TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Archaeology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archaeology. Show all posts

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Welcome the December Solstice 2017


Stones of Stenness, Orkney, Scotland, UK. Image Source: pinterest.

Welcome the December Solstice. It arrives at 16:28 UTC, heralding the arrival of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.


Today, the blog belatedly observes this year's 80th anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic, The Hobbit, which was first published on 21 September 1937. Above, for the solstice, hear Tolkien read a section from The Hobbit (hat tip: Brain Pickings via Sound Cloud).

Mystery of the Universe: "This ancient building is called Fornace Penna. It was an ancient fabric of bricks destroyed because of bombing in the second world war. Behind this beautiful historic wreck you can see the milky way in all its magnificence." (Sicily, Italy; 23 May 2015) Image © Salvatore Cerruto via TWAN.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Visit the Nubian Pyramids


Image Source: Crônicas da Ciméria.

For today, see BBC's visit to the Nubian pyramids, over 4,000 years old, legacies of the Kingdom of Kush, isolated and devoid of tourists. The site is protected by UNESCO:
"These five archaeological sites, stretching over more than 60 km in the Nile valley, are testimony to the Napatan (900 to 270 BC) and Meroitic (270 BC to 350 AD) cultures, of the second kingdom of Kush. Tombs, with and without pyramids, temples, living complexes and palaces, are to be found on the site. Since Antiquity, the hill of Gebel Barkal has been strongly associated with religious traditions and folklore. The largest temples are still considered by the local people as sacred places."

Sudan's forgotten pyramids - BBC News (15 May 2017) © BBC. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Times Outside History 11: Neanderthal Cave Rings


Images Source: Etienne Fabre/SSAC via Guardian.

On 25 May 2016, The Guardian reported that archaeologists have redated structures in the Bruniquel cave, near the Pyrénées mountains, in the Tarn-et-Garonne region of southwest France. They claim stalagmite circles in the cave were built 176,500 years ago, rather than 47,600 years ago; the original estimate was based on carbon-dating findings elsewhere in the cave. The revision means that only Neanderthals could have created these mysterious installations:
"Mysterious structures found deep inside a French cave are the work of Neanderthal builders who lived in the region more than 100,000 years before modern humans set foot in Europe.

The extraordinary constructions are made from nearly 400 stalagmites that have been yanked from the ground and stacked on top of one another to produce rudimentary walls on the damp cave floor.

The most prominent formations are two ringed walls, built four layers deep in places, which appear to have been propped up with stalagmites wedged in place as vertical stays. The largest of the walls is nearly seven metres across and, where intact, stands up to 40 cm high.

'This is completely different to anything we have seen before. I find it very mysterious,' said Marie Soressi, an archaeologist at Leiden University, who was not involved in the research. Unique in the history of Neanderthal achievements, the structures rank among the earliest human building projects ever discovered.

Parts of the walls show clear signs of fire damage, with the stalagmites blackened or reddened and fractured from the heat, leading researchers to suspect that the Neanderthals embedded fireplaces in the structures to illuminate the cave."
The structures lie some 1,100 feet from the cave entrance, in total darkness, which indicates purposeful intent to build structures far from natural light. The size of these installations reveals complex cooperation and social organization. There is no sign of ongoing domestic occupation in the cave, which may imply that these sites were used for ritualistic purposes. Along with fireplaces, archaeologists have found remains of animal bone torches. From France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS):
"Since no other stalagmite structure of this scale has yet been discovered, the team developed a new concept to designate these carefully arranged pieces of stalagmites: 'speleofacts.' An inventory of the cave's 400 speleofacts reveals a total of 112 meters of stalagmites broken into well-calibrated pieces, weighing an estimated 2.2 metric tons. The components of the structures are aligned, juxtaposed and superimposed (in two, three and even four layers), with props around the outside, apparently to hold them in place, and filler pieces. Marks left by the wrenching of stalagmites from the cave floor to make the structures have been identified nearby. "
According to Live Science, there are older constructed sites in the world:
"Evidence of a human-made structure exists in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, dated at over 1 million years old. But this has not been studied extensively, Jaubert said. He added there is similarly little information about a Homo erectus campsite in Bilzingsleben, Germany (about 400,000 years old), early shelters in Terra Amata, France (about 400,000 years old), and the bone and stone materials found in France's Lazaret cave (around 170,000 years old). Researchers have credited Neanderthals with making a building out of mammoth bone in Ukraine. They believe this is about 40,000 years old."
See an article on this story from Nature here, and further reports herehere, here, here, here, here, and here. The original press release is here and related video is here.


