Debate has long raged over the provenance of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, a document filled with strange illustrations and text written in a language that has never been decoded. Though the codex has been dated to around the time of the Renaissance, it first came to modern attention in 1912 when it was purchased by antique book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, whose name has been attached to it ever since.
Theories about the Voynich Manuscript have ranged from it being a prank by a Renaissance artist, through to an artefact given to Roger Bacon by future time-travelers, and decoded by an alien held at Area 51 (sounds legit!). The latest in the long list of Voynich theories is the claim, by a botanist and retired information technology researcher, that the Voynich Manuscript contains illustrations of plants native to Mexico, and that the text is likely written in an extinct form of the Nahuatl language:
Previously, many researchers assumed that the manuscript must have originated in Europe, where it was found. But botanist Arthur Tucker of Delaware State University in Dover noticed similarities between certain plants in the manuscript and illustrations of plants in 16th century records from Mexico.
Tucker began collecting copies of Mexican botanical books out of curiosity about the history of herbs there. "Quite by accident, I ran across the Voynich and it was a Homer Simpson moment of D'oh! Of course – this matches my other codices and the artwork of 16th century Mexico."
The most striking example was an illustration of a soap plant (xiuhamolli) in a Mexican book dated 1552. Tucker and Rexford Talbert, a retired information technology researcher at the US Department of Defense and NASA, connected a total of 37 of the 303 plants, six animals and one mineral illustrated in the Voynich manuscript to 16th century species in the region that lies between Texas, California and Nicaragua. They think many of the plants could have come from what is now central Mexico.
On the basis of these similarities, the pair suggests that the manuscript came from the New World, and that it might be written in an extinct form of the Mexican language Nahuatl. Deciphering the names of these plants could therefore help crack the Voynich code.
It's worth noting, however, that the pair are not the first to suggest that the language might be related to Nahuatl - in a 2001 book, James Comegys claimed that the manuscript was "a medical text in Nahuatl attributable to Francisco Hernandez and his Aztec Ticiti collaborators".
And it's definitely worth keeping a healthy dose of skepticism at hand, as there are a number of valid objections to their Voynich theory. But it's all good fun = you never know, the final answer to the mystery might surprise us...
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As mentioned in Tuesday's news briefs, there's an interesting story doing the rounds today about (the ruins of) a newly discovered step pyramid that predates the construction of the Great Pyramid. What I found particularly interesting is that the pyramid was one of seven pyramids scattered around Egypt, all of which did not have a funerary purpose:
Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements, have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet (18.4 x 18.6 m).
The purpose of these seven pyramids is a mystery. They may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king in the southern provinces.
"The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan," said Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute who led the work at the Edfu pyramid. On the east side of the newly uncovered pyramid, his team found the remains of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made — a discovery that is important for understanding this kind of pyramid since it provides clues as to what they were used for.
As we've mentioned recently, alternative history author Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods) has been traveling the globe, investigating a number of 'anomalous' megalithic sites that seem to push the date of the first human civilisations back many years, such as Gobekli Tepe in Turkey and Gunung Padang in Indonesia. Though Graham's new book about this topic isn't due till next year, interested readers will definitely want to check out a new feature article, about his research so far, that has just gone live on his website: "From Indonesia To Turkey New Archaeological Discoveries Uncover The Mysteries Of A Lost Civilisation".
"Everything we've been taught about the origins of civilization may be wrong," says Danny Natawidjaja, PhD, senior geologist with the Research Centre for Geotechnology at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. "Old stories about Atlantis and other a great lost civilizations of prehistory, long dismissed as myths by archaeologists, look set to be proved true."
I'm climbing with Dr Natawidjaja up the steep slope of a 300-ft high step-pyramid set amidst a magical landscape of volcanoes, mountains and jungles interspersed with paddy fields and tea plantations a hundred miles from the city of Bandung in West Java, Indonesia.
The pyramid has been known to archaeology since 1914 when megalithic structures formed from blocks of columnar basalt were found scattered amongst the dense trees and undergrowth that then covered its summit. Local people held the site to be sacred and called it Gunung Padang, the name it still goes by today, which means "Mountain of Light", or "Mountain of Enlightenment", in the local Sundanese language. The summit, where the megaliths were found arranged across five terraces had been used as a place of meditation and retreat since time immemorial, archaeologists were told, and again this remains true today.
However neither the archaeologists, nor apparently the locals realized the pyramid was a pyramid. It was believed to be a natural hill, somewhat modified by human activity, until Natawidjaja and his team began a geological survey here in 2011. By then the summit had long since been cleared and the megalithic terraces recognized to be ancient and man-made, but no radiocarbon dating was ever done and the previously accepted age of the site - about 1,500 to 2,500 BC -- was based on guesswork rather than on excavations.
