The Ancient Mountain of Light

This week the Nature website featured a commentary from Indonesian science journalist Dyna Rochmyaningsih, warning that nationalism, rather than science, may be driving some recent projects in her homeland. One of the projects she mentions is the archaeological work being done at Gunung Padang, with some alleged discoveries that would make Indonesia home to Earth’s oldest discovered civilization (possibly 25,000 years old).

Gunung Padang seems likely to feature in alternative historian Graham Hancock's upcoming book Magicians of the Gods, which will certainly bring these claims to a much wider audience in the West - though we have been discussing it here on the Daily Grail for two years now. In last year's release of our anthology Darklore, Martin J. Clemens wrote an article on the Gunung Padang discovery, and at that time he too warned that "some Indonesian leaders want to establish their country as the birthplace of Asian culture, and they tend to seek out storylines that confirm that bias."

Given the commentary in Nature, I thought it would be worth reproducing Martin's essay in full here at the Grail (excerpted from Darklore Volume 8)

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Gunung Padang (Creative Commons, Mohammad Fadli)

The Ancient Mountain of Light

by Martin J. Clemens

In the science world, much of the research is inaccessible to the layman. If the concepts being studied aren’t orders of magnitude over the heads of the general public, then the means to participate are just not available, whether due to cost or physical location. There are exceptions, however, such as astronomy. In fact, amateur astronomers have been integral to progress in the field, and professional scientists welcome their input, often using their backyard observations as a starting point in the process of discovering some of the most interesting objects and events in the night sky.

Archaeology is sometimes thought of in those same terms, though that really depends on who you ask. Archaeology is the study of human activity in the past, through observation and analysis of the effects of material culture. Essentially, that means that archaeologists look at artefacts and locations and try to determine what those items mean within the context of the particular culture in question. It can be a difficult process, and it requires those who undertake it to be well-read in the humanities, and to have a background in the physical sciences. They must be experts on history, and be conversant in psychology, biology and sometimes physics. But these things aren’t exclusive to archaeologists. Anyone can be well-read on the humanities. Many laymen are experts on history and are conversant in biology and physics. And since almost every archaeological find is ultimately dependent on subjective interpretation, it would seem that the field is more open than some would like to think.

The products of archaeology are not the artefacts and ancient buildings that they study; the product is the information gleaned from those items. The dusty trinkets and buried structures are the tools archaeologists use to measure the impact lost cultures had on their environment, and on the members of their societies. The problem arises when that story, or stories as the case may be, don’t readily betray the secrets of their originators. Even among the so-called experts, agreement is hard to come by, and when those who look in on the golden circle from the outside get into the fray, things can get messy.

In the world of archaeology, there are some basic truths that form the foundation of the study. One of those truths is the general anthropological timeline, which outlines not only the progression of human development, from the early emergence out of Africa, to our spread throughout Asia and Europe and eventually Australia and the Americas. Other foundational elements include the individual demographics and histories of all of the various civilizations that existed between then and now. But that timeline is only a truth in so far as the majority believe it to be…and there are other voices in the crowd.

It has generally been thought that our ancestors began building monuments and structures for ritual purposes at a specific time in our history. That time is roughly 9000 years ago, or in the 7th millennium BCE. The prevailing wisdom of archaeology says that disparate cultures across Europe and Asia began developing the skills necessary to construct long lasting works of art and primitive architecture using stone as a medium around this time. There were probably many failed starts and half-developed projects that never saw the light of day, but of the examples we know about, the oldest are apparently no older than about 7000 years, indicating that it took roughly 2000 years to hone our skills. By about 5000 years ago, we were building sophisticated structures like Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, and thus our progression from primitive hunter-gatherer societies to agrarian societies with the time and wherewithal to develop a culture of our own was well underway.

One important aspect of the above, is the implied idea that these skills were developed independently by different cultures. Each culture, we’re told, invented, practised and perfected their techniques on their own, with little to no help from other peoples. This is the accepted wisdom.

