Art is timeless, its beauty as immutable as the North Star. Timelessness can also come from people not having a clue when something was created. Knowing the year of its inception is one thing, as historians can guess at the fashions and trends of the artist's era, but creative types, like poets, are also moved by the seasons.
Sappho of Eresos would be no different than our contemporaries. Rivalling Homer in her stature, and celebrated for her lyrical and lucid style, only fragments of her writing survive in the 21st century. Among Sappho's oeuvre is her Midnight Poem:
The moon has set
And the Pleiades;
It is midnight,
The time is going by,
And I sleep alone.
Bringing us to an astronomical analysis of her poem by Manfred Cuntz (ahem) and his associate Levent Gurdemir. Using a program called Starry Night, they were able to estimate the date Sappho wrote her wistful words. Playing around with their programs, the team deduced Sappho put stylus to tablet sometime between January 25th and March 31st in 570 B.C.E.. 
Had she meant to convey the time and date by noting the moon and the Pleiades set together, then the moon would've been at its first quarter.  Poking around with Stellarium, a free, multi-platform planetarium program, I'd gather the date was Tuesday the 1st of February 570 B.C.E..
While a hopeless romantic, Sappho's poem may have been a wish for extra warmth rather than some nudge-nudge wink-wink say-no-more.
- Scientists use planetarium's advanced astronomical software to accurately date 2,500 year-old lyric poem - http://phys.org/news/2016-05-scientists-...
- The Phases of the Moon - http://www.astro.cornell.edu/academics/c...
- Moon Phases - Rising & Setting Times - http://www.wsanford.com/~wsanford/exo/moonrise-set.html
You may also enjoy:
Almost three decades after Robert Bauval made headlines - and generated plenty of discussion and debate - with his controversial 'Orion Correlation Theory' (the suggestion that pyramids in Egypt were sited in particular locations in order to resemble the stars in the constellation of Orion), a new story is hitting headlines around the world today claiming that a 'lost' Maya city has been located in the Americas, through the matching of star locations to the placement of ancient cities.
What makes the story even more incredible is that the discoverer is a 15-year-old school student! William Gadoury from Quebec was perplexed as to "why the Maya built their cities away from rivers, on marginal lands and in the mountains", and "as they worshipped the stars" wondered if they might have chosen the location of its towns and cities to mirror the imagery of the sky.
He found Mayan cities lined up exactly with stars in the civilization's major constellations. Studying the star map further, he discovered one city was missing from a constellation of three stars.
Using satellite images provided by the Canadian Space Agency and then mapped on to Google Earth, he discovered the city where the third star of the constellation suggested it would be.
The similarities to Bauval's work don't end there. According to a French-language Wikipedia page the constellation that Gadoury identified with the star that had no corresponding city was the Maya version of Orion. "Three of the stars of this constellation form a triangle, are: Alnitak ( Zeta Orionis ), Rigel (Beta Orionis) and Saiph ( saiph )", it notes, with two of those corresponding to the ancient Mayan cities of Calakmul and El Mirador. But the third star did not correspond to any known Maya site, leading him to assume that - if his city/correlation theory was correct - there would be a 'lost' city hiding in that position. And, using high-resolution satellite imagery, courtesy of the Canadian Space Agency, Gadoury claims to have found exactly that.
Others with more substantial credentials have agreed:
Doctor Armand La Rocque, from the University of New Brunswick, said one image showed a street network and a large square which could possibly be a pyramid. He told The Independent: "A square is not natural, it is mostly artificial and can hardly be attributed to natural phenomena. "If we add these together, we have a lot of indication there might be a Mayan city in the area.".
Sounds exciting as hell, and if true is a stunning discovery about the importance of the night sky to ancient people. But let's also stop and breathe a little. The 'discovery' is currently based on seemingly geometric figures spotted on a satellite photograph - nobody has actually visited the area yet to confirm there is actually a lost city there. Furthermore, even if ancient ruins are discovered where Gadoury claims they should be, does it confirm the constellation correlation theory, or is it just a matter of there being so many sites in the Americas that you can 'join the dots' any way you like? (Though personally, that seems a bridge too far given the amount of corresponding sites he has claimed to have found already.)
