Where we attempt to fill you in on everything they forgot to teach you at school

Did Marco Polo 'Discover' America in the 13th Century?

Early Map of the Americas?

Do a set of parchments show that the 13th century Italian explorer Marco Polo mapped the coast of Alaska, some two hundred years before Christopher Columbus 'discovered' the New World?

For a guy who claimed to spend 17 years in China as a confidant of Kublai Khan, Marco Polo left a surprisingly skimpy paper trail. No Asian sources mention the footloose Italian. The only record of his 13th-century odyssey through the Far East is the hot air of his own Travels, which was actually an “as told to” penned by a writer of romances. But a set of 14 parchments, now collected and exhaustively studied for the first time, give us a raft of new stories about Polo’s journeys and something notably missing from his own account: maps.

If genuine, the maps would show that Polo recorded the shape of the Alaskan coast—and the strait separating it from Asia—four centuries before Vitus Bering, the Danish explorer long considered the first European to do so. Perhaps more important, they suggest Polo was aware of the New World two centuries before Columbus.

“It would mean that an Italian got knowledge of the west coast of North America or he heard about it from Arabs or Chinese,” says Benjamin B. Olshin, a historian of cartography whose book, The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps, is out in November from the University of Chicago Press. “There’s nothing else that matches that, if that’s true.”

Link: Did Marco Polo "Discover" America?

Kickstarter: Magical Egypt Series 2

Magical Egypt 2 Kickstarter

Many readers will be familiar with the Magical Egypt series, a high-production-quality DVD set from the early 2000s that explored the esoteric symbolism, philosophy and history of ancient Egypt, via 'alternative Egyptologist' John Anthony West. For those that enjoyed the series - and those that just love discussion of ancient Egypt in general - you'll be pleased to learn that a second instalment of the series is now being planned. In 2014 though, the producers are seeking to gauge interest and raise funds via a Kickstarter campaign:

Magical Egypt series 2 pushes the entire investigation to the next phase. If, as modern science seems to be showing, there actually was a scientific culture that in many respects, was MORE advanced than we are today, or if it was advanced along technological paths different than western science has taken, can we find "recoverable technology" in the considerable relics and ruins left behind by the ancient world?

Magical Egypt is excited to include the unique voices of some of the worlds leading thinkers in "the new counterculture", such as Graham Hancock, Neil Kramer, Lon Milo DuQuette, Robert Bauval, Laird Scranton, Max Igan and the host of the original series John Anthony West.

The campaign has already passed its initial $5000 funding goal, with more than 3 weeks still left to go - but the total they are looking to raise to fund the series is in the region of $50,000 - so take a look at the pledge rewards on offer, and chip in if there's anything that grabs you.

Link: Kickstarter: Magical Egypt Returns

Graham Hancock on the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE #551)

Geez Louise, two in a row! Once again, Powerful Joe Rogan regales us listeners with one kickass podcast episode; this time with none other than Graham Hancock, the explorer of deep mysteries and lost worlds, who came to the JRE studio for a wide-range discussion about altered states of consciousness, the benefits of psychedelics both for their healing qualities and as tools to expand one's concept of Reality, along with the kind of research into ancient civilizations he's most famous for ever since he published his seminal book Fingerprints of the Gods nearly 20 years ago.

A lot of things have happened in those 20 years, incidentally. Not only is archeoastronomy being taken a much more predominant role --thanks in part to the availability of computer software which can simulate the exact position of the constellations as they were in the night sky thousands of years ago-- but we keep digging up more amazing discoveries which have forced historians to push back the dawn of civilization ever further. For Graham, the discovery of Göbekli Tepe felt like a personal vindication to his theories which are still considered as 'pseudoscience' by orthodox archeologists --although with Göbekli Tepe we actually need to talk about a RE-discovery, for the existence of the Turkish megalithic site was known since the 1950s, but it was originally dismissed by American scholars because its columns were 'too finely carved'; it was only until the (recently deceased) German archeologist Klaus Schmidt decided to take a second look to those columns in 1994, that it was finally ascertained they predated the megaliths in Stonehenge by at least 6000 years.

