The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser

Kaspar Hauser (April 30, 1812 (?) – December 17, 1833) was a mysterious foundling in 19th century Germany famous for his claim to have grown up in the total isolation of a darkened cell. Hauser's claims, and his death by stabbing, sparked much debate and controversy. On 26th May 1828, a strange, teenage boy stumbled up to the gates of Nuremberg. He had a strong build. light curly hair, a pale complexion, and moved as if he was drunk. A local shoemaker, Georg Weickmann, approached the boy to see who he was, but the lad only said, ‘I would like to be a rider the way my father was.’ He handed Weickmann an envelope addressed to the Captain of the fourth squadron of the sixth regiment of the Light Cavalry. The shoemaker took him to the captain, who opened the letter. It explained that the boy had been left with a poor labourer who had kept him locked inside all his life.
But the boy was now ready to serve in the king’s army. The cavalry captain questioned the boy, but the only words he said were, ‘don’t know’, ‘take me home’, and ‘horse’. He could also write the name ‘Kaspar Hauser’. In the end, the captain put the boy in the local prison but the jailer took pity on him. The jailer’s children began to teach him to speak, write and draw. He seemed to have no concept of behaviour; had no facial expressions; could not understand the difference between men and women; was happy to sleep sitting up; acted like a baby or infant child and was particularly happy in the dark.

In July 1828 a local magistrate suggested to Nuremberg’s authorities that it would be best for Hauser to be taken out of the jail and placed in the custody of George Friedrich Daumer, a university professor and psychologist. Daumer helped Hauser change into a normal young man, but also kept a record of the strange boy’s behaviour. Daumer realised the extent of Hauser’s amazing heightened senses. He could read in the dark, hear whispers from extreme distances and discern who was in a pitch black room simply by their smell. Unfortunately, as his awareness and education about the world around him increased, these extraordinary abilities waned.

By early 1829, Hauser had learnt enough to be able to write his autobiography. In it he revealed that he had been kept in a cell 7ft long, 4ft wide and 5ft high by a man whose face he never saw. He slept on a straw bed, and when he woke there would be water and bread for him to eat. Sometimes the water would taste odd, and he would pass out only to find himself cleaned and groomed, wearing with a fresh set of clothes when he awoke. One day the man came to Hauser’s cell door with books and taught him to read a little, write his name, and repeat the rudimentary phrases he pronounced on his public arrival. The next day, Hauser and his captor began a three day journey which culminated in his appearance at Nuremberg. Hauser’s autobiography opened the door to a new terror. This tale, still famous today, aroused great curiosity and made him an object of international attention.

Rumours arose that he was of princely parentage, possibly of Baden origin, but there were also claims that he was an impostor. It is nowadays agreed among serious researchers that Hauser's account cannot possibly be true. With reference to modern knowledge of hospitalism, and notably the work of René Spitz, psychiatrist Karl Leonhard concluded: "If he had been living since childhood under the conditions he describes, he would not have developed beyond the condition of an idiot; indeed he would not have remained alive long. His tale is so full of absurdities that it is astonishing that it was ever believed and is even today still believed by many people."

On October 17, 1829, Hauser did not come to the midday meal, but was found bleeding from a cut wound on the forehead, in the cellar of Daumer's house. He asserted that while sitting on the privy he had been attacked and wounded by a hooded man who had also threatened him with the words: "You still have to die ere you leave the city of Nuremberg." Hauser said that by the voice he had recognized the man as the one who had brought him to Nuremberg. As was obvious from his blood trail, Hauser had at first fled to the first floor where his room was, but then instead of moving on to his caretakers, he had returned downstairs, and had climbed through a trap door into the cellar. Alarmed officials called for a police escort and transferred him to the care of Johann Biberbach, one of the municipal authorities. The alleged attack on Hauser also fueled rumours about his possible descent from the House of Baden. Hauser's critics are of the opinion that he had inflicted the wound on himself with a razor, which he then had brought back to his room before going to the cellar. He might have done so to arouse pity and thus escape chiding for a recent quarrel with Daumer, who had come to believe that the boy had a tendency to lie.

On 14th December 1833, Hauser went to a local park to meet a man who had promised to reveal details about his mother’s identity. They met, and the stranger motioned as if to give Hauser a wallet, but as the young man leant forward, he was stabbed in his side. When Policeman Herrlein searched the Court Garden he found a small violet purse containing a penciled note in "Spiegelschrift" (mirror writing). The message read, in German: Hauser will be able to tell you quite precisely how I look and from where I am. To save Hauser the effort, I want to tell you myself from where I come _ _ . I come from from _ _ _ the Bavarian border _ _ On the river _ _ _ _ _ I even want to tell you the name: M. L. Ö.

The wound in Hauser's chest proved to be fatal, and he died on December 17, 1833. Inconsistencies in Hauser's account led the Ansbach court of enquiry to suspect that Hauser stabbed himself and invented a tale about being attacked. The note in the purse that was found in the Court Garden contained one spelling error and one grammatical error, both of which were typical for Hauser — who, on his deathbed, kept muttering incoherencies about "writing with pencil". Although he had been very eager that the purse be found, he did not ask for its contents. The note itself was folded in a specific triangular form — just the way Hauser used to fold his letters, according to Mrs. Meyer. Forensic doctors agreed that the wound could indeed be self-inflicted.

