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Author Topic: One world  (Read 2655 times)
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« on: September 05, 2006, 11:07:23 PM »

I am writing this post by memory, based on bits and pieces I have picked up over the years. I intend to return here to amend and add material 'as and when'. The subject - it is very broad - is to look at the lives and beliefs of people in Europe as far back as we can go and see how they relate to peoples today.

By 'far back' I mean before and immediately after the last Ice Age, which ended some 10,000 years ago. By 'peoples today' I am not restricting myself to Europe.

Because I am starting without notes, I am in danger of error, so please be understanding and patient as, in time, I come back to correct, delete and expand.

King Arthur's Cave, Herefordshire. Photo by Professor Nick Barton

In Britain, there is evidence of early Upper Palaeolithic occupation, in both cave and open-air sites, from before 30,000 years ago, including at King Arthur?s Cave in Herefordshire.  Human remains from around this time are best represented by the famous burial known as the ?Red Lady? (actually a male) from Paviland Cave on the Gower.

However, a major cold event, which peaked around 18,000 years ago, once again saw the abandonment of the British Isles.  This cold event saw the last major advance of the ice sheets of the Devensian glaciation, which came as far south as Birmingham and covered much of Herefordshire.  Britain was probably not re-colonised by humans until around 13,000 years ago.  In the Midlands, artefacts from this late Upper Palaeolithic period have been found in caves in Herefordshire and Derbyshire.

Further fluctuations in the climate ensued, the severest cold period of which probably again saw the abandonment of Britain, before the current warm phase (the Holocene) began about ten thousand years ago.  From that time to the present the human occupation of Britain has been continuous.

During that last abandonment of Britain, most of the population moved south, to the south of France, Spain, then the alps, before returning to Britain when the Ice Age ended.

Horse panel with carved image of horse outlined for clarity. Photo by UNED

In June last year two Spanish experts Dr Sergio Ripoll, one of Spain?s foremost authorities on cave art and Dr Francisco Munox, a specialist in Upper Palaeolithic and Palaeolithic art, assisted British experts in locating cave art in Britain. Dr Paul Pettitt, a scientific consultant for Creswell Crags and Dr Paul Bahn, Britain?s leading Ice Age art specialist, identified 12 engravings with their help in Church Hole, one of the caves at Creswell Crags. In April this year, following further research and a lucky burst of natural light, they found more. Now in excess of 80 engravings have been discovered.

Around 13,000 years old, the cave art in Nottinghamshire?s Church Hole dates from the period at the end of the last Ice Age. It is thought to be around 8,000 years older than similar discoveries in Britain.

By comparing radiocarbon dated remains with ice-core climate records, a team of scientists estimated the speed and timing of human resettlement in late glacial Britain. It suggests a wave of migration coinciding with a sudden rise in temperature and the northwards spread of herd animals such as wild horse and deer. The archaeologists looked for evidence of their return in ancient caves in western and northern England. The team radiocarbon dated bits of butchered bone from animals the settlers hunted such as red deer, and wild horse and cattle. The data reveal repopulation began as far back as 16,000 years ago.

The bones are only slightly younger than earliest dated human-modified remains from countries such as Belgium and Germany, suggesting a rapid advance from mainland Europe. Their progress was helped by the fact Britain was a peninsula, not an island.

The more famous cave frescoes are in southern France - Lascaux - and elsewhere, but - and here I am stretching - I understand that the migrating people of Britain may well have both inhabited the same caves and be responsible for the art there.

A prehistoric map of the night sky has been discovered on the walls of the famous painted caves at Lascaux in central France. It is a map of the prehistoric cosmos, thought to date back 16,500 years, showing three bright stars known today as the Summer Triangle. A map of the Pleiades star cluster has also been found among the Lascaux frescoes. And another pattern of stars, drawn 14,000 years ago, has been identified in a cave in Spain.

The ancient star map shows a bull, birdman and a bird on a stick.

A star map was also found painted on the walls of a cave in Spain, dated to 14,000 years ago. The Cueva di El Castillo cave, in the mountains of Pico del Castillo, contains a region called the Frieze of Hands.

At the end of this remarkable section can be found a curved pattern of dots.

Analysis of the mitochondrial DNA of modern European populations shows that over 80% are descended in the female line from European hunter-gatherers. Less than 20% are descended in the female line from Neolithic farmers from the Middle East. In 1997 DNA analysis was undertaken on a tooth from a Mesolithic man whose remains were found in Gough's Cave at Cheddar Gorge. His mitochondrial DNA was of a type found in 11% of modern European populations.

The construction of the earliest earthwork sites in Britain began during the early Neolithic (c. 4400 BCE- 3300 BCE) in the form of long barrows used for communal burial and the first causewayed enclosures, sites which have parallels on the continent. The former may be derived from the long house although no long house villages have been found in Britain, only individual examples.

The stone-built houses on Orkney such as those at Skara Brae are however indicators of some nucleated settlement in Britain.

Evidence of growing mastery over the environment is embodied in the Sweet Track, a wooden trackway built to cross the marshes of the Somerset Levels and dated to 3807 BCE. Leaf-shaped arrowheads, round-based pottery types and the beginnings of polished axe production are common indicators of the period.

The Middle Neolithic (c. 3300 BCE-c. 2900 BCE) saw the development of cursus monuments close to earlier barrows and the growth and abandonment of causewayed enclosures as well as the building of impressive chamber tombs such as the Maeshowe types. The earliest stone circles and individual burials also appear.

Different pottery types such as Grooved ware appear during the later Neolithic (c. 2900 BCE-c. 2200 BCE) whilst new enclosures, called henges were built, along with stone rows and the famous sites of Stonehenge and Silbury Hill reached their peak. Industrial flint mining such as that at Cissbury and Grimes Graves began.

I am on shaky ground here, but I have heard archaeologists speculate that before the stone henges were wood henges and there is some evidence that the earliest may have been made at the end of the last Ice Age, which is to say, some 10,000 years ago.

This brings me to my first point: whatever purposes the henges served, that purpose was known at least as far back as the last Ice Age and quite possibly earlier. Next, I will explain what purposes they may have had.

« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2006, 09:45:37 AM »

Holme Timber Circle ('Seahenge')
In 1998 a circle of timber posts within the intertidal zone on the north Norfolk coast was brought to the attention of the Norfolk County Council Archaeological Service. A subsequent programme of archaeological recording and dating revealed that the structure was constructed in the spring or early summer of 2049 BC, during the Early Bronze Age. Because of the perceived threat of damage and erosion from the sea a rescue excavation was undertaken during the summer months of 1999. The structure was entirely excavated, involving the removal of the timbers and a programme of stratigraphic recording and environmental analysis. A survey was also undertaken within the environs of the site which has identified further timber structures dating from the Bronze Age. Detailed examination of the timber from the circle has produced a wealth of unexpected information which has added greatly to our understanding of Early Bronze Age woodworking, organisation of labour and the layout and construction of timber ritual monuments.

Wood henges predate stone henges. Being of wood, they appear to have been rebuilt periodically. It may not be possible to know when the first were built, but I have been told by archaeologists who have specialised in this area that they suspect that the first wood henges were built at the end of the last Ice Age.

A henge is a near circular or oval-shaped flat area over 20m in diameter which is enclosed and delimited by a boundary earthwork that usually comprises a ditch with an external bank. Access to the interior is obtained by way of one, two, or four entrances through the earthwork. Internal components may include portal settings, timber circles, post rings, stone circles, four-stone settings, monoliths, standing posts, pits, coves, post alignments, stone alignments, burials, central mounds, and stakeholes" (English Heritage definition).

Given the defensive impracticalities of an enclosure with an external bank and internal ditch (rather than vice versa), henges are considered to have served a ritual purpose, perhaps built with intention of shielding what went on inside the enclosure from the outside world.

Theories about henges

Henges may have been used for rituals, or astronomical observation rather than being areas of day-to-day activity. The fact that their ditches are located inside their banks indicates that they would not have been used in a defensive function and that the barrier the earthworks provide is more likely to have been symbolic rather than functional. It has been conjectured that whatever took place inside the enclosures was intended to be separate from the outside world and perhaps only known to select individuals or groups.

The alignment of henges is a contentious issue. Popular belief is that their entrances point towards certain heavenly bodies. In fact, henge orientation is highly variable and may have been more determined by local topology rather than any desire for symbolic orientation. A slight tendency for Class I henges having an entrance set in the north or north-east quarter has been identified following statistical analysis whilst Class II henges generally have their axes aligned approximately south east to north west or north east to south west.

It has been suggested that the stone and timber structures sometimes built inside henges were used as solar declinometers, used to measure the position of the rising or setting sun. These structures by no means appear in all henges and often considerably post-date the henges themselves. They therefore are not necessarily connected with the henge's original function. It has been conjectured that they could have been used to synchronize a calendar to the solar cycle for purposes of planting crops or timing religious rituals. Some henges have poles, stones or entrances that would indicate the position of the rising or setting sun during the equinoxes and solstices whilst others appear to frame certain constellations. Additionally, many are placed so that nearby hills either mark or do not interfere with such observations. Finally, some henges appear to be placed at particular latitudes. For example, a number are placed at a latitude of 55 degrees north, where the same two markers can indicate the rising and setting sun for both the spring and autumn equinoxes. Henges are present from the extreme north to the extreme south of Britain however and so their latitude could not have been of great importance.

New Wood Henge
Remains of the largest timber henge ever found have been discovered at Stanton Drew, near Bristol, a site already famous for its three circles of standing stones. The new henge, detected during a magnetometer survey of the Great Circle, the largest of the stone monuments, has nine concentric rings of what look like postholes, each about three feet wide. The outermost ring is more than 300 feet in diameter, filling most of the area within the Great Circle, while the innermost ring is about 75 feet across. All told, there were probably between 400 and 500 posts. Beyond the stones the magnetometer located an encircling ditch, no longer visible, about 23 feet wide and almost 450 feet in diameter. Thus, the whole monument is somewhat larger than Stonehenge, whose outer bank measures about 360 feet across. A date of ca. 3000 B.C. seems probable, though excavation would be needed to confirm it and to show that the magnetic traces are indeed those of postholes. Neolithic timber circles are known at other sites in southern Britain, such as Woodhenge and Avebury, but none is on the scale of the Stanton Drew circle.


Woodhenge is a Neolithic Class I henge and timber circle monument located to the North of Amesbury in Wiltshire, England, and it is closer to Amesbury than is Stonehenge.

Woodhenge was identified in 1922 after an aerial archaeology survey undertaken by Alexander Keiller and OGS Crawford.

Maud Cunnington excavated the site between 1926 and 1929.

Pottery from the excavation was identified as being consistent with the Grooved ware style of the middle Neolithic, although later Beaker sherds were also found. So, the structure was probably built during the reign of the Beaker People.

The site was believed by Cunnington to consist of a central burial, surrounded first by six concentric rings of postholes, then by a single ditch and finally an outer bank, around 85m wide. The burial was of a child which Cunnington interpreted as a dedicatory sacrifice although it was destroyed in The Blitz (bombing by the Germans during World War II) and re-examination has not been possible. Cunnington also found a skeleton of a teenager in one of the ditch sections she dug. Another theory is that the site is the burial location of a Celtic royal family.

