Archive for 2011-10-02

The Stonehenge Burials

The Stonehenge Burials by Brian Haughton

The Mysteries of  Stonehenge

Much has been written about the reasons why the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, southern England, was built. Perhaps this enigmatic ancient structure has been designed for the temple of the ancestors, the astronomical calendar, a healing center or a giant computer? May also worked all these things at different times during the 1500 years of history? As our ancient ancestors built a large monument has attracted great attention over the years. In fact, some experiments were conducted in carefully arranged Stonehenge to find out exactly how the Welsh blue stones and the stones were transported to local sarsen Salisbury Plain and what method is used to prevent when they arrived.
All this is fascinating enough, but Stonehenge still maintains its less explored, darker aspects, not least of which are the enigmatic burials scattered in and around this famous Neolithic monument. What can these burials, both cremation and inhumation, tell us about the rituals and activities that went on at Stonehenge more than four millennia ago?
What modern visitors see when they visit Stonehenge is a circular setting of large standing stones surrounded by earthworks, the remains of the last in a series of monuments constructed on the site between c3100BC and c1600BC. During its 1500-year history, Stonehenge was built in three broad construction phases, though there were numerous sub-phases in between, and there is evidence for human activity on the site both before and after these dates.
The first monument on the site, began around 3100 BC, was a circular ‘henge’ earthwork about 360 feet (110 metres) in diameter, a ‘henge’ in the archaeological sense being a circular or oval-shaped flat area enclosed by a boundary earthwork. This structure probably contained a ring of 56 wooden posts (or possibly an early bluestone circle), the pits for which are named Aubrey Holes (after the 17th century local antiquarian John Aubrey). Later, around 3000BC (the beginning of Stonehenge Phase II), some kind of timber structure seems to have been built within the enclosure, and Stonehenge functioned as a cremation cemetery, the earliest and largest so far discovered in Britain.

The Cremation Cemetery

During the 20th century nearly 60 cremation burials were uncovered at Stonehenge, with perhaps a couple of hundred more remaining in unexcavated areas of the monument. Interestingly, the latest of these cremations has been radiocarbon dated to c2300 BC, which illustrates that cremation was still being practiced at Stonehenge long after the bluestones and sarsens had been erected.
Another interesting and unusual aspect of the cremated remains discovered at Stonehenge is that the majority of them are from adult males, most within the 25 to 40-year age group. The conclusion can only be that only certain people were selected for burial within this early Stonehenge monument. These men would have been politically important, perhaps aristocrats and / or clan leaders and were probably authority figures at the site during the first half of the third millennium BC.
Most of the remaining (inhumation) burials in the area of the monument are roughly contemporary with each other, dating from the 2400 – 2150BC (the Early Bronze Age period), although there is only one complete skeleton from amongst them. Examination of this intact skeleton, which was found in 1978 buried in the outer ditch of the monument, revealed that the man had been shot at close range by up to six flint-tipped arrows, probably by two people, one shooting from the left the other from the right. Could this have been an execution or perhaps even some form of ritual human sacrifice?

Read More Other Unsolved Mysteries article!

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Cleopatra and antonu

Bust of Cleopatra

Considered by the Romans as "fatal monstrosity" - a warning fatal Cleopatra is one of the most popular but elusive of the ancient world. The Egyptian queen was immortalized by many writers and filmmakers, the most popular of Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cleopatra in Hollywood (1963) with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

The last work includes memorable image of the attractive young Cleopatra emerging gracefully from a folded blanket in front of the Roman general Julius Caesar's. But Cleopatra is to be regarded as mere lover of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony? Or does it play an important role not only in the history of Egypt, but also that the powerful Roman Republic?

Cleopatra VII Philopator (‘father-loving’) was born in January 69 BC in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes (117 BC –51 BC) and possibly Cleopatra V Tryphaena (c 95 BC –  c 57 BC). Cleopatra was to become the last monarch of the Ptolemaic Empire (established in 323 BC after the death of Alexander the Great), ruling Egypt from 51 BC to 30 BC.
In 48 BC Cleopatra had become an ally and lover of Julius Caesar and remained so until his assassination in Rome in March of 44 BC.  The death of Caesar threw Rome into turmoil, with various factions competing for control, the most important of these being the armies of Mark Antony (83 BC– 30 BC) and Octavian (63 BC – AD 14), the former a supporter and loyal friend Caesar, the latter his adopted son.

Cleopatra Meets Antony

In 41 BC Cleopatra was summoned to Tarsus (in modern southern Turkey) by Mark Antony. She is said to have entered the city by sailing up the Cydnus River in a decorated barge with purple sails, while dressed in the robes of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Antony, who equated himself with the god Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, was instantly won over. Much like the meeting between Cleopatra and Caesar, both sides saw something in the other which they needed. For Cleopatra it was another opportunity to achieve power both in Egypt and in Rome, for Anthony the support of Rome’s largest and wealthiest client states in his campaign against the might of the Parthians (Parthia was a region in modern north-eastern Iran) was highly desirable. At the meeting Cleopatra allegedly requested that her half-sister Arsino√ę, living in protection at the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, be executed to prevent any future attempts on her throne.
Anthony and Cleopatra soon became allies and lovers and he returned with her to Alexandria in 40 BC. In Alexandria Cleopatra and Antony formed a society of “inimitable livers”, which some historians have interpreted as an excuse to lead a life of debauchery, though it was more likely to have been a group dedicated to the cult of the mystical god Dionysus. In that year Cleopatra bore Antony the twins Alexander Helios (the Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (the Moon).

