Re-Blog: What Were Pyramids For?


(Originally posted 9/12/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

What do you think about pyramids? A mystery? A fascinating bit of architectural engineering? Monuments to an ancient civilization? Cool place to visit? Tourist trap? Biggest tombs ever built?


If those were your answers, you might have been right on all accounts except one, maybe. There seems to be some wiggle room about whether or not the pyramids were originally constructed as the final resting places of Egypt’s ancient pharaohs. Here’s what we know:

  • No mummies have ever been found within any of the 3 great pyramids of Giza. 

But does that mean that these amazing structures were not tombs? The gringa says, “Not so fast.” Despite the insistence of UFOlogists and ancient alien enthusiasts who argue that, if not tombs, then power generators of celestial origins, there is still plenty of other evidence to support the traditional belief that the pyramids were burial complexes.

With regard to the 3 great pyramids of Giza, they were constructed from 2550-2490 BC. The tallest was built by Pharaoh Khufu. His pyramid is flanked by smaller ones dedicated to Pharaoh Khafre and Pharaoh Menkaure. But Khufu’s remains have never been found. Khafre’s pyramid was also empty. Menkaure’s mummy may or may not have been found. 

There are allegations that part of Menkaure’s mummy may be in the British Museum of London’s Egyptian artifact collection. But there is much controversy that surrounds the authenticity of the remains. Within his pyramid was found a wooden coffin inside a chamber believed to be the king’s chamber. The coffin contained mummified fragments.

So, despite the fact that mummies were not actually discovered is no reason to discount the pyramids as tombs. There have been plenty of other artifacts, burial paraphernalia and relics of Egypt’s ancient death rituals that makes it clear that these were the resting places of ancient Egyptian royalty. The following items were found in Khufu’s great pyramid when it was unsealed in 1925:

  • Access shafts filled in with limestone masonry, bedrock and plaster until solid to prevent entry from outsiders.
  • An entry at the end of the access shaft featuring a doorway bearing the official seal of King Khufu. 
  • A small entry chamber, 15’x8′, clad in gold and bearing inscriptions identifying the contents of the chamber as the burial belongings of Khufu’s mother, Queen Hetepheres.
  • A gold and ebony carrying chair belonging to Queen Hetepheres.
  • The Queen’s palace furniture: golden gilt bed, chairs and storage chests.
  • Jewelry of silver, lapis-lazuli, turquoise and carnelian wrought in the shape of butterflies.
  • Golden toiletry set of wash bowl, water jug, razor, and cosmetic jars.
  • Alabaster chest containing the mummified internal organs of the Queen.
  • The Queen’s empty sarcophagus.

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There are also those who point to how small many of the coffins and sarcophagi are. They claim that they were never meant to house a human body. But once you understand what happened to the human body during an ancient Egyptian burial ritual, you understand why the coffins are so small. 

For one thing, the dehydration process performed resulted in significant shrinkage. So, no, ancient Egyptians were not small, dwarfish half-alien/half-human creatures. I mean, think about it. When adventurers encountered deep jungle tribal people, got slaughtered, and their remains cannibalized and leaving behind a shrunken head trophy made to commemorate their ill-fated visit, nobody supposes that those adventurers were diminutive space aliens traipsing about South American jungles.

So, just because no one seems to be found to be at home and receiving guests at the pyramids, that doesn’t mean they were not originally intended to reside there. Tomb raiders have had centuries to ransack these resting places. Once notorious tomb raiders made local ancient headlines, there is no doubt that many Pharaohs built their elaborate burial shrines with instructions for a burial service with all the pomp and circumstance royalty deserves. But then a secret plan to actually bury the kings and queens at an unknown address was carried out in the dead of night. 

Why should such a possibility be beyond belief? After all, doesn’t that sound familiar to those dear readers with a Judeo-Christian background? Doesn’t the bibilical story go that god hid Moses’ body when he died in the wilderness? Why would such a strange detail be a part of the story? Because at that particular time in ancient history, the local cultures were rife with bad guys who would rob the burial places of famous leaders hoping to enrich themselves with a tidy stash of loot.

