that R. C. Christian was a pseudonym. He added that his group had been planning this secretly for 20 years and wanted to remain anonymous forever. "And when he told me what it was he and this group wanted to do, I just about fell over," Martin says. "I told him, 'I believe you'd be just as well off to take the money and throw it out in the street into the gutters.' He just sort of looked at me and shook his head, like he felt kinda sorry for me, and said, 'You don't understand.'"
The only thing I would say that is missing from the story is more detail on the obvious model for the construction of the Guidestones - the myths of ancient antedeluvian civilisations which constructed memorials to keep knowledge 'alive' in case of Earth-shattering cataclysms (a topic which the Darklore article will cover) - and which make a lot of the 'New World Order' paranoia seem pretty dumb. But in all, I'd have to rate this as the most enjoyable article I've read this year. Lots of new information about the Guidestones from those closest to the mystery, and also a better understanding of the mind of 'R.C. Christian'. The final quote in the article really suggests he was no 'kook', but knew exactly what he was doing on multiple levels:
For years Martin thought he might write a book, but now he knows he probably won't. What he also won't do is allow me to look through the papers. When I ask whether he's prepared to take what he knows to his grave, Martin replies that Christian would want him to do just that: "All along, he said that who he was and where he came from had to be kept a secret. He said mysteries work that way. If you want to keep people interested, you can let them know only so much."
I can't believe the author of the article pointed out where the papers are though - Mr Martin, please move them, because some idiot is bound to break in after reading the story...
The Guidestones article is just one part of what looks to be an amazing issue of Wired, led by guest editor J.J. Abrams. Codes and puzzles, mystery places from around the world, the enigmatic Kryptos sculpture which might feature in Dan Brown's next book, and the psychology of magic...these are a few of my favourite things.
Kat posted what seems to be a major story in her Monday News Briefs: "Knights Templar hid the Shroud of Turin, says Vatican". So much so that I thought it might have been an April Fool's story with an incorrect date (see for example this Daily Grail effort from a couple of years ago) - the first paragraph hits you right in the face:
Medieval knights hid and secretly venerated The Holy Shroud of Turin for more than 100 years after the Crusades, the Vatican said yesterday in an announcement that appeared to solve the mystery of the relic’s missing years.
The key discovery in this story is that made by Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives, while looking into the history of the Knights Templar. Her investigation...
...brought to light a document in which Arnaut Sabbatier, a young Frenchman who entered the order in 1287, testified that as part of his initiation he was taken to “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access”. There he was shown “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times.
This isn't Frale's only discovery in the Big V's secret archives - she previously unearthed the Chinon Parchment, which provides a record of the trial of the Templars. Imagine what else she might find if she digs around...
While the Sabbatier account is certainly fascinating, not all are impressed. This critical article points out that there are still some issues to be resolved given the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud, which suggests it wasn't made until the 14th century.
Also worth noting is that the Turin Shroud is not the only 'image of Jesus' going around (for example, see the Image of Edessa), and so the Sabbatier story may not actually be referring to it - although the full body-image, versus just a face, would suggest the Turin Shroud.
Frale's discovery of a pre-14th century story concerning a shroud of Jesus is also not without precedent. A tenth century codex found in the Vatican Library, the Codex Vossianus Latinus quotes a man called Smera in Constantinople in the 8th century as saying that "King Abgar received a cloth on which one can see not only a face but the whole body."
What do you think? I've changed the poll over so that you can give your opinion*, you can vote here or by scrolling down to the poll in the right-hand block of the page. Feel free also to leave a comment, given that the poll is quite restricted in its answers - for instance, the medieval fake choice has a whole range of sub-topics - who made it, why does it look so much better as a negative, etc.
The previous poll on best evidence for an afterlife has been archived. Before it was hijacked** by a certain site, most Grailers seemed to think that the Near Death Experience offered the most intriguing possibilities for investigating life after death (subtract around 1600 votes from "No Evidence" if you want the pre-Pharyngula poll result).
* Yes Mr Myers, it's people's opinions. We're not in danger of thinking that it's scientific in any way. Breathe dude, breathe.
** Yes it was hijacked, P.Z. is on the record regarding his intentions when poll-crashing. As for restricting it to members if I want it private, that would be an option - but that would also cut out a lot of regular readers who don't wish to be members (for various reasons - privacy, etc). Sometimes it would just be nice to think that people are intelligent and thoughtful.
If this doesn't have all the trappings of the intro to a kick-ass horror movie, I don't know what does:
One of the biggest exhibitions of mummies ever staged is opening in the northern Italian town of Bolzano. The show, called the Dream of Eternal Life, features more than 60 mummies from Egypt, Asia, Europe and South America, assembled from 27 museums. They include animals as well as humans, and the artefacts connected with them.