What seems a little odd is that this isn't actually a new story - Gadoury first got media attention for his theory as a 13-year-old in 2014 and began searching for the 'lost city' later that year. CBC spoke to Daniel De Lisle of the Canadian Space Agency, who noted that the CSA first came into contact with Gadoury at a conference in 2014 - "at that time William won [a science] exposition, and one of the prizes was for him to present his project at this international conference...his booth was right beside ours; we just chit-chatted with him, and realized there was a high potential for him to make an interesting discovery, and we decided to support him":
William did a first project trying to make a correlation between the locations of the stars with the different constellations, and tried to understand how they could identify the various cities - and he made an almost 90% correlation between the fact that the stars locations could pinpoint the cities.
And one of the studies he did, he found a constellation that had no specific location on the ground. So what the space agency did was provide him with a few images over the area of interest...so he could see with the high-resolution imagery that we provided him with to try and locate this hidden or unknown city.
It could be that archaeologists just haven't treated the claim as a genuine one in the intervening time - given both the 'fringe' nature of the theory, and that it is coming from a teenager. But the coverage being given to the story now should guarantee that it gets more serious investigation.
The next logical step would seem to be to get out there and see if those geometric figures truly are a lost city. If it is...game on!
Update: Gizmodo have posted an article on this same topic, and in recent updates have included skeptical comments by archaeologists and anthropologists. One of those is Mesoamerican expert David Stuart, who in a Facebook post labeled the lost city claim as "false":
The whole thing is a mess -- a terrible example of junk science hitting the internet in free-fall. The ancient Maya didn't plot their ancient cities according to constellations. Seeing such patterns is a rorschach process, since sites are everywhere, and so are stars. The square feature that was found on Google Earth is indeed man-made, but it's an old fallow cornfield, or milpa.
Plenty of people have been having fun lately with face swapping - using mobile cameras and apps to exchange faces with another person in real-time. Inspired, this young guy went to a museum and face-swapped with the statues there...
Look, I'm no expert on ancient magic, but if Hollywood movies have taught me anything, this is just asking for an ancient curse to come to life.
Over the years there have been many great images of the Great Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt, but this 1864 photo by Antonio Beato may be the best ever. Now over 150 years old, it shows a diplomatic mission from Japan dressed in full samurai regalia - swords and all - standing in front of the Great Sphinx.
The Second Japanese Embassy to Europe, also called the Ikeda Mission, was sent on December 29, 1863 by the Tokugawa shogunate. The head of the mission was Ikeda Nagaoki, governor of small villages of Ibara, Bitchū Province (Okayama Prefecture). The assistant head of the mission was Kawazu Sukekuni.
The objective of the mission was to obtain French agreement to the closure of the harbour of Yokohama to foreign trade. The mission was sent following the 1863 "Order to expel barbarians" enacted by Emperor Kōmei, and the Bombardment of Shimonoseki incidents, in a wish to close again the country to Western influence, and return to sakoku status. The task proved impossible, as Yokohama was the center of foreign presence in Japan since the opening of the country by Commodore Perry in 1854.
On the way to France, the mission visited Egypt, where the members of the mission were photographed posing before the Sphinx by Antonio Beato, brother of the famous photographer Felice Beato. The members of the mission were abundantly photographed in Paris by Nadar.
The mission returned to Japan in failure, on July 22, 1864.
Fantastic image of an amazing location - right up there in my list of favourites with this 1920 photograph of two elegant ladies viewing an Egyptian sunset from the top of the Great Pyramid.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a couple of short, interesting films on the so-called 'Bosnian Pyramid', and stone-working in ancient Egypt. The maker of those two films, Alex Mott, has now made another film available, this time on the mysteries of ancient India (which features a cameo from Robert Bauval):
Alex Mott visits India on the trail of the Vedas and ancient stone working techniques. As with sites in Egypt and around the world, the physical evidence is right in front of you - but how they did it is still a mystery.
Whether you agree with Alex's theories or not, it's a fascinating look into a too-often-overlooked ancient civilisation.
