News Briefs 27-04-2015

Rumours been spreadin' around...

Quote of the Day:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.

Martin Luther King

Liquid Mercury Found At Teotihuacan


Liquid mercury has been found in large quantities beneath the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacan, Mexico. Archaeologist Sergio Gómez has spent the past six years excavating a tunnel that had been opened in 2003, the first time in 1800 years. Mercury has only been found at three other sites in Central America, two Maya and one Olmec.

Gómez suspects his team is close to finding a royal tomb, and that the liquid mercury may have formed a river or lake. Annabeth Headreck, a professor at the University of Denver, agrees:

“[The liquid mercury could symbolise] an underworld river, not that different from the river Styx, if only in the concept that it’s the entrance to the supernatural world and the entrance to the underworld.

Mirrors were considered a way to look into the supernatural world, they were a way to divine what might happen in the future. It could be a sort of river, albeit a pretty spectacular one.

Aside from the mercury, excavations have found chambers containing thousands of objects, including jade statues, jaguar remains, and carved shells. In 2013, archaeologists used a camera-equipped robot to discover hundreds of spheres they dubbed "disco balls." No human remains have been found so far.

Tombs with rivers of mercury aren't unique to Central America. China has its own pyramids (more earth mounds than masoned stone) near the ancient capital of Xian. A stone's throw away, buried deep beneath one such pyramid mound and surrounded by terracotta armies, the tomb of China's first Emperor Qin Shi Huang is rumoured to have... wait for it... rivers of mercury. The presence of mercury, and the possibility of deadly traps that would make even Indiana Jones wary, presents problems for Chinese archaeologists who have yet to excavate the tomb (mostly out of respect). Qin Shi Huang was obsessed with immortality, and mercury it seems, swallowing mercury pills believing it would extend his lifespan. Curiously, ancient Chinese geomancy apparently considered the landscape surrounding the tomb to be in the shape of a dragon, with the Emperor's tomb itself being the eye of the dragon. Feathered serpent?

Huang Tomb China Emperor Pyramid Mercury

Is it a coincidence pyramid tombs containing liquid mercury can be found in such diverse and distant cultures as China and Central America? Perhaps not, as there's evidence suggesting the Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1050 BCE) had contact with the Americas. In 1996, Dr Mike Xu presented research showing the striking similarities between written characters found on Olmec statuary with that of the Shang, as well as the fascination both cultures had with jade. Unfortunately, his research has disappeared from the Texas Christian University's archives.

Fortunately, a terrific paper by David Kaufman, PhD in Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Kansas, is available online. Did Ancient China Influence the Olmec? covers much of the same territory Dr Xu did and is a fascinating read well worth your time. Additionally, Pre-Columbiana: A Journal of Long-Distance Contacts also covers the topic and raises plenty of questions.

Theories of Chinese contact with Pre-Columbian America aren't new. In 1953, American researcher (and WWII codebreaker) Henriette Mertz self-published her book Pale Ink: Two Ancient Records of Chinese Exploration In America. Mertz believed a 5th century account by a Buddhist missionary describing the legendary land of Fusang was in fact Central America. The book was published in a second-edition in 1972. However, Sinologist Joseph Needham wasn't impressed, writing that Mert's theories "require a heroic suspension of disbelief."

Whether there is a link between ancient China and the cultures of Central America remains to be seen. Regardless, there's an exciting mystery unfolding at Teotihuacan. Liquid mercury and disco balls -- the people who built Teotihuacan must have had some interesting parties!

Pyramid Feathered Serpent Teotihuacan Mexico

Further reading from the Grail archives:

Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World

H.R. Giger

Where others flee, film-maker Belinda Sallin notes, the late, influential dark surrealist artist H.R. Giger made his home. "What others dread, he makes his habitat. What others fight to suppress, he drags back to the surface. Throughout his life, HR Giger inhabited the world of the uncanny: a dark universe on the brink of many an abyss."

Sallin's upcoming documentary Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World promises to put us on an express elevator straight to hell, going down. Sallin examines why such a warm, charming man created and surrounded himself with such dark art - the 'xenomorphs' of the Alien movie franchise being just one prime example.

"He did not create this world because he held it dear," Sallin explains, "but rather because he had no other option. It was the only way this amiable, modest and humorous man was able to keep his fears in check. Giger was merely the bearer of dark messages, charting our nightmares, drafting maps of our subconscious and moulding our primal fears."

