Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gobekli Tepe - World's Oldest Known Temple

Göbekli Tepe (Turkish for "Potbelly hill") is a hilltop sanctuary erected on the highest point of an elongated mountain ridge some 15 km northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa (formerly Urfa / Edessa) in southeastern Turkey. The site, currently undergoing excavation by German and Turkish archaeologists, was erected by hunter-gatherers in the 10th millennium BC (c. 11,500 years ago), before the advent of sedentism. Together with Nevalı Çori, it has revolutionized understanding of the Eurasian Neolithic.

Göbekli Tepe is located in southeastern Turkey. It had already been noted in an American surveyGerman Archaeological Institute (Istanbul branch) and Şanlıurfa Museum, under the direction of the German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt (1995–2000: University of Heidelberg; since 2001: German Archaeological Institute). Schmidt says that the stone fragments on the surface made him aware immediately that the site was prehistoric. Before then, the hill had been under agricultural cultivation; generations of local inhabitants had frequently moved rocks and placed them in clearance piles; much archaeological evidence may have been destroyed in the process. Scholars from the Hochschule Karlsruhe began documenting the architectural remains. They soon discovered T-shaped pillars, some of which had apparently undergone attempts at smashing.

in 1964, which recognized that the hill could not entirely be a natural feature, but assumed that a Byzantine cemetery lay beneath. Since 1994 excavations have been conducted by the

Göbekli Tepe is the oldest human-made place of worship yet discovered.[2] Until excavations began, a complex on this scale was not thought possible for a community so ancient. The massive sequence of stratification layers suggests several millennia of activity, perhaps reaching back to the Mesolithic. The oldest occupation layer (stratum III) contains monolithic pillars linked by coarsely built walls to form circular or oval structures. So far, four such buildings, with diameters between 10 and 30m have been uncovered. Geophysical surveys indicate the existence of 16 additional structures.

Stratum II, dated to Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) (7500–6000 BC), has revealed several adjacent rectangular rooms with floors of polished lime, reminiscent of Roman terrazzo floors. The most recent layer consists of sediment deposited as the result of agricultural activity.

The monoliths are decorated with carved reliefs of animals and of abstract pictograms. The pictograms may represent commonly understood sacred symbols, as known from Neolithic cave paintings elsewhere. The carefully carved figurative reliefs depict lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, asses, snakes and other reptiles, insects, arachnids, and birds, particularly vultures and water fowl. At the time the shrine was constructed the surrounding country was much lusher and capable of sustaining this variety of wildlife, before millennia of settlement and cultivation resulted in the near–Dust Bowl conditions prevailing today.[3]

Vultures also feature in the iconography of the Neolithic sites of Çatalhöyük and Jericho; it is believed that in the early Neolithic culture of Anatolia and the Near East the deceased were deliberately exposed in order to be excarnated by vultures and other birds of prey. (The head of the deceased was sometimes removed and preserved—possibly a sign of ancestor worship.)[4]sky burial, as practiced today by Tibetan Buddhists and Zoroastrians in India.[5] This, then, would represent an early form of

Few humanoid forms have surfaced at Göbekli Tepe, but include a relief of a naked woman, posed frontally in a crouched position, that Schmidt likens to the Venus accueillante figures found in Neolithic north Africa; and of at least one decapitated corpse surrounded by vultures. Some of the pillars, namely the T-shaped ones, have carved arms, which may indicate that they represent stylized humans (or anthropomorphic gods). Another example is decorated with human hands in what could be interpreted as a prayer gesture, with a simple stole or surplice engraved above; this may be intended to represent a temple priest.

The houses or temples are round megalithic buildings. The walls are made of unworked dry stone and include numerous T-shaped monolithic pillars of limestone that are up to 3 m high. Another, bigger pair of pillars is placed in the centre of the structures. There is evidence that the structures were roofed; the central pair of pillars may have supported the roof. The floors are made of terrazzo (burnt lime), and there is a low bench running along the whole of the exterior wall.

The reliefs on the pillars include foxes, lions, cattle, wild boars, wild asses, herons, ducks, scorpions, ants, spiders, many snakes, and a very few anthropomorphic figures. Some of the reliefs have been deliberately erased, maybe in preparation for new designs. There are freestanding sculptures as well that may represent wild boars or foxes. As they are heavily encrusted with lime, it is sometimes difficult to tell. Comparable statues have been discovered at Nevalı Çori and Nahal Hemar.

The quarries for the statues are located on the plateau itself; some unfinished pillars have been found there in situ. The biggest unfinished pillar is still 6.9 m long; a length of 9m has been reconstructed. This is much larger than any of the finished pillars found so far. The stone was quarried with stone picks. Bowl-like depressions in the limestone rocks may already have served as mortars or fire-starting bowls in the epipalaeolithic. There are some phalloi and geometric patterns cut into the rock as well; their dating is uncertain.

While the structures are primarily temples, more recently smaller domestic buildings have been uncovered. Despite this, it is clear that the primary use of the site was cultic and not domestic. Schmidt believes this "cathedral on a hill" was a pilgrimage destination attracting worshipers up to a hundred miles distant. Butchered bones found in large numbers from local game such as deer, gazelle, pigs, and geese have been identified as refuse derived from hunting and food prepared for the congregants.[8]

The site was deliberately backfilled sometime after 8000 BC: the buildings are covered with settlement refuse that must have been brought from elsewhere. These deposits include flint tools like scrapers and arrowheads and animal bones. The lithic inventory is characterised by Byblos points and numerous Nemrik-points. There are Helwan-points and Aswad-points as well.