The first scientific radiocarbon dating was done by Natawidjaja himself on soils underlying the megaliths at or near the surface. The dates produced - around 500 to 1,500 BC - were very close to the archaeological guesswork and caused no controversy. However a surprise was in store as Natawidjaja and his team extended their investigation using tubular drills that brought up cores of earth and stone from much deeper levels.
First the drill cores contained evidence - fragments of columnar basalt - that man-made megalithic structures lay far beneath the surface. Secondly the organic materials brought up in the drill cores began to yield older and older dates - 3,000 BC to 5,000 BC, then 9,600 BC as the drills bit deeper, then around 11,000 BC, then, 15,000 BC and finally at depths of 90 feet and more an astonishing sequence of dates of 20,000 BC to 22,000 BC and earlier.
"This was not at all what my colleagues in the world of archaeology expected or wanted to hear" says Natawidjaja, who earned his PhD at Cal Tech in the United States and who, it becomes apparent, regards archaeology as a thoroughly unscientific discipline.
The problem is that those dates from 9,600 BC and earlier belong to the period that archaeologists call the "Upper Palaeolithic" and take us back deep into the last Ice Age when Indonesia was not a series of islands as it is today but was part of a vast southeast Asian continent dubbed "Sundaland" by geologists.
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Alternative history author Graham Hancock is currently traveling the globe, researching the 'sequel' to his bestselling book Fingerprints of the Gods, which has the working title of Magicians of the Gods. Last October he discussed a number of topics relating to the book in a 90 minute lecture he gave in Johannesburg, the video of which has just been posted to YouTube (embedded above). The sound is taken from a hall mic, rather than from the soundboard, so it's rather murkily soaked in hall reverb, but it's still good enough to make out what everyone is saying.
Update: Graham himself has suggested viewing this video instead, which has better sound:
For those that love heretical Egyptology, mixed with the fascinating subject of archaeoastronomy (wait, that might be all of you!), a new book from an old friend is definitely worth a read: Ancient Egyptian Sky Lore: Rethinking the Conventional Wisdom, by Joanne Conman, is about an entrenched misunderstanding in the orthodox view of ancient Egyptian astronomy and art:
Before hieroglyphs could be read, before anyone actually knew anything factual about ancient Egypt, certain early scholars were convinced that they were right about what they thought they saw in ancient Egyptian art. They were wrong. New research reveals that Egyptologists and archaeoastronomers have misunderstood ancient Egyptian art and have misinterpreted two of the five planets visible to the naked eye as Orion and the Big Dipper.
Joanne Conman examines some of Egyptology’s most long-standing comfortable opinions and exposes them to some much needed thought. Her courageous groundbreaking work sets the record straight by examining the rationales offered by the perpetuators and proponents of Egyptology’s and archaeoastronomy’s well-established myth. Conman walks the reader through the ideas objectively, focusing on reason and critical thinking. Beginning where Egyptology itself first went wrong, she looks at both the Greco-Roman-era temple zodiacs and the scholars who first studied them. Next, she reveals the most important piece of the puzzle, perhaps the best single piece of evidence identifying the five planets in Pharaonic Egypt: an ancient Egyptian textbook. She follows that with a review of what has been offered as support for the identifications of Orion and the Big Dipper over the last two centuries so the reader can see how it fails. Finally, she explores evidence that contradicts that dogma of Egyptology in both art and in texts and reveals tantalizing links between very ancient Egyptian religious texts and astrology.
Get the popcorn, things are about to get interesting. Robert Bauval, who has locked horns with Egyptologist Zahi Hawass regularly over the past two decades since he proposed the 'Orion Correlation Theory' explanation of the Giza pyramid layout, has just posted the following statement to his Facebook account:
LEGAL ACTION AGAINST ZAHI HAWASS.
I have instructed my lawyers to collaborate with a legal cabinet in Egypt to prepare a libel and defamation case against Zahi Hawass. The direct and open accusation Mr. Hawass has made against me are:
(1) That I collaborated and paid the two german amateur archaeologists to steal the cartouche of the pharaoh Khufu inside a relief chamber of the Great Pyramid.
(2) That I wrote a book/s claiming that the "Jews" built the Pyramids of Egypt.
(3) That myself and my family are of the Jewish Faith. (I am a Christian Catholic).
These accusations are totally and utterly false. Accusations (1) and (2) are exptremely damaging to my person and my work. All three accusation also put me in grave danger in Egypt which has been gripped by dangerous Islamists who are anti-Semitic/Jewish.