So, sorry to all you dear readers who are still holding out hope that ancient extra-terrestrial ancestors shared natural power generator technology with the Egyptians. That’s not what happened. The great pyramids are the result of something very common: mankind’s desire for immortality, the desire to never be forgotten, and incredible ego that demands a monument to its greatness.

But, really, when you study the real history of ancient Egyptian culture, religion and the kings and queens who led each kingdom, it’s fascinating. Why would you need to make up something else like space aliens?

Sources: 

Image Credits: 

Ancient Egypt

Video Credit:

Getty Museum

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Dargavs, Russia – The City of the Dead


With all the paranoia seeping into American society over Russia, thanks to the Trump administration, the gringa would like to take a moment to share some good and interesting stuff about Russia. You see, it’s so easy to generalize and say, “Russia bad” and forget all about the human element. Just because Trump and Putin and their respective governing bodies may be ruthless, greedy megalomaniacs, the Russian people are generally just like people everywhere. Some good. Some bad. And the nation of Russia is filled with rich history just like every other place on earth.

The gringa feels a bit guilty of all the complaining and criticizing I’ve been doing lately. It’s about time to focus on some good stuff. And the Russian good stuff I plan to focus on is all dead. In fact, an entire city of the dead.

Believe it or not, a city of dead Russians gets 4 out of 5 stars from travel experts as a must-see place to visit for guests to Russia. So, if you are planning your own tour, put the city of Dargavs on your bucket list. Also, pack your best Sherlock Holmes gear because this little gem is filled with mystery. Maybe you can crack the case and take your place in history as well.

When you arrive you will not be greeted with an eerie sight of Russian zombies and fog-filled ancient cobbled streets. You will discover a hillside burial ground set against the rugged backdrop of the Greater Caucasus mountain range.

Dargavs is found in North Ossetia. Stone structures, most with steep tiled roofs, house the resting places of ancient citizens called the great Alans who were a sub-set of the Sarmatian tribes. Although they are well-known as a nomadic, pastoral people speaking an ancient Eastern Iranian dialect, who lived around the first millennium of our current era.

The surviving ancestors of the great Alans buried belongings with their loved ones when they were entombed. Among the relics concealed in the crypts of this mysterious necropolis are:

  • Open, boat-like vessels to hold the corpse rather than a traditional coffin (curious since there are no rivers nearby)
  • Oars
  • Coins
  • Clothing

Despite some UFOlogists convinced the great Alans were really extra-terrestrials, the gringa thinks they were just regular humans. It seems they had beliefs and lifestyle practices that link them to every other group of humans trying to eke out an existence with primitive means in a harsh climate. Consider the stuff that researchers and archaeologists can all agree on that is very “humanizing”:

  • The crypts house the remains of entire families throughout multiple chambers and sometimes multiple levels.
  • Criminals were entombed in “exile”, their tombs constructed outside the collection of crypts for the Alan clan in general.

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  • Each tomb features a well at the entrance to the crypt that contains coins. So, the great Alans were sophisticated and human enough to understand economics, earnings and wealth.
  • They practiced some sort of religion or superstitions that had a belief in the afterlife hence the construction of a symbolic watchtower to guard the tombs and is, perhaps, the explanation for entombment with boats despite not being a river-faring people.

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There are many theories to explain some of the mysterious features that are, indeed curious, as well as to try to understand what the story was for the great Alans.

Religion: It is presumed that the boats and wells with coins are possibly related to the great Alans’ religious beliefs. The ancient Ossetians are believes to be pagans. However, a pagan is not an atheist. They do have religious beliefs, or superstitions, if you will.

Many religions feature boats and rivers as the means of travel to the world of the afterlife.  The river Styx of Greek mythology is, perhaps, the most well-known.  However, Acheron was also a river the dead navigated to the underworld on a ferry with Charon at the helm who served the king of Hades. It was known as the river of pain and at times, in legends and myth, is interchangeable with the River Styx.