There are elements of the archaeological record that would seem to disagree however. One of those elements is a megalithic/Neolithic site in the ... Read More »

News Briefs 20-07-2015

Mic check - say g'day in the comments if you're a regular reader!

Quote of the Day:

The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

Hossein Derakhshan ("The Web We Have to Save")

American Antiquity Discusses Fringe History Theories

Ancient (American) Aliens

The journal American Antiquity has devoted a section of its most recent release (80:3) to discussion of fringe history claims, featuring reviews of a number of well-known books on the topic, by scholars familiar with the relevant fields. According to pseudo-archaeology critic Jason Colavito, "the overarching theme is that pseudo-archaeology books are glib, ignorant, and a little bit racist":

According to the introductory essay by Donald H. Holly, Jr., the intent of the reviews is to offer curious laymen and especially inquisitive college students an academic perspective on popular archaeological fantasies, and to inform archaeologists of what the public is really reading about the ancient past.

I don’t want to spoil the quality of the reviews by repeating too much of the information. Instead, I’ll list some of the books under consideration and the well-chosen set of scholars who handle each skillfully: Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods is reviewed by Ken Feder. Philip Coppens’s The Ancient Alien Question is reviewed by Jeb Card. Andrew Collins’s Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods is reviewed by Eric H. Cline. Robert Bauval’s and Thomas Brophy’s Black Genesis is reviewed by Ethan Watrall. Gary A. David’s Star Shrines and Earthworks of the Desert Southwest is reviewed by Stephen H. Lekson. Frank Joseph’s The Lost Colonies of Ancient America is reviewed by Larry J. Zimmerman, though sadly without mention of Joseph’s Nazi past, which is relevant to the theme of white cultural dominance. John A. Ruskamp’s Asiatic Echoes, about alleged Chinese pictograms in the desert southwest, is reviewed by Angus R. Quinlan. William D. Conner’s Iron Age America before Columbus is reviewed by H. Kory Cooper. And Richard J. Dewhurst’s The Ancient Giants who Ruled America is reviewed by Benjamin M. Auerbach, who is an expert on ancient American bones and notes that among the hundreds of skeletons he has personally measured, including some which were also cited from inaccurate reports as giants in Dewhurst’s book, there were no “giants.” No skeleton, he said, measured more than 190 cm (6’3”) in height.

In these generally excellent reviews, the authors collectively express dismay that the pressures of modern academia have left the public with unreliable fringe writers as their most important guides to the ancient past while archaeologists talk mostly to one another through specialist publications.

I can't comment on the reviews as I haven't seen the journal in question yet. Hopefully it will be released online for free, given the comment above regarding the dismay of the reviewers that the general public don't hear 'the truth' from archaeologists because they "talk mostly to one another through specialist publications"...

Link: American Antiquity Features Special Section Reviewing Pseudo-Archaeology

An Esoteric Soiree With Tim Binnall and Yours Truly, in Binnall of America

It is said good things come for those who wait, and for me the wait was over last Tuesday night, when I finally got to have a long chat with paranormal podcaster extraordinaire: The one and only Tim Binnall, who invited me to his Binnall of America Live show.

For me it was something of a dream come true, because I've been a fan of Tim's for almost as long as I've been involved in the Fortean blogosphere. Back before I was only listening to a handful of podcasts --and when I actually had TIME to listen to podcasts! one of the few things I actually miss from my former job-- his was one of the few I'd re-listen more than once; among my favorite episodes in his vast catalog is his 2-part interview with Canadian UFOlogist Grant Cameron, his also 2-part conversation with Peter Robbins in which they discussed the Rendlesham forest incident in great detail, and many others. His recurring season-opener shows with Jim Marrs, the Christmas specials with Stanton Friedman, and the traditional 'Ruxgiving' episodes with Bruce Rux are also a delight, for both the old fans and the newcomers who are just starting to get their feet wet in the swampy waters of the Paranormal pond.

I think what I've always liked about Tim is that his passion for the Fortean stuff is both evident and contagious. It is this passion and the desire to learn more about these mysteries the very driving force behind his ten-year podcast, which makes him a true 'grey beard' in this field --even though he's about 10 years younger than me.

