Blog Archives

THE UNKNOWN RUINS

Nice. Extremely nice. Although I am familiar with some of these sites, some of these will also make good new research investigations for me and material/sites for my novels.

 

 

Done Pompeii, Ephesus and Angkor and still thirsting after archeological marvels? The founder of Timeless Travels magazine recommends 10 less well-known sites that can usually be savoured without the crowds

CE7J30 Ancient khmer pyramid in Koh Kher, Cambodia.
Ancient Khmer pyramid in Koh Kher, Cambodia. Photograph: Alamy

Koh Ker, Cambodia

Lost to forest and abandoned for over a thousand years, you’ll find this little-visited site in northern Cambodia. It’s less than two hours’ ride from its more famous cousin, Angkor Wat, and well worth a visit to see more than two dozen temples emerging from the jungle. A highlight is a seven-tiered pyramid, 40 metres high, which is thought to have been the state temple of Jayavarman IV and is often compared to Mayan temples. The site was the capital of the whole Khmer empire from 928-944AD.
A new road means day trips to Koh Ker are possible from Siem Reap, but there are also now a few basic guesthouses and an ecolodge for those who want to stay longer

Choquequirao, Peru

Choquequirao is a ruined Inca city in south Peru

Pinterest
Photograph: Zachary Bennett/Corbis

Little sister to the better-known Machu Picchu, Choquequirao is one of the most-rewarding travel destinations in the Americas. Only a few hundred people visit during the dry season (May to October), compared with thousands each day at Machu Picchu. At 3,000m, the site sits on a cloud-forest ridge, 61 miles west of Cusco in the remote Vilcabamba range. The city was built by Topa Yupanqui, son of the man who built Machu Picchu, Pachacuti, some time in the 15th century. It’s a two-day trek to Choquequirao from the town of Cachora (though a cable car link is planned), and exploring it and the outlying sites of Capullyoc, Hurincancha and Casa de Cascada with a guide will take several days.
Buses run from Cusco to Ramal, close to Cachora, where guides and pack mules can easily be hired

Ani, Turkey

The ruined church of Saint Gregory in Ani, Turkey.

Pinterest
The ruined church of Saint Gregory in Ani. Photograph: Alamy

There are some wonderful treasures in the far east of Turkey and one of them is the site of Ani. Capital of the Armenian Bagratid dynasty until the 11th century, and situated on key trade routes, it flourished for over 400 years and at its peak was larger than any contemporary European city, with a population of over 100,000. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1319, and today its ruins are spread over a wide area, with the remains of spectacular churches, a Zoroastrian fire temple, palaces and city walls. Take a picnic and spend a day exploring the site.
Ani can be reached by taxi or hire car from the town of Kars, 46km away and served by internal flights from Ankara or Istanbul

Conimbriga, Portugal

Roman ruins (House of fountains), Conimbriga

Pinterest
Photograph: Getty Images

This is one of the largest Roman settlements in Portugal – roughly halfway between Lisbon and Porto, near the village of Condeixa-a-Nova. It was a prosperous town in Roman times and, while not the largest Roman city in Portugal, it is the best preserved. Although only a small section of the site has been excavated, there are baths, luxurious houses, an amphitheatre, a forum, shops, gardens with working fountains and city walls to explore, with many wonderful mosaics still in situ. In its centre is one of the largest houses discovered in the western Roman empire, the Casa de Cantaber, which is built around ornamental pools in superb colonnaded gardens and has its own bath complex and heating system. There is also a good museum, cafe and picnic site. Pick up a guidebook from the museum and have a few euro coins in your pocket to make the fountains work.
Easyjet and Ryanair fly to Porto and Lisbon from about £50 return

Han Yangling, China

Terracotta figures at Han Yang Ling Museum.

