Who Were Those Ancient Siberians?

An interesting Siberian archaeological site is the tittle-tattle of historians recently, squabbling on what ancient people get credit for the structure sitting on an island in the middle of  a lake. It’s over one thousand years old so Russians, as we know them today, are not the culture responsible for this structure. Who the heck needed a fortress in Siberia 1,300 years ago?

Experts have dated it to about 750AD. Situated in the middle of Lake Tere-Khol in Tuva, this high altitude lake location has some historians believing it could possibly indicate religious, astronomical, or imperial significance. The theories bandied about are that it is possibly a regent’s summer palace, a monastery or, perhaps, an observatory for the heavens.

Finding out what was going on in Siberia in the 700s is not as easy as one might think. A trip to Wikipedia (the source of all online knowledge, right?) reveals that Russia’s historical timeline inconveniently begins in 860AD with a record of the Rus’-Byzantine War. Wikipedia has let the gringa down.

Digging back a bit further, things get vague. One simply has to pick up a bit here and bob over there and put together a picture that, although still a bit hazy, can at least deliver a pretty good idea of who the heck was running the show in Siberia in the 750s.

The first stop on the collection route of ancient Siberian bits and bobs is linguistics. Author Rein Taagepera penned a book entitled “The Finno-Ugric Republics and the Russian State”. There is a single quote that sheds some light on the 750s mystery people of Siberia:

“Samic was previously considered a language with disparate dialects but is now increasingly seen as  a collection of half a dozen related languages that diverged some 1,300 years ago. They are spoken in northern Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula in the Russian Federation.”

Here, at least, Wikipedia did not let the gringa down. Wikipedia explains that the Samic language is believed to have its roots in ancient Finland dating from 1000BC-700AD. The Finnish-Samic link to this Siberian archaeology site is further strengthened by an observation made by Ludmila Koryakova and Andrej Vladimirovich Epimakhov in their book, “The Urals and Western Siberia in the Bronze and Iron Ages”:

“In the sixth-third centuries BC, their northern trade was oriented to southeastern Europe, but after the second century BC, caravans went to western Siberia, where the Sargat culture constituted the most powerful ethnic and political union.”

So, the gringa believes an actual cultural identity can now be assigned to ancient Finnish ancestors speaking the Samic language who settled in Siberia – the Sargats. Researchers identify evidence of this culture in the forested steppes of southwest Siberia near Russia’s fifth century border with northern Kazakhstan. Archaeological artifacts and burial remains show that the Sargats lived a horse herding lifestyle centered around raising sheep and cattle. A nomadic tradespeople, their wares were typically milk products, meat and textiles. Social structure, determined from burial rituals, reflect that women were regarded equally as men with regard to managing herds and local governance. Warrior status, however, was an elite status reserved for only the most wealthy and powerful males.

DNA evidence of remains also revealed a curious Iranian ancestry link as well. So, the Sargats were probably originally Finnish and eventually intermarried with other tribespeople living in Siberia, coming into contact through trade and war. Ancestry for Siberians can be traced not only to Finland and Iran but also to Turkey, Mongolia and China as well as traces of Viking influences.

Interestingly enough, the style of the controversial Siberian structure shows Chinese architectural influences. The official name of the site is “Por-Bajin” and is considered a mystery by the experts who have been studying it for decades. The name is derived from the Tuvan language and means “clay house”.  Sitting near the border of Russia and Mongolia, it is then probably no surprise to see a Chinese influence in the design.

Researchers liken the layout to resembling a typical Buddhist temple. This similarity along with its isolated location and the fact that the cultures of this time were nomadic and not organized in such ways as to see an imperial palace as something useful, causes the gringa to consider the monastery theory to be more credible than a fortress type imperial summer palace or astronomical observatory. Like Catholic missionaries who traveled to remote places all over the world and constructed missions and convents, Buddhist monks followed a similar tradition.

Another curiosity is that the structure lacks any evidence of a heating system, even one that would be basic and crude. Surely that, too, would rule out an imperial summer palace. Siberia, even in the hottest period of a summer season, would still be uncomfortably cool without any heat source within a dwelling. To try to survive a winter without heat would be a death sentence. So, even as a monastery, monks could only be in residence during the summer.

The gringa loves a good mystery and will certainly be eagerly awaiting more news and future developments regarding “Por-Bajin”. With the effects of climate change causing permafrost melt resulting in water levels rising in Lake Tere-Khol, the caveman and I better put it on our climate change related priority travel list to see it before the waters swallow it up!