Most of the 168 post holes held wooden posts, though there is evidence of a pair of standing stones having been placed between the second and third post hole rings. The deepest holes measured up to 2m and the height of the posts they held has been estimated at up to 7.5m above the ground. This sort of timber would have weighed around 5 tons and are similar as the erection of the bluestones at Stonehenge.

Further comparisons with Stonehenge were quickly noticed by Cunnington; both have entrances oriented approximately on the midsummer sunrise and the diameters of the timber circles at Woodhenge and the stone circles at Stonehenge are similar making the reasons for the name more understandable.

The positions of the postholes are currently marked with modern concrete posts which are a simple and informative method of displaying the site.

There are various theories about possible timber structures that might have stood on the site, and about how the axes, etc, of the rings might have aligned with positions of the Sun on the horizon. Many opportunities remain for further work in this respect, unfortunatley, work on the study of Stonehenge has overshadowed any real breakthroughs in the understanding of Woodhenge.

In my view, the archaeoastronomical interpretation of henges is weak. That they are related to the sun appears beyond doubt. However, equally important is their relationship to the moon.
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2006, 12:33:50 PM »

I think that there is good evidence that henges were used to carry the soul of the dead to the moon, via moonlight refracting through quartz.

Ancient Scotland: Prehistoric Religion
In north-east Scotland there is a special type of circle known as the recumbent stone circle, in which a large slab is set horizontal or recumbent between two flanking upright stones in the southwestern arc. Seen from within the circle, the recumbent arrangement frames the rising or setting of the moon at certain times, and sometimes cup-marks have been carved at the point where the moon rises or sets over the stones.
Interest in the movements of the moon may account for the widespread use of white quartz pebbles both in stone settings and in burial monuments.

These monuments were in use over very long periods of time, and their archaeology can be quite complex. In addition to the visible elements of all these ritual sites, there may be pits, graves and hearths below ground level. The likely survival of related archaeology has to be considered in the protection of these monuments.

This is why my toughts on this are speculative. The period is so far removed from us and any evidence is so slight that nobody can be sure of much. Informed and responsible speculation, though, has its place.

Nether Largie, Argyll
There are six promininent standing stones in the fields, five of them laid out in an extended cross shape (see plan above), with their axes set north-west to south-east. All but one of the stones are cup-marked, with the distinctive central stone C decorated with 40 cupmarks and 3 cup-and-ring markings. The stones of this alignment are large, all being nearly 3 metres tall. Another smaller stone lies 100 metres northwest of the main group.

There are also two smaller square settings of four slabs (see plan), one setting closely surrounding the central stone C, and the other close by to the south.

The standing stones here seem to have been erected in a carefully chosen location, so that, together with the local horizons, both the northernmost and southernmost positions of the moon during the major standstill are indicated1. Standing at the southern pair of stones, A and B, and looking to the north-west, an observer sees a ridge of low hills. The azimuth of about 318? with the horizon height of over 4? indicates the extreme northern (midwinter) setting position of the full moon at the major standstill. The flat face of the central stone C also indicates about the same position on the horizon.

Standing at the northern stone E and looking past the central stone to stone A, an observer sees (if the weather is clear) Bellanoch hill, over 4 miles distant, on a bearing of 206.5?. The view is partly blocked by trees. This gives the position of the setting full moon at its extreme southerly (midsummer) position.

Nether Largie central standing stoneThus the stones at Nether Largie indicate both ends of the band of western sky within which the moon always sets. The major standstill takes place only once every nineteen years, though the extreme moon would come close to those indicated positions during the months before and after the standstill also.

This site is probably the most important and coherent lunar site in Scotland, with no real parallels elsewhere, except with an alignment at Barbreck house, which is now enclosed by buildings and trees.

It is worth noting also that the excavator of the two stone circles at Temple Wood nearby suggested that the area of the northern circle there had also incorporated astronomical lines2. Jack Scott believed there had been wooden sighting structures on the site of the uncompleted ring. These structures were set out on a north-south axis and had served to establish the position of the noonday sun. A two metre long slab, still visible in the centre of the northern circle, is set precisely on a north-south line, and you may care to examine this circle during your visit to the Nether Largie stones.

On Stanton Drew, Avebury and Stonehenge: Standing Stones
Wimblestone is perhaps the most well-known standing stone in Somerset, situated just under a line of trees at the western end of a valley whose northern edge was the site of a Neolithic settlement [Clarke & Richards 1972]. The stone is around 2m tall and an equilateral triangle in shape, roughly 0.5m in width, and at its base is an oval hole. This huge shark's tooth is aligned such that its thinnest aspect points east/west. To the west is a sharp rise onto the Mendips at Dolebury Warren, not far from Aveline's Hole. At the other end of the valley, in Banwell, is another megalith of the other type found in the region - a large, flat, rectangular stone. This megalith is about 2m high, 1.5m wide, and 0.5m thick. Its top edge is rain-damaged and looks as if a corner is missing. The thinnest aspect points to Fry's Hill with its raised end, which leads up onto the Mendips near Cheddar Caves. Hence such stones can be seen as signposts to the henges at Priddy. It is also interesting to note that, standing at the Banwell stone's raised edge, facing south-southwest and hence perpendicular to it, the prominent Brent Knoll appears cradled between two closer hills. The huge, almost conical, Brent Knoll stands alone over a hundred metres proud of the western end of the Levels. It lies on an azimuth of 211 degrees from the Banwell megalith, that of the major southern setting of the midsummer moon. The minor southern setting may be seen directly to the right of its base, an azimuth of 231 degrees. Viewing the major southern setting over something is seen at Stanton Drew (Section 3) and further afield (Sections 5 and 6). It can be further noted that a similar alignment can be found in Trencrom, Cornwall where the southern setting of the midsummer moon is seen over Trencrom Hill from a nearby megalith.

Total eclipse of the moon November 8, 2003, over Keppel Henge

Stanton Drew
The megaliths at Stanton Drew are arranged in three circles, two of which have short avenues, with a nearby Cove and an outlier.
An alignment stretches from the Cove, through the centre of the main circle, to the centre of the northeast circle, at around 52 degrees from north [Burl 1987, p.14-16], which will be returned to here. A second alignment exists from the centre of the northeast circle to that of the south-southwest circle, with an azimuth of 211 degrees and a declination -30.9 degrees, it marks the major southern setting of the midsummer "Moon?" [Thom 1967, p.100 S3/1].
From this newfound stone circle centre an alignment exists with the centre of the northeast circle which passes directly through the middle of the aforementioned gap in the ditch to the Cove; the view, aligned along the left bank of the gap, has an azimuth of 231 degrees - that of the minor southern setting of the midsummer moon.

As a very speculative aside: The timber rings may not share the same centre as the stone circle because they predate it by a significant amount of time. The posts were obviously large and in a very large ring. This makes them similar to the timber posts found under the carpark at Stonehenge, which have been dated as Mesolilthic [Cleal et al. 1995]. That is, the stone circle may have been built at a previously important site.

* compars.gif (19 KB, 935x661 - viewed 85 times.)
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2006, 01:04:02 PM »

Let us look further how the henge took the spirit of the dead to the moon.

...the Beaker People became obsessed with the belief that maths and geometry held such a deep and obscure meaning to life that it could be used to their own benefit. To this belief they added a few extra ingredients. At Woodhenge they made a maturing egg that hopefully contained the life of a sacrificial child. To this they added a multitude of broken clay vessels and animal bones. Mixed in with the clay of these vessels were a variety of stones, often of quartz and flint, some marine shells, and a few vessels even carried geometric messages.

These are the idealised egg-shapes that the wooden posts of Woodhenge describe.

As for whether (Professor Alexander) Thom's postulated 'megalithic yard', was a universal standard of measure throughout the whole of Neolithic Europe: the arguments will continue to rage. Neither has Thom's case been helped by the fact that prehistoric people tried to force Pi into the value of 3 at Woodhenge. Although such treatment turned the radii of the Woodhenge eggs into 'bastard' sizes, it doesn't alter the fact that the use of Thom's megalithic yard in Wiltshire is now proven beyond any doubt.

Newgrange ? a view from the platform
In a recent critical evaluation of O?Kelly?s restoration, Palle Eriksen (2004) argues that
the monument may have been built in a number of stages, that the mound would have been dome-shaped and hence there never was a vertical revetment wall placed on top of the kerb.
In the vicinity of the entrance, rather than a vertical wall composed of quartz and granite
standing on the kerb, it may have been either laid on the face of a less steeply sloping mound or as a deposit on the ground in front of the monument.
By way of complementing Eriksen?s remarks this contribution places the reconstruction
work in a wider context, offers a different interpretation of the stratigraphic sequence and
the role of the quartz/granite layer at Newgrange and comments on the consequences of the quartz wall for archaeological and public interpretation of Newgrange. The use of the term ?passage tomb? rather than ?passage grave? has become standard in Ireland (see de Valera & ONuallain 1972: xiii) and this is used here. While not the focus of this debate the discussion below is based on a recognition of the range and depth of symbolic value that quartz would have held for people in the Neolithic (e.g. Cooney 2000a: 176-8).

The extensive sod stripping to provide turfs for the passage tomb mounds was also seen as precipitating a socio-economic decline which brought an end to the society which had built Newgrange (O?Kelly 1982: 128, 145, 1983: 52). Subsequent activity at Newgrange during the Beaker period was discussed in terms of a very different social context. The people were described as having a lower standard of living with food production concentrated chiefly on cattle and pig herding (van Wijngaarden-Bakker 1986). The extravagance of the construction of the tomb/house for the dead had wrecked the economy.
...there has been important work done on the sourcing of the material. Mitchell (1992: 129) demonstrated that the quartz at Newgrange and Knowth came from the Wicklow Mountains, 50km to the south, as shown by the occurrence of distinctive large crystals of muscovite in the quartz (see also Meighan et al. 2003 for further fieldwork and preliminary oxygen isotope data).
Eogan (1986: 48, 65) suggested that the spreads could either have been the result of cairn slippage, indicating a concentration of quartz on the mound in the vicinity of the tombs, or were deliberately laid features.
So, we are left with support both for the idea of quartz as a cairn or mound facing as well
as a deliberately placed feature on the ground in the vicinity of tomb entrances.

Easter Aquhorthies is an example of a recumbent stone circle, i.e. a circle of standing stones whose two tallest stones flank a slab laid on its side. These sites typically date from the third millenium BC. The recumbent and its flanking stones frame the moon rising or setting in the southern sky, enabling lunar observations to be made by the farming communities who built the circles.

Stonehenge for the ancestors: the stonespass on the message
As a result Stonehenge can be interpreted as belonging to the ancestors, a stone version for the dead of the timber circles used for ceremonials by the living. By extension, Avebury and many other stone monuments of this period can be understood as built for the ancestors in parallel to the wooden monuments constructed for the living.