While the site formally belongs to the earliest Neolithic (PPN A), up to now no traces of domesticated plants or animals have been found. The inhabitants were hunters and gatherers[9] Schmidt speculates that the site played a key function in the transition to agriculture; he assumes that the necessary social organization needed for the creation of these structures went hand-in-hand with the organized exploitation of wild crops. For sustenance, wild cereals may have been used more intensively than before; perhaps they were even deliberately cultivated. Recent DNA analysis of modern domesticated wheat compared with wild wheat has shown that its DNA is closest in structure to wild wheat found on Mount Karaca Dağ 20 miles away from the site, leading one to believe that this is where modern wheat was first domesticated.[10] who nevertheless lived in villages for at least part of the year.

Schmidt considers Göbekli Tepe a central location for a cult of the dead. He suggests that the carved animals are there to protect the dead. Though no tombs or graves have been found so far, Schmidt believes they remain to be discovered beneath the sacred circles' floors.[11] Schmidt also interprets it in connection with the initial stages of an incipient Neolithic. It is one of several neolithic sites in the vicinity of Mount Karaca Dağ, an area where geneticists suspect the origins of at least some of our cultivated grains (see Einkorn). Such scholars suggest that the Neolithic revolution, i.e., the beginnings of grain cultivation, took place here. Schmidt and others believe that mobile groups in the area were forced to cooperate with each other to protect early concentrations of wild cereals from wild animals (herds of gazelles and wild donkeys). This would have led to an early social organization of various groups in the area of Göbekli Tepe. Thus, according to Schmidt, the Neolithic did not begin on a small scale in the form of individual instances of garden cultivation, but started immediately as a large-scale social organisation ("a full-scale revolution"[12]).

All statements about the site must be considered preliminary, as only about 5% of the site's total area has been excavated as yet; floor levels have been reached in only the second complex (complex B), which also contained a terrazzo-like floor. Schmidt believes that the dig could well continue for another fifty years, "and barely scratch the surface."[11] So far excavations have revealed very little evidence for residential use. Through the radiocarbon method, the end of stratum III can be fixed at c. 9000 BC (see above); its beginnings are estimated to 11,000 BC or earlier. Stratum II dates to about 8000 BC.

Thus, the structures not only predate pottery, metallurgy, and the invention of writing or the wheel; they were built before the so-called Neolithic Revolution, i.e., the beginning of agricultureanimal husbandry around 9000 BC. But the construction of Göbekli Tepe implies organisation of an order of complexity not hitherto associated with pre-Neolithic societies. The archaeologists estimate that up to 500 persons were required to extract the 10–20 ton pillars (in fact, some weigh up to 50 tons) from local quarries and move them 100 to 500m to the site.[13]Which came first, monumental building projects or farming? Archaeo News 14 December 2008 [1] It is generally believed that an elite class of religious leaders supervised the work and later controlled whatever ceremonies took place here. If so, this would be the oldest known evidence for a priestly caste—much earlier than such social distinctions developed elsewhere in the Near East.[11] and

Around the beginning of the 8th millennium BC "Potbelly Hill" lost its importance. The advent of agriculture and animal husbandry brought new realities to human life in the area, and the "stone-age zoo" (as Schmidt calls it) depicted on the pillars apparently lost whatever significance it had had for the region's older, foraging, communities. But the complex was not simply abandoned and forgotten, to be gradually destroyed by the elements. Instead, it was deliberately buried under 300 to 500 cubic metres of soil.[14] Why this was done is unknown, but it preserved the monuments for posterity.

Göbekli Tepe is regarded as an archaeological discovery of the greatest importance since it profoundly changes our understanding of a crucial stage in the development of human societies. It seems that the erection of monumental complexes was within the capacities of hunter-gatherers and not only of sedentary farming communities as had been previously assumed. In other words, as excavator Klaus Schmidt puts it: "First came the temple, then the city."[15] This revolutionary hypothesis will have to be supported or modified by future research.

Not only its large dimensions, but the side-by-side existence of multiple pillar shrines makes the location unique. There are no comparable monumental complexes from its time. Nevalı Çori, a well-known Neolithic settlement also excavated by the German Archaeological Institute, and submerged by the Atatürk Dam since 1992, is 500 years later, its T-shaped pillars are considerably smaller, and its shrine was located inside a village; the roughly contemporary architecture at Jericho is devoid of artistic merit or large-scale sculpture; and Çatalhöyük, perhaps the most famous of all Anatolian Neolithic villages, is 2,000 years younger.

Schmidt has engaged in some speculation regarding the belief systems of the groups that created Göbekli Tepe, based on comparisons with other shrines and settlements. He assumes shamanicancestors, whereas he sees a fully articulated belief in gods only developing later in Mesopotamia, associated with extensive temples and palaces. This corresponds well with an ancient Sumerian belief that agriculture, animal husbandry and weaving had been brought to mankind from the sacred mountain Du-Ku, which was inhabited by Annuna—deities, very ancient gods without individual names. Klaus Schmidt identifies this story as an oriental primeval myth that preserves a partial memory of the Neolithic.[16] It is also apparent that the animal and other images give no indication of organized violence, i.e., there are no depictions of hunting raids or wounded animals, and the pillar carvings ignore game on which the society mainly subsisted, like deer, in favor of formidable creatures such as lions, snakes, spiders and scorpions.[17][18][19] practices and suggests that the T-shaped pillars may represent mythical creatures, perhaps

At present, Göbekli Tepe raises more questions for archaeology and prehistory than it answers. We do not know how a force large enough to construct, augment, and maintain such a substantial complex was mobilized and paid or fed in the conditions of pre-Neolithic society. We cannot "read" the pictograms, and do not know for certain what meaning the animal reliefs had for visitors to the site; the variety of fauna depicted, from lions and boars to birds and insects, makes any single explanation problematic. As there seems to be little or no evidence of habitation, and the animals depicted on the stones are mainly predators, the stones may have been intended to stave off evils through some form of magic representation; it is also possible that they served as totems.[20] It is not known why more and more walls were added to the interiors while the sanctuary was in use, with the result that some of the engraved pillars were obscured from view. Burial may or may not have occurred at the site. The reason the complex was eventually buried remains unexplained. Until more evidence is gathered, it is difficult to deduce anything certain about the originating culture.

