Where we attempt to fill you in on everything they forgot to teach you at school

Man Face Swaps with Museum Statues

Museum face swap

Plenty of people have been having fun lately with face swapping - using mobile cameras and apps to exchange faces with another person in real-time. Inspired, this young guy went to a museum and face-swapped with the statues there...

Look, I'm no expert on ancient magic, but if Hollywood movies have taught me anything, this is just asking for an ancient curse to come to life.

Museum Face Swap 2

Link: So I Went to the Museum...

Samurai Visiting the Sphinx in 1864

Samurai standing in front of the Great Sphinx

Like the Daily Grail on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter for more fascinating posts like this one.

Over the years there have been many great images of the Great Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt, but this 1864 photo by Antonio Beato may be the best ever. Now over 150 years old, it shows a diplomatic mission from Japan dressed in full samurai regalia - swords and all - standing in front of the Great Sphinx.

From Wikipedia:

The Second Japanese Embassy to Europe, also called the Ikeda Mission, was sent on December 29, 1863 by the Tokugawa shogunate. The head of the mission was Ikeda Nagaoki, governor of small villages of Ibara, Bitchū Province (Okayama Prefecture). The assistant head of the mission was Kawazu Sukekuni.

The objective of the mission was to obtain French agreement to the closure of the harbour of Yokohama to foreign trade. The mission was sent following the 1863 "Order to expel barbarians" enacted by Emperor Kōmei, and the Bombardment of Shimonoseki incidents, in a wish to close again the country to Western influence, and return to sakoku status. The task proved impossible, as Yokohama was the center of foreign presence in Japan since the opening of the country by Commodore Perry in 1854.

On the way to France, the mission visited Egypt, where the members of the mission were photographed posing before the Sphinx by Antonio Beato, brother of the famous photographer Felice Beato. The members of the mission were abundantly photographed in Paris by Nadar.

The mission returned to Japan in failure, on July 22, 1864.

Fantastic image of an amazing location - right up there in my list of favourites with this 1920 photograph of two elegant ladies viewing an Egyptian sunset from the top of the Great Pyramid.

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Stoneworking Mysteries of Ancient India

A couple of weeks ago I posted a couple of short, interesting films on the so-called 'Bosnian Pyramid', and stone-working in ancient Egypt. The maker of those two films, Alex Mott, has now made another film available, this time on the mysteries of ancient India (which features a cameo from Robert Bauval):

Alex Mott visits India on the trail of the Vedas and ancient stone working techniques. As with sites in Egypt and around the world, the physical evidence is right in front of you - but how they did it is still a mystery.

Whether you agree with Alex's theories or not, it's a fascinating look into a too-often-overlooked ancient civilisation.

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Is Our View of History Wrong? New Research Group Aims to Investigate the Evidence for an Advanced Ancient Civilisation

Buried Sphinx

Is the orthodox view of the rise of civilisation wrong? For many years, a number of 'alternative' historians have put forward the view that there is enough evidence to suggest that an advanced civilisation existed in prehistory, but through some cataclysm disappeared in the mists of time. And, in recent years, archaeological discoveries such as the truly ancient megalithic site of Göbekli Tepe have continued to add substance to that view.

Geologist Robert Schoch - famous for his 'redating' of the Great Sphinx of Egypt, based on evidence of water eroision - is now, with a number of colleagues, aiming to take research into this idea to the next level. He has just announced the formation of 'ORACUL' ('Organization for the Research of Ancient Cultures'), a non-profit 501c devoted to investigation and discussion of these 'forbidden history' ideas:

The scientific debate surrounding the origins of human civilization is far from settled. Independent research by scholars and professionals in the hard sciences has begun to challenge the accepted narrative of civilization’s beginnings. Today, there is a large body of evidence from a myriad of fields which argues convincingly for a revision of that narrative – pushing back the timeline for advanced culture by thousands of years.