"A 3D reconstruction of the structures in Bruniquel Cave. Rendering by Xavier Muth/GET IN SITU/ARCHÉOTRANSFERT/ARCHÉOVISION-SHS-3D; BASE PHOTOGRAPHIQUE PASCAL MORA."


See all my posts on Neanderthals.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Pilgrim Timekeepers


A pilgrim walking the Camino, or Way of St. James. Image Source: Tailored Spain.

If you want to know why tax season is in spring and its subsequent meaning for May, read on. As Catholic pilgrims prepare now for Pentecost on 15 May 2016, the blog returns to France's Chartres cathedral to note how places which attract pilgrims become centres of spirituality and memory. Pilgrimage routes have endured worldwide for thousands of years. One famous European route is the Spanish Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James. In 2014, 200,000 people undertook that journey, and the road is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 'Walking the Camino' is a huge event, even for atheists. For the faithful and secular alike, it is a modern walking holiday, attracting its share of business and crime.

In 2012, The Guardian asked why atheists participated in old Christian pilgrimages. Image Source: Guardian.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

No Relief from the Heavens


From Sichuan, China: Share the Night With You. Image Source (12 August 2015) © Xiaoshan Huang via TWAN. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use.

Bombings in Lahore, Pakistan and Brussels were intended to disrupt Easter. Terror cells responsible for the Belgian bombings planned to kill Easter worshippers in churches in the UK and across Europe. There is an unconfirmed rumour on the Internet that ISIS crucified a Catholic priest, Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, on Good Friday in Yemen. In response to news like this, I always used to take personal comfort in astronomy and beautiful photos like the ones from The World at Night at the top and bottom of this post, because astronomy gives the biggest, most objective perspective on these questions. Unfortunately, astronomy is a secular study of the universe which drags us back into religious map of the human mind.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gilgamesh War Plunder


New tablet from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Image Source: Open Culture.

September 2015 reports confirmed that November 2011 war plunder in Iraq turned up an additional tablet from the Epic of Gilgamesh, adding twenty lines to the fifth tablet of the great story, in which the hero Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu feel guilty about killing the Cedar Forest King, Humbaba. The Cedar Forest is the domain of the gods; the added lines describe the beauty and noise of the forest and the creatures that live there.

The new lines also explain that only after Humbaba is dead do our heroes realize that they made a mistake, and he is more a god-king than a monster. Gilgamesh and Enkidu also kill Humbaba's sons and burn down the forest, and they regret that too. Added to this there is a nuance of wrongful revenge, since we discover that Enkidu and Humbaba were friends in their youths. There is an article about this find from researchers at the University of London, here, in which scholars ponder the epic's famous grasp of human psychology; they especially note its lessons on how heroism and civilization are always built on morally-conflicted destruction of an older order.

Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video (31 July 2015): "Miss Hazha Jalal, manager of the tablet's section of the Sulaymaniyah Museum of Iraqi Kurdistan speaks (using Kurdish language) about the newly discovered tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is housed in the Sulaymaniayh Museum; 'The tablet dates back to the Old-Babylonian period, 2000-1500 BCE. ... It was acquired by the Museum in the year 2011 and ... Dr. Farouk Al-Raw transliterated it. It was written as a poem and many new things this version has added, for example Gilgamesh and his friend met a monkey.'"

Gilgamesh, a mythical hero, was probably based on the fifth king of Ukuk, who reigned at some point between 2800 and 2500 BCE over the ancient city, located in what is now Iraq. In its heyday in 2900 BCE, Uruk was likely the largest city in the world, with a population between 50,000 to 80,000 people. The epic was written between 2150 and 1400 BCE. The story is considered to be the oldest written epic in western literature, and a milestone in the transition from oral to written tradition. For detailed reports, see Open Culture and History Blog.

See all my posts related to the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Ancient Cities 6: The Underwater Gods of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus


Eighteen feet tall: "A red-granite statue of the [Nile] god Hapy at Aboukir Bay in Egypt. The five-metre statue will feature in an exhibition at the British Museum opening in May [2016]." Image Source: Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation via Independent.

The British press are reporting that underwater excavations of the ancient Egyptian cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus have yielded incredible artefacts which will be on display at the British Museum this year. Sunken Cities, which runs in London from 19 May to 27 November 2016, had related previous shows in Egypt and Paris. The cities were likely swallowed by the Mediterranean after a catastrophic earthquake in the 8th century CE. The British Museum released the following statement on the forthcoming exhibition:
300 outstanding objects will be brought together for the exhibition including more than 200 spectacular finds excavated off the coast of Egypt near Alexandria between 1996 and 2012. Important loans from Egyptian museums rarely seen before outside Egypt (and the first such loans since the Egyptian revolution) will be supplemented with objects from various sites across the Delta drawn from the British Museum’s collection; most notably from Naukratis – a sister harbour town to Thonis- Heracleion and the first Greek settlement in Egypt.