Is Our View of History Wrong? New Research Group Aims to Investigate the Evidence for an Advanced Ancient CivilisationPosted by Greg at 03:17, 24 Mar 2016
Is the orthodox view of the rise of civilisation wrong? For many years, a number of 'alternative' historians have put forward the view that there is enough evidence to suggest that an advanced civilisation existed in prehistory, but through some cataclysm disappeared in the mists of time. And, in recent years, archaeological discoveries such as the truly ancient megalithic site of Göbekli Tepe have continued to add substance to that view.
Geologist Robert Schoch - famous for his 'redating' of the Great Sphinx of Egypt, based on evidence of water eroision - is now, with a number of colleagues, aiming to take research into this idea to the next level. He has just announced the formation of 'ORACUL' ('Organization for the Research of Ancient Cultures'), a non-profit 501c devoted to investigation and discussion of these 'forbidden history' ideas:
The scientific debate surrounding the origins of human civilization is far from settled. Independent research by scholars and professionals in the hard sciences has begun to challenge the accepted narrative of civilization’s beginnings. Today, there is a large body of evidence from a myriad of fields which argues convincingly for a revision of that narrative – pushing back the timeline for advanced culture by thousands of years.
Opposed by many orthodox scholars (whose interests are served by maintaining the status quo), serious scientists and professionals who attempt to bring attention to this contrary evidence are often ignored and ridiculed. Handicapped by a lack of funding, publicity, and professional networking, breakthrough research related to ancient cultures continues to languish in relative obscurity.
ORACUL works to bring this existing research to the attention of both the academic community and the public, as well as conducting new investigations into ancient cultures. This pioneering research involves not only professionals in the hard sciences, but also serious, out-of-the-box thinking in other disciplines. ORACUL will accomplish this goal by focusing on three primary areas of activity: Research Advocacy, Publishing, and Educational Outreach.
Here's a video introduction from Robert:
Link: ORACUL Online
In discussions of the staggering age of the Turkish megalithic site of Göbekli Tepe (circa 10,000 BCE), mention is often made of the large gap in time between the erection of these stones, and other ancient sites such as Stonehenge and the Giza pyramids in Egypt (circa 2500 BCE). However, there were other megalithic constructions in that intervening time - and some of those were truly on a grand scale.
On a recent trip to France - in particular the famous Carnac stone alignments - I was pleasantly surprised to come across a truly ancient, and truly massive, megalith that I had not heard about before. The ‘Grand Menhir’ at Locmariaquer, only a short drive from Carnac, is said to have been erected around 4700 BCE - and at some 20 metres in length, and close to 300 tonnes in weight, is one of the largest stones ever used by the megalith builders of Europe!
During the tour of the Locmariaquer site - which also includes the Er-Grah tumulus passage grave and a (reconstructed) dolmen known as the Table des Marchand - we were told that the massive megaltih unfortunately was ‘only’ standing for 700 years, with archaeologists believing it was toppled around 4000 BCE (either intentionally by man, or via an earthquake). It’s funny how the relative spans of time concerning such ancient structures convert our thinking - ‘only’ standing for 700 years!
The stone must have been something impressive when standing. Unfortunately, the manner in which it now lies on the ground - with stones at almost right angles to each other - and the landscaping of the site in which it sits, makes it difficult to get a real feel for how huge it was. Here are a couple of shots from different directions, with my daughter in the picture, to try and convey more of a sense of it’s size:
Geological research suggests the Grand Menhir was brought to its present location from at least 10km away, and was ground and pounded into a desired shape. What’s more, excavations have revealed a line of other stone-filled pits that decrease in size for some 50 metres, suggesting the Grand Menhir may have been just one of many menhirs placed in alignment for some reason, with the missing menhirs having been used for construction elsewhere in the intervening years.
Why was it built? This remains a mystery, though there have been a number of theories. Alexander Thom suggested its great size may have allowed it to be used as as a marker that could be observed from other sites in the area, used for tracking the lunar cycle. Archaeoastronomer Clive Ruggles has, however, pointed out this theory as one example of the dangers of “selectively scouring the landscape for suitable alignments…conflating archaeological features of all ages, often together with natural features in the landscape” Ruggles notes that Thom’s alignments were arrived at “by traversing eight relevant directions in search of suitable candidate backsights while ignoring other directions”.
