The Legendary Tales of Atlantis

 More than 2,500 years ago, a legend first began to spread about a society of the past that enjoyed an abundance of natural resources, great military power, splendid building and engineering feats, and intellectual achievements far advanced over those of other lands. Called Atlantis, it was described as a continent-sized area with rich soil, plentiful pure water, abundant vegetation and animals, natural hot springs for health and vigor, and such mineral wealth that gold was inlaid in buildings and was among the precious metals and stones worn as jewelry. Slaves performed manual labor, allowing a large elite to pursue knowledge, enjoy sporting events, and continually improve upon an already thriving society.

In the ensuing centuries, no conclusive evidence of Atlantis has been found, but its attributes have expanded to include additional engineering and technological feats that enhance its legendary status in the popular imagination. In 1882, Ignatius Donnelly published Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, arguing that all civilization is an inheritance from Atlantis. Listing numerous parallels between ancient cultures spaced far away from each other, Donnelly argued that their commonness resulted from contact with Atlanteans.

Similarities do indeed exist among various ancient cultures, as do significant differences. Flood myths and sun worship, for example, might be based on a shared teaching, or they might be separate reactions to beneficent and destructive elements of nature. Pyramids were built in Egypt and the Americas, but they are also significantly different in their structures. The walls of pyramids in the Americas did not converge to form a true point, as they did in Egypt; rather, the walls reached a certain level upon which a platform was built and often a temple erected. If Atlantis did indeed fall somewhere between 8500 and 9500 B.C.E., what accounts for the long time lag until the pyramids were erected in Egypt (generally dated around 2500 B.C.E.) and North America (generally dated after 200 C.E.)?

Since the 1800s, Atlanteans have been credited for having had the technology to generate electricity, build flying machines, and harness nuclear power for energy and war-fare—all developed more than 9,000 years before such things came into being in modern society. Other claims have Atlanteans knowledgeable about a formidable death ray, secrets for levitation, and pure forms of energy through crystals. Many Atlantis enthusiasts firmly believe that the inhabitants of the lost continent had cosmic connections with extraterrestrials and may actually have been a colony established on Earth by alien explorers.

Since Atlantis was first described, claims have been made that certain members of the civilization escaped destruction during its catastrophic final days and managed to impart their knowledge to other peoples of the world, helping civilize primitive societies, passing on the secret of written language, and supervising construction of some of the world’s most mysterious structures of the ancient world. The pyramids of Egypt and the Americas, the Sphinx in Egypt, and the megaliths of western Europe are among the structures attributed to the genius of Atlanteans.

According to most accounts, Atlantis was suddenly destroyed by a cataclysm of earthquakes and floods and swallowed up by the sea. No definitive remnants have ever been found, and the exact location of the “lost continent” remains debatable. The idea of Atlantis was first expressed in the works of Plato (c. 428–348 or 347 B.C.E.), the Greek philosopher, who stressed that a perfect world exists in ideas. For example, a shoe, according to Plato, exists as an idea before a craftsperson makes the material object identified as a shoe. The material world, then, is a reflection of ideas, never quite reaching the perfection of ideas, but which serve as models for which the adepts might strive.

While Plato used the model of Atlantis to represent a world of perfect order in contrast to all that was imperfect in the world around him, he labeled the story of Atlantis “literally true”—a significant declaration. For Plato was suspicious of fiction and art. If ideas are the primary reality, and the material world is a reflection of ideas, then art, as a reflection of the material world, is twice removed from reality, according to Plato. His claim that the Atlantis story is literally true helps sustain the continuing legend of Atlantis. It remains a legend, or an Idea, however, until some material proof shows that Atlantis existed in the material world. Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.), another of the great Greek philosophers, viewed the Atlantis legend as fiction.

 Plato’s writings comprise several letters and 25 dialogues. His views and those of his mentor, Socrates (c. 470–399 B.C.E.), were presented as dramatic conversations exploring such topics as truth, the origin of the world and its composition, the purpose of humankind, and what an individual should choose as an aim of life. Atlantis is discussed in two of Plato’s dialogues, Timaeus and Critias. Timaeus provides a description of the island continent and how Atlanteans conquered all the known world except for the Athenians (Plato was an Athenian). Critias, named after the primary speaker in the dialogue, Plato’s great-grandfather, presents a history of Atlantean civilization and describes the ideal society that flourished there. Critias notes that the stories were originally passed on by an ancestor, Solon (638–558 B.C.E.), a politician and poet who traveled widely. Critias and Solon were both ancestors of Plato.

Solon, as the story goes, was informed by Egyptian priests in the city of Sais, located in the Nile delta, that there was once a land even older in history than Egypt, which the Greeks acknowledged as being centuries older than their own society. The priests described a large island continent called Atlantis that prospered some 8,000 years earlier, which dates Atlantis before 8500 B.C.E. The continent was located beyond “the Pillars of Hercules,” the Greek term for the rocks that form the Straits of Gibraltar, the westernmost point of the Mediterranean Ocean. Beyond the straits is the Atlantic Ocean.