As Tim said during the interview, we both had a similar start by jumping from hardcore fans of the Fortean stuff, to becoming producers of content. As such, its inevitable how the long run of involvement in this community will bring about a certain amount of disenchantment --how could it not, when so many cases you once believed to be genuine turned out to be hoaxes, and we are still talking about f$%#ing Roswell in 2015??-- so as the years progressed Tim has grown a little older, a little wiser, and perhaps a little more cynical --especially with the so-called Disclosure movement.

This is not only understandable, but in fact maybe necessary in order to retain your critical thinking --and your SANITY-- in this arena. I myself acknowledge that I've become much more skeptical about many things I used to believe about UFOs, Cryptozoology and other islands in the Fortean continent. Like uncle Keel used to say: "Belief is the enemy" --alas, the kiddies never listened…

Still, Tim's heart remains in the right place after all these years, and that's why he keeps soldiering on. Because he knows it's not about the fame, and it's certainly not about the money --he'll be the first one to confirm that! Given how BoA is completely subscription-free and ad-free, and relies solely on listener donations to stay in the black. If BoA has stayed online for so long, when so many short-lived podcasts wither away, is because Tim knows making hard questions is always more fun than getting easy answers; perhaps that's the real purpose behind UFOs and all these enigmas.

Hope you enjoy the show as much as I did.

_____________________

Oh, yeah! One more thing: On Tuesday, the day I was scheduled to have my chat with Tim, I received a very nice synchronistic message from the Universe, confirming beforehand it was going to be an epic broadcast.

That morning I grabbed my tablet to check on my e-mails and such as I always do, and what was my surprise when I found that the 'word of the day' in the Dictionary app I have installed was none other than "Foison."

Now, as with all synchronicities, this requires a bit of 'splaining: You see, my good friend and colleague Joshua Cutchin, the author of 'A Trojan Feast', wrote extensively about this archaic term in his research regarding the food exchanges with humanoid entities; one of the things Joshua found out, is that in European folklore it was believed the fey folk would take the 'foison' --also spelled 'foyson'-- or 'essence' of food stuffs, because that was what they would nourish on.

Joshua was one of the latest guests in Binnall of America prior to my appearance. In fact, his was the LAST live broadcast Tim had on Blogtalk Radio before my own, which was also live. I listened to that episode that night, and I vividly remember how Tim was particularly interested on the 'foison' term, and how the two of them devoted several minutes discussing it.

Now, that particular app is fond of picking all sorts of obscure terms as "word of the day." Still, what are the odds that, of all the words in the English dictionary, the word 'foison' --which I personally had never heard of, prior to reading Joshua's book-- was the one highlighted on the day I was going to appear on BoA??

Coincidence? Maybe. Me, I like to think of it as the Universe giving a preemptive two thumbs up to my debut at Binnall of America. Hopefully, I raised to such cosmic expectations ;)

News Briefs 17-07-2015

“To try to be happy is to try to build a machine with no other specification than that it shall run noiselessly.”

Quote of the Day:

“There are no secrets about the world of nature. There are secrets about the thoughts and intentions of men.”

R. Oppenheimer

The Day We "Became Death, Destroyer of Worlds"

Trinity fireball

At 5.29am on July 16, 1945 - 70 years ago today - a massive fireball suddenly erupted from the New Mexico desert, and human warfare was changed forever. The Trinity Test was the culmination of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. research program devoted to developing a nuclear weapon.

The Manhattan Project had assembled some of the finest scientific minds of the 20th century (perhaps any century), including Niels Bohr and Richard Feynman, who were lead by American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. They were armed with fresh insights into the structure of - and latent energy within - the atom via the relatively new field of quantum physics. In 1939, Albert Einstein himself had signed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning him of the likely development of new weaponry based on this knowledge, and urging the U.S. to begin stockpiling uranium on this basis.