Kaspar Hauser's Gravestone

Many historians believe that he had wounded himself in a bid to revive public interest in his story and to convince Stanhope to fulfill his promise to take him to England, but that he stabbed himself more deeply than he had planned. The suspicion developed that Hauser was actually a Baden prince and son of Stephanie, Grand Duchess of Bavaria. Certainly many of the Bavarian aristocracy had such suspicions, and King Ludwig of Bavaria even wrote in his diary that Hauser was the ‘rightful Grand Duke of Baden’. The theory is that Stephanie and Karl of Baden had Hauser in 1812, but Karl’s stepmother, the Duchess of Hochberg, switched him at birth with a sickly peasant child. The ill baby soon passed away and subsequent boys sired by Karl with Stephanie also died young. Karl himself died in strange circumstances, and on his deathbed said he believed that he and his boys had been poisoned. Karl’s throne then went to his stepbrother, the Duchess of Hochberg’s son Leopold. It is an unprovable theory. All we definitely know is that in a peaceful countryside churchyard there is a gravestone that reads: ‘Here lies Kaspar Hauser, riddle of his time. His birth was unknown, his death mysterious.’

(Sources : 100 Strangest Mysteries by Matt Lamy; and Wikipedia)

(Pic sources :;
07:03 | 1 komentar

Monster of Lake Champlain

Champ or Champy, is the name given to a reputed lake monster living in Lake Champlain, a natural freshwater lake in North America, partially situated across the U.S.-Canada border in the Canadian province of Quebec and partially situated across the Vermont-New York border. While there is no scientific evidence for the cryptid's existence, there have been over 300 reported sightings. The legend of the monster is considered a draw for tourism in the Burlington, Vermont area. Like the Loch Ness Monster, some authorities regard Champ as legend, others believe it is possible such a creature does live deep in the lake, possibly a relative of the plesiosaur, an extinct group of aquatic reptiles. Two Native American tribes living in the area near Lake Champlain, the Iroquois and the Abenaki, had legends about such a creature. The Abenaki called the creature "Tatoskok".

An account of a creature in Lake Champlain was ostensibly given in 1609 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Québec and the lake's namesake, who is supposed to have spotted the creature as he was fighting the Iroquois on the bank of the lake. However, in actuality no such sighting was recorded, and it has since been traced back to a 1970 article. In early July 1873, a crew laying track for the New York & Canada Railroad along the shore near Dresden, New York, saw a serpent with an enormous head approaching them from across the lake. The men started to retreat but saw the animal turn and swim rapidly away. It seemed to be covered with bright, silvery scales, and it spurted water about 20 feet into the air. Its tail resembled that of a fish. A few days afterward, others saw the animal and farmers complained of missing livestock.

On August 9, a party of monster hunters organized by the Whitehall Times allegedly trapped the serpent in Axehelve Bay and shot it from the decks of a steamboat they had commandeered, the Molyneaux. On September 7, railway workers eager for the $50,000 reward that P. T. Barnum had recently offered thought they had found the missing carcass, but it turned out to be a log. On July 30, 1883, Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney saw a huge serpent 25–35 feet long with a flat, triangular head in Cumberland Bay, New York. It stood out about 5 feet above the water. Sightings continued throughout the summer.

In 1945, Charles Langlois and his wife, of Rutland, Vermont, got close to the animal in a rowboat. Orville Wells watched a 20-foot animal with a long neck and two humps in Treadwell Bay, New York, in 1976. On July 5, 1977, Sandra Mansi and her family were picnicking by the lake when they saw the head and neck of a “dinosaur” some 100–160 feet offshore near St. Albans, Vermont. She managed to take a color Instamatic photograph of the animal before leaving hurriedly in the car. The photo has held up under scrutiny and apparently shows a gray-black object at least 15–20 feet long at the waterline. It has a long neck, a small head, and a hump. B. Roy Frieden of the University of Arizona’s Optical Sciences Center in 1981 determined that the photo was not a montage and appeared to show a separate set of surface waves coming from the object that are independent from the waves from the rest of the lake.

A 1982 analysis of wave patterns in the photo by oceanographer Paul H. LeBlond gave an estimate ranging from 16 to 56 feet for the waterline length of the object. Jim Kennard and Joseph Zarzynski picked up a target using towed side-scan sonar on June 3, 1979, in Whallon Bay, New York. The object was moving at a depth of 175 feet. However, a school of fishes was not ruled out. On July 28, 1984, Michael Shea, Bette Morris, and about sixty other people watched Champ for ten to fifteen minutes from the vessel The Spirit of Ethan Allen off Appletree Point, Burlington, Vermont. It was approximately 30 feet long and had three to five humps. On August 10, 1988, Martin Klein, Joseph Zarzynski, and others aboard an air-sea rescue vessel between Westport, New York, and Basin Harbor, Vermont, saw an animate object thrashing on the surface of the lake.