Likely founded during the 7th century BC, Thonis- Heracleion and Canopus were busy, cosmopolitan cities that once sat on adjacent islands at the edge of the fertile lands of the Egyptian Delta, intersected by canals. After Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt in 332 BC, centuries of Greek (Ptolemaic) rule followed. The exhibition will reveal how cross-cultural exchange and religion flourished, particularly the worship of the Egyptian god of the afterlife, Osiris.

By the 8th century AD, the sea had reclaimed the cities and they lay hidden several metres beneath the seabed, their location and condition unclear. Although well-known from Egyptian decrees and Greek mythology and historians, past attempts to locate them were either fruitless or very partial. ...

Thanks to the underwater setting, a vast number of objects of great archaeological significance have been astonishingly well preserved. Pristine monumental statues, fine metalware and gold jewellery will reveal how Greece and Egypt interacted in the late first millennium BC. These artefacts offer a new insight into the quality and unique character of the art of this period and show how the Greek kings and queens who ruled Egypt for 300 years adopted and adapted Egyptian beliefs and rituals to legitimise their reign.

The exhibition will feature a number of extraordinary, monumental sculptures. A 5.4 m granite statue of Hapy, a divine personification of the Nile’s flood, will greet visitors as they enter the space. Masterpieces from Egyptian museums such as the Apis bull from the Serapeum in Alexandria will be shown alongside magnificent recent finds from the sea. One such piece is the stunning sculpture from Canopus representing Arsinoe II (the eldest daughter of Ptolemy I, founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty). The Greco-Macedonian queen became a goddess beloved to both Egyptians and Greeks after her death and is depicted here as the perfect embodiment of Aphrodite, a goddess of beauty ‘who grants fortunate sailing’.

The exhibition will also cover the arrival of Greeks in Egypt, when they were hosts and not rulers; privileged but controlled by the pharaohs. A complete stela from Thonis-Heracleion advertises a 380 BC royal decree of the Egyptian pharaoh Nectanebo I. It states that 10% of the taxes collected on all goods imported from the ‘Sea of the Greeks’ into Thonis-Heracleion and on all trade operations at Naukratis were to be donated to an Egyptian temple.

A wide range of objects, from modest to grand and costly, bears witness to the piety of both inhabitants and visitors at these major religious centres. Lead models of barges uncovered in the sacred waterway linking Thonis-Heracleion to Canopus are unique and moving finds. They are associated with the Mysteries of Osiris, the most popular festival celebrated annually across Egypt during the month of Khoiak (mid-October to mid- November). Ranging in size from 6 to 67 cm, these reproduce in metal a flotilla of 34 papyrus barges that would have been displayed on a waterway to celebrate the first sacred navigation of the festival. According to religious texts, each barge was to measure 67.5 cm and to bear the figure of an Egyptian god, and would have been illuminated by 365 lamps. The lead barges are lasting testimonies possibly left by people who, long ago, celebrated this festival in the Canopic region.
A "5.4m red granite statue of the god Hapy, which decorated the temple of Thonis-Heracleion." Image Source: Evening Standard.

Submerged statue of the god Osiris. Image Source: Archaeology News Network.

CNN reported on the related Paris exhibition to describe the importance of the god Osiris in these lost cities:
The exhibition in Paris [8 September 2015 - 31 January 2016], entitled Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt, explores the importance of the Egyptian god to people of these cities, which are thought to have been places of pilgrimage.

The story of Osiris tells of how he was murdered and cut up by his brother Seth before being resurrected by his wife (and possibly sister) Isis, with whom he had a son, Horus.

[French archaeologist Franck] Goddio says: "It's about good defeating evil but not conquering it completely. Every year they had to renew Osiris, who brought the cycle of abundance, the stability of the cosmos and the continuity of the dynasty. In every temple a priest would represent the pharaoh and relive the murder, dismemberment and rebirth of Osiris. We knew that there was something special in Heracleion thanks to the stele rediscovered in 1881 which bore the decree of Canopus.