Source & Image Credit:           http://siberiantimes.com/science/casestudy/features/f0009-who-built-this-siberian-summer-palace-and-why/





Fashion, Big Headed Aliens & P.T. Barnum

In the first of the three posts regarding the extra-terrestrial connection with ancient Egypt, the gringa felt pretty confident that the singular event of one particular pharaoh presenting with a suspiciously bulbous head and large limbed body could be attributed to a congenital abnormality rather than extra-terrestrial hybridization. However, in Peru, there is more than one elongated skull to consider. And the multiple elongated skulls in Peru are not accompanied with the usual gigantism to consider the condition to be a classic and common birth defect. So, then, were there big headed aliens living in South America? Is that why the gringa’s caveman has such a big head?

South of Lima, in the same vicinity the Nazca lines can be found, is the Paracas Peninsula, home to the ancient Paracas civilization. Existing from 800-100BC, the Paracas were the precursors to the Nazca civilization. Eking out a life in the coastal desert of southern Peru, the Paracas became adepts at irrigation in order to manage their cotton crops.

As cotton producers, it is only natural that the culture would be textile driven. They were known to be master weavers who created complex and intricate textile patterns. Elaborately patterned clothing was how they denoted status and rank. This focus on clothing for the purpose of social identity may have been the result of being a culture with no written language.

Paracas history is defined by two eras: Cavernas (500-300BC) and Necropolis (300-100BC). The earlier period is noted as the time the culture wrapped their dead in simple fabrics then entombed them in underground caverns with pottery brightly decorated with animal motifs. The later Necropolis period shifted to more elaborate mass burials within prepared chambers featuring horizontal shelving carved into cavern walls. Mummies wore more decorative textiles and were placed in a fetal position. They would be buried with elaborate jewelry, sacred objects and staple foods such as maize. Many of these mummies presented with elongated skulls.

Why did Paracas people have big heads?  Were they aliens? Evidence indicates that they were wholly human and had purposely manipulated their skulls into these extraordinary conditions. The elongated skull mummies were usually found to be entombed with more valuable textiles and jewelry. Skull elongation could very well have been a fashion statement of the rich and famous. Perhaps my big-headed caveman is the descendant of Paracas nobility. That’s all the gringa needs; a caveman who thinks he’s the king.

How the heck could a primitive culture perform “cosmetic surgery” and change the shape of skulls? Well, the gringa discovers the Paracas were not as primitive as one might think. They were, perhaps, the originators of “trepanning”. That’s the old fashioned method of brain surgery where a doctor drills a hole in your skull to treat your psychiatric disorder by letting the evil spirits out or to relieve you of chronic headaches. These holes would then be patched with gold plates. Sweet.  So, it may very well have been within their medical skill to reshape a human skull. After all, over three hundred of these skulls were found in 1928 in an archaeological funerary dig in Paracas by Peruvian archaeologist Julio Tello.

Most historians have explained that the procedure to deform a skull in this fashion would begin in infancy. By cradle boarding and binding of the head, the skull would gradually be trained to an elongated shape. However, recent findings using modern methods and technology has revealed there may be more to the Paracas story than simply squeezing baby heads.

Recently it was widely reported that an assistant director for a Peruvian museum announced that DNA analysis of a Paracas skull revealed that the DNA is a mutation unknown to “any human, primate, or animal known” to our world. The inference being that perhaps there were other-worldly origins to the elongated Paracas skulls. So who is this Brien Foerster and what kind of place is this Paracas History Museum he works for?

The museum is actually not a museum at all. It is really just a private collection owned by a fellow named Juan Navarro. First of all, any search for a website is fruitless. I mean, really, what legitimate business doesn’t have a website or even a Facebook page? And, although a Facebook page listing pops up, um, there is nothing there!

But, aha! Brien Foerster has a Facebook page. His page reveals a passion for the paranormal and extra-terrestrial. Although the gringa does not doubt his sincerity and commitment to marching to the beat of his own drum, I do question his methods. True science follows a method that is inscrutable and allows its findings to be questioned and the reporters of data to have their credibility tested. Although he claims to have DNA evidence to support his extra-terrestrial Paracas theory, he has not published the source of such evidence in order for his claim to be verified. Although Mr. Foerster may use the title of “scientist”, the gringa believes he is misspelling the title. It should go something like this… Mr. Brien Foerster, pseudo-scientist.