Found Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe

Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it's the site of the world's oldest temple.

"Guten Morgen," he says at 5:20 a.m. when his van picks me up at my hotel in Urfa. Thirty minutes later, the van reaches the foot of a grassy hill and parks next to strands of barbed wire. We follow a knot of workmen up the hill to rectangular pits shaded by a corrugated steel roof—the main excavation site. In the pits, standing stones, or pillars, are arranged in circles. Beyond, on the hillside, are four other rings of partially excavated pillars. Each ring has a roughly similar layout: in the center are two large stone T-shaped pillars encircled by slightly smaller stones facing inward. The tallest pillars tower 16 feet and, Schmidt says, weigh between seven and ten tons. As we walk among them, I see that some are blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars' broad sides.

Schmidt points to the great stone rings, one of them 65 feet across. "This is the first human-built holy place," he says.

From this perch 1,000 feet above the valley, we can see to the horizon in nearly every direction. Schmidt, 53, asks me to imagine what the landscape would have looked like 11,000 years ago, before centuries of intensive farming and settlement turned it into the nearly featureless brown expanse it is today.

Prehistoric people would have gazed upon herds of gazelle and other wild animals; gently flowing rivers, which attracted migrating geese and ducks; fruit and nut trees; and rippling fields of wild barley and wild wheat varieties such as emmer and einkorn. "This area was like a paradise," says Schmidt, a member of the German Archaeological Institute. Indeed, Gobekli Tepe sits at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent—an arc of mild climate and arable land from the Persian Gulf to present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt—and would have attracted hunter-gatherers from Africa and the Levant. And partly because Schmidt has found no evidence that people permanently resided on the summit of Gobekli Tepe itself, he believes this was a place of worship on an unprecedented scale—humanity's first "cathedral on a hill."

With the sun higher in the sky, Schmidt ties a white scarf around his balding head, turban-style, and deftly picks his way down the hill among the relics. In rapid-fire German he explains that he has mapped the entire summit using ground-penetrating radar and geomagnetic surveys, charting where at least 16 other megalith rings remain buried across 22 acres. The one-acre excavation covers less than 5 percent of the site. He says archaeologists could dig here for another 50 years and barely scratch the surface.

Gobekli Tepe was first examined—and dismissed—by University of Chicago and Istanbul University anthropologists in the 1960s. As part of a sweeping survey of the region, they visited the hill, saw some broken slabs of limestone and assumed the mound was nothing more than an abandoned medieval cemetery. In 1994, Schmidt was working on his own survey of prehistoric sites in the region. After reading a brief mention of the stone-littered hilltop in the University of Chicago researchers' report, he decided to go there himself. From the moment he first saw it, he knew the place was extraordinary.

Unlike the stark plateaus nearby, Gobekli Tepe (the name means "belly hill" in Turkish) has a gently rounded top that rises 50 feet above the surrounding landscape. To Schmidt's eye, the shape stood out. "Only man could have created something like this," he says. "It was clear right away this was a gigantic Stone Age site." The broken pieces of limestone that earlier surveyors had mistaken for gravestones suddenly took on a different meaning.

Found Here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/gobekli-tepe.html

As a child, Klaus Schmidt used to grub around in caves in his native Germany in the hope of finding prehistoric paintings. Thirty years later, representing the German Archaeological Institute, he found something infinitely more important -- a temple complex almost twice as old as anything comparable on the planet.

"This place is a supernova", says Schmidt, standing under a lone tree on a windswept hilltop 35 miles north of Turkey's border with Syria. "Within a minute of first seeing it I knew I had two choices: go away and tell nobody, or spend the rest of my life working here."

Behind him are the first folds of the Anatolian plateau. Ahead, the Mesopotamian plain, like a dust-colored sea, stretches south hundreds of miles to Baghdad and beyond. The stone circles of Gobekli Tepe are just in front, hidden under the brow of the hill.

Compared to Stonehenge, Britain's most famous prehistoric site, they are humble affairs. None of the circles excavated (four out of an estimated 20) are more than 30 meters across. What makes the discovery remarkable are the carvings of boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions, and their age. Dated at around 9,500 BC, these stones are 5,500 years older than the first cities of Mesopotamia, and 7,000 years older than Stonehenge.

Never mind circular patterns or the stone-etchings, the people who erected this site did not even have pottery or cultivate wheat. They lived in villages. But they were hunters, not farmers.

"Everybody used to think only complex, hierarchical civilizations could build such monumental sites, and that they only came about with the invention of agriculture", says Ian Hodder, a Stanford University Professor of Anthropology, who, since 1993, has directed digs at Catalhoyuk, Turkey's most famous Neolithic site. "Gobekli changes everything. It's elaborate, it's complex and it is pre-agricultural. That fact alone makes the site one of the most important archaeological finds in a very long time."

With only a fraction of the site opened up after a decade of excavations, Gobekli Tepe's significance to the people who built it remains unclear. Some think the site was the center of a fertility rite, with the two tall stones at the center of each circle representing a man and woman.

It's a theory the tourist board in the nearby city of Urfa has taken up with alacrity. Visit the Garden of Eden, its brochures trumpet, see Adam and Eve.

Schmidt is skeptical about the fertility theory. He agrees Gobekli Tepe may well be "the last flowering of a semi-nomadic world that farming was just about to destroy," and points out that if it is in near perfect condition today, it is because those who built it buried it soon after under tons of soil, as though its wild animal-rich world had lost all meaning.

But the site is devoid of the fertility symbols that have been found at other Neolithic sites, and the T-shaped columns, while clearly semi-human, are sexless. "I think here we are face to face with the earliest representation of gods", says Schmidt, patting one of the biggest stones. "They have no eyes, no mouths, no faces. But they have arms and they have hands. They are makers."