"It said that in the celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris, the great god leaves from the temple of Amon-Gereb in the town of Heracleion to perform a processional navigation to his sanctuary of Canopus. We found the canal along which the god sailed. We found artifacts in bearing witness of this celebration."
The statue of Osiris, in situ, from a distance. Image Source: CNN.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: Cauldrons and Grails


Efnisien sacrifices himself to destroy the cauldron of rebirth. The Destruction of the Cauldron of Rebirth (1905) by Thomas Prytherch (1864-1926). Image Source: Wiki.

As a child, I read Lloyd Alexander's The Black Cauldron, the second book in the Chronicles of Prydain. The hero, Taran, makes his way through a vast swamp to find a black cauldron, which must be secured before an evil king seizes it. This artifact has the power to bring dead men back to life and can create an army of undead warriors. Similar to Sauron's ring in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the cauldron is depicted as a weapon like today's atomic bomb. It looks like a tool for certain victory in war. But it offers death and despair to those who try to wield its incredible power. The only thing an army can do with this mega-weapon, according to Celtic folklore, is destroy it, because its power lies beyond the accepted boundaries of human existence. Taran learns from the cauldron's witch guardians that the cauldron can only be destroyed by the sacrifice of a live man who willingly climbs into it and dies.

Lloyd Alexander's work adapted the Welsh pre-Christian myth cycle, The Mabinogion. This Celtic legend is part of Britain's earliest prose literature, a romance written down in the 11th century, based on earlier oral sources. In the second part of these tales, Branwen Daughter of Llŷr, "A tragically genocidal war develops fomented by Efnisien, in which a Cauldron which resurrects ... dead figures." The sadistic, psychopathic anti-hero Efnisien is responsible for the destruction of Ireland and the Island of the Mighty, also known as AlbionPrydain or Britain. To make up for his transgressions, Efnisien climbs into the cauldron and destroys it. Thus, bound up with the cauldron's original story of resurrection is a tale of Celtic warriors who have turned on each other and fought amongst themselves. One of their own betrays the other lords, and initiates mass-killing and mass death; he sacrifices himself as a means of redemption and acceptance back into the fold.

Arthurian myth turns right at the point where the Celtic pagan became Christian, and the cauldron became the Grail. Arthur's knight, Percival, with the Grail Cup. Arthur Hacker (1858-1919), The Temptation of Sir Percival (1894). Image Source: BBC. The painting is in the Leeds Art Gallery (LEEAG.PA.1895.0013).

The Celtic cauldron was a predecessor to the Holy Grail in northern Europe. By the 12th century, medieval Christian doctrine transformed the cauldron's abominable symbol, from a grisly instrument of evil resurrection to a tool of sacred regeneration through resurrection, known as the Holy Grail. That means that as ancient societies stabilized, their view of death changed. The symbol at the heart of their stories essentially stayed the same, but the spiritual message around resurrection became a tale of heaven rather than hell. The cauldron became conflated with the Chalice that Jesus supposedly used at the Last Supper. In the 20th century, the Nazis launched an actual search for the Grail, to lay claim to their share of Celtic heritage and Romantic reworkings of Christian legend, while conflating both traditions with the Aryan Cup of Jamshid, a mythical artifact that enabled the ancient rulers of Greater Persia to see the future.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: Post-Apocalypse Rehab


Image Source: Archillect.

Some readers may have noticed a shift in attitudes, mood and consciousness since the summer. Several people have commented to me that they feel as though this year was split down the middle. The first half was what you thought reality was, and the second half is what reality really is. The evidence is anecdotal, but I explain that common feeling in terms of piling technological change upon global change, until what we experience does a somersault and collapses over upon itself to become something else. It is as though we became addicted in the first fifteen years of the 21st century to eradicating the 20th century. And now, after all the hammer blows, we are finally succeeding.

The 2nd century BCE Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra blown up by ISIL in July or August 2015. Image Source: Wiki.

Not so fast - the 20th century dies hard. Every attempt to erase its history promises a return of its worst excesses. Holocaust denial, 9/11 denial, this denial, that denial. This summer, ISIS beheaded Palmyra's lead archaeologist and blew up temples in Palmyra's ruins. You can see lists of cultural heritage sites destroyed by ISIS herehere and here. These sites were the pride of 20th century archaeologists and represented the common history of humanity:
In the midst of this eradication of history, deniers say: 'get informedYou need to know the real truth.' US critics claim that the American administration funded ISIS to topple the Assad régime. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has stepped forward to defend what remains of Syria's government. At the UN on 28 September 2015, Putin, KGB-turned-environmentalist-soothsayer, demanded of western leaders: "Do you realize what you've done?" It was a masterful speech, because a lot of it was true, but it was true in a way that played to competing cultures of truth. In late 2014, Putin argued that the Americans engaged in "unprofessional politics," by continuing their Middle East objectives through ISIS proxies. One cannot deny the Americans' dismal half-baked imperialism, implemented through isolationist and exceptionalist navel-gazing, but none of that makes Vladimir Putin the pacifist voice of reason. Nor does it make ISIS into the capitalist mercenaries which Putin claims them to be.