I’ve found it difficult to learn more about the site, as much of the archaeological research appears to be in the French language. So if there is anybody out there with more knowledge of the recent research into the Locmariaquer site, please do take the time to comment.
Between this site, the endless lines at Carnac, the nearby megaliths of Gavrinis (now on an island, though not so when constructed), and many other little-known locations in the area, I highly recommend spending a couple of days touring this amazing part of Frannce if you get the chance!
Above is an interesting short video made by Alex Mott after visiting the controversial 'Bosnian Pyramid' in June 2015. In it, he addresses some of the claims made in favour of the structure being man-made (as well as more 'New Age' mysteries associated with the 'pyramid') , but can't help but feel that nature (and some wishful thinking) could have produced them all.
And for those that think the presenter is obviously a fundamentalist skeptic on such matters, please do note that he has another short video on the mysteries of ancient Egypt, which certainly doesn't follow that track:
Regardless of whether you agree with him on either topic, some excellent information (and vision) that is sure to inspire discussion!
You know a story's hot when the source site's down for exceeding its bandwidth. That's the case with Rob Antill's Digital Anthill. Back in January 2013, Rob got his mitts on a DJI Phantom. It's a $500 USD drone with a video camera and pretty darned sweet if you ask me.
During one of Rob's inaugural flights over Kootenay Lake, just outside of Nelson, BC, he caught sight of something downright curious. Everybody and their brother thrilled at the possibility of Rob's discovery writing a new chapter for North America's history. Who wouldn't be, considering labyrinths and spirals are a common motif in human art from prehistory to the 21st century?
Nah. Kootenay Lake's water level rises and falls in the spring. About ten years ago the Lakeside Labyrinth Society created one in Kootenay's shallows. From their site:
Basically, a labyrinth is a walking meditation; an opportunity for quiet reflection to connect with that place inside yourself where insights and understanding can occur. A labyrinth pathway spirals into a central destination, and then back out again, using the same path. The spiralling is said to mimic the convolutions of the brain, and it is thought that the right and left brain hemispheres become balanced when walking a labyrinth. This is what appears to support mental clarity and understanding to occur.
Locals insist this formation is recent, and the product of Lakeside Labyrinth. A lively discussion on West Coast Native's Facebook page features a thread of comments in this vein. For bigger skeptics refusing to take local yokels at their word, Lost Kootenays shared an image of these stones from last March when the water was significantly lower. If the water level regularly reveals this spiral, it would hardly be a mystery to frequent visitors of Kootenay Lake's shores.
Don't despair, as there's still plenty of hidden wonders in North America. Twelve meters beneath the surface of Lake Michigan, researchers hoping to find old shipwrecks stumbled upon a 89 meter circle of stones. One of these stones appears to bear the image of a mastodon, evidence these giant beasts still roamed those ancient shores as the glaciers retreated.
Considering this site's depth, there's almost no chance anyone flying a drone will stumble upon the site. Plus the site's being kept secret out of respect for the Grand Traverse Bay Indian community in hopes of preserving the site for further investigation.
This isn't the only stone circle in the area. About 61 miles north of Traverse City, a stone circle was discovered on Beaver Island in 1985. Its 39 stones are arranged in a 121 meter circle. Allegedly they are aligned with astronomical events like the summer solstice, the rising of the stars Aldebaran, Rigel, and Sirius. If that doesn't beat all, one of the stones appears to bear the carving of a bull on it.
- Stonehenge in Lake Michigan? http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Sto...
- Lake Michigan Stonehenge http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp264-ss15/...
- Beaver Island Stone Circle - Rising Time and Time Again http://www.repositorybeaverislandstoneci...
You may also enjoy:
When we study the ancient world, we have but one sense to use. We can, unfortunately, only view the past with our eyes. As beautiful as the artefacts of our ancestors are, this one dimensional perspective tends to be somewhat restrictive to our understanding. After all, when we consider our contemporary world, we have the benefit of seeing, smelling and hearing all of the various elements that make up that landscape. Not so with the ancient world.