On July 6, 2000, Dennis Jay Hall obtained about forty-five minutes of digital video of two long-necked animals in shallow water just south of the mouth of Otter Creek, Vermont. He has several videos of single animals taken on several other occasions, one as recently as October 6, 2000, in Button Bay, Vermont.

Many believe that Champ may be a plesiosaur similar to “Nessie”, claiming the two lakes have much in common. Like Loch Ness, Lake Champlain is over 400 feet (120 m) deep, and both lakes were formed from retreating glaciers following the end of the Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. Believers also claim both lakes support fish populations large enough to feed a supposed sea or lake monster. This legend would require either a single 10,000 year old animal, or a breeding population of thirty.

(Sources : Mysterious Creatures “A Guide to Cryptozoology” by George M. Eberhart; and Wikipedia)

(Pic source : Mysterious Creatures “A Guide to Cryptozoology” by George M. Eberhart page 96)
09:28 | 0 komentar

Monks Mound

Along the sleepy Mississippi river, just across from the modern Saarinen Arch at St. Louis, lies an enormous complex of pyramids, temples, and dwellings now reduced to gently sloping mounds. To the north of this area, however, looms a pyramid which has only recently presented an archaeological puzzle of unparalleled scope. This site is called Monks Mound or Cahokia Mounds was designated a National Historic Landmark on July 19, 1964, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982. The park protects 2200 acres (8.9 km²), and is the focus of ongoing archaeological research. This is one of only eight cultural World Heritage Sites in the United States as designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Cahokia was settled around 650 CE during the Late Woodland period. Mound building did not begin until about 1050 CE, at the beginning of the Mississippian cultural period. The inhabitants left no written records beyond symbols on pottery, shell, copper, wood, and stone. The city's original name is unknown.

The original site contained 120 earthen mounds over an area of six square miles, although only 80 survive today. To achieve that, workers moved more than an "estimated 55 million cubic feet of earth in woven baskets to create this network of mounds and community plazas. Monks Mound, for example, covers 14 acres, rises 100 feet, and was topped by a massive 5,000 square-foot building another 50 feet high." The name "Cahokia" also refers to an unrelated clan of historic Illiniwek people living in the area when the first French explorers arrived in the 1600s, long after Cahokia was abandoned by its original inhabitants. The living descendants of the Cahokia people associated with the Mound site are unknown, although many Native American groups are plausible.

Monk's Mound is the central focus of this great ceremonial center. A massive structure with four terraces, it is the largest man-made earthen mound in the Americas. Facing south, it is 92 feet (28 m) high, 951 feet (290 m) long and 836 feet (255 m) wide. Excavation on the top of Monk's Mound has revealed evidence of a large building — perhaps a temple or the residence of the paramount chief — that could have been seen throughout the city. This building was about 105 feet (32 m) long and 48 feet (15 m) wide, and could have been as much as 50 feet (15 m) high. It was about 5000 square feet.

Modern archaeological tools had made great advances at uncovering many of its puzzles, yet pure chance has revealed another! The huge ceremonial area, with its estimated occupation of 20,000, was considered by early scientific explorers to be a total mystery, and much of its 3500-acre extent given over to farmland. Yet hidden beneath the crops lay a forgotten complex including a manmade plaza flanked at both ends by huge, standing earth structures in typical pyramidal but flat-topped form. Dating of the temple city was formerly placed at 900 - 1400 A.D., well in line with most other smaller mound complexes in the North American continent. The surprise discovery of what appears to be a totally unsuspected and large stone structure lying hidden below the great pyramidal mass known as Monks Mound could push the dates back much further, linking the area to others whose origins range from 3,000 to 3,500 years of age (such as Poverty Point). As it did over many centuries of the past, the pyramid itself stands proudly above the flat river floodplain, rising in gentle terraces to more than one hundred feet, and covers seventeen acres, a base larger than Giza’s Great Pyramid.

The apex, as at Giza, was left deliberately flat and is known to have held at least one temple building of heavy timbers whose evidences still remain. Originally designed to a slope of 26 degrees, according to Dr. William Woods of nearby Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the pyramid was constructed of 22-million cubic feet of soil, sand and earth carried in baskets on the backs of men, and deliberately engineered on its unusual clay foundation to withstand the humidity and rainfall of prehistoric Illinois. Such construction techniques are almost unique amongst these early temple builder cultures. This solid structure has undergone some amount of failure in the upper layers over the ten or more centuries since the great construction was completed, and it was in an effort to protect this outstanding monument from further erosion and slumping that the major new mystery was discovered.

Archaeologists had been surprised from time to time by this site, but the general thinking was that the huge temple held few more new discoveries. This perception was to be proven wrong. Early on a cold and snowy January 24 of 1998, a local drilling crew had begun work on a potential control, a new drainage system on the western face of the pyramid, when their flexible drill suddenly hit stone! No stone had ever been found at this site other than minor artifacts, tools, spear points and grain-grinding millstones; and the drill crew at first imagined that they’d struck an especially large artifact similar to the carved stone plaques found at Cahokia. When the drill, working at a horizontal level, continued to gouge into stone, however, the drillers wondered just what they’d found. Drill crews of this type can ‘feel’ what they are coring, and when the stone was found to continue horizontally for more than thirty feet, they began to withdraw the heavy drill, which broke as it was being extracted. Archaeologists at the site were alerted and they, too, were puzzled by the unseen stone, thinking it might be a large piece of some kind.