As I entered his house I was completely overwhelmed by impressions. As a journalist and filmmaker I’d seen many different kinds of houses and flats, but I’d never in my life seen anything so unusual. Crossing the threshold was like entering another world. It was like I had entered one of HR Giger’s works of art, dark and threatening. I took a seat in a Harkonnen Capo Chair and was surrounded by Giger-images, Giger-figures and Giger-objects. I hardly dared blink for fear of missing out on the incredible richness of detail. Despite the strange forms, the shrunken heads and skulls, I felt completely at ease. This was surely due to my host. HR Giger was friendly, polite and welcoming. At first, the artist didn’t really seem to fit with his art, and vice versa. The image I had of him as an unapproachable artist with a dark nature flew right out the window as he offered me apple pie and coffee and as we chatted about the weather. It wasn’t what I had been expecting. On the contrary, it was more interesting, more surprising. By that time, at the very latest, the film about HR Giger began to form in my head.

If the atmospheric trailer for the documentary is any guide, Dark Star should be a fantastic feature:

Dark Star will be showing in select cinemas across the U.S. and Canada from May 15, and will be available on DVD later in the year.

(h/t @m1k3y)


Game of Groans: Egyptologist Zahi Hawass Goes Into Meltdown During Debate with Graham Hancock

Zahi Hawass goes into meltdown

Who needs HBO or Netflix when you can watch the great Zahi Hawass make a complete ass out of himself for free? In what for many alternative history buffs was going to be a more anticipated head-to-head encounter than next year's Batman vs. Superman, the former supremo of Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities had agreed on participating in a high-profile public debate with Graham Hancock, taking place on Wednesday this week at the Mena House Hotel in Egypt.

Alas, it was not to be, with Hawass going into meltdown before the debate even began. The cause? One single photograph of Robert Bauval - the man who put forward the Orion Correlation Theory about the Giza pyramids - included at the start of of Hancock's presentation. One mere glance at it was all it took for Dr. Hawass to go completely berzerk, start insulting Graham and his poor wife Santha, and storm out of the room!


[...] Dr Hawass saw that one slide contained a photograph of Hancock’s colleague Robert Bauval, originator of the Orion correlation theory with whom Dr Hawass has had disagreements for many years. Dr Hawass immediately became furiously angry and began to shout at Hancock and at Hancock’s wife Santha (Santha is wearing the white dress in the video). Hawass demanded that Hancock censor his talk to remove all references to Robert Bauval and the Orion correlation theory. When Hancock explained that the alternative view of history that he was on stage to represent could not exclude the Orion correlation and therefore could not exclude Robert Bauval, Dr Hawass, again shouting, marched out of the debating room. One member of the audience who was present managed to record part of Dr Hawass’s meltdown which is the subject of this video.

Hawass' feud with Bauval is no secret. For more than 20 years the pair have been at odds over Bauval's theory, his role in the release of the first video of the 'Gantenbrink Door' within the Great Pyramid, and other associated themes. More recently though their relationship has become even more acrimonious, after the scandal concerning two Germans who allegedly extracted samples from Khufu's pyramid broke - with numerous accusations and counter-accusations between Hawass and the author of The Orion Mystery. Where it will end is something that even Edgar Cayce wouldn't be able to predict.

After Hawass' tantrum, the event organizers frantically performed a damage-control op in order to convince Zahi to return to the hall, give his talk and answer questions from the audience. He agreed on the condition that the debate with Hancock was cancelled altogether, and he even refused to watch his opponent's presentation or talk to him.

But wait, the groan-fest continues! During the Q&A, one attendant had the gall to ask Hawass for his opinion on the 10,000-year-old Turkish megalithic site Göbekli Tepe, and the impact this site might have on Egypt's archeology - for example, on the controversy over the age of the Sphinx. The man who used to be the gatekeeper of an entire nation's historical heritage, the one who had the first and last word in green-lighting any excavation on Egyptian soil, and who has belittled and mocked whoever dares to question the Great Pyramid's age or its purpose, admitted on the record that he'd never heard of Göbekli Tepe before. You'd think perhaps his National Geographic buddies would've been kind enough to give him a free subscription to their magazine, after all the *many* favors he allegedly did for them…

Herein lies one of the true roots of our inability to understand our past properly: Arrogant insularity disguised as academic specialization, and a refusal to look beyond your particular area of expertise. It was because of that exact reason Göbekli Tepe was first mistaken for a Byzantine cemetery when it was originally discovered in the 1960s; it wouldn't be until the 1990s when the late Klaus Schmidt re-visited the site and realized its monumental importance. It's people like him, and not stubborn naysayers, who will go down in history as the true searchers of Truth.