Daily Life in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Scotland
Time and the monthly calendar were kept by being aware of the nightly phase of the moon. The moon reflected light, but not heat, was visible during both the night and day, and was constantly changing shape. The sun was always circular and gave off heat and light. Everyone knew that the sun and moon were powerful spirits in the sky. The sun was a male spirit and each year warmed the female Earth. This brought new life in the spring in the form of plants emerging out of the soil. The sun light filled the back of the tomb on the shortest day of the year through a slit over the door. At other times of the year this space was filled in with a solid block of white quartz. This yearly impregnation would help the part of the soul of ancestors that resided in bone to transmigrate into mothers wishing to have a baby. The changing moon was continually being reborn and dying and was represented by a flat death stone atop the tomb with cup marks. These represented their rebirth from the part of the ancestors soul that dwelled underground.

« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2006, 02:03:54 PM »

We have seen how the henges incorporated quartz in order to convey the spirit of the dead to the moon. The common term used to describe this practice is shamanism.


Shamanistic practices are sometimes claimed to predate all organized religions, and certainly date back to the Neolithic period. Aspects of shamanism are encountered in later, organized religions, generally in their mystic and symbolic practices. Greek paganism was influenced by shamanism, as reflected in the stories of Tantalus, Prometheus, Medea, and Calypso among others, as well as in the Eleusinian Mysteries, and other mysteries. Some of the shamanic practices of the Greek religion later merged into the Roman religion.

The shamanic practices of many cultures were marginalized with the spread of monotheism in Europe and the Middle East. In Europe, starting around 400, the Catholic Church was instrumental in the collapse of the Greek and Roman religions. Temples were systematically destroyed and key ceremonies were outlawed or appropriated. The Early Modern witch trials may have further eliminated lingering remnants of European shamanism (if in fact "shamanism" can even be used to accurately describe the beliefs and practices of those cultures).

The repression of shamanism continued as Catholic influence spread with Spanish colonization. In the Caribbean, and Central and South America, Catholic priests followed in the footsteps of the Conquistadors and were instrumental in the destruction of the local traditions, denouncing practitioners as "devil worshippers" and having them executed. In North America, the English Puritans conducted periodic campaigns against individuals perceived as witches. More recently, attacks [citation needed]on shamanic practitioners have been carried out at the hands of Christian missionaries to third world countries. As recently as the nineteen seventies, historic petroglyphs were being defaced by missionaries in the Amazon. A similarly destructive story can be told of the encounter between Buddhists and shamans, e.g., in Mongolia (See Caroline Humphrey with Urgunge Onon, 1996).

Today, shamanism survives primarily among indigenous peoples. Shamanic practice continues today in the tundras, jungles, deserts, and other rural areas, and also in cities, towns, suburbs, and shantytowns all over the world. This is especially widespread in Africa as well as South America, where "mestizo shamanism" is widespread.

We can see that the beliefs and practices of a time long ago lived on. They became incorporated into later cultures, including those of ancient Greece and Rome, and through them transmuted into the religious beliefs of today. They also lived on in other cultures, largely unchanged.

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« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2006, 11:40:53 PM »

Thank you for taking the time to assemble all this remarkable history. I will read again and again until I can grasp all of the fundamentals. A wonderful article.
Thank You.

« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2006, 06:09:20 PM »

Nazca and its Lines
The clues to the function of the lines are found in the highly advanced pottery and textiles of the ancient Nazcans, some of which show a flying being emitting discharge from its nose and mouth. This is believed to portray the flight of the shaman who consumes certain psycho-active drugs that convince him he can fly and so enter the real world of spirits in order to rid sick people of evil spirits.

In this way, the lines are not designed to be seen physically from above, but from the mind's eye of the flying shaman. This also explains the presence of creatures such as a monkey or killer whale which possess qualities needed by the shaman in his spirit journey. Of the geometric figures, the straight lines are a feature of ancient Peruvian ritual behaviour, much like ley lines in Europe. The represent invisible paths of perceive energy, while the trapezoids are thought to have been ritual spaces where offering were made to the gods.

Nazca: Airport of the Gods?
 Shamanic cultures use ?shamans? (priests) to seek contact with the gods, the ancestors, the dead. These are local in a different dimension; they are not physical beings, but ?spiritual entities?, often the souls of the tribal ancestors, as well as creator deities. The land of the dead was similar to Earth, but was found in another dimension ? here, yet invisible to our eyes

Straight lines were specifically linked with the voyage of the shaman in the Otherworld, as well as with the Otherworld in general. Souls were said to be only able to travel in straight lines. ?Dead roads?, ?dead straight roads?, often linked the church with the cemetery ? if some distance separated them.

« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2006, 05:57:18 PM »

Flying reindeer from shaman drum
Yes, it is the shaman who joins the cardinal points in the past and the present.

The shaman beats his drum until he reaches the specific rhythm and tone that sends him into a trancelike state of ecstasy. The rhythmic beats affect the central nervous system, producing a hypnotic condition. In this altered state called gievvot, his soul travels in extra-corporeal form to the spirit world to converse with the dead.

But first, the drum must be granted ?life? by means of a particular ritual, and possessed by a guardian spirit ? most commonly a reindeer. The shaman, with the help of his reindeer guide (or bassev?resarves), can make his spiritual journey. On the drum skin are painted (in alder bark mixed with spit) various blood-red symbols that help guide the shaman on his ?reindeer vision? across the cosmic road (Milky Way) to J?bme?jmoo, the Land of the Dead.

How did Santa get the power to fly like the wind? In An Account of a Visit from St Nicholas, his aerial acrobatics are described thus: ?He sprang to his sleigh, to the team gave a whistle, / And away they all flew like the down from a thistle.? In Lapland, the Saami shaman (called the Magi of the North) is believed to have the power to raise the wind and storms. In olden times, Lapp sorcerers sold ?wind-knots? to sailors in the form of three knots tied in a handkerchief. As the knots are untied the winds would increase. Sailors beware ? the loosening of the third knot can cause an accursed m?lstrom. It is said that the sorcerers of Lapland learned their accursed art from Zoroaster the Persian. Yet power over the wind comes from the Devil himself, ?the prince of the power of the air? (Ephesians 2:2).

In Lapland, sorcery was a craft preserved for male shamans, but there have been documented reports of female practitioners. Throughout the ages, Lapland has had the sinister reputation for being a place for witches? orgies. On Lapp witches, Cotton Mather (infamous for his role in the Salem Witch Trials) wrote in his book Wonders of the Invisible World: ?Undoubtedly the Devil understands as well the way to make a Tempest as to turn Winds at the Solicitation of a Laplander.? He went on to write that they ?can with looks or words bewitch other people, or sell Winds to Mariners? and by their Enchanted Kettle Drums can learn things done a Thousand Leagues off.?

The Saami shaman or noid (also spelled nojd, noyde, and noajdde), besides having power over the wind, was believed to have the gift of second sight, invisibility, shapeshifting, weird visions, and the capability to create false apparitions. Because of the awesome supernatural power thought to be wielded by the noid, Martin Luther believed that Lapland was the home of the Devil. Missionaries to Lapland believed that the noid were literally possessed by demons, and the shaman?s drum was a powerful ?instrument and tool of the Devil?. The regions and peoples of the extreme north have always held a special fascination for inhabitants of the temperate zones. The excessive cold, the winter darkness, and the reputed mystical powers of the Hyperborean people have long attracted the imagination of writers, adventurers, and seekers of mystic powers. Surely, Santa Claus lives in the north because, like a Holy Magus, he seeks the great supernatural power of the noid.

Tore Ahlb?ck and Jan Bergman, Eds, The Saami Shaman Drum, Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History, Finland, 1991.
Dmitri Bayanov, In the Footsteps of the Russian Snowman, Hancock House, USA, 2004.
Jan Bondeson, The Feejee Mermaid, Cornell University Press, 1999.
Odd Mathis H?tta, The Ancient Religion and Folk-Beliefs of the S?mi, Alta Museum.
Clement Clarke Moore (attributed), An Account of a Visit from St Nicholas, 1823.
Ernest J Moyne, Raising the Wind: The legend of Lapland and Finland Wizards in Literature, University of Delaware Press, 1981.
Tony van Renterghem, When Santa Was a Shaman, LLewellyn, 1996.
The Magic of Lapland and Christmas Every Day - On the Arctic Circle, Santa Village, Rovaniemi, Finland.
Phyllis Siefker, Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men, McFarland & Company, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1997.
Stanislav Szukalski, Behold!!! The Protong, Last Gasp, San Francisco, California, 2001.
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« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2006, 06:07:45 PM »

That is one great post!
There is so much we have yet to learn about our past but this little bit is just plain fun. There is a kernel of truth in almost every legend it seems.

« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2006, 12:29:05 PM »

Origins of Santa Claus
Other possible origins
American mycologists Jonathan Ott, James Arthur, Jan Irvin and Andrew Rutajit as well as UK mycologist Dr. Patrick Harding suggest that many of the modern features attributed to Santa Claus may somehow be derived from those of the Kamchatkan or Siberian shaman. Apparently, during the midwinter festival (holiday season) in Siberia (near the North Pole), the shaman would enter a yurt (home) through the shangrak (chimney), bringing with him a sack of fly agaric mushrooms (presents) to give to the inhabitants. This type of mushroom is brightly colored red and white, like Santa Claus, though some question the relevance of this, the above scholars' research provides many astouding associations that make their work highly probable. The mushrooms were often hung (to dry) in front of the fireplace, much like the stockings of modern-day Christmas. Furthermore, the mushrooms were associated with reindeer who were known to eat them and become intoxicated. Reindeer are also associated with the shaman, and like Santa Claus, many people believed that the shaman could fly.

The Nganasan (Siberian) shaman Tubiakou, exhausted upon return from his shamanic flight, is seated on a deerskin, and his assistants are unfastening his chains. His ritual costume includes a bear paw bracelet and iron deer antlers.

Siberian Shamanism
Among the Siberian and Mongolian indigenous peoples, the universe is conceived as a living organism. The polar star is a celestial nail, and the Altaic shamans decorate their drums with the symbols of Venus and the constellation of the Great Bear. In Buryat shamanistic symbolism, the World-Tree is connected to the World-River, which interlinks with all the three worlds. It must be traversed by the shaman in order to reach any part of the Otherworld.

In Siberian cosmology, the universe is also associated with animal concepts, such as the elk for the Middleworld, the bear for the Master of the Animals, or, among the Evenks, for the ethnogenic father. In addition, the universe has a tripartite structure consisting of the Upper, Middle, and Lower worlds, each one being a replica (imago mundi) of the other two. The Yakut shaman embarks on a soul journey by ascending progressively several celestial poles, the World-Tree. It is particularly important that the drum of a Siberian shaman be made from the wood of the World-Tree. The cosmological symbolism depicted on the drumskin, in conjunction with the whole drum, stands for the entire universe. All these types of symbolic devises are internalized by the shaman as his or her personal metaphors.