The driller, however, revealed that his flexible point had gone through what he knew had to be stones of fair size, but closely placed in a continuous and deliberate manner, deep into the western face at about 140 feet, and 40 feet below the ‘terrace’ surface on that side. Nothing had ever been encountered at that level. On-site archaeologists Andy Martignoni and Steve Fulton quickly alerted Woods, who’d been asleep. He then hurried to the site and was astounded at the possibilities the totally unsuspected stone might portend. “This was a really interesting find—not to mention that the closest source of any stone is more than ten miles from Cahokia.” There have been several small excavations in the past and several vertical corings through the Mound, but they’d completely missed this amazing feature. More extensive work had not been planned, as it might have accelerated the slumping of the earthen face. It was decided to bring the aid of modern technology to the problem and to use the latest of scanning equipment in order to determine what other surprises might lie beneath the mound itself.

Bill Iseminger, Cahokia Archaeologist and PR Director, listed sources of such scans which encompass everything from seismic ‘shock-wave’ studies popularized by Jurassic Park, to oilgeology- based satellite scans from space, plus magnetometry and resistivity tests which are being used in this ongoing detection effort Some surmises can be made already, based on what the scans are revealing; plus the known architecture of sites in Mexico and Central America built along similar lines. Mayan plaza-temple sites were built exclusively of stone, which was not easily available to early Mississippian cultures which ostensibly began construction at Cahokia.

Woodhenge at Cahokia

This complex lies in a deep-mud area called the American Bottom, circumscribed by many waterways, large and small, and is but a few miles from the oftflooding Mississippi. Stone lies too deep or too far away to be useful. As exploration has shown, most such complexes were devoted to Sun worship, and in this aspect Cahokia is no different. The immense ceremonial area contains several observatories called ‘wood henges’ to distinguish them from Stonehenge in the UK. These were huge circles of wooden posts designed as solar horizon markers, allowing observation of the yearly equinoxes to an exact degree. Some of the smaller ‘henges’ may have been used to properly align the flatted pyramids which supported ancient temples at Cahokia. Few visitors to the Site were aware of these enormous additions to Cahokia’s extensive plan until a discovery in 1961 of trenches and postholes in exact circular design. One of these observatories has now been reconstructed, though the largest is bisected by a four-lane highway.

At Cahokia, the usual format of pyramids at either end of a large parade and ceremonial plaza is followed. The Grand Plaza, largest of these was more than forty acres in area, and is sharply defined by a drop-off at one existing Aerial View of Monk’s Mound taken in 1936. end. This assured archaeologists that the Plaza had been built on a surface which was hand-leveled and filled with clays and soil materials to make a completely hard, flat surface for ceremonial usage. Causeways fed into the Grand Plaza, also engineered in the same manner.

Studies have shown that an unusually sophisticated and advanced method of architecture formerly unsuspected in supposedly primitive societies was employed in building the great pyramid base. It incorporated a twenty-foot-high platform of clay that was topped by very deliberately chosen and laid layers of sand, clays and soils that would withstand rains and erosions of the climate. This ingenious building method utilized a melding of the known drainage properties of clays and soils within the structure, designed to facilitate an artificial drainage system for surface water which would percolate down into the pyramid from above. It was an increasingly wet environment that has created the present problems— and led to the surprise discovery of the stone interior form. “If they hadn’t built it the way they did, the massive weight of that much earth and clay would have resulted in just one big mud pancake.” Woods grins at the idea.

Monks is three football fields long, and only slightly smaller in width. Evidence of an enormous temple palace upon the top still exists in the soil. A modern two-level concrete staircase made to look like wood has recently been finished, adding even more to the look of a typical Mayan structure. Exactly as seen in Mayan temple cities, the looming pyramid’s massive structure is faced by a smaller pyramidbase at the southerly end of the Grand Plaza, just as the pyramids of Sun and Moon are placed in Mexico and other jungle complexes. Beside the smaller base is a cone-shaped mound which may contain burials, but has not been excavated. Mound 72, which has yielded the largest number of gravesites, including a spectacularly grand burial of an undoubted ruler or noble, lies only a few hundred yards south of the ‘twins’. (Not thought to be common in this culture, this burial was accompanied by many bodies of obviously sacrificed attendants, wives and family).

Along the Grand Plaza, site of major ceremonial processions, lay a series of smaller temples, buildings in which the aristocracy, priests and royalty lived, and others in which ceremonial materials were cached. These were constructed on sturdy earthen platforms, which have now slumped into anonymous ‘mounds’. It was the weathering of the once-pristine platforms that has resulted in the designation of ‘moundbuilders’, for the cultures which once were built with such difficult precision.