The gringa’s only other option to determine the legitimacy of this museum, short of visiting it in person, is to look at reviews from visitors. One fella stopped by twice in the same day, during business hours, but it was closed. He tried again the next day and got the same results. However, by camping out on the front steps he did make contact with a neighbor who let him into the building and he viewed the skulls. Not the kind of security I would expect if your museum housed the only biological specimen that proved extra-terrestrial life on planet Earth.

Another museum goer informs the public that the museum’s entire collection can be viewed in about ten minutes.  Although another review claims this “not-a-museum”  museum can actually be toured in 5 minutes. A couple of reviews find the space alien connection “amusing”. And, if you give ol’ Juan (the museum’s owner who doubles as the guide) a sizable tip, he will let you see a secret skull that looks “vaguely human”. And for an extra five bucks you can take a photo of the exhibits.  Mm hmm.  I understand now why some reviews state “rip-off alert” in their descriptions of the place.

So, the best the gringa can determine as far as “facts” go is that:

  • A personal collection of old Paracas trinkets are exhibited in a tiny storefront and marketed as a “museum” by the owner/tour guide who has no background in history or archaeology.
  • The “museum’s” assistant director is reported to have a Bachelor of Science degree from a university in Canada but his personal Facebook page states that he only studied biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics at the University of Victoria, no degree indicated. So, nothing qualifies him as a geneticist, archaeologist or historian other than a personal obsession turned hobby turned business venture. You see, Mr. Foerster owns a tour guide company whose bread and butter is made from promoting the extra-terrestrial/Paracas skulls exhibited at the “Paracas History Museum” owned by his friend, good ol’ Juan.
  • When attempts by experts to validate the DNA claims have been made, Mr. Foerster has refused to reveal the details of the DNA research claiming that the analyst wishes to remain anonymous.

I see. It seems the Paracas elongated skull story of alien connections has the smell of P.T. Barnum all over it. So, did the Paracas elite have extraordinarily long, bulbous skulls? Yes. Were they extra-terrestrials? No, just very vain people.  It seems there is nothing new under the sun.


Sources & Image Credit:
















Alien Airports of Nazca

Studying the extra-terrestrial link with ancient Egypt was so much fun the gringa has decided to continue along this same line but head over to the other side of the globe. Did extra-terrestrials have contact with the ancient Incan or pre-Incan civilizations of today’s Peru? Since the gringa’s beloved caveman is from Peru, this subject is especially close to my heart. I’ve always known the caveman’s a bit strange. Perhaps that’s because he’s not from around here. Let’s find out together.

One feature of Peru that is a favorite of ancient alien theorists to point to as supportive evidence of their belief that pre-Incan civilization was in contact with extra-terrestrials is the Nazca lines located south of Lima. For miles elaborate lines etched into the earth stretch across a flattened mountaintop region, covering an area of about sixty square miles. Ufologists describe it as an ancient airport for aircraft. Although there are straight lines that resemble an airstrip, there are also etched into the earth images of animals and geometric patterns. What the heck is all of this for? What were those crazy people doing over a thousand years ago? Who were they? What were their beliefs? What was their culture like?

Most people are familiar with the Incan Empire when the country of Peru is mentioned. However, the Nazca lines were not created by the Incas. The Nazca lines date back to around 500AD, the time period of the coastal cultures of Moche (Mochica) and Nazca. Their cultures are most notable for their warfare characteristics. Moche and Nazca art is filled with images of warriors.

The Moche civilization existed at the right time but they were in the wrong place, too far north. The Moche lived in a region with its southernmost border over 750km (over 450 miles) north of Nazca. Mochica territory stretched from the northern Piura Valley to the southern Huarmey Valley.

That leaves the actual Nazca civilization that had its heyday from 200BC until around 600AD. These folks were in the right place at the right time. Their most important cities were Cahuachi, the religious center, and Ventilla, the center for government, markets and residents. Cahuachi is ground zero for the Nazca lines.

Nazca civilization was known for more than just the famous lines. They also made beautiful pottery and textiles. Nazca was not just one kingdom under one ruler. It was actually a cooperative of chiefdoms who worked together in the interest of their individual groups of people with a Shaman as the spiritual leader. In all, the Nazca population is estimated to have been around 25,000 people.

