Mogao Grottoes

Northern end of the Mogao cliff face, pitted with caves for shelter

The Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang, popularly known as the Thousand Buddha Caves, were carved out of the rocks stretching for about 1,600 meters along the eastern side of the Mingsha Hill, 25 km southeast of Dunhuang.

A Tang Dynasty inscription records that the first cave in the Mogao Grottoes was made in 366 A.D. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed the Mogao Grottoes on the World Heritage List in 1987.

Despite erosion and man-made destruction, the 492 caves are well preserved, with frescoes covering an area of 45,000 square metres, more than 2,000 colored sculptured figures and five wooden eaves overhanging the caves.

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

According to archaeologists, it is the greatest and most consummate repository of Buddhist art in the world.

Heavenly Being

Many pavilions, towers, temples, pagodas, palaces, courtyards, towns and bridges in the murals provide valuable materials for the study of Chinese architecture. Other paintings depict Chinese and foreign musical performances, dancing and acrobatics.

The ‘Cave for Preserving Scriptures’, was discovered by a Taoist monk Wang Yuanlu in 1900. The cave contains more than 50,000 sutras, documents and paintings covering a period from the 4th to the 11th centuries. It was one of China’s most significant archaeological finds. These precious relics are of great historical and scientific value.

Detail from the Procession of Zhang Yichao

In 1961 the Grottoes were listed by the State Council as one of China’s key historical and cultural sites. Repairs were carried out from 1963 to 1965.

Between 1906 and 1919 the Dunhuang grottoes was looted. Much of the Hand-copied ancient books, manuscripts, literary works, Buddhist and secular decorative art works, and ancient manuscripts were removed by Aurel Stein, Paul Pelliot, Sergei Feodorovich Oldenburg and other archaeologists.

Chinese scholars such as Luo Zhenyu and Wang Guowei cultivated the study of Dunhuang culture by publishing a number of books in 1910. The Dunhuang Art Academy was established by Chang Shuhong later.

The site lay empty and ignored until a secret sealed-up cave was discovered at the end of the 19th century. It was crammed with ancient manuscripts and printed documents. Its discovery coincided with a period of great international archaeological research in the area and Sir Aurel Stein was the first to gain access in 1907. Thereafter archaeologists from France, Russia and China were drawn to Dunhuang and the great majority of manuscripts and documents from this one cave are now in Beijing, Paris, London and St. Petersburg. Documents and paintings from other Silk Road towns are to be found more widely in museums and libraries throughout Europe and Asia.

Apart from 14,000 paper scrolls and fragments from this cave at Dunhuang, the British Library Stein collection includes several thousand woodslips and woodslip fragments with Chinese writing, thousands of Tibetan and Tangut manuscripts, Prakrit wooden tablets in Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts, along with documents in Khotanese, Uighur, Sogdian and Eastern Turkic. All this material is included in The International Dunhuang Project and will be entered onto the Project database.


Heavenly wonder of ancient China goes on show

Ananova – May 2004

A Chinese star chart possibly dating from the 7th century AD mapped the heavens with an accuracy unsurpassed until the Renaissance, according to research.

The Dunhuang chart is the oldest manuscript star map in the world and one of the most valuable treasures in astronomy.

The fine paper scroll, measuring 210 by 25 centimetres, (82 by 10 inches) displays no less than 1,345 stars grouped in 257 non-constellation patterns.

Such detail was not matched until Galileo and other European astronomers began searching the skies hundreds of years later – and they had the advantage of telescopes.

The chart includes very faint stars that are extremely difficult to find with the naked eye. It also represents the sky as a sphere projected on a cylinder, a modern technique first adopted in Europe in the 15th century.

The first part of the document consists of a collection of predictions based on shapes of clouds – evidence of the important role divination played in ancient China.

Dr Francoise Praderie, from the Paris Observatory, who studied the map with fellow French astronomer Dr Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud, said: “The origin of the star chart’s manufacture and real use remains unknown. One can conjecture that it was used for military and travellers’ needs and probably also for uranomancy – divination by consulting the heavens – as suggested by the cloud divination texts preceding the charts.