It's a good thing Zahi wasn't born during the age of the pharaohs, though. No pyramid or ancient tomb would have been big enough to accommodate that ego.

[H/T Disinfo]

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News Briefs 24-04-2015

"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature..."

Quote of the Day:

“...And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”

Max Planck

Saint Mark's Eve


Bertha was a maiden fair
Dwelling in the old Minster-square;
From her fireside she could see
Sidelong its rich antiquity—
Far as the Bishop's garden wall
Where Sycamores and elm trees tall
Full-leav'd the forest had outstript—
By no sharp north wind ever nipt
So shelter'd by the mighty pile—
Bertha arose and read awhile
With forehead 'gainst the window-pane—
Again she tried and then again
Until the dusk eve left her dark
Upon the Legend of St. Mark.
From plaited lawn-frill, fine and thin
She lifted up her soft warm chin,
With aching neck and swimming eyes
And daz'd with saintly imageries.

- from "The Eve of St. Mark" by John Keats, 1819

The Christian martyr Saint Mark, or Mark the Evangelist, is the traditionally purported to be the author of the Gospel of Mark. He is said to have founded the Church of Alexandria, one of the most important episcopal sees of Early Christianity. His feast day is celebrated on the 25th of April (this coming Saturday as I type).

If you're in Britain over the next few days and happen to find yourself enjoying the warm weather near grassland, hedgerows, or woodland you might well encounter a small swarm of bulbous-eyed, black, hairy, dangly-legged flies. These are the males of the Bibio marci species and their dancing flight is intended to impress the smaller females which, if you look closely, you may find perched on nearby leaves. They are sometimes known as Hawthorn Flies, but more commonly and widely so as Saint Mark's Fly because of their uncanny habit of emerging out of the earth on, or around, the Saint's feast day.

The exact meaning of John Keats' unfinished 1819 poem "The Eve of St. Mark" (quoted in part above) remains a matter of debate among scholars and other interested parties, but the atmosphere of the piece is unmistakably gloomy and foreboding. Indeed, early in 1818 Keats had become convinced that he had only three years left to live, the themes of death and dying becoming more prevalent in his works in the year that followed (he did pass away on the 23rd of February, 1821 of tuberculosis). Isabella Jones (who also inspired his contemporaneous work "The Eve of St. Agnes," ) was Keats' lover at this time and it has been speculated that it was she who told the poet about the folk traditions attached to Saint Mark's Eve. According to Chambers Book of Days, 1869: "St. Mark's Eve appears to have enjoyed among our simple ancestors a large share of the privileges which they assigned to All Saints' Eve (the Scottish Halloween)". It seems equally likely that Keats would also have known of, and perhaps been deliberately alluding to, a poem published some thirteen years before he penned his own entitled "The Vigil of St. Mark".

"The Vigil of St. Mark" was one of twenty poems written by James Montgomery, published in his 1906 collection The Wanderer of Switzerland and Other Poems. Lord Byron, Keats' Romantic contemporary (though the pair did not get on), was a fan of the titular poem and Montgomery was successful and well known throughout the early 1800s. Montgomery's poem tells of Edmund "monarch of the dale" and his desire to wed (and bed) Ella "the lily of the vale". It just so happens to be the eve of Saint Mark's Day and, to prove his mettle and win Ella's hand in marriage, Edmund agrees to sit the vigil of Saint Mark.

" 'Tis now," replied the village Belle,
" St. Mark's mysterious Eve ;
And all that old traditions tell
I tremblingly believe ; —

" How, when the midnight signal tolls,
Along the churchyard green '
A mournful train of sentenced souls
In winding-sheets are seen.

" The ghosts of all whom death shall doom
Within the coming year,
In pale procession walk the gloom.
Amid the silence drear.

The custom of the vigil is explained in Chambers Book of Days as follows:

In the northern parts of England, it is still believed that if a person, on the eve of St. Mark's day, watch in the church porch from eleven at night till one in the morning, he will see the apparitions of all those who are to be buried in the churchyard during the ensuing year.