In consideration of my 'bestselling status' and my readership around the world, and in consideration that my reputation and the success of my books rely heavily on my credibility and my repect for ancient Egyptian monuments and artefacts and culture, my legal advisor will be asking for damages in the six figure bracket in US Dollars.
A similar legal case may also be opened against ASAR MASR, the owners of the Facebook that ran the demantory and libelous interview of Hawass.
This is not the first time Hawass has attacked Bauval - we reported last year that Hawass had suggested Bauval was promoting a Jewish agenda in an article on the front page of the popular Egyptian daily newspaper Al Ahram.
Here's today's fact to blow your mind: Woolly Mammoths Still Walked the Earth When the Great Pyramid Was Built:
Wrangel Island is an island in the Arctic Ocean, between the Chukchi Sea and East Siberian Sea.
Woolly mammoths survived there until 2500–2000 BC, the most recent survival of all known mammoth populations. Isolated from the mainland for 6000 years, about 500 to 1000 mammoths lived on the island at a time.
The Great Pyramid of Egypt was built around 2500 BC.
In fact, though cartoons and other media often associate mammoths and dinosaurs, mammoths emerged 'only' 5 million or so years ago, while most (non-avian) dinosaurs suddenly became extinct 66 million years ago. And even more mind-blowing: one of the last of the dinosaurs (and one of the most well-known), Tyrannosaurus rex, is closer in time to us than to Stegosaurus, which walked the Earth some 150 million years ago.
(via Heritage Daily)
Idea for a best-selling book title: Telephones of the Gods.
The gourd-and-twine device, created 1,200 to 1,400 years ago, remains tantalizingly functional — and too fragile to test out. “This is unique,” NMAI curator Ramiro Matos, an anthropologist and archaeologist who specializes in the study of the central Andes, tells me. “Only one was ever discovered. It comes from the consciousness of an indigenous society with no written language.”
We’ll never know the trial and error that went into its creation. The marvel of acoustic engineering — cunningly constructed of two resin -coated gourd receivers, each three-and-one-half inches long; stretched-hide membranes stitched around the bases of the receivers; and cotton-twine cord extending 75 feet when pulled taut—arose out of the Chimu empire at its height. The dazzlingly innovative culture was centered in the Río Moche Valley in northern Peru, wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the western Andes. “The Chimu were a skillful, inventive people,” Matos tells me as we don sterile gloves and peer into the hollowed interiors of the gourds. The Chimu, Matos explains, were the first true engineering society in the New World, known as much for their artisanry and metalwork as for the hydraulic canal-irrigation system they introduced, transforming desert into agricultural lands.
The artifact’s recent past is equally mysterious. Somehow — no one knows under what circumstances — it came into the hands of a Prussian aristocrat, Baron Walram V. Von Schoeler. A shadowy Indiana Jones-type adventurer, Von Schoeler began excavating in Peru during the 1930s. He developed the “digging bug,” as he told the New York Times in 1937, at the age of 6, when he stumbled across evidence of a prehistoric village on the grounds of his father’s castle in Germany. Von Schoeler himself may have unearthed the gourd telephone. By the 1940s, he had settled in New York City and amassed extensive holdings of South American ethnographic objects, eventually dispersing his collections to museums around the United States.
Last week we posted some interesting/disturbing news about German archaeologists vandalising the Great Pyramid, while also apparently throwing doubt on the age of the famous cartouche of Pharaoh Khufu. That report, and others since, have been vague and sometimes contradictory regarding the individuals concerned - some saying they were students, others that they were aligned with certain academic institutions. As such, many questions have remained about the entire affair.
However posters at the Hall of Ma'at messageboard have been discussing aspects of it since October, and through their information and by following the links they've posted as well as recent news stories on the case, we can assemble a bit more of a picture of what happened. The two 'amateur archaeologists' are Dominique Görlitz and Stefan Erdmann, who (along with film-maker Frank Höfer) appear to have been granted official permission to access the Great Pyramid on the 17th of April, between the hours 6pm-8pm.
The pair seem not to have been officially affiliated with any institution; rather they are 'hidden history' enthusiasts who believe the Great Pyramid is much older than is currently believed. Both seem to be interested in numerous aspects of 'hidden history', from ancient aliens to secret societies, and - worryingly - perhaps some right-wing ideas.