Indeed, one of the main topics in Joe's chat with Hancock was the issue of being in either the right or the wrong side of history. Copernicus and Galileo, with their theories about the nature of our planet and our solar system, are now universally acknowledged to be in the right side of history, whereas the Holy Inquisition and the cardinals who put Galileo into house arrest --and condemned Giordano Bruno to a fiery execution-- are perceived in our age as reactionaries who stood in the way of progress. The same will no doubt be said of those who demanded TED to put down both Hancock's & Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx presentations a year ago, just as surely as future generations will also view the government agencies & international interests seeking to perpetuate the war on drugs, as the XXth century equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition: For standing in the way of every adult's sovereign right to explore its own consciousness through the tools that have been at our disposal for thousands of years --Entheogens.

But perhaps with this & other needless wars there have been other forces at play, which has in fact been the subject of Graham's fictional novel War God, the 1st in a trilogy of books dealing with a subject near & dear to my heart: The Spanish conquest of Mexico. If you read the novel already --for which I wrote a review for The Grail last July-- you'd already know Graham explored the potential influence of 'supernatural' entities in the unfolding of that crucial moment in history; this year War God's sequel Return of the Plumed Serpent will be released, and Hancock's readers will find out how the demon/demiurge revered by the Aztecs as their god Huitzilopochtli played with both emperor Moctezuma and the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés to prompt the fall of the Aztec reign, and the enslavement of millions of natives. Could it be that the same demon filling Cortés' head with dreams of glory and riches in the XVIth century, has been also whispering in the ear of modern leaders, in order to maintain an endless river of blood to sate its thirst?

And yet, if there are dark entities seeking the suffering of men, couldn't there also be forces of light seeking to guide us and show us a way out of the darkness? Graham's personal experiences with the Ayahuasca brew have convinced him that this is the case; who knows? maybe those guides are also responsible for the modern resurgence of psychedelics in our present times, as well as how contemporary technologies like the world wide web, are empowering the masses into seeing beyond the web of lies that our governments have spun around our eyes for far too many years.

So be sure to listen to this latest episode of the Joe Rogan's Experience with one of TDG's favorite authors, and pre-order War God: Return of the Plumed Serpent to learn more about Graham Hancock's gnostic vision of the world. BTW if you send him an e-mail to wargoddedications@gmail.com with confirmation of the pre-ordering before October 9th, he will send you a special bookplate with his signature to your designated postal address which you'll be able to stick in your copy. This he'll do after he returns from his trip around the United States with American catastrophist Randall Carlson --the last leg of his research for the upcoming book Magicians of the Gods-- which will culminate at the Paradigm Symposium in Minneapolis, where he'll meet with his friends & colleagues Robert Bauval & John Anthony West.

I will be there in Minnesota this October, where I'll have the tremendous pleasure to extend my personal gratitude to one of the most illustrious explorers of our time.

Google Pyramid View

Pyramids of Giza on Google Street View

Ever fancied traveling to Egypt to take in the last remaining wonder of the ancient world, the Pyramids (and Great Sphinx) of Giza, but haven't had the cash or aren't too fond of the actual travel part? Google Street View has your back, with the addition of a new walking tour of the Giza plateau added to a list of fascinating virtual tours that includes other ancient marvels such as Stonehenge and Angkor Wat.

While the actual experience of being there can never be surpassed, Google's tour does bring some facets of the real thing into your home - not least the overpowering size of the things. Having been lucky enough to visit Giza myself (way back in 1998), what really blew me away was standing up close to the Great Pyramid and taking in the way the massive blocks seemed to just extend upwards into the blue sky - and Google's tour does its best at providing that feeling.

But as much as I love the addition of Giza to Google's Street View tours, I can't help but feel that they've really missed a trick here. Why not get the permission of Egyptian authorities to go off the beaten track, so that millions of people at home could walk in the 'forbidden areas' of the Plateau, such as right up between the paws of the Sphinx, or on top of the Great Pyramid? Or, at the very least, inside the pyramids themselves, so we could all walk up the amazing Grand Gallery, take in the grandeur of the King's Chamber, or feel the claustrophia of walking within the tight passages? Even the Sphinx Temple is off limits, though thankfully you can take a look inside the Valley Temple on the way to the viewing platform for the Sphinx.

