Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Archive for the ‘Rarities’ Category

The earliest known temple to be decorated with pilasters and recesses

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on December 22, 2013

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Tepe Gawra,  ancient Mesopotamian settlement east of the Tigris River near Nineveh and the modern city of Mosul, northwestern Iraq. It was excavated from 1931 to 1938 by archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania.

Excavations at Tepe Gawri revealed 16 levels showing that the Tepe Gawra site was occupied from approximately 5000 BC to 1500 BC. They include the earliest known temple to be decorated with pilasters and recesses. The Gawra Period (3500–2900 BC) is named for the site.

The site, which apparently was continuously occupied from the Halaf Period (c. 5050–c. 4300 bc) to about the middle of the 2nd millennium bc, gave its name to the Gawra Period (c. 3500–c. 2900) of northern Mesopotamia. Prior to the Gawra Period, however, the site seems to have been influenced by the Ubaid culture (c. 5200–c. 3500) of southern Mesopotamia.

The pilaster is an architectural element in classical architecture used to give the appearance of a supporting column and to articulate an extent of wall, with only an ornamental function. In contrast, an engaged column or buttress can support the structure of a wall and roof above.

In discussing Leon Battista Alberti’s use of pilasters, which Alberti reintroduced into wall-architecture, Rudolf Wittkower wrote, “The pilaster is the logical transformation of the column for the decoration of a wall. It may be defined as a flattened column which has lost its three-dimensional and tactile value.”

A pilaster appears with a capital and entablature, also in “low-relief” or flattened against the wall.

Pilasters often appear on the sides of a door frame or window opening on the facade of a building, and are sometimes paired with columns or pillars set directly in front of them at some distance away from the wall, which support a roof structure above, such as a portico. These vertical elements can also be used to support a recessed archivolt around a doorway. The pilaster can be replaced by ornamental brackets supporting the entablature or a balcony over a doorway.

When a pilaster appears at the corner intersection of two walls it is known as a canton.

As with a column, a pilaster can have a plain or fluted surface to its profile and can be represented in the mode of any architectural style. During the Renaissance and Baroque architects used a range of pilaster forms. In the giant order pilasters appear as two-storeys tall, linking floors in a single unit.

The fashion of using this element from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture was adopted in the Italian Renaissance, gained wide popularity with Greek Revival architecture, and continues to be seen in some modern architecture.

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The rosette symbol

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on December 21, 2013


Scorpions and Rosette

Steatite, Stamp seal, North Mesopotamia, Gawra period, c.3300 BC

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Cult scene: the worship of the sun-god, Shamash. Limestone cylinder-seal, Mesopotamia

Ram in a Thicket, Ur, Southern Iraq, 2600-2400 BC

Puabi (Akkadian: “Word of my father”), Ur, during the First Dynasty of Ur (ca. 2600 BCE)

Queen Pu-abi’s attendants, who were sacrificed to serve her in the afterlife

A shell plaque found in Queen Pu-abi’s tomb

– It shows ibexes rearing up on their hind legs to feed on the leaves of a high branch.

Note the eight-pointed rosette in the cente


Scorpion macehead

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Narmer Palette

Rosette designs from Meyer’s Handbook of Ornament

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Mohenjo-daro Priest

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Sitting bull

– Black marble (formerly inlaid), found in Warka (ancient city of Uruk), Djemdet-Nasr period (ca. 3000 BC)

Mycenaean Jug

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Phaistos Disc, Phaistos, Minoan Crete, ca. 1700 BC

Assyrian Tree of Life


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The Ishtar Gate, Babylon, 575 BC

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Rosette design at the bottom of a statue of the Buddha, Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, circa 1st century CE

A rosette is a round, stylized flower design, used extensively in sculptural objects from antiquity. Appearing in Mesopotamia and used to decorate the funeral stele in Ancient Greece. Adopted later in Romaneseque and Renaissance, and also common in the art of Central Asia, spreading as far as India where it is used as a decorative motif in Greco-Buddhist art.

The rosette derives from the natural shape of a rosette in botany, formed by leaves radiating out from the stem of a plant and visible even after the flowers have withered. The formalised flower motif is often in carved in stone or wood to create decorative ornaments for architecture and furniture. It was a common motif in metalworking, jewelry design and the applied arts at the intersection of two materials, or to form a decorative border.

This motif was widespread throughout Europe and the Near East. Rosette decorations have been used for formal military awards. They are also used to decorate musical instruments, such as around the perimeter of sound holes of guitars.

One of the earliest appearances of the rosette in ancient art is in early fourth millennium BC Mesopotamia. It’s not know for certain what particular symbolism the Sumerians attached to the eight-pointed rosette, but it occurs throughout their cultural history. It can be seen on shell plaques, on the headdresses, and on many other artifacts.