An interesting note is that ferryman Charon also required a fee of a single coin. Non-payment meant a soul was left to wander aimlessly the banks of the River Acheron, presumably in great pain and anguish. However, if you are entombed with your own boat, why would you expect to need the services of another boatman? Perhaps the rivers Styx/Acheron were not the ultimate destination for the great Alans.

Ancient rivers of the underworld are also:

  • Lethe, also known as the river of forgetfulness and oblivion of sleep (no fee required).
  • Phlegethon was written about by Plato who believed it led to the deepest parts of Tartarus. Dante also penned a bit about this river in his legendary “Inferno”, it existing in the Seventh Circle of Hell, a boiling river where souls were tormented in cages by Centaurs tasked with dipping them in to the river’s scalding depths. Probably not the intended afterlife river for a people who hoped to arrive with their own boats.
  • Cocytus, the River of Wailing, joins with Acheron, ultimately leading to a frozen lake. It is the destination of traitors and all who commit sins against humanity. This may have been the destination of the criminals entombed in the outer circle, the Cocytus being a river that encircles the underworld.
  • Oceanus, another afterlife river that encircles the entire underworld, this freshwater stream was where the edge of the world met the cosmos. Although some think this would have been a gloomy, lonely afterlife existence, the gringa thinks this may have actually been the most coveted locale of the dead because they would be the ones nearest the realm of the gods. This may have been where the great Alans hoped their souls would be headed after death and they would need their own boats to navigate the waters of Oceanus. So, then, what was the coin for?

History of the Wishing Well: Wishing wells are common all over the world. Toss in a coin for good luck. We all do it. Anthropologists date the practice as far back as ancient Egypt and the Mesoamerican cultures. It was common practice to placate the gods with gifts. Want your natural water resources to remain sweet and pure? Toss in a valuable coin as a gift and hope for the best. This lends credence to the local legend that loved ones of dead great Alans would toss a coin in the well for good luck with regard to the afterlife situation of a family member who had passed.

Of interesting note is the local legend that the entire clan was wiped out by a plague. This is to explain the small, rectangular open entries into the tombs rather than be sealed crypts. It is said that once a person’s entire family died, having no one left to bury them, once becoming sick, the remaining survivor would climb into the tomb and await death. The gringa wonders if they tossed a coin into the well for themselves since they knew no one else was left alive to wish them well on the other side?

If you plan to visit, expect quite a trek to get there and plan to be your own guide. The place is remote and rarely visited. Even the locals avoid it on pain of death. It’s about a 3 hour drive from the nearest thing that can be called civilization. And the road has a reputation for danger. But, from the looks of things, if you like adventure, history and mystery, this will be a very satisfying jaunt!

Sources:

Encylclopedia of Sacred Places, Volume 1 by Norbert Brookman

RT

Theoi

University of California Irvine Anthropology

Dante’s “Inferno

English Russia

Image Credits: Atlas Obscura

Video Credit: Sam Conney

Incredible Incas, Chapt 1, Pt 3


We continue to follow the journey of author Loren McIntyre across the land of the Inca Empire. We reach La Paz, the sacred Lake Titicaca and hear stories of Viracocha who created humanity and walks on water (sound familiar?).

Let’s discover the ancient Incan Empire together at “Read With The Gringa”!

Image Credit: Bhakti Anandas Collected Works

 

Incredible Incas, Chpt 1, Pt 2


We continue following the account of the journey through Peru of author Loren McIntyre in the first chapter “The Silent Strings”. We follow him thru Lima, old temples, Nazca, Cuzco & Bolivia while we learn history along his travels of the Pan American Highway.

 

Let’s read about the Incan civilization together!

Image Credit: Cruising From Stockholm

 

Incredible Incas, Chpt 1, Pt 1


We follow author Loren McIntyre on his fascinating journey through the history, culture and archeology of Peru’s Incan Empire. In the first part of chapter 1 he talks about all that gold!

 

Let’s discover Peru’s Incan Empire together!