That said, I'm hardly one to look a gift horse - or camel, as the case may be - in the mouth, and am really pleased to see this tour of Giza now available for us all. And also note that the new Egyptian Street View tours aren't restricted to Giza, with a number of other sites, including the Step Pyramid of Djoser, also now available for viewing.

You might also like:

The Mysterious Celestial Spheres of the Ancient Mughal Empire

The famous celestial globe of Muhammad Salih Tahtawi

Before the advent of Google Earth, when one wanted to see what the planet looked like, or to find a certain faraway place without actually travelling to it, one would consult a map - and you’ll recall that they didn’t always fit in your phone. We’ve made maps for millennia. It’s an art form unto itself, and as anyone with a love for antique maps can tell you, the variation in form and artistic style is both immense and awe inspiring.

Of course, there are different kinds of maps. From a technical perspective, there are topological and topographical maps, navigational maps, population maps, faction maps, marine maps, even wind maps. Most are concerned with demonstrating relative locations on Earth, but people have been making maps of the stars for almost as long as they’ve been giving each other badly drawn directions to the corner store. Celestial maps, as they’re called, offer a standardised view of constellations and individual stars, along with their relative position compared to specific points on Earth.

One of the problems with celestial maps, and actually with all maps, is the two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object or space. In order to accurately plot locations and show a realistic measure of their position relative to all others, the cartographer must distort the actual shape of either the Earth or the heavens. This, obviously, can cause some problems when one wants to clearly understand the actual relationship between two locations. The answer? Globes!

Globes too, are split into two categories, terrestrial and celestial. The earliest known terrestrial globes date to ancient Greece (6th to 3rd century BCE), though no examples have survived the ravages of time. Celestial globes may have gotten a start much later, possibly as late as 2nd century CE, as a part of the Farnese Atlas, which is a Roman replica of the classical Hellenistic sculpture of Atlas, but depicting him holding up the heavens, rather than the world. Though, since no examples or records of celestial spheres have been found (yet) prior to this point, it’s not known when or who exactly started the trend. Antique celestial globes are most often made out of metal, usually bronze, and are usually hollow, but are also found in marble and other sculpting mediums.

In the realm of celestial globes, also known as celestial spheres, there are some spectacular surviving examples, and among those gems are hidden one of history’s most vexing puzzles.

In the 1980s, a Smithsonian historian of science, Emilie Savage-Smith, embarked on a journey throughout the middle-east, with the purpose of finding and studying celestial spheres from antiquity. She found a bounty of them, some of the most incredible works of cartographic art and engineering ever made by human hands.

Among those she found there were two distinct types; seamed and seamless spheres. Seamed spheres are, or were, made by moulding two halves of the sphere separately and then soldering them together, ultimately buffing the soldered seam to make a smooth sphere. Then artisans and astronomers would engrave the surface according to whatever specific element of the skies they wanted to depict.

Seamless spheres, however, were another thing entirely; something Emilie Savage-Smith discovered quite unexpectedly.

Up until Savage-Smith made her discovery, it was thought by virtually the entirety of the academic community and by metallurgists the world over, that all examples of hollow metal celestial spheres in existence were of the seamed type. This was owing to the long held belief that creating seamless hollow metal spheres is impossible. It turns out, that isn’t true.

One of the earliest examples of a seamless celestial sphere found by Savage-Smith, was found to be from a workshop in Lahore, Pakistan, though she soon found that the technique, described as ‘secret wax casting’ was widely known by metal craftsmen in Northern India from at least as early as the late 16th century and coming from the Mughal Empire. In fact, some of the workshops identified continued to use the technique up until the 19th century. Though it has apparently now been lost to modern manufacturing techniques.