Inanna’s symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette. She was associated with lions – even then a symbol of power – and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses. Her cuneiform ideogram was a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds, representing the doorpost of the storehouse (and thus fertility and plenty).

Inanna was associated with the celestial planet Venus. There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation. It also is believed that in many myths about Inanna, including Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld and Inanna and Shukaletuda, her movements correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky.

Also, because of its positioning so close to Earth, Venus moves rather irregularly across the sky, and never travels all the way across the dome of the sky as most celestial bodies do, instead, Venus rises in the East and the West in both the morning and evening.

Because of Venus’ erratic movements (it disappears behind the sun from 90–3 days at a time and then reappears on the other horizon), some cultures did not recognize Venus as single entity, but rather two separate stars on each horizon as the morning and evening star.

The Mesopotamians, however, most likely understood that the planet was one entity. A cylinder seal from the Jemdet Nasr period expresses the knowledge that both morning and evening stars were the same celestial entity.

The erratic movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s erratic nature. Like Venus, Inanna seems unpredictable in her actions, being both the goddess of love and war, having both masculine and feminine qualities, and occasionally having temper tantrums. However, Mesopotamian literature takes this comparison one step further, explaining Inanna’s physical movements in mythology as similar to the movements of Venus in the sky.

Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld explains how Inanna is able to, unlike any other deity, descend into the netherworld and return to the heavens. The planet Venus appears to make a similar descent, setting in the West and then rising again in the East.

In Inanna and Shukaletuda, in search of her attacker, Inanna makes several movements throughout the myth that correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. An introductory hymn explains Inanna leaving the heavens and heading for Kur, what could be presumed to be, the mountains, replicating the rising and setting of Inanna to the West. Shukaletuda also is described as scanning the heavens in search of Inanna, possibly to the eastern and western horizons.

Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

Seal impressions from the Jemdet Nasr period (ca. 3100–2900 BC) show a fixed sequence of city symbols including those of Ur, Larsa, Zabalam, Urum, Arina, and probably Kesh. It is likely that this list reflects the report of contributions to Inanna at Uruk from cities supporting her cult.

A large number of similar sealings were found from the slightly later Early Dynastic I phase at Ur, in a slightly different order, combined with the rosette symbol of Inanna, that were definitely used for this purpose. They had been used to lock storerooms to preserve materials set aside for her cult. Inanna’s primary temple of worship was the Eanna, located in Uruk (c.f. Worship).

In Egypt the Scorpion macehead (also known as the Major Scorpion macehead) is a decorated ancient Egyptian macehead found by British archeologists James E. Quibell and Frederick W. Green in what they called the main deposit in the temple of Horus at Hierakonpolis during the dig season of 1897/1898.

It is made of limestone, is pear-shaped, and is attributed to the Scorpion II (Ancient Egyptian: possibly Selk or Weha), also known as King Scorpion, referring to the second of two kings or chieftains of that name during the Protodynastic Period of Upper Egypt, due to the glyph of a scorpion engraved close to the image of a king wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt.

Little is left of this macehead and its imagery: A king wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, sitting on a throne below a canopy, holding a flail. Beside his head, in the upper right corner, there is a image of a scorpion and a rosette. Facing him is a falcon who may be holding an end of a rope in one of its claws – a motif also present on the Narmer Palette.

On the macehead the king sporting a bull’s tail is standing by a body of water, probably a canal, holding a hoe. He is wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt and is followed by two fan bearers. A scorpion and a rosette are depicted close to his head. He is facing a man holding a basket and men holding standards. A number of men are busy along the banks of the canal. In the rear of the king’s retinue are some plants, a group of women clapping their hands and a small group of people, all of them facing away from the king. In the top register there is a row of nome standards. A bird is dangling from each of them, strung up by its neck.

A second, smaller macehead fragment showing Scorpion wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt is referred to as the Minor Scorpion macehead. Little is left of this macehead and its imagery: A king wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, sitting on a throne below a canopy, holding a flail. Beside his head images of a scorpion and a rosette. Facing him is a falcon who may be holding an end of a rope in one of its claws – a motif also present on the Narmer Palette.

It is believed the rosette was a symbol for kingly authority. The origin of this symbolism is unknown. Other of many examples are the famous Narmer palette, also known as the Great Hierakonpolis Palette or the Palette of Narmer, created as a memorial to a victorious campaign by that early king, also carries the rosette motif.

The Narmer Palette is a significant Egyptian archeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC, containing some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found. It is thought by some to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the king Narmer.

On one side, the king is depicted with the bulbed White Crown of Upper (southern) Egypt, and the other side depicts the king wearing the level Red Crown of Lower (northern) Egypt.