Opposed by many orthodox scholars (whose interests are served by maintaining the status quo), serious scientists and professionals who attempt to bring attention to this contrary evidence are often ignored and ridiculed. Handicapped by a lack of funding, publicity, and professional networking, breakthrough research related to ancient cultures continues to languish in relative obscurity.

ORACUL works to bring this existing research to the attention of both the academic community and the public, as well as conducting new investigations into ancient cultures. This pioneering research involves not only professionals in the hard sciences, but also serious, out-of-the-box thinking in other disciplines. ORACUL will accomplish this goal by focusing on three primary areas of activity: Research Advocacy, Publishing, and Educational Outreach.

Here's a video introduction from Robert:

If you wish to help kickstart ORACUL with a contribution, you can do so via at oraculonline.org, and also keep up to date with news about the organization by liking Dr Robert Schoch's Facebook page.

Link: ORACUL Online

Le Grand Menhir of Locmariaquer: a 300 Ton Megalith Constructed 7000 Years Ago

Le Grand Menhir of Locmariaquer

In discussions of the staggering age of the Turkish megalithic site of Göbekli Tepe (circa 10,000 BCE), mention is often made of the large gap in time between the erection of these stones, and other ancient sites such as Stonehenge and the Giza pyramids in Egypt (circa 2500 BCE). However, there were other megalithic constructions in that intervening time - and some of those were truly on a grand scale.

On a recent trip to France - in particular the famous Carnac stone alignments - I was pleasantly surprised to come across a truly ancient, and truly massive, megalith that I had not heard about before. The ‘Grand Menhir’ at Locmariaquer, only a short drive from Carnac, is said to have been erected around 4700 BCE - and at some 20 metres in length, and close to 300 tonnes in weight, is one of the largest stones ever used by the megalith builders of Europe!

During the tour of the Locmariaquer site - which also includes the Er-Grah tumulus passage grave and a (reconstructed) dolmen known as the Table des Marchand - we were told that the massive megaltih unfortunately was ‘only’ standing for 700 years, with archaeologists believing it was toppled around 4000 BCE (either intentionally by man, or via an earthquake). It’s funny how the relative spans of time concerning such ancient structures convert our thinking - ‘only’ standing for 700 years!

The stone must have been something impressive when standing. Unfortunately, the manner in which it now lies on the ground - with stones at almost right angles to each other - and the landscaping of the site in which it sits, makes it difficult to get a real feel for how huge it was. Here are a couple of shots from different directions, with my daughter in the picture, to try and convey more of a sense of it’s size:

Maya and the Grand Menhir

Maya and the Grand Menhir's base

Geological research suggests the Grand Menhir was brought to its present location from at least 10km away, and was ground and pounded into a desired shape. What’s more, excavations have revealed a line of other stone-filled pits that decrease in size for some 50 metres, suggesting the Grand Menhir may have been just one of many menhirs placed in alignment for some reason, with the missing menhirs having been used for construction elsewhere in the intervening years.

Why was it built? This remains a mystery, though there have been a number of theories. Alexander Thom suggested its great size may have allowed it to be used as as a marker that could be observed from other sites in the area, used for tracking the lunar cycle. Archaeoastronomer Clive Ruggles has, however, pointed out this theory as one example of the dangers of “selectively scouring the landscape for suitable alignments…conflating archaeological features of all ages, often together with natural features in the landscape” Ruggles notes that Thom’s alignments were arrived at “by traversing eight relevant directions in search of suitable candidate backsights while ignoring other directions”.

I’ve found it difficult to learn more about the site, as much of the archaeological research appears to be in the French language. So if there is anybody out there with more knowledge of the recent research into the Locmariaquer site, please do take the time to comment.

Pieces of the Grand Menhir

Between this site, the endless lines at Carnac, the nearby megaliths of Gavrinis (now on an island, though not so when constructed), and many other little-known locations in the area, I highly recommend spending a couple of days touring this amazing part of Frannce if you get the chance!

