A Baby Was Buried Upon a Swan's Wing in Denmark 6000 Years Ago

Baby Buried on a Swan's Wing

Sometimes, when poring through history texts, it's easy to start seeing people of ancient times as 'objects' or 'concepts' to be studied from our informed vantage point in the future (relative to them). But sometimes archaeology uncovers evidence that helps us to realise that people back then were very much human.

For instance: In Vedbæk, Denmark, 6000 years ago, a young woman was laid to rest beside a baby, with the dead infant placed upon a swan's wing.

Grave 8, the most famous of the burials, contains a young woman, who may have died at childbirth, and a premature baby. The symbolism of the baby on the swan wing has been much debated with suggestions including purity and the ability of a water bird to transcend water, land and air. Certainly both bodies were cared for in death (the disorderly state of the mother's ribs suggest that she may have been resting on an organic 'pillow'), which suggests a belief that the spirit remained with the body.

And while the drawing on the right is not meant to be historically accurate (it's taken from the comic Mezolithic, by Ben Haggarty), I think most if not of all of us can appreciate the humanity present in the scene.

(via Irish Archaeology)

News Briefs 07-11-2016

Leading off today's news briefs with a few election-related items - please forgive our obvious bias toward Giant Space Rock as the ideal candidate to solve our problems...

Quote of the Day:

The news is not a pure representation of reality; it’s something that has been twisted by business people to harvest attention, which is then converted into money. That’s where it gets incredibly nefarious.

Duncan Trussell

Alien Abduction in Westworld?

Maeve with sketch of Westworld employee in hazmat suit

I think we're property.

- Charles Fort

Spoilers for Westworld S01E01 to S01E05 follow.

In an earlier post I mentioned the Gnostic underpinnings of the pilot of HBO's new hit series Westworld. In episodes since, that broad theme has persisted - but perhaps more interestingly, it has also been overlaid with some distinctly Fortean themes.

Perhaps the most obvious came at the end of episode 2, when Maeve (Thandie Newton) - who is only familiar with the 19th century world she believes she inhabits - wakes while on the operating/repair table inside the futuristic, technologically-advanced Westworld HQ, with two figures standing over her and an incision in her stomach. Forteans would have immediately recognised the similarities to the archetypal 'otherworldly journey', a narrative that is present in stories told by everyone from shamans to 'alien abductees'.

For instance, ethnographers have collected testimony from traditional shamans in which they tell of being cut, or dismembered, by spirits during their otherworldly journeys. "I have five spirits in heaven who cut me with forty knives," according to one. Another said there were three 'black devils' who "cut his body to pieces" and threw "bits of his flesh in different directions". Another said the spirits "cut off his head, which they set aside."

One Australian Aboriginal initiate told how, during his trance, an old man...

cut out all of his insides, intestines, liver, heart, lungs - everything in fact - and left him lying all night long on the ground.

Westworld Host bodies being cleaned

In more modern times, so-called 'alien abductees' have reported parallel experiences, but with futuristic aliens doing the 'surgery' rather than trance spirits. One of Harvard psychiatrist John Mack's patients told of seeing a spaceship shortly before blacking out, only to find upon waking that she was lying on a table, being operated on by two beings:

I was in a foetal position, my back to them. They were doing something to my spine. My entire spine was stinging and cold. It was awful! It felt as though they were going inside my body with some very sharp instrument and inserting it between my flesh and my skin.

Another abductee tells of being in a "shiny and metallic-looking" room that "contained what looked like equipment." Multiple beings surrounding him performed tests and inserted needles into his body.

Maeve on the operating table

(Given the scene were Maeve discovers the bullet hidden beneath scar-less skin, it's also perhaps worth quickly noting that both shamans and alien abductess often report that objects are left within them during these procedures - 'magic stones' for shamans, 'implants' for abductees. For instance, the Aboriginal initiate mentioned above told of how the 'old man' came back to him and "placed some more antongara stones inside his body and in his arms and legs".)

DMT-induced otherworldly trips appear almost as a mash-up of shamanic and abductee experiences. During his famous study on DMT, Dr Rick Strassman reported that one volunteer, as soon as they had been given the injection of DMT, described what happened immediately after with these words:

WHAM! I felt like I was in an alien laboratory... A sort of landing bay or recovery area. There were beings... They had a space ready for me. There was one main creature, and he seemed to be behind it all, overseeing everything.... I couldn't help but think 'aliens'.

Were the Westworld writers explicitly modelling Maeve's experience on alien abduction reports? It seems a distinct possibility when we consider the scene in which a doll is dropped by a Native American child, which appears to depict a Westworld employee as they often appear to remove Host's bodies from the park: dressed in a hazmat suit. This appears to be a reference to the (real-world) Hopi kachina doll tradition, which are said to represent "the immortal beings that bring rain, control other aspects of the natural world and society, and act as messengers between humans and the spirit world."

Real Kachina dolls

Westworld Kachina doll

But 'ancient aliens' theorists have seized upon the strange representations of these 'kachinas' (and other odd-looking statues and sculptures around the world) as possible evidence that they were 'astronauts' that have visited our planet in the past. And the Westworld 'kachina' reinforces this aspect, given the similarities between a hazmat suit and an astronaut's space-suit (hey, if it worked for Marty McFly...). So it seems likely that the writers of Westworld are intentionally referencing tales of alien visitation and abduction - at least in part - in the storyline.

And this certainly fits within that Gnostic framework I mentioned previously, as well as the seminal Charles Fort quote at the top of this piece.

[T]here are some who can see them. It's a blessing from god, to see the masters who pull your strings.