“The long tradition in China of searching the sky for celestial omens has therefore led to an early and unsurpassed precision in star catalogues.”


Brief Look at the Code of Hammurabi


      In his position as King of Babylonia, Hammurabi managed to
organize the world's first code of laws and establish Babylon as the
dominant and successful Amorite city of its time. "Records written on
clay tablets show that Hammurabi was a very capable administrator and
a successful warrior. His rule spanned from 1792 B.C. to 1750 B.C.
When he became king in 1792, he was still young, but had already
become entrusted with many official duties in his administration"
(Grolier). In the early years of his reign, Hammurabi mostly
participated in  traditional activities, such as repairing buildings,
digging canals, and fighting wars. Yet later in his rule, Hammurabi
organized a unique code of laws, the first of its kind, therefore
making himself one of the world's most influential leaders.

      Hammurabi was primarily influential to the world because of his
code of laws. This code consisted of 282 provisions, systematically
arranged under a variety of subjects. He sorted his laws into groups
such as family, labor, personal property, real estate, trade, and
business. This was the first time in history that any laws had been
categorized into various sections. This format of organization was
emulated by civilizations of the future. For example, Semitic cultures
succeeding Hammurabi's rule used some of the same laws that were
included in Hammurabi's code. Hammurabi's method of thought is evident
in present day societies which are influenced by his code. Modern
governments currently create specific laws, which are placed into
their appropriate family of similar laws. Hammurabi had his laws
recorded upon an eight foot high black stone monument. Hammurabi based
his code on principles like, the strong should not injure the weak,
and that punishment should fit the crime. As for punishment, "legal
actions were initiated under the code by written pleadings; testimony
was taken under oath. The code was severe in it's penalties,
prescribing "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.""(Grolier). This
code of laws was able to be maintained by invoking the authority of
the gods and the state. Although the punishments were different than
those of today, the authority of the state (government) is similar.
Currently, punishments are issued through the state's law enforcement
system, comparable to the way punishment was determined and enforced
in ancient Babylon. In the code, crimes punishable by death required a
trial in front of a bench of judges. Included in these crimes were:
bigamy, incest, kidnapping, adultery and theft. There were also laws
similar to today. For example, a husband who wished to divorce his
wife, was required to pay alimony and child support. By creating the
world's first set of organized laws, Hammurabi constituted a model set
of moral codes for other civilizations to duplicate.

      "The code of Hammurabi is believed to have greatly influenced
the development of Near Eastern civilizations for centuries after it
was written"(Britannica). Although Hammurabi failed to establish an
effective bureaucratic system himself, his ideas were successful in
establishing laws in Babylonia. Since Babylon was the world's first
metropolis, the large population needed to be bound by a strict set of
organized civil laws. The way Hammurabi constructed his laws is
influential to the world today, because laws can be more easily
understood by the people.

---
Bibliography

"Code of Hammurabi." Encyclopedia Britannica (1989), X, 682.
"Hammurabi." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (1994).
"Hammurabi." Compton's Encyclopedia (1990), XI, 225.

Ancient Pyramids

pyramid2.jpg


As is well known there are literally hundreds of pyramids of various styles scattered over the Earth, in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Far East, Southeast Asia and South Pacific, and in North and South America. A few of these sites demonstrating the different styles are:

  • Iraq: The reconstructed ziggurat-pyramid at Ur, in ancient Sumer.
  • Egypt: The step pyramid at Saqqara.
  • Egypt: The smooth-walled pyramids at Giza. Hancock and Bauval (1996) suggest that the ‘ground plan’ of the three great pyramids was physically established in 10,500 bc, but that the pyramids were built around 2,500 bc. This supports the notion that the pyramid base rock with its underground chamber was an early AA terminal, and the Sphinx was the associated landmark easily identified from space.
  • Mexico: The highly decorated step pyramids at Chichen-Itza, Monte Alban, and elsewhere. In the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque, a shaft runs from the tomb up to the temple floor, similar to some of the Egyptian pyramids. There was initially a 40 ft “comb” on the top. Was this an additional identifying marker?
  • Mexico: The unusual elliptical pyramid at Uxmal.
  • Mexico: The huge, unexcavated pyramid at Cholula (Fig 4-1), in the shadow of the volcano, Popocatepetl (“El Popo”). Its ancient name, Tlachihualtepetl, means “man-made mountain”. On Quetzalcoatl’s pilgrimage his first stop was Cholula, which means ‘the place of flight’ in Nahuatl. The huge “Piramide Tepanapa”, 200 ft high and 1300 ft on a side, is the largest ancient pyramid in the Americas, and possibly the largest in the world. The earliest construction has been traced to 200 bc. It was covered with dirt to hide it from the invading Spaniards and a small shrine was placed at the top, which the Spanish replaced with a church (Fig 4-1). The small portion which has been excavated reveals remarkable masonry.