Pondering the Mysteries of the 'Bosnian Pyramid' and Ancient Egypt

Above is an interesting short video made by Alex Mott after visiting the controversial 'Bosnian Pyramid' in June 2015. In it, he addresses some of the claims made in favour of the structure being man-made (as well as more 'New Age' mysteries associated with the 'pyramid') , but can't help but feel that nature (and some wishful thinking) could have produced them all.

And for those that think the presenter is obviously a fundamentalist skeptic on such matters, please do note that he has another short video on the mysteries of ancient Egypt, which certainly doesn't follow that track:

Regardless of whether you agree with him on either topic, some excellent information (and vision) that is sure to inspire discussion!

No, A Drone Didn't Discover Ancient Underwater Geoglyphs

You know a story's hot when the source site's down for exceeding its bandwidth. That's the case with Rob Antill's Digital Anthill. Back in January 2013, Rob got his mitts on a DJI Phantom. It's a $500 USD drone with a video camera and pretty darned sweet if you ask me.

During one of Rob's inaugural flights over Kootenay Lake, just outside of Nelson, BC, he caught sight of something downright curious. Everybody and their brother thrilled at the possibility of Rob's discovery writing a new chapter for North America's history. Who wouldn't be, considering labyrinths and spirals are a common motif in human art from prehistory to the 21st century?

Nah. Kootenay Lake's water level rises and falls in the spring. About ten years ago the Lakeside Labyrinth Society created one in Kootenay's shallows. From their site:

Basically, a labyrinth is a walking meditation; an opportunity for quiet reflection to connect with that place inside yourself where insights and understanding can occur. A labyrinth pathway spirals into a central destination, and then back out again, using the same path. The spiralling is said to mimic the convolutions of the brain, and it is thought that the right and left brain hemispheres become balanced when walking a labyrinth. This is what appears to support mental clarity and understanding to occur.

Locals insist this formation is recent, and the product of Lakeside Labyrinth. A lively discussion on West Coast Native's Facebook page features a thread of comments in this vein. For bigger skeptics refusing to take local yokels at their word, Lost Kootenays shared an image of these stones from last March when the water was significantly lower. If the water level regularly reveals this spiral, it would hardly be a mystery to frequent visitors of Kootenay Lake's shores.

Don't despair, as there's still plenty of hidden wonders in North America. Twelve meters beneath the surface of Lake Michigan, researchers hoping to find old shipwrecks stumbled upon a 89 meter circle of stones. One of these stones appears to bear the image of a mastodon, evidence these giant beasts still roamed those ancient shores as the glaciers retreated.[1][2]

Considering this site's depth, there's almost no chance anyone flying a drone will stumble upon the site. Plus the site's being kept secret out of respect for the Grand Traverse Bay Indian community in hopes of preserving the site for further investigation.

This isn't the only stone circle in the area. About 61 miles north of Traverse City, a stone circle was discovered on Beaver Island in 1985. Its 39 stones are arranged in a 121 meter circle. Allegedly they are aligned with astronomical events like the summer solstice, the rising of the stars Aldebaran, Rigel, and Sirius.[3] If that doesn't beat all, one of the stones appears to bear the carving of a bull on it.

  1. Stonehenge in Lake Michigan? http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Sto...
  2. Lake Michigan Stonehenge http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp264-ss15/...
  3. Beaver Island Stone Circle - Rising Time and Time Again http://www.repositorybeaverislandstoneci...

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Archaeoacoustics: Listening to the Sounds of History

Hal Saflieni Hypogeum - Paola, Malta

When we study the ancient world, we have but one sense to use.  We can, unfortunately, only view the past with our eyes.  As beautiful as the artefacts of our ancestors are, this one dimensional perspective tends to be somewhat restrictive to our understanding.  After all, when we consider our contemporary world, we have the benefit of seeing, smelling and hearing all of the various elements that make up that landscape.  Not so with the ancient world.

