Located 250 metres north of Lima, Peru, the magical and religious centre of Chavin de Huantar was built in two phases: the Old Temple (ca. 900-500 BC) and the New Temple (ca. 500-200 BC).
Constructed 3,185 metres above sea level, Chavin de Huantar was built of stone blocks, with odd pyramid-shaped structures that have resulted in debate over whether the complex was meant to be used as a temple or a fortress.
The inside of Chavin de Huantar features a labyrinthine network of passageways, lit by carved ‘skylight’ openings overhead. One of the rooms also contained a five-meter high stone carving called the ‘Lanzon’, depicting contorted images of sacred deities and monsters.
Contemporary to the Olmecs in Mexico, the Chavin culture achieved an extremely high level of technology and skill in agriculture, art, architecture, and social organization – thereby allowing them to dominate a large portion of north and central Peru.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Chavin is the amount of religious artifacts that have been uncovered: a number of small mortars, bone tubes, and spoons were found at the temple, which may have been used to grind vilca, a hallucinogenic snuff. In addition, there are several examples of artwork that show figures with mucus streaming from their nostrils – a known side effect of hallucinogenic use – and holding ‘San Pedro’, a variety of hallucinogenic cactus!
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Tomorrow: Midget worship in ancient Egypt!?
In late 2006, archaeologists digging at the Mut Temple in Luxor discovered a column dating to the reign of Hatshepsut, upon which was carved an inscription describing an ancient Egyptian New Year’s festival called the “Festival of Drunkenness”.
Celebrated in honor of the goddess Sekhmet, the whole point of the festival was: get completely and totally smashing drunk, have a lot of sex, pass out… and then – hopefully – wake up the next morning to the sounds of blaring music. Some of the inscriptions make reference to “traveling through the marshes” which, according to site excavator Betsy Bryan, was an ancient Egyptian euphemism for having sex. This connection was also reinforced by ancient graffiti in the temple depicting men and women in various ‘positions’.
The inscription also included reference to several regulations for the festival, the most notable being a call for select individuals to make sure they remained sober – like ancient designated drivers, Bryan explained – to ensure everyone was participating safely and to prevent revelers from unintentionally causing harm.
After a night of drink, dance, and sex, musicians would walk around the festival grounds and play drums to wake up the participants. It was at this point – somewhat still inebriated and groggy – that the Egyptians believed they could communicate with the divine, and would ask the gods for their blessing and favor on the local community in the coming year.
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Tomorrow: Ancestors of the Inca
In the years following Otiz’s recovery from a glacier in the Otztal Alps, seven people connected in some way with the mummy’s discovery and research perished under allegedly “mysterious circumstances”. Although likely influenced by the media’s infatuation with the ‘Curse of the Pharaohs’, it is curious to note that four of these deaths were the result of violent accidents…
1.) Dr. Rainer Henn, 64: a forensic pathologist, Dr. Henn was the first victim of the ‘curse’. He was the head of the forensic team that examined Otzi’s body, and once picked up the cadaver with his bare hands to place it in a body bag. His death came as a result of a head-on collision with another vehicle in 1992… while he was driving to a conference where he was scheduled to present new research on Otzi.
2.) Kurt Fritz: shortly after Henn’s death, the second victim was an experienced mountain climber who had led Henn and his team to the iceman’s body. He was the only member of his party to be stuck by falling rocks during an avalanche in a region he was supposedly familiar with.
3.) Rainer Hoelzl, 47: the third victim, Hoelzl was an Austrian journalist who had filmed an exclusive documentary of the body’s removal from the ice, which was broadcast internationally. A few months later, he developed a mysterious illness – speculated to have been a brain tumor – and perished in extreme pain shortly thereafter.
4.) Helmut Simon, 67: a German tourist, it was Mr. Simon who had been hiking through the alps with his wife when he happened upon Otzi’s body in 1991. He returned to the region on an unaccompanied hike in 2004, and when he did not return as scheduled, rescue teams were dispatched… only to find that the weather had shifted suddenly to blizzard conditions, causing Simon to fall 100 metres into a deep ravine. His body was found eight days later, covered in ice much like the mummy.
5.) Dieter Warnecke, 45: head of the mountain rescue team that searched for Simon, Warnecke died of a heart attack – although according to his family, he was in perfect health. What is more, this occurred less than an hour after Simon’s burial.
6.) Konrad Spindler, 66: Spindler was the leading expert on Otzi before his death. Spindler suffered from a pre-existing chronic condition known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and it was in 2005 that complications with the condition arose which claimed his life. Before his death, he was quoted as being dismissive of the ‘Otzi’s curse’ theory, saying: “I think it’s a load of rubbish. It is all a media hype. The next thing you will be saying I will be next.”
7.) Dr. Tom Loy, 63: Dr. Loy died just prior to completing a book about Otzi, and had also on several occasions been in close physical contact with the mummy. His death came as a surprise to his family, though there is a possibility that Loy may have suffered from a pre-existing medical condition.
While the concept of cursed mummies is indeed intriguing, it is also worth noting that these deaths only totaled seven, even though there were hundreds of other individuals involved with Otzi’s discovery and the subsequent research on the body and associated artifacts.
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Tomorrow: Girls gone wild…in ancient Egypt??
Although it was originally believed that Otzi the Iceman, Europe’s oldest known mummy, was ritually sacrificed by his people to appease the gods, further forensic analysis on the body has revealed that, in fact, ‘Frozen Fritz’ may have been the victim of an ancient murder!
A small tear on Otzi’s coat matched the shape of an arrowhead found lodged in his shoulder, suggesting that he may have bled to death after a confrontation with another individual, possibly from a competing tribe. However, Professor Annaluisa Pedrotti, from Trento University in Italy believes otherwise – according to her research, the type of arrowhead found in Otzi’s shoulder is known only from a very specific area in the southern part of the alps, suggesting that the attacker may have actually been one of his own people.
In addition, research done on the body in 2002 revealed a deep wound on Otzi’s right hand – cut down to the bone. Because his gear was found neatly arranged in the ice nearby, it appears that Otzi may have sat down to rest after the conflict and, weakened by blood loss, died shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately for Otzi, even if he had been able to avoid his fatal confrontation, he would have likely died in the near future regardless. At 46 years old, ‘Frozen Fritz’ already suffered from intestinal cancer as well as an intestinal parasite known as whipworm. It is thought that perhaps the 52 tattoos found all over his body – consisting of various lines and dots – were the results of a type of acupuncture, perhaps in an attempt to alleviate his suffering.
Tomorrow: Otzi’s Curse…?