Gold Silphium Coins - 308 - 277 BC

The Mystery of Silphium, the Lost Miracle Plant!

The Mystery of Silphium, the Lost Miracle plant!

Imagine that scientists announced tomorrow that they had found a plant that could cure cancer, worked like Viagra, provided safe contraception, stopped common colds, and tasted better than chocolate. Imagine if they then told you that they’d mysteriously lost it. Sounds a bit crazy but that is exactly what happened around 2000 years ago and there are plenty of records to prove it.

The silphium plant was first discovered by the Theraeans around 630BC in a part of North Africa called Barka where Libya is today. According to the legend the local natives led them to a place where there was ‘a hole in the sky’ and a wonderful natural spring – the kyri. The Greeks established their new city colony and named it Kyrenia. (Today known as Shahat)

Spring of Kyra - City of Silphium
Spring of Kyra – City of Silphium (Image credit: Libyan Studies / WMC)

It was a beautiful location surrounded by steep hills that were unusually green and fertile. One day dark storm clouds filled the’ hole in the sky’ and there was a downpour of black rain. Soon after this the people of Kyrenia noticed a strange plant growing on the hillsides. At first nobody took much notice and soon it spread for miles but only ever grew in an area roughly 120 miles by 40miles. Soon after the people of Kyrenia discovered just how extraordinary this plant actual was. They saw it as a gift from the God Apollo and adopted it as their symbol. They called it Silphium.

The white sap from the stem could be turned into spice by mixing it with fine meal. As a spice it was delicious and unparalleled in flavour. Men who ate food prepared with the herb quickly found that it was also a potent aphrodisiac and women who used it found that it worked as a contraceptive. In larger doses it was also the ancient equivalent of the morning after pill.

As early as 1840, British botanists were sending expeditions to see if they could rediscover the plant also known as Laser. According to Aristobulus, only pines and silphium grew in the region and sheep that fed on the herb were delightful to eat. Sheep themselves craved the plant and would become agitated and run to it wherever it grew. Only a precious few sheep were allowed this delicacy and the main flocks were deliberately kept far from where it grew.

According to records from the time it was a natural antibiotic and amazingly effective against dog bites and other forms of septicaemia. Those that had coughs and sore throats used a syrup made from the plant to achieve an almost instantaneous cure. It was used to treat scorpion and snakebites as well as being used as a cure for the most serious of maladies. Modern researchers speculate that this was indeed cancers.

Silphium Coins
Silphium Coins (CC) Wikimedia ArchaiOptix

If this weren’t enough, a wonderful perfume could be made from the flowers and the heart-shaped seeds could be taken as love pills. Many researchers believe that the modern ‘lovers’ heart’ shape we use for Valentine’s day came directly from the outline of the Silphium seed. It soon became one of the most precious commodities of the ancient world worth its weight in gold and silver. Those who traded in it grew rich, for the whole of the ancient world craved it. It was depicted on coins and vases. The romans wrote songs and poetry about it. They called it the ‘Darling Herb’ and valued it so much that Julius Caesar had around 680 kilograms stored in his treasury.

Export of Silphium Taken from Bowl Design
Export of Silphium Taken from Bowl Design (CC) Welcome Collection Images: King Arcesilas of Cyrenaica overseeing the packaging of silphium (the country’s main source of income) into ships for export. Gouache painting after a Spartan cylix, c. 580-550 B.C.

What made it even more precious is that it could only be grown in the region around Kyrenia (Cyrene). Ever attempt to grow it anywhere else failed. Records tell of countless attempts to transport and cultivate it in other regions – some quite close by – without success. Try as they might, neither the Romans nor the Greeks could figure out how to cultivate it in captivity. Silphium could only be collected from the wild. To protect it the Greeks introduced draconian laws about how much could be harvested. Thieves who were caught trying to steal it were executed and traders desperately tried to find ways to bulk it out with other substances to make it go further. The Egyptians valued it so much they even created a specific symbol to represent it in their writings.

Cyrene had become rich on the profits from Silphium and honoured the plant by having its design stamped onto all of its coinage. The wealth of Cyrene was a magnet for the powerful and was conquered by Alexander the Great in 322BC. The region subsequently became part of the Ptolemy dynasty of Egypt who took control of the plant. By the time that Rome conquered Egypt and its vassal territories, Silphium was valuable beyond measure. Julius Caesar stockpiled over half a ton for his personal use and kept it in a vault in Rome. By 61AD, it had vanished. Legend has it that the last rooting plant was sent to Emperor Nero as a curiosity. In keeping with his reputation for callous debauchery, he promptly ate the plant.

Without the wealth of Silphium, Cyrene fell into decline and was eventually overrun by nomadic tribes. The last mention of a living Silphium plant was in by Synesis, the Bishop of Barka (Cyrene) who records that he sent a specimen of the plant to a friend for examination some time between 400 & 431 AD.

Silphium City of Cyrene
The Silphium City of Cyrene with the Hills where the Plant Once Grew (CC) WMC Maher27777

It’s commonly believed by historians that the Silphium plant was legally and illegally overharvested and eventually went extinct. According to others, the plant disappeared almost as fast as it had arrived. It simply stopped growing. Some researchers point to climate change while others suggest it was hybrid that evolved into something else. The truth is that nobody really knows. Some botanists believe it may still be out there hidden in plain sight.

Could be recognise it today? Theophrastus described the plants as having thick roots covered in black bark. They were extravagantly long; if you were to hold one up against the human body, it would be around the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Records show it exuded a milky sap and was eaten by animals without any negative effects. Coins and picture show that it had similarities to the asafoetida plant and yellow flowers. Apparently, The French Geographical Society offered a prize in 1800AD for anyone who could find a single living Silphium plant. The prize has never been claimed. Over harvesting, climate change, nomadic raiders, changes in genetics and uncontrollable sheep have all be proposed as the reasons that the miracle herb vanished.

There are others who suggest a more paranormal reason. They point out that the plant only appeared after a mysterious black rain and ask is it possible that this was something of extra-terrestrial origin that fertilised the soil and stimulated a dormant plant or even a mutation to grow. Then, as the fertiliser wore off over the centuries the plant reverted to its original form. There is no doubt that the plant was of earthly origin but did meteor dust or something else create the black rain that started the whole mystery. Finally, they ask, why was it called the ‘area with a hole in the sky’? Did they just mean that it rained a lot or were they being more literal and describing something else that is long gone today?

Whatever happened it seems that there really was once an elixir that tasted great and could cure any disease. What a tragedy that we’ve lost it.


Nazca Lines Google Earth

See the Nazca Lines on Google Maps Terrain

Google Earth was introduced in 2005 and for the first time in human history the average person suddenly had access to the kind of satellite observation technology that had been restricted to NASA and government security agencies. Since then millions of people have used the software to study the surface of Planet Earth. A favourite subject has been the mysterious and enigmatic Nazca Lines of Peru. Largely located in the arid desert of the Pampas de Jumana between the towns of Nazca and Palpa these huge geoglyphs have intrigued scientists and archaeologists since they were discovered by the American anthropologist, Alfred Kroeber in 1926. As they are really only visible from a few hundred metres above the desert plateau their origin and purpose has puzzled investigators for decades. Theories about the lines and geoglyphs have ranged from extra-terrestrial runways to water-sourcing religious ceremonies. Unfortunately they have been hard to spot. To assist Google Earth travellers, and to correct many incorrect maps, Aquiziam has compiled the most accurate and complete list of Lines and geoglyphs including interactive Google Maps and precise Google Earth ‘latitude and longitude’ co-ordinates.

THE ABOVE MAP IS INTERACTIVE AND MANY OF THE NAZCA & PALPA GEOGLYPHS ARE MARKED FOR YOU TO LOCATE. MAXIMUM ZOOM IS USUALLY REQUIRED TO SEE THE ITEMS CLEARLY. CLICK ON THE COLOURED MARKERS FOR MORE INFORMATION. ZOOM OUT TO SEE ALL LOCATIONS CURRENTLY IDENTIFIED. A FULL LIST OF GOOGLE EARTH CO-ORDINATES IS TABLED BELOW.