Octavian and Rome

The political situation in Rome compelled Antony to return to Italy where he was forced to conclude a temporary settlement with Octavian, part of which was that he married Octavian’s sister, Octavia. It was to be three years before he and Cleopatra were to meet again, at the city of Antioch (near the modern Turkey / Syria border) under the shadow of the Octavian’s growing military power in the West. One result of this meeting was that Cleopatra became pregnant with her third child by Antony (the future Ptolemy Philadelphus); another was that parts of Rome’s eastern possessions came under Cleopatra’s control.

Celebrations in Alexandria

In 34 BC, despite the fact that Antony’s Parthian campaign had been an extravagant failure, Antony and Cleopatra celebrated a mock Roman Triumph in the streets of Alexandria. Crowds flocked to the Gymnasium to see the couple seated on golden thrones surrounded by their children, and Antony made a proclamation known today as the ‘Donations of Alexandria’. In this declaration Antony distributed lands held by Rome and Parthia amongst Cleopatra and their children, and proclaimed Caesarion as Caesar’s legitimate son.

Read More Other Unsolved Mysteries article!

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Mystery of the Great Sphinx

The Great Sphinx by Brian Haughton 
Buried for most of its life in the desert sand, an air of mystery has always surrounded the Great Sphinx, causing speculation about its age and purpose, method of construction, concealed chambers, role in prophesy, and relationship to the equally mysterious pyramids.
Much of this theorizing is to the despair of Egyptologists and archaeologists, who, reasonably it seems to me; only give credence to theories that are backed up by tangible evidence.

The Mystery of the Great Sphinx

Facing the rising sun, the Great Sphinx is located on the Giza plateau, about 10km west of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile River. Later Egyptian rulers worshipped it as an aspect of the sun god, calling it Hor-Em-Akhet (“Horus of the Horizon”). The Sphinx sits in part of the necropolis of ancient Memphis, the seat of power for the pharaohs, a short distance from three large pyramids – the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), Khafre (Chephren) and Menkaura (Mycerinus).
The monument is the largest surviving sculpture from the ancient world, measuring 73.5m in length and in parts 20m in height. Part of the uraeus (sacred cobra which protected from evil forces), the nose and the ritual beard are missing; the beard is now displayed in the British Museum. The extensions at the side of the head are part of the royal headcloth. Although the head of the Sphinx has been badly affected by thousands of years of erosion, traces of the original paint can still be seen near one ear.
It is thought that originally the Sphinx’s face was painted dark red. A small temple between its paws contained dozens of inscribed stelae placed by the Pharaohs in honour of the Sun god.

The Pharaoh’s Dream

The Sphinx has suffered greatly from the ravages of time, man and modern pollution. In fact, what has saved it from complete destruction is the fact that it has been submerged beneath the desert sand for most of its life. There have been various attempts to restore the Great Sphinx over the millennia, beginning in c1400 BC with the pharaoh Tuthmosis IV. After falling asleep in the shade of the Sphinx when out hunting, the pharaoh dreamt that the great beast was choking from the sand engulfing it, and that it told him if he cleared the sand he would obtain the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. In between the front paws of the Sphinx is a granite stela, now called the “Dream Stela”, which is inscribed with the story of the pharaoh’s dream.
Towards the end of 2010, during routine excavation work in the area of the monument, Egyptian archaeologists discovered large sections of mudbrick walls which were part of a larger wall which stretched for 132 meters (433 feet) around the Great Sphinx. The archaeologists believe that the wall was built by Tuthmosis IV after his dream to protect the Sphinx from the desert winds.
After the clearing ordered by Tuthmosis IV, and despite the wall, the colossal sculpture once again found itself beneath the sand. When Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798, he found the Sphinx without its nose. 18th century drawings reveal that the nose was missing long before Napoleon’s arrival; one story goes that it was the victim of target practice in the Turkish period. Another and perhaps the most likely explanation, is that it was pried off by chisels in the 8th century AD, by a Sufi who considered the Sphinx a sacrilegious idol. In 1858, some of the sand around the sculpture was cleared by Auguste Mariette, the founder of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, and between 1925 and 1936, French engineer Emile Baraize excavated the Sphinx on behalf of the Antiquities Service. Possibly for the first time since antiquity, the Great Sphinx was once again exposed to the elements.

Who does the Great Sphinx Depict?

The explanation for the enigmatic sculpture favoured by most Egyptologists is that Chephren, a Fourth Dynasty pharaoh, had the stone shaped into a lion with his own face at the same time as the construction of the nearby Pyramid of Chephren, around 2540 BC. However, there are no inscriptions anywhere that identify Chephren with the Sphinx, neither is there mention anywhere of its construction, which is somewhat puzzling when considering the grandness of the monument. Despite many Egyptologists claims to the contrary no-one knows for sure when the Sphinx was built or by whom.
In 1996, a New York detective and expert in identification concluded that the visage of the Great sphinx did not match known representations of Chephren’s face. He maintained that there was a greater resemblance to Chephren’s elder brother Djedefre. The debate is still continuing. The mystery of the Sphinx’s origin and purpose has often given rise to mystical interpretations, such as those of English occultist Paul Brunton and, in the 1940′s, controversial American psychic and prophet Edgar Cayce.

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