Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

Pushing it back December 10, 2009

Filed under: archaeology,evolution,oceanography — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

17644_webThis is a short post sharing two stories of latest archaeological discoveries that are once again pushing back the dates of the advent of “civilised” humans.

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK) reports on EurekaAlert of Pavlopetri — the world’s oldest known submerged town.

The world’s oldest known submerged town has been revealed through the discovery of late Neolithic pottery. The finds were made during an archaeological survey of Pavlopetri, off the southern Laconia coast of Greece. Marine geo-archaeologist Dr Nic Flemming of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton said: “The discovery of Neolithic pottery is incredible! It means that we are looking at a port city which may be 5000-6000 years old, with trade goods and wrecks nearby showing some of the very earliest days of seafaring trade in the Mediterranean.” […]”What we’ve got here is something which is two or even three thousand years older than most of the submerged cities which have been studied,” said Flemming: “And it is uniquely complete. We have almost the complete town plan, the main streets and all of the domestic buildings. “

William G. Gilroy writes in ScienceDaily, based on materials provided by University of Notre Dame, about how World’s Oldest Known Granaries Predate Agriculture.

A new study co-authored by Ian Kuijt, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, describes recent excavations in Jordan that reveal evidence of the world’s oldest know granaries. […]However, in a paper appearing in the June 23 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Kuijt and Bill Finlayson, director, Council for British Research in the Levant, describe recent excavations at Dhra’ near the Dead Sea in Jordan that provide evidence of granaries that precede the emergence of fully domesticated plants and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years.

These kinds of discoveries keep scientists on their toes, rethinking the flow of history and pre-history. Some day perhaps the concept of Yuga cycles and that of advanced knowledge that ancients possessed will be vindicated through such discoveries.

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Diving into history November 12, 2009

Filed under: ancient knowledge,archaeology,oceanography — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Archaeology is kind of a non-glamorous branch of science. It is a convergence of many different physical and social sciences which are used as tools to construct the jigsaw puzzle of our past. But sadly humans are not as interested in the past as they are in the future. General public thinks of archaeologists as khaki-wearing folk who love meticulously dusting off the tiny little pieces of shards made by unknown people from thousands of years ago. So most of the archaeological discoveries manage to excite only the members of this close community and go unappreciated by the general populous. Only a few discoveries like that of Tutankhamen’s (lovingly dubbed King Tut) gold-laden tomb makes it to the front pages of newspapers and magazines.

Even more obscure branch of archaeology is underwater archaeology. Although a lot of our history lies submerged underwater not many of us think there is anything valuable to look there. Only when something astonishing like the Bimini wall or the Antikythera device comes out of the depths of the ocean, does our attention get focused on it briefly. However there has been increasing interest among the archaeologists of today to go diving to peer into the past. Archaeology, a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, highlights just a few of these ongoing underwater archaeology projects, from the recovery of a sixth-century B.C. Phoenician shipwreck, where excavators found a cargo that included elephant tusks and amber, to work on a 19th-century vessel in Oklahoma’s Red River that has given archaeologists their first look at early steamship design.

One great work of research based on a worldwide exploration diving for the underwater ruins of a lost civilization is the book Underworld by investigative journalist and author, Graham Hancock. This book follows clues in ancient scriptures and mythology and in the scientific evidence of the flood that swept the Earth at the end of the last Ice Age. I believe such works are rare because of our belief that we are the most advanced humans this planet has ever seen and so there’s nothing to look for in the past except exploits of primitive cavemen. However if you do believe the cyclic model of life in ancient Hindu philosophy, the Yuga cycle, then you should definitely be curious as to what is hidden away in the blue depths that cover 3/4th of our planet today.

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Decoding antiquity August 20, 2009

Filed under: ancient knowledge,archaeology,history,linguistics,mystery — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Development of language and writing as means of communication has been one of the most important features of humans that has separated us from all the other creatures on this planet. All earthlings have some form or other of communication, ranging from chemical to acoustic, depending on their position along the evolutionary ladder. the humans are considered the most evolved in this regard with ability of articulating our speech greatly with help of highly developed vocal organs. The highly developed brain and the ability of gripping and manoeuvring objects uniquely with the opposing thumb also lead to us developing writing system, a feature unequivocally unique to our species.
There still some dispute over the very first culture that seems to have used writing as a form of communication. New discoveries made by archaeologists keep pushing the dates of first use of writing more and more backward. Also, out of all the scripts that have been discovered, not all have been deciphered. Recent history has shown us that any time a new script has been deciphered, be it the Egyptian hieroglyphs or Mayan scriptures, it has had a significant impact on our understanding of that culture. More often than not it has awed us by the sophistication in and knowledge of various fields, from sciences to architecture to politics.
In his article in May 2009, Andrew Robinson of New Scientist tells us about 8 scripts that we still haven’t been able to read. The article details the origins of the scripts, their antiquity and why we haven’t been able to read them yet. There are various extents of their mystery to us. In some of the cases, the languages are known in their spoken form but only the script hasn’t been deciphered, like the Zapotec script from the New world cultures. Other instances are the opposite, like the Proto-Elamite script believed to be the earliest script discovered. And then there are the ultimate puzzlers like

The notoriously solitary Phaistos disc from Crete appears to be the world’s oldest “printed” document. The disc, about 15 centimetres in diameter, occupies pride of place at the Heraklion Museum in Crete. Some say it should not be regarded as an undeciphered script because it is in fact a hoax – the Piltdown Man of ancient writing.