The culmination of the project came on that July morning, when 'the Gadget' lit up the morning sky in an explosion which dwarfed the impact of any previously constructed weapon (the image above, taken 16 milliseconds after the device was triggered, shows the fireball with a height of around 200 metres).

The sight of the massive fireball reminded Oppenheimer of a line in the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita (Oppenheimer learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the text in its original language; the scripture became a cornerstone of his personal philosophies):

If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one ...

But Oppenheimer was also moved to think of another, much darker line from the Gita, which reflected how much the world had changed with this successful test; how much power now lay at the hands of humans. In 1965 he discussed what came through his mind at the time of the test on a documentary, and the famed physicist was visibly emotional:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

Interestingly, other people involved in the Manhattan Project have noted that, to their eyes, Oppenheimer's reaction to the successful test was more of relief, and some triumphalism. This would be understandable - Oppenheimer was under a lot of pressure to 'deliver', and seeing the project come to fruition would certainly have relieved that stress.

But with the weapon being put to use within 3 weeks against Japan, guilt over the deaths of more than 100,000 people likely weighed heavily on him for the rest of his life. Richard Feynman's reactions at the time of the test, and then post-war, seem similarly contrasted:

The looks on the faces of both Oppenheimer and Feynman are haunting. But the genie is out of the bottle now, and one can only wonder what other dark moments we might have in our future as growth in honourable pursuit of scientific understanding enables those with evil intent.

Edge of Stability: Beautiful Timelapse Video of Sky Phenomena

I'll never tire of timelapse videos. Grab a beverage, a comfy chair, & turn up your monitor to full screen high definition to enjoy auroras, galaxies, tornadoes, & more sky phenomena in this beautiful timelapse video by Jeff Boyce.

A result of over 70,000 individual high resolution photos and nearly 20,000 miles of driving, "Edge of Stability" highlights some of the most unique, awe-inspiring, and incredibly strange sights on the planet. Recorded entirely over Spring of 2015, scenes include storm chasing adventures across 15 US states, displays of the Milky Way over desert landscapes, and the amazing Aurora Borealis over Canada.

News Briefs 16-07-2015

You may think it's just a dwarf planet, Neil, but Pluto sure looks like it has a bigger heart than you!

Thanks to New Horizons. Don't forget to write, little guy!

Quote of the Day:

"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

˜Mark Twain

Do These Amazing Churches House a Secret About the Location of the Ark of the Covenant?

Church of St George at Lalibela

In the northern Ethiopian town of Lalibela one can find a number of churches that have been hewn out of the solid rock of the natural landscape. These chthonic churches were carved into their shape in the 12th century - though some theories suggest the initial work began several centuries earlier - at the behest of of the Emperor of Ethiopia, Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, and their construction is said to mimic the layout of Jerusalem and the Holy Land in order to create a 'New Jerusalem'.

The churches are also said to take many features of Solomon's Temple, including a 'Holy of Holies' where a replica of the Ark of the Covenant is kept. This Judaic connection is found across many aspects of Ethiopian culture, from a rejection of pork as a food and similarities between Ethiopian and Judaic words, through to a strong belief that the Ark of the Covenant is housed in a church in the city of Axum.

Some say this Judaic 'heritage' arose directly from the construction of Lalibela as a 'New Jerusalem' in the 12th century, while others claim the influence is explained by various 'hidden histories' of Ethiopia, ranging from the involvement of the Knights Templar through to the hiding of the actual Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia centuries before the destruction of Jerusalem.

For a cracking read that explores some of these themes, see Graham Hancock's The Sign and the Seal (Amazon US and Amazon UK):

Hancock was in Ethiopia in 1983, having been hired by the Ethiopian government to write and produce a coffee-table book extolling that country. He was greatly surprised when told that Ethiopia's Falasha Jews did not exist, and that many people could land in jail, or worse, if he went around photographing such nonexistents. Even so, off he went to Axum, deep in the desert, to see the temples and statuary of the Black Jews of Ethiopia. What he found was a sect that claimed to have the original Ark of the Covenant.

For a tour of some of these amazing, mysterious churches, see the video below:

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