However there are a select few people trying to change that. Those people are working in the field of archaeoacoustics, and though this is a relatively new field of study, great strides are being made in an effort to understand the significance of sound as it pertains to the monuments and rituals of our ancestors. The term archaeoacoustics has been coopted from its earlier use, as it pertained to sounds being recorded in clay pottery and other such objects during their manufacture in ancient societies, so as to be “played back” with the use of modern equipment. This idea was once supported by many in mainstream science, but has recently fallen into disrepute as a result of many failed attempts to verify it through experiment. The term now relates more widely to the study of sound in ancient construction and monuments.
In spite of the fanciful ideas of the more conspiratorial among us, not every ancient monument was constructed to capitalise on resonant frequencies, but some were and they deserve a closer look.
Chanting, a ritualistic form of stylised speech, and the root of all western music, was first used by ancient and prehistoric spiritual leaders in nearly all cultures as a means of furthering or supporting other aspects of ritual. It was meant to bring the participant closer to a religious or spiritual awakening. Chants are used in nearly all religious variants, from modern shamanistic cultures to pagan, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic traditions. It ranges from simple melodies to complex musical structures and depending on the setting, can offer a profound experience to witnesses.
As is common knowledge, sound or music has a profound effect on us humans (and likely on some animals as well). We develop strong associations between musical elements and certain emotions and our moods are often deeply affected by what we hear. For this reason, spiritual or religious chants often have a deep effect on our perception of related experiences. Religious hymns are designed to foster a connection between the congregant and the clergy, and in fact churches the world over are constructed with this in mind. The shape and orientation of the church and its internal elements are painstakingly arranged to optimise the acoustical properties of the space, so as to maximise the effect of song and instrument alike. And this is by no means a new practise.
Nowhere is acoustical significance in ancient construction more striking than in underground temples. There are famous examples of such construction throughout the old world, perhaps the most famous is the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops, whichever you prefer) at Giza in Egypt. Some theorists maintain that the King’s Chamber was designed and built to use sound as a resonant booster, to give the Pharaoh a better chance of reaching the afterlife, though this is not a widely held opinion among mainstream archaeologists or Egyptologists. Those same theorists, conspiracy theorists you might say, suggest also that the Hall of Records, an unconfirmed structure or room situated under the Sphinx, has significant acoustical properties as well. This is, for obvious reasons, entirely suppositional of course.
But we needn’t resort to conspiratorial fantasy in this case, for there are many ancient monuments and temples that use sound and acoustical properties to their advantage. The underground city complex at Budapest, called the Labyrinth of Buda Castle, which is located under Castle Hill in Buda (which is the west-bank part of Budapest on the Danube river in Hungary), is said to have special acoustical properties, though since this site is largely a natural formation, it doesn’t really count here. It does remain the oldest known example of the shape of a room or cave being used to amplify or resonate sound for ritual purposes.
Other examples, such as the Oracle Room in the Hypogeum of Ħal Seflieni in Paola, Malta offer much to study. Hypogeum means ‘underground’ in Greek, and in this case refers to a subterranean labyrinthine structure of the Seflieni phase of Maltese prehistory (3000-2500BC). It consists of several passages and chambers, of which the Oracle room is the smallest. With its delicately painted ceiling, the Oracle room boasts the most powerful or effectual resonant chamber in the ancient world. Even muted sounds made in this chamber resonate and amplify, which has the effect of distorting the sound and making it seem like it has a divine origin (or that it hadn’t been generated by any source in the chamber). Today the hypogeum is a necropolis, containing the remains of some 7000 prehistoric Greeks, but at one time it was used for religious ritual.
Another site, Chavín de Huantar in the Peruvian Andes, is a large city ruin that was built by the pre-Incan culture known as the Chavín in approximately 1200BC, though the area is thought to have been occupied as early as 3000BC. The site has buildings, ruins, temples and other artefacts.