Well, after reading the article, being the optimist I am, I chose to focus on the fact that humanity still has 8 more chances of being amazed and humbled by the antiquity. And I hope at least one of that comes true in my lifetime.

Sunday Spotlight: Mystery of the Sphinx June 21, 2009

Filed under: archaeology,egyptology,geology,mystery,sunday spotlight — Radiance @ 12:00 AM
The documentary on YouTube:

Author and lecturer, John Anthony West delivered a seismic shock to archaeology in the early 1990’s when he and Boston University geologist Robert Schoch revealed that the Great Sphinx of Giza, Egypt, showed evidence of rainfall erosion. Such erosion could only mean that the Sphinx was carved during or before the rains that marked the transition of northern Africa from the last Ice Age to the present interglacial epoch, a transition that occurred in the millennia from 10,000 to 5000 BC. The Emmy award-winning documentary produced on this research, Mystery of the Sphinx, was released in 1993 and was a runaway success. I came across the same recently on YouTube and this blog entry is about some completely-radical-for-the-time facts that this documentary put forth and the active research that is still carried out regarding this theory today.
Few of the discoveries and contentions in the said documentary that I found particularly interesting and were very shocking to the archaeological community at the time are,
  • The Sphinx was built before Egypt became a desert, which would be 9,000 to 10,000 years ago.
  • All the monuments in Egypt show wind erosion except the Sphinx, the Sphinx enclosure and the temple, all of which show water erosion.
  • The water erosion is not caused by the floods of the Nile but by constant and intense rainfall.
  • The weathering is found beneath the granite repairs carried out, in the limestone from which the Sphinx is made. Thus it is not an erosion that has occurred in modern times.
  • Based on this observation, the 9,000 to 10,000 years old age of Sphinx is confirmed by Palaeoarchaeology.
  • The whole Sphinx was not carved out at the same time out of the limestone bedrock. The front of the Sphinx’s body is older than the back.
  • Zahi Hawwas and Mark Lehner, both prominent Egyptologists, confidently state that the face of the Sphinx matches well with that of the pharaoh Khafre (the alleged commissioner of the Sphinx). James Romano, Curator of the Egyptian collection, Brooklyn Museum, mentions that statues made by Egyptians showed the features of the person very accurately, including facial defects. However, Detective Frank Domingo of NYPD found that Sphinx did not portray pharaoh Khafre at all. It has, in fact, features of an African person, possibly female.
  • Objects can be levitated using interfacing sound waves. In the region of interface, there are produced “sound wells” in which objects can be confined. The experiments at the time could only levitate small pebbles. (My note: For levitating huge stone blocks, the wavelength of the sound waves would have to be large and hence, frequency very low, i.e., infrasonic sound. Wikipedia gives some interesting facts about its effect of human behaviour, “Infrasound has been known to cause feelings of awe or fear in humans. Since it is not consciously perceived, it can make people feel vaguely that supernatural events are taking place.”)
  • The face of the Sphinx is not proportional to the rest of the body but much smaller. Since the rest of the body was covered with sand for most of its lifetime, the face could have been carved and re-carved (my note: without any sense of proportion of the rest) over the millennia.
  • Pharaoh Khafre repaired the Sphinx, which was already ancient and degraded by his time, and did not commission its building.
  • This theory could also point at existence of Atlantis civilisation, civilisation on Mars and its connection with Earth.

What I also found interesting in this documentary is that there are a few instances where the prominent personalities being interviewed exemplify the typical thinking of archaeologists. And that precisely shows why theories as revolutionary as that of John Anthony West and Dr. Schoch get the kind of unwelcoming response that they get. James Romano, Curator of the Egyptian collection, Brooklyn Museum, says at one point, “…..if we take the alternative view, see what we are stuck with…..”. So because we would have to make the effort of rebuilding the whole castle, lets just deny that we stumbled upon its foundations! He goes on to make a statement which epitomises the fundamental on which we base all branches of research today, “Culture evolves in a linear fashion.” This is something I personally do not agree with and I’m excited to find that John Anthony West also believes in the “cyclic form” of life.