#
NAME OF LINES OR GEOGLYPH
TOWN
GOOGLE EARTH COORDINATES
BEST
DATE
BEST
ALTITUDE
1. ASTRONAUT / Nazca Astronaut (Spaceman / Priest) Nazca 14 44’42.71″S 75 4’47.24″W 2010 +/- 750m
2. BABY CONDOR
(Dinosaur)
14 47’25.74″S 75 0’22.85″W 2010 +/- 670m
3. CONDOR/ Nazca Condor
(Big Hummingbird)
Nazca 14 41’50.09″S 75 7’34.59″W 2010 +/- 800
4. DOG
(Chien / Perro)
14 42’23.02″S 75 7’50.84″W 2010 +/- 620m
5. El HOMBRE
(The Man / Long Coat)
Palpa 14 33’22.16″S 75 10’7.66″W 2010 +/- 750m
6. EL VIAJERO – West
(Traveller / Mexican / Top Hat)
Palpa 14 35’36.63″S 75 12’17.41″W 2009 +/- 750m
7. El VIAJERO – East
(The Traveller)
Palpa 14 35’53.88″S 75 10’32.56″W 2005 +/- 700m
8. FAMILY OF PARACAS
(Nazca Family Group)
Palpa 14 35’31.88″S 75 12’11.11″W 2009 +/- 500m
9. FERTILIDAD / Fertility
(Old Woman)
Palpa 14 33’22.62″S 75 10’8.34″W 2010 +/- 700m
10. FISH
(Catfish)
Nazca Image Not Visible
11. FLAMINGO
(Heron / Arum / Alcatraz
Nazca 14 41’8.49″S 75 6’49.18″W 2005 +/- 700m
12. FLOWER
(Spinner)
14 41’37.60″S 75 7’5.38″W 2010 +/- 650m
13. FRIGATE BIRD – East
(Guaney Bird)
Nazca 14 41’8.55″S 75 6’39.91″W 2010 +/- 700m
14. FRIGATE BIRD – West
(Guaney Bird)
Nazca 14 41’44.03″S 75 7’36.06″W 2010 +/- 690m
15. HANDS
(Hands Monster / Small Man)
Nazca 14 41’40.00″S 75 6’50.01″W 2010 +/- 850m
16. HUMMINGBIRD – Kokos
(Starburst)
Palpa 14 34’46.52″S 75 10’26.28″W 2010 +/-670m
17. HUMMINGBIRD – Small Nazca 14 41’31.59″S 75 8’55.90″W 2010 +/-700m
18. HUMMINGBIRD – Palpa Palpa Coordinates Required
19. IGUANA (Aligator)
(Not Visible/ Damaged)
Nazca 14 41’25.35″S 75 6’57.75″W N/A N/A
20. LA MUJER
(The Woman)
Palpa Coordinates Requires
21. LIZARD – Gheko
(Hard to see / Split by Road)
Nazca 14 41’34.47″S 75 6’49.67″W 2010 +/-750m
22. LLAMAS
(Very Small)
Nazca 14 42’29.95″S 75 9’3.45″W 2010 +/-560m
23. LOBSTER
(Located 2010 by Japanese
Nazca Coordinates Unavailable
24. MANDALA – Square
(Compass / Star )
14 38’39.67″S 75 10’17.39″W 2010 +/-900m
25 MANDALA – Circles
(Compass)
Nazca 14 38’38.72″S 75 10’15.71″W 2010 +/-720m
26 MONKEY/ New World Monkey
(El Mono / Singe)
Nazca 14 42’24.93″S 75 8’18.40″W 2010 +/-730m
27. MONSTER – Palpa Monster
(Shark II)
Palpa 14 31’26.91″S 75 11’58.93″W 2009 +/-750m
28. MUSHROOM
(Partial Bird)
14 41’52.67″S 75 8’7.11″W 2010 +/-680
29. NEEDLES
(Nazca Town Zigzag)
Nazca 14 50’11.80″S 74 54’6.90″W 2010 +/-1.5km
30. ORCA
(Shark / Sea Monster)
14 40’42.80″S 75 5’53.97″W 2010 +/-950m
31. PARROT / Le Perroquet
(Ant / Dragonfly / Loro)
Nazca 14 41’21.95″S 75 6’26.81″W 2010 +/-1.1km
32. PELICAN – North
(Eagle & Trident)
Palpa Coordinates Required
33. PELICAN – South
(Often confused with Condor & Flamingo)
Nazca Coordinates Required
34. SEAWEED – 1 Example of 5
(Sea Plant / Agae)
14 41’24.13″S 75 7’21.71″W 2010 +/-1km
35. SHELLS / Sea Shells
(Delta / Wing)
Nazca 14 40’49.20″S 75 6’1.73″W 2010 +/-830m
36. SPIDER
(Arana / Araignee / Spion)
14 41’38.88″S 75 7’20.57″W 2010 +/-700m
37. SPIRAL – Primary Large Nazca 14 41’17.77″S 75 7’21.93″W 2010 +/-830m
38. SPIRAL – Primary Small Nazca 14 41’22.71″S 75 8’17.91″W 2010 +/-710m
39. SPIRAL IN SQUARE Nazca 14 39’27.31″S 75 6’52.84″W 2010 +/-720m
40. SPIRAL & DIVIDERS 14 41’19.55″S 75 6’57.64″W 2010 +/-1.5km
41. SPIRALS – INTERLINKED
(Infinity)
Palpa 14 31’7.60″S 75 11’23.00″W 2010 +/-815m
42. SPIRAL – Tears
(Tears of the Nazca)
14 50’19.48″S 74 55’2.99″W 2010 +/-850m
43. STAR
(Fan / Starburst)
Nazca 14 41’27.64″S 75 8’40.80″W 2010 +/-700m
44. TRAPEZOIDS – Famous 14 47’53.51″S 75 3’21.38″W 2010 +/-1.5km
45. TREE
(Huarango Tree / Tree of Life)
Nazca 14 41’37.83″S 75 6’51.79″W 2010 +/-750m
46. TUMI – KNIFE
(Arrow / sword)
Palpa 14 31’57.84″S 75 12’46.51″W 2010 +/-700m
47. STRANGE SYMBOLS
(Unlisted Geoglyphs)
Palpa 14 38’30.73″S 75 5’50.20″W 2010 +/-950m
48. WHALE
(Ballena)
14 49’0.03″S 74 59’40.89″W 2010 +/-780m

GRAFFITI (NAZCA & PALPA) Samples Only

1. APRA 85 Palpa 14 31’30.40″S 75 11’49.62″W 2010 +/- 750m
2. COG – East Palpa 14 31’52.37″S 75 10’10.41″W 2010 +/- 870m
3. COG – West Palpa 14 31’50.49″S 75 12’32.84″W 2010 +/- 800
4. NARANJA / Logo Palpa 14 31’15.37″S 75 11’10.34″W 2010 +/- 620m
5. PEACE SYMBOL Nazca 14 40’7.14″S 75 7’56.37″W 2010 +/- 750m


Dunino Den Mystery Features

Mysterious Features of the Dunino Druids Den

Dunino parish church, in Scotland, has a secret that not many people know.  Camouflaged by the gravestones in the churchyard is a pagan alter.  You’ll know which stone it is because it’s the one covered in coins – gifts from local pagans. If you look carefully at the nearest gravestone you’ll see the face of the Guardian watching the alter.  Beware, it is considered extremely unlucky to remove these offerings which must fall from the stone by the action of nature in the form of wind, rain, and the growth of plants. The presence of the alter hints that this was once an ancient site of worship predating Christianity and that if you know where to look, there’s much more to discover.

Dunino Den Alter Stone and Guardian
Dunino Den Alter Stone and Guardian

Beyond the churchyard and hidden by trees is a narrow rocky gulley where you’ll find the Dunino Den – the secret temple of ancient druids and modern pagans alike. The area is said to be protected by nature spirits, often called faeries, and many a person has had unusual experiences when visiting.  There’s no doubt that it has a definite supernatural atmosphere.

The first feature you’ll see as you approach from the church is a tall outcrop of dark mossy rock with a flat surface that rises above the gully and the stream.  Hand cut into the stone is a roughly square well or ‘water mirror’.  Legend has it that the small pool was originally for catching blood from sacrifices made to the ancient gods although there is no actual evidence of this.

Dunino Den - Druids Well
Dunino Den – Druids Well (C) Clint Pavenu

Just beyond the Druid’s Well is a narrow set of stairs carved deep into the rock that angle down to the stream and the open-air temple of the Druids. These steps are uneven, slippery and, as this is a natural historic site, there are no handrails or other means of keeping your balance.  People who slip on this stairs risk serious injury and legend has it that if you do slip it’s the Dens way of warning you to go back.