Machinations in international affairs are an odd form of denial, too. However the dominoes fall, no Realpolitik truth about ISIS brings anyone closer to preparing for the hardcore reality ISIS is conceiving, the one in which, following bloodshed across the Levant, they blow up the Egyptian pyramids, assassinate the Pope, and destroy the Vatican in RomeISIS plans to take over India by 2020 in an effort to spark a world war. One commenter below a Times of India report did not believe a word of it. Why would ISIS invade India? "They are planning to wash clothes haha."

The new media men. Image Source: Business Insider.

The ISIS reality - in which beheadings are the norm and most of Syria flees the ISIS advance, while ISIS fighters cross the Sinai Peninsula, other ISIS groups close in on Jordan and Lebanon, and the Saudis build a giant anti-ISIS wall along their border with Iraq - brings 20th century lessons back to the table. The question is not where ISIS came from, who funded them, or who can destroy or control them. The question is: what is ISIS? The Islamic State is bigger than the great power politics out of which it grows. ISIS turns the post-apocalypse into a pre-apocalypse. Their colourful armageddon includes a baby cyclops Antichrist and a Jesus who will supposedly resurrect to help them fight Israel, although the story ignores bits of Islamic prophecy they do not like. So - they are not as doctrinaire as all that. ISIS fighters represent something larger than an internal Islamic Sunni revolution. The medium is the message: their mythological doomsday brand is a perfect commodity to go viral in the market of global communications. What is ISIS? The Islamic State's media men are anti-history pioneers, who explore how far they can go, now that history - at least in the virtual realm - is dead. The Islamic State fills the gaps between the state-centric real world and virtual anti-statism.

Technology and the Internet allow any history to be rewritten, erased or disbelieved, and in the resulting environment, anyone can do anything. There are no limits. Pro-ISIS Websites dismiss reports of ISIS atrocities as online fakes. Malleable history initiates a power game around the creation of reality and enables a resurgence of violence. Malleable history awakens the shadow self in human nature.

Monday, July 6, 2015

ISIS and Post-Diluvian Amnesia


A sphinx on the seafloor off the shores of Alexandria, Egypt. Image Source: All That is Interesting.

The Middle East is the source of all civilization on this planet. Any conflict there stirs the shared memory of all human beings. On 3 July 2015, days after ISIS or ISIL called for a jihad in the Balkans and declared caliphates in the Caucasus and GazaBreitbart reported that the radical Islamic movement has announced it will destroy the Egyptian sphinx and pyramids as a sacred duty:
ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi told followers of his terror group that destroying Egypt’s national monuments, such as the pyramids and the sphinx, is a “religious duty” that must be carried out by those who worship Islam, as idolatry is strictly banned in the religion, according to reports. UK radical Islamist Anjem Choudary echoed Baghdadi’s sentiments, telling The Telegraph: “When Egypt comes under the auspices of the Khalifa [Caliphate], there will be no more pyramids, no more Sphinx, no more idolatry,” saying that the ancient statues’s destruction “will be just.” Another Islamist preacher, Ibrahim Al Kandari, agrees that the cultural monuments need to be destroyed to comply with the Shariah. “The fact that early Muslims who were among prophet Mohammed’s followers did not destroy the pharaohs’ monuments upon entering Egypt does not mean that we shouldn’t do it now,” he told Al-Watan.
ISIS has already made its name destroying the older ruins of ancient Mesopotamia. Why is ISIS so threatened by these ruins? As the video lecture below the jump makes clear, the 5,000-year-old Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh is sexually intense, even by today's standards (read it here). Gilgamesh is also the foundation myth to end all foundation myths - it is the core story of our common civilization. It is the source material for our very understanding of organized social life. The opening lines to the 15,000 word work read:

"He who saw all, who was the foundation of the land,
"Who knew (everything), was wise in all matters.
"Gilgamesh, who saw all, who was the foundation of the land,
"Who knew (everything), was wise in all matters."