A large picture in the center of the Palette depicts Narmer wielding a mace wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt (whose symbol was the flowering lotus). To his left is a man bearing the king’s sandals, once again flanked by a rosette symbol.

Along with the Scorpion Macehead and the Narmer Maceheads, also found together in the Main Deposit at Nekhen, the Narmer Palette provides one of the earliest known depictions of an Egyptian king.

The Palette shows many of the classic conventions of Ancient Egyptian art, which must already have been formalized by the time of the Palette’s creation. The Egyptologist Bob Brier has referred to the Narmer Palette as “the first historical document in the world”.

The Palette, which has survived five millennia in almost perfect condition, was discovered by British archeologists James E. Quibell and Frederick W. Green, in what they called the Main Deposit in the Temple of Horus at Nekhen, during the dig season of 1897–1898. Also found at this dig were the Narmer Macehead and the Scorpion Macehead.

The exact place and circumstances of these finds were not recorded very clearly by Quibell and Green. In fact, Green’s report placed the Palette in a different layer one or two yards away from the deposit, which is considered to be more accurate on the basis of the original excavation notes.

It has been suggested that these objects were royal donations made to the temple. Nekhen, or Hierakonpolis, was the ancient capital of Upper Egypt during the pre-dynastic Naqada III phase of Egyptian history.

Palettes were typically used for grinding cosmetics, but this palette is too large and heavy (and elaborate) to have been created for personal use and was probably a ritual or votive object, specifically made for donation to, or use in, a temple. One theory is that it was used to grind cosmetics to adorn the statues of the gods.

The rosette continued to have a royal symbolism of dignity and authority down into later times. A Hittite tomb stela from the 8th century BC portrays a wonderful example of this symbol hovering over a princess and her attendant. What appears to be a sun-disk contains an eight-pointed rosette with two highly detailed and very bird-like wings stretching out on either side. A light gray steatite Hittite spool seal dating from 1500 BC has a stag on one side and a rosette on the other. The seal is drilled in the center of each.

Another early Mediterranean occurrence of the rosette design derives from Minoan Crete; for example, the rosette design has been found on the famed Phaistos Disc, recovered from the Phaistos archaeological site in southern Crete.

Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology. It is made of clay and now is on display at the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion. The exact date of manufacture is uncertain; some archaeologists ascribe it to the 17th century BC.

The Phaistos Disc captured the imagination of amateur and professional archeologists, and many attempts have been made to decipher the code behind the disc’s signs. While it is not clear that it is a script, most attempted decipherments assume that it is; most additionally assume a syllabary, others an alphabet or logography.

Attempts at decipherment are generally thought to be unlikely to succeed unless more examples of the signs are found, as it is generally agreed that there is not enough context available for a meaningful analysis.

The Phaistos disk was found in 1908 in a building at the Minoan palace site of Phaistos, near Hagia Triada, on the south coast of Crete. The disk is 16 centimeters in diameter (or 6 inches, approximately the size of the palm of your hand). It is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols.

Many, including Benjamin Schwartz, who in his work on decipherment refers to the Phaistos Disc as “the first movable type”, regard it as the first example of printing, since the embedded impressions (figures) were placed there by some form of prepared punch. How such symbolic tools were used otherwise is unknown, since similar examples have never been discovered.

In his popular science book Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond describes the disc as an example of a technological advancement that did not become widespread because it was made at the wrong time in history, and contrasts this with Gutenberg’s printing press.

The inscription was apparently made by pressing pre-formed hieroglyphic “seals” into the soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling towards the disc’s center. It was then fired at high temperature. The unique character of the Phaistos Disc stems from the fact that the entire text was inscribed in this way, reproducing a body of text with reusable characters.

The German typesetter and linguist Herbert Brekle, in his article “The typographic principle” in the Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, argues that the Phaistos Disc is an early document of movable type printing, since it meets the essential criteria of typographic printing, that of type identity:

An early clear incidence for the realization of the typographic principle is the notorious Phaistos Disc (ca. 1800–1600 BC). If the disc is, as assumed, a textual representation, we are really dealing with a “printed” text, which fulfills all definitional criteria of the typographic principle.

The spiral sequencing of the graphematical units, the fact that they are impressed in a clay disc (blind printing!) and not imprinted are merely possible technological variants of textual representation. The decisive factor is that the material “types” are proven to be repeatedly instantiated on the clay disc.

Eight-petaled rosettes similar to those on the Disk and on the various ancient gameboards appeared also on many other objects. They were generally a symbol for the sun, or more precisely its cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and so indicated the passages from one state of existence into another.