"In my opinion, the people who carved them were asking themselves the biggest questions of all," Schmidt continued. "What is this universe? Why are we here?"

With no evidence of houses or graves near the stones, Schmidt believes the hill top was a site of pilgrimage for communities within a radius of roughly a hundred miles. He notes how the tallest stones all face southeast, as if scanning plains that are scattered with archeological sites in many ways no less remarkable than Gobekli Tepe.

Last year, for instance, French archaeologists working at Djade al-Mughara in northern Syria uncovered the oldest mural ever found. "Two square meters of geometric shapes, in red, black and white - a bit like a Paul Klee painting," explains Eric Coqueugniot, the University of Lyon archaeologist who is leading the excavation.

Coqueugniot describes Schmidt's hypothesis that Gobekli Tepe was meeting point for feasts, rituals and sharing ideas as "tempting," given the site's spectacular position. But he emphasizes that surveys of the region are still in their infancy. "Tomorrow, somebody might find somewhere even more dramatic."

Director of a dig at Korpiktepe, on the Tigris River about 120 miles east of Urfa, Vecihi Ozkaya doubts the thousands of stone pots he has found since 2001 in hundreds of 11,500 year-old graves quite qualify as that. But his excitement fills his austere office at Dicle University in Diyarbakir.

"Look at this", he says, pointing at a photo of an exquisitely carved sculpture showing an animal, half-human, half-lion. "It's a sphinx, thousands of years before Egypt. Southeastern Turkey, northern Syria - this region saw the wedding night of our civilization."

Found Here: http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav041708a.shtml

Monday, February 14, 2011

Marcus Wills - The Paul Juraszek Monolith

Portrait of the artist as a holed man wins the day

Most people paint one good portrait to win Australia's most famous art award, the Archibald Prize. This year Marcus Wills churned out more than 200 to claim a surprise victory.

The 34-year-old Melbourne artist was yesterday crowned the 2006 winner of the $35,000 prize for his surreal work The Paul Juraszek Monolith (after Marcus Gheeraerts), which depicts more than 200 figures crawling over a giant stone head.

It is Wills's first entry.

The work, inspired by an etching by the Flemish engraver Marcus Gheeraerts, features 29 individual portraits in various positions of the Melbourne sculptor Paul Juraszek.

Painting the same face that many times could get tiring for someone less tenacious, but Juraszek's shiny pate was an endless source of inspiration for Wills. "I quite like painting bald heads. Hair can be annoying to paint," he said yesterday.

Wills, 34, spent more than two years on the work and confessed he struggled to finish.

"It just went on and on," he said. "I got so sick of painting rocks, but I don't think I'll ever get sick of painting people."

Among the faces he has portrayed, tucked away in the right-hand corner, is a sly little portrait of Wills himself, holding a Paul Juraszek puppet.

Wills's edged out well-known artists such as Ben Quilty, Jenny Sages and Adam Cullen to win, but was one of many Archibald entries to take a fellow artist as a subject.

The director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Edmund Capon, called the painting "very different, very original".

"In every sense it is a most unexpected choice."

Especially so for the gallery's packing room worker Peter Tsangarides, who bet $30 on Wills's work in Sportingbet Australia's first ever Archibald tipping competition. At odds of 41:1 his long shot paid off.

"About $1200 has come in," he said yesterday, adding that he was drawn to the intricate painting. "You stand back and you just see a skull or whatever, but you look closer and it's full of all these people. I didn't think it would win because it's not the style they usually go for."

Asked if he would be buying a round for his packing room workmates, Mr Tsangarides pointed to the Archibald Prize celebratory function in the next room.

"Yeah, but the best time to win money is when there's free drinks at the bar," he laughed.

The 2006 Photographic Portrait Prize went to Vanila Netto for The Magnanimous Beige Wrap - Part 1 (Contraption). The Sulman Prize was won by Jiawei Shen for Peking Treaty 1901, and the Wynne Prize went to John Beard for The Gap.

The Archibald Prize is open to the public from today.

Found Here: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2006/03/24/1143083960340.html

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hueco Tanks Pictographs & Petroglyphs

In the desert basins and mountain ranges of the Southwest and northern Mexico, you will discover, on the surfaces of boulders and rock exposures, galaxies of enigmatic figures chiseled or scribed or painted by human hands hundreds to thousands of years ago. These images on stone, says preeminent authority Polly Schaafsma in Indian Rock Art of the Southwest, are “probably man’s most enduring art form.” They also rank high among man’s most beguiling and mysterious expressions of worldviews, belief systems and spirituality.

On stony surfaces across our arid land, you may find, for instance, strangely abstracted and haunting graphic expressions of a mind apparently untethered from reality, presumably the work of a hallucinating shaman reaching for the spirit world. You may find figures, awash in symbolism, of prehistoric deities, rituals, masks, dance, ceremonies and pilgrimages. You can see portrayals of warriors with shields, each covered with the symbols of the owner’s magic. You may find representational, stylized or even whimsical depictions of men, women and children; mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and insects; and agricultural plants, especially corn. You will often see images of human faces, eyes, handprints, footprints and animal and bird tracks. Always, you will find geometric designs – for instance, spirals, concentric circles, zigzags, parallel lines and step-fret shapes – visual odes to a long-forgotten purpose.

Frequently, as you may see, the artists produced their images – called “rock art” by archaeologists – at sites in distinctive geographic settings, for example, canyons, arroyos, streams, ridges, escarpments and mountain foothills, and typically, they chiseled, pecked, scraped, scored and painted on the walls and ceilings of alcoves and rock shelters, the faces of prominent rock exposures, and the surfaces of large boulders. (Images carved into the surface are called “petroglyphs,” those painted onto the surface are called “pictographs.”)