While there undoubtedly were many other epics sung in humanity's 100,000 to 50,000 years of prehistory, Gilgamesh is the earliest example we have. Its language marks the start of written history and that history begins with a cataclysm, a 'time before' and 'time after.' The story of all peoples is one of this terrible disaster, where great societies had arisen and then been destroyed by an archaic Flood. Most famous among these legendary antediluvian societies is Atlantis. J. R. R. Tolkien constructed part of his Middle Earth stories around an Atlantis idea, in which his hero, Aragorn, is descended from antediluvian superpeopleGilgamesh describes that watershed, that moment at which people still remembered what was before, and what came after. It is likely that Gilgamesh's antediluvian and post-diluvian claim to primacy constitutes the indelible and eternal cultural threat which so unsettles the ISIS zealots.








It unsettles - but also inspires them! The Millennial mind fixates on the turn of ages, and no such time is more fundamental than the Flood, which was likely (if you believe quasi-historical theorists like Graham Hancock) an account of the ending of the Ice Age. If you wanted to understand ISIS's motives in a nutshell, look at their obsession with the Flood. They constantly borrow from the Flood myth, meaning that they intend to create a new watershed moment with a flood of blood to wash the world and erase its memory of what came before. They want to construct a new turning point and create a new reality. Directly below and after the jump, hear the opening of the Epic of Gilgamesh sung in its original language and hear it recited in English.

Peter Pringle performs. "By 2000 B.C., the language of Sumer had almost completely died out and was used only by scholars (like Latin is today). No one knows how it was pronounced because it has not been heard in 4000 years. What you hear in this video are a few of the opening lines of part of the epic poem, accompanied only by a long-neck, three-string, Sumerian lute known as a "gish-gu-di". The instrument is tuned to G - G - D, and although it is similar to other long neck lutes still in use today (the tar, the setar, the saz, etc.) the modern instruments are low tension and strung with fine steel wire. The ancient long neck lutes (such as the Egyptian "nefer") were strung with gut and behaved slightly differently. ... The location for this performance is the courtyard of Nebuchadnezzar's palace in Babylon. The piece is four minutes long and is intended only as a taste of what the music of ancient Sumer might have sounded like." Video Source: Youtube.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lost Cities: Islamic State's Idols of the Future


Detail of an Assyrian relief from Nimrud showing horses and horsemen of the royal chariot, 725 BCE. Image Source: Steven Vidler/Eurasia Press/Corbis via The Guardian.

Breadcrumbs in the forest: last fall, while looking for Indian silk fabric on eBay, I noticed Syrian daggers for sale, scattered creepily in between the silk listings. Were they antiquities? For some time, reports that the Islamic State have been selling and destroying the precious archaeological and historical cultural heritage of the Near East. On 26 February 2015, after pledging a year ago that they would not do so, they destroyed Mosul's antiquities museum and library, displayed in sickening videos (below). In early March 2015, after looting the ancient palace, they bulldozed the antique city of Nimrud. The Guardian:
"Nimrud, about 20 miles south of Mosul, was built around 1250 BC. Four centuries later it became the capital of the neo-Assyrian empire – at the time the most powerful state on Earth, extending to modern-day Egypt, Turkey and Iran."

Ruins of Hatra.
This is a radical Islamic "cultural cleansing" of ancient history. Islamic State militants are eradicating Iraq's and Syria's past, a cultural history shared with other ancient societies. It is that common heritage, as well as the anachronistic destruction of so-called idolatry, which these fighters are erasing. Abdulamir Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist from Stony Brook University in New York, commented:
"Hatra of course will be next," he added, referring to a 2,000-year-old UNESCO-listed site about 100 kilometres south of Mosul known for its beautifully preserved temples blending Hellenistic, Roman and Eastern influences."
And on 7 March 2015, BBC reported that Hatra had just been demolished by Islamic State. Shortly after, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS. Their "artifacts mafia" are making millions upon millions through the sale of antiquities: in Tel Abyad on the Syrian-Turkish border; in Kilis, Turkey; in London, Munich and Brussels; and in other European capitals. With cold hard cash from antiquities sales, the Islamic State fighters are arming themselves to the teeth. They have scrounged weapons originating from China, Russia and the United States ("some were even made at a major U.S. munitions plant in Missouri"). They are buying weapons in black markets in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Eastern Europe and Iran. There is much stock-taking of their military equipment. Regular munitions and tanks: reports hereherehereherehere and here. Chemical weapons: here, here and here. Nuclear materials: here, here and here. And, with a twist on US weapons airdrops, here - is the real story this, or this?