 There were several cities on the continent. The primary city, also called Atlantis, was located in the center of a series of concentric rings that alternated between rings of water and land. The water rings served as canals for trade and helped form a series of natural defenses that made an invasion of Atlantis extremely difficult.

The city of Atlantis, in the innermost circle, had palaces and temples where wise and powerful rulers lived. The ruling coalition descended from Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Poseidon and Clieto had five sets of twin sons, according to Greek mythology, each of which was given a region of Atlantis.

Atlas, the firstborn son, was given the largest province, which became the city of Atlantis, a name that derives from Atlas. The finest structure on the island, the Temple of Poseidon, honored the god and served as the home of the primary ruler.

Atlantis had a powerful army of professional soldiers, as did each of the other nine regions of the continent. The culture of Atlantis promoted learning, through which advances in engineering and science made the land bountiful, beautiful, and powerful. In addition to magnificent architectural structures, a network of bridges and tunnels linked the rings of land, and clever uses of natural resources provided security and abundance. Many groves provided solitude and beauty, racetracks were used for athletic competitions, and irrigation systems ensured great harvests.

 In Plato’s account, the people of Atlantis eventually became corrupt and greedy, putting selfish pursuits above the greater good. They began invading other lands with the idea of world domination. Angered by these developments, Poseidon set about destroying the civilization, battering the continent with earthquakes and floods until Atlantis was swallowed up by the ocean.

 That description of the destruction of Atlantis has been linked by some to other cataclysmic events—stories of a great deluge in the Bible, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and flood myths in other societies. Some contend that the end of the Ice Age between 12,000 and 10,000 B.C.E. likely resulted in rises of water levels in various parts of the world and that earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and climate changes, either incidental or associated with the Ice Age, occurred during the time identified with the destruction of Atlantis.

The location of Atlantis has been claimed on each of the seven continents, and in several spots in the world’s oceans and seas. Additionally, many of the ancient world’s wonders have been attributed to Atlanteans who, presumably, escaped the destruction of their homeland and spread their advanced engineering skills elsewhere.

The text of Plato’s dialogue suggests the Atlantic Ocean “beyond the pillars of Hercules” as the location of Atlantis. As late as the twentieth century, a belief persisted that a landbridge once existed in the ocean and ran between Europe and Africa and North and South America. Such a land-link concept helps explain similarities in flora and fauna existing on continents spread thousands of miles apart. The mid-Atlantic ridge, a series of undersea mountains, has been presented as a remnant of the land bridge, or as the remains of Atlantis.

Jacques Collina-Girard of the University of the Mediterranean in Aix-en-Provence had been studying patterns of human migration from Europe into North Africa at the height of the last Ice Age, 19,000 years ago, when his reconstruction of the area revealed an ancient archipelago with an island at the spot where Plato wrote Atlantis existed. The island was named Spartel, and it lay in front of the Pillars of Hercules to the west of the Strait of Gibraltar at a time when the sea level was 130 meters lower than it is today. According to Collina-Girard, the slow rise of post-glacial sea levels would gradually have engulfed the island and the archipelago 9,000 years before Plato.

 While the concept of an island being swallowed by the sea in the area before the Pillars of Hercules seems a viable theory, there is as yet no evidence discovered to prove that a continent existed in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. The shallow waters around the northwest coast of Africa and extending to the Canary Islands is an area that may have been above the ocean at one time and has been suggested as a location for Atlantis, but no physical remains of human habitation have been located there.

Alan F. Alford, a leading authority on ancient mythology, spent five years investigating Plato’s account of Atlantis, In December 2001, announced his conclusion that the myth of the lost continent took place only in Plato’s mind. In Alford’s theory, the Greek philosopher invented Atlantis as a metaphor for the ancient version of the contemporary “Big Bang Theory.” Atlantis, as a symbol for a lost paradise, represented a kind of cataclysm of all cataclysms that brought about the beginning of all time.

The discouraging theories of the skeptical do little to diminish the enthusiasm of those who earnestly believe in the physical reality of Atlantis. The Atlantic Ocean location for the lost continent received renewed attention in the late 1960s, specifically the region near Bimini Island in the Bahamas, an island chain off the coast of the United States. Fueling the excitement over what appeared to be discoveries of actual roadways, walls, and buildings under the water was the fact that they were found in the exact location and at the same point in time as prophesied by Edgar Cayce (1877–1945), a psychic, whose “life readings” for clients revealed that many of their present-life psychological traumas were being caused by a terrible incident that the sufferer had experienced in a past life. Many of the presentlife traumas of his clients, according to Cayce, were due to the sufferings they had experienced as people who lived in Atlantis in a previous life.