Their trip to Egypt was apparently part of documentary-in-progress titled Das Cheops Projekt ('The Cheops Project'), for which they were seeking financial help through a crowd-funding campaign (which raised just €925 of their €46,000 target):
The research team around Dr. Dominique Goerlitz, Stefan Erdmann and filmmaker Frank Hoefer (NuoViso) is working independently and without and big sponsor in the background. Until now a part of the budget was privately financed. This contains shooting for several days in Egypt as well as examinations of the Great Pyramid and especially the King's Chamber and the relief chambers. This enabled us to take the samples of the king's cartridge. Furthermore we stay in contact with a prestigious institute for lab analysis in Germany which shall examine the samples of the cartridge. Many experts and pyramid researchers already have been interviewed or shown their interest.
With the elaborate film shootings and the expensive and the hard to get permissions to film in Egypt we could get the important samples (documented). This was privately pre-financed. More financial resources are necessary to bring the documentary to an end in short period of time. Especially the expensive lab analysis of the samples are only possible with a five digit amount of Euros.
Many of the videos associated with the project have been made private since the controversy broke, but the following trailer for Das Cheops Projekt remains accessible at the time of posting, and actually appears to feature footage of the vandalism occurring (at 1:31):
There's a couple of things worth noting about the video. Firstly, the chipping off of material in the video seems to not be on the famous cartouche of Khufu, as has been reported, but further to the right (pretty much where Dominique Görlitz is pointing in this image, with the Khufu cartouche at the far left of the picture). I'm not sure if this is the actual act which Egyptian authorities are talking about though - perhaps there were multiple areas chipped away?
Secondly, immediately before the vandalism part of the video, the two 'amateur archaeologists' are shown scaling a ladder, but this appears to be in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid for some reason. The Khufu cartouche can't be accessed from inside the King's Chamber, so I'm not sure what they were doing in there, unless it just worked best for the videoing (hopefully no further vandalism in that room!). But beyond that, what is more interesting is that they have a great big ladder in the Great Pyramid - this is not something you can just carry in to the GP at your own leisure, and seems to confirm the report that they were given official permission for their 'expedition' (although it's unlikely they were given permission to take material from the GP!).
So it would seem that though the pair were not aligned with the institutions that were claimed in early news reports, it is likely that they were given permission to access the monuments (and the Great Pyramid after hours). It may be that heads will roll internally for inadequate supervision of the duo during their time in the pyramid.
Regardless, if the above information is correct then I can only condemn the actions of Görlitz, Erdmann and Höfer. It is unlikely the 'samples' they took have any kind of scientific validity (from the area sampled, through to their method and the amount they chipped off), but what's far worse is that they took it upon themselves to damage one of the greatest monuments created by humans, dating back to the beginnings of written history.
I encourage research on these controversial questions, but certainly not by these methods.
Author Graham Hancock continues to travel the world researching his 'sequel' to the bestselling Fingerprints of the Gods, and has just posted a fascinating update to Facebook about his upcoming visit to the Indonesian megalithic site of Gunung Padang - an enigmatic location that Rick wrote about here on TDG back in July:
Next week Santha and I travel to Indonesia to explore Gunung Padang, the extraordinary megalithic site in West Java that is rewriting history. Together with our friend geology professor Robert Schoch of Boston University, famous for his redating of the Great Sphinx of Giza, we have been invited to attend a special seminar in Bandung, the West Javan capital, at which geologist Danny Hilman and the research team who have produced evidence that the origins of Gunung Padang may go back further than 20,000 years will reveal the full scope of their scientific findings for the first time. I have previously posted several status updates about Gunung Padang here (see for example https://www.facebook.com/Author.GrahamHa...) but now we will be able to visit the site ourselves and have the opportunity to learn about the findings of Danny Hilman and his team first hand.
I've been in touch with Danny by email throughout November and he has told me something of the complexity of the site, writing: "Gunung Padang has multi layer constructions, each from a different age, at least three layers. The youngest that cover the ground is about 2500-3000 years BP. Just below the surface, we found the second construction layer that has an estimated age of about 6500-7000 years BP. Beneath the second is the third layer, which in one location is buried by soil fills (not a natural rock-weathering soils) with a carbon-age of about 9500-9800 years BP (calibrated). Then Radiocarbon dating of soils/sediments, found between the columnar rocks of the third layers ranges between 13,000 – 21,000 years BP."
I see similarities here with the mysterious megalithic site of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey which was also deliberately buried under soil fills by those who created it more than 12,000 years ago.
...Back in the mid-1990's when I first published Fingerprints of the Gods archaeologists sneered at the idea of a lost civilisation more than 12,000 years ago. The new findings at Gobekli Tepe and Gunung Padang mean that this idea can no longer be so easily dismissed and my prediction is that many megalithic sites around the world, previously attributed to the period of 5,600 years ago or less, will have to be redated in the coming years
Follow Graham on Facebook to keep up with his travels, and of course keep your eye on TDG for related news as it comes to hand.