Cahokia also possesses another anomaly amongst temple cities, the fact that the entire main ceremonial area, including the pyramid and 17 other platform constructions, a total of roughly 200 acres, was completely enclosed in a solid stockade of 20,000 timbers set into the ground almost five feet deep and furnished with outlooks and guard station placements along its two miles of length. This unique wood construction is currently being studied and excavated by field teams from colleges and universities around the U.S. Outside the solid barrier lay the smaller subsidiary earth platforms on which the more modest homes of lesser nobles were built and surrounded by homes of the general population. It is these mounded remains that have been gradually plowed, dug away, and many eventually lost, so that estimates reveal only 80 of the 120 such platforms are still in place.

News of the amazing new find at Cahokia flashed across the archaeological world, conjuring images of a Mayan stone pyramid lurking beneath the innocent- appearing mound. Some cited the prospect of more tablets of carved stone, such as the ‘Birdman’ tablet which was found on one face of the pyramid, featuring a winged ‘messenger’ figure with a beaked mask, along with a second image on the ‘Ramey tablet’ found just East of the pyramid; showing several figures with a decidedly Mayan look to their highbridged noses and bunned hair. It has long been speculated that many more such tablets formed a decorative facing of the large pyramid, but have since vanished into the ground (or private collections).

More conservative thinking held that the obviously worked and placed stones might protect a previously unknown burial tomb, even more splendid than the one in Mound 72; or an elaborately built ceremonial platform of fascinatingly unsuspected nature. Other theorists wondered, yet were content to wait until the more modern scanning techniques have yielded additional data. Cahokia’s own archaeologists and those nearby at SIUE are literally holding their collective breath at this point. William Woods comments, enigmatically, “We just have no idea what we’re likely to find under this thing.” while Bill Iseminger echoes this, adding “This was undoubtedly the largest community on the continent in its time. And a major trading center.

Twenty two million cubic feet of soil, sand and clay were used to construct just Monks Mound, yet we know so little about the people.” Completely unspoken is the fact that early scan returns have shown that several ‘anomalies’ (walls?) appear to stand above the area thought to be a platform, and perhaps more beneath. Is there a connection to the Mayan temple plaza sites, the supposedly much older Poverty Point site? Or does some link exist to the Toltec or the Mixtec cultures? Or not?

(Sources : Atlantis Rising Magazine vol.21 : “New Discovery Beneath an Old Mound Perplexes Investigators” written by Beverly Jaegers and Wikipedia)

(Pics sources :;
15:45 | 4 komentar

Lost Library of Alexandria

Fabled as the greatest repository of knowledge in the ancient world, the first university and the home of antiquity’s wisest scholars, the Library of Alexandria has passed into the realm of legend. Its destruction has been painted as one of the bleakest chapters in mankind’s intellectual history, contributing to Europe’s plunge into the Dark Ages and setting back the development of science, philosophy, medicine and literature, if not the cause of reason itself, by a millennium. The loss of the Library has even been described as ‘the day that history lost its memory’. The Library’s legend is enhanced by the layers of mystery that surround it. How big was it? What incredible riches were stored within? How was it destroyed, and by whom? And where are its remains?

Ancient and modern sources identify four possible occasions for the destruction of the Library of
  • Julius Caesar's Fire in The Alexandrian War, in 48 BC
  • The attack of Aurelian in the third century AD;
  • The decree of Theophilus in AD 391;
  • The Muslim conquest in AD 642 or thereafter.
The ancient accounts by Plutarch, Aulus Gellius, Ammianus Marcellinus, and Orosius agree that Caesar accidentally burned the library down during his visit to Alexandria in 48 BC. Although not confirmed in the accounts of contemporary historians, these accounts do suggest that the library was a thing of the past when Plutarch was writing around AD 100.

According to the earliest source of information, the pseudepigraphic Letter of Aristeas, the library was initially organized by Demetrius of Phaleron, a student of Aristotle under the reign of Ptolemy Soter. Built in the Brucheion (Royal Quarter) in the style of Aristotle's Lyceum, adjacent to and in service of the Musaeum (a Greek Temple or "House of Muses", hence the term "museum"), the library comprised a Peripatos walk, gardens, a room for shared dining, a reading room, lecture halls and meeting rooms. However, the exact layout is not known. This model's influence may still be seen today in the layout of university campuses.

The library itself is known to have had an acquisitions department (possibly built near the stacks, or for utility closer to the harbour), and a cataloguing department. The hall contained shelves for the collections of scrolls (as the books were at this time on papyrus scrolls), known as bibliothekai. Carved into the wall above the shelves, a famous inscription read: The place of the cure of the soul. The first known library of its kind to gather a serious collection of books from beyond its country's borders, the Library at Alexandria was charged with collecting all the world's knowledge. It did so through an aggressive and well-funded royal mandate involving trips to the book fairs of Rhodes and Athens and a (potentially apocryphal or exaggerated) policy of pulling the books off every ship that came into port. They kept the original texts and made copies to send back to their owners. This detail is informed by the fact that Alexandria, because of its man-made bidirectional port between the mainland and the Pharos island, welcomed trade from the East and West, and soon found itself the international hub for trade, as well as the leading producer of papyrus and, soon enough, books. The standard account of the library runs like this.