 Cayce helped popularize a modernized view of Atlantis as a superior civilization that had developed planes, submarines, x-ray, anti-gravity devices, crystals that harness energy from the sun, and powerful explosives. He theorized that an explosion in 50,000 B.C.E. blew Atlantis up into five islands; another occurred in 28,000 B.C.E.; and the third, the one described by Plato, occurred around 10,000 B.C.E. Cayce claimed that he had been an Atlantean priest from around 10,500 B.C.E. who had foreseen the coming destruction and sent some of his followers to Egypt. Those followers directed the building of the Sphinx and the pyramids.

 In 1940, Cayce predicted that remnants of Atlantis would rise again near the Bahamas in the late 1960s. In 1967, two pilots photographed a rectangular structure in the ocean off the coast of Andros, the largest island of the Bahamas. Another configuration of stone, in the shape of a “J,” was found by divers off the island of Bimini. The J-shaped formation was believed to be a road of stone. Extensive diving expeditions became common in the area, and some divers claimed to have seen remnants of temples, pillars, and pyramids. However, none were documented by extensive excavations.

 The J-shaped structure became popularly known as the Bimini Road and was a cause of celebration among enthusiasts of Atlantis and Cayce. Geological tests, however, show that the J shape is actually a limestone beachrock. Fractures in the formation give it the appearance of a construction of blocks, but the entire formation shows the same grains and microstructure—a quality difficult to replicate in a series of blocks. Radiocarbon testing of shells in the stone show that the formation is relatively young—about two or three thousand years old, some 9,000 years younger than the alleged final destruction of Atlantis. Finally, the curve of the J parallels the beachline of the nearby island, showing it has been shaped by the same currents affecting the island.

The rectangular structure off the coast of Andros, on the other hand, was indeed manmade—it was a storage facility built in the 1930s where sponges could be deposited after they were collected in the surrounding ocean. Despite these explanations, enthusiasm over the Bahama site continues among believers.

Another theory suggests that Antarctica was once located in the mid-Atlantic and had a more temperate climate where a civilization once thrived. Antarctica, thus, has been claimed as the site of Atlantis and of a similar type of advanced civilization.

The question of where Atlantis was located still persists. Among the many possible sites for Atlantis on the seven continents or under the seas, two popular locations are based on areas that, like Atlantic Ocean regions “beyond the pillars of Hercules,” can be related to Plato’s time. One site is the island of Crete, where the thriving Minoan civilization fell into disarray around 1400 B.C.E. The other site is in present-day Turkey, known in ancient times as Anatolia, where associations with Atlas and his descendants were strong.

Little was known about Minoan culture before the discovery in 1900 of a great palace at Knossos on the island of Crete by the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans (1851–1941). He named the culture that created Knossos and thrived on Crete “Minoan civilization” after Minos, the legendary king of Crete. The palace at Knossos was probably damaged by an earthquake about 1700 B.C.E., a date that marked the end of one phase of the early history of Crete. Minoan civilization had regular contact and trade with ancient Egypt, which lies southeast, across the Mediterranean, from Crete. Crete, then, qualifies as a land far to the west (in those days) of Egypt where Atlantis was said to be by the Egyptian priests who spoke of the continent to Solon.

Archaeological excavations early in the twentieth century unearthed remarkable artifacts of Minoan civilization. Then, in 1939, Greek archaeologist Sypridon Marinatos (1901–1974) discovered pumice, volcanic ash, on Crete. Marinatos connected the ash to the tremendous eruption of a volcano on Thera, a nearby island. The eruption was reported in ancient histories. The explosion would have created havoc on Crete and perhaps a tidal wave that swept over the island. To illustrate that possibility, Marinatos likened the Thera explosion to the 1886 eruption of Mt. Krakatoa that could be heard a thousand miles away and created tidal waves that killed 36,000 people. The volcanic ash on Crete helped preserve excellent artifacts of Minoan civilization, including whole streets and houses as well as frescoes and pottery.

However, while Plato’s text cites earth-quakes and floods as having destroyed Atlantis, there is no mention of a volcano. The date of the Thera volcano, around 1500 B.C.E., does not match the period of the downfall of Atlantis, which Egyptian priests told Solon had occurred 8,000 to 9,000 years earlier. The 1500 B.C.E. date does coincide if the claim of 8,000 years is reduced to 800 years. That tactic was suggested by Greek geologist Angelo Gelanpoulous in 1969: he theorized that all dates and measurements related by Solon were exaggerated and were actually one-tenth as large as claimed. Gelanpoulous’ theory provided some neat correlations, but they work only in a few circumstances.

Another problem with identifying the fall of Atlantis with the destruction of Minoan civilization is an inexact correlation between the eruption of Thera and the demise of ancient Crete, where Minoan civilization continued on for another century after the volcanic eruption. In fact, during twentieth-century excavations, some volcanic ash was found beneath an elaborate palace, showing that construction soon continued after the eruption. Furthermore, there was no apparent disruption in trade between the Minoans and Egyptians. The volcanic eruption caused havoc on Crete, but it did not destroy Minoan civilization.