However there are a select few people trying to change that.  Those people are working in the field of archaeoacoustics, and though this is a relatively new field of study, great strides are being made in an effort to understand the significance of sound as it pertains to the monuments and rituals of our ancestors.  The term archaeoacoustics has been coopted from its earlier use, as it pertained to sounds being recorded in clay pottery and other such objects during their manufacture in ancient societies, so as to be “played back” with the use of modern equipment.  This idea was once supported by many in mainstream science, but has recently fallen into disrepute as a result of many failed attempts to verify it through experiment.  The term now relates more widely to the study of sound in ancient construction and monuments.

In spite of the fanciful ideas of the more conspiratorial among us, not every ancient monument was constructed to capitalise on resonant frequencies, but some were and they deserve a closer look.

Chanting, a ritualistic form of stylised speech, and the root of all western music, was first used by ancient and prehistoric spiritual leaders in nearly all cultures as a means of furthering or supporting other aspects of ritual.  It was meant to bring the participant closer to a religious or spiritual awakening.  Chants are used in nearly all religious variants, from modern shamanistic cultures to pagan, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic traditions.  It ranges from simple melodies to complex musical structures and depending on the setting, can offer a profound experience to witnesses.

As is common knowledge, sound or music has a profound effect on us humans (and likely on some animals as well).  We develop strong associations between musical elements and certain emotions and our moods are often deeply affected by what we hear.  For this reason, spiritual or religious chants often have a deep effect on our perception of related experiences.  Religious hymns are designed to foster a connection between the congregant and the clergy, and in fact churches the world over are constructed with this in mind.  The shape and orientation of the church and its internal elements are painstakingly arranged to optimise the acoustical properties of the space, so as to maximise the effect of song and instrument alike.  And this is by no means a new practise.

Nowhere is acoustical significance in ancient construction more striking than in underground temples.  There are famous examples of such construction throughout the old world, perhaps the most famous is the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops, whichever you prefer) at Giza in Egypt.  Some theorists maintain that the King’s Chamber was designed and built to use sound as a resonant booster, to give the Pharaoh a better chance of reaching the afterlife, though this is not a widely held opinion among mainstream archaeologists or Egyptologists.  Those same theorists, conspiracy theorists you might say, suggest also that the Hall of Records, an unconfirmed structure or room situated under the Sphinx, has significant acoustical properties as well.  This is, for obvious reasons, entirely suppositional of course.

But we needn’t resort to conspiratorial fantasy in this case, for there are many ancient monuments and temples that use sound and acoustical properties to their advantage.  The underground city complex at Budapest, called the Labyrinth of Buda Castle, which is located under Castle Hill in Buda (which is the west-bank part of Budapest on the Danube river in Hungary), is said to have special acoustical properties, though since this site is largely a natural formation, it doesn’t really count here.  It does remain the oldest known example of the shape of a room or cave being used to amplify or resonate sound for ritual purposes.

Other examples, such as the Oracle Room in the Hypogeum of Ħal Seflieni in Paola, Malta offer much to study.  Hypogeum means ‘underground’ in Greek, and in this case refers to a subterranean labyrinthine structure of the Seflieni phase of Maltese prehistory (3000-2500BC).  It consists of several passages and chambers, of which the Oracle room is the smallest.  With its delicately painted ceiling, the Oracle room boasts the most powerful or effectual resonant chamber in the ancient world.  Even muted sounds made in this chamber resonate and amplify, which has the effect of distorting the sound and making it seem like it has a divine origin (or that it hadn’t been generated by any source in the chamber).  Today the hypogeum is a necropolis, containing the remains of some 7000 prehistoric Greeks, but at one time it was used for religious ritual.

Another site, Chavín de Huantar in the Peruvian Andes, is a large city ruin that was built by the pre-Incan culture known as the Chavín in approximately 1200BC, though the area is thought to have been occupied as early as 3000BC.  The site has buildings, ruins, temples and other artefacts.