Should you explore the rock art of our deserts, you may become ensnared in one of the great mysteries of Southwestern archaeology: What do the images signify? What do they mean? Puzzling over the images, you may soon recall Winston Churchill’s famous phrase “an enigma wrapped in a mystery” (which he used to describe the impenetrable Soviet Union).

Anthropologists, archaeologists, art historians and other scholars have a difficult time addressing the question. Oftentimes, they cannot look beyond an image to see the abstract notions and beliefs that inspired an artist to produce it. They have few tools for dating most rock art. Sometimes, they cannot correlate rock art with other archaeological records such as structures, fire hearths, potshards, stone tools and bones. Still, they have offered speculations about the meanings, sometimes generating considerable disagreement and controversy.

Anthropologist and investigator Kay Sutherland once suggested to me that prehistoric shamans, who most likely used hallucinogenic plants such as the Sacred Datura to induce an “otherworldly” state, may have produced rock art for use as portals through which they could enter the spirit world. Speaking to the importance of shamans in their book Tapamveni, Patricia McCreery and Ekkehart Malotki said, “The role of the shaman is to benefit and regulate the well-being of his people. He (or she) is capable of soul flight to the upper world or travel to nether realms to mediate with spirits and gods. The shaman combats evil, cures illness, promotes fertility, controls weather, and with the help of animal spirit helpers, ensures success of the hunt.” Shamans probably produced a high percentage of our rock art.

Moreover, as F. A. Barnes said in his Canyon Country Prehistoric Rock Art, “…it is fairly certain that a lot of Anasazi [the Puebloan tradition of the Four Corners region] and Fremont [the Puebloan tradition of southern Utah] rock art was created for ceremonial purposes, whatever its figures depict. Other high probability meanings and uses are sympathetic magic (as depicted by innumerable hunting scenes), territorial claims (such as clan or dwelling area boundary markers), fertility symbols (coition, pregnancy and birth), special individuals (highly decorated or unusual anthropomorphs), supernatural beings (definitely non-real figures, probably for ceremonial use), weather control (clouds, lightning, whirlwinds and rain), record keeping (counting marks), astronomical events (depictions of supernova and solar calendars), cultural intrusions (macaws) and a variety of other minor uses.” Other authorities suggest that rock art figures may depict historic events, migrations, cultural relationships, trade expeditions, maps, traders and trade routes.

In his controversial The Rocks Begin to Speak, La Van Martineau contends that artists produced images as a form of “rock writing.” In one example, he suggests that figures on a vertical rock wall at western Texas’ Hueco Tanks State Historic Site symbolize the story of an 1839 battle between Mexican militia from El Paso and Kiowa raiders from the Southern Plains. He points, for once instance, to an upside-down figure that represents, in his view, a dead Kiowa.

“…of surpassing interest to most general readers,” said Schaafsma, “are the questions: What does it mean? Are these rock drawings a language awaiting interpretation? Interpreting rock art designs is intriguing yet difficult, often impossible.”

In their rock art, the prehistoric and early historic peoples of the Southwest left us with a compelling, if often bewildering, view into their religious and material lives.

Recurrent Symbols

You may find that some of the most fascinating images include those that recur frequently, sometimes in different forms, over a wide range through long time periods. These may hint at cultural contacts, development, affiliations and ranges. Among the most prominent are figures such as Kokopelli (possibly a god of well-being and fertility), Quetzalcoatal (a deity of agriculture, water and fire), Tlaloc (a deity of storms and rain), a Blacktail Rabbit (a symbol of the moon and fertility) and the Storyteller (presumably a keeper of tribal history and mythology).

Kokopelli, often called the “humpbacked flute player,” appears in many forms, possibly spanning a wider area than any other single representational rock-art figure. At least one authority, Michael Claypool, who has taught short courses on Kokopelli (a Hopi word) at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, suggested the possibility that the figure had origins in Peru more than 1000 years ago. A widely experienced archaeologist friend has told me that Kokopelli-like figures turn up, not only across the Southwest and northern Mexico, but also in southern Mexico and Central America. Typically distinguished by an arched back and a clarinet-like flute, Kokopelli appears in Southwestern rock art in many forms, for instance, as a kilt- and sash-clad human, a humpbacked rabbit, a mountain sheep or a locust. A charismatic figure, he appears to take the role of an impregnator of women, a leader of a migration, the choreographer of ceremonial dance, or the guarantor of hunting and farming success. He may be portrayed as dancing, sitting, lying or walking. Historically rooted or mythical, Kokopelli apparently had a pivotal role in ancient rituals and the history of the prehistoric Southwest.

Quetzalcoatal, with origins in the great city-states of southern Mexico, or Mesoamerica, first appeared as a plumed serpent—a snake with a plume of feathers above its head. He gave humankind corn, domesticated animals, irrigation technology and fire. In some Puebloan societies, he commands underground water sources, and, if displeased, he can cause earthquakes and floods, according to Schaafsma. Borne northward into the greater Southwest, possibly by traders and religious proselytizers, Quetzalcoatal apparently evolved from a serpent with a feathered plume into a serpent with a feathered plume and a forward-pointing horn then into a serpent with only a forward-pointing horn and finally into a serpent with a backward-pointing horn. His progression may have been attributable to the influence of pre-Puebloan hunting cultures, which often used animal horns in their symbolism, suggested Sutherland in her “Spirits from the South,” The Artifact, El Paso Archaeological Society. He seems, according to a variety of sources, to be associated with a portfolio of other symbols, for instance, a bearded and helmeted man, a collared jaguar, the spiral, and an outlined cross or star symbol.