Image Credit:  PBS

Curses! Curses, I Say! Or, Maybe Not


If you’ve ever indulged in the fantasy of an Indiana Jones-style adventure, the gringa knows EXACTLY how you feel! Epic excitement and mystery! But what the heck is up with all of those curses? Are they real? Have people died mysteriously because they explored ancient Egyptian tombs? Is there any science to explain how it happened? Were ancient Egyptians magical booby-trap designers?

Let’s look at the curse of all curses, the Curse of the Pharaohs.  It claims that if you disturb the resting place of any ancient Egyptian (not just a pharaoh), you are in for big trouble. So, that would stand to reason, in the gringa’s mind, that if you messed about with a pharaoh’s tomb, you should get trouble on an exponential level.

The most famous ancient Egyptian pharaoh tomb in modern history to be explored is that of Tutankhamun, discovered by Howard Carter November 4, 1922. Was a curse released when the tomb’s seal was broken 3 months later on February 16, 1923? Well, apparently there were quite a few deaths that occurred:

George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert,  Earl of Carnarvon (we’ll just call him George-and, Downtown Abbey fans, yes, THAT Carnarvon!), was the fella who paid for the adventure.  About 5 weeks after the seal was broken, March 25, 1923, rich, ol’ George dropped dead from a mosquito bite that became infected when he cut himself shaving shortly after he arrived in Cairo.

Was such a death a rare occurrence, thus indicative of supernatural causes? Nope.  According to industrial records from 1923, contained within “The Industrial Bulletin, Volumes 1-5”, 16 deaths were filed with the US Workmen’s Compensation Bureas in a single MONTH, deaths caused by infection of cuts received on the job. As recent as 2010 more than 27,000 people died from sepsis specifically related to bedsores. In other words, they died when their wounds and sores became infected.

The gringa’s inclined to think that ol’ George’s death was not because of a pharaoh’s curse but just bad hygiene and bad luck. He also had a reputation for being a rather sickly fellow in the first place. No wonder, then, that a tiny mosquito back and contaminated razor cut did him in. But what of the other folks said to have died from Tut’s curse?

George had a half-brother, Colonel Aubrey Herbert, MP. He was a radiologist and X-rayed King Tut. He died six months after his brother, September 26, 1923, from arsenic poisoning.  Now, brother Aubrey had bad eyesight all of his life. He was practically blind and a dentist thought he could solve the problem.  Instead, he got poisoned. Crazy as it sounds, arsenic has a long and illustrious history of use in dentistry, often used as a pain reliever and root canal treatment. Was brother Aubrey a victim of supernatural vengeance? Probably not.  Just another victim in a long line of dental victims. Even today you get your teeth capped or drilled at your own risk. A dentist patient dies, on average in America, every other day.

So what about the American railway mogul, George Jay Gould? He died from a fever after he visited the tomb. Also quite common.

Then there’s Egyptian prince, Ali Kamel Fah. His wife shot him dead not long after he enjoyed a photo safari of the tomb. The gringa thinks the wrath of a wife probably has nothing at all to do with anyone that’s been dead for millennia.

Another guy who X-rayed the mummy, Sir Archibald Douglas Reid, also died. Supposedly from a mystery illness but the gringa’s pretty sure that travel to exotic places often resulted in all kinds of mystery illnesses in 1924 that are, today, considered quite common.

Another victim of gun violence who visited the tomb was the governor of Sudan, Sir Lee Stack. He was shot while driving through the streets of Cairo. Methinks the possibility of an assassin’s bullet, inspired by nationalist fervor, angry at all of these foreigners desecrating the revered resting places of their ancestors is more likely than a curse. Maybe it was a politically motivated assassination by factions unhappy with foreign powers involved in the Sudan. Or, it could have been the work of a greedy tomb raider who wants all these folks gone so they can stage a raid and enjoy some profit.

And then tragedy strikes George’s family, yet again, when his other brother, Mervyn Herbert, dies of malaria related pneumonia. But, there again, dying from malaria, even today, when visiting an exotic locale, is nothing mysterious.