Ancient visitors and priests at Chavín de Huantar would have been privy to an experience not found anywhere else.  The buildings were constructed using a highly specialized combination of shafts, corridors and surfaces, all designed to make a series of echo chambers, in which sounds – often conch shell trumpets, called pututus, being blown by priests outside of the structure and chanting, as well as water running in streams under and around the buildings – would seem otherworldly.[1]  Add in the psychotropic effect of ritual consumption of San Pedro cactus juice (and possibly other substances, like ayahuasca), and one can easily see how a pilgrimage to such a temple would have been a profound spiritual experience.

Perhaps the first archaeoacoustic researcher, Iegor Reznikoff, an anthropologist of sound with the Université Paris Ouest, found, in the 1980’s, that there is a connection between the location of prehistoric artwork in the caves at Lascaux (and other ancient cave sights in southern France, where the oldest known human art is found from 25,000BC) and the acoustic resonance of those same locations.[2]  Reznikoff and a colleague mapped such caves, highlighting areas of acoustical significance and found that those areas coincided with areas that held the most works of prehistoric art.[3]  Which suggests a defined ritualistic process to the painting, and may have been prevalent among prehistoric artists.

Acoustic resonance is a feature of many natural caves, and it’s likely that this natural feature was the primary motivator in the development of acoustics in ritual sites and practices.  Modern technology allows archaeologists to identify and study such features of ancient sites, and in most cases the research is inaccessible to the amateur.  However, there are branches of this endeavour that are within reach of anyone who can get themselves to the locations in question.

Recently, a team of researchers have been using sound to study the world famous Stonehenge megalithic site in Wiltshire, England.  According to experts from London’s Royal College of Art, Stonehenge holds more mystery than meets the eye.  For many years, enthusiasts and researchers have held that Stonehenge had an audio component, either in its use or construction.  Many visitors report that chants and music seem to resonate in a strange way at various points within and around the structure, but new insights seem to suggest that the stones themselves were musical instruments.

Research recently published in the Journal of Time & Mind, suggests that the bluestones – the smaller stones that make up the interior of the monument – actually have acoustical properties and may have been selected for that reason.[4]  It turns out that the stones resonate in a peculiar way when struck with a hammer or other instrument, and generate a wide range of sounds.  Researchers even found what may be evidence of hammer or stone strikes on several of the stones, indicating that they’re on the right track.

This research, with the input of other experts, suggests that many of the standing stone sites throughout the UK may have had, as a central feature, an acoustic nature.[5]  It may be that Stonehenge and other standing stone circles and like monuments were built as musical instruments, to be used in conjunction with or as a part of ritualistic gatherings and celebrations.

The same may be true for monuments all over the world, as is highlighted by researchers such as Michael Tellinger, who demonstrates in a video on his YouTube channel the acoustic properties of artefacts found at Waterval Boven, South Africa. (See below)

There is no denying it, sound has played a central role in the development of not only human spirituality and culture, but also in architecture.  While most of our history can only be relayed in terms of visual artefacts and writing, the aural history of our ancestors just begs to be heard.  And when you consider the fact that resonant sound has been a significant part of human life for upwards of 27,000 years (at least), it’s no wonder so many people feel so passionately about music and its makers.

 


[1] Brooks, Michael.  Was sound the secret weapon of the Andean elites? Newscientist Magazine – September 2008 http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926721.700-was-sound-the-secret-weapon-of-the-andean-elites.html?page=1

[2] Starr, Douglas. Notes From Earth: Echoes From The Distant Past. Discover Magazine – November 2012 http://discovermagazine.com/2012/nov/03-echoes-from-the-distant-past#.UsCjmvRDsid

[3] American Institute of Physics. "Music Went With Cave Art In Prehistoric Caves." ScienceDaily, 5 Jul. 2008. Web. 29 Dec. 2013. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080704130439.htm

[4] Paul Devereux, Jon Wozencroft. Stone Age Eyes and Ears: A Visual and Acoustic Pilot Study of Carn Menyn, Environs, Preseli, Wales. Time & Mind  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1751696X.2013.860278#.UsCuvfRDsie