We might question the origin of the rosette images. Consider an eight-leaf rosette carved through an ivory disk from a child’s burial at the European Gravettian burial site in Sungir, situated about 200 km east of Moscow, on the outskirts of Vladimir, near the Klyazma River in Russia, dated to about 28,000 years ago, the earliest example found up to now, and one of the most beautiful. Clearly the rosette has a very old history, dating back to the times of the Cave Paintings of Europe, and the Great Flood, or earlier.

It was found in a child’s burial at the site, and its funerary context suggests that it may have been associated with the rebirth- and- renewal cluster of ideas already back then.

Whatever this rosette may have meant to its maker, its pierced design evokes to modern eyes the concept of “passage” or “transition” through its central opening even more powerfully than any flat shape could.

Closer to us in time, and less open to doubt about its meaning, are the many ancient Egyptian pictures that show the young sun god being born in a lotus blossom with eight leaves. This image reflects a sunrise over the flooded lands of the Delta where lotus, which grows as the Nile rises, covered the waters to the horizon. It was therefore a fitting sign for that daily rebirth and new beginning.

On the other hand, the association of that flower with birth was not unique to Egypt because in India, various gods, and particularly the Buddha, also emerged into the world from that same eight-petaled lotus.

The Egyptian “Book of the Dead” calls the king of the gods Re in Chapter 15 “the golden youth who came forth from the lotus”, and in Chapter 81 the deceased utters the desire to be transformed into a sacred lotus2.

The typical copy of that book also included a vignette of the cow-headed sky-goddess Hathor, the “mother of light”, emerging from the burial mound with an eight-leaved rosette on her neck.  Right next to her, the tomb owner rises from his coffin and clutches two “Life” signs in his hands, leaving no doubt about the meaning of the scene.

Similarly, a painted portrait from Tutankhamun’s tomb shows him rising out of a lotus blossom with eight petals that grows from his coffin and so illustrates his resurrection.

Such images led the symbolist Manfred Lurker to propose in his illustrated Dictionary “The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Egypt” that the rosette represented the sun breaking forth after the night and the defeat of the abysmal darkness.

The Bronze Age Cretans, too, decorated many objects with eight-leaved rosettes, including the ceiling of the “Throne Room” in the palace at Knossos. Like the later Philistines and Canaanites, they used that rosette as one of their favorite pottery ornaments.

The presence of golden eight-leaf rosettes in tombs at Mochlos, Crete, from around 2,000 BCE, and in Mycenaean graves from more than half a millennium later, attests that in these cultures, too, this sign was associated with a symbolism of death to be followed by rebirth.

Some of the wigs on the human-shaped clay coffins from Philistine-occupied Beth-Shean bear lotus flowers, and the sarcophagus of king Ahiram from the Phoenician city of Byblos, dated to about the time of Solomon, displays a ceremonial scene common in Phoenician art which shows him holding a lotus flower as a sign of his rebirth and apotheosis.

The Classical Greeks were equally fond of the eight-leaved rosette motif. One particularly revealing stone sculpture at the former site of the Eleusinian mystery cult shows an initiate emerging from the center of a giant eight-petaled flower bud that is marked all over with eight-leaf rosettes. The context leaves here no doubt that this sculpture illustrated the spiritual rebirth which the initiate to those mysteries was said to achieve7.

In the sun cults of ancient Northern Europe, a wheel with eight spokes represented the sun and its regenerative powers but appeared also as a symbol of death and destruction.

Similarly, the symbolic meaning of the Near Eastern rosette included death, as on a fragment from the throne of pharaoh Thutmosis IV where that sign marks an enemy crushed by the king’s foot.

On Greek vase paintings of battles, or of Theseus killing the Minotaur, an eight-leaf rosette often conveyed that the combat ended in death. For instance, a vase painting from about 660 BCE shows a clash between the warriors on two ships. Where their spears meet over the opposing bows, the ancient painter placed the eight-leaf rosette the way a modern comic book artist would put there a graphically enhanced “Zap” or “Pow”.

In Minotaur-slaying scenes, the rosette marks sometimes that monster to announce its upcoming death. At other times, it decorates Theseus and can be seen as a sign that he will return from his excursion into the labyrinth, a symbol of the underworld, and will thereby be regenerated.

In India, and in a few cases also in ancient Mesopotamia, an eight- leaf rosette adorned the memorial stelae of widow- burning victims who had been killed in their husbands’ funeral pyres.

In general, the contexts in which we find the eight-leaf rosette suggest that it represented the birth, death, and rebirth of the sun (and/or of the planet Venus), in many of the ancient Near Eastern religions which could have influenced the maker of the Disk.

This direction-reversing track on each side of the Disk resembles the paths on a group of gameboards for race games from India. These also begin with a counterclockwise tour around the border of their board and then make a U-turn to spiral clockwise to the center.