Dunino Den Secret Stairs
Dunino Den Secret Stairs (C) Clint Pavenu

At the bottom of the stairs is an open space flanked by trees and rocks and decorated with Celtic and pagan symbols.  Most striking is the druids face, some say a green man, that overlooks the den.

Dunino Den Druids Face Carving
Dunino Den Druids Face Carving (C) Clint Pavenu

A large Celtic wheelhead cross is carved into the wall along with other Celtic symbols suggesting that the site became a fusion point for early Christians and traditional pagans. Early missionaries were infamous for taking over ancient religious sites and repurposing them for their own religion.  The nearby proximity of the church is a perfect example. The style of the engraving suggests that it could be as old as 1000 years, although it is likely hat it has been recut at least once in more modern times – possibly 250 years ago.

Dunino Den - Ancient Celtic Cross
Dunino Den – Ancient Celtic Cross (C) Clint Pavenu

In the centre of the den, a tree trunk has been turned upside down and fixed in the soil to form an offering post which has been decorated with ribbons and other votive offerings.  Small coins can be found in rocky crevasses and nearby trees and alcoves are decorated with ribbons.  Painted seashells are a common site and occasionally you may see ladies’ panties which have been left as a fertility token.

Most mysterious is the belief that the Dunino Den is located at a point where the fabric of time and space is particularly thin.  More than a few visitors to the site have claimed to have seen back in time.  Many of these perceptions were of ordinary people wearing old fashioned clothing either sitting or walking through the glen – particularly at sunrise or sunset.  One visitor claims that he walked down into the den and crossed the stream to the other side where he climbed up the bank.  Through the trees he could clearly see a full medieval village with people going about their business.  As he walked towards them the village vanished in front of his eyes.

An interesting point is that a village did actually once exist where he claims to have seen it but was pulled down several hundred years earlier.


The Cambodian Stegosaurus

The Cambodian Stegosaurus- Real or Fake

THE CAMBODIAN STEGOSAURUS

This is a tough one for anyone to believe but it’s also proving quite difficult for scientists and archaeologists to effectively explain away.

Some years ago, an eagle-eyed visitor to the Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia noticed what looks like a carving of a stegosaurus – or at least of a dinosaur similar to the stegosaurus.  Photographs were taken and posted onto the internet.  Creationist groups quickly started to refer to the Cambodian stegosaurus as proof that mankind once lived alongside the dinosaurs.  How else would the ancient temple builders know what to carve?  The Cambodian stegosaurus has been featured in a myriad of TV and YouTube programmes about subjects ranging from aliens to Atlantis.

Cambodian Stegosaurus - Ancient Khmer Ta Prohm Temple
Ancient Khmer Ta Prohm Temple (SSPL)

Ta Prohm is the name of a temple at Angkor, Cambodia. Originally called Rajavihara, it was built in the late 1100’s and early 1400’s as a Buddhist monastery.

It certainly is fascinating and needs a closer look at the arguments of the believers and the sceptics.

SCEPTICS: IT’S A HOAX – DELIBERATE OR MAYBE UNINTENTIONAL

It might look a bit like a stegosaurus but it’s not a stegosaurus.

According to the sceptics, the carving has serious anatomical errors when compared to an actual scientific reconstruction of a Stegosaurus.  The head is too broad and seems to have large ears or horns.  The plates along the back of the carving are more like leaves.  Careful analysis of local animals suggests that the sculpture is most likely a boar or waterbuck in front of a leafy background.

Cambodian Stegosaurus Compared
Cambodian Stegosaurus Compared (SSPL)

Well … it might be a carving of a stegosaurus, but it’s new-ish.

What’s quite worrying is that after a while the sceptics then say: “Well … even if it is a stegosaurus then it was carved recently as a hoax.”  There are theories that the carving was made when the film ‘Tomb Raider’ was being shot on location at Ta Prohm probably out of boredom or as a film crew joke.  They then go on to say that anyone could have carved it.  And … they may have a point.

A key argument for the “it’s new” proposal is the fact that the stegosaurus carving seems somewhat lighter than those around it.

OK … it is a representation of a stegosaurus but was based on fossils.

Finally, the sceptics point out that even if it is a carving of a Stegosaurus then it was probably based on a fossil skeleton found locally which would explain why the head is too large and the hind legs aren’t long enough.

BELIEVERS: IT’S A STEGOSAURUS AND IT’S ANCIENT

The “stegosaurus carving” is located on a central stele that features a date.  Translated into the modern calendar it reads as 1186 AD.  Other carvings on the column clearly show the ancient artist’s expertise at reproducing known animals.

Anatomical Accuracy

A major criticism of the carving is that the alleged stegosaurus is not anatomically correct.  The three concerns are:

  • The head is too large
  • There are no spikes on the tail (Thagomizer)
  • The hind legs are too short

It’s important to point out that none of the carvings are precisely correct and the ancient artists exaggerated elements to emphasise the importance of the creatures including lions, elephants, and horses.

With regard to the missing spikes, they would not be clearly visible based on the angle of the carving.

Actually, the hind legs are pretty close to the real thing and clearly show the high hips of the Stegosaurus.

Cambodian Stegosaurus with other Carvings
Cambodian Stegosaurus with other Carvings (SSPL)

There is no evidence that the carving is recent.

According to the researchers associated with the ruins, there is no evidence of over-carving or recent replacement stonework.  Historians, in general, agree with this point.  The carving appears as genuine as the other carvings on the same pillars that show lizards, monkeys, and swans to name but a few.

There’s a good reason the stone is lighter coloured!

The guides and the researchers at Ta Prohm are happy to explain that visitors to the temple have been making plaster casts (moulds) of the stegosaurus carving and that this process has lightened the stone.  Early photos of the stele clearly show that it was once the same shade as those around it.

Could it really be based on a fossil?

No stegosaurus fossils have been found in the region.  The closest discovered were in China a fair old distance away.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that the ancients didn’t find one just that it’s quite unlikely.

Nobody has ever owned up to carving it – even anonymously.

As the heading says! If the carving were a hoax it is almost inconceivable that the hoaxers would have made at least some attempt to let people know how he or she fooled the world.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

It would be kind of crazy and wonderful to think that a land dinosaur survived until recently, but the scientific evidence suggests otherwise.  Then again, science has been wrong before. Still, before you book your ticket to Jurassic Park Cambodia please keep in mind that the carving is at least 800 years old and if there was a real live stegosaurus then it’s probably long gone by now.


Ancient Electricity

10 Examples of Ancient Electricity

DENDERA LIGHTS

Dendera Lights - Ancient Electricity
Dendera Lights – Ancient Electricity

Within the Temple of Hathor, which is part of the Dendera (Tentyra) Temple Complex in Egypt, are a series of carvings that many people believe depict the sophisticated use of electricity to generate light. Items identified are as follows: an arc light lamp (horizontal) several upright lamps, lamp socket, arc light flicker (snake) electric cables, an isolator and even a large upright battery. If historians and archaeologists believed that the Egyptians from this period used electricity, then this would probably be considered a classic example. A further point that is often overlooked is that Hathor was a goddess who is usually shown with a sun disk suspended between two horns exactly like the reflecting mirror of an arc-lamp – even the dimensions are optimal. Although the equipment in the images may seem obvious it should also be noted that many historians, archaeologists and Egyptologists strongly deny that the images are anything more than the representation of a fertility rite based on Egyptian mythology. Proponents of the ‘lights’ theory are often dismissed as fringe scientists while mainstream Egyptologists are often accused of hiding behind conveniently concocted myths and retentive thinking. Both groups seem certain in their beliefs.

From the point of view of the proponents of the ‘lights’ theory the beam can be see emerging from the lotus flower socket. A cable appears to run from the battery via the isolator to the lamp. Under the light are people engaged in activities made possible by the illumination. The snake is often referred to as a lamp filament but, if the lights are real, is more likely to represent the flickering of the arc light. There are other pictures on the internet that are even more suggestive, and it is worth reviewing them if you are interested in this subject. Real or imagined – you decide?

 

CAT FUR AND AMBER GENERATOR

Cat Fur and Amber Generator
Cat Fur and Amber Generator (C) Clint Pavenu

There can be no doubt that ancient civilizations were aware of static electricity even if they may not have fully understood it. They also appreciated the godlike power of lightning and must have been curious to observe this effect replicated in miniature when the fur of a cat was rubbed against certain materials in a darkened room.