Alexander the Great founded Alexandria in 332 BCE but hung around just long enough to lay out the basic street plan and get construction underway. When he died a few years later, one of his generals, Ptolemy Soter, took control of Egypt and made Alexandria his capital, building great palaces and temples, including a temple to the Muses (or Museum). His son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (ruled 282–246 BCE), started the library, which was based in or next to the Museum, using Aristotle’s personal library as its core. Ptolemy III Euergetes continued the work, determined to gather in the library all the knowledge in the world, and he instituted an aggressive policy of collection that involved acquiring scrolls, copying them and then returning the (inferior) copies while keeping the originals. He supposedly had every ship that passed through Alexandria searched for new scrolls and borrowed the entire scroll collection of Athens, willingly forfeiting his massive deposit in order to keep the originals.

Eventually the collection numbered over 500,000 scrolls – 700,000 by some accounts – making it, by a considerable margin, the greatest collection the ancient world had ever known. (The rival library at Pergamon was said to have 200,000 scrolls, which were supposedly transferred to Alexandria as a gift from Mark Anthony to Cleopatra, and the next biggest library in Rome had 20,000 at most.) Along with the collection of parchment (and later vellum) scrolls, the Ptolemies paid for a permanent faculty of 30–50 scholars to live and work at the library, and over the centuries their number included most of the greatest names of antiquity, including Euclid (father of geometry), Eratosthenes (who calculated the circumference of the Earth), Archimedes (legendary discoverer of the lever, the screw, and pi) and Galen (the most influential medical writer of the next 1,400 years). Thanks to the library, Alexandria became the centre of learning and knowledge for the entire Mediterranean world for over 600 years, and legends grew up around it.

One well-known story comes down to us from the scholar Aristeas (c180–145 BCE), the earliest source to mention the library, who tells how 72 rabbis were brought to the library to translate the Old Testament in Greek, and who, despite working in isolation from one another, arrived at 72 identical versions thanks to divine inspiration. Alongside the Royal (aka Great) Library were ‘daughter’ libraries, especially one housed at the Serapeum, a magnificent temple to Serapis founded by Ptolemy II. Later Roman emperors, including Claudius and Hadrian, also founded libraries in Alexandria. The Royal Library was probably not as big as legend contends. Historian James Hannam has calculated that storing 500,000 scrolls would require 40 kilometres (25 miles) of shelving, which in turn would mean that the Royal Library must have been a truly monumental building. None of the sources mention such a gargantuan edifice, and since the remains of the library have never been fully excavated its full extent remains a mystery.

Most telling, however, is the evidence from other ancient libraries that have left remains, which show that even those renowned for their wealth and breadth had collections numbering in the thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands. The finest library in the history of ancient Rome was the Library of Trajan, which probably contained around 20,000 scrolls, while the Library of Pergamon, arch-rival of the Alexandrian library, probably had around 30,000. The figure of 200,000 scrolls, which Mark Anthony is said to have taken from the Library of Pergamon and given to Cleopatra as a gift for the Alexandrian library, derives from a writer who recorded the figure as an example of falsehoods levelled at Mark Anthony by his enemies.

We also know that one of the librarians at Alexandria, Callimachus, made an extensive and detailed index of the library’s contents, called the Pinakes, including summaries and biographical notes about the authors. The Pinakes themselves consisted of about 120 scrolls – roughly 1 million words – which is far too small to cover 500,000 or more scrolls. The upshot is that the Royal Library was probably an order of magnitude smaller than popular legend supposes, which may help to explain how it could have disappeared from history without leaving more traces. The inflated figures probably result from a mixture of exaggeration by antique scribes and errors in copying of their works (which for many centuries depended on laborious transcription by hand from versions themselves many times removed from the original). Over time, and in the absence of more concrete evidence to the contrary, these inflated figures became part of the legend of the library. As well as debates about the size of the Alexandrian collection, there is an even more fundamental source of confusion in determining its fate, which is that it may be misleading to talk about the library in the singular. We know that there were at least two major libraries in Alexandria – the Royal Library associated with the Museum and the daughter library at the Serapeum. Each of these may have consisted of scattered buildings and/or collections, and so the historical picture becomes very complex.

During the centuries of Roman occupation, Alexandria endured an often turbulent history. It suffered extensive damage when it was conquered by Augustus in 30 BCE and again when Caracalla instituted a massacre of Alexandrians in revenge for a perceived insult in 215 CE. Later it was almost razed to the ground when rebels used it as a base and were savagely put down by the emperor Aurelian in 273 CE, and again, in similar circumstances, by the emperor Diocletian in 298 CE.

By the late 4th century it was a much reduced city, and many experts think it likely that if the Royal Library (the one associated with the Museum) did survive beyond the time of Caesar it was probably diminished, broken up and possibly destroyed at some point during these many troubles, but that records of the destruction have not come down to us today. Other Alexandrian libraries probably survived this period, however, and lasted until the late 4th century, a time of religious fundamentalism and extremism. Descriptions of these libraries, and their destruction, in late antique, Byzantine and medieval sources are probably the cause of confusion over the survival and eventual fate of the Royal Library.