In some versions of the custom it is supposed to be necessary to sit three successive Saint Mark's vigils before the spectres of those yet to pass will be seen. (Three years, the span mysteriously yet accurately foretold by Keats in 1818).

Another Saint Mark's Eve custom is described, yet again, in Chambers Book of Days:

On St. Mark's eve, at twelve o'clock,
The fair maid will watch her smock,
To find her husband in the dark,
By praying unto good St. Mark.'

We presume that the practice was to hang up the smock at the fire before going to bed; the rest of the family having retired, the anxious damsel would plant herself to wait till the resemblance of him who was to be her husband should come in and turn the garment. The divination by nuts was also in vogue. A row being planted amongst the hot embers on the hearth, one from each maiden, and the name of the loved one being breathed, it was expected that if the love was in any case to be successful, the nut would jump away; if otherwise, it would go on composedly burning till all was consumed:

"If you love me, pop and fly,
If not, lie there silently.'

Love and death seem to be the recurring themes here; this is neither a celebratory time of new life and rebirth (like Easter), nor a cursing, or driving away the death and darkness of winter (like Yule). The folklore surrounding Saint Mark's Eve seems (to me) to be about engaging with the fact that everyone and everything dies - everything is transient - a tragic, yet romantic notion which I'm sure Keats would have appreciated.

The St. Mark’s Fly has a very short adult life cycle - the males emerge first, the females a day or so later. After mating, they lay their eggs in the soil ("the deep-delvèd earth" as Keats might have it) and die soon after.

In October 1819 John Keats wrote the following in a letter to Fanny Brawne - a woman with whom he was passionately in love with but had never, and would never, be with:

I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder'd at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr'd for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you.

Yet, as the poet himself also once wrote "the poetry of the Earth is never dead"; the next generation of Saint Mark's Flies sleep beneath the soil, already doomed to live and love and die within a pre-allotted time span. Every Saint Mark's Eve the males keep their vigil, awaiting their brides and sealing their fates.


[I once wrote a very short story about Saint Mark's Eve called "Next Year's Ghost" which can be read online here. A version of the story is currently part of this Kickstarter campaign.]

The Adventures of Daredevil & his Sidekick… Uri Geller?

“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth--penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.” ~Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

In an age in which Science is regarded as the new god and scientists as its appointed priests, artists will turn into heretics spawning new myths by which to speak of greater truths. The myths of the XXIst century are not to be found in temples.

On his book Mutants & Mystics [Amazon US & UK] --a book we've promoted at the Grail on numerous occasions, and will continue to do so-- Jeffrey Kripal explores how paranormal phenomena have often served as inspiration for artists in the shaping of pop culture content, such a pulp novels or comic books. No greater example could be found than in Daredevil's #133 (by writer Marv Wolfman and artists Bob Brown and Jim Mooney), in which "the man without fear" teamed up with none other than "the Spoonman" himself: Uri Geller.

Why the Marvel artists decided to promote the young Israeli mentalist is due to direct divine intervention --or in this case, the god of the Marvel universe: Stan Lee. As Wolfman wrote in the letter column after the story was published:

[...]Stan said he’d like to use Uri Geller in one of our comics, and that I should find a place for him. At that time, I had heard of Geller – he was some sort of a metal-bender. That’s all I had heard, and frankly, I wasn’t too keen on the idea, and so I said I’d use him in DAREDEVIL (easier for me to do this than to assign it to another writer, I thought). Cut to a week or so later – I was at a party up at Paty (Cake) Greer’s upstate New York home and I happened to see a copy of “Uri Geller, My Story” in her bookstand. Asking if I could borrow it for background information, I began reading it, and getting more and more involved with the reading. It was a fascinating story – and, yes, I was hooked – though still a total cynic.

It was then that Uri called, asking if he could come up to the offices to speak with me, to discuss the story. I said sure, hoping that this would be a chance to find out some things not in the book. He did come up the next day, and I found him to be a very likeable person, an avid Marvel fan, and not at all what one would expect a person with “special powers and abilities” to be like – in other words, the furthest thing from an egomaniac that you could hope to find. During the course of our talk, he asked for a key, which I gave him, then asked me to hold his fingers to see if he was pressing on the key. They were loosely around the heavy metal key, and slowly, as I held his fingers with mine, I watched the key bend.