Since Nazca is located in the coastal desert region of southern Peru, the evidence of wool in their textiles indicates that they engaged in trade with the people further inland of the Cusco region where llama, alpaca and vicuna were raised in the colder, higher altitude climate of the Andes. There is also evidence of trade with rainforest tribes by the presence of feathers from exotic bird species in headdresses discovered in ancient Nazca archaeological sites.

peru geology map

These geographical connections are important because many of the Nazca lines depict images of creatures that did not live in the coastal desert such as the monkey and hummingbird. Contact with civilizations where these animals exist explains why they are featured in Nazcan art. It is also important to note that many of the etchings overlap, some being created earlier and later etchings overlapping them. So, there was no clear, well-thought out “plan” of how all of the images should be arranged. Poor planning if the intent was a high-tech space-port as far as the gringa is concerned.

Polytheistic and pantheistic, The Oculate Being was the principal god of the Nazcas. Mr. Oculate could fly, sported large, googly eyes (the better to be “all-seeing” with), and had Sun-like and serpent-like features and characteristics.



The Nazca lines are geoglyphs etched into the coastal desert floor. They served many purposes, none of which had anything to do with spaceships. Many were connected to sacred ceremonial sites. Others designated the location of an underground water source, which, being a coastal desert, was a critical site. Many were sort of like the labyrinths of Europe. They were designed to be walked as a form of religious meditation or en masse in a formal religious procession. There is also speculation that they could represent a calendar due to astronomical orientation of many of the lines. The images were not created to entertain extra-terrestrials with clever geological art as they approached Nazca for a landing. The images were created to appease the Oculate Being who resided in the sky.

Shamans, rather than priests, were Nazca’s religious leaders. Ceremonies usually involved the Shaman getting high on a psychedelic drink. He would be costumed to impersonate the spirit or deity who would possess him during his psychedelic “trip”. A sampling of a few Nazcan rituals:

  • Using severed head war trophies in human and agricultural fertility rites
  • Music and feasting for harvest celebrations
  • Pilgrimages and marched festivals to bring offerings to the gods at their numerous shrines (shrines were not man-made temples but, rather, certain geographical features or landscapes the Nazcans considered sacred, such as the Pampa de San Jose or the Cerro Blanco mountain)

Religious rituals and festivals centered around agriculture, water and fertility. They built sophisticated aqueduct systems to irrigate their agricultural areas which are still used today. They worshipped nature, the sea, the sky, the earth and water.  Nazcans had shrines dedicated to each deity they worshipped.

With Cahuachi, the religious center, in close proximity to the Nazca lines, the gringa believes the lines are religious expressions. If the purpose of the lines was to be a spaceport for visiting alien dignitaries, it is more likely the lines would have then been closer to Ventilla, Nazca’s urban and government center.

Considering the geology of Peru’s coastal desert, the lines were relatively easy to create. But, as they are actually only visible when airborne were the ancient Nazca people capable of constructing something on such a large scale? Were they advanced mathematicians? How well did they perform where geometry is concerned?

A Canadian archaeologist conducted an exercise to prove that creating these large-scale elaborate geoglyphs is not that difficult. Being a coastal desert, it was easy for ancient Nazcans to get clear sight lines. So, working from a masterful drawing and supervised by a competent mathematician/engineer, teams of Nazcans could accurately recreate a small scale drawing upon the desert floor the size of a football field. To “etch” the line into the earth it was a simple matter of removing the surface materials that were darker due to oxidization and reveal the lighter desert floor underneath. And, judging from the ruins of ancient pyramid structures, Nazca had no shortage of competent mathematicians and engineers.

If you travel in Peru’s coastal desert regions and get off the touristy, beaten path, you’ll be surprised to find that lines are all over the place. Many of them are footpaths. They are not as distinct as the Nazca lines because they are not purposely created as the Nazca lines were. They simply form naturally as the local people tramp from one place to another. Often, walking across the coastal desert is the only way to get from point A to point B.

The caveman and the gringa visited Supe Puerto, a Peruvian coastal desert town. We tramped numerous footpaths as we explored. Below is a screenshot of a lighthouse we trekked to. It was a half day hike from town. The image is at maximum enlargement from Google Earth. However, if you peer closely, you can make out the faint tracing of the footpath hugging the edge of the cliff, following its line with a leg branching off toward the lighthouse. Later, in the middle of the night after our lighthouse adventure, the poor caveman woke up the gringa. He had a nightmare about us falling off the edge of that cliff.