The kings of Knossos attained their greatest power about 1600 B.C.E., when they controlled the entire Agean area and traded extensively with Egypt. The subsequent destruction of Knossos and the collapse of Minoan culture coincided with the beginning of the most flourishing period of Mycenae civilization in Greece; this coincidence suggests that it may have been the warlike Mycenae who attacked and destroyed Minoan civilization.

Lydia, an ancient country of Asia Minor (now Turkey), was located in the valleys of the Hermus and Cayster rivers (now the Gediz and Büyükmenderes rivers). Known earlier by the name Maeonia, it had fertile soil, rich deposits of gold and silver, and a magnificent capital, Sardis. Lydia prospered as a powerful dynasty beginning about 685 B.C.E. During the sixth century B.C.E., Lydia attained its greatest splendor under the rule of King Croessus. The empire ended when the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great (c. 585–c. 529 B.C.E.) captured Sardis about 546 B.C.E. After the defeat of Persia by Alexander III (c. 356–323 B.C.E.), king of Macedonia, Lydia was brought under Greco-Macedonian control, and then in 133 B.C.E. it became part of the Roman province of Asia.

 Lydia was across the Agean Sea from Greece. A legendary king of Lydia was named Tantalis: his name sounds similar to Atlantis, and he shared many mythic attributes among Lydians that the god Atlas had among Greeks. Like Atlas, Tantalis was a leader of the Titans, the group of gods who were overthrown by Zeus. In Greek mythology, Zeus punished Atlas by banishing him to the west and made to hold up the sky. A similar fate was shared by Tantalis in myths of Anatolia (an old name for the region in Asia Minor that includes Turkey).

According to that myth, Tantalis ruled over a fabulously wealthy city he founded on Mt. Sipylus in Lydia. His city was shattered by earthquake and flood and was reputed to have sunk when he lost the favor of the Olympian gods.

During the 1990s ruins were found on the northern slope of Mt. Sipylus. The area had undergone several phases of change through the centuries. Among the ruins was a statue of the goddess Cybele that was dated around 1400 B.C.E., a time when the Hittite rule over the area was overthrown by locals affiliated with the Mycenae civilization of Greece. The area of Tantalis had been conquered, and perhaps razed. Or, it subsequently was buried during an earthquake, and eventually submerged by a lake. The area is in a major fault zone, and heavy earthquake damage to the cities of Lydia was documented in 17 C.E. Among the hardest hit of twelve ancient Lydian cities was Magnesia at Sipylus, in the region where Tantalis was located.

Lake Saloe in Turkey has long been identified with the lost city of Tantalis. The lake was pumped out in modern times to provide more land for farming. It is now a fertile plain with nearby rivers. An old caravan route was found, certainly not a remnant of a mighty empire, but the tantalizing prospect that Tantalis was Atlantis remains.

Via: UnexplainedStuff

The Phaistos Disc

In Greek tradition, they were a “sea people” who entered the Peloponnesus and the islands of the Eastern Mediterranean about four thousand years ago. They were the forefathers of the Achaean or Bronze Age inhabitants of Greece, named after their leader, Pelasgus, remembered as the First Man.

Notable mariners, the Pelasgians came from the Far West, where they conquered Western and Northern Europe, just as Plato’s Atlanteans were said to have done, previous to their arrival in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The pre-Greek Linear A written language of ancient Crete and the enigmatic Phaistos Disk are both attributed to the Pelasgians. According to the first-century B.C. Greek geographer Diodorus Siculus, writing was introduced by the Pelasgians, and the mathematical genius Pythagoras was supposed to have been directly descended from them.

The Phaistos Disc is made of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the Greek island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC). It is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology. This unique object is now on display at the archaeological museum of Heraklion.

The disc was discovered in 1908, by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier, and features 241 tokens, comprising 45 unique signs, which were apparently made by pressing pre-formed hieroglyphic “seals” into a disc of soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling towards the disc’s center.

The Phaistos Disc captured the imagination of amateur and professional archeologists, many attempts have been made to decipher the code behind the disc’s signs. While it is not clear if it is a script, most attempted decipherments assume that it is; most also assume it’s a syllabary, while still others believe it could be an alphabet or logography. Attempts at decipherment are generally thought to be unlikely to succeed unless more examples of the signs are found, and more context becomes available for further meaningful analysis.

Although the Phaistos Disc is generally accepted as authentic by archaeologists, a few scholars have forwarded the opinion that the disc is a forgery or a hoax. The assumption of authenticity is based on the excavation records of Luigi Pernier and is supported by a later discovery of the Arkalochori Axe with similar but not identical glyphs.

Via in part: OldMapsExpeditionsAndExplorations

The Timeless Mystery of Stonehenge

The more we dig, the more the mystery seems to deepen,” said William Hawley (1851–1941), the official archaeologist of Stonehenge following World War I. He was reporting to the press about his underfunded historical project that seemed to be languishing. Hawley wasn’t able to make much progress in understanding Stonehenge by the time he wearily gave up the task around 1925. Since then, many others have tried, and much information has been gained. Still, old legends and theories about Stonehenge seem to carry as much validity as information based on careful tests performed with the best in modern equipment. As Hawley observed, each new discovery seems to broaden the sublime aura of Stonehenge.