[5] Sarah Griffiths, Amanda Williams. Stonehenge ‘was a prehistoric center for rock music’: Stones sound like bells, drums and gongs when played. DailyMailUK December2013 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2515159/Why-Stonehenge-prehistoric-centre-rock-music-Stones-sound-like-bells-drums-gongs-played.html

 

New Discovery Shows that the Ancient Babylonians Tracked the Planets Using Advanced Maths

Babylonian tablet

From the 'it turns out they were much smarter than we thought' department: new research, based on a newly discovered ancient clay tablet, has found that the ancient Babylonians tracked the planet Jupiter using maths that was previously thought to have been invented 1400 years later:

Newly translated ancient tablets show that ancient Babylonian astronomers used unexpectedly advanced geometry to understand the planets.

The find, described on Thursday in the journal Science, reveals that Babylonians tracked Jupiter by calculating the areas of trapezoids they used to symbolize the planet’s motion across the sky. This geometrical trick rewrites the history books: The technique was thought to have originated in England more than a millennium later.

The study also fills in crucial gaps, says Niek Veldhuis of the University of California, Berkeley, who wasn’t involved with the study, since it “finally connects Babylonian mathematical astronomy with geometrical mathematics”—a missing link that has eluded scholars for more than a century.

Science has the full-text of the paper for those interested, and have also posted the following short video for the tl;dr crowd:

Link: Babylonians Tracked Jupiter With Advanced Tools: Trapezoids

Paper: Ancient Babylonian astronomers calculated Jupiter’s position from the area under a time-velocity graph

Egyptologists Say They Have Likely Discovered a Secret Chamber Behind the Wall's of King Tut's Tomb

Death Mask of Tutankhuman  (Creative Commons, author Carsten Frenzl)

Fresh off announcing that they may have discovered secret chambers in the Great Pyramid, Egyptian officials are now saying that they are 90% sure that they have identified a hidden chamber behind the walls of the tomb of King Tutankhamun.

Tut's tomb itself lay hidden for millennia, before Howard Carter famously opened the chamber in 1922, revealing a cache of treasures. Now, 93 years later, it seems that Tut's burial chamber was just one part of a larger complex.

Egyptologist Nicolas Reeves suggested in August that the famous Queen Nefertiti may actually be buried in a secret chamber beside Tut's tomb, after noticing a number of strange fissures and cracks in the walls of the room.

In a press conference, Egyptian officials announced that scans carried out recently are highly suggestive that a secret chamber does indeed lie behind the walls of Tut's tomb:

The primary results of the scan give us very positive results, very good results. We have here something behind the west and the north walls. It could be a burial chamber, especially behind the north wall. But this result...it is [a] primary result. We need more more time to solve the data and work to give us accurate results from the data, and [this will take] more than one month.

...But we can say now that we have defined behind the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun another chamber, another tomb, something behind - approximately 90% positive.

For more on about the discovery, see this National Geographic story which gives a nice insider perspective of the process of examining the tomb:

The room hushed, and Watanabe began to push the [radar scan] cart along the wall once more. After moving a little more than half of the distance, he broke the silence: “They changed the material here.”

This was exactly the point at which there seemed to be a doorway on the Factum Arte scans. Watanabe is not an Egyptologist, and he had not studied Reeves’s ideas closely, but what he observed on the radar matched up. He did one more scan of the west wall, and then he proceeded to the north. “It’s just a solid wall,” he called out, at the beginning. He reached the section of the wall that Reeves had proposed was a blocked-over partition. “There is a change from here,” Watanabe announced.

After he was finished, he studied the multicolored bars that ran across the computer screen. “Obviously it’s an entrance to something,” he said through a translator. “It’s very obvious that this is something. It’s very deep.”

We look forward to hearing more about this discovery - imagine the excitement if this does indeed turn out to be a previously unopened tomb, and of one of Egypt's most celebrated rulers!

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