Screenshot (1)

So, the gringa is pretty convinced the caveman is not a descendant of extra-terrestrials. He’s just a regular old Earthling like the gringa. But he is still strange in his own endearing ways.

Sources & Image Credits:







Google Earth




Isaac Newton By The Sea

NASA recently reported images of an X-ray tail (or, ribbon) of galactic gas. It has broken cosmic records with the extraordinary length of 250,000 light years. The published images are a composite from combined data that originated from the Chandra orbiting observatory and the Isaac Newton Group (ING) of Telescopes that are located in the Canary Islands of Spain.

ING consists of two telescopes. One is named William Herschel (WMT) and the other is Isaac Newton (INT). They are located on a seaside cliff of La Palma Island and command a breathtaking view of the sea as well as the night sky. Isaac Newton began serving astronomers in 1984 and William Hershel in 1987.

ING is a collaborative effort of scientists representing the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain. Their goals in serving the world community of astronomers and space related science is to provide world class telescope operations and programs that aid in research efforts. To encourage innovative methods in science and research, ING welcomes projects that involve novel instruments as “visitors”.  ING is committed to fostering original thinking as well as strongly supporting classical observing.

The Isaac Newton Telescope is open for visiting observers. New instruments are now being enjoyed with funding to provide more. One new instrument, the PAUCam, is a state of the art imaging device that creates prime focus capabilities for the William Hershel Telescope. A wide-field multi-object spectrograph is being developed for William Hershel and expected to become operational in 2017. This instrument will be part of a five year study to help understand how the Milky Way was “assembled”.

WEAVE is the name of the spectrograph developed for William Hershel. WEAVE was designed and built by a consortium of institutes from the UK, the Netherlands, Spain and France. Although visitors will still have access to observe the heavens through William Hershel, much of the telescope’s time will be devoted to the study of three particular projects: 1. The archaeology of the Milky Way; 2. The evolution of the galaxy; 3. Dark energy and its nature. These projects create wonderful opportunities for the UK, the Netherlands and Spain to make important scientific contributions to the world community’s knowledge of outer space.

Resident student programmes are available with ING. Over the past decade, forty students have served in the position of INT support astronomers and have gained valuable hands-on experience and technical skills. In fact, since 2009, 53 PhD theses have been based on ING data. Announcements will be made in March 2016 about the details of the 2016/2017 programme which offers astronomy and astrophysics PhD’s, MSc’s. INT welcomes students who are interested in any field of astronomy or astronomical instrumentation.

Students stay in flats provided by ING and receive a modest monthly stipend. These are cozy abodes within walking distance to the observatories, however, ING also provides transportation back and forth. For one year students will have the opportunity to participate in supportive roles in the work performed by one of the world’s most scientifically productive and versatile telescope groups. They will become part of the professional astronomical family of La Palma.

To qualify for admission to the programme, students must be a European citizen or European student resident. Enrollment in an astronomy PhD or MSc program or in the final year of undergraduate astronomy or physics course is required. English is a must, Spanish is a plus. It is also helpful to have some experience with Linux/UNIX operating systems as well as IRAF astronomical data reduction software. While participating in the program, expect to work 37 hours weekly, day or night, as well as weekends and holidays. A valid driving license is expected as well as being able to pass a medical examination.

Four positions are available. Students report for duty in September. During the one year of service, students have a 25 day leave allowance.

Qualified students who are interested should prepare a cover letter presenting experience along with any other pertinent information to be considered. Two references are required. Applications must be received by May 1 via e-mail or snail-mail. E-mail contact is Ovidiu Vaduvescu, INT studentship program manager, ovidiuv@ing.iac.es. Snail mail contact info:

Studentship Programme Manager

Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes

Apartado de coreos 321, E-38700, Santa Cruz de La Palma, SPAIN

Fax: +34 922 425 401

And, if you are unqualified, like the gringa, but still interested in what goes on at ING, their website has an interesting feature that the gringa really likes. It’s called “Ask an Astronomer!”. You simply fill out the e-mail form and submit. It’s not just any ol’ email form, however. It also has lots of other information to pick and choose from. Click “send” and wait for an amazing scientist to school you on what you want to know.

Source: www.ing.iac.es

Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org