Yeah, I may be a cynic, but I don’t ignore facts – the key had bent – I was holding his fingers so I know he couldn’t bend them with his hand, and it was my key. Whatever powers he had – were real. At that point, he asked me to draw a picture and not show it to him. He then began drawing his own picture, and as you can see from our two illustrations reproduced on this page, the sketches are very similar. Considering the rough drawing style from which Uri was trying to receive his psychic impressions, he was able to come very close to my own illustration – even duplicating the bizarre front view of the face on the side view of the body.

Afterwards, Uri bent another key for Sparklin’ SCOTT EDELMAN, with virtually the entire Marvel staff watching. We also took a few publicity pictures; the best printed here.
As for me, I began a cynic, and now I’m a believer – of whatever abilities Uri has, and if there are any super heroes in this world, we should hope they are all as nice as Uri.

The image on the left is the one drawn by Wolfman, and the right one by Uri.

The comic book even deals with Geller's own 'origin story' of how he (allegedly) acquired his psychic abilities during his early childhood, after having a close-encounter experience with a UFO. Perhaps no more fantastic an explanation than say, being exposed to outer space radiation like the Fantastic Four, or Matt Murdock's (Daredevil) accident with a truck transporting radioactive waste; in which case Geller could probably fit into the 'radioactive hero' category employed by Kripal --something I'm sure would greatly please him, seeing how he nowadays boasts of having served for Mossad and the CIA as a 'psychic spy'…

Kripal does mention Geller on a couple of occasions in Mutants & Mystics though, and not in a particularly flattering way:

From the perspective of the [Stanford Research Institute] scientists, Geller was an artful mixture of stage magician and the real deal --the truck and truth, or tricky truth again. They studied him at SRI for six weeks toward the end of 1972. He never managed to demonstrate his psychokinetic powers under the controlled laboratory conditions of SRI, but he did produce some fantastic effects outside the lab, including one really weird instance of teleportation with Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell.

The' teleportation' event was actually closer to an apport, the kind of spiritual manifestation of an object that is often reported among Eastern cult leaders and gurus. Mitchell wanted to test Geller's supposed abilities, and challenged him to produce the camera he had left on the Moon; since the device had a very specific NASA serial number which would be unknown to Geller, this would be an excelent way to eliminate the possibility of forgery.

Alas, Geller's powers didn't raise to the occasion --good thing he wasn't fighting super-villains instead!-- but what happened instead did manage to surprise Mitchell nonetheless: While they were having lunch along with Russell Targ at the SRI cafeteria, Geller almost broke a tooth on something in his ice cream; it was the point of a miniature arrowhead, which Mitchell thought it looked familiar. Back in the lab, everyone suddenly saw something fall on the carpet: "We picked it up, and it was the rest of the arrow. Together, the two pieces made a tie pin." Mitchell was astonished because he immediately recognized it as a tie pin that belonged to him; one that he had lost years ago. The Trickster strikes again!

But getting back to the Daredevil story, Geller not only helps the Hell's Kitchen vigilante to 'sense' the presence of the baddies using his 'powers', but he even has a mano a mano --make that a mente a mente-- fight with the (also psychic) villan 'Mind-wave.' It's a shame the story writer didn't decide to make Geller face his real arch-nemesis *ahem*

Speaking of skeptics, they have also been invited to step inside the 'super hero' universe a couple of times. Neil deGrasse Tyson, for instance, was the one who helped Superman locate the position of his long-gone home world in Action Comics #14. I even managed to detect his voice in the recently-released official trailer of Batman vs Superman; like most modern geeks, Neil has no problem in dabbling with Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres --it's when the Fantasy starts to creep into Reality and viceversa, like Kripal ascertains, that hardcore materialists meet their own personal kryptonite...

What other real life psychics, mystics and magicians --or people who claim to be so-- do you think deserve to rub elbows with our spandex-clad gods? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

[H/T Fortean UK]


News Briefs 23-04-2015

Last week's film trailers awakened my inner child.
Now the child wants a Hot Wheels race-track, a puppy AND a trip to Disneyland.

Thanks to J.J. Abrams and Zack Snyder

Quote of the Day:

"The best way to counter a bad idea is to confront it and point out where it is wrong or misleading. I feel this way not only about religious superstition but also about homeopathy, astrology and parapsychology–not to mention psychoanalysis, psychopharmacology, multiverse theories and string theory."

~John Horgan, science journalist for Scientific American.