Located on Salisbury Plain in England, Stonehenge is a site of concentric rings of stone, an avenue, and paths leading to nearby burial sites. The stone circles are situated on a henge, an area enclosed by a bank and ditch; the surrounding circular ditch is 340 feet in diameter and five feet deep. There are four stone alignments—two are circles and two others are horseshoe-shaped patterns. The outer circle is about 100 feet in diameter and originally consisted of 30 upright stones (17 still stand), weighing an average of 25 tons and linked on top by a ring of stones. The stones, composed of Sarsen, a kind of sandstone, average about 26 feet in height. Pairs of standing stones are topped by a series of lintels—a term that describes an object that rests across two pillars, similar to the top part of a doorway. Such pairs of standing stones with a third horizontal lintel joining them at the top are called trilithons. All the stones were smoothed and shaped. The lintels are locked in place by sculpted, dovetail joints, and the edges were smoothed to maintain a gentle curving appearance.

A second ring consists of bluestones, a smaller-sized stone. Within that circle are five linteled pairs of Sarsen stones in a horseshoe shape. Another horseshoe, consisting of blue-stones, is at the center. An avenue outlined with parallel banks and ditches 40 feet apart leads into the henge. A single standing stone, called the Heel Stone, is positioned in the center of the avenue just outside the outer circular ditch.

Several of the upright stones were toppled during the Roman occupation of Britain between 55 B.C.E. and 410 C.E. Two upright stones and a lintel fell in 1797, and two more in 1900. The five stones that fell since 1797 were put back in place in 1958 to restore the look Stonehenge had between 400 and 1797.

Several theories have emerged about when Stonehenge was erected and the purposes it served. Stonehenge begins being mentioned in recorded history during the twelfth century, most notably by Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100–1154) in his History of the Kings of Britain. Geoffrey’s history freely mixes documented events with folklore and contains many chronological inaccuracies. Still, his fanciful story of how Stonehenge was erected on Salisbury Plain remained popular for centuries. Geoffrey credited Stonehenge to Merlin, a wizard most often associated with the legendary King Arthur. In Geoffrey’s account, Merlin was asked by Ambrosius Aurelianus, brother of Uther Pendragon and uncle of King Arthur, to erect a monument to commemorate the site where several hundred British nobles were murdered by Saxons. Merlin used magic to transport the stones from Ireland, where they had been erected in the form of Stonehenge after having been brought from Africa by giants. The formation of stones was called the Giants Dance.

Later theories emerged to overshadow Geoffrey’s tale. Stonehenge was credited as the work of the Mycenae, a civilization that thrived in the Aegean Sea area of the eastern Mediterranean region before the rise of Greece in the first millennium B.C.E. The Mycenae connection fit together with a theory that prevailed into the twentieth century that ancient megaliths throughout western Europe were designed and erected by members of eastern Mediterranean cultures, from which modern languages, histories, and other forms of culture emerged. In the second half of the twentieth century, however, advanced techniques for dating ancient objects showed that Stonehenge actually preceded the rise of Mycenean cuture.

The most popular modern theory connects Stonehenge with Celtic culture that thrived in Britain before the Romans came. A priestly order among the Celts called the Druids were believed to have supervised construction of Stonehenge and other stone circles in the region. Druids were keepers of lore and leaders of ceremonial rites among Celts. They have been associated with magic powers, human sacrifice, and various mystical rites, but many of those attributes were bestowed on them by non-Celtic historians and are, therefore, suspect. As Christianity spread through Great Britain by the fourth century, Celtic culture and the Druids were eventually overwhelmed.

Under the supervision of Druids, the theory goes, Stonehenge was a sacred ceremonial site. The famous Slaughter Stone at Stonehenge, which shows traces of red after a rain, was believed to have been an altar where Druids performed human sacrifices. It was subsequently discovered that the redness derives from iron minerals in the Slaughter Stone.

William Stukeley (1687–1765) perpetuated the Druid link to Stonehenge in the 1740s with his book, Stonehenge: A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids (1740). Stukeley identified the avenue leading into Stonehenge as a procession route. Back during the 1720s, he had discovered parallel lines of banks and ditches near Stonehenge. He called the phenomenon a cursus, a Latin word for racetrack, since he thought the lines were joined at the ends to form an oval.

Stukeley contributed to a growing trend in Great Britain to recognize ancient Britons, especially Druids, as “bards” (poets) living in communion with nature. Stukeley himself “went Druid” and joined an order that practiced secret Druidic rites, and he assumed the name of Chyndonax after a fabled French Druid priest.