Included in the exhibition is the mummy du jour, 'Oetzi the Iceman'. Not sure how morbid you'll be feeling after viewing the bodies of the ancient dead all day though...
For those inquisitive souls who aren't likely to see the exhibition, but would like to, you should definitely check out the Iceman Photoscan website. It features zoomable (that's 'zoomable', not 'zombie-able'!) high-resolution scans of Oetzi - you can literally get right into the pores of his leathery skin. Great for bringing out the inner Grissom in all of us.
Again though, I'm not too sure for how long you'll be wanting to get up close and personal with the ancient dead...
Nice to see a bit of mainstream coverage of the (very) ancient megalithic temple at Göbekli Tepe, with Britain's Daily Mail featuring a write-up on the site, with commentary from prominent archaeologists:
Archaeologists worldwide are in rare agreement on the site's importance. 'Gobekli Tepe changes everything,' says Ian Hodder, at Stanford University. David Lewis-Williams, professor of archaeology at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, says: 'Gobekli Tepe is the most important archaeological site in the world.' Some go even further and say the site and its implications are incredible. As Reading University professor Steve Mithen says: 'Gobekli Tepe is too extraordinary for my mind to understand.'
While reading the article, I was struck with how similar it was to this Fortean Times article by Sean Thomas. I was just beginning to think that the author of the Mail article had plagiarised it, when I realised that the author's name - 'Tom Knox' (incorrectly credited at the start of the story as 'Tom Cox') - is a pseudonym used by Sean Thomas for writing fiction. In fact, the Daily Mail article seems to be a promo for Knox/Thomas's new fiction novel, The Genesis Secret (Amazon UK now, and available for pre-order on Amazon US). The premise of the book seems rather autobiographical (well, the first two sentences...hopefully not the rest!):
In the sunburnt deserts of eastern Turkey, archaeologists are unearthing a stone temple, the world's most ancient building. When Journalist Rob Luttrell is sent to report on the dig, he is intrigued to learn that someone deliberately buried the site 10,000 years ago. Why? Meanwhile, in London, a bizarre attack is baffling the police. When a weird killing takes place on the Isle of Man, followed by another in rural Dorset, DC Mark Forrester begins to discern a curious pattern in these apparently random murders. What weaves together these two stories is the Genesis Secret: a revelation so shocking it may threaten the social structure of the world. Only one man knows the secret, and he is intent on destroying the evidence before it can be uncovered. Spanning the globe from the ruined castles of Ireland to the desolate wastes of Kurdistan, Tom Knox's intense and compelling thriller weaves together genuine historical evidence, scientific insights and Biblical mysteries into an electrifying tale that grips the reader mercilessly from beginning to end.
Interesting that some of the initial public knowledge of Göbekli Tepe has come from a fiction writer who has weaved the site into his latest book.
As an aside, when you look at the clarity of the carvings on those megaliths - and think of the organisation that must have been required to construct/use the site - it's hard to believe that the 'invention' of writing dates to around 6000 years later.
Thanks Baldrick for the heads-up.
Previously on TDG:
There are few ancient monuments more recognisable than the Sphinx - but is it as unique as it seems? The Histories & Mysteries website currently features an interesting story which asks whether there were actually two Sphinxes on the Giza Plateau. It begins by looking at the evidence for the more 'well-known' (though still 'heretical') claim that the Sphinx predated its supposed creator, the Old Kingdom pharaoh Khafre, such as the text found on the Dream Stele of Tuthmosis IV. It then reveals that a number of these ancient sources also discuss a second Sphinx:
What is particularly interesting on the Dream Stele of Tuthmosis IV is the representation of the Sphinx. There are two! Equally, one can see that the two Sphinxes sit on architectural constructions, i.e. a small temple with a gate. The usual interpretation from Egyptologists is that these temples are merely the representation of that what is present in front and to the South of the Sphinx. However, such a conclusion should fail to satisfy anyone, as it is well-known that the rules of perspective for the ancient Egyptians were very strict, and no official artist would allow himself to deviate from reality to such an extent.
Most importantly, in the Inventory Stele, there is mention of a lightning strike that struck the cap of a Second Sphinx, as well as a sycamore tree, a sacred tree in those days, which was burned by the same lightning strike. The lightning strike marked the beginning of the end of this Second Sphinx.
According to archaeologist Michael Poe, who refers to papyrus fragments from the Middle Kingdom, the Second Sphinx was located face to face with the still-existing Sphinx. It was located on the other side of the Nile, and was destroyed by a violent rising of the river Nile ca. 1000 AD. The local people took stones from the structure to rebuild their villages.
The article ends on a tantalising note, regarding the silence that surrounds this particular hypothesis ("Perhaps...because these Sphinxes hide something that gains access to something underneath the Gizeh plateau?"). Plenty in there to get Zahi's blood a'boiling, so enjoy.