Friday, April 20, 2012

5000 year old animal mounds in Peru

In September 2011, the British journal “Antiquity” reported that Google Earth had revealed gigantic 5000-year-old mounds in Peru that were shaped like animals, but it took several more months, until late March 2012, before the mainstream media reported on these discoveries.
Google Earth is becoming more and more a favorite tool for archaeological discoveries and has resulted in uncovering lost cities in the Amazon, while it continues to be a favorite tool to identify enigmatic structures in the Gobi Desert since they were announced in November 2011.
Massive geoglyphs in the shape of animals is nothing new to Peru: dozens of them are depicted on the enigmatic Nazca lines, made famous by Erich von Däniken when he argued that these geoglyphs should be seen from the skies. At the time, hardly any research had been done in these strange geoglyphs, but since, archaeologists have identified they form part of a larger complex, which even includes pyramids.
But Google Earth enabled the discovery of even larger depictions, mounds in the shapes of birds like the duck and the giant condor, a puma and even sea animals like an orca. As with the Nazca lines, these objects are best to be seen for the sky, in evidence that they were only discovered through Google Earth.
The duck mound was created by adding a head to a natural formation, while a nearby circular mound is thought to represent an egg. Most remarkable is that some of the mounds have been dated to be as old as 5000 years old – 3000 BC, making them on par with the pyramids of Caral in Northern Peru, dated to ca. 3200 BC. Whereas until recently, archaeologists were reluctant to date anything in the country BC, all of a sudden 3000 years are added to Peruvian history.
The man responsible for discovering and dating the mounds is University of Missouri anthropology professor emeritus Robert Benfer. “I had always noted that a very large structure just north of Lima resembled a bird. But since there were supposedly no giant animal effigy mounds in South America, I thought it couldn’t be one,” Dr. Benfer said. Or how suppositions were once again proven to be wrong!
The mounds range from 15 feet to 1300 feet long, spread out over six valleys in coastal Peru, in fact, less than two miles from the sea. The puma mound was found in El Paraiso, in the Chilca Valley. ‘The finding of animal effigy mounds where there were none before changes our conception of early Peruvian prehistory,’ Benfer said. ‘That they probably represent the Andean zodiac is also a new find. A controversial interpretation of some Nazca figures as representations of the zodiac is supported by these mounds.’ Benfer argues that a mound in the shape of a condor is aligned to the Milky Way when viewed from a nearby temple, while the puma mound aligned with the June solstice when viewed from the same temple. He notes that structures not only represented the stars, but were also aligned with them. The discovery therefore highlights once again that our ancestors were not only aware of astronomy, but used it in bringing down the skies down to earth, reminiscent of that hermetic saying “As Above, So Below”.
Unfortunately, Benfer immediately follows these important observations by going for the all too common explanations so cherished by archaeologists, claiming these designs would help the ancient Peruvians with farming and fishing! “For example, knowing that December 21 had passed was very important. If there was no sign of an El Niño by then, fishers would know they would have another good year, and farmers would face neither drought nor floods,” Benfer said. It is clear that a farmer did not need such a complex system to know the solstices and like. Far simpler designs could be created for that. And the true reason as to why these structures were built therefore will remain once again to be discovered.
Benfers’ work will not come as a surprise to Fernando and Edgar Elorrieta Salazar. In 2003, these brothers identified various animal forms in the hills and designs in and around Machu Picchu. They discovered that the design of the capital Cuczo was equally ingeniously created to form the image of a puma, the “royal animal”. Many of these constructions were achieved by using a mixture of natural shapes, which were then augmented – “stressed” – by human intervention, often by creating fields in very specific shapes. Creating fields is easier than building huge mounds, but Machu Picchu and Cuzco are located at high altitude, whereas the mounds are located near the coast.
Most important, however, is the realization that Peru’s history continues to become more complex and older with almost every new discovery made.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Angelic Jackson

Some weeks ago, I had the privilege to see the Cirque du Soleil’s Immortal in the Staples’ Center in Los Angeles. The venue has attained iconic status for Michael Jackson himself; it is where he was practicing for his new world tour and the site of his funeral service. A few weeks afterwards, we all learned about the death of Whitney Houston, in her hotel room in the Beverley Hills Hilton, the result of years of substance abuse.
My wife, Kathleen McGowan, in her third novel, The Poet Prince, tackles the subject of “angelics”: people who were born with highly gifted powers, especially in the arts, like the Renaissance genius Filippo Lippi. But Lippi was so out of control his master famously had to lock him up, so that he would actually focus on his god-given talent: the arts. Kathleen highlighted that many of these angelics have tremendous difficulty functioning in this world, and quite often have great issues with sexual identity and happiness in general. Part of their mind is never truly here. Their talent is otherworldly and hard to adapt to this world.
In the case of Michael Jackson, one could definitely see him as an angelic: a phenomenal talent in music, both writing and performing, identified as special from the moment he was born, resulting in a man whom the world never allowed to be fully functional or normal, resulting in his early death, as even sleeping become something he could not do without help. In the case of Whitney Houston, it was an angelic voice, almost unlike anyone else, who equally could not find happiness in this earthly realm.
Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston are but two of many people that fall in this category. Many of them quite often feature on the covers of tabloids, when they fall off the path that they are expected to walk, though some are better at hiding it than others.
The role of the angelic artist is to transport his audience to another realm. At one point, the mere presence of Michael Jackson was able to bring about hysteria in people. But watching the performance of Immortal bore witness to the fact that this man, in death, was able to inspire and transform the audience, sending a powerful message and insights in his vision in a manner that had actually become impossible during his lifetime, as everyone’s attention was always preoccupied with the publicity treadmill he was at the very center of and which neither he nor anyone else could walk away from. But in death, all of this was transformed and the messages that Michael Jackson wanted to send in the world, could finally be set loose.
The messages of Michael Jackson, but in his lyrics and interviews, were often powerful. What to make of statements that “my goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance”? These are clearly the words of a man who understood his mission, his talents, and his total allegiance to it – to the very moment of his death, as can be seen in “This Is It”.
Some of his statements can seem simplistic at times, but reread them and an extraordinary level of understanding rises to the forefront: “Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation.”
Michael Jackson was named after the Prince of Angels, and he was considered to be the King of Pop. The Guinness Book of Records identifies him as the most successful entertainer of all time. He described himself as the source through which the special power flowed, but that the true creation came from the heavens. And hence, Jackson identified himself as a true angelic, who are always seen as enablers of the divine. They are neither of this world, nor of the other world, but sitting restless in between both. In ancient civilizations, it were the angelics that were trained as they were closest to God and the gods and would be able to create divine art the best and easiest. The difference in treatment these angelics received in ancient times and today is probably an apt visualization of the manner in which Mankind treats the divine today.