It is almost certain that the Royal Library was long gone by this time, but the proud heritage of scholarship in Alexandria lived on in the form of the library in the Temple of Serapis – aka the Serapeum. The Serapeum was a mighty temple mainly constructed by Ptolemy III Euergetes (ruled 246–222 BCE) on a small hill, or acropolis, in the south-eastern corner of Alexandria. Ancient sources are confused as to when the temple acquired a library. Some experts argue that it was not until the middle of the 2nd century CE, during extensive refurbishment of the Serapeum after a number of fires in preceding centuries, that the Roman rulers of Alexandria founded a major collection there, meaning that it did not come ‘into play’ until well after the time of Caesar – an important detail when trying to understand what happened to the collections and when.

The historian James Hannam insists that close reading of the ancient sources does not support either of the traditional suspects fingered for the destruction of the Royal and Serapeum Libraries – Julius Caesar and Patriarch Theophilus respectively. Instead he argues that both collections may have already disappeared before these alleged destructive events took place, and that the real culprits have – in the eyes of history – got away with bibliotechnical murder. According to Hannam, Pharaoh Ptolemy VIII Physcon (ruled 145–116 BCE) may well have been responsible for the greatest crime in academic history. A bloody tyrant who usurped the throne and visited death and destruction on Alexandria, Physcon may have accidentally destroyed one of his kingdom’s greatest treasures during his attacks on the city.

There are few convincing references to the Royal Library as an existing entity after his reign, and a list of librarians recovered from an ancient garbage tip suggestively comes to an end at precisely this time. As for the loss of the Serapeum Library, Hannam accuses one of Patriarch Theophilus’ predecessors, George of Cappadocia. George was known to have presided over an earlier ransacking of the Serapeum, and on his death in 361 CE was also said to have in his possession a large collection of books and scrolls. The Emperor Julian (who coveted the collection himself) wrote that it was ‘very large and complete and contained philosophers of every school and many historians’. In summary, there are many suspects for the role of villain in this enduring mystery. Definitively pinning the crime on one of them might be easier if the crime scene itself could be examined, but the exact whereabouts of the Royal Library constitute another great enigma.

More conventional archaeological work may have succeeded where psychics failed, with the announcement in May 2004 that a joint Polish-Egyptian team excavating in the Bruchion quarter had uncovered what appeared to be a series of lecture theatres or auditoria. Thirteen lecture halls were discovered, each equipped with a central podium for the lecturer and offering seating for 5,000 students in total, apparently confirming the notion of the Royal Library as an ancient university or academy. Whether this really is the Royal Library, and if any evidence of the storage of scrolls has been discovered, remain mysteries, because since this initial and much-heralded announcement there has been no more word of the discovery or of any followup work. But, as the work of historians like James Hannam reveals, those hunting for evidence of a gigantic book repository of legendary dimensions are likely to be chasing a phantom. The Royal Library of Alexandria probably never existed in the form in which it has been immortalised in popular myth, and the final truth about it remains buried beneath modern Alexandria, awaiting discovery.

(Sources : Lost Histories “Exploring The World’s Most Famous Mysteries” by Joel Levy; and Wikipedia)

(Pic sources : Wikipedia)
09:22 | 0 komentar

Lubbock Light Case

It all began on the evening of August 25, 1951, in Lubbock, Texas. A scientist, Joe Bryant, from the Atomic Energy Commission and his wife were in the yard of their home. A total of 20-30 lights, as bright as stars but larger in size, flew over the yard in a matter of seconds. According to Bryant, he and his wife had seen a group of lights fly overhead, and then two other flights, but when the third group of lights passed overhead they began to circle the Bryant's home. Mr. Bryant and his wife then noticed that the lights were actually plovers, and could hear them as well. The craft was covered with colored lights and strange markings. Unknown to the couple, other witnesses in the area were also seeing strange objects. The next report came from another group of scientists including a geologist, two engineers, and a physicist, each of who observed a formation of nearly three-dozen unidentified turquoise lights moving quickly overhead from north to south. The three professors - Dr. A.G. Oberg, chemical engineer, Dr. W.L. Ducker, a department head and petroleum engineer, and Dr. W.I. Robinson, a geologist - reported their sighting to the local newspaper, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Following the newspaper's article, three women in Lubbock reported that they had observed "peculiar flashing lights" in the sky on the same night of the professor's sightings. Dr. Carl Hemminger, a professor of German at Texas Tech, also reported seeing the objects, as did the head of the college's journalism department. A few hours later, another fleet of UFOs flew over the group of scientists in an unorganized cluster. The “Lubbock Lights” case had begun!

The Lubbock Lights incident received national publicity and is regarded as one of the first great UFO cases in the United States. The couple and the group of scientists reported their sighting to the Air Force, which began an investigation. According to Dr. Grayson Mead the lights "appeared to be about the size of a dinner plate and they were greenish-blue, slightly fluorescent in color. They were smaller than the full moon at the horizon. There were about a dozen to fifteen of these lights...they were absolutely gave all of extremely eerie feeling." Mead claimed that the lights could not have been birds, but he also admitted that "they (the lights) went over so fast...that we wished we could have had a better look." The professors observed one formation of lights flying above a thin cloud at about 2,000 feet; this allowed them to calculate that the lights were traveling at over 600 MPH.