  • Mexico: Tres Zapotes, an Olmec site (1300 – 400 bc), was the first adobe-brick pyramid site in Mesoamerica. (Mystery buffs please note: Before the arrival of Cortez ALL of the Olmec sites were destroyed, except El Tijin, which had been abandoned!)

  • Mexico: The truncated cone pyramid of Cuicuilco. In 1917 Manuel Gamio, excavating off the road from Mexico City to Cuernavaca, found an overgrown hill called ‘Cuicuilco’ enveloped by pre-historic lava streams. It turned out to be an enormous ancient pyramid or truncated cone with four galleries and central staircase. It is one of the few remaining round stepped pyramids. The base is 370 ft and it is about 60 ft high now, although it was originally much higher. Archeologist Paul Heinrich reports the age to be 800 to 600 bc, not 6000 bc as reported by others. (Miller, 2000)
  • Mexico: The beautiful miniature pyramid at Cecilia, D.F.
  • Mexico: The platform-pyramids at Teotenango, Tenayaca, and Tula.
  • Mexico: The multi-platform style of the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan. In his discussion of Teotihuacan, John Michel (1995) quotes another researcher: “During the 1970s Hugh Harleston, Jr …established that ‘the basic unit of measurement at Teotihuacan was 1.0594 meters, the same unit which represents the ‘Jewish rod’ of 3.4757 ft., the same unit which represents the width of the Stonehenge lintels, a six-millionth part of the earth’s polar radius…’”
  • Guatemala: The huge pre-classic (150 bc-150 ad) Mayan site of El Mirador with its dozens of pyramids, including the Tigre Pyramid rising 18 stories high, probably the largest pyramid ever built by the Maya.
  • Peru: Moche Temple of the Sun. The earlier Moche built this temple-pyramid style pyramid from 140 million adobe bricks.
  • Peru: Sipan Pyramid. This Moche pyramid-tomb near the town of Sipan proves that some of the early SA pyramids were tombs, as in Egypt and Mesoamerica.
  • Peru: Pyramids of Cahuachi. A ceremonial site comprised of six pyramids, the highest being about 70 ft, overlooking a walled court of 4050 sq yards. (Morrison, 1988). Hadingham (1987) mentions that the “great temple” was a stepped pyramid. He quotes Helaine Silverman’s estimate that the period of most activity at Cahuachi was short lived, about 200 years, and the site was mysteriously abandoned around 200 ad, along with other several other important sites.
  • Peru: The pyramids of Tucume. “Covering over 540 acres and including 26 major pyramids as well as myriad smaller structures…first built around 1100 ad by people of the Lambayeque culture…” The largest of the adobe brick pyramids, Huaca Larga, is 2300 ft long, 910 ft wide and 65 ft high. (Heyerdahl, 1995). Robert Schoch (1999) writes, “The largest of the pyramids, called Tucume…was only a little over 200 feet high, but it contained one-third more volume that the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza.”
  • Peru: Huaca del Sol, Moche Valley. This is a 120 ft high pyramid on the Peruvian north coast. The 1.5 million mud brick pyramid is the largest man-made mound in SA. Facing Huaca del Sol across the main plaza was a smaller mound, Huaca del Luna. The site lies at the foot of Cerro Blanco, an obvious landmark from space for this ceremonial/feeding center (Hadingham, 1987)
  • Bolivia: The Akapana platform-pyramid at Tiahuanaco. The Bolivian archaeologists date the site to 1580 bc. The Akapana measures 688 ft on a side and is 49 ft high. “The earthen interior was shaped like a stepped pyramid and faced with fitted stones.” (Demetrio, 1983)
  • Java: Cani Sukuh pyramid, resembling the Mexico pyramid style (Childress, 1996). Who carried this style across the Pacific?
  • Ryukyu Islands: The Yonaguni underwater pyramid. This unique step-pyramid-platform, 240 ft long and 90 ft high, resting 75 ft underwater, has been dated to 8000 bc! (Dopatka, 2000)
  • China: The White Pyramid, near Xi’an. Hartwig Hausdorf (1998) says there are 90-100 pyramids in China, near Xi’an, the tallest being about 200 ft. Xi’an incidentally is the site of the amazing ‘Terracotta Army’ of Qin Shi Huang.
  • Polynesia: “modest pyramids” at Tongatabu; a temple-pyramid on Tahiti; the Langi stepped pyramid-platform at Tauhala (a large stone, 24 x 7 ft and weighing 30-40 tons, is in the wall).
  • Ancient pyramids are also found on Samoa and Java. (Childress, 1996)
  • Greece: Pyramid of Hellinikon, near Argos. The author writes, “…built in the style reminiscent of cyclopean walls…” Its base is 15 x 13 meters, and the tallest wall still standing it only 14 ft. From the photos it probably would have stood about 10 meters high when completed. Thermoluminescent analysis of the pyramid in 1997 yielded a construction date of 2720 bc, older than the archeologists state for the Cheops pyramid! (Tsoukalow, 2000)
  • Canary Islands: The pyramids of Guimar. Thor Heyerdahl writes, “…They were painstakingly built step-pyramids, constructed according to similar principles as those of Mexico, Peru, and ancient Mesopotamia.”
  • United States: Monk’s pyramid-mound at Cahokia, Illinois, a mud brick platform-pyramid. A large stone wall or room has recently been discovered inside the mound, but has not been excavated as of Oct 2000.
  • Yonaguni: Situated between the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea, about 300 miles from Okinawa, is the island of Yonaguni-Jima. Off it’s coast is a huge apparently manmade (god-made?) monument about 100 ft below the surface. Its a platform pyramid 600 ft wide, 90 ft high constructed of precisely hewn megalithic stones. The pyramid, apparently a part of a ceremonial center, has been dated to 8000 bc, 5000 years before the oldest pyramid in Egypt!