Sir J. Norman Lockyer
(1836–1920), who was once director of the Solar Physics Observatory in London and the founder of the journal Nature, published The Dawn of Astronomy in 1894. The book argued that ancient temples in Egypt were aligned for stellar observations and as calendars—to determine the summer solstice, for instance. His findings were controversial, but they helped spur further studies of the astronomical interests of ancient societies. Lockyer came to the same conclusion about ancient Britons as he had of Egyptians after studying Stonehenge and nearby pre-historic, megalithic structures. Lockyer believed that Stonehenge served as a calendar. It was known that Celts had divided their year into eight parts. According to Lockyer, Stonehenge and other megalithic sites were used to determine key points of the year, such as the coming of warm weather for planting. Lockyer viewed Druids, the keepers of Celtic lore and knowledge, as astronomer priests responsible for devising the megalithic calendars.

The astronomical orientation of Stonehenge, meanwhile, was largely ignored by archaeologists. However, it received a tremendous boost during the 1960s and 1970s when Boston University astronomer Gerald Hawkins studied the site and used a computer to compare historical solar and lunar alignments with vantage points in Stonehenge. He published his findings in 1963 in Nature, then in an expanded version in a book, Stonehenge Decoded (1965), which offered the most convincing scientific evidence yet that Stonehenge served as an astronomical observatory, specifically as a calendar.

When one stands in the middle of Stonehenge and looks through the entrance of the avenue on the morning of the summer solstice, for example, the Sun will rise above the Heel Stone, which is set on the avenue. If one stands in the entrance and looks into the circle at dusk of that day, the Sun will set between a trilithon. According to Hawkins, the use of Stonehenge as a calendar probably evolved from painstaking trial and error experiments with wooden poles to a permanent form with the standing stones. Hawkins’s work was greeted with great interest and much skepticism. Nevertheless, along with other studies around the same time, it helped spur a trend for greater scientific research into Stonehenge and confirmed a new discipline, archaeoastronomy, the study of the use of astronomy among ancient societies.

Credit for Stonehenge to the Celts continued until the 1950s, when radiocarbon testing determined that Stonehenge dated from about 3000 B.C.E. and that work was begun on the site even before the Celts migrated into Britain from the European continent. Subsequent studies have revealed that Stonehenge was built in waves of construction spanning several centuries. Smaller stones were brought to the site around 2600 B.C.E. and the largest stones arrived around 2100 B.C.E. The last work on the site dates from around 1800 B.C.E.

Though information has come forth about when Stonehenge was erected, the identity of its builders remains unknown—and where the stones came from and how they were moved into place, are yet other matters to be investigated. The Sarcens likely came from Marlborough Downs, a quarry site about 18 miles northeast of Stonehenge. How the stones could be moved from by a prehistoric people without the aid of the wheel or a pulley system is not known. The most common theory of how prehistoric people moved megaliths has them creating a track of logs on which the large stones were rolled along.

Another megalith transport theory involves the use of a type of sleigh running on a track greased with animal fat. Such an experiment with a sleigh carrying a 40-ton slab of stone was successful near Stonehenge in 1995. A dedicated team of more than 100 workers managed to push and pull the slab along the 18-mile journey from Marlborough Downs.

To erect the slab, the group dug a hole. The slab was pushed over the hole until it fell in. Then, a team pushed while another pulled by rope to make the slab stand upright. The hole was filled after the process was repeated with a second slab. The lintel stone that forms the top of the trilithon was pushed up a ramp and then maneuvered into place on top of the two pillars. Engineers at the test site believed that levers may have been used to raise the lintel stone, and timber put underneath; the process was repeated until the lintel stone rested on timber at the necessary height to push it in place to complete the trilithon.

Whether such methods were actually used during the construction is not known. Still, human sweat and ingenuity were shown as a legitimate alternative to Merlin’s magic and other theories about how Stonehenge was erected.

Via: UnexplainedStuff

The Dry Tortugas

Juan Ponce de Leon
first stumbled upon this stretch of islands in 1513, back when they were nothing more than clusters of coral inhabited by sea turtles. Upon his discovery, de Leon named the islands “Las Tortugas” (meaning “the turtles”), and is said to have subsisted off 160 of these very animals while on his journey through the high seas. The word Dry was later added to the islands’ name as an attempt to warn mariners of the lack of freshwater in the area.

After de Leon’s discovery, the Dry Tortugas became a fixture on Spanish ship maps for merchants and explorers going to and from the Gulf Coast. Seventy miles west of the Florida Keys, and in a prime location between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the Dry Tortugas soon became a popular shipping corridor.

Despite the passageway’s popularity, the Dry Tortugas also became the site of hundreds of shipwrecks. The seasonal shallow waters and hazardous weather conditions lent to the corridor’s infamous title as the “ship trap.” To this day, a large collection of sunken treasures still lies beneath the surface waters. Seventeenth-century vessel remains, cannons, and glassware are among some of the maritime relics.