According to some, the best surviving example of a hollow, seamless celestial sphere is one made by a Mughal metallurgical master and astronomer named Muhammad Salih Tahtawi in 1631. The sphere, known as the celestial globe of Muhammad Salih Tahtawi, is a massive bronze globe adorned with ornate engraving in both Arabic and Persian, as well as numerous pictographic representations of celestial bodies. Its manufacture would have been an immense undertaking, though Salih Tahtawi surely succeeded in creating a masterpiece unparalleled before or since.

A detailed portrait of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir holding a globe

The existence of the spheres, which are commonly known as Islamicate Celestial Globes, isn’t without controversy though. Aside from the obvious resistance among modern metallurgists to the idea that these objects were created as Savage-Smith asserts, there exists a good deal of misinformation about these spheres, stemming from what appears to be a reluctance to attribute such mastery to the Muslim ruled Mughal Empire. Several people have asserted that the existence of both Arabic and Persian language on many of the surviving examples is explained simply by the suggestion that those features were added long after the spheres were made. Presumably implying that the spheres themselves were made by a much older culture, perhaps even in a different area of the world.

Bronze casting techniques similar to that which may have been used to create these spheres, such as lost-wax casting, originated approximately 5700 years ago in Israel, but there is no evidence thus far to substantiate such a claim.

Circumstantially, it is a well-established fact that Arab and Muslim cultures were responsible for a great many technological and scientific advances throughout the middle-ages and long before. There seems to be no valid reason to deny that this particular innovation also came from their masters.

Unfortunately, the subject of seamless celestial spheres is little known in mainstream culture, and as such, in the few places it is discussed, the facts are often distorted or even completely made up. There are those who would like to claim that these magnificent examples of our history are actually OOP-ART (out-of-place-artefacts), suggesting that their origin is related to either a lost pre-historic human culture or aliens. Though as with most such arguments, there isn’t enough information at present to really dive into the discussion.

In any event, once again we are awed by the sophisticated and masterful creations of our forefathers, and once again, our steady march toward modernity has cost us the wisdom of the ages.

The Secret Buried Beneath Stonehenge that has Astonished Archaeologists

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, by Andrew Dunn (Creative Commons Licence)

One of the striking features about Stonehenge is how lonely it feels, standing bare upon the fields of Wiltshire (if one ignores more modern constructions). But was it that way in the past? Smithsonian Magazine has a fascinating feature on new research that suggests the megaliths of Stonehenge were just one part of a much larger complex. Using magnetometers and ground-penetrating radars, Vince Gaffney and his team of archaeologists have spent four-years gathering information on what still lies beneath the soil of four square miles of the countryside surrounding England's most famous megalithic monument:

The results are astonishing. The researchers have found buried evidence of more than 15 previously unknown or poorly understood late Neolithic monuments: henges, barrows, segmented ditches, pits. To Gaffney, these findings suggest a scale of activity around Stonehenge far beyond what was previously suspected. “There was sort of this idea that Stonehenge sat in the middle and around it was effectively an area where people were probably excluded,” Gaffney told me, “a ring of the dead around a special area—to which few people might ever have been admitted....Perhaps there were priests, big men, whatever they were, inside Stonehenge having processions up the Avenue, doing...something extremely mysterious. Of course that sort of analysis depends on not knowing what’s actually in the area around Stonehenge itself. It was terra incognita, really.”

Link: What Lies Beneath Stonehenge?

Rock and Roll: A New Theory on How the Ancient Egyptians Moved Massive Blocks of Stone

Pyramid of Khufu (by Bradipus, Creative Commons Licence)

A new paper on arXiv.org offers a novel solution to the mystery of how the ancient Egyptians moved millions of massive stone blocks around: by rolling them inside a 12-sided wooden frame. Noting the orthodox theory - that the blocks were put on sleds which were pulled, with the sand in front of the sled being constantly lubricated with - results in a not insignificant level of friction, they suggest that the dodecagon idea would be a far more efficient method of moving these heavy blocks:

As an alternative to dragging large blocks, one can consider
rolling the blocks. Rolling a prism of 4 sides is not efficient, but
adding wooden rods to the surface can effectively increase the number of sides. The crew can then pull on a rope wrapped around and passing over the top of the block. In this configuration, static friction acts in the direction of the desired motion, rather than opposing the motion. In effect the block and rope combination becomes a 2:1 pulley, though the pulley was not yet formally "known" to the Egyptians at that time. The rods can be re-used many times, and there is no need to to transport large quantities of water for lubrication.