The best clue we have that the gods orchestrated the pyramid building is the tale of Gudea who built the temple-ziggurat at Lagash (apparently the god Kothar-Hasis was the only one authorized to design the temples. He was likely the same “Greek divine craftsman Hepahaestus” who built the temple-abode of Zeus, and the Egyptian god Thoth). For Ninurta’s temple at Lagash Gudea was given elaborate and continuous instructions by the gods. He built a seven-tier ziggurat, named Eninnu, referring to a ingenious tablet which gave a plan view and 7 scales – one for each tier (Zecharia Sitchin describes this story in detail in his 1976 and 1993 books. See also figs 748, 749 of Pritchard, 1969).

Zecharia Sitchin makes an interesting connection with his statement that the three great pyramids of Giza are at 52 degree, but the later pyramids collapsed at this angle and were built at 43.5 degrees, and he maintains that the pyramids at Teotihuacan are also at 43.5 degrees. Furthermore “although the 2nd pyramid at Giza is shorter than the Great Pyramid, their peaks are at the same height above sea level because the 2nd one is built on higher ground; the same holds true at Teotihuacan where the smaller Pyramid of the Moon is built on ground some thirty feet higher than the Sun Pyramid, giving their peaks equal height above sea level.” We should note here also that both the Great Pyramid at Giza and the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan have a descending shaft burrowed into the bedrock on which the pyramids were built.