Of all the Dry Tortugas treasures, though, Fort Jefferson perhaps remains the crown jewel. Once Florida was acquisitioned from Spain in 1822, the United States began plans to erect a naval station that would help combat piracy in the Caribbean. Eventually, the U.S. Navy agreed on the Dry Tortugas as the site for their fortress, arguing that U.S. shipping in the Gulf Coast would be in jeopardy if a hostile power were to take over the islands.

In 1847, after seventeen years of extensive planning, Fort Jefferson began construction on the Garden Key Island. The design plans called for a practically indestructible hexagonal fortress, complete with a massive 420 heavy-gun platform. Two sides of the fort measured 325 feet and four sides measured 477 feet. The structure stood 45-feet above sea level, surrounded entirely by a wall and a 70-foot wide moat. Though construction lasted for roughly thirty years, Fort Jefferson was never fully completed. Despite this, 16 million bricks were laid, making it one of the largest coastal forts ever built and the largest brick structure in the Western Hemisphere.

During the Civil War the fort was also used as a prison, mainly for Union deserters. The most famous inmate, however, was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. After shooting President Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth jumped from the theater box, broke one of his legs, and immediately fled to Dr. Mudd’s farm where he received medical assistance.

In 1865, Dr. Mudd was sentenced to life in prison and sent to the remote fortress. Two years later, a yellow fever outbreak occurred at Fort Jefferson. The outbreak took a number of lives, including the lone doctor who had been stationed at the fort. Dr. Mudd agreed to step in as a replacement and, as a result, many lives were saved. Consequently, the soldiers started a petition demanding Dr. Mudd’s release; a petition which President Andrew Johnson granted only four years into Dr. Mudd’s life sentence.

The fort was abandoned by the Army in 1874. In later years it served as a coaling station, quarantine hospital and, in 1935, it was registered by President Roosevelt as a National Monument. Today it operates as part of the Dry Tortugas National Park. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the Dry Tortugas are considered to be one of America’s most remote and least visited national parks.

Via: AtlasObscura

The Orion Alignments of the Giza Pyramids

Scott Creighton may have discovered a new dimension to the alignment between the pyramids at Giza and the constellation Orion.

According to Creighton the so-called queens’ pyramids, two sets of three small pyramids each, next to the largest and smallest of the main Giza pyramids, are aligned with the three belt stars of Orion at two precise points in time exactly 12,960 years apart. The group to the south of Menkaure’s pyramid were aligned, he says, with the belt stars in 10,948 B.C. and the other queens’ pyramids to the east of the Great pyramid will be aligned with those same stars in 2012 A.D. Interestingly enough the alignment of the two sets of small pyramids, in relation to each other, is exactly perpendicular.

Researchers Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert caused quite a stir in the mid-nineties with their book, The Orion Mystery, which argued that Giza was an attempt to reflect on earth the image of the constellation Orion. If Creighton is right, the arrangement would also seem to point to times important to the builders of the Giza complex. By suggesting that the pyramids of Giza also act as a kind of clock, tracking the progress of Orion through the heavens toward the 2012 date, a year to which the Mayan calendar and other ancient indicators also point, Creighton is calling attention to another indication of the astonishing ancient advancement on display at Giza.

To see an animation of Creighton’s Greater Orion Correlation Theory go to:

Via: Old Maps, Expeditions and Explorations

The Axum Obelisk, Ethiopia

There are seven intricately carved obelisks at Axum Ethiopia, bizarrely, the carvings seen to represent modern high rise buildings, with a door at the base and a series of windows above, thought to have been carved over 2,000 years ago, each one from a solid piece of rock, four are standing and three have fallen over time. The largest – “The Great Obelisk” has fallen – but when intact would have weighed approximately 500 tonnes.

Via: Socyberty

Downtown Dayton’s Renovated Space Odyssey

Below is an excerpt from Dayton Creative Syndicate’s Creative Crux article “Downtown Dayton’s Renovated Space Odyssey” by Marisa Becker.

This article features a look at the creative workplaces of four local creative companies; Visual Marketing Associates, Real Art Design Group, Forge Design and Hafenbrack Marketing Company and takes a look at how these companies have re-purposed existing structures to create new and exciting offices in Downtown Dayton.

Forge's wonderful stained glass window

It’s a cycle that has repeated itself in many urban areas across the country: the downtown core starts suffering, real estate prices go down, creative professionals take advantage of deals on great old spaces and fix them up, and the newly vibrant neighborhoods and valuable properties in turn attract businesses and residents back to downtown.

Four creative businesses in Dayton have taken the first steps to start revitalizing Dayton, beginning from the ground up by adapting existing downtown spaces to fit their needs. And while they’ve all taken different approaches, they seem to agree on one thing: in this market, it’s foolish not to invest in downtown Dayton.

Please visit: to read the rest of this super article and see all of the wonderful pictures of these amazing creative spaces.