Archaeological Vandalism: One Stone at a Time


chauvet cave art

One of the main functions of archaeology, beyond locating and studying our past, is in preserving that past for future study and appreciation.  And that’s not always an easy job.  There’s a never-ending onslaught of abuse aimed at the places of our past; weather, natural erosion, and natural disaster are ever-present enemies of the archeologist and preservationist.  It’s a wonder anything has survived the eons on this environmental cage-match we call a planet.

Of course, those natural problems pale in comparison to the man-made threats to these important elements of the past.  From pollution and the effects of climate change, to war – which often includes direct and deliberate threats to historical monuments and artefacts, such as we saw recently in the middle-east at the hands of ISIL militants – to looting and theft, vandalism, commercial development, and just plain stupidity.  Even just the general wear of the constant waves of tourists who’ve travelled far to marvel at the beauty and mystery, but whose very presence is a threat to the survival of those wonders.  Just last year, preservationists in southern France completed a painstaking reproduction of Chauvet Cave, which is where some of the oldest known cave art adorns the stone walls, so that tourists could experience the cave without disturbing it - intentionally or otherwise.  The same has been done with the caves at Lascaux, and Altamira in Madrid, Spain.

These replicas, which have faithfully reproduced not only the artwork in the caves but in some cases the general shape and layout of the caves themselves in museum spaces, were actually created for two reasons: foremost for the preservation of the caves and art, but also for the safety of tourists.  In years past, many of these sites were mishandled; Lascaux even had air conditioning installed back in the 1980’s.  These measures, which catered to the people rather than the artefacts, drastically changed the atmosphere inside the caves.  This resulted in the growth of massive mold colonies that released dangerous pathogens in the air, which in turn caused officials to close the real site to the public permanently.  Just breathing on such artefacts causes damage, as anyone who’s visited the Louvre Museum in Paris knows well.

That’s not the only way these ancient sites and artefacts are threatened though.  When you go on vacation to a tropical locale, have you ever taken a stone from the beach as a souvenir?  That’s a somewhat common practise, and in most cases is harmless, but that’s not true of every holiday destination.

If you were travelling the English countryside and happened upon an old stone circle, perhaps Casterligg or the Rollrite Stones.  - places the general public knows little about, and thus the flow of visitors is quite low - would you think twice about pocketing a small stone from the ground?  It might seem a perfectly innocent way to remember the experience, right?  How would you know if that particular stone had any significance to the site?  What if you’d just stolen a piece of an historical monument?

This happens more than you might think.  And in fact people have been known to try and break pieces off of such monuments for souvenirs.  It’s unthinkable, but it’s common.  This is one of the (many) reasons Stonehenge is so closely guarded these days.  But where the site in question isn’t internationally famous and doesn’t generate huge tourism revenue, it’s unlikely to be protected so well.

One such site is in southwestern Saskatchewan’s Moose Mountain National Park (not to be confused with Moose Mountain, Alberta, which is a mountain peak where parts of the movie Brokeback Mountain were filmed).  It’s an ancient First Nations medicine wheel mound, called the Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel.  It’s actually part of a group of structures at the site, some are burial mounds and others possibly the foundation of ancient temples of some kind.  Moose Mountain, like many of its kind all over North America, is over 2000 years old and is part of the Northern Plains Indian culture that has existed here for thousands of years, but we actually have no idea who built it.  Whatever its original purpose, Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel is slowly disappearing, and not because of weather.


When it was discovered in about 1895, the central cairn of the mound was approximately fourteen feet high.  Today it’s no higher than a foot and a half, and that’s because visitors to the site are keen to take a rock from the pile as a keepsake, without giving a thought to the damage they’re doing in the process.

Authorities from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum are currently working with local First Nations bands to find a solution that will both protect the site and maintain its spiritual and aesthetic appeal.  But, at least in the case of Moose Mountain, the damage has been done.  Those pieces of history won’t magically find their way back home, to make this site whole again.

Here’s the question; how far should we, as a society, go to protect these irreplaceable characters from our past?  In the case of ISIL threatening the destruction of the Great Pyramids in Egypt, some have suggested military action to prevent it, though there are some who strongly oppose this solution.  In the field of archaeology, the wholeness or completeness of an artefact is of little importance.  After all, a broken clay pot can tell you just as much as an intact clay pot, but the academic side of archaeology isn’t the only consideration here.

Do not these sites have historical value that is diminished when vandalised or destroyed?  Certainly they do, but how far are we willing, or should we be willing, to go in their protection?