Pinterest
Terracotta figures in the Han Yangling museum. Photograph: Alamy

A smaller version of the Xi’an terracotta warriors, this often-overlooked site is the the tomb of E mperor Jing Di , who died in 141BC, and his Empress Wang. The site, 20km north of Xi’an, is well laid-out, with glass panels over the burial pits so you can see everything in situ, and there is also an excellent museum. The warrior figures here have individual faces; their arms were made of wood and they wore clothes. Sadly, both have disintegrated now, though examples can be seen in the museum. The pits are filled with figurines of courtiers and animals, and you can see the fossilised remains of wooden chariots.
Han Yangling is easily reached by taxi, from Xi’an international airport (25 minutes)

Pella, Jordan

Ruins in Pella, Jordan

Pinterest
Photograph: Corbis

Frequently bypassed for the larger sites of Jerash and Umm Qais , Pella, in the north Jordan valley, is a multi-period site, occupied since neolithic times. It has some stunning Roman/Byzantine remains, and recent excavations have unearthed a Canaanite temple dating from 1700BC and early-bronze-age city walls dating from 3200BC. Take the time to climb to the top of Tell Husn, the southern mound overlooking the dig house, and you will be rewarded with a fantastic view across the excavations and the Jordan valley.
The site is 45 minutes by road from the city of Irbid (two hours from Amman). Buses run from Irbid to the present-day village of Tabaqat Fahl

Vatican Necropolis, Italy

Roman necropolis in the Vatican.

Pinterest
Photograph: AGF/Rex

Beneath the Vatican City lie the ancient streets of Rome and an ancient burial ground, the Vatican necropolis – originally a cemetery on the southern slope of Vatican Hill. Saint Peter is said to be buried here, after he was martyred in the nearby Circus of Nero. Emperor Constantine I built a basilica above the apostle’s grave in the fourth century AD, and excavations in the 1940s did find a number of mausoleums. To walk at ancient street levels through the necropolis is an exciting experience for those who love to step back in time.
Visits must be booked with the Vatican Excavations Office. Tours, in groups of about 12, last 90 minutes

Takht-e Soleyman, Iran

Takht Soleyman

Pinterest
Photograph: /Getty Images

Takht-e Soleyman, meaning Throne of Solomon, is a breathtaking site built around a mineral-rich crater lake 30km north of Takab in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. The earliest remains date from the Sasanian period, from 224 to 651AD. Set in a vast, empty landscape 2,000 metres above sea level, the site includes the remains of a Zoroastrian fire temple complex and a 13th-century Mongol palace. It is surrounded by an oval wall with 34 towers and two gates. The lake is 60 metres deep and so filled with minerals that it contains no life and is undrinkable. Don’t miss the small museum, housed in an Ilkhanid (a 13th-century building), with fine examples of tile, ceramics and stucco decoration.
The site is about two hours by taxi from the city of Zanjan, which is served by buses and trains from Tehran

Fatehpur Sikri, India

Fatehpur Sikri, India

Pinterest
Photograph: /Corbis

This surprisingly intact walled and fortified Mughal city is 40km west of Agra and the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh. Built by Emperor Akbar in 1571, it was the Mughal capital for 14 years before being abandoned for lack of water. A stunning royal complex of pavilions and palaces include a harem, a mosque, private quarters, gardens, ornamental pools, courtyards and intricate carvings. It is the best-preserved collection of Mughal architecture in India. Don’t miss the Rumi Sultana palace, the smallest but most-elegant structure in the complex, and the secret stone safes in the corner of the Treasury, which also houses a museum opened just last year.
The complex is an easy day trip from Agra: take a bus or train to Fatehpur station, 1km from the site

Pula, Croatia

Ancient Amphitheater Pula, Croatia

Pinterest
Photograph: Getty Images

The amphitheatre of Pula is the only Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and all three levels preserved. Built between in 27BC and 68AD, it is one of the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world, and the best-preserved ancient monument in Croatia. Overlooking the harbour in the north-east of the town, it seated 20,000 spectators. In summer there are weekly re-enactments of gladiator fights, and it is also used for plays, concerts and the September Outlook festival. Look out for the slabs that used to secure the fabric canopies that sheltered spectators from the sun.
Ryanair flies to Pula from Stansted from £117 return

GAMING – IT’S WHAT PEOPLE DO

Roman Game Board Found in Turkey

Archaeology news

kibyra-game

Archaeologists working in the ancient city of Kibyra in the southern Turkish province of Burdur have discovered a game board dating to the first or second century C.E.Under the aegis of Mehmet Akif Ersoy University’s archaeology department, excavations were being conducted in the city’s agora.