Ancient visitors and priests at Chavín de Huantar would have been privy to an experience not found anywhere else. The buildings were constructed using a highly specialized combination of shafts, corridors and surfaces, all designed to make a series of echo chambers, in which sounds – often conch shell trumpets, called pututus, being blown by priests outside of the structure and chanting, as well as water running in streams under and around the buildings – would seem otherworldly. Add in the psychotropic effect of ritual consumption of San Pedro cactus juice (and possibly other substances, like ayahuasca), and one can easily see how a pilgrimage to such a temple would have been a profound spiritual experience.
Perhaps the first archaeoacoustic researcher, Iegor Reznikoff, an anthropologist of sound with the Université Paris Ouest, found, in the 1980’s, that there is a connection between the location of prehistoric artwork in the caves at Lascaux (and other ancient cave sights in southern France, where the oldest known human art is found from 25,000BC) and the acoustic resonance of those same locations. Reznikoff and a colleague mapped such caves, highlighting areas of acoustical significance and found that those areas coincided with areas that held the most works of prehistoric art. Which suggests a defined ritualistic process to the painting, and may have been prevalent among prehistoric artists.
Acoustic resonance is a feature of many natural caves, and it’s likely that this natural feature was the primary motivator in the development of acoustics in ritual sites and practices. Modern technology allows archaeologists to identify and study such features of ancient sites, and in most cases the research is inaccessible to the amateur. However, there are branches of this endeavour that are within reach of anyone who can get themselves to the locations in question.
Recently, a team of researchers have been using sound to study the world famous Stonehenge megalithic site in Wiltshire, England. According to experts from London’s Royal College of Art, Stonehenge holds more mystery than meets the eye. For many years, enthusiasts and researchers have held that Stonehenge had an audio component, either in its use or construction. Many visitors report that chants and music seem to resonate in a strange way at various points within and around the structure, but new insights seem to suggest that the stones themselves were musical instruments.
Research recently published in the Journal of Time & Mind, suggests that the bluestones – the smaller stones that make up the interior of the monument – actually have acoustical properties and may have been selected for that reason. It turns out that the stones resonate in a peculiar way when struck with a hammer or other instrument, and generate a wide range of sounds. Researchers even found what may be evidence of hammer or stone strikes on several of the stones, indicating that they’re on the right track.
This research, with the input of other experts, suggests that many of the standing stone sites throughout the UK may have had, as a central feature, an acoustic nature. It may be that Stonehenge and other standing stone circles and like monuments were built as musical instruments, to be used in conjunction with or as a part of ritualistic gatherings and celebrations.
The same may be true for monuments all over the world, as is highlighted by researchers such as Michael Tellinger, who demonstrates in a video on his YouTube channel the acoustic properties of artefacts found at Waterval Boven, South Africa. (See below)
There is no denying it, sound has played a central role in the development of not only human spirituality and culture, but also in architecture. While most of our history can only be relayed in terms of visual artefacts and writing, the aural history of our ancestors just begs to be heard. And when you consider the fact that resonant sound has been a significant part of human life for upwards of 27,000 years (at least), it’s no wonder so many people feel so passionately about music and its makers.
 Brooks, Michael. Was sound the secret weapon of the Andean elites? Newscientist Magazine – September 2008 http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926721.700-was-sound-the-secret-weapon-of-the-andean-elites.html?page=1
 Starr, Douglas. Notes From Earth: Echoes From The Distant Past. Discover Magazine – November 2012 http://discovermagazine.com/2012/nov/03-echoes-from-the-distant-past#.UsCjmvRDsid
 American Institute of Physics. "Music Went With Cave Art In Prehistoric Caves." ScienceDaily, 5 Jul. 2008. Web. 29 Dec. 2013. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080704130439.htm
 Paul Devereux, Jon Wozencroft. Stone Age Eyes and Ears: A Visual and Acoustic Pilot Study of Carn Menyn, Environs, Preseli, Wales. Time & Mind http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1751696X.2013.860278#.UsCuvfRDsie
 Sarah Griffiths, Amanda Williams. Stonehenge ‘was a prehistoric center for rock music’: Stones sound like bells, drums and gongs when played. DailyMailUK December2013 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2515159/Why-Stonehenge-prehistoric-centre-rock-music-Stones-sound-like-bells-drums-gongs-played.html