Tlaloc, usually signified by goggle eyes, a snarling mouth and bared teeth, also originated in Mesoamerica. Conveyed northward into the Southwest, presumably by Mesoamerican traders and proselytizers, he seems to have ascended in importance in parallel with emergent Puebloan traditions. Closely associated with agriculture and rain, Tlaloc, like Quetzalcoatal, seems to have evolved in his Southwestern manifestations, possibly because of the influence of hunting cultures. From elaborate and stylized faces in Mesoamerica, Tlaloc morphed, for one example, into a figure with a trapezoidal head and trapezoidal body, said Sutherland. “The head has goggle eyes and an ornate head dress; the body is decorated with Mesoamerican design motifs.” Although the connection is uncertain, Tlaloc-like goggle eyes and snarls appear in numerous other types of figures across the Southwest. Often, perhaps in a kind of shorthand recognition of Tlaloc’s omnipresence, only goggle eyes or a snarl appear in rock art galleries.

The rabbit, as an icon of the moon, conceivably had transoceanic origins that pre-date Mesoamerica. In “The Mesoamerican Rabbit in the Moon: An Influence from Han China?” Archaeoastronomy, Charles R. Wicke said, “Representations of a hare or rabbit on the moon are found in the art of ancient China and in Pre-Columbian Mexico. Mythologies of both areas also place a rabbit on the moon. Although such linkage might appear to be arbitrary, a comparison of the visible surface of the full moon with the silhouette of a rabbit does reveal a degree of congruence. Not only the distinctive ears of the rabbit but also other features appear to be delineated on the moon’s surface.” As you might expect, Wicke’s assertion generated considerable controversy. The rabbit, rather than a man’s face, has been seen through time on the surface of the moon by many cultures worldwide. Once it arrived in the Southwest, it took on the features of the native Blacktail Jackrabbit, appearing both on rock art and ceramics.

Storyteller – a name suggested to me by a tenuous source – ranks as one of the more animated human figures in the rock art of the Southwest. Wearing a fanciful headdress and waving arms, Storyteller sits with the left leg folded up beneath him (or her), turning to address presumably rapt listeners. From uncertain origins, Storyteller makes occasional theatrical appearances in rock art panels from western Texas across southern New Mexico and probably beyond.

Found Here: http://www.desertusa.com/mag07/jan/imagesinstone.html

Near the northwestern tip of the Texas Trans-Pecos, some 30 miles east of El Paso,four massive hills of jumbled boulders rise above the desert floor. No doubt this prominent and oddly compelling landmark has had many different names through time. Today it is known as Hueco Tanks. Characterized as an island in the desert, a natural oasis, a spiritual sanctuary, the site has meant many things to many people.

For thousands of years, Native peoples camped here among the hills, drawing on the site's diverse plant and animal resources. Some stayed longer than others, finding a way to eke out a living in the arid Chihuahuan desert. Roughly 900 years ago, people of the Jornada Mogollon culture built a small village and grew corn and other crops in the soils that accumulated at the base of the rocks. More recently, the site was operated as a cattle ranch, among the first and largest in the region. Following several recreational developments, the property became a county park, and finally a state park. The site today still remains a special place for many Native American peoples who find a spiritual connection here.

What attracted people to this place through time was the critical resource needed for sustaining life on the desert—water. The huge red rocks and boulders are cracked and pocked with fissures and holes—huecos—that trap and hold rainwater for months at a time. The location of these natural tanks was known and, in some cases, marked with special symbols and inscriptions on the rocks. For Native peoples, water in the desert must have seemed a special gift, and there is little doubt that this gift was commemorated in ritual expression through time.

Hundreds of paintings—from large panels to small mask-like faces—adorn the canyon walls, overhangs, ceilings of shelters, and small, hard to find places at the site. Unlike the massive displays at rock art sites along the Texas Lower Pecos or in the greater American Southwest, many of the Hueco Tanks pictographs seem to have been deliberately hidden from view. This puzzling aspect, along with the unusual motifs, has provoked substantial debate over the meaning and derivation of the symbols. Researchers also have discovered that there are many more images at the park than meet the eye. Using new computer techniques, photographers have been able to identify and recapture hundreds of faded or previously unknown pictographs. The inventory of masks now numbers more than 200, constituting the largest assemblage of painted masks in North America.

For archeologists, Hueco Tanks State Park is not one but many archeological sites. Encompassed under the rubric 41EP2—the official site designation—are 29 archeological "localities" and more than 270 rock imagery panels bearing evidence of the many different cultures who made the area their home. Some traces amount to little more than scatters of stone toolmaking debris, where hunters may have stopped to resharpen tools and weapons. Others are the remains of campsites with hearths or "ovens" where ancient cooks roasted desert plants. At the small village site, archeologists found traces of small pithouse structures containing hearths and burials. The first structures of their time period in the Hueco Bolson to be excavated, they have provided important evidence about the architectural transition from simple huts to the multi-room pueblos characteristic of later times.

Archeologists, historians, artists, and photographers have tracked and painstakingly documented the often ephemeral cultural remains at this 860-acre park. Part of their challenge, and that of the Hueco Tanks staff, has been to preserve and protect the fragile cultural remains and remarkable rock art imagery while allowing visitors to explore and enjoy the park.

Through the years, visitors and vandals have left their marks on the walls at some of the park's most significant locales. Some painted graffiti over ancient rock art; others inscribed their names and date of their visit, a tradition going back to the 1840s. Striking a balance between public access and preservation of the site's irreplaceable cultural treasures is an ongoing challenge, managed in recent years by capping the number of visitors at a time, showing every visitor an orientation video, and providing entry to certain areas only when accompanied by a trained guide.

In the following sections, we explore the many realms of Hueco Tanks and provide a virtual tour of some of its most unusual, and often most inaccessible, sites. In Natural Setting: A Rocky Oasis on the Desert, we describe the site's distinctive environment and diverse natural resources. Data from packrat middens and other evidence helps us reconstruct the environment of the past and is presented in the Paleoclimate section. In Explorations and Investigations, we trace early accounts of the site and the work that has been done to uncover the cultural history of Hueco Tanks. The Rock Art Imagery section provides a look at some of the most significant examples of Native expression in North America as well as the modern techniques being used to recapture art that has been destroyed by weathering or human activity. This section also includes a gallery of watercolor depictions of Hueco Tanks rock art painted by noted artist Forrest Kirkland in the 1930s. Weaving the Story: The People of Hueco Tanks chronicles the various peoples who have come to this place. Hueco Tanks Village: A Culture in Transition takes a more detailed look at the small agricultural settlement, as revealed through archeolgical excavations and recent research.