A geographical distance like that between India and Crete does not rule out the possibility of faraway connections through which people far from each other often shared common symbols or their expressions such as, for instance, this unique and characteristic game path of a counterclockwise outer turn followed by a clockwise spiral inward.

India was an active part of the same cultural complex that produced the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and their many common basic beliefs. The people of the Indus Valley, or Harappan, civilization shared a common cultural matrix with the Cretans and many other peoples of their time. That matrix included, for instance, bull cults and snake worship which are both attested in both India and Crete and in some of the areas between them.

In addition, both emphasized maritime trade since Crete is an island, and practically all the Harappan cities were built on the seashore or on navigable rivers. The ruins of Harappa and of Knossos also happened to reveal some of the most advanced sanitary plumbing systems of their time.

There can be no doubt about the existence of ancient trading contacts between Bronze Age Crete and Harappan India, however indirect these may have been through middlemen from Mari or elsewhere. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who excavated many of the principal Indus Valley sites, points out that two segmented faience beads, one from Knossos and the other from Harappa, did not only have the same shape but were also identical in composition, as shown by spectrographic analysis25.

Despite the miles and mountains that separated those civilizations, many of their beliefs spread also among them. For instance, Indian Vedic gods such as Mitra, Varuna, and Indra witnessed the oaths of kings in Hurrian Mitanni which is now in Syria. Also, most of the Hurrian words for horse craft were derived from Sanskrit, a major language of ancient India.

Moreover, in Ugarit on the Syrian coast, one of the words for “fire” was the name of Agni, the Indian Vedic god of fire who led to Latin “ignis” and so provided English speakers with “ignition” as well as the cozy “inglenook” by the fireplace.

As another example of such wide diffusion for certain ideas, the Classical Labyrinth design with seven circuits is first attested in the above doodle on the back of a book-keeping tablet from Pylos in Greece, dated to about 1200 BCE.

This labyrinth was also strongly associated with nearby Crete where it appeared in both round and square forms on coins from about the sixth century BCE on. However, that same intricate and unmistakable design is also reported from early southern India, among many other times and places.

Similarly, board games travel easily and spread widely, like most other number-related traditions, and they are often found distributed in almost identical form over large regions or in widely separated areas.

An excellent example is the ancient game of “Five Lines” which is still played in Crete and, of all other places, also in Northern India. A board for this game, shaped like a five-pointed star, was also found chiseled into the roofing slabs of a temple at Kurna in Egypt, completed during the 14th century BCE.

It takes therefore no stretch of the imagination to suspect  possible relationships between board games played in distant areas of the same cultural complex, particularly if these share an otherwise unusual trait such as that U-turn after the first counterclockwise go-around.

Graves 1 and 2 at Sunghir are described as “the most spectacular” among burials. The adult male was buried in what is called Grave 1 and the two adolescent children in Grave 2, placed head to head, together with an adult femur filled with red ochre.

The settlement area was found to have four burials: the remains of an older man and two adolescent children are particularly well-preserved, and the nature of the rich and extensive burial goods suggests they belonged to the same class. In addition, a skull and two fragments of human femur were also found at the settlement area, and two human skeletons outside the settlement area without cultural remains.

The three individuals buried at Sungir were all adorned with elaborate grave goods that included ivory-beaded jewelry, clothing, and spears. More than 13,000 beads were found (which would have taken 10,000 hours to produce). Red ochre, an important ritual material associated with burials at this time, covered the burials.

The children are considered a twin burial, thought to have ritual purpose, likely sacrifice. The findings of such complete skeletons are rare in late Stone Age, and indicate the high status of the male adult and related children. The children had the same MtDNA, which may indicate the same maternal lineage, but more would need to be known about other individuals in the settlement.

The site is one of the earliest examples of ritual burials and constitutes important evidence of the antiquity of human religious practices. The extraordinary collection of grave goods, the position of the bodies, and other factors all indicate it was a burial of high importance. Two other remains at the site are partial skeletons.

The remains are held by the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of RAS, Moscow. In 2004, the International Seminar, “Upper Paleolithic People from Sunghir, Russia,” was hosted by the Department of Archaeology, University of Durham, UK. It is the second of two major conferences about this site.

Two books have been published in Moscow about the findings. Upper Palaeolithic Site Sungir (graves and environment) (1998) was the first complete publication about the site, including an inventory of artifacts, reconstruction of the Paleolithic man’s clothes, archaic counting and calendar. The second part of the book displays the reconstruction of the environment by geological, palinological, zoological data.

The second book, Homo Sungirensis (2000) edited by T.I. Aexeeva et al., includes articles published since the first book, and new anthropological data derived from morphology, palaeopathology, X-ray study, histology, trace elements and molecular genetic analyses. It has an illustrated catalogue of all the skeletal materials.