Excerpted from: P. Vitebsky. The Shaman. London: MacMillan, Duncan Baird Publishers, 1995; pp. 10-11.
« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2006, 03:57:53 PM »

Perhaps our dear readers can see how Stonehenge and earlier, wooden monuments dating back, perhaps, to the last Ice Age, connect to an interest in the dead through shamanism across the world, and continues as a belief system into today's world. In my view, this is represented in ordinary homes across the world each Christmas.

It may not be entirely coincidental that Christmas, this very Christian festival, is tied to shamanistic practice.

The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross
John Marco Allegro (17 February 1923 - 17 February 1988) was a controversial archaeologist and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar.

Allegro published a translation of the Copper Scroll two years before the official version published by J?zef Milik. He is best known for his book, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, in which he posits that Jesus in the Gospels was actually a code for a type of hallucinogen, the Amanita muscaria, and that Christianity was the product of an ancient "sex-and-mushroom" cult. Although recognized as iconoclastic, his scroll scholarship still carries some measure of respect among peers. In the preface to the second edition of his book The Dead Sea Scrolls, he stated his desire to build "a bridge...between the antagonistic faiths of this world."

He studied Semitic languages at Manchester University, and Hebrew dialects at Oxford University. Trained for the Methodist ministry, he eventually became devoted to debunking the story of Jesus.

John Marco Allegro was the first British representative on the international team of scholars who gathered in Jerusalem in 1953 to collate the thousands of scroll fragments from Cave 4 by the Dead Sea. He was also the only agnostic on the team and the most willing to ask, from a non-religious perspective, what the Dead Sea Scrolls could tell us about the origins of Christianity.

The sectarian scrolls, such as the Community Rule and Thanksgiving Hymns, show many correspondences with parts of the Gospels and Acts. Pointing out the similarities in the 1950s disturbed some theologians, who felt the uniqueness of the Christian story could be under threat. But there are also obvious differences between the religious outlook depicted in the Scrolls and that of the New Testament. Allegro thought the similarities compelling and the differences intriguing. He asked: what continued, what changed, and why?

His studies on these questions culminated in The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth (Westbridge Books, 1979; Prometheus Books, 1985). No one paid the book much attention. The roars of outrage raised by his controversial book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross in 1970 were still echoing around the academic world and he found it difficult to make his voice heard. As I have argued in John Marco Allegro, the Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls (pb. Wm B Eerdmans, 2005), it is time to allow Allegro a fair hearing.

The light of the sun

A step which Allegro pointed to but did not fully explore in The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth would be to show more explicitly how far the doctrine of divine light reflected, in fact was part of, the still older theme of sun-worship. In these terms, the myth of Christianity, as an expression of divine light, would fit into the syntax, as it were, of more ancient beliefs, but gain an identity of its own as an institutional church.

The sun brought the earth to life, every year and every day. The sun-gods of various religions share the same characteristics. Persian Mithras and Egyptian Horus, for example, are born on 25 December after three days of winter solstice; they have twelve companions; they perform miracles; they are killed and rise from their tomb after three days; their epithets include the Way, the Truth, the Redeemer, and in the case of Horus KRST, the Anointed One. The Gnostic sect who danced at sunrise, the eastward orientation of every church, celebrated the life-giving power of the sun. So in AD 324 it took no great revolution of belief for the Emperor Constantine, who had been a follower of the sun-god Mithras, to call his god Jesus instead, and decide that all his subjects should do the same. The myths and imagery of sun worship, whose fundamental concern is the fertility of the earth and all its creatures, easily assimilated the corresponding myths and imagery of the Christian Redeemer.

Constantine had been converted twelve years earlier, and, whether out of religious conviction or political expediency, he would have appreciated the potential for control offered by the orthodox - that is, institutional - side of the "new" religion, rather than the individualism of Gnosticism. The Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter called the church's hierarchy of bishops and deacons "waterless canals," but the Gnostic focus on attaining inner light, each for himself, could never have had the same unifying force in society. The church's flesh-and-blood stories of martyrs and miracle cures could appeal to people everywhere, and its hierarchy of bishops and priests offered a reasonably efficient way to control them. For the sake of consistency, this involved adopting and promulgating one coherent version of the Redeemer story. As John Allegro put it, "Absurd though the myth was in its historical and religious pretensions, and sadly misleading in its presentation of contemporary Judaism, its stories contained such elements of truth and reflections of deep religious sentiment, combined with a fluency of style and an illusory simplicity of content, as to procure a sympathetic and ready audience in the gentile world. Its protagonists, the Great Church, eventually won the day, and its hierarchy ensured that for the future the writings of the canonical New Testament should be invested with supreme and incontrovertible authority as sources of doctrine and history" (The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth, p. 192).

In summation, John Allegro observed the way the Jesus story echoed events and ideas in Gnostic literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Old Testament, and he identified the doctrine of divine light as the unifying theme. This is expressed in myth and imagery and is a key to understanding a range of mythologies - including Christianity.

If we compare the Christian story with other contemporary writings and also with recurrent themes in the mythology of other cultures, we see it in the context of a much older and deeper current of religious thought. And if we observe this as students of human thought rather than as devotees of a particular religion, it is not to belittle Christianity as a phenomenon of history but to strengthen it as an expression of human understanding.

John Marco Allegro
During the time that he was working with his fellow scholars to reconstruct the scrolls, John Allegro lost his faith. He did not like the fact that the scrolls were so restricted from the public and he made his opinion known. Four years after he had transcribed the scroll it still had not been published, so he published his own version entitled The Treasure of the Copper Scroll. Allegro continued to publish his own versions of the status and content of the scrolls. This angered his fellow scholars and eventually caused them to deny him access to the scrolls.

    After this, in 1970, Allegro wrote his most controversial book, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, voicing his opinion that Christian religion was based on a cult practicing frequent drug-use (psychedelic mushrooms) and sex. He theorized that Jesus' last words on the cross were not a lament to God but ?a paean of praise to the god of the mushroom? (Skepticfiles.org - John Allegro).
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2006, 06:26:35 PM »

INTO THE LIGHT: Shamans (from left) Hamilton Souther, Julio Gerena Pinedo, and Alberto Torres Davila preside over an ayahuasca ceremony in the Peruvian Amazon. Drawn by the prospect of life-changing visions, visitors come from around the world to take part.

Many will dismiss the considerations of Allegro, without much thought, and that would be a mistake.

Looking again at the use of hallucinogenic drugs by shaman:

The origins of shamanism
The history of healing wizards in Peru matches that of the ritual use of hallucinogens and appears to have emerged alongside the first major temple-building culture -- Chav?n (1200 BC--200 AD). Agriculture, ceramics and other technical processes including some metallurgy had already been developed by 1200 BC, but Chav?n demonstrates the first unified and widespread cultural movement in terms of sacred architectural style, and the forms and symbolic imagery used in pottery throughout much of Andean and coastal Peru during this era. Chav?n was a religious cult which seems to have spread from the central mountains, quite possibly from the large temple complex at Chav?n de Huantar near Huaraz. Taking hold along the coast, the image of the central Chav?n deity was woven, moulded, and carved onto the finest funerary cloths, ceramics and stones. Generally represented as a complex and demonic-looking feline deity, the Chav?n god always has fangs and a stern face. Many of the idols also show serpents radiating from the deity's head.

As far as the central temple at Chav?n de Huantar is concerned, it was almost certainly a centre of sacred pilgrimage built up over a period of centuries into a large ceremonial complex used at appropriate calendrical intervals to focus the spiritual, political, and economic energies of a vast area (at least large enough to include a range of produce for local consumption from tropical forest, high Andean and desert coast regions). The magnificent stone temple kept growing in size until, by around 300 BC, it would have been one of the largest religious centres anywhere in the world, with some three thousand local attendants. Among the fascinating finds at Chav?n there have been bone snuff-tubes, beads, pendants, needles, ceremonial spondylus shells (imported from Ecuador) and some quartz crystals associated with ritual sites. One quartz crystal, covered in red pigment, was found in a grave, placed after death in the mouth of the deceased. Contemporary anthropological evidence shows us that quartz crystals still play an important role in shamanic ceremonies in Peru, the Americas, Australia and Asia. The well-documented Desana Indians of Colombia still see crystals as a "means of communication between the visible and invisible worlds, a crystallization of solar energy, or the Sun Father's semen which can be used in esoteric undertakings".

In one stone relief on the main temple at Chav?n the feline deity is depicted holding a large San Pedro cactus in his hand. A Chav?n ceramic bottle has been discovered with a San Pedro cactus "growing" on it; and, on another pot, a feline sits surrounded by several San Pedros. Similar motifs and designs appear on the later Paracas and Mochica craft work, but there is no real evidence for the ritual use of hallucinogens prior to Chav?n. One impressive ceramic from the Mochica culture (500 AD) depicts an owl-woman -- still symbolic of the female shaman in contemporary Peru -- with a slice of San Pedro cactus in her hand. Another ceramic from the later Chimu culture (around 1100 AD) shows a woman healer holding a San Pedro.

As well as coca, their "divine plant", the Incas had their own special hallucinogen: vilca (meaning "sacred" in Quechua). The vilca tree (probably Anadenanthera colubrina) grows in the cloud-forest zones on the eastern slopes of the Peruvian Andes. The Incas used a snuff made from the seeds which was generally blown up the nostrils of the participant by a helper. Evidently the Inca priests used vilca to bring on visions and make contact with the gods and spirit world.

Shaman Preparing the Vision Quest
Photo displayed with the kind permission of Skip Kaltenheuser

Mapacho - Sacred Tobacco
Family Solanaceae
(nightshade, potatoes, tomatoes, Datura, etc.)
Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rustica

N. tabacum (mature plant)

Nicotiana (tobacco) is a genus of 21 to 67 species of perenial herbs and shrubs, including many subspecies, strains and cultivars, characterized by large fleshy leaves and numerous sticky hairs. Various species are used as ornamentals, insecticides, and for smoking.

Mapacho is considered very sacred by Amazonian shamans and is employed alone (by tabaqueros) or in combination with other plants in shamanic practices. Some shamans drink the juice of tobacco leaves alone as a source of visions.  Mapacho is used extensively in healing practices and is considered a medicine, not a health hazard, when used properly.

Nicotiana are native in North and South America, especially in the Andes (45 species) and in Polynesia and Australia (21 species). The two commercially important species are Nicotiana tabacum, cultivated in warm areas for smoking tobacco, and N. rustica, cultivated mainly for insecticidal use. Both species are believed to be of hybrid origin.

Tobacco is one of the most important plants in the lives of all tribes of the northwest Amazon (Wilbert, 1987). It's many names include lukux-ri (Yukuna); ye'-ma (Tariana); a'-li (Bare); e'-li (Baniwa); mu-lu', pag?ri-mul? (Desano); kherm'-ba (Kof?n); d?-oo-w? (Witoto) It plays a part in curative rituals, in important tribal ceremonies and it is occasionally used as a recreational drug. In its various forms it is also employed in the ordinary medical practices of some tribes.