The Air Force found further confirmation for the sighting when the nearby radar station of the Air Defense Command Network reported that they observed the unknown objects on their radarscopes and clocked them at a speed of 900 miles per hour. The group of scientists was amazed by their two sightings, and they conjectured that the UFOs might return. They decided to conduct a UFO stakeout. To their amazement, the UFOs did return, again and again! Over the next month, the group of scientists (which had added two more members) experienced a series of 12 different sightings. In each of these cases, the objects were totally silent, moved at supersonic speeds, and sometimes turned at right angles. Meanwhile, in the town of Lubbock itself, more than 200 concerned citizens also viewed the unusual aerial display.

On August 31, 1951, resident and amateur photographer Carl Hart Jr. saw the objects. Hart took a 35-mm Kodak camera and walked to the backyard of his parent's home to see if the lights would return. Two more flights passed overhead, and Hart was able to take a total of five photos before they disappeared. After having the photos developed Hart took them to the offices of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. After examining the photos the newspaper's editor, Jay Harris, told Hart that he would print them in the paper, but that he would "run him (Hart) out of town" if the photos were fake. When Hart assured him that the photos were genuine, Harris paid Hart $10 for the pictures. The photographs were eventually sent to newspapers around the nation, and were printed in LIFE magazine.

On August 31, resident Carl Hart Jr. snapped this famous photograph of a formation of objects as they passed over the town. The photograph has never been satisfactorily explained

The physics laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio analyzed the Hart photographs. After an extensive analysis and investigation of the photos, Lieutenant Edward J. Ruppelt, the supervisor of the Air Force's Project Blue Book, released a written statement to the press that "the Hart photos were never proven to be hoax, but neither were they proven to be genuine". Hart has consistently maintained to this day that the photos are genuine. Curiously, the Texas Tech professors claimed that the photos did not represent what they had seen, since their objects had flown in a "u" formation instead of the "v" formation depicted in Hart's photos.

In late September 1951, Lieutenant Ruppelt read about the Lubbock Lights and decided to investigate them. Ruppelt traveled to Lubbock and interviewed the professors, Carl Hart, and others who claimed to have witnessed the lights. Ruppelt's conclusion at the time was that the professors had seen a type of bird called a plover. The city of Lubbock had installed new vapor street lights in 1951, and Ruppelt believed that the plovers, flying over Lubbock in their annual migration, were reflecting the new street lights at night. Witnesses who supported this assertion were T.E. Snider, a local farmer who on August 31, 1951 had observed some birds flying over a drive-in movie theater; the bird's undersides were reflected in the light. In addition, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a professor of astronomy and one of Project Blue Book's scientific consultants, contacted one of the Texas Tech professors in 1959 and learned that the professor, after careful research, had concluded that he had actually been observing the plovers. However, not everyone agreed with this explanation.

William Hams, the chief photographer for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, took several nighttime photos of birds flying over Lubbock's vapor street lights and found that he could not duplicate Hart's photos - the images were too dim to be developed. Dr. J.C. Cross, the head of Texas Tech's biology department, ruled out the possibility that birds could have caused the sightings. A game warden Ruppelt interviewed felt that the sightings could not have been caused by plovers, due to their slow speed (50 MPH) and tendency to fly in groups much smaller than the number of objects reported by eyewitnesses. The warden did admit that an unusually large number of plovers had been seen in the fall of 1951. Dr. Mead, who had observed the lights, strongly disputed the plover explanation: "these objects were too large for any bird...I have had enough experience hunting and I don't know of any bird that could go this fast we would not be able to have gone as fast as this, to be birds, they would have to have been exceedingly low to disappear quite so quickly".

Curiously, in his bestselling 1956 book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Ruppelt himself would come to reject the plover hypothesis, but frustratingly refrained from explaining what the lights in fact were: "They weren't birds, they weren't refracted light, but they weren't spaceships. The lights ... have been positively identified as a very commonplace and easily explainable natural phenomenon. It is very unfortunate that I can't divulge ... the way the answer was found.... Telling the story would lead to [the identity of the scientist who "finally hit upon the answer"] and ... I promised the man complete anonymity".

While investigating the Lubbock Lights, Ruppelt also learned that several people in and around Lubbock claimed to have seen a "flying wing" moving over the city. Among the witnesses was the wife of Dr. Ducker, who reported that in August 1951 she had observed a "huge, soundless flying wing" pass over her house. Ruppelt knew that the US Air Force did possess a "flying wing" jet bomber, and he felt that at least some of the sightings had been caused by the bomber, although he could not explain why, according to the witnesses, the wing made no sound as it flew overhead. Still there was little that could be done. By the end of August 1952, the UFOs had stopped appearing and the weird wave of sightings came to a sudden end.

(Sources : Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained Phenomena : “ UFO and Aliens” by Preston Dennet; and Wikipedia)

(Pics sources :;
07:29 | 1 komentar

Recent Post

Recent Posts Widget


Popular Posts