In the interactive Kids section, "Secrets of the Desert: The People of Hueco Tanks," Dr. Dirt, the Armadillo Archeologist, introduces K-12 audiences to Trans-Pecos geography, cultural history, and the whys and hows of living in the desert. Included are a timeline and guided tour of pictograph panels and other special places.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Crystal Caves - The Naica Mine of Chihuahua, Mexico

It's "the Sistine Chapel of crystals," says Juan Manuel García- Ruiz. The geologist announced this week that he and a team of researchers have unlocked the mystery of just how the minerals in Mexico's Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) achieved their monumental forms.

Buried a thousand feet (300 meters) below Naica mountain in the Chihuahuan Desert, the cave was discovered by two miners excavating a new tunnel for the Industrias Peñoles company in 2000.

The cave contains some of the largest natural crystals ever found: translucent gypsum beams measuring up to 36 feet (11 meters) long and weighing up to 55 tons.

"It's a natural marvel," said García-Ruiz, of the University of Granada in Spain.

To learn how the crystals grew to such gigantic sizes, García-Ruiz studied tiny pockets of fluid trapped inside.

The crystals, he said, thrived because they were submerged in mineral-rich water with a very narrow, stable temperature range—around 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius).

At this temperature the mineral anhydrite, which was abundant in the water, dissolved into gypsum, a soft mineral that can take the form of the crystals in the Naica cave.

The new findings appear in the April issue of the journal Geology.

(Related" "Photo in the News: Giant Crystal-Filled Cave Discovered in California" [September 26, 2006].)

Volcanic Activity

The mining complex in Naica contains some of the world's largest deposits of silver, zinc, and lead.

In 1910 miners discovered another spectacular cavern beneath Naica. Its walls studded with crystal "daggers," the Cave of Swords is closer to the surface, at a depth of nearly 400 feet (120 meters).

While there are more crystals in the upper cave, they are far smaller, typically about a yard (a meter) long.

Nearly the Size of a Basketball Court

The Cave of Crystals is a horseshoe-shaped cavity in limestone rock about 30 feet (10 meters) wide and 90 feet (30 meters) long.

Its floor is covered in crystalline, perfectly faceted blocks. The huge crystal beams jut out from both the blocks and the floor.

"There is no other place on the planet where the mineral world reveals itself in such beauty," García-Ruiz said.

Volcanic activity that began about 26 million years ago created Naica mountain and filled it with high-temperature anhydrite, which is the anhydrous—lacking water—form of gypsum.

Anhydrite is stable above 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius). Below that temperature gypsum is the stable form.

When magma underneath the mountain cooled and the temperature dropped below 58 degrees Celsius, the anhydrite began to dissolve. The anhydrite slowly enriched the waters with sulfate and calcium molecules, which for millions of years have been deposited in the caves in the form of huge selenite gypsum crystals.

"There is no limit to the size a crystal can reach," García-Ruiz said.

But, he said, for the Cave of Crystals to have grown such gigantic crystals, it must have been kept just below the anhydrite-gypsum transition temperature for many hundreds of thousands of years.

In the upper cave, by contrast, this transition temperature may have fallen much more rapidly, leading to the formation of smaller crystals.

To Reflood or Not to Reflood

While the chance of this set of conditions occurring on other places in the world is remote, García-Ruiz expects that there are other caves and caverns at Naica containing similarly large crystals.

"The caves containing larger crystals will be located in deeper levels with temperatures closer to, but no higher than, 58 degrees Celsius," he said.

He has recommended to the mining company that the caves should be preserved.

The only reason humans can get into the caves today, however, is because the mining company's pumping operations keep them clear of water. If the pumping is stopped, the caves will again be submerged and the crystals will start growing again, García-Ruiz said.

So what happens if—or when—the mine is closed?

"That's an interesting question," García-Ruiz said.

"Should we continue to pump water to keep the cave available so future generations may admire the crystals? Or should we stop pumping and return the scenario to the natural origin, allowing the crystals to regrow?"

Found Here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/04/070406-giant-crystals_2.html

Naica is a paradox.

Contrary to many underground natural wonders, Naica is a surprising find. 300 meters deep, it has no natural openings to the surface, so it would have never been found if there hadn’t been the Industrias Peñoles mining complex operating there. Some caves require days of expeditions to reach, and film crews have to live in tents and cook their own food. Naica is the opposite, an improbable “film studio” environment. The cave is accessed by simply driving directly from our production office down a tunnel. Down there, we have plenty of electricity and establish a base camp with lights, computers, food, drinks, miscellaneous equipment, etc. Once the day is over, we drive back up, debrief, drive back to our hotel, eat, shower and sleep in a modern room with wireless Internet access and cable TV. That’s the easy part.

There are two doors between the base camp and the giant crystals.

What lies beyond those doors is another story. The base camp is tropical-like, warm and humid, an uncomfortable set in a stone-carved 100-meter long corridor. The closest you get to the 1st door, the warmer it gets. Open the metal door and you instantly feel a draft of noticeably warmer air. Making your way through another corridor leading to two stone-carved steps, it gets much warmer. You go up the steps, not even three feet higher, but you suddenly feel even more oppressive heat and humidity, it’s hard to breathe and you sweat instantly. You can see the giant crystals stretch in all directions beyond the transparent plastic door. Standing there you tell yourself : “This isn’t too bad… Just like a sauna with obstacles.”

Then you open the plastic door…

A burning wall hits you and you are shocked. Until then you haven’t really experienced Naica. Now you are in a humid hell and your feel your entire body sending you messages: “Get out of there NOW! You are in mortal danger.”