    Schultes, R.E. and R.F. Raffauf. 1995. The Healing Forest: medicinal and toxic plants of the northwest Amazonia, Dioscorides Press, Portland, Or.. ISBN 0-931146-14-3

    Wilbert, J. 1987. Tobacco and Shamanism in South America, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2006, 09:19:10 PM »

Here we have the use of drugs by shaman across the world, used as part of a ritual which induced the feeling and hallucination of flight. Mention was made of the use of hallucinogens in South America:

As well as coca, their "divine plant", the Incas had their own special hallucinogen: vilca (meaning "sacred" in Quechua). The vilca tree (probably Anadenanthera colubrina) grows in the cloud-forest zones on the eastern slopes of the Peruvian Andes. The Incas used a snuff made from the seeds which was generally blown up the nostrils of the participant by a helper. Evidently the Inca priests used vilca to bring on visions and make contact with the gods and spirit world.

Where these substances available outside the Americas?

American Drugs in Egyptian Mummies: A Review of the Evidence
Samuel A. Wells

The recent findings of cocaine, nicotine, and hashish in Egyptian mummies by Balabanova et. al. have been criticized on grounds that: contamination of the mummies may have occurred, improper techniques may have been used, chemical decomposition may have produced the compounds in question, recent mummies of drug users were mistakenly evaluated, that no similar cases are known of such compounds in long-dead bodies, and especially that pre-Columbian transoceanic voyages are highly speculative. These criticisms are each discussed in turn. Balabanova et. al. are shown to have used and confirmed their findings with accepted methods. The possibility of the compounds being byproducts of decomposition is shown to be without precedent and highly unlikely. The possibility that the researchers made evaluations from of faked mummies of recent drug users is shown to be highly unlikely in almost all cases. Several additional cases of identified American drugs in mummies are discussed. Additionally, it is shown that significant evidence exists for contact with the Americas in pre-Columbian times. It is determined that the original findings are supported by substantial evidence despite the initial criticisms.

In a one-page article appearing in Naturwissenschaften, German scientist Svetla Balabanova (1992) and two of her colleagues reported findings of cocaine, hashish and nicotine in Egyptian mummies. The findings were immediately identified as improbable on the grounds that two of the substances are known to be derived only from American plants - cocaine from Erythroxylon coca, and nicotine from Nicotiana tabacum. The suggestion that such compounds could have found their way to Egypt before Columbus' discovery of America seemed patently impossible.

The study was done as part of an ongoing program of investigating the use of hallucinogenic substances in ancient societies. The authors themselves were quite surprised by the findings (Discovery, 1997) but stood by their results despite being the major focus of criticism in the following volume of Naturwissenschaften. Of the nine mummies evaluated, all showed signs of cocaine and hashish (Tetrahydrocannabinol), whereas all but one sampled positive for nicotine. It is interesting too that the concentrations of the compounds suggest uses other than that of abuse. (For example, modern drug addicts often have concentrations of cocaine and nicotine in their hair 75 and 20 times higher respectively than that found in the mummy hair samples.) It is even possible that the quantities found may be high due to concentration in body tissues through time.

Without question, the study has sparked an interest in various disciplines. As Balabanova et. al. predicted, "?the results open up an entirely new field of research which unravels aspects of past human life-style far beyound [sic] basic biological reconstruction."


The Criticisms
The biggest criticism of the findings of Balabanova et. al. was not necessarily directed at the extraction process per se, although this was discussed. The biggest criticism was that cocaine and nicotine could not possibly have been used in Egypt before the discovery of the New World, and that transatlantic journeys were not known - or at least they are highly speculative. It is safe to say that the criticisms of the study would have been minimal or nonexistent if the findings had been made of Old World drugs. Such findings, in fact, would not have been at all unusual as the use of stimulants were known in Egypt. Poppy seeds and lotus plants have been identified for just this use in manuscripts (the Papyrus Ebers) and in hieroglyphs (as Balabanova et. al. show).

Schafer (1993) argues that, "the detection of pharmacologically active substances in mummified material never proves their use prior to death." He argues that such compounds could have been introduced as part of the mummification process. The suggestion is that (especially) nicotine could have been introduced around the mummy (and subsequently absorbed into its tissue) as an insecticide (being used as a preservative) within relatively modern times. A similar criticism was raised by Bjorn (1993) who wondered if nicotine might have been absorbed by the mummies from cigarette smoke in the museums where the mummies have been preserved. According to Schafer, the only way to show that the compounds were taken into the bodies while they were alive would be to find different concentrations at different distances from the scalp - a procedure not undertaken by the authors.

Another interesting criticism of Schafer (1993) is that Balabanova et. al. might have been the victims of faked mummies. Apparently people (living in the not too far distant past) believed that mummies contained black tar called bitumen and that it could be ground up and used to cure various illnesses. In fact the very word 'mummy' comes from the Persian 'mummia' meaning bitumen (Discovery, 1997). A business seems to have developed wherein recently dead bodies where deliberately aged to appear as mummies and that some of the perpetrators of such deeds were drug abusers.

The criticism that seems most popular is that the identified drugs might have been products of "necrochemical and necrobiochemical processes" (Schafer, 1993; Bjorn, 1993). One explanation is that Egyptian priests used tropine-alkaloid-containing plants during the mummification process that subsequently underwent changes in the mummy to resemble the identified compounds.

Yet another argument is that there is nothing in the literature showing that any of the three compounds have been identified in bodies that have been dead for some time.

Reply to the Critics

Analytical Techniques and Contamination
In the study, samples were taken from nine mummies that were dated from between 1070 B.C. to 395 A.D. The samples included hair, skin and muscle were taken from the head and abdomen. Bone tissue was also taken from the skull. All tissues were pulverized and dissolved in NaCl solution, homogenized, and centrifuged. A portion of the supernatant was extracted with chloroform and dried and then dissolved in a phosphate buffer. Samples were then measured by both radioimmunoassay (Merck; Biermann) and gas chromatography / mass spectrometry (Hewlett Packard) - hereinafter GCMS.

This is the procedure used to produce what McPhillips (1998) considered indisputable evidence for confirming products of substance abuse in hair. Within recent years, hair analysis has been used more commonly in this kind of screening process and the techniques employed have been optimized. Mistakes are known to have occurred in some cases evaluating for metals, but the ability to detect drugs such as cocaine, nicotine, and hashish seem not been problematic (Wilhelm, 1996). The two possible mistakes in analyzing hair for drugs include false positives, which are caused by environmental contamination; and false negatives, where actual compounds are lost because of such things as hair coloring or perming. In recent years, these techniques of hair analysis have revealed the interesting findings of arsenic in the hair of Napoleon Bonaparte, and laudanum in the hair of the poet Keats.

The procedure includes a thorough washing of the hair to remove external contaminants followed by a process of physical degradation using a variety of methods (such as digestion with enzymes or dissolution with acids, organic solvents, etc.,). Following these preparatory procedures, the hair is then analyzed. Antibody testing (e.g. radioimmunoassay) is a well-established procedure although there is small potential of obtaining false positive results. These are mainly caused by the cross-reactivity of the antibody with other compounds, including minor analgesics, cold remedies and antipsychotic drugs - compounds not likely to be found in Egyptian mummies. Because of the possible false positives, chromatography (GC-MS) is routinely utilized to confirm the results.

The suggestion of nicotine contamination from cigarette smoke is eliminated by the use of solvents and/or acids in the cleaning process - methods used by Balabanova et. al. and all other researchers that have documented drugs in mummies.

The validity of Balabanova's findings seems to be vindicated at least so far as the analytical methods used in the study. The authors' methods as well as those in the additional findings reported here (see below) have used the combination of immunological and chromatographic methods to both analyze and confirm samples.

Faked Mummies
The argument that the mummies might have been modern fakes was investigated by David (Discovery, 1997). David is the Keeper of Egyptology at the Manchester Museum, and undertook her own analysis of mummies, independent of Balabanova's group. In addition, she traveled to Munich to evaluate for herself the mummies studied by Balabanova's group. Unfortunately the mummies weren't available for filming and they were being kept isolated from further research on grounds of religious respect. David had to resort to the museum's records. She found that, except for the city's famous mummy of Henot Tawi (Lady of the Two Lands) the mummies were of unknown origin and some were represented only by detached heads.

David's inability to examine the mummies herself may have kept the possibility of faked ones open; however, her evaluation of the museum's records seemed to indicate otherwise. The mummies were preserved with packages of their viscera inside. Some even contained images of the gods. In addition the state of mummification itself was very good. The isolated heads may have been fakes (evidence one way or the other is lacking) but the intact bodies examined in Balabanova's research were clearly genuine.

Chemical Changes
The argument that the identified drugs might be byproducts of decomposition is highly unlikely. The argument appears to resemble a 'Just So' story of biochemical evolution without the benefit of natural selection. Schafer (1993) admits that natural decomposition or mummification has never led to the synthesis of cocaine or related alkaloids but leaves the possibility open anyway. He argues that the compounds in question might theoretically have been produced by tropine-alkaloid-containing plants (such as were present in species that were utilized in the mummification process).

The benefit of the doubt in this case clearly goes to Balabanova et. al. Until it is shown how cocaine could be produced in this way, the argument is hypothetical at best.

Isolated Example
The detection of drugs in human hair is a fairly recent endeavor (McPhillips, 1998; Sachs, 1998). A few compounds were identified during the 1980's but it wasn't until the 1990s that drug screening via hair analysis became accepted and used as a possible alternative to urine sampling. The criticism that no known cases of cocaine, nicotine, or hashish have been reported in human hair must, therefor be interpreted with clarification. None of these compounds had been observed in human hair because the process had not been fully developed, nor had the application even been considered until quite recently. Even then the claim is not true.

Cartwell et. al. (1991) using a radioimmunoassay method detected cocaine metabolites in pre-Columbian mummy hair from South America. In this study two out of eight mummies analyzed showed cocaine metabolites. All samples tested were confirmed by a separate laboratory (Psychomedics Corporation, Santa Monica, California) using GC-MS. The two mummies testing positive were from the Camarones Valley in northern Chile. The artifacts as well as the mummies at this site were typical of Inca culture.

Since the initial work of Balabanova et. al., other studies have revealed the same drugs (cocaine, nicotine, and hashish) in Egyptian mummies, confirming the original results. Nerlich et. al. (1995), in a study evaluating the tissue pathology of an Egyptian mummy dating from approximately 950 B.C., found the compounds in several of the mummy's organs. They found the highest amounts of nicotine and cocaine in the mummy's stomach, and the hashish traces primarily in the lungs. These findings were again identified using both radioimmunoassay and GSMS techniques. Very similar results were again found in yet another study by Parsche and Nerlich (1995). Again, the findings were obtained using the immunological and chromatographic techniques.

David's work (Discovery, 1997) though not finding cocaine, did confirm the presence of nicotine. This finding has seemed a little less threatening to conservative scholarship in that it seems possible (albeit unlikely) that a nicotine-producing plant may have existed in Africa within historic times - only becoming extinct recently.

Such a possibility might allow for a comfortable resolution to conservative scholarship but doesn't explain the evidence of cocaine. Additionally, the possibility of a native plant going extinct is unlikely. Much more reasonable would be that an introduced species under cultivation could go extinct, yet this only begs the question of the original provenance of the species.