The Telegraph suggested  on 6 March 2015 that the price of oil has been manipulated down to cut off Islamic State's oil refinery revenues, and in desperation IS are turning more and more to the plunder of antiquities to make money.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sheeple in the Year of the Sheep: Illusion and Illumination


Mainly in Asian countries and communities, 2015-2016 is the year of the Sheep, according to the Lunar calendar. Image Source: CNN.

How do we see Sheeple in the Year of the Sheep? Does the Lunar New Year's conciliatory message resolve the trend toward Millennial alienation, conflict and aggression? Can the values of Asia's Year of the Sheep or Goat, such as pacifism, collective action and creativity, ease the tensions caused by western gnosticism? In yesterday's post, I outlined how gnostic beliefs provide the background "social pathology of the political religions." Gnosticism built the central myth of our time: the four-fold Enlightenment illusion of rationalism, of higher knowledge through conflict, of control of the nature, and of human power over the earth. In today's post, I consider the Lunar New Year's symbols as a solution to this problematic myth, despite the fact that 'sheeple' are ridiculed by today's gnostically-minded.

Image Source: Pyramids and Sheeple.


Image Source: Seeking Alpha.

Image Source: Democratic Underground.

Image Source: Red Pill.

Image Source: XKCD.

"Making XKCD slightly worse." Image Source: Simon Software.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ursula Le Guin's New Year


Image Source: South Willard.

The new year celebrates new beginnings as one casts the past aside. It is a difficult to judge how to do this. With every passing year, Millennial conditions diverge more radically from the past. Perceptions must expand to deal with the global exchange of knowledge and technological and scientific advancements. We must find new ways to understand the world, to interpret the cloud of data.

Reality and the larger reality: courtesy of Graham Hancock's Daily Alternative News Desk, recent headlines herald one discovery after another. Every day, new boundaries are breached. Scientists explore the mysteries of matter to the point where matter disappears. Look again at something mundane, and it reveals a trove of secrets, while past certainties crumble in confusion:
  • Russia Today: 'Noah's Ark': Russia to build world first DNA databank of all living things (26 December 2014)
  • Hurriyet Daily News: Massive ancient underground city discovered in Turkey's Nevşehir (28 December 2014): "With 2014 soon coming to an end, potentially the year’s biggest archeological discovery of an underground city has come from Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, which is known world-wide for its Fairy Chimneys rock formation. The city was discovered by means of Turkey’s Housing Development Administration’s (TOKİ) urban transformation project. Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nevşehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started. TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan said the area where the discovery was made was announced as an archeological area to be preserved. 'It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered,' said Turan. The city is thought to date back 5,000 years and is located around the Nevşehir fortress. Escape galleries and hidden churches were discovered inside the underground city."
  • Newsweek: The campaign to prove Shakespeare didn't exist (29 December 2014)
  • PhysOrg: Scientists race to save 'books' in the burning 'library of life' (29 December 2014)
  • Wired: Machine intelligence cracks genetic controls 29 December 2014): "Most genetic research to date has focused on just 1 percent of the genome—the areas that code for proteins. But new research, published Dec. 18 in Science, provides an initial map for the sections of the genome that orchestrate this protein-building process. 'It’s one thing to have the book—the big question is how you read the book,' said Brendan Frey, a computational biologist at the University of Toronto who led the new research."
  • The Independent: Large Hadron Collider ready to delve even deeper than 'God particle' as it switches back on at double power (29 December 2014)
  • PhysOrg: Study reveals new half-light half-matter quantum particles (29 December 2014): "In a pioneering study, Professor Menon and his team were able to discover half-light, half-matter particles in atomically thin semiconductors (thickness ~ a millionth of a single sheet of paper) consisting of two-dimensional (2D) layer of molybdenum and sulfur atoms arranged similar to graphene. They sandwiched this 2D material in a light trapping structure to realize these composite quantum particles. 'Besides being a fundamental breakthrough, this opens up the possibility of making devices which take the benefits of both light and matter,' said Professor Menon."
Technocrats and scientists are blindly confident as they manipulate and extend our knowledge of reality. But they often lack the training, intuition or perspective to assess the human consequences of their protean experiments.

The tools we use to understand the expanding world are out of date. The best of the past departs in the blink of an eye. Yet the worst of the past lives on, zombified, in political ideologies, pop philosophies, corporate strategies and contemporary world views. How did this mismatch between reality and perception happen? In the latter half of the 20th century, reality became a commodity, subject to the demands of corporate profit and organization, of advertising and of disaster capitalism. Marketing agendas restrict reality's accepted boundaries and punish activity which defines reality beyond those agendas.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tomb of a Sleeping Queen?