...By attaching 12 identical wooden rods to the faces of the block, one effectively transforms the block into a dodecagon prism with very little added mass, much lower ground pressure, and with good cross country mobility... It would seem that some variation of rolling the blocks should now be considered to be among the “best” and most likely method used to move the stones for the great pyramids

The paper goes into more of the physics behind the idea, as well as offering some experimental data to back the authors' theory up.

(h/t Norman R.)

Link: How they (should have) built the pyramids

You might also like: Has This Retired Construction Worker Figured Out How Stonehenge Was Built?

Ancient Maya Cities Discovered in the Mexican Jungle

Lost Maya Pyramid

I'm sure in this day and age there are no more archaeological secrets to be discovered. Wait, what?

A monster mouth doorway, ruined pyramid temples and palace remains emerged from the Mexican jungle as archaeologists unearthed two ancient Mayan cities. Found in the southeastern part of the Mexican state of Campeche, in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula, the cities were hidden in thick vegetation and hardly accessible.

"Aerial photographs helped us in locating the sites," expedition leader Ivan Sprajc, of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), said. Sprajc and his team found the massive remains as they further explored the area around Chactun, a large Maya city discovered by the Slovenian archaeologist in 2013.

Link: Ancient Maya Cities Found in Jungle

But wait, there are more lost cities!

Megaliths of Japan and East Asia

Most of us grew up hearing about amazing, mysterious megalithic structures from all over the world: Stonehenge in England, Baalbek in Lebanon, the temples of Egypt, Sacsaywaman in Peru. But very rarely did we hear - and thus know - that Asia also features a plethora of incredible stone structures. The video above gives a quick introduction to some of these megalithic sites of the East...a topic that I'm pretty sure Graham Hancock will be covering in his upcoming book.

Any readers visited these sites? Feel free to comment and add more information!

(via The Cosmic Joker)

You might also like:

Randall Carlson: Geometrician, Geomythologist (and All Around Mind-Blower)

While Graham Hancock, Robert Schoch & John Anthony West are undoubtedly 'house-hold names' in the Alt-history movement, the same might not be said of Randall Carlson.

Which is a bloody, unforgivable shame.

I first learned of Randall fairly recently, thanks in large part to the Podfather himself, Joe Rogan, who had him on his show The Joe Rogan Experience last May, and if you haven't listened to it yet, you should correct that mistake immediately; but if you don't have 3 hours to spare right now in order to listen to that JRE episode, here's a shorter video composed of several of Randall's lectures, in which he explains his interpretation of what the arcane tradition of the ancients' lost knowledge ("the essence of the Great Work," as he puts it) was all about: To show us 'a way out' from the constant cycles of destruction & rebuilding, brought upon our tiny paradisiacal planet by the cosmic envoys of Death —rogue comets & meteors.

"We are sitting ducks in a cosmic shooting gallery" he says; a claim which during the days of Velikovsky was considered fear-mongering pseudoscience, but that now is pretty much the standard discourse of mainstream Academia; for now we have mounting evidence that cosmic impacts are indeed much more frequent than we'd like them to be, and that comets may have had a key role in the modifying of our climate, as well as the fall of many cultures now lost in the sands of time. Randall's mission in declassifying the Hermetic Secrets, is to ensure our civilization does not suffer the fate of our forefathers, and according to him that's the whole reason why Momma Gaia raised us silly monkeys in the 1st place —very McKennaesque of him, yet I find it a fascinating idea nonetheless.

Carlson is one of Graham Hancock's collaborators for Magicians of the Gods, the update to his best-seller Fingerprints of the Gods, so I expect that when the book comes out we'll hear a lot more from Randall. Incidentally, my pals Darren & Graham of The Grimerica Show managed to book him for an interview this Saturday, so if you have some questions about his work in Catastrophism & Sacred Geometry, I'll be happy to pass them along :)

You can also find more about him at his website, Sacred Geometry International.