In any event, considering the several confirmations of Balabanova's work (as well as that of Caldwell et. al. prior to her study) it appears that the argument against their findings based on too little evidence is quickly vanishing (if not already obviated).

Pre-Columbian Voyages to America
The major reason for the initial criticisms to Balabanova's work is the disbelief in pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts. Egyptologist John Baines (Discovery, 1997) went so far as to state, "The idea that the Egyptians should have traveled to America is overall absurd?and I also don't know anyone who spends time doing research in these areas, because they're not perceived to be areas that have any real meaning for the subjects." Another interpretation on why researchers haven't considered the subject closer is given by Kehoe (1998), "After mid-century, any archaeologist worried about money or career avoided looking at pre-Columbian contacts across saltwater [p. 193]." It appears that acknowledging that pre-Columbian contacts occurred was not academically acceptable. Kehoe (1998) also gives examples of several researchers whose work has been academically marginalized because it supported these views (e.g. Stephen Jett, Carl Johannessen, Gordon Ekholm, Paul Tolstoy, and George Carter).

Surprising at it may seem, evidence for early ocean voyages to America from the Old World is not lacking - nor is it negligibly verifiable. Within the last two years, two periodicals, focusing on these contacts have been established. The first, entitled Pre-Columbiana, is edited by Stephen C. Jett, Professor of Clothings and Textiles at the University of California, Davis; the second is entitled Migration and Diffusion and is edited by Professor Christine Pellek in Vienna, Italy. There is certainly quite a bit of spurious reports of early contacts from the Old World, however, a general disregard for all of the evidence is, anymore, itself evidence of academic negligence, as these two periodicals indicate.

A bibliography of these early contacts is given by John Sorensen (1998) in the first issue of Pre-Columbiana. It is a good example of the kinds of evidence being uncovered by legitimate researchers and institutions. The bibliography is itself a condensation of a two-volume work of these publications and includes titles such as: The world's oldest ship? (showing evidence for a pre-Columbian ship in America) published in Archaeology; Peruvian fabrics (showing very strong similarities between Peru and Asia) published in Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History; Robbing native American cultures: Van Sertima's Afrocentricity and the Olmecs (showing evidence for connections between Africa and the Olmecs of Middle America) published in Current Anthropology; Possible Indonesian or Southeast Asian Influences in New World textile industries (showing at least three textile-related inventions that appear in both Indonesia and the New World) published in Indonesian Textiles; and, Genes may link Ancient Eurasians, Native Americans, published in Science.

And the list goes on and on - some evidence being better than others - but as a whole it seems pretty much irrefutable. Claims to the contrary seem to be made by individuals with a vested interest in the isolationist position. The evidence, pro and con, when evaluated objectively, would seem without question, to favor the diffusionist position (which claims that pre-Columbian contacts took place).

The initial reaction to the findings of Balabanova et. al. were highly critical. These criticisms were not based on a known failing in the authors' research methodology, rather they were attempts to cast doubt on an implication of the research - that cocaine and nicotine were brought to Egypt from the New World before Columbus. This conclusion is not acceptable to conservative investigators of the past. In fact it suggests a deep-rooted aversion to what Balabanova suggested might mean an unraveling of aspects of history contrary to basic reconstructions. This aversion, according to Kehoe (1998) stems from the conviction that Indians were primitive savages destined to be overcome by the civilized world - that the acme of evolutionary success resided in the conquering race itself. "Childlike savages could never have voyaged across oceans."

Balabanova's findings bring yet other evidence forward that humanity is not so easily pinioned into the pre-conceived notions of primitive and advanced - even as this might be related to the presumed technology of earlier times. The quest for discovery - to find new worlds - is not just a modern selective advantage of our species. Perhaps it is the defining characteristic.

Literature Cited:
Balababova, S., F. Parsche, and W. Pirsig. 1992. First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies. Naturwissenschaften 79:358.
Bisset, N.G. and M.H. Zenk. 1993. Responding to 'First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies'. Naturwissenschaften 80:244-245.
Bjorn, L.O. 1993. Responding to 'First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies'. Naturwissenschaften 80:244.
Cartwell, L.W. et. al. 1991. Cocaine metabolites in pre-Columbian mummy hair. Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association 84:11-12.
Discovery Information. 1997. Curse of the Cocaine Mummies. Thirty-six page transcript of program viewed on US national TV in January 1997 and July 1999.
Kehoe, A.B. 1998. The Land of Prehistory, A Critical History of American Archaeology. Routledge, New York and London. 266 pp.
McIntosh, N.D.P. 1993. Responding to 'First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies'. Naturwissenschaften 80:245-246.
McPhillips, M. et. al. 1998. Hair analysis, new laboratory ability to test for substance use. British Journal of Psychiatry 173: 287-290.
Nerlich, A.G. et. al. 1995. Extensive pulmonary haemorrhage in an Egyptian mummy. Virchows Archiv 127:423-429.
Parsche, F. 1993. Reply to "Responding to 'First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies'". Naturwissenschaften 80:245-246.
Parsche, F. and A. Nerlich. 1995. Presence of drugs in different tissues of an Egyptian mummy. Fresenius' Journal of Analytical Chemistry 352:380-384.
Sachs, H. and P. Kintz. 1998. Testing for drugs in hair, critical review of chromatographic procedures since 1992. Journal of Chromatography (B) 713:147-161.
Schafer, T. 1993. Responding to 'First identification of drugs in Egyptian mummies'. Naturwissenschaften 80:243-244.
Sorenson, J.L. 1998. Bibliographia Pre-Columbiana. Pre-Columbiana 1(1&2):143-154.
Wilhelm, M. 1996. Hair analysis in environmental medicine. Zentralblatt fur Hygeine und Umweltmedizin 198: 485-501.
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2006, 09:20:20 PM »

Transcript of the video

The Mystery of the Cocaine Mummies

In the 21st dynasty of the Pharaos, 3,000 years ago, there took place one night at a temple, the funeral of Henut Taui - the Lady of the Two lands.

Compared to the great rulers of Egypt, her burial was a modest affair. But just like the Pharaos, she too was mummified, and her body placed in the depths of a desert tomb, in the belief it would give her immortality.

In an unexpected way, it has. Her mummified body waited throughout recorded history - the Greeks and Romans, the Dark and Middle ages, the Renaissance and Napoleon, until in the early 19th century, her tomb was plundered.

The king of Bavaria bought the ornate sarcophagus with the mummy inside. He gave it to a museum in Munich, where for another century, Henut Taui lay undisturbed.

Then four years ago a German scientist, Dr Svetla Balabanova, made a discovery which was to baffle Egyptologists, and call into question whole areas of science and archeology to chemistry and botany.

She discovered that the body of Henut Taui contained large quantities of cocaine and nicotine. The surprise was not just that the ancient Egyptians had taken drugs, but that these drugs come from tobacco and coca, plants completly unknown outside the Americas, unheard of until Sir Walter Raleigh introduced smoking from the New World, or until cocaine was imported in the Victorian era.

It was seemingly impossible for the ancient Egyptians to get hold of these substances. And so began the mystery -

The mystery of the cocaine mummies.

It was in Munich, in 1992, that researchers began a huge project to investigate the contents of mummies. When as part of their studies, they wanted to test for drugs, it was no surprise that they turned to toxicologist Dr Svelta Balabanova for help.

As the inventor of groundbreaking new methods for the detection of drugs in hair and sweat, she was highly respected in her field. Dr Balabanova took samples from the mummies, which she pulverised and dissolved to make a solution. As she'd done countless times before, she ran the samples through a system which uses antibodies to detect the presence of drugs an other substances. Then as a backup the samples were put through the GCMS machine which can accurately identify substances by determining their molecular weight. As the graph emerged with peaks showing that drugs were present, and as the printer spewed out the analysis of just which drugs, something seemed to have gone very wrong.

DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:
"The first positive results, of course, were a shock for me. I had not expected to find nicotine and cocaine but that's what happened. I was absolutely sure it must be a mistake."

Balabanova ran the tests again. She sent fresh samples to three other labs. But the results kept being confirmed. The drugs were there. So she went ahead and published a paper. The reaction was a sharp reminder that science is a conservative world.

DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:
"I got a pile of letters that were almost threatening, insulting letters saying it was nonsense, that I was fantasising, that it was impossible, because it was proven that before Columbus these plants were not found anywhere in the world outside of the Americas."

From toxicologists to anthropologists - everyone thought the same.

DR JOHN HENRY - Consultant Toxicologist, Guys Hospital, London:
"The first thing you think of is that this is just mad. It's wrong. There's contamination present. Maybe there's a fraud present of some kind. You don't think that cocaine can be present in an Egyptian mummy."

Yet Balabanova herself had been worried about contamination. First she checked all the lab equipment. But being a forensic toxicologist, that wasn't all she did. Balabanova had learned her trade from working for the police, and had been trained in the methods they use for investigating a suspicious death. She'd been taught how vital it is when an autopsy is carried out to know wether the victim has consumed or been given any drugs or poisons. And she had also been taught that a special forensic technique exists which can show that the deceased has consumed a drug and rule out contamination at the same time.

So, anxious to ensure that her tests on the mummies were beyond reproach, she used this very technique - it's called the hair shaft test. Drugs and other substances consumed by humans get into the hair protein, where they stay for months, or after death - forever. Hair samples can be washed in alcohol and the washing solution itself then tested. If the testing solution is clear, but the hair tests positive, then the drug must be inside the hair shaft, which means the person consumed it during their lifetime. It's considered proof against contamination before or after death.

DR JOHN HENRY - Consultant Toxicologist, Guys Hospital, London:
"The hair shaft test is accepted. If you know that you've taken your hair sample from this individual and the hair shaft is known to contain a drug, then it is proof positive that the person has taken that drug. So it is accepted in law. It's put people into prison."

The hair shaft test on a couple in Jersey [Channel Is.], showed their two sons had drugged them before killing them. And aside from the Newall case , the technique has been used in countless others over the last 25 years. Since it's also used for drugs tests on addicts, company employees and in sport, to suggest it could produce false results was for Balabanova unthinkable.

DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:
"There's no way there can be a mistake in this test. This method is widely accepted and has been used thousands of times. If the results are not genuine, then the explanation must lie elswhere, and not in my tests, because I'm 100 percent certain about the results."

If the fault was not in the tests, what else could lie behind the impossibility of mummies containing drugs from coca and tobacco, from a continent not discovered until over 1,000 years after the end of the Egyptian civilisation? In search of an explanation, we went to one of the UK's foremost authorities on mummies, a person who had spent years rummaging around in the bodies of ancient Egyptians, Rosalie David.

ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:
"When I was informed that cocaine had been found in Egyptian mummies, I was absolutely astounded. It seemed quite impossible that this should be the case."

Sceptical of Balabanova's results, Rosalie David decided to get some sampless from her own mummies and have them tested especially for 'Equinox'.

ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:
"What we shall do is to provide tissue samples and a hair sample from a number of mummies in the Manchester Museum collection. I shall be very surprised to find they had cocaine in them."

