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Poor Hanno

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Intelligence and Happiness?

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Buried by the Sea

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Cycling Two Abreast

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Indoors / Outdoors (Defuse)

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Nürnburg’s Extra Bombs

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Law & Morality

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Foy – The Bodiless Head

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Coffee Haters

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False Flags 2

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Plastic 55 Years Ago

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Cesare Borgia’s Party

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Marriage – A Potted History

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Blinking Morse

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Synecdoche is a powerful, expressive linguistic device

The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

2 Big Finds

Engraving of the destruction of Cambyses' army

How do you lose an entire army? Or a people?

Just give it time. Lots of time.

Deserts are great preservers, they naturally cure remains as the dry atmosphere halts bacterial growth and decomposition. Two deserts, one on either side of Asia, have given up their secrets.

Sceptics, conspiracy fanatics, loons and alternative historians love the ideas of lost tribes and kingdoms, Atlantis, Nazca lines and so on. But now a lost army and a relatively unknown people have been entered in the mainstream archaeological record. Or have they?

Mummy found by Folke Bergman

Lost (Chinese) People

In the Tarim Basin of the Xinjiang Province of China a whole people have been lost at least twice. What the hell is wrong with these people?

Over a span of 4000 years these people’s origins have been veiled and their remains have been found and re-lost time and again. The Tarim Basin is now dry and rich in mineral and fossil fuel wealth, but would have been at worst semi-arid then.

The so-called Loulan Beauty

The Dead People
The burials which have recently hit the headlines are of an unknown people who were found in 1934 by a Swedish adventurer archeaeologist, Folke Bergman, only to be lost again. Now they have been located.

A Tarim Basin mummy photographed by Aurel Stein circa 1910.

The corpses have been found completely moistureless and much like any other mummies – sinewy and gaunt with parchment-like skin. They look like the remains of supermodels with long elegant limbs, dark brown hair and aquiline noses. A considerable distance from any known settlement, the burials occur under up-turned boats similar to canoes, giving the sites in question their overall name – numbered variously under the umbrella name Small River Cemetery.

Small River Cemetary Grave Markers

The Sites and Finds
There is little that gets an archaeologist’s blood racing more than a good phallic symbol. You can only imagine their delight when their eyes fell on these sites, in particular the most recent, Small River Cemetery No. 5. It features a central henge of pinkish upright poles, or as any red-blooded archaeologist might see it, giant phalluses. Of course they may also have represented oars, but that’s not very sexy.

The corpses had changed little since burial. They wore felt caps and textiles, notionally similar in style to ancient celts and modern Tyroleans. They also wore leather boots and scanty underwear, which make them sound like a tribe of Lady GaGas.

Grave goods included jewellery, baskets and what the New York times delicately described as “one or more life-size wooden phalluses” beside the women. The Inquisition has seen shops where battery-operated versions of these are still available.

The men were also buried under boats but the large poles that rose from these tended to flatten out toward the top, giving the archaeologists conniptions. Could it be? Maybe? Vulvic imagery? Good grief!

All these symbols are variously interpreted thusly, but reasonably speaking they are just hypotheses. Clearly in an age where infant mortality and death in childbirth were rampant, reproduction was to be celebrated.

The Living
Today Xinjiang simmers with racial tension and these mummified corpses are seen by both sides as proof of their rights to the land. Historically the land is documented as being Han, but over time since the tenth century Turkish-speaking Uighur people have come to dominate and now claim the mummies prove their historical ownership.

An Uighur girl

The problem for the Han Chinese is that the mummies do indeed look Indo-European. Genetic analysis revealed European and Siberian markers. This really supports the Uighur case. China seems to be made up of displaced peoples from long ago – Roman Chinese

There is a vast amount more that can be said about these expertly excavated, documented and preserved mummies, and this link is a great starting point.

The claimed remains of Cambyses' army

Lost (Persian) Army

In 525 BCE a 50,000 strong army made its way from Persia toward Egypt with one aim on its collective mind – reprisal attacks on the symbolic heads of the Egyptian religion after they rejected Cambyses’ claims to be the legitimate ruler of Egypt. Revenge was to take the form of attacking the Oasis of Siwa and the destruction of the oracle at the Temple of Amun.

Herodotus later told of the fateful mission and its vanishing after leaving the relative safety of a desert oasis, “A wind arose from the south, strong and deadly, bringing with it vast columns of whirling sand, which entirely covered up the troops and caused them wholly to disappear.” Gone.

In fact, so complete was the absence of evidence of any kind that the story is now generally viewed allegorically.

2,500 years later and undaunted by this fact, two wandering Italians found bronze weaponry, a single silver bracelet, a solitary earring and hundreds of human bones. Obviously if the story were true, then time and the environment would have been harsh on the remains. But one earring? And a single bracelet? One? Not even any armour or helmets?

The Controversy
Wouldn’t it be great if a truly lost army was found? It would be the ideal expression of a romantic view of archaeology. Unfortunately Discovery Channel poured cold water on this story one day after they had “broken” it. Unsurprisingly this would not be the first time Cambyses’ Army was fraudulently “found”.

The main problem is one of plausibility. You see, the thing is, the “two top Italian archaeologists”, as Discovery called them, spent part of the 1970s wandering Africa looking for footage that was controversial to put it mildly. The subject of these movies include such visual delectations as penis severing, ritual virgin deflowering and aspects of cannibalism. The brothers sold this as a form anthropological genre film-making, mondo film. Needless to remark, this form of film is deeply suspect. As Wikipedia puts it; “Common traits of mondo films include emphasis on taboo subjects such as death and sex, portrayals of foreign cultures that have received accusations of racism and staged sequences presented as genuine documentary footage.”

Of course, the real question is why they filmed these acts, but presumably it was a racially skewed depiction of some kind revert-to-type innate barbarism of black people. The films were named the Savage Trilogy. Lovely.

So this is the provenance of the brothers who announced their literally incredible find by video, rather than peer reviewed publication. See for yourself – the brothers wildly paw their way through someone’s final resting place. A far cry from due diligence.

The very proactive Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities has since denied a license to dig to the brothers and scorned their claims.

Some Related Videos

Heritage Key covers the Cambyses story
Cambyses image gallery on Discovery
Discovery scotches the origianl claims
Discovery breaks the story
Rogue Classicism destroys the Cambyses story
Italian movie of the two brothers’ sledgehammer style archaeology
Herodotus’ History. It’s book iii you want there.
NY Times on the Small River Cemetary
Loulan, a Xinjiang mummy
Tourist notes for those visiting the Central Asian mummies
Tarim mummies
Tarim Basin

This article was posted by on Friday, August 20th, 2010 at 16:47.
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