Another guy on George’s team, A. C. Mace, also died of arsenic poisoning in 1928.  Rather than think sinister spirits were flitting about for five years wreaking havoc on unsuspecting curiosity seekers, the gringa thinks it’s more likely that Mace made an unfortunate visit to the dentist.

And what of Captain Richard Bethell? Dead from self-inflicted poisoning, munching on toxic tidbits in bed, much like how the gringa snacks on bon-bons while enjoying a good book. Stupidity or suicide, I say, not a curse. Most likely suicide because, a year later, his father committed suicide by jumping from the seventh floor of an apartment building.

Although it is disturbing to see the number of deaths that occurred within just a few years of opening King Tut’s tomb, the details reveal credible reasons, some with scientific evidence, to explain them as quite normal and of this world. So, if you plan to visit Egypt, don’t be afraid of any, ol’ curse. Visit the tombs. Explore the pyramids. Ride some camels. But get inoculated for malaria before you go, sleep under mosquito netting, use insect repellant, and wear long sleeves!

Sources:

World Travel Guide

South Coast Herald

Dallas News

National Institutes of Health

Mirror UK

Live Science

The Daily Beast

Google Books

Image Credit:  Unrated Film

Frozen Siberian Secrets


When you think of Siberia do you think of a Russian gulag or political dissidents exiled to the frozen wastelands of the Siberian tundra? If the word “secrets” crosses your mind it may be from the perspective of the kinds of secrets political prisoners might have. It probably wouldn’t occur to the average person that Siberia would be home to some amazing historical and archeological secrets. The forbidding frozen landscape of Siberia is the perfect cryogenic environment to preserve the secrets of Russia’s ancient past. Here are some of the amazing finds archaeologists have found below the permafrost:

World’s Oldest Known Wooden Statue

Shigir is twice as old as Egypt’s Great Pyramid. He may not be much to look at but imagine the story attached to this carving thought to be about 11,000 years old! Carved from the trunk of a larch tree, the religious icon stands more than 9 feet tall, although some experts think that Shigir originally stood nearly 17 feet tall. Now what kind of tools did ancient Siberians have 11,000 years ago when they chopped down the 150-year-old tree that became Shigir? What kind of tools did they use to create this idol? Not only can a face be seen but there are decorative patterns and lines that run the length of his skinny body. No one has yet solved the mystery of what Shigir worship entailed. shigir-idol-worlds-oldest-wooden-statue_3.jpg

Siberia’s Amazons

Many cultures have their own legends of female warrior culture. None more famous than the ladies from the Isle of Lesbos, Nordic Valkyries and rainforest Amazonians. Now Russian women can join the annals of fierce females. The preserved remains of a Siberian teenager was uncovered in the Altai Mountains. She wore pig-tails and had a muscular body that experts believe reveals that she was an experienced horsewoman, which also explains why nine horses were interred with her. Needing very little interpretation was the fact that she was buried with battle axes, bows with quivers of arrows and multiple shields. A sixteen-year-old Siberian girl, possibly of the legendary elite Pazyryk warriors, received an extraordinary burial fit to honor a captain of the cavalry.

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True Love

Glazkov culture was typically comprised of Mongoloid tribes during the 18-13 centuries BC. Researchers believe they were most likely a hunting and fishing tribe since their civilization centered around the headwaters of the Angara river. Birch bark boats and sophisticated composite bows and spears have been discovered.

Despite stereotypes as a fierce warrior culture, ancient Siberians were just like humans everywhere. They fell in love. A 5,000 year-old burial site excavated by archaeologists revealed an ode to ancient love,  a couple interred holding hands.  Buried by the shores of Lake Baikal, the gringa wonders if this might have been a favorite spot for romance for the two lovers. Members of the Glazhov culture, the couple had their heads facing west, towards the sunset. This was a curious find in the burial since most Glazkov remains have been discovered to be buried in a crouched position with face orientation downriver. Perhaps, for this particular couple, their favorite thing to do was sit lakeside, hand in hand, and watch the sun go down.

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Image Credits & Sources: Realm Of History

scfh.ru

Siberian Times

Daily Mail