The effects of static electricity were first recorded by a Greek philosopher, Thales of Miletus, who lived between 624 BC and 546 BC. He is said to have experimented with amber, which the Greeks referred to as Elektron, and cat fur to create an electrical discharge as well as magnetism. From this observation a simple machine consisting of two spinning disks, one covered with leopard fur and one coated with glass or amber could be connected to gold axles and foil strips which would produce an electrical charge capable of generating sparks several inches in length.

By spinning the disks in opposite directions a static electrical charge could be transferred to the gold foil strips to create visible sparks.

 

ELECTRIC EELS – SHOCK THERAPY

Electric Eel
Electric Eel

Although it looks like an eel, Electrophorus Electricus is actually a Knife Fish that is able to generate and deliver significant electric shocks of up to 600 volts.

The ancient Egyptians referred to an electric catfish, Malapterurus Electricus, as the “Thunderer of the Nile” which indicates that they had already made the connection to storm-related atmospheric discharges – lightning. According to various sources the Greeks and Romans were familiar with these creatures and may well have bred them in captivity. Historic records show that they were certainly farming many other types of exotic fish both for food and for amusement.

Scribonus Largus, a physician at the court of the Roman Emperor Claudius (c.47AD), is reported to have written that these ‘torpedo fish’ could be used to treat a wide variety of ailments. They were used to numb the feet of gout sufferers as well as those suffering from persistent headaches. If this is true, then this is the first recorded use of shock therapy. As recently as 2009 doctors in Boston have been successfully experimenting with electric currents to block migraines.

The Knife Fish of South America is capable of delivering between 500 – 600 volts of electricity. The Nile (Electric) Catfish, Malapterurus Electricus, is capable of delivering approximately 350 volts. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons: Steinhart Aquarium – Photographer: Stan Shebs – 2005.

 

THE BAGHDAD BATTERY

Baghdad Battery - Ancient Electricity (C) Clint Pavenu
Baghdad Battery – Ancient Electricity (C) Clint Pavenu

In 1938 the Director of the National Museum of Iraq, Wilhelm König, discovered a number of curious terracotta pots in the archives. Each one was approximately 13 cm in height with a capped 3.3 cm opening at the top. Each pot contained an open-ended copper cylinder and inside this was a small iron rod. These artefacts strongly resembled simple galvanic batteries and in 1940 König published a scientific paper proposing that these objects may well have been used to generate electrical current which could have been used for electroplating objects with either gold or silver.

Mainstream archaeologists continue to doubt this theory even though reproductions using lemon juice as an electrolyte have been proven to work and no other sensible explanation exists for the iron and copper contents. The pots are likely to have been created during the Sassanid Period (224 AD – 640 AD). The debate continues.

(Image) Discovered in the archives of the National Museum of Iraq in 1938. Believed to have been originally excavated in 1936 in the village of Khuyut Rabbou’a. Capable of generating between 0.75 and 1.1 volts.

 

THE LIGHTHOUSE OF PHAROS

Ancient Electricity Pharos Lighthouse
Ancient Electricity Pharos Lighthouse (C) Clint Pavenu

Considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, construction of the 130m tall Pharos Lighthouse probably began around 280 BC on a small island just off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Originally commissioned by the Macedonian general, Ptolemy Soter who became ruler of Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great, it was completed during the reign of his son Ptolemy Philadelphos. Today the island of Pharos has become part of the mainland and shields a natural harbour. The building was erected to house a brilliant light to assist ships to find the port at night. Historic reports claim that the light could be seen nearly thirty miles out to sea and that it housed a beam so bright that could blind sailors and burn enemy ships. This has given rise to the theory that only an electrical arc lamp and a huge concave mirror could have created this effect. Proponents of this theory admit that the source of the power is a mystery but that an electric light is the only possible explanation for the extraordinary intensity of the lamp

The lighthouse survived from 247 BC to 1303 AD when it was severely damaged in an earthquake. By 1408 it was simply a pile of rubble which was then used to build a medieval fortress by Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’it Bay, the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, which remains standing today. It is possible to still visit Qaitbay Castle.

 

THE ABYDOS MACHINES

Ancient Electricity - The Abydos Machines
The Abydos Machines (CC Olek95)

Roughly 450 kilometres south of Cairo is the ancient city-complex of Abydos. It is widely considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt although for some quite differing reasons.

Mainstream Egyptologists recognise it as the site of the Osiris and Isis cult while proponents of ancient electricity believe it holds definite proof that ancient civilisations were significantly more advanced than historians will acknowledge. The reason for this is that within the Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Seti I there are a series of carvings that clearly depict modern aircraft, particularly a helicopter and dirigible. Mainstream archaeologists claim that they are merely a coincidence caused by over-carving while proponents of ancient technology state that this is actually misleading and that attempts to recreate the over-carving effect have been less than conclusive. In addition, they point out that the coincidence required to produce these images is staggeringly unlikely.

Image: Top Left: Helicopter, Top Right: Hovercraft, Centre Right – High: Airship / Dirigible

Centre Right – Low: Satellite, Bottom Right: Spaceship / Jet Fighter

 

THE COSO ARTEFACT

The Coso Artefact
The Coso Artefact (C) Clint Pavenu

The area around the town of Olancha in California, America, is popular destination for ‘rock hunters’ and attracts both professional and amateur geologists. On Monday the 13th February 1961 three geode collectors, Wallace Lane, Mike Mikesell and Virginia Maxey discovered an interesting specimen which Mike Mikesell took home and cut in half with a diamond edged saw. Inside the specimen he discovered what appeared to be an off-white ceramic cylinder with a small metal core running through the centre – in short, a sparkplug. According to Ms. Maxey the specimen was examined by a professional geologist who estimated that the casing was at least 500,000 years old. The identity of the geologist has never been revealed. The discovery caused significant controversy with some experts claiming that the rock was nothing more than a ‘concretion’ of rust and localised fossils. Perhaps because of the controversy the finders refused to further display or discuss the artefact after 1969. The location of the artefact is currently unknown as are the people who found it although it is believed that Lane passed away in 2008.

Image: Named after the Coso Mountain Range where it was found above the Owens Dry Lake on the edge of Death Valley.

 

TEMPLE LIGHTS OF ISIS

Temple Lights of Isis (C) Shutterstock / Clint Pavenu
Temple Lights of Isis (C) Shutterstock / Clint Pavenu

Aurelius Augustine was born in North Africa in 354 AD and spent much of his early life dedicated to passionate pursuits, philosophy and academic studies. At the age of 32 he became a Christian and after some time in Rome he journeyed to Hippo Regius (near modern day Annaba) in Tunisia where he was persuaded to become first a priest and later Bishop of the town. He remained an academic at heart and was one of the most prolific writers of his time. In his work, City of God, (book 11 chapter 6) he describes a temple in Egypt dedicated to Venus (Isis) in which there is a lamp that requires an asbestos base and is completely unaffected by the weather. The correct translation is under the picture to the left. It worth pointing out that some websites misquote this passage to emphasise the argument while others suggest that Augustine himself visited the temple. In fact, Augustine was referring to books written by earlier travellers. However, the story is intriguing and was considered relevant enough to be selected as an example by the Bishop. St. Augustine suggested that the lamp might have been the work of corrupted men or even a resident demon.

(The quotation from St. Augustine’s book – The City of God, Book XXI, Chapter 6:)

” … that there was, or is, a temple of Venus in which a candelabrum set in the open air holds a lamp, which burns so strongly that no storm or rain extinguishes it, and which is therefore called, like the stone mentioned above, the asbestos or inextinguishable lamp.”

 

ARC OF THE COVENANT

Arc of the Covenant
Arc of the Covenant (Image credit: Shutterstock)

According to the Old Testament, which records the history of the Abrahamic religions, God summoned Moses to Mount Sinai (Horeb) and gave him the Ten Commandments inscribed on two tablets of stone. This list of divine laws specified the way in which the people were to live their lives. Five of these laws form the basis of all modern legal systems. To store the stone tablets the people of Moses built a chest according to specific instructions provided to them by God. This was to be the Ark of the Covenant and since its construction there have been countless references to its ‘power’ such as its ability to part waters, to destroy buildings such as the walls of Jericho and to emit beams of light sometimes referred to as the power of God. Based on descriptions found in the Old Testament a number of researchers now believe that the wings of the cherub may have acted like an arc lamp or as two electrical charged poles that could induce a sense of the divine. This proposal was recently featured on the Discovery Channel’s Myth Busters programme and found plausible.

Said to have extraordinary powers. May have been an arc lamp. Featured in Episode 29 of MythBusters, a Discovery Channel programme first broadcast on the 23rd March 2005. The Ark of the Covenant has been lost for many centuries and may have been removed from the Temple of Solomon during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 587 BC.