The board belonged to a game called Ludus duodecim scriptorium (“game of 12 markings”)—XII scripta for short—which was popular throughout the Roman Empire. The name likely came from the three rows of 12 markings inscribed on most of the Roman game boards discovered. While not much is known about the rules, the game was played by two players with three dice and may have resembled the modern game backgammon.

According to the ancient Greek geographer Strabo, the early inhabitants of Kibyra may have descended from the Lydians, an Anatolian people (Strabo, Geography 13.4.17). Sometime in the second century B.C.E., the city formed a tetrapolis with three neighboring cities. The tetrapolis was dissolved in the first century B.C.E. and Kibyra was subsequently incorporated into the Roman province of Asia. Known for its ironworking industry, the city boasted a number of public structures, including a stadium, theater and odeon.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.

THE OLD CITIES OF CAPPADOCIA

I’m familiar with these places. As a matter of fact they show up in my Other World novels.

Nevertheless they are as fascinating to me now and when I first learned of them.

In addition to the Real World significance of these domains this also possesses very under-utilized story and gaming possibilities. And God, yes, I’d love to vad these places.

 

This Guy Knocked Down A Wall In His House. He Never Expected This To Behind It. WOAH!

Province of Turkey was doing a little home remodeling. He decided to knock down a wall of his home for an expansion. He discovered a hidden room behind the wall with a slender hallway carved out of of the stone below his home. The hallway lead to a cave-like room which lead to more hallways and cave-like rooms. Before he knew it he had stumbled onto an entire city underground and attached to his home. The city was completely empty and abandoned but it had every amenity you would need to sustain a society. What he had stumbled on by accident was Derinkuyu and The underground cities of Cappadocia.
underground city 1

These tunnels are believed to be hand dug around the 15th and 12th century BCE. They sheltered the people and their food from the extreme climates above. They also served as protection from an enemy attack.

underground city 2

Here is A small drawing of what these underground cities look like. The ground is primarily made of ash and volcanic material making it easy to excavate and still very durable. No one is sure who first occupied the underground city however it is certain that many groups have occupied it over the centuries.

underground city 3

With up to 11 floors at points accessible to the public, the city reaches depths of over 280 feet below the surface. 11 floors have been excavated and deemed safe for tourism however it is speculated that there are over 18 floors below that have yet to be discovered.

underground city 4

The miles upon miles of tunnels are blackened from centuries of torches traveling through them. The city connects to other cities in the area spanning miles which would be able to sustain tens of thousands of people at one time.

underground city 5

The underground tunnels lead to giant rooms that housed schools, wine cellars, oil press rooms, churches, gathering halls, shops, tombs, arsenals, livestock corrals, escape routes and water wells separated from the surface water. 

underground city 6

There are over 100 entrances to the underground cities but each and every one of them are hidden behind bushes or walls, even courtyards had entrances that were hidden but big enough to move livestock in and out of.

underground city 7

The entrances and other important rooms were guarded with giant stone doors. They were hand carved and weigh up to 1,00 pounds. Some are over 5 feet in diameter.

underground city 8

Underground river systems were used as drinking sources in order to avoid being poisoned by surface water susceptible to enemies above ground.

underground city 10

 How amazing is this place? I’m astounded that it was completely built by hand.

underground city 11

The size of the rooms is incredible. Right now about 10% of the underground city is open to the public but it was only discovered in 1963 so experts still have a lot to excavate and document.

underground city 12

This is one of the well shafts. They built it so that the vent shaft did not reach the surface. This would prevent any poisoning from enemies on the surface.