Sungir – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Phaistos Disk Story

Rosettes of the Tree of Life around the Second Garden

Tree of Life in Crete and Cyprus

Rosettes of the Tree of Life in Crete and Cyprus

Tree of Life around the Second Garden

Rosettes of the Tree of Life around the Second Garden

Tree of Life around Lake Van and Mount Ararat

Rosettes of the Tree of Life around Lake Van and Mount Ararat

Tree of Life in Persia

Rosettes of the Tree of Life in Persia

Posted in Rarities, The Fertile Crescent | Leave a Comment »

300 Million Year Old Aluminum Gear Evidence of Ancient Alien Civilization?

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 11, 2013

A man in Russia has discovered a piece of coal in the Chernogorodskiy mines that contains what appears to be the remains of a machine that is 300 million years old. Could it be an ancient space ship or evidence of an intelligent species that once shared the planet with Dimetrodon? According to The Voice of Russia, the coal was formed 300 million years ago, which is why scientists believe the item inside dates back to that era too.

The Voice of Russia reported a man from the Russian city of Vladivostok found a metal detail stuck to a piece of coal. The object comes in a “distinctive shape which was reminiscent of a modern tooth-wheel.” The man was lighting fire to heat his home when he spotted the odd object. Without naming the man, the ‘Voice’ reported he sought the help of “scientists of Primorye region” to study his find. The scientists reportedly said the object was man-made and it was supposedly 300 million years old.

Igor Okunev, a senior fellow at the St. Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics, is the scientist who reportedly confirmed the age of the metal detail. Findings prompted speculations that the relic could have been left behind by a UFO or some aliens who visited the Earth those many years ago. The technology to craft the metal detail found by the man did not exist on Earth at the time of its supposed manufacture.

In another report from, the object has been subjected to X-ray diffraction analysis to study its components. Results showed the object is made of “very pure aluminum with microimpurities of magnesium of only 2 – 4 percent”, something that prompted speculations that the object could not have been of Earthly origin.

“No more than seven centimeters long, the object was found to be composed of 98 percent aluminum and 2 per cent magnesium. On the one hand, such an alloy stalled the scientists because nearly pure aluminum is very rarely found in nature,” reads The Voice of Russia report. “After the discovery came public, conspirators were quick to dub it ‘a UFO tooth-wheel.’ Russian scientists, however, do not jump to conclusions and will run further tests to learn more about the strange artifact,” the ‘Voice’ report says.

300-million-year-old UFO tooth-wheel found in Russian city of Vladivostok

300 Million Year Old Machinery Found In Russia

300 Million Year Old Aluminum Gear Evidence of Ancient Alien Civilization?

Was This 300-Million-Year-Old Machine Part Left Behind By Ancient ETs?

300-Million-Year-Old Tooth Wheel Found In Russian Coal: Scientists

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Deliberate deformity of the skull

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 9, 2013

File:Elongated skull IMG 6686-6689.jpg

Elongated skull of a young woman, probably an Alan.

File:0511 Turmschädel Württembergisches Landesmuseum Stuttgart anagoria.JPG

Landesmuseum Württemberg deformed skull,

early 6th century, alamannic culture.

File:Kane Caw Wacham.jpg

Painting by Paul Kane, showing a Chinookan child in the process of having its head flattened,

and an adult after the process.

File:« déformation toulousaine » MHNT.jpg

Deliberate deformity of the skull, “Toulouse deformity”.

Band visible in photo is used to induce shape change.

Artificial cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding is a form of body alteration in which the skull of a human being is intentionally deformed. It is done by distorting the normal growth of a child’s skull by applying force.

Flat shapes, elongated ones (produced by binding between two pieces of wood), rounded ones (binding in cloth) and conical ones are among those chosen. It is typically carried out on an infant, as the skull is most pliable at this time. In a typical case, headbinding begins approximately a month after birth and continues for about six months.

Intentional head moulding producing extreme cranial deformations was once commonly practised in a number of cultures widely separated geographically and chronologically, and so was probably independently invented more than once. It still occurs today in a few places, like Vanuatu.

Early examples of intentional human cranial deformation predate written history and date back to 45,000 BC in Neanderthal skulls, and to the Proto-Neolithic Homo sapiens component (12th millennium BC) from Shanidar Cave in Iraq. It occurred among Neolithic peoples in Southwest Asia.

The Catacomb culture, ca. 2800–2200 BC, refers to a group of related cultures in the early Bronze Age occupying essentially what is present-day Ukraine. The origin of the culture is disputed. Jan Lichardus enumerates three possibilities: a local development departing from the previous Yamna Culture only, a migration from Central Europe, or an oriental origin.