 

ELECTROPLATED ARTEFACTS

ancient-electricity-gold-mask
Ancient electricity – Electroplating (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Over the centuries a number of artefacts ranging from coins to small religious statues have been discovered with very thin coatings of gold or silver that is typical of modern electroplating techniques. In 1938 Wilhelm König, the Director of the National Museum of Iraq, discovered a series of small objects that strongly suggested the use of electroplating using electrical current rather than the less effective electrochemical process. Several small vases dating from 2,500BC appeared to have been electroplated and were kept at the Baghdad museum. In 1851 archaeologist August Mariette claimed to have found electroplated objects at a dig near the Sphinx in Egypt. In 2006 Stefano Natali and Giuseppe Giovannelli of the University of Rome discovered a coin that had been deliberated plated with silver around 250 BC to create a forgery. A number of pre-Columbian golden artefacts show traces of plated surfaces. There are undoubtedly many more items in the collections of the great museums that may well turn out to have been electroplated rather than solid gold or silver items.

It is fair to point out that there are techniques that can mimic electroplating. The first is electro-deposition which is possible without an electric current and the Tumbaga process that involves the production of a seemingly pure gold object even though it has a high percentage of copper. To achieve this the surface copper is oxidised and dissolved leaving only a gold coating which is polished into a plated surface.


Electricity from the Baghdad Battery

Baghdad Battery Proves the Ancients had Electricity

THE BAGHDAD BATTERY

The Baghdad Battery is one of those rare archaeological discoveries that has the potential to make us doubt everything we assume we know about ancient civilisations and, as such, it really annoys many archaeologists and compulsive debunkers.

DISCOVERY

During 1936 the archaeological excavations of a necropolis south of Baghdad known as Khujut Rabu revealed a very curious item of pottery that stood out from the usual finds of glassware, figurines, engraved tablets, and storage jars common to the region. It was a small clay jar around 15cm in height and sealed by a bitumen stopper. The jar contained a copper cylinder which itself contained an iron rod. Both items showed signs of significant corrosion as if the metals had been exposed to acids.

The age of the artefact and the site of the dig was dated to the Parthian period which occurred from the first century BC to around 190 AD. The jar was sent to the Baghdad Museum for safekeeping until it could be properly examined.

The Baghdad Battery in Desert

IT’S A BATTERY !

Two years later in 1938 when the Item was officially examined by Wilhelm König (Koenig), the Director / leader of the Baghdad Antiquity Administration as head of the laboratory at the Baghdad Museum, he suggested that the artefact was very similar to an acid-based battery of the kind invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800. The Austrian / German archaeologist and painter stated that if the jar was filled with a weak acid then the chemical reaction between the copper and the iron would produce a small electric current and referred to it as the Parthian Battery.

From König’s book published in 1940:

(To clear up a point argued by debunkers – the artefact was discovered by an ordinary digger and not by König himself although the dig was under the authority of the museum and was therefore ‘König’s dig’. König never claimed to have dug-up the artefact himself. Also, for those who claim the original text by Wilhelm König is missing it can be found in the above book which is written in German but available on Amazon)

Koenig supported his hypothesis of a battery by his observation of a similar but modern device used by the goldsmiths of Baghdad to carry out simple electroplating techniques. During this reaction metallic gold from a solution of gold salts is deposited on the object being plated. Koenig suggested that electroplating may have had a far more ancient origin than scholars had imagined.

Simple tests and calculations showed that although the ‘Baghdad Battery could generate an electrical current this was very small. However, König proposed that many of these devices could have been connected in series to create a current of sufficient power. To support this theory he identified a number of jewellery items from the period that were remarkably fine and could have been the product of this technique.

In 1939 the German engineer and science enthusiast, Willy Ley further promoted König’s (Koenig’s) ideas and for the first time brought them to the attention of the general public.

The outbreak of WWII overshadowed the story of the Baghdad Battery and it wasn’t until the war had ended that Willard Gray, an American researcher working for General Electric recreated the Baghdad Battery and conclusively proved that a current could be generated by using grape juice as the electrolyte solution. Since then his test has been repeated many times including tests using a solution of lemon juice.

During 1978 Baghdad Battery was displayed at an exhibition in the Iraq Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, Germany. The Display and catalogue clearly stated that the object was used for generating electricity long before the invention of the Voltaic pile.

Diagram of the Baghdad BatteryHow many Baghdad batteries have been found?

Overall, 12 Baghdad Batteries were found but about half of them were stolen from the National Museum of Iraq during the looting of 2003. Arne Eggebrecht, the Museum Director then succeeded in assembling a collective battery of these “batteries” and used the current generated to coat a metal object in an extremely thin layer of gold.

MYTH BUSTERS – IS THE BAGHDAD BATTERY REAL

In 2005 the Discovery Channel TV programme Myth Busters examined the science behind the Baghdad Battery and reproduced the earlier experiments. They then demonstrated that these devices could have been used for electroplating. In a rare case of ‘not busting a myth’ the team, led by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, concluded that the Baghdad Battery concept was plausible.

Baghdad Battery Myth bustersMythbusters Plausible

NO SALTS, NO ELECTRODES AND A BUILD UP OF GAS?

The original idea that the Baghdad Battery was used for electroplating quickly ran into a few problems which have often been cited by historians and mainstream scientists seeking to debunk the idea of early electricity.

Firstly, the ability to make gold salts for electroplating wasn’t officially invented until the age of alchemy during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance period. Without this solution the gold plating process simple could not take place.

Secondly, the cap of the original battery did not appear to have the necessary electrical connection points.

Thirdly, the seal of the bitumen cap would cause a build-up of gasses reducing the effectiveness of the battery.

All these points are rather weak and depend on the principle that if historians have not discovered it then it – whatever it is – simply did not exist. Also, motivations change across historical time and to judge the actions of the ancients by our own standards is a terrible mistake.

As modern research rethinks its position on the abilities of the ancients it is becoming ever clearer that they knew much more than the early Victorian scholars gave them credit for. The historical record is littered with examples of ancient technology that was ‘too early’ for its time. Some notable and unchallenged examples include the Antikythera Mechanism, Drill Sockets of the Pharos, the Phaistos disc and even the language known as the Indus Script. The truth is that it is possible that early Parthian scholars had developed a form of gold salts. The lack of record is also easily explained as the electroplating process would have been considered magical it is not surprising that it would have been kept a closely guarded secret.

With regard to the lack of electrodes that too is easily explained. At the time of the Baghdad Battery both iron and copper were relatively difficult to come by. To waste this material on large electrodes that protruded through the cap (as we do today) would have been considered ridiculous at the time. It would have been far easier to simply run a wire from the internal elements and out through the edge of the bitumen. These thin copper wires could have easily been isolated from each other by first dipping the wire in bitumen to create a coating. An interesting point is that the jars have been identified to have bitumen residue inside the container.

Finally, although it would have been inconvenient to open and reseal the battery there is no evidence that this did not take place. The answer as to why the ancients would have sealed the battery is simple – as with tombs, letters, and storage boxes they were sealed to prevent other people seeing the secret mechanism inside the jar. The inconvenience of opening and resealing the jars would have been irrelevant compared to the importance of keeping the technology secret from the uninitiated.

OTHER THEORIES?

Another challenge often raised is this: If they weren’t used for electroplating then what could they have been used for?

One researcher, Paul T. Keyser, proposed other electrical applications for the Baghdad Battery included a form of electrotherapy or electrostimulation, which could be performed within a religious framework. If several batteries were connect in series then enough charge could be stored to provide a meaningful shock if a person touched a religious artefact. To early people this would have indeed seemed to be the power of God.

A further idea put forward by researchers is that the batteries were used to power a simple form of electric light and have supported this argument by pointing out that the carvings at the Temple complex of Dendera in Egypt do appear to show this process taking place. However, it is also worth mentioning that mainstream Egyptologists strongly refute this claim.

Baghdad Battery and Egyptian LightOK – IF NOT A BATTERY THEN WHAT WAS IT?

So far the best the archaeologists and historians have been able to suggest is that these jars were used to store hermetically sealed documents.

Some debunkers have suggested that the jar was actually made by König (Koenig) who combined a scroll preservation jar with simple metalwork tools. There is absolutely no evidence to support this claim.

Another theory suggests they might have been used to repair wineskins.

It’s amusing that debunkers are often forced to admit that there are actually more problems with these alternative proposals than with Koenig’s original idea of an ancient battery. Perhaps the real issue is that many people simply can’t change their preconceptions because to accept such a thing is to also open the door to many other challenges that could very well alter mankind’s understand of our history, origins and beliefs.

Location of Khujut Rabu


Diquís stone spheres of the Diquís exhibited at Museo de Jade de Costa Rica

Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

STONE SPHERES OF COSTA RICA

The archaeological record sometimes throws up oddities that can’t easily be explained. From giant statues on Easter Island to the pyramids of ancient Egypt, these discoveries have often raised the question – ‘How could these possibly have been made by humans so long ago?’ The stone spheres of Costa Rica are definitely one of these mysteries.

The stones were originally located across the Diquis Delta and on the Isla del Caño in Costa Rica. They were uncovered during the 1930’s when the United Fruit Company started searching for new areas to cultivate their banana trees. It’s estimated that there were around 300 petrospheres that varied in size from a few centimetres to over two meters in diameter. Many of these have subsequently be relocated.

The largest petrospheres weigh around 15 tons and are classed as megaliths in their own right. Most of the stone spheres are made from a hard igneous rock known as granodiorite (Gabbro) although some have been shaped from both sandstone and limestone. Very few now remain in their original locations as most have been moved to private estates, museums and government buildings.

What’s so mysterious about these Stone spheres?

Well … nobody really knows why they were made and – more importantly – how they were made!

Stone Spheres Costa Rica
Diquís stone spheres in situ, Archaeological Site Finca 6, Costa Rica (CC) Diego Padilla Durán y Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz)

Near Perfect Spheres

The stone spheres of Costa Rica have often been described as near perfect spheres and it is true that many of these objects are remarkably accurate. It’s also fair to say that they are not as precise as some excitable authors would have people believe. This has allowed debunkers to say that they have never been measured properly are not perfect spheres and that’s that.

The truth is that many of the Costa Rican Spheres have achieved a level of accuracy that would be out of reach of a modern sculptor who had access to all the latest tools. In addition they have been measured many times. There is a well document account written by Eleanor Lothrop (1955) and published in Natural History Magazine. In addition, this account describes the spheres in their original locations before they were relocated over the following fifty years. Eleanor describes the lengths that her archaeologist husband – Dr. Samuel Lothrop of the Peabody Museum – developed in order to measure the spheres.

In fact, quite a number of researchers just don’t believe that the pre-Columbian people of Costa Rica had the technology to achieve such works of precision. This could either be a huge insult to the abilities of these pre-Columbian people or it could be a realistic point of view that raises some extraordinary questions.

Who made the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica?
No one really knows!

It’s believed that the stone balls were made by the Aguas Buenas and Chiriquí cultures based on other materials such as pottery found with some of the spheres. These were native peoples ancestral to historical Chibchan-speaking groups of southern Costa Rica. Unfortunately, there is no corroborating evidence such a petroglyphs showing the making of these petrospheres. In short, there are no records of any kind that definitively prove who manufactured the stone spheres of Costa Rica.

This absence of certainty has led many researchers to speculate that they could be of alien origin, from the lost city of Atlantis or even brought to Costa Rica through a time portal. Mainstream archaeologists are naturally very dismissive of these claims.

What were the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica made for?
No one really knows!

Early studies of the stones including those undertaken by Samuel Lothrop quickly revealed that the stones had been set out in specific geometric patterns. The significance of these layouts has never been fully understood although there has been regular suggestions that they were linked to stellar constellations. Unfortunately, most of the stones have been relocated and confirmation of the original patterns and the scale of the stones in each location has now been lost forever. The assumption, as with Stonehenge and other megalithic sites, is that they were associated with religion.

Some researchers believe they denoted status while others suggest that they were communal grave markers. The truth is simple – no one really knows.

How were the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica made?
No one really knows!

The theory is that they were made by first selecting a roughly spherical boulder. This was then heated to a high temperature and rapidly cooled causing layers of stone, from specific areas, to exfoliate. When repeated time and again the result was an even more perfect ball shape. The stones were then further improved by a process of pecking and hammering with stone hammers made of the same hard material. The traces of this process were then polished out using shaped wooden boards and ever finer grades of sand as an abrasive.

However, while this seems to satisfy most archaeologists, there are a number of very big problems with this theory.

The process would require vast amounts of wood – preferably charcoal – for the fires as well as complex manoeuvring of the larger stones. This would suggest a production centre of some kind. Also, the process would leave behind large amounts of debris such as exfoliated stone flakes, broken stone hammers, fire pits, rolling tracks and out of place deposits of used polishing sand. To the best of our knowledge not one single trace of this process has ever been discovered. In addition, the exfoliation process described in the theory often goes wrong. This would result in a large number of unfinished or damaged stones which would prove the how the process worked. No such damaged or unfinished spheres have ever been found either in situ or at the quarry located some 50 miles away.

Finally, precise stone spheres are hard to form from natural rock. Perhaps this is the reason why spheres of this kind have only ever been found in Costa Rica with the exception of a few found in the highlands of Guatemala and in Vera Cruz. Even the ancient Egyptians, with all their experience of working with stone, shied away from making these objects.

Theories Strange and Bizarre

The fact that so little is known about the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica has opened the door to many alternative theories. Here are a few of the most popular:

Atlantis

The stone sphere are part of a network of megalithic monuments that can be found all over the world that were built by the Atlanteans before the collapse of their civilization.

Aliens and Star Charts

The stone sphere are part of a network of megalithic monuments created by an alien civilization and carefully position as message to humanity for when we are A) smart enough, B) civilised enough, to understand it. Many ancient monuments including some of the stone spheres of Costa Rica have been shown to have alignments with the stars.

Magic Potion

Some have theories that the ancient people of Costa Rica could make a solution of chemicals (a potion) that would temporarily soften the rocks thus allowing them to be more easily shaped.

Tidal Wave

The tidal wave theory holds that the stones were from the bottom of the ocean or even an unknown civilization that we swept up by a giant tidal wave and deposited on the land.

The Gods

There is an ancient legend that the stone spheres are “Tara’s cannon balls”. Tara or Tlatchque, the god of thunder, used a giant blowpipe to shoot the balls at the gods of winds and hurricanes, in order to drive them out of Costa Rica.

What Next

For now it looks like the mystery of the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica will remain unsolved. Archaeologists think they know who made them and how but have no real proof. Alternative theorists believe they have the answers but, just like the archaeologists, they have no proof either. These petrospheres could be the proof of unknown or even alien civilisations or it could just be a load of old balls. You decide!

Farm 6 Archaeological Site, Costa Rica

If you are interested in Megaliths, take a look at the article on the best UK Stone Circles!


Where is the Lost City of Atlantis Believed to Be

Where is the Lost City of Atlantis Believed to Be?

Where is the Lost City of Atlantis Believed to Be?

If you typed this question into Google, you used to get this answer:

Well, it turns out that this answer wasn’t very helpful …  Here are a few other contenders including our own theory.

SANTORINI ISLAND – GREECE

Many people believe that Atlantis was built on the island of Santorini (Thera) in the Mediterranean Sea.  It was a Minoan civilisation that was definitely more advanced than many of its neighbours as can be seen by the Minoan culture on other nearby islands including Crete.  Unfortunately for the Minoans or Atlanteans, the island was also a volcano which mega erupted around 1600 BCE and literally blew itself into pieces.  Goodbye island and goodbye to whatever civilisation was on the island.  A likely contender, but the island was in the Mediterranean Sea and not the Atlantic so there’s a problem there.

Santorini Atlantis Crater

DOÑANA NATIONAL PARK – SPAIN

Merlin Burrows is a UK based company that uses satellite technology to find ancient ruins. According to the CEO, Blackburn, his team used data taken from commercial satellites, such as Landsat 5 and Landsat 8 and identified a site in Spain’s Doñana National Park.  National Geographic and other respectable publications have also pinpointed the site as a likely location.  The problem is that while there are many archaeological remains, they’re not very Atlantean and currently bear little resemblance to the Atlantis of legend.  They are also not on an island and not in the Atlantic. Interesting but no cigar.

THE EYE OF AFRICA

Atlantis Eye of AfricaLocated in the deserts of Mauritania is a very large and ancient structure known as the eye of Africa.  It is made up of concentric circles that almost look as if the ground liquidised and then solidified again during mid ripple.  The concentric rings, saltwater deposits and what looks like a natural causeway do match some of the original descriptions but other than that its not likely.  The lack of any serious archaeology or ancient technology scores against this as the location.