It would be a while before the results came back from the lab. Rosalie David's motive was not only to independently check Balabanova's methods. She also wanted to run the same tests but on different mummies. For she had more than one idea about how Balabanova could have got a misleading result.

ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:
"There were two ideas that sprang immediately to mind. One was that possibly something in the tests could give a false result. The second was that possibly the mummies that had been tested were not truly ancient Egyptian, that they could be some of these false, relativly modern mummies, and traces of cocaine could be in those individuals."

What Rosalie David was referring to happened in Egypt in Victorian Times. It was a gruesome operation to supply the antique dealers of Luxor.

When 19th century travellers went to Egypt in search of mummies and other valuables, the dealers might not have the genuine article available. And so the crudely mummified body of a recently dead Egyptian might be procured instead. For a shrivelled corpes would greatly increase the value of a genuine but empty sarcophagus.

Sometimes collectors would buy only limbs or other mummified spare parts. These are doubly suspect for the trade in fake mummies, especially separate heads and limbs, has an even older origin.

Eating the flesh of mummies was a common 16th century practice in Europe. People believed that mummies contained a black tar called bitumen, and so thought powder made from the ground up bodies would cure various illnesses.

This is the very origin of the word mummy, from the Persian for bitumen, mummia, and although it made people sick a roaring trade in powdered mummia grew, supplied from body parts and tissue shipped in bulk from Egypt.

The temptation to resort to fakes was high.

ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:
"Very soon, the demand outstripped the supply and certainly in the 16th century a French physician undertook a study of this trade. And he found that in fact they were burying bodies of convicted criminals in the sand. They were producing mummies, and these then became a source for the medicinal ingredient."

Could it be that the mummies Balabanova tested were fakes? Carbon dating on mummies often produces incorrect results, so archaeologists often rely on the provenance - knowing what tomb and excavation the mummy comes from and on examination of the mummification techniques.

So the only way for Rosalie David to check out here theory about fakes was to travel to Munich to see for herself the seven mummies that were the cause of all the fuss.

The Munich mummies as they are known, belong to the city's Egyptian Museum, which is housed in the old palace of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who started the collection.

Inside the museum, Rosalie David found the sarcophagus of Henut Taui - the Lady of the Two Lands. She discovered from the museum catalogue that the coffin was bought by King Ludwig from an English traveller called Dodwell in 1845. There was no record of an exact excavation, but Henut Taui was said to have come from a tomb reserved for the priests and priestesses of the god Amun in Thebes.

But while being shown the other coffins Rosalie David discovered that apart from Henut Taui, most of the Munich mummies are of unknown origin, and some of the tested mummies turned out to be only detatched heads. According to the museum, research had revealed inscriptions, amulets and complex embalming methods, which the museum claimed proved the mummies were ancient.

DR ALFRED GRIMM - Curator, The Egyptian Museum, Munich:
"The investigation shows clearly that the Munich mummies are real Egyptian mummies, no fakes, no modern mummies. They come from ancient Egypt."

The obvious way to prove this was to show the mummies to Rosalie David, but all the museum would let her see were empty sarcophogi.

DR ALFRED GRIMM - Curator, The Egyptian Museum, Munich:
"On grounds of religious respect we don't show these mummies here in our galleries. That's one point. The other is we don't allow to film the mummies and to show them on TV."

It wasn't always so, for the mummies had already been shown on television. But this German film [film showing mummified bodies without wrappings] announcing Balabanova's results has caused quite a fuss. And so now, even though giving access might defeat the accusation of harbouring bogus mummies, it seemed that the museum wanted nothing more to do with the research they politely pointed out was far from respectable.

DR ALFRED GRIMM - Curator, The Egyptian Museum, Munich:
"It's not absolutely proven and I think it's not absolutely scientifically correct."

Rosalie had to make do with research papers and books from the museum. Were the Munich mummies fakes? Despite her initial suspicions she decided that on balance, they probably were the real thing.

ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:
"From the documentation and the research which has been carried out on the Munich mummies it seems evident that they are probably genuine because they have packages of viscera inside, some with wax images of the gods on them and also the state of mummification itself is very good. I would say that the detatched heads we can't comment on, but the complete bodies probably are genuine."

And if that wasn't enough, it turned out that the results from the Munich mummies were not the only evidence from the dead. The anthropologists who originally ordered the tests didn't continue the project. But Balabanova, alongside her normal research into the metabolism of drugs started requesting samples of other ancient human remains from universities. And it was then that she got more results from Egypt.

She tested tissue from 134 naturally preserved bodies from an excavated cemetery in the Sudan, once part of the Egyptian empire. Although from a later period, the bodies were still many centuries before Columbus discovered the Americas. About a third of them tested positive for nicotine and cocaine.

Balabanova was mystified by the presence of cocaine in Africa but thought she might have a way of explaining the nicotine. As well as Egypt and the Sudan, she tested bodies from China, Germany and Austria, spanning a period from 3700BC to 1100AD. A percentage of bodies from all these other regions also contained nicotine.

[Graph showing presence of nicotine: Percentage of bodies with positive result - Egypt:89% Sudan:90% China:62.5% Germany:34% Austria 100%]

DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:
"I continued to work on it because I wanted to be sure of my results, and after 3000 samples I, was absolutely certain that the tobacco plant was known in Europe and Africa long before Columbus."

Far from being solved, the mytery that began in Egypt was spreading. Balabanova was suggesting that an unknown type of tobacco had grown in Europe, Africa and Asia thousands of years ago. But every schoolchild knows that tobacco was discovered in the New World. She was asking for a substantial slice of botany and history to be completely rewritten. Would anyone back her up?

Dr Balabonova had told us that we might find the secret of the mysterious presence of nicotine and cocaine in Egyptan mummies in the ancient plants of Africa. Perhaps there had been drug plants which the Egyptians had used but had vanished along with their civilisation. This led to a much more basic question. Were the Egyptians, the great Pharaos and pyramid builders really users and abusers of drugs?

The clues can be found hidden in the walls of the grand temple of Karnak. The entire building is covered depictions of the lotus flower from the tops of the vast columns to the pictograms on the walls. Until recently, Egyptologists took this most commonplace Egyptian symbol to have only a religious meaning. But according to some the true significance of the lotus has been overlooked.

ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:
"The lotus was a very powerful narcotic which was used in ancient Egypt and presumably, was widespread in this use, because we see many scenes of idividuals holding a cup and dropping a lotus flower into the cup which contained wine, and this would be a way of releasing the narcotic.

"The ancient Egyptians certainly used drugs. As well as lotus they had mandrake and cannabis, and there is a strong suggestion the also used opium.

"So although it very surprising to find cocaine in mummies, the other elements were certainly in use."

So the Pharaos clearly indulged in drugs. Hashish - which Balabanova also found in the mummies - is an Egyptian tradition which has survived for thousands of years, although nowadays, in public, pipes tend to be filled with nothing more than tobacco.

By contrast, the narcotic blue lotus flower, once so essential at parties, is now on the verge of extinction. And if it could disappear, why not other drug plants? We decided to persue Balabanova's unusual theory that an ancient species of tobacco might once have grown in the Old World.

Small amounts of nicotine are present in a wide variety of plants and foods, but the high concentrations sought by smokers can only be found in tobacco.

[Graph showing quantities of nicotine: Concentrations in bone samples - Modern Smoker in nanograms/gram :c40ng China:c55ng Germany:c65ng Sudan:c45ng Egyptian Mummies:Off screen!]

The idea of a lost species of tobacco came to Balabanova because the concentrations in the bodies from Asia and Europe were similar to modern day smokers.

But one thing had puzzled her. At 35 times the dose for smokers, the amounts of nicotine she had found in Egyptian mummies were potentially lethal.

But first, Balabanova was baffled, but then she had a thought. The high doses of nicotine in Egyptian bodies could be explained if the tobacco - as well as being consumed - had also been used in mummification.

Over their 3000 year history the Egyptian preists kept the recipe of spices and herbs used to preerve the thousands of people and millions of animals they mummified a closely guarded secret.

The high levels of nicotine in tobacco can kill bacteria. Could it have been one of their secrets?

Balabanova looked through old literature about the bodies of the great Pharaos and queens themselves. No longer under the care of the preists the fragile royal mummies are now kept in strict atmospheric conditions in the Cairo museum.

But Balabanova discovered a story from the days when scientists could still tamper with them - a story that had almost been forgotten.

Ramses II died in 1213BC, a few hundered years before Henut Taui. When he was mummified, every possible skill and every rare ingredient was used by the embalmers to try to preserve his body for eternity. For where Henut Tuai was only a preistess, Ramses was arguably the mightiest of all the Pharaos.

His imposing image adorns most of Egypts famous sites for he presided over the Golden Age of it's civilisation, and as a skilled military commander, won the conquests that made it into a powerful empire.

What interested Balabanova was what happened to Ramses 3000 years later, when he went on his final royal visit.

"Les chercheurs francais ont realise de nouvelles descouvertes en etudient la momie du pharon Ramses II." [Excerpt from TV France]

On september 26th, 1976, amid all the pomp and circumstance - due a visiting head of state - French TV cameras recorded the arrival of the mummy of Ramses II at an airport in Paris. An exhibition about him at the museum of mankind was planned.

But the body was found to be badly deteriorated, so a battery of scientist set about trying to repair this damage.

The bandages wrapped around the mummy needed replacing, so botanists were given pieces of the fabric to analyse what it was made of. One found some plant fragments in her piece, and took a closer look. Emerging on the slide, according to her experience, were the unmistakable features - the tiny crystals and filaments - of a plant that couldn't possibly be there.

DR MICHELLE LESCOT - Natural History Museum, Paris:
"I prepared the slides, put them under the microscope and what did I see? Tobacco. I said to myself, that's just not possible - I must be dreaming. The Egyptians didn't have tobacco. It was brought from South America at the time of Christopher Columbus. I looked again, and I tried to get a better view and I thought, well, it's only a first analysis. I worked feverishly and I forgot to have lunch that day. But I kept getting the same result."

Amid a storm of publicity. people alleged - just as they did with Balabanova's results - that this must be a case of contamination. It's a view shared today by Ramses' keeper at the Cairo museum, who suspects there is a straightforward explanation.

PROF NASRI ISKANDER - Chief Curator, Cairo Museum:
"According to my knowledge and experience, most of the archeologists and scientists, who worked on these fields, smoked pipes. And I myself have been smoking pipes for more than 25 years. Then maybe a piece of the tobacco dropped by haphazard or just anyway and to tell this is right or wrong we have to be more careful"

To combat the allegations of careless smoking Michelle Lescot extracted new samples from deep inside the body of Ramses' mummy and took care to document it with photographs. And as far as she was concerned, these samples again gave the same result - tobacco.

So was Lecot's discovery the proof Balabanova needed for an ancient species of tobacco? For a second opinion, we went to the herbarium at the Natural History Museum to find an expert on tobacco who had seen Lescot's published work. She argued that Lescot's evidence would only identify the family from which tobacco comes, and not the specific plant.