The linguistic composition of the Catacomb culture is unclear, but an Indo-European component is hard to deny, particularly in the later stages. Placing the ancestors of the Greek, Armenian and Paleo-Balkan dialects here is tempting, as it would neatly explain certain shared features.

The culture is first to introduce corded pottery decorations into the steppes and shows a profuse use of the polished battle axe, providing a link to the West. Parallels with the Afanasevo culture, including provoked cranial deformations, provide a link to the East.

The Afanasievo culture is the earliest Eneolithic archaeological culture found until now in south Siberia, occupying the Minusinsk Basin, Altay and Eastern Kazakhstan. It is mainly known from its inhumations, with the deceased buried in conic or rectangular enclosures, often in a supine position, reminiscent of burials of the Yamna culture, believed to be Indo-European.

Settlements have also been discovered. The Afanasevo people became the first food-producers in the area by breeding cattle, horses, and sheep. Metal objects and the presence of wheeled vehicles are documented. These resemblances to the Yamna culture make the Afanasevo culture is a strong candidate to represent the earliest cultural form of a people later called the Tocharians.

The Afanasevo culture was succeeded by the Andronovo culture as it spread eastwards, and later the Karasuk culture.

The earliest written record of cranial deformation dates to 400 BC in Hippocrates’ description of the Macrocephali or Long-heads, who were named for their practice of cranial modification.

In the Old World, Huns and Alans are also known to have practised similar cranial deformation. In Late Antiquity (AD 300-600), the East Germanic tribes who were ruled by the Huns, adopted this custom (Gepids, Ostrogoths, Heruli, Rugii and Burgundians). In western Germanic tribes, artificial skull deformations have rarely been found.

In the Americas the Maya, Inca, and certain tribes of North American natives performed the custom. In North America the practice was especially known among the Chinookan tribes of the Northwest and the Choctaw of the Southeast.

The Native American group known as the Flathead did not in fact practise head flattening, but were named as such in contrast to other Salishan people who used skull modification to make the head appear rounder.

However, other tribes, including the Choctaw, Chehalis, and Nooksack Indians, did practise head flattening by strapping the infant’s head to a cradleboard. The Lucayan people of the Bahamas practiced it. The practice was also known among the Australian Aborigines.

The nobility of the Paracas culture practiced skull binding, resulting in cranial deformation. The Paracas situation is somewhat unique in that researchers have found the presence of at least 5 distinct shapes of elongated skulls, each being predominant in specific cemeteries.

The largest and most striking are from a site called Chongos, near the town of Pisco, north of Paracas. These skulls are called “cone heads” by many who see them, because of their literal conical appearance.

Friedrich Ratzel in The History of Mankind reported in 1896 that deformation of the skull, both by flattening it behind and elongating it towards the vertex, was found in isolated instances in Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii, and the Paumotu group and occurring most frequently on Mallicollo in the New Hebrides (today Malakula, Vanuatu), where the skull was squeezed extraordinarily flat.

Deliberate deformity of the skull, “Toulouse deformity”. Band visible in photo is used to induce shape change.

In the region of Toulouse (France) these voluntary deformations were performed until the early twentieth century.

Deformation usually begins just after birth for the next couple of years until the desired shape has been reached or the child rejects the apparatus (Dingwall, 1931; Trinkaus, 1982; Anton and Weinstein, 1999).

There is no established classification system of cranial deformations. Many scientists have developed their own classification systems, but none have agreed on a single classification for all forms that are seen (Hoshower et al., 1995).

In Europe and Asia, three main types of artificial cranial deformation have been defined by E.V. Zhirov (1941, p. 82): Round, fronto-occipital and Sagittal.

Cranial deformation was probably performed to signify group affiliation, or to demonstrate social status. This may have played a key role in Maya society. It could be aimed at creating a skull shape which is aesthetically more pleasing or associated with desirable attributes.

For example, in the Nahai-speaking area of Tomman Island and the south south-western Malakulan (Australasia), a person with an elongated head is thought to be more intelligent, of higher status, and closer to the world of the spirits Some ancient astronaut theorists believe cranial deformation was a way for ancient peoples to imitate extra terrestrials who visited them.

Cranial deformation and torticollis of an early feudal burial from Byurakn, Armenia

Elongated Human Skulls Of Peru: Possible Evidence Of A Lost Human Species?

A Look at Mayan Artificial Cranial Deformation Practices

Artificial cranial deformation in the Proto-neolithic and Neolithic

Archaeologists Discover Mysterious Elongated Skulls in France

Disclosure: Archaeologists Discover Mysterious Elongated Skulls in France

Artificial cranial deformation

Cranial Deformation

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Handy Dandy Geographer Reference Sheet

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 9, 2013


Handy Dandy Geographer Reference Sheet

When reviewing the influences of the following notable geographers, focus on the patterns and connections of the evolution of the key geographic concepts, models, and innovations.