Image Source: AP via National Geographic.

From Marie Antoinette, a modern Austrian princess, we go back through time to another queen, Olympias. We go back through Austria, or Österreich (the 'Eastern Reich,' the modern remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire), and before Rome, back to Greece. In Greece, archaeological circles are buzzing about a newly-discovered burial chamber from the time of Alexander the Great (Hat tip: Graham Hancock). It is 2,300 years old and is the largest ancient tomb in northern Greece.

The burial mound stands near ancient Amphipolis, 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of Athens. The tomb inside the mound is massive, marble-walled and ornately decorated, and must house the body of a royal personage, perhaps Alexander's mother or wife.

It is unlikely to be the tomb of the famous king himself, whose grave is lost somewhere in Egypt - another mystery waiting to be solved. The site is dated after his death, in the latter quarter of the 4th century BC, approximately between 325 and 300 BCE. Alexander died in 323 BCE. A member of the Argead dynasty ('from Argos'), Wiki describes him simply: "The most notable ancient Greek King and one of the most celebrated strategists and rulers of all time. Alexander at the top of his reign was simultaneously King of Macedonia, Pharaoh of Egypt, King of Persia and King of Asia." Because of his blinding legacy, still evident today, Alexander's impact arguably surpasses that of any other leader of the ancient world, including the Persian kings, the Egyptian pharaohs, and successive Roman emperors. Unsurprisingly, that interpretation is disputed by modern Iranian scholars. Legacies aside, the tomb dates from ancient Greece's highest moment of glory and power before the flowering of a multicultural Hellenistic imperial culture, which eventually led to the emergence of the Roman Empire after the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Syria's Conflict and Ancient Plunder


One of at least 18 Odyssey mosaics reported stolen from northeastern Syria in early 2013. This is a detail of Odysseus tied to his mast, resisting the sirens. Despite reports, conflicting information originally places this mosaic in Tunisia, not Syria. Image Source: Past Horizons.

Since 2011, reports have circulated that Syria's classical heritage is being ruined or plundered by the conflict in that country. When war began, there were some 78 formal archaeological digs in the country. Then the conflict between the population and the government, followed by the Islamic State, led to an obliteration of Syria's precious past. Islamic State militants, like the Taliban, abhor graven images, although they are still willing to sell the stolen artifacts which they don't destroy. They are not alone on that black market.


Full mosaic: Odysseus and the Sirens at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, Tunisia (2nd century AD). Image Source: Wiki.

On 2 September 2014, the New York Times reported that the Islamic State has set up a nasty sideline selling Syrian archaeological artifacts:
We have recently returned from southern Turkey, where we were training Syrian activists and museum staff preservationists to document and protect their country’s cultural heritage. That heritage includes remains from the ancient Mesopotamian, Assyrian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods, along with some of the earliest examples of writing and some of the best examples of Hellenistic, Roman and Christian mosaics.
In extensive conversations with those working and living in areas currently under ISIS control, we learned that ISIS is indeed involved in the illicit antiquities trade, but in a way that is more complex and insidious than we expected. ...
ISIS permits local inhabitants to dig at these sites in exchange for a percentage of the monetary value of any finds.
The group’s rationale for this levy is the Islamic khums tax, according to which Muslims are required to pay the state treasury a percentage of the value of any goods or treasure recovered from the ground. ISIS claims to be the legitimate recipient of such proceeds.
The amount levied for the khums varies by region and the type of object recovered. In ISIS-controlled areas at the periphery of Aleppo Province in Syria, the khums is 20 percent. In the Raqqa region, the levy can reach up to 50 percent or even higher if the finds are from the Islamic period (beginning in the early-to-mid-seventh century) or made of precious metals like gold.
The scale of looting varies considerably under this system, and much is left to the discretion of local ISIS leaders. For a few areas, such as the ancient sites along the Euphrates River, ISIS leaders have encouraged digging by semiprofessional field crews. These teams are often from Iraq and are applying and profiting from their experience looting ancient sites there. They operate with a “license” from ISIS, and an ISIS representative is assigned to oversee their work to ensure the proper use of heavy machinery and to verify accurate payment of the khums.
In addition to the looting, ISIS seems to be encouraging the clandestine export of archaeological finds, which is primarily centered on the border crossing from Syria into Turkey near Tel Abyad, an ISIS stronghold. There is reason to suspect that ISIS has approved and encourages the transborder antiquities trade.
To control history, especially to squander or erase it, is to control the future. There are some 10,000 archaeological sites scattered across the country. All are now vulnerable.