Sunday spotlight: John Anthony West May 3, 2009

Filed under: archaeology,egyptology,sunday spotlight — Radiance @ 2:14 AM
I have written about his most appreciated and very courageous work on re-dating of the Sphinx in the past. But I thought I needed to write a separate blog entry about the person himself.
John Anthony West, a name that became famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) after his daring documentary The mystery of the Sphinx, released in 1993. Collaborating with numerous experts from various branches of science (geologist Robert Schoch, paleoclimatologist John Kutzbach, detective Frank Domingo of NYPD and seismologist Thomas Dobecki, to name a few) he shocked the world with a well-researched and well-supported theory that would make us rewrite and rearrange our history. JAW describes himself as “rogue Egyptologist and a mystic in a sceptics clothing.”
Today, after almost 15 years after his first appearance on the archaeological scene, and at age of 75, he remains an active researcher, author and guide. He has embraced the new-age communication modes such as blogging, YouTube broadcasting and having his own website. Through his blog, he promotes and broadcasts his own radio program, PhoenixFire. His YouTube channel (JAWSPHINX99) is not as updated but does give a glimpse of his varied activities. The most updated and informative by far is his website. He gives lectures, writes books, produces videos about the unusual research that he does in Egyptian symbolism. He also take small groups of interested people on guided tours of Egypt! Through his efforts, The Ancient Wisdom Foundation, a not for profit, educational foundation designed to help finance research into the big questions of lost knowledge and ancient civilizations, came into existence. The website also showcases his fellow Egyptologist and scientists who dare to question the established norms and are not afraid to rewrite the history of mankind.
I wish John Anthony West all the best in his journey forward and towards the truth, wherever it might be.

Animation to the rescue May 2, 2009

Filed under: animation,archaeology,ecology,history,space research,unconventional — Radiance @ 3:08 AM
An excerpt from UCLA Today’s news item ‘Team’s re-creation of ancient Karnak brings history of pharaohs to life’ reads, “The result of two years of painstaking research by a team of more than 24 scholars and technicians, Digital Karnak explores how scores of existing ruins may have originally looked and demonstrates how they came to be altered over time as generations of pharaohs put their stamp on the site that served as the religious center for Thebes, the Ancient Egyptian capital during the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.
This is just one of the numerous examples of the use computer simulation, 3-d modelling and animation has in the scientific research today. These tools have afforded the scientists, from Egyptologists to space researchers, to transcend the barrier of space and time, albeit virtually, and aided the research tremendously. Based on the data already at hand, simulations and animations build a hypothetical image (be it a structure or a flight path) of what could have been or what could be. Having an image or action sequence running in front of one’s eyes is vastly helpful in the areas of research where the scientists haven’t had a chance to be in the place, time or situation they are studying.
Of course animation took its time to reach the sophisticated, 3-d, virtual reality stage that it is in today. The early humans “animated” simple day-to-day scenes by painting a sequence of actions on a vessel which one simply turned to see the “animation”. I’m sure you still remember the ‘flip-books’ when you were in school, pages of which had to be rapidly flipped in order to see a Cricketer play a shot or a soccer player score a goal. That was animation in its good ol’ 2-d form. Even today 2-d animation is useful for simulating the history of World War II or the spread of various religions across the globe. Of course if you are trying to simulate the threat of all the space-junk that orbits around the Earth to a space craft, you need much advanced, 3-d, virtual reality sort of animations.
However, simulations and animations are used mostly for entertainment purpose in our society. Most of it is aimed towards the computer and video games that have zero intellectual-stimulation and high violence-stimulation quotient for the brain. Very few but sensible people use these wonderful tools for edutainment. Someone like Matthew Sweetapple and his Rockford’s Rock Opera tries to educate the children about sustainability and our responsibility towards this planet. Others like the What the bleep?!? team give the viewers some food for thought about whether we really know what we think we know.

Lost treasures of ancient India March 1, 2009

Filed under: ancient knowledge,archaeology,india — Radiance @ 4:43 AM

While surfing through the myriad of videos on YT, jumping from one to another related one, I somehow ended up at a playlist of videos about ancient civilisations and their technological know-how. If you read my blog regularly you probably know by now that this is my favourite topic to read and write about. So being true to my character, I’m going to share a 5-part video series which is about ancient Indian civilisations, the ancient history and technology. It is the episode(s) of Discovery Channel’s series Lost treasures of the ancient world.

The programme gives a fairly detailed overview of ancient Indian history, social and political, and how it influenced the ups and downs of scientific and technological progress of India. There are some well-executed animations that bring back to life the ancient town of Mohen-jo-daro. However, I will warn my viewers about the narrator’s pronunciations of Indians names and terms. He absolutely mangles them and it is a horrible exercise for an Indian to listen to him. So in case you plan to use any of the Indian terms in this documentary for your research, please make sure you find out what it is REALLY called. Other than that, it is a great watch for non-Indians and modern Indians equal.