ALIEN SPACESHIP

This one is kind of interesting.  Actually, Plato’s description of Atlantis is also a remarkable accurate depiction of a science fiction interstellar craft.  Large, rings for stability, lots of strange metals and gates, and a collection of animals from around the region but not native to the island.  Huge blasts of fire and the city disappears into the sky.  Best place to land a giant spaceship without causing radiation damage – well that would be on the sea where it would look like a magical island.  More about this idea in another article.  Still … for this to work you have to believe that earth was visited by ancient aliens and that’s a whole new debate.

TECHWhere is the Lost City of Atlantis Believed to Be?OUR THEORY

Atlantis, according to Plato (Critias & Timaeus) was beyond the Pillars of Hercules or the Straits of Gibraltar. If we are to take the story literally then Atlantis is definitely not in the Mediterranean.

So, what do we know about Atlantis? It was an island, probably smaller than Southern Italy. It was somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean but close enough for its ships to pass the Straits of Gibraltar and enter the Mediterranean.

Its civilisation originated towards the end of the last Ice Age. Later, it had significant trade with other nations. There were elephants (imported?) and chestnut trees. It was close enough to Africa to be able to dominate the lands of Libya. Orichalcum could be mined on the island. It was probably volcanic. It was destroyed by an earthquake (volcanism).

If we accept that Plato’s description is accurate and don’t tamper with the story of Atlantis to make it fit other possible locations then we need to look for a volcanic island (or the remains of one) in the Atlantic beyond the straights of Gibraltar but close enough to North Africa for it to have been able to control the coastal lands of Libya up to the borders of Egypt.

If we faithfully follow this description, we do find an actual place. We find the volcanic Canary Islands. Quite a great deal of Plato’s description matches this location. They are volcanic, on the ancient but disputed trade route to the Americas, were once considerably more fertile than they are today, are still unstable and have unusual (if limited) pyramidal ruins. Pliny the Elder (AD23 – 79) reports the Canary Islands were uninhabited in the time of Hanno the Navigator (c. 600 BC), but nevertheless contained the ruins of buildings.

“He (Juba II) said that in this island there are traces of buildings; that while they all have an abundant supply of fruit and of birds of every kind, Canaria also abounds in palm-groves bearing dates and in conifers; that in addition to this there is a large supply of honey, and also papyrus grows in the rivers,” From the Translation of The Natural History of Pliny the Elder by H. Rackham, first published 1942, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.

COULD THE CANARY ISLANDS HAVE BEEN ATLANTIS?

All the evidence based on the original texts indicate that the Canary Islands are the location for Atlantis. There is evidence that they may have been very much larger in the past. Also – before the end of the last ice age the sea levels would have been much lower.

Even so, where is the conclusive evidence? Well it may well be on the bottom of the sea between (and to the south) of the islands that may be all that remain of the northern mountains described by Plato.

One theory regarding Atlantis that has been put forward is that as recently as 10,000 years ago some of the Canary Islands, as we know them today, were actually linked together (or more likely surrounded) by an unstable plateau or rim of volcanic rock (basalts) and soil that had built up over the 60,000 years of the previous ice age. (Remember, sea levels were lower).

Also, the geological record (above) clearly shows that from-time-to-time; fairly large parts of these islands have collapsed into the sea leaving significant debris surrounding them.

The theory suggests that as sea levels rose, the underlying rock of the rim plateau became saturated with water and increasingly unstable. Finally, when a severe earthquake occurred, this landmass literally vibrated itself into a fluid state and sank away to be dispersed in the ocean currents.

If you want to see this happen then take some beach sand and place it a container as a flattened cone. Fill the container with water until at least two thirds of the original sand is saturated. Now place a model building on top and then vibrate the container. See what happens.

Why does this theory about Atlantis have some credence? The answer lies in Plato’s description of what remained after the collapse of Atlantis. He refers to a huge layer of mud that blocked the passage of ships.

“One ‘slope anomaly’, the S1 (175 Ma) anomaly, has also been identified between the easternmost islands and the African continent. The continent-ocean boundary is characterized by the presence of a 10-km-thick layer of sediments.” José Mangas Viñuela, (Departamento de Física-Geología, Edificio de Ciencias Básicas, Campus Universitario de Tafira, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that again we find a consistency between the evidence and Plato’s account. To ensure objective study it should also be mentioned that the water between the islands is deep and so the concept of a single linked island is unlikely. However, not even the scientists seem to agree on many geological aspects of these islands – particularly their formation and erosion.

Let’s be clear! It is not our intention to persuade you that the Canary Islands are the location of Atlantis or that Atlantis ever truly existed as described by Plato. What we have tried to do is demonstrate, through a process of literary forensics, that many of the key points of Plato’s account do stand up to a fair degree of scrutiny.

However, some do not.

  • Plato refers to significant trade between the Atlanteans and other nations. Trade means records and none have ever been found.
  • No trace of Elephants or their remains have ever been found on the Canary Islands although they were said to exist in abundance on Atlantis.
  • Gold and copper has been discovered in nearby Morocco but not on the Canary Islands.
  • Still, we’re open to updated information if you have any.
  • The mysterious and still unexplained Pyramids of Guimar on the Canary Island of Tenerife.

THE VERDICT:

It’s fair to say that we are really divided on this one. The safe verdict would be to state that as there is still no “concrete” or undisputed “physical” evidence then Atlantis is probably a myth created by a man who had a superb understanding of the natural history and geography of his time. He most likely did so for the purpose of promoting and presenting his views regarding utopian societies. He may well have used the records of travellers such as Hanno the Navigator to “work-backwards” to locate his Atlantean land and to establish his facts.

The less-safe verdict is that Plato has provided a remarkably consistent account that actually provides a location precisely where he says it will be. He supplies very few details that can be proven wrong and does provide many references that are absolutely correct. Of particular importance is the sheet of mud that would have existed if the (possible) land mass linking or surrounding the Canary Islands had been vibrated away. The real question that should be asked is this: If the account of Timaeus and Critias was meant to be used just for the purpose of expounding a theory then why so much detail and why not a more elaborate and fanciful description. Why go to so much trouble to get the details correct?

Thank you for reading our account of the Lost City of Atlantis. Perhaps as archaeology discovers more of our ancient history, we will find more convincing evidence, or perhaps even proof, that that this remarkable myth is actually real. What a story that would be.


Al Deir - The Monastery Tomb

Lost City of Petra - Photo Tour

Petra Highlights Map
Petra Highlights Map

The once lost city of Petra is one of the most spectacular and mysterious archaeological sites in the world.  Largely built by a now vanished people, the pre-Islamic Nabataeans,  and mostly hidden from the Western world for 1800 years, it was only rediscovered during the 19th century. It has been featured in blockbuster movies and now attracts thousands of visitors to Jordan every year.  It is also huge and far larger than most people imagine.  This is a map of the area based on Google Earth and this photo tour will showcase some of the most amazing features of Petra.


Callanish Stone Circles

Stone Circles UK - The Top Ten

UK Stone Circles – The Top Ten

Britain has some of the best stone circles and Neolithic sites in the World. They’ve inspired the imagination of historians, archaeologists and even poets. These prehistoric sites represent the very first civilisations in the UK and Europe and are still the subject of debate and mystery.

Archaeologists tend to agree that they were used for religious rituals and even burials but … they aren’t certain that this was their main purpose. They’ve been linked to ancient druids, ghosts, crop circles and even alien visitations.

Stone Circles UK, such as Stonehenge would have required the efforts of hundreds if not thousands of people to build so there is no doubt they were of extraordinary importance. This is our list of the top ten stone circles in the Country.

Castlerigg Stone Circle (Cumbria UK)

Castlerigg is located at the summit of a low hill and surrounded by a natural amphitheatre of larger peaks including Blencathra, Skiddaw, and Lonscale Fell. This makes it one of the most picturesque UK stone circles with striking views of the surrounding landscape.

Castlerigg - Stone Circles UK
Castlerigg Stone Circle

The circle is 30 metres wide and is officially made up of 40 megaliths. However, the exact number is uncertain as erosion has revealed some four additional stones that may have once been upright or were perhaps only ever used for packing the larger megaliths.

Dating back to around 3000BC it is one of the oldest stone circles UK. Archeo-astronomers have studied the site and believe that they have discovered a number of significant alignments. In particular, they believe that certain of the stones are specifically associated with the position of the midwinter sunrise and the orbit of the Moon. As with all other stone circles the exact reason for Castlerigg’s construction remains a mystery.