No joke. From that moment on, you are.

But you’re safe for now because you just walked in, full of your precious bodily fluids and electrolytes. Climbing over big crystals, you make your way deeper in the cave, giving 100% of your attention to breathing slowly and not falling on the razor-sharp crystals, you then make a stop and raise your head.

You will remember this moment until your last breath.

The first sight of the giant crystals stretching in all directions is impossible to describe. You are in awe, and yet you have a lot of difficulty appreciating it because your entire body is fighting a losing battle against the elements. The Humidex factor of the combined heat and humidity of Los Cristales cave is double the death threshold. Unprotected you can stay 10 to 15 minutes, after that your body is essentially a walking time bomb ready to overheat and die.

But someone is watching over you.

A voice on the walkie-talkie tells you it’s time to go. You reply back and make your way to the exit. You were never really in danger, because the Naica Project team, who have been filming at Naica for almost 4 years know how to keep you safe.

Naica is one of the most remote, beautiful, dangerous place I’ve ever visited, yet it’s surprisingly easy to access, breathtakingly hard to appreciate and, if you don’t go too far in, it’s very safe.

Read more: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/into-the-lost-crystal-caves-4636/Overview#tab-mortal-danger#ixzz1DFopklf3

The Naica Mine of Chihuahua, Mexico, is a working mine that is known for its extraordinary crystals. Naica is a lead, zinc and silver mine in which large voids have been found, containing crystals of selenite (gypsum) as large as 4 feet in diameter and 50 feet long. The chamber holding these crystals is known as the Crystal Cave of Giants, and is approximately 1000 feet down in the limestone host rock of the mine.

The crystals were formed by hydrothermal fluids emanating from the magma chambers below. The cavern was discovered while the miners were drilling through the Naica fault, which they were worried would flood the mine. The Cave of Swords is another chamber in the Naica Mine, containing similar large crystals.

The Naica mine was first discovered by early prospectors in 1794 south of Chihuahua City. They struck a vein of silver at the base of a range of hills called Naica by the Tarahumara Indians. The origin in the Tarahumara language seems to mean "a shady place". Perhaps here in the small canyon there was a grove of trees tucked away by a small canyon spring.

From that discovery, until around 1900, the primary interest was silver and gold. Around 1900 large-scale mining began as zinc and lead became more valuable.

During the Mexican Revolution the mine was producing a great deal of wealth. Revolutionary troops entered the town and demanded money from the owners. One of them was assassinated when he refused to pay, causing the mine to shut down from 1911 to 1922.

Just before the mine was closed, the famous Cave of Swords was discovered at a depth of 400 feet. Due to the incredible crystals, it was decided to try to preserve this cave. While many of the crystals have been collected, this is still a fascinating cave to visit. In one part there are so many crystals on one of the walls, they appear to be like an underwater reef moving in a gentle undulating motion in an ocean current.

In April 2000, brothers Juan and Pedro Sanchez were drilling a new tunnel when they made a truly spectacular discovery. While Naica miners are accustomed to finding crystals, Juan and Pedro were absolutely amazed by the cavern that they found. The brothers immediately informed the engineer in charge, Roberto Gonzalez. Ing. Gonzalez realized that they had discovered a natural treasure and quickly rerouted the tunnel. During this phase some damage was done as several miners tried to remove pieces of the mega-crystals, so the mining company soon installed an iron door to protect the find. Later, one of the workers, with the intention of stealing crystals, managed to get in through a narrow hole. He tried to take some plastic bags filled with fresh air inside, but the strategy didn't work. He lost consciousness and later was found thoroughly baked.

When entering the cave our group is issued helmets, lanterns, rubber boots, and gloves. One must then be driven by truck into the main mining tunnel called Rampa Sn. Francisco. While the vertical drop is approximately 1000 feet, the drive is almost a half mile long. The heat steadily increases and women have been observed to begin "glowing". The truck stops in front of a concrete wall with a steel door. The intense heat can prevent brain functioning.

At the end of the tunnel there are three or four steps into the aperture of the cavern itself. It is in this short tunnel. In this short distance the temperature and humidity goes from being uncomfortably warm to literally a blast furnace.

Momentarily, the penetrating heat is forgotten as the crystals pop into view on the other side of the "Eye of the Queen". The entire panorama is now lighted and the cavern has a depth and impressive cathedral-like appearance that was not visible on earlier trips with just our headlamps.

When inside the great cathedral of crystals, the pressure of intense heat create a gamut of emotions and perhaps hallucinations. One can only remain for a short period of time.

Geologists report that these natural crystal formations are incredibly complex, yet so simple. They have a magical or metaphysical personality independent of their chemical structures. There is a magma chamber two to three miles below the mountain and that heat from this compressed lava travels through the faults up into the area of the mine. Super heated fluids carry the minerals the miners are seeking as well as form the crystals. The mine is ventilated; otherwise, it could not be worked. Some parts, however, are not air-conditioned, such as the Cave of the Crystals, and there you feel the heat from the magma deep below. The fluids travel along the Naica fault, enter voids in the bedrock, and then form entirely natural structures that are not easily explained scientifically.

In April 2000, the mining company became confident that the water table on the other side of the fault had been lowered sufficiently to drill.

When they did this, it is almost as if a magical veil of reality was breached and an entirely new world was discovered. Two caverns filled with the Earth's largest crystals were immediately revealed. More discoveries are expected to be made in this magical kingdom of intense natural beauty.

Selenite, the gypsum crystal, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, Selene, due to its soft white light, is said to have many metaphysical and healing benefits. Selenite powder has been used cosmetically for thousands of years to enhance one's natural beauty. It is believed that this crystal assists with mental focus, growth, luck, immunity, and soothes the emotions.

Found Here: http://www.crystalinks.com/mexicocrystals.html