Archive for July 2013

Digging for the truth at controversial megalithic site

It’s been raining at Gunung Padang, and the grass on the mountain’s precipitous eastern slope is slick with water and mud.

But geologist Danny Hilman, is undeterred. While others slip and fall around him, he trudges expertly down this hill tucked away among the volcanoes 120 kilometres south of Jakarta to show off two big holes he’s dug.

Since Dutch colonists discovered it in 1914, Gunung Padang has been known (though not widely) as the largest of a number of ancient megalithic sites in Indonesia.

Here our prehistoric forebears, moved by the area’s strikingly shaped columns of volcanic rock, built terraces into the mountaintop and arranged and stacked the stones for whatever indiscernible purpose motivated them.

And Hilman thinks there is much more to it under the surface. If he’s right – and Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is enthusiastically encouraging his investigations – then buried beneath the piles of ancient stone is by far the oldest pyramid on the planet.

Hilman says it could predate the next oldest by a dozen millenniums or more, suggesting an advanced ancient civilisation in Java. ”It’s older than 9000 [years] and could be up to 20,000,” Hilman says, as he sits on a fallen column of stone. ”It’s crazy, but it’s data.”

Proving the authenticity of these ancient ruins among the banana palms and tea plantations of Cianjur has taken on the aura of a nationalistic quest.

A test being conducted on this day is one in a series of geo-electric surveys. Men in gumboots arrange long loops of yellow cable on huge columnar rocks denuded of their topsoil.

Hilman stands on the muddy edge and points out what he says are patterns in the arrangement of the rocks. These patterns reflect the geological testing already undertaken, he says – that stones usually found upright have been laid horizontally on beds of gravel. Some are stuck together by an ancient form of glue, he says. These have been carbon dated indicating the sites are well in excess of 9000 years old, he says.

Below this are walls he describes as rooms, internal steps and terraces, all evidence of a massive building, of human intelligence and planning.

”The structure of the building is very good, it’s been defined by many lines of the geo-electric surveys, even 3D, even GPR [ground-penetrating radar] … and core samples,” Hilman says. ”We conclude that the archaeological site, the arrangement of these columnar joints, has laminated the entire hill so it’s 100 metres thick. We also think it’s not just one layer of building, but multiple layers.” They may have discovered archaeological human structures or features to a depth of at least 15 metres.

”It’s huge,” Hilman says. ”People think the prehistoric age was primitive, but this monument proves that wrong.”

But these views are loudly disputed.

More via Digging for the truth at controversial megalithic site.

Ancient statue discovered by Nazis is made from meteorite

An ancient statue that was recovered by a Nazi expedition in the 1930s was originally carved from a highly valuable meteorite.

Researchers say the 1,000-year-old object with a swastika on its stomach is made from a rare form of iron with a high content of nickel.

They believe it is part of the Chinga meteorite, which crashed about 15,000 years ago.

The findings appear in the Journal, Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

The 24cm (9-inch) tall statue is 10kg (22lb) and is called the Iron Man.

Origins unknown

The story of this priceless object owes more perhaps to an Indiana Jones film script than sober scientific research.

It was discovered in Tibet in 1938 by German scientist Ernst Schafer. His expedition was supported by the Nazis, in particular by Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS. Himmler was said to believe the Aryan race originated in Tibet and was keen to recover objects from the area.

Absolutely priceless

The researchers believe it was carved from a piece of the Chinga meteorite that fell in the border region of eastern Siberia and Mongolia about 15,000 years ago.

The debris from the crash was only discovered in 1913 by gold prospectors, but the individual fragment from which the statue was carved was collected many centuries before.

“We were quite astonished by the results,” said Dr Buchner.

“OK, it’s a meteorite but what amazed me was that we could also say it was from Chinga, that we could find the provenance, that was really astonishing for me.”

The statue is believed to portray the god Vaisravana. The researchers think it belongs to the pre-Buddhist Bon culture that existed in Asia about 1,000 years ago.

“If we are right that it was made in the Bon culture in the 11th Century, it is absolutely priceless and absolutely unique worldwide,” observed Dr Buchner.

Full article via BBC News – Ancient statue discovered by Nazis is made from meteorite.

‘World’s oldest calendar’ discovered in Scottish field

Excavations of a field at Crathes Castle found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months.

A team led by the University of Birmingham suggests the ancient monument was created by hunter-gatherers about 10,000 years ago.

The pit alignment, at Warren Field, was first excavated in 2004.

The experts who analyzed the pits said they may have contained a wooden post.

The Mesolithic “calendar” is thousands of years older than previous known formal time-measuring monuments created in Mesopotamia.

The analysis has been published in the journal, Internet Archaeology.

The pit alignment also aligns on the Midwinter sunrise to provided the hunter-gatherers with an annual “astronomic correction” in order to better follow the passage of time and changing seasons.

Vince Gaffney, Professor of Landscape Archaeology at Birmingham, led the analysis project.

He said: “The evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and sophistication to track time across the years, to correct for seasonal drift of the lunar year and that this occurred nearly 5,000 years before the first formal calendars known in the Near East.

“In doing so, this illustrates one important step towards the formal construction of time and therefore history itself.”

via BBC News – ‘World’s oldest calendar’ discovered in Scottish field.