Hector, in Westworld

I thought I was crazy...and *this* [pointing at sketched image of Westworld employee in Hazmat suit] was standing over me. And then it was as if it never happened.

- Maeve, in Westworld

News Briefs 04-11-2016

” As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break through an unreflecting mind.”

Quote of the Day:

“To cease from evil, to do good, and to purify the mind yourself, this is the teaching of all the Buddhas.”


Before the Flood: Documentary on Climate Change Released Freely by National Geographic

Before the Flood is a full-length National Geographic documentary hosted by Leonardo di Caprio that looks at the impact of climate change on the planet, both now and the possible 'nightmare scenarios' of the future.

Before the Flood, directed by Fisher Stevens, captures a three-year personal journey alongside Academy Award-winning actor and U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio as he interviews individuals from every facet of society in both developing and developed nations who provide unique, impassioned and pragmatic views on what must be done today and in the future to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet.

I know public opinion on this topic is all over the spectrum, from complete denial of any climate change at all, through having questions the cause of the warming, to full acceptance of a human-caused disaster unfolding. However, I think the section in the documentary talking to astronaut Dr. Piers Sellers (who is incidentally, terminally-ill with pancreatic cancer, but still working for the future of the planet) gets down to the bare bones of things: the facts of the current situation.

A lot of people now get confused about the issue. Facts are crystal clear:

  • The ice is melting.
  • The Earth is warming.
  • The sea level is rising.

Those are facts. Rather than feeling "oh my god, it's hopeless", say "okay, this is the problem - let's be realistic, let's find a way out of it. And there are ways out of it."

Even if, beyond these facts, you feel that this is "just part of a natural cycle", is a large-scale move to renewables not still the far better option, for a range of reasons ranging from air quality to resource management?

News Briefs 03-11-2016

The Daily Grail website redesign is in progress. You can help us out by chipping in a dollar or three over at Patreon!

Quote of the Day:

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Digging Into the Classic Synthesizers and Musical Style of the Great John Carpenter

When the Netflix's Stranger Things exploded into the popular consciousness a few months ago, it did so on the back of some serious 1980s nostalgia. But while most people have focused on the amount the Duffer Brothers cribbed from the likes of Steven Spielberg (e.g. compare the storylines - and visuals - of Stranger Things to similar 'children-on-a-grand-adventure' movies like E.T. and The Goonies), perhaps less-discussed but equally important are the hat-tips to the great John Carpenter.

In Carpenter's case though, it's not just the story and visual elements that suggest an influence on the Duffer Brothers (from the adventure of Big Trouble in Little China to the monster-horror of The Thing). It's there right in the opening titles, in the theme of Stranger Things. Because John Carpenter is not just the director of iconic films including Halloween, Escape from New York, The Fog, They Live and The Thing - he also composed and performed most of the soundtracks to his films!

For the movie and music geeks out there, check out the cool video above from Reverb that digs into both his musical style, and the armoury of classic synthesizers that Carpenter used to create his soundtracks.

(h/t @JohnReppion)

How was the Great Pyramid Built? These 'Notches' Where Its Faces Meet May Be Evidence for an Internal Ramp

Great Pyramid of Giza. Image by Nina-no, Creative Commons licence

In last week's story about the 'hidden cavities' discovered within the Great Pyramid, I quickly mentioned how some of the scans were targeted at *already known* 'notches' (and one 'cavity') in the pyramid, simply to confirm that their detectors were finding hollow sections. It's worth digging into (no pun intended) these notches a little further though, as they are central to one fairly new theory of how the massive monument was built.

n the May-June 2007 issue of Archaeology, Egyptologist Bob Brier and French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin presented "a radical new theory: that blocks of stone were raised to the very top of the pyramid on an internal ramp." An important part of this theory was that larger corner spaces would have to be constructed for turning the 90 degree corner with a large block - and the existing 'notches' on the Great Pyramid are right where these rooms would likely be:

The internal ramp theory suggests that for the bottom third of the pyramid, the blocks were hauled up a short, straight external ramp. At the same time, a second ramp was built inside the pyramid on which blocks for the top two-thirds would be hauled. This ramp, beginning at the bottom, was put into use after the lower third was completed and the external ramp had served its purpose. Men hauling heavy blocks of stones up a narrow ramp can't easily turn a 90-degree corner, so Houdin suggests that the ramp had openings at each corner where a simple wooden hoist could turn the blocks. The notch two-thirds up the northeast corner could mark such a turning point, and it is precisely at a point where Houdin predicted there should be one.

Upon climbing the pyramid to examine this notch more closely, Brier discovered a small cavity hidden behind the inside wall of the notch - this was one of the 'calibration' targets used by the new muography scan.

But it is a scan done during the 1980s which offers serious support for the 'internal ramp' theory. A French team performed a microgravimetric survey that recorded variations in the density of the pyramid, and an image based on the readings gathered suggests a hollow tunnel corkscrews its way around the inside of the pyramid's walls, ascending toward the top.

More support for the internal ramp theory comes from a temple just a few miles away, constructed just 100 years after the Great Pyramid: the sun temple of Ni-Userre at Abu Gurob. The ruins of this temple appear to show an internal ramp similar to the one suggested by Houdin and Brier, and close proximity in time and location of its construction with Khufu's pyramid shows that it was a technique that would likely be used.

If you'd like to learn more about the theory put forward by Houdin and Brier, I recommend the documentary below which follows them on their journey of discovery:

News Briefs 02-11-2016

A quick reminder that while all the other sites have dumped the weird post-Halloween, we're on the beat 365 days a year. Sometimes even 366!

Quote of the Day:

Free your mind, and the ass will follow.

George Clinton