DR SANDY KNAPP - Natural History Museum, London:
"I think that they had a certain amount of evidence, and they took the evidence one step farther than the evidence really allowed them. Sometimes you can only go so far down the road towards telling what something is, and then you come against a wall an you can't go any farther, otherwise you start to make something up."

Sandy Knapp thought the plant from Ramses was more likely to be another member of the tobacco family, which is known to have existed in ancient Egypt, such as henbane, mandrake or belladonna.

DR SANDY KNAPP - Natural History Museum, London:
"I think it is very unlikely that tobacco has an alternative history, because, I think we would've heard about it. There'd be some use of it present in either literature, temple carvings, somewhere there would've been evidence to point and say 'Ah, that's tobacco', but there's nothing."

DR MICHELLE LESCOT - Natural History Museum, Paris:
"I'ts true that the official theory is tobacco originates in South America. It's also true that there are species in Australasia and the Pacific Islands. There could have been other varieties, ancient varities that once existed in Asia. Why not Africa? Varieties that have now disappeared so it's not sacrilege to challenge the official theory."

The jury was still out on the vanished species of tobacco though Michelle Lescot was convinced that her identification had been correct. But she couldn't help with the cocaine, for it seemed not even one botanist believed in a disappearing coca plant.

DR SANDY KNAPP - Natural History Museum, London:
"Finding cocaine in these Egyptian mummies - botanically speaking - is almost impossible. I mean, there is always a chance that there might be some sort of plant there, but I think there is some sort of mistake. There is something wrong there. I can't explain it from a plant point of view at all."

For thousands of years people in the Andes have been chewing coca leaves, to get out the cocaine with it's stimulant, anaesthetic and euphoric properties. There are actually species of the coca family which grow in Africa, but only the South American species has ever been shown to contain the drug. Since cocaine is not in any other plants, Balabanova was completely mystified, but she thought she might have just one possible idea.

DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:
"The cocaine of course remains an open question. It's a mystery - it's completely unclear how cocaine could get into Africa. On the other hand, we know there were trade relationships long before Columbus, and it's conceivable that the coca plant had been imported into Egypt even then."

An ancient Egyptian drug trade stretching all the way across the Atlantic Ocean? This was an idea so far-fetched it could only be considered once all the others had been eliminated, the idea that the Egyptians had been able to obtain imports from a place thousands of miles away from a continent supposedly not discovered until thousands of years later.

Was it possible that coca - a plant from South America had been finding it's way to Egypt 3,000 years ago?

If the cocaine found in mummies could not be explained by contamination, or fake mummies or by Egyptian plants containing it, there appeared to be only one remaining possibility... An international drug trade who's links extended all the way to the Americas.

To obtain incense, myrrh and other valuable plants used in religious ceremonies and herbal medicines, it's true, the Egyptians were prepared to go to great lengths.

Even if traders, like today, made all sorts of exotic claims for the source of their products, there is, nevertheless, clear evidence of ancient contats as far east as Syria and Iraq. The extended north into Cyprus, south into Sudan and Somalia and west into Lybia, but America? To the majority of archeologists, the idea is hardly worth talking about.

PROF JOHN BAINES - Egyptologist, Oxford University:
"The idea that the Egyptians were travelling to America is, overall, absurd. I don't know of anyone who is professionally employed as an Egyptologist, anthropologist or archeaologist who seriously believes in any of these possibilities, and I also don't know anyone who spends time doing research into these areas because they're perceived to be areas with any real meaning for the subjects."

But on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, where the moving current of the Gulf Stream arrives in Mexico directly from the west coast of Africa, there is a professionally-employed anthropologist who does seriously beleive in such possibilities.

PROF ALICE KEHOE - Anthropologist, Marquette University:
"I think there is good evidence that there was both trans-atlantic and trans-pacific travel before Columbus. When we try to talk about trans-oceanic contact, people that are standard archeologists get very, um, skittish, and they want to change the subject or move away. They suddenly see a friend across the room - they don't want to pursue the subject at all. They seem to feel that it's some kind of contagious disease they don't want to touch, or it will bring disaster to them."

Why was the mere contemplation of voyages before Columbus or the Viking crossings to America, thought to be some sort of curse?

It was in 1910 that some early antropologists began to theorise that the stepped pyramids in Mexico might not have been the invention of the American Indians. Could the technology have come from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, from Egypt, where there were also stepped pyramids?

After spotting other trans-atlantic similarities, anthropologists began to argue that all civilisation was ivented in Egypt and later handed down to what they regarded as primitive societies. The implication that Old World culture was superior was thought acceptable at that time.

But the arrival of modern dating techniques showed that the similarities were far more likely to be independant developements. For example, the Egyptians abandoned pyramids with steps in favour of smooth ones 2,000 years before the first stepped pyramids occur in the Americas. What's more, the suggestion that American Indians couldn't build their own civilisations became highly unpopular.

Despite a breif revival in the 1970's when anthtropologist Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic in a primitive reed boat, research into ancient contact with America was frowned on, even if connected with theories of cultural superiority.

But the idea that the ability of the ancients to cross the oceans might have been underestimated continues to be quietly whispered about. Over the years evidence has grown which suggests it might be time to look again at such voyages. To imagine that the Egyptians, who apparently only sailed up and down the Nile or into the Red Sea, might get as far as the Americas perhaps sounds fantastical. But in science, what is one day thought absurd, can next day become accepted as fact.

[Picture of a Norse settlement in Newfoundland]

One senior academic thinks it's important to remember that before the discovery of this Norse settlement in Newfoundland in 1965 theories about Viking voyages to America were dismissed as nonsense.

PROF MARTIN BERNAL - Historian, Cornell University:
"What we've seen is a shift from the idea of Viking landings in America being seen as completely fantastic or partisan, to being accepted by every scholar in the field."

NARRATOR: The fact that evidence of the Viking crossings was hidden has encouraged Martin Bernal to contemplate even earlier voyages that are likewise dismissed as impossible.

PROF MARTIN BERNAL - Historian, Cornell University:
"I have no reason to doubt that there were others - but what they were, and how much influence they had on American society is open to question. But that trans-oceanic voyages are possible - or were possible - seems to me to be overwhelmingly likely."

A likelihood Bernal believes is reinforced by some Roman jars found in 1975 in a place called the Bay of Jars in Brazil. It's been suggessted that a Roman galley could be buried under the sea. But he interpretation of such finds is heavily disputed.

PROF JOHN BAINES - Egyptologist, Oxford University:
"They would fit the possibility that there was the odd ship that by mistake ended up on the other side of the Atlantic. What they're not going to fit is the idea of sustained two way contact, because there is a huge amount of historical evidence from the Roman world, but there is nothing to suggesst such contact existed."

PROF MARTIN BERNAL - Historian, Cornell University:
"They can't have been planted because the bay was known as the Bay of Jars since the 18th century, so that Roman jars had been turning up, and this links up with indirect Roman documentary evidence of contact."

The Bay of Jars is only one of several oddities claimed as evidence of trans-atlantic contacts. Also in Brazil, there is an inscription said to be in an ancient Mediterranean language. Meanwhile, in Mexico, there are 3,000 year old figurines with beards, a feature unknown in native Americans plus colossal statues that are said to look African, and an apparent picture of a pineapple - an American fruit - has been found in Pompeii.

But if tobacco from Mexico or coca from the Andes was carried across an ocean, it apparently need not have been the Atlantic. According to Alice Kehoe, a number of other American plants mysteriously turn up outside the "sealed" continent. But they are found on the other side of the Pacific.

PROF ALICE KEHOE - Anthropologist, Marquette University:
"The one that absolutely proves trans-pacific vaoyaging is the sweet potato. There are also discoveries of peanuts more than 2,000 years ago in western China. There is a temple is southern India that has sculptures of goddesses holding what looks like ears of maize or corn."

And if American maize might have got as far as India, why couldn't tobacco or coca have reached Egypt? They could have come across the Pacific to China or Asia and then overland to Africa. The Egyptians need not have travelled to America at all, or known where the plants had originated, but could have got them indirectly, through a network of world trade. But any ancient trade route that includes America is unacceptable in archeology.

PROF JOHN BAINES - Egyptologist, Oxford University:
"I don't think it is at all likely that there was an ancient trade network that included America. The essential problem with any such idea is that there are no artefacts to back it up that have been found either in Europe or in America. And I know that people produce examples of possible things, but they're really very implausible."

Yet discovery of minute strands of silk found in the hair of a mummy from Luxor could suggest the trade stretching from Egypt to the Pacific. For silk at this time was only known to come from China. Martin Bernal argues that it would be a pity to replace earlier cultural arrogance with an arrogant belief in progrss.

PROF MARTIN BERNAL - Historian, Cornell University:
"We're getting more and more evidence of world trade at an earlier stage. You have the Chinese silk definitely arriving in Egypt by 1000BC. I think modern scholars have a tendency to believe rigidly in progress and the idea that you could only have a worldwide trading network from the 18th century onwards, is our temporal arrogance - that it's only modern people that can do these things."

The evidence for ancient trade with America is limited, and most of it is disputed, but it can't be completely ruled out as explaining the apparent impossibility of Balabanova's results, results that at first seemed so absurd many thought they would be explained away by a simple story of a botch-up in a lab, results that still without firm explanation continue to crop up in unexpected places.

For in Manchester, the mummies under the care of Rosalie David, the Egyptologist once so sure that Balabanova had made a mistake, produced some odd results of their own.

ROSALIE DAVID - Keeper of Egyptology, Manchester Museum:
"We've received results back from the tests on our mummy tissue samples and two of the samples and the one hair sample both have evidence of nicotine in them. I'm really very surprised at this."

DR SVETLA BALABANOVA - Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ulm:
"The results of the tests on the Manchester mummies have made me very happy after all these years of being accuesed of false results and contaminated results, so I was delighted to hear nicotine had been found in these mummies, and very, very happy to have this enormous confirmation of my work."

The tale of Henut Taui shows that in science facts can be rejected if they don't fit with our beleifs while what is believed proven, may actually be uncertain.
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2006, 09:46:24 AM »

Could there have been 'One World' in very early times? In discussing similarities in cultural traditions across the world both in the ancient world and today, and claiming that they may be related, there is the issue of how this diffusion may have occurred.

Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Contacts
I believe that the recently forwarded evidence of human genetics, cultivated plants, and language are overwhelming, and put transoceanic influence studies on a new and much firmer footing. We no longer need rely solely on cultural comparisons: hard science, though a hard sell to some, is in the process of demonstrating what simple cultural comparisons alone can never do: folks were traveling the oceans in amazingly early times and left their genes and their languages in America and took home American cultigens. They were there, and if they were there they had the opportunity to exert cultural influence.

Questionable Origins
The problem is complicated by the fact that at least two American plants do seem to have crossed the Pacific before Columbus crossed the Atlantic. One of these is the sweet potato, apparently known in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. The other is cotton, the diploid variety of which is found in both Old World and New, and may have been taken to the New World very early.

Transpacific and transatalantic travel in ancient times is therefore a real possibility.

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