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Peace and love to the hearts of people

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 8, 2013


Obama’s and John McCain’s friends in Syria – the so-called “Syrian rebels” continue to bring death and destruction upon Christians and Christian churches in Syria. They’re little else than bloodthirsty killers seeking to impose Islamic law on the Syrian people. Other religious groups, like Kurds and Shia Muslims, have also been targeted.

Now, a colossal 40-foot bronze statue of Jesus Christ cast in Armenia rises on mountain top of a Syrian mountain, apparently under cover of a truce among three factions in the country’s civil war, and has appeared between front lines in the war-ravaged Syria “to save the world.”

Jesus stands, arms outstretched, on the Cherubim mountain, overlooking a route pilgrims took from Constantinople to Jerusalem in ancient times. The statue is 12.3 meters (40 feet) tall and stands on a base that brings its height to 32 meters (105 feet), organizers of the project estimate.

Soaring higher than Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer, the statue stands 39 meters tall, one meter shorter than its Brazilian counterpart, in the mountaintop, Byzantine-era Cherubim Monastery, lording it over the city of Saidnaya, 27 kilometers north of Damascus.

From its vantage point above the sea, the statue overlooks an historic pilgrimage route from Istanbul to Jerusalem. The statue, created by Armenian sculptor Artush Papoian, made it to Syria and was installed without incident on October 14, when Orthodox Christians celebrate a commemoration of the Virgin Mary, whose icon is a chief draw for the monastery.

Al-Ghadban said that the main armed groups in the area – Syrian government forces, rebels and the local militias of Sednaya, the Christian town near the statue site – halted fire while organizers set up the statue, without providing further details.

Rebels and government forces occasionally agree to cease-fires to allow the movement of goods. They typically do not admit to having truces because that would tacitly acknowledge their enemies.

The backers’ success in overcoming the obstacles shows the complexity of civil war, where sometimes despite the atrocities the warring parties can reach short-term truces.

It took three days to raise the statue. Photos provided by organizers show it being hauled in two pieces by farm tractors, then lifted into place by a crane. Smaller statues of Adam and Eve stand nearby.

But the statue was not born of recent events in Syria. The project took 8 years and was set back by the civil war that followed the March 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad.

While Syria’s ethnic Armenian population has been fleeing the country in droves – including to Armenia itself, which has built a “New Aleppo” to accommodate the arrivals – the project has been in the works since 2005, Russia’s Komsomol’skaya Pravda reports.

Backed by the Russian government, along with the Russian Orthodox Church, the project, billed “I have come to save the world,” was supposedly the brainchild of one Yuri Gavrilov, a 49-year-old Moscow native who runs an organization in London called the St. Paul and St. George Foundation.

Russians have been a driving force behind the project — not surprising given that the Kremlin is embattled Assad’s chief ally, and the Orthodox churches in Russia and Syria have close ties. Al-Ghadban, who spoke to The Associated Press from Moscow, is Syrian-Russian and lives in both countries.

Al-Ghadban said he began the project in 2005, hoping the statue would be an inspiration for Syria’s Christians. He said he was inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s towering Christ the Redeemer statue.

“We hope that this sculptural composition brings peace and love to the hearts of people, and that our work will help restore peace and calm in this long-suffering region,” the Foundation’s director, Samir el-Gadban, told Komsomol’skaya Pravda.

Christians and other minorities are all targets in the conflict, and the statue’s safety is by no means guaranteed. It stands among villages where some fighters, linked to al-Qaida, have little sympathy for Christians.

So why put up a giant statue of Christ in the midst of such setbacks and so much danger? Because “Jesus would have done it,” organizer Samir al-Ghadban quoted a Christian church leader as telling him.

In midst of Syrian war, giant Jesus statue arises

Amid Syria’s civil war, a 40-foot statue of Jesus rises on mountain top between front lines

Posted in Rarities, Syria, War | Leave a Comment »

A Brief History of Money

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 7, 2013

Posted in Rarities | Leave a Comment »

7 Most Mysterious Places In The World

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on October 21, 2013

Gobekli Tepe

gobekli tepe

This religious site in Urfa, Turkey was built in 10.000 BC, predating the Great Pyramids by 7,000 years. Excavations only recently started in 1995, but many questions have already come up. In an age when only hunter-gatherers roamed, how were they able to build such complex structures?

7 Most Mysterious Places In The World

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George Carlin – Arrogance of Mankind

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on October 10, 2013

Posted in Rarities, War | Leave a Comment »

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