Sacsahuamar Stones, Peru

Sacsayhuamán (also known as Saksaq Waman, Sacsahuaman or Saxahuaman) is a walled complex near Cusco, the former capital of the Inca empire. The site, at an altitude of 3701 m, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983.

The Sacsahuamar Site consists of three zigzagging stone walls – as you can see from the photograph, the stones are odd shapes and sizes and fit together like a jig-saw puzzle. Many of the stones have been broken down and plundered over the years – only part of the original structure remains intact.

The largest of the stone blocks in this ancient fortress weighs between 150 tons and 360 tons. The stones were hewn from quarries several miles away from the site. The stones would have had to be lowered into a canyon, taken across a river and then up the side of cliff faces prior to being placed into their final position.

The stones fit together so exactly that not even a blade of grass could slide between them. The builders attributed with the construction were the Quechua in around 1508.

Via: Socyberty

The Giant Norias of Hama

In the 12th Century A.D., the rulers of the city of Hama, Syria, built enormous waterwheels called; norias, which translates to wheels with pots. These water wheels were built to carry water into the city and were expanded on and enhanced for several centuries along the Orontes River in the city of Hama, Syria. Only seventeen of the original norias remain. They are mostly unused now and serve an aesthetic purpose. They were called “the most splendid norias ever constructed.”

Each of the wheels can be up to 20 meters in diameter (close to 70 feet) and the river water is channelled in to a sluice on the wheel. This flow then forces the wheel to turn and wood boxes raise the water upwards. At the top of the wheel there is an artificial channel in to which the water is discharged.

Using gravity, the water then flows through aqueduct channels to either households or farms in the vicinity. Just as math was used in the construction of the waterwheels so it was in working out the times at which people had access to the water. As a precious commodity it was important that it was shared fairly.

Via: The Presurfer Photo by Flickr user Ai@ce Creative Commons license

The Mysterious Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

Spread all over Diquis Delta, and on the Isla de Cano, the mysterious stone spheres of Costa Rica have fascinated scientists ever since they were discovered, in 1930.

[Photo Credit]

Known as “Las Bolas”, by the locals, the spheres range from a few inches to meters, in diameter, and reach weights of up to 16 tons. Researchers believe they were sculpted before 200 BC and 1500 AD, but since the only way of establishing their age is stratigraphic, and most of the balls are no longer in their original locations, it’s difficult to say for sure.

[Photo Credit]

Uncovered by workers who clearing the jungle for a banana plantation, the stone spheres were brutally pushed out of the way, and damaged in the process. Fascinated by legends of treasures in the area, some of the workers drilled holes in the sculptures, or blew them to pieces, with dynamite.

There are many theories regarding the purpose of these seemingly perfect round spheres. Unfortunately, the pre-Columbian people who carved “Las Bolas” didn’t leave any any written records as to why they were made. Some people have said they form a map pointing to the location of Atlantis, while others claim they are the result of an ancient potion used to soften rock.

[Photo Credit]

The true purpose of the stone spheres of Costa Rica will probably never be uncovered, but that’s what makes them so damn fascinating.

[Photo Credit]

[Photo Credit]

Via: OddityCentral

The Chateau d’If

Via: The PreSurfer & Plume-noire

Until the 16th century, If was an uninhabited island and an occasional haven for local fishermen. The Chateau d’If was constructed on a tiny island in the Bay of Marseilles in France, and was erected as part of the island’s defenses. Finished in 1529, the fortress, whose first stone was laid down by King Francois I in 1516 consists of the chateau, church and a guardhouse.

Soon after, the fortress changed its purpose and became a prison. Rebels, ruffians and refractory galley slaves inhabited it off and on throughout the years. In 1634, the chateau was used as a detention center for political prisoners. From 1689 on, the Protestants were thrown en masse into the dungeons where many died horribly.

Its most famous and romantic prisoner is the fictional inmate Edmond Dantès, the hero of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Montecristo. Imaginary or not, you can visit his cell as well as the cell of the Man in the Iron Mask who, contrary to legend, is as likely to have stayed there as the marquis de Sade. Among the certifiable prisoners one finds Joseph Custoldi de Faria, hypnotizer and spiritualist as well as a sailor who seems to have inspired the writer with his character of Edmond Dantès. Throughout the centuries the island has received several guests, such as a rhinoceros in 1516, a gift from the king of Portugal in transit to the Vatican. During World War II the Germans used it for its strategic position.

The Time Wheel

Via: Oddity Central

Unveiled on May 1st 2004 to commemorate Hungary’s entrance in the European Union, The Time Wheel is made out of red granite, steel and bullet-proof glass and it combines one of humanity’s most primitive time measuring devices with a very precise computer. It lies in Budapest near the entrance to City Park. The sand in the hourglass flows from one side of the device to the other for an entire year and the last grains are programmed to flow exactly at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The flow is then turned manually so that it can start measuring time for another year. It takes 45 minutes for 4 people to turn it 180 degrees using metal cables.

The Time Wheel hourglass was designed by Istvan Janaki.