Arbor Low Stone Circles UK (Derbyshire)

Arbor Low is a flattened Neolithic stone circle located in the Peak District of the UK. The site is privately owned but managed by English Heritage and dates back to circa 2500BC. It’s comprised of around 50 limestone megaliths which were excavated from a nearby Stone Age quarry. In the centre are seven smaller megaliths which create a rough horseshoe shape or cove.

Arbor Low - Stone Circles UK
Arbor Low Stone Circle

Around 1902 a human skeleton was unearthed near to this spot. It is one of the best-preserved prehistoric monuments in Britain and was one of the first to be awarded statutory protection. The site was used as recently as the Bronze Age during which time the outer bank was rebuilt.

Unlike other stone circles in the UK, it seems as if the megaliths were positioned horizontally in a radiating pattern resembling a clock face. No ‘post-holes’ have been discovered and the purpose of this layout remains a mystery. It has recently been the focus of pagan ceremonies and is said to be the axis of many ley-lines.

 Rollright Stone Circle (Warwickshire UK)

The Rollright Stones are on the border between the counties of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. The main stone circle is made up of 77 megaliths which are known as the King’s Men. Roughly 350 metres to the east is a Neolithic dolmen which is all that remains of an ancient burial chamber. These standing stones are known as the Whispering Knights. 80 metres to the north-east of the main circle is a solitary megalith called The King.

Rollright Stones - Stone Circles Uk
Rollright Stones and Circle

Made of sedimentary rocks, the megaliths have undergone extensive weathering and have been described as ‘lumps of leprous limestone’. The Rollright Stones are associated with many myths and legends. The stones are said to have once been a king and his soldiers who were turned to stone by a witch called mother Shipton.

Folklore claims that the Whispering Knights occasionally disappear, and strange lights appear in their place.  Ongoing stories of witchcraft and pagan rituals are all still associated with this stone circle.

 Long Meg and Her Daughters (Cumbria UK)

Maughanby Stone Circle – nicknamed as ‘Long Meg and Her Daughters’ – dates back to the early Bronze Age around 1500BC and is located in the English county of Cumbria. It’s one of the largest in north-western Europe and consists of 51 stones although there may once have been as many as 70.

Long Meg & Her Daughters - Stone Circles UKLong Meg is a single sandstone monolith located outside of the circle which may have acted as a prehistoric sundial casting a shadow onto the circle of stones to the North East. Long Meg has been engraved with petroglyphs such as a ‘cup and ring’ mark, a spiral and varying concentric circles. The origin of the name is uncertain. Some sources claim Long Meg was a ‘bad’ witch who was turned stone, along with her coven, by a ‘good’ wizard – Michael of Scotland. Other sources suggest it was named after the giantess ‘Meg of Westminster’ who was buried in the North. Both legends tell of a mysterious treasure of gold buried nearby.

The site is believed to be protected by supernatural storms that disturb treasure hunters or other unwelcome visitors

Stanton Drew Stone Circle (Somerset UK)

Stanton Drew is the 3rd largest collection of prehistoric megaliths in England and is made up of three interrelated stone circles. The Great Circle has a circumference of 355 metres and has 26 upright stones.

Stanton Drew - Stone Circles UKArchaeological surveys conducted in 1997 show that the remaining circles were once part of a much larger site which may have extended from the Cove as far as the Neolithic burial site known as Hautville Quoit – a distance of 825 metres. The research also revealed numerous pits that may have been used for megaliths or other ritual purposes.

Legend has it that a wedding party was held on a Sunday but the only musician who would play was the Devil in disguise. At the end of the dance the partygoers were turned to stone for their wickedness.

It’s an important site for pagan weddings and ceremonies. it is quite common to find small offerings hidden in the holes of the stones. It is considered to be very unlucky to remove them.

The Ring of Brodgar (Orkney UK)

The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic stone circle and henge on the largest island in Orkney, Scotland. It is situated on a small strip of land between the Lochs of Harray and Stenness and dates back to around 3,300BC.

The stone circle is 104 metres (341 ft) in diameter and the outer henge has a circumference of 418 metres. It’s believed that the Ring of Brodgar initially had 60 megaliths but only 27 currently remain upright. The first official survey of the complex was carried out in 1849 Captain F.W.L. Thomas of HM cutter Woodlark.

Ring of Brodgar - Stone Circles UK
Ring of Brodgar Stone Circle (SSPL)

There are many mysteries associated with the site but perhaps the most interesting is why the human habitation of the nearby ‘Ness of Brodgar’ was suddenly abandoned some 4,300 years ago. It appears as if a vast feast was held at which up to 600 cattle were slaughtered after which the historical and archaeological record fades away. Theories ranging from climate change to a sudden shift in religious beliefs have been put forward but the real reason for the exodus remains elusive.

Callanish Stone Circles (Scotland UK)

The Callanish Stones (Tursachan Chalanais) are located on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and date back to around 2900BC – although there is some evidence to suggest that Neolithic development of the site dates back even earlier.

Thirteen central stones form a circle roughly 13 metres in diameter at the axis of two stone-demarcated avenues which form the shape of a cross. A single monolith is positioned at the very centre.

Callanish Stone Circles at Sunrise
Callanish Stone Circles at Sunrise (SSPL)

Folklore tales explain that the stones were created when a group of giants rejected Christianity and were turned to rocks by Saint Kieran as a punishment. Another legend refers to the site being associated with the arrival of the “shining One” every Midsummer’s solstice.

The stones have been depicted on an album cover for the band Ultravox and were featured in the 2012 animated film ‘Brave’ which tells the story of a young Scottish Girl and her quest for personal independence. The site is now in the care of Historic Scotland.

 Beaghmore Stone Circle

The Beaghmore stone circles and cairns date back to the late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods around 2,000-1,200 BC. They were discovered quite recently in or around 1942 and their magnitude went largely unnoticed due to the disruption caused by WWII.

Beaghmore Stone Circles
Beaghmore Stone Circles (SSPL)

What makes these prehistoric monuments so important is the sheer scale of the complex. It features seven low stone circles of varying sizes, six of which are paired. There are also twelve cairns and ten megalithic rows integrated into the overall layout. One of the circles is highly unusual as it has 800 smaller stones erected inside its perimeter. These have come to be known as the Dragon’s Teeth. More than 1,250 specific stones have been identified making it one of the largest formations of its kind.

The largest cairn was found to contain the branch from an oak tree. Archaeologists believe that only a portion of the total site has been revealed. It is in the care of the Northern Ireland Environment and Heritage Service.

Avebury Circle (Wiltshire UK)

The Avebury Neolithic stone circles are actually larger than Stonehenge and just as mysterious. Dating back to 2600 BC, the complex comprises the main circles, cove, two ceremonial avenues and numerous barrows, tumuli’s and other earthworks. It’s important to modern pagans as a religious site, and is also infamous for strange lights, demon myths, visitations and the barber skeleton mystery.

Avebury Stone Circle
Avebury Stone Circle from the Air (SSPL)

Visitors to Avebury quickly notice that many of the stones have unusual holes that seem to disappear deep into the interior of the megaliths. A question that is often asked is, ‘was this a temple dedicated to a sun god snake cult?’ Many people point out that the arrangement of the avenues and the stone circles creates a distinctive serpentine shape.

The megaliths at Avebury are well known for their complex patterns made from generations of rare lichens. A recent survey noted 32 species on a single Sarsen stone. Read more about Avebury Stone Circle.

Stonehenge (Wiltshire UK)

Stonehenge is Britain’s most important ancient monument and has been recognised as such throughout history. It’s certainly one of the UK’s most important tourist destinations and attracts about 900,000 visitors every year generating about 6.3 million Pounds in direct tourism revenue and as much as 22 million Pounds in direct economic impact.

Stonehenge is a Neolithic monument located in Wiltshire, UK and is probably the most famous Neolithic site in the World. Archaeologists and historians believe it was constructed between 3000 BC and 2000 BC.

Stonehenge Winter Solstice - Stone Circles UK
Stonehenge Winter Solstice (SSPL)

There have been many theories as to why the site was abandoned from around 1800BC. They range from tribal conflicts to sickness and mass depopulation. It does seem that the site diminished in importance at the same time as the arrival of the Beaker People. As those ‘beakers’ were probably used for alcohol it’s ironic to think that Stonehenge may have been superseded by the World’s first bars and pubs.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our top ten UK Stone Circles page.  There are plenty more to visit.