One of the problems in choosing a landing site for a vertical-lift aircraft is the dust and dirt generated by the exhaust. Before pyramids were built this problem was apparently minimized by landing on large rock outcrops.
The problem is better solved however by landing on step pyramids, or step platforms, since the tiers at each level would effectively deflect the exhaust.

The ziggurats at Urand Babylon, the Zoser pyramid in Egypt (Fig 4-4), the Canary Island pyramids, and most of the Mexican pyramids and South American pyramids, employed this design.

Interestingly some of the Egyptian pyramids have multiple chambers which seem to have been built over periods of time, e.g. Sneferu’s pyramid has an underground chamber, a 2nd chamber near the surface, and a 3rd chamber up in the pyramid, as if the site was in use before, possibly long before, the pyramid was erected, probably as a landing and feeding site. The chambers of the Great Pyramid also follow this pattern; the 1st one being deep underground, then the 2nd (‘Queens’) chamber built low in the center of the pyramid, and the 3rd (‘Kings’) chamber higher up. This pattern suggests that one goal was to provide continuous and increasing degrees of protection from above.

The pyramids of Mycerinus, Unas, Teti and most others also had underground chambers. In fact the pyramids of Mycerinus and some others did not even have chambers in the pyramids themselves – all chambers were underground! Obviously this design would make excellent bomb shelters, and I suspect that the large pyramids, and any hapless occupants, if they had been located at “ground zero” at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, would have survived. The pyramidal shape would have effectively deflected most of the blast wave and fireball, and the neutron and gamma-ray pulses would have been attenuated to negligible levels by the stone mass.

Zecharia Sitchin (1985) offers a rather fantastic function for the pyramids of Giza: that they were built by the Nefilim, not by mankind, as part of a guidance grid for “the Tilmun spaceport”. He develops a theory that ties the pyramids and the “sacred cities” into a guidance and communication grid for two approach corridors, one west-to-east over Mesopotamia and one west-to-east over the Sinai. “Built by the gods (Anunnaki), they were landmarks and beacons for the spaceport in Sinai, and existed long before kingship began in Egypt.
” The great pyramid was “…the mountain by which Utu ascends…”.

Regarding the Giza pyramids some scholars argue that the stones were pulled up long ramps on sleds, referencing the familiar painting from the tomb of Djehutihotepe of 204 workers moving his 60 ton statute on a sled (Fig 4-5). But this only proves that this statue was moved on a sled. I am not aware of a single image or inscription which depict the methods used to construct the great pyramids. We simply do not know how it was done.

Incidentally Mark and Richard Wells (2000) have discovered an amazing similarity in the alignment and size of the three stars in Orion’s belt and the alignment and size of the major pyramids at Giza, Egypt; Xi’an, China; Teotihuacan, Mexico. Don’t miss their essay.

So we have pyramids of heights ranging from 30 ft to over 400 ft, lengths from 100 ft to 2300 ft; some with inner chambers and some solid throughout; stepped and smooth walled; square, round and elliptical bases; stone, mud and adobe brick construction; highly decorated or plain; some topped with small buildings.

From these various styles, sizes, and composition I think we can conclude that the pyramids had several functions: burial sites, landmarks, landing sites, feeding stations, bomb shelters, and ceremonial sites; and there is evidence that many of them served several functions simultaneously. But one thing seems certain – the pyramids, platforms and mounds around the world were places where the gods and mankind came together.

Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun (throne name Neb-kheperu-re) the famous “boy king”.

Life-size wooden head of Tutankhamun rising from a lotus flower.Tutankhamun was a ruler of the 18th Dynasty (1336-1327 BC). Ironically until Howard Carter’s discovery of his tomb in 1922, Tutankhamun was one of the most poorly known of the pharaohs, he had a short reign, and his tomb is unlike most other royal tombs – consisting of only four small rooms rather than the long corridor style that was typical that period. After several years of fruitless digging in the Valley of the Kings, Carter’s team had finally discovered a rock-cut step below the entrance to the tomb of Ramesses VI. This was the first of a flight of steps that led down to a walled up entrance to a tomb, plastered over and stamped with large oval seals, five of which were inscribed with Tutankhamun’s throne name, Neb-khepru-re. Continue reading Tutankhamun