underground city 13

This is a vertical staircase leading to a floor below. These lead to most levels and can be very dangerous. 

underground city 14

 

 

The tunnels were dug very narrow to force people to walk through them single file. This would give the people living in the underground cities an advantage over their enemies. 

underground city 16

The room above is a wine cellar and cold food storage. The amount of detail and time that went into each room is impressive to say the least. To think that this may still be sitting undiscovered if it weren’t for one man who decided to remodel his home. He knocked down one wall and opened a door to another society completely hidden underground. A society hidden for thousands of years only to revealed in 1963.

 

GOBLEKI TEPE

Having been following this discovery for awhile now I am very, very doubtful this is man’s “First or Oldest Religion.” Or even the oldest Neolithic religion. It may be however the oldest yet discovered example of the ruins of a place involving complex, organized religious practice.

As for gaming and fiction. discoveries like this would make for amazingly good story settings and plot generation origin points. As a matter of fact now that I think about it I’ll likely incorporate a Göbekli Tepe type site into either my  Other World or Paneden gaming milieus(s), and into my short story, The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha.

The Göbekli Tepe Ruins and the Origins of Neolithic Religion

Is Turkey’s “Stonehenge” evidence of the oldest religion in the world?

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in December 2012. It has been updated.—Ed.


On a hill known as Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”) in southeastern Turkey, excavations led by Klaus Schmidt have uncovered several large megalithic enclosures that date between 10,000 and 8000 B.C.E., the dawn of civilization and the Neolithic age. Each of these circular enclosures, which many have described as Turkey’s “Stonehenge,” consists of ten to twelve massive stone pillars surrounding two larger monoliths positioned in the middle of the structure. There are no village remains at or near the Göbekli Tepe ruins, suggesting that the unique site was a ceremonial center exclusively used for the practice of the Neolithic religion of local hunter-gatherer groups.Given the early age of the site, equally surprising are the varied and often highly elaborate carvings that adorn the pillars of the Göbekli Tepe ruins. Among the pillars are detailed and often very realistic depictions of animal figures, including vultures and scorpions, lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles, asses, snakes, and other birds and reptiles. In addition, some of the massive monoliths are carved with stylized anthropomorphic details—including arms, legs and clothing—that give the impression of large super-human beings watching over the enclosures.

The Göbekli Tepe ruins and enclosures—the earliest monumental ritual sites of Neolithic religion and possibly the oldest religion in the world—are causing experts to rethink the origins of religion and human civilization. Until recently, scholars agreed that agriculture and human settlement in villages gave rise to religious practices. The discoveries at the Göbekli Tepe ruins, however, indicate that earlier hunter-gatherer groups that had not yet settled down had already developed complex religious ideas, together with monumental ceremonial sites to practice the sacred communal rituals of Neolithic religion.


In his article “In the Beginning: Religion at the Dawn of Civilization,” Biblical scholar Ben Witherington III presents Göbekli Tepe. With his article “The Search for the Holy Grail: Misguided from the Start” in Mysteries of the Bible: From the Garden of Eden to the Shroud of Turin, Witherington joins an international team of experts presenting the Bible’s greatest enigmas.


Indeed, excavations at the Göbekli Tepe ruins have uncovered tens of thousands of animal bones, indicating that many different species—including those depicted on the pillars—were slaughtered, sacrificed and presumably eaten at the site. While it is uncertain to whom these sacrifices were made, it’s possible they were offered to the enclosures’ stylized human pillars that, as some have suggested, may represent priests, deities or revered ancestors in Neolithic religion. Given that human bones have also been found, others believe the Göbekli Tepe ruins may have been a Neolithic burial ground where funerary rituals and perhaps even excarnations were practiced.*

To learn more about the Göbekli Tepe ruins and Neolithic religion, read Ben Witherington III’s article “In the Beginning: Religion at the Dawn of Civilization” as it appears in the January/February 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

%d bloggers like this: