All posts by Joanna Pyrgies

Mudejar in Spain, “the Style Allowed to Remain”

Decorative style in Spanish architecture and art that evolved from a fusion of Islamic and Christian (Romanesque and Gothic) elements. It was created either by Muslims working for Christians, or of Christians imitating Islamic forms (Lucie-Smith 2003:143). The term Mudejars (mudéjares) also “refers to the group of [Moors] who remained in Iberia in the late medieval period despite the Christian reconquest” (‘Mudéjar’ 2022); they were permitted to stay as much as their style of art. Those were mainly skillful craftsmen who greatly contributed to the creation of the new style ‘(Mudéjar’, 2021).

The Mudejar style appeared in the twelfth century and lasted until the seventeenth century (‘Mudéjar’, 2021). Its greatest heyday took place in the Gothic period of Spain, especially between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (Ibid.). Among its characteristic features are the richness of ornamental decorations made of stucco, wood and brick, with which the surfaces of palaces and churches/cathedrals were covered so that their walls still resemble embroidered or woven draperies (Ibid.). Yet, like in the Islamic art, depictions of human or animal figures were avoided (Ibid.). Arches typical of Moorish architecture were used, like horseshoe, polylobed and lambrequin (muqarnas) arches (Ibid.). The rooms were covered with coffered ceilings and stalactite vaults (Ibid.). Azulejos were also widely applied. For more information see: Shapes of the Architectural Oasis of Al-Andalus.

Featured image: Royal Alcázar of Seville: a beautifully ornamented head pillar and the ceiling with a wooden mosaic. Copyright©Archaeotravel.


‘Mudéjar’, 2021, in Wikipedia. Wolna Encyclopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 18th September, 2022].

‘Mudéjar’ (2022), in Google Arts & Culture (Wikipedia). Available at <>. [Accessed 18th September, 2022].

Lucie-Smith, E. (2003). The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms. London: Thames & Hudson World of Art, p. 143.

The Idea Behind the Jomon Pottery and its Representations

The matter of pottery and its invention was one of numerous subjects dedicated to Southeast and East Asian Archaeology, which I studied during one of my chosen modules at the university. Although for many scholars the subject of pottery does not seem to tell a compelling story, it turned out to give me a highly interesting insight into general research and the question about the time of pottery’s invention, as according to universal knowledge, its appearance is conventionally associated with the Neolithic, which is, in turn, joined with the high-speed revolution in the development of human kind. Nevertheless, such an idea mostly concerns the area of the Middle East. In Far East Asia countries, such as Japan or China, the subject of pottery should be regarded differently.

Development of pottery has been generally linked to the Neolithic period and primarily associated with the Old Europe and Middle East, with its earliest introduction believed to have occurred in west Asia (Ganj Darreh in western Iran) (circa 7300 BC.) (Rudgley 2000:28; Kobayashi 2004:5, Fig.1.2). In such a context, pottery, together with a craft of weaving, polished stone tools, a sedentary lifestyle (permanent settlements), religion, monuments, and domesticated plants or animals, is still used to describe Neolithic cultures around the world, conventionally appearing around 10000-8000 BC. (Solovyeva 2017:157; The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica 2021). Nevertheless, as it is supported by archaeological finds, an invention of pottery had already taken place much earlier, surely in the Palaeolithic, and further eastwards, more precisely in north-east Asia, including the Amur River basin in Eastern Russia (eastern Siberia), China (Jiangxi, a southeast Chinese province) and Japan (Rudgley 2000:28-29; Kobayashi 2004:5, Fig.1.2; Norman 2004-2021).

Yet before 1960, it was believed that the earliest Japanese pottery came back from around 2500 BC. (Omoto, Takeishi, Nishida, Fukui 2016:534). But when the so-called Jōmon pottery from the site of Natsushima (Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture) was radiocarbon dated back to around 7000 BC., it turned out to be a real watershed in the archaeology of prehistory (Rudgley 2000:28). Other contemporary excavations at Fukui Cave in Nagasaki Prefecture not only revealed shreds of pottery, which were around 3000 years older than those from Natsushima (Serizawa 1976:2; Kobayashi 2004:9), but also proved “a direct continuity from [the microlithic culture of] the late Japanese Palaeolithic, [showing] a strong communality with the mainland […], to the [times of the] pottery-using [Jōmon]” (Kobayashi 2004:9,12,14). Further archaeological finds of undecorated pottery fragments in a charcoal residue at the Odai-Yamamoto Site (Sotogahama Town, Aomori Prefecture), pushed the beginnings of Japanese pottery even earlier in time to around 13000 BC. (Jomon Japan 2017). Still the oldest examples of undecorated, simple pottery vessels of the Jōmon culture are said to have been first produced around the same time, at the site of Shinonouchi in Nagano (Cartwright 2017) and at the sites in southern Kyūshū (Kakoinohara in Kagoshima Prefecture) (Kobayashi 2004:15-17,19). At the time of the mentioned excavations, the fact of the earliest pottery finds in Japan simultaneously questioned a common idea about a cultural predominance of ancient China over Japan in terms of innovations (Rudgley 2000:28-29). And although continuous excavations proved that pottery fragments also appeared in eastern Siberia around the same time as the Japanese evidence of earthenware vessels, and even earlier (c. 18 000 BC.) in southern China, pottery of the Jōmon culture in Japan is treated as an archaeological phenomenon and often referred to as the earliest pottery in the world (Norman 2004-2021; Rudgley 2000:29; Kobayashi 2004:5, Fig.1.2,19; cf. Kenrick 1995), though it should be rather called the earliest pottery tradition due to its continuous development over thousands of years (Lewis 23rd September, 2021).

The Jōmon period, which covers a vast expanse of time of approximately thirteenth thousands years (Palmer 2007:49), can roughly fall within the Neolithic time range in Europe or in the Middle East, and so it is usually described as “Japan’s Neolithic period” (MET 2022; see: Solovyeva 2017:157; Kobayashi 2004:5, Fig.1.2; Bleed 1976:107). Still, it is important to mention that at its earliest stages, it overlaps with European and Middle Eastern Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods (Kobayashi 2004:5, Fig.1.2). Bleed (1976:107) simultaneously claims that describing the entire Jōmon period as Neolithic is actually “unfortunate” and incorrect. Accordingly, if the agricultural revolution constitutes one of the significant aspects recognising the period of Neolithic, the Japanese Neolithic should only refer to the period with the end of the Jōmon culture, between 900 BC. and 300 AD., when the Yayoi culture introduced the agriculture and started to cultivate white rice (Lewis 23rd September, 2021; Kobayashi 2004:133; cf. Barton 2012).

The Jōmon culture is the earliest one that we can identify in Japan. Yet it is little known about it because it was unfamiliar with the writing (Burns 2017). For this reason, the main source of knowledge about it are archaeological finds, such as pottery (Ibid.). Conventional time frames given for the Jōmon culture usually differ, depending on a given source (Cf: Solovyeva 2017:157; Kobayashi 2004:5, Fig.1.2). The chronology shown below is provided by scholars, such as Tatsuo Kobayashi (2004:5, Fig.1.2) and ChungHae Amana Oh (2011:35), and has been established basing on estimated radiocarbon dates from the last decade of the twentieth century (Amana Oh 2011:35). Accordingly, the Jōmon culture spans between 13600 BC. to 900 BC. and is traditionally divided into the subsequent periods: Incipient (13600-9200 BC.), Initial (9200-5300 BC.), Early (5300-3500), Middle (3500-2500), Late (2500-1200 BC.), and Final (1200-900BC.), when the Jōmon style wares and statues were gradually replaced by Yayoi pottery (ChungHae 2011:35, Kobayashi 2004:5, Fig.1.2).

The Jōmon culture came into existence with the end of the Last Glacial Period, and when it was in a gradual process of development, the Global Warming with significant climate change had already begun (Kobayashi 2004:1; Jomon Japan 2017). Consequently, sea levels rose in the contemporary world, causing in the region the inflow of the warm Tsushima Current into the Sea of Japan, and furthermore the growth of abundant forests of beech, chestnut, walnut and acorn in the Japanese archipelago (Kobayashi 2004:19). With time, “the ocean moved further inland, bringing with it [additional wealth] of fish and shellfish” (Jomon Japan 2017). Such favourable climate changes allowed contemporary groups of humans to use and “[manipulate] the resources available to them in the natural environment” (Kobayashi 2004:3). Jōmon groups initially led a nomadic and then a semi-sedentary life (MET 2022; Jomon Japan 2017); at that time, they built their villages composed of “pit dwellings arranged around central open spaces” (MET 2022), mostly along the ocean coast or along rivers and lakes, and obtained their food by gathering and fishing, collecting shellfish and hunting (Jomon Japan 2017). There was no need to move further, as they could dispose a large quantity of natural resources in one place, being usually stored in deep house pits (Kobayashi 2004:21). Kobayashi (2004:21) speculates that Jōmon peoples could have lined their storage pits with clay, as in the case of the West Asian Natufian culture, and so the Jōmon pottery could have originated from Japanese peoples’ observations that protruding fragments of the clay-lining hardened by the heat from nearby ovens (Ibid.:21). Or, there was a case when a piece of clay from the house wall (e.g. Ganji Darehor) or one dropped from the clay lining of a basket (e.g. North American southwest), was accidentally burnt and fire-hardened (Ibid.:21). Consequently, the Jōmon culture could have started processing clay wider to finally use it as a substance for containers (Ibid.:21). Although these are only some of speculations about actual foundations of pottery in Japan (Ibid.:21), they may constitute “a clue to the origins of pottery making in this region” (Ibid.:21). 

Gradual increase in temperatures in Japan resulted in further remarkable inventions (Kobayashi 2004:7), such as “adoption of revolutionary new technologies and tools” (Ibid.:7). Typical of the Jōmon culture was an innovative way of cooking by means of pottery, which allowed them with time to initiate a typically sedentary lifestyle (Jomon Japan 2017). Accordingly, greater settlements were established, together with constant residential centres, sometimes featuring graveyards (e.g. Kakinoshima Site, Hakodate City, Hokkaido), and later also impressive monuments in the form of stone circles (e.g. Oyu Stone Circle, Kazuno City, Akita Prefecture or Kiusu Earthwork Burial Circles, Chitose City, Hokkaido) (Ibid.).

According to the archaeological evidence, It is said that groups of people who produced the earliest pottery mainly inhabited the main Japanese island of Honshu, though the centre of the mature Jōmon culture was more likely established in southern Hokkaido and northern Tohoku (northern end of Honshu) (e.g. Irie Takasago Shell Midden, Toyako, Town, Hokkaido or Futasumori Shell Midden, Shichinohe Town, Aomori Prefecture) (Jomon Japan 2017). Such a hypothesis is also supported by the fact that, despite that Honshu and Hokkaido areas had been divided by the Tsugaru Strait, different Jōmon peoples from these areas produced pottery of comparable shapes and by using analogous designs (Ibid.).

The Jōmon pottery was produced by hand, by employing turntables but without the use of a proper wheel, which had been unknown in Japan till the Yayoi phase of development (Kobayashi 2004:77; MET 2022). “The clay was mixed with a variety of adhesive materials, including mica, lead, fibres, and crushed shells, [and when] completely dry, [the pottery] was fired in an outdoor bonfire at a temperature of no more than about 900°C” (MET 2022). Kobayashi (2004:21) compares the earliest Japanese pottery manufacture to a contemporary process of baking a cake of crushed nuts and water. The Jōmon pottery is characterised by a cord pattern and hence the name of the culture – ‘Jōmon’, which stands for a ‘cord design’ (MET 2022). Apart from pottery vessels, also typical of the Jōmon culture were intriguing “[clay] figurines […] and other ritual [objects], demonstrating a rich spirituality” (Jomon Japan 2017). Most recognisable of all are definitely the so-called Dogu. Some researchers believe such pottery clay figures actually represent divine ancestors of the ancient Japanese (Burns 2017).

Shintō, the traditional native religion of Japan based on Japanese mythology, can be translated as the way of gods, literally kami-no-michi, where kami means gods (Shintō 2022). Hence, Japanese people believe in kami celestial beings who are still to reside in modern Japan (Burns 2017). According to an ancient Japanese tradition, there are millions of Kami; each has its own personal characteristics and can inhabit different entities, such as people and animals, or even objects (Ibid.). They come down to earth from Takama-ga-hara (High Plain of Heaven), and inhabit Jinja, which are in the Japanese Shintō religion places of worship devoted to various kami (Ibid.). Kami, in turn, are usually thought to be represented as the Dogu figurines (Ibid.). Around 15,000 Dogu representations in the form of various human-like creatures have been found throughout Japan (Ibid.). Also, according to alternative researchers, Dogu are surely to represent the mythological Kami that visited the earth in ancient times; they have goggle-like eyes and their bodies are covered with rivets, which may indicate an outfit or a type of an armour.

“While the many excavations of Jōmon sites have added to our knowledge of specific artifacts, they have not helped to resolve certain fundamental questions concerning the people of the protoliterate era, such as their ethnic classification and the [actual origins] of their language [and of phenomenal pottery vessels and clay figurines they unceasingly produced]” (MET 2022).

Edwina Palmer (2007:49) suggests that while discussing Jōmon Japanese culture, one should use plural Jōmon peoples as the term should be understood as various groups of “the population spanning at least thirteen millennia across the whole of the present Japanese archipelago”(Ibid.:49). The author also believes “that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that some [Jōmon groups] spoke an Austronesian language or languages” (Ibid.:49). Such assumptions have resulted from a long-term debate on the origins of the Jōmon culture in Japan (Cf. Palmer 2007). Scholars, like Charles Loring Brace et al. (1990) and Peter Bellwood (1997) supported an ‘Out of Taiwan’ hypothesis, postulating that Jōmon culture might have been established by migrations from Taiwan (Palmer 2007:47-49). Simultaneously, it is claimed that in the Jōmon period, some groups travelled by sea from Sundaland (modern-day Southeast Asia) due to a postglacial flooding and eventually settled down on the islands of present-day Japan (Ibid.:47). Even though these two theories seem contradictory, Palmer (2007:47) assumes that “an ‘Out of Sunda’ scenario of migration to Japan in the [Jōmon] period is not necessarily entirely incompatible with an ‘Out of Taiwan’ theory” (Ibid.:47). And so she concludes that there must have been numerous migrations in Japan during a long-time Jōmon period, according to “[a] common-sense approach […] that humans were never traveling in only one direction at any time […]” (Ibid.:48). Such an approach “may, [at the same time], accommodate many aspects of the various theories proposed” (Ibid.:48). Similarly, it is underlined by Ryan W. Schmidt and Noriko Seguchi (2014:43), who claim that the Jōmon culture was rather like an ethnic mosaic composed of various Palaeolithic peoples migrating to the islands of Japan, and so “in this respect, the biological identity of the Jōmon is heterogeneous, and it may be indicative of diverse peoples who belonged to a common culture, known as the [Jōmon]” (Ibid.:43). That, in turn, agrees with the claim that “the [Jōmon] revolution, [creating pottery], did not arise from [an isolated] microlithic culture in the archipelago, nor was it the result of just a single wave of influence from the continent, but rather a [consequence] of several phases of intervention and interaction” (Kobayashi 2004:14). Consequently, there were hypotheses the pottery could have originated in the continental East Asia, invented independently by different groups of people, and then brought with numerous waves of migrations to contemporary Japan and consequently adopted by its inhabitants (Ibid.:19).

The Jōmon pottery is generally distinguished by its characteristics (Cartwright 2017) “that [clearly identify its makers] and [set] them apart from all other [later] Japanese [or contemporary Asian] cultures” (Bleed 1976:107), including the first cases of pottery in Western Asia (Kobayashi 2004:20). A suggested similarity of the Jōmon pottery to examples found in eastern Siberia, China, the Korean peninsula or Taiwan has been challenged, adding to that the pottery in Japan is generally dated earlier than in most parts of contemporary East Asia (except for China and Siberia), where its invention was possibly a result of analogous technologies (Palmer 2007:48; Kobayashi 2004:19; Rudgley 2000:28-29; Norman 2004-2021). Only later, like in the Early Jōmon period, “[similarities] between pottery produced in Kyūshū and contemporary Korea suggest that regular commerce existed between the Japanese islands and the Korean peninsula, [together with the Mainland Southeast Asia]” (MET 2022). It is also theorised that the earliest pottery may have been invented independently in various locations in East Asia, with eastern Siberia, China and the Japanese archipelago in the lead (Kobayashi 2004:20). Moreover, by studying the origins of pottery in Neolithic Middle East, it can be analogically assumed that the Jōmon pottery could also have had a few different foundations (Chosuke in Kobayashi 2004:20).

On the other side, the question of the earliest pottery finds ascribed to the Jōmon culture between the Incipient and Initial periods appears much more complex in terms of its different but subsequential decorative styles (Bleed 1976:108), such as “linear relief, fingernail impression, and simple cord marking” (Ibid.:108). Such pottery remains were usually unearthed further from the said mature Jōmon centre (Jomon Japan 2017), namely, in the area from southern Tohoku to Kyūshū (Bleed 1976:108), which is the region considered “the forefront of the [Jōmon] revolution” (Kobayashi 2004:17). Additionally, it is evident that such early examples of pottery were made by peoples with divergent tools, technologies and skills (Bleed 1976:109). “In sum, […] all the evidence available indicates that during [the Incipient period in Japan, the Jōmon culture] continued to be [highly] complex […], characterized by regionally diverse and distinctive technologies. This kind of complexity and regional diversity is also apparent during the succeeding cultural horizon, [when throughout] central Honshu, fingernail-impressed pottery was [subsequently] replaced by ceramics finished with simple exterior cord marking” (Ibid.:109). Generally, foremost features of the Jōmon pottery and its technological homogeneity are more widely observed only with its later stages (Cf. Bleed 1976), yet, “the population of Jōmon Japan [remained] by no means [anthropologically] homogeneous” (Palmer 2007:49).

In conclusion, the invention and continuity of the Jōmon pottery mostly resulted from the plentiful environment of the Japanese archipelago, together with its effective adaptation and development by independent groups of contemporary humans (Shinpei in: Kobayashi 2004:19; Bleed 1976:113). Kobayashi (2004:20) compares the invention of Jōmon pottery to the so-called ‘springboard principle’, where a technological knowledge of manufacturing earthenware vessels met the actual human needs for such a product (Cf. Kohler in: Kobayashi 2004:20). Yet, apart from being regarded as a product of a technological development, playing mostly a functional role as a container and a cooking vessel, the early Japanese pottery should be equally seen as the beginning of the Jōmon cultural revolution, and so could be interpreted wider, by means of social, economic, religious and artistic ways of expression (Kobayashi 2004:12,22).

Featured image: Reconstruction of the Sannai-Maruyama Site in the Aomori Prefecture. The site shares cultural similarities with settlements of Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula, as well as with later Japanese culture, pointing to continuity between ancient and modern Japanese culture. Photo by 663highland (2014). CC BY 2.5. In: ‘Jōmon period’, in Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia (2022).

By Joanna
Faculties of English Philology, History of Art and Archaeology.
University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland;
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Poland;
University College Dublin, Ireland.


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Bleed P. (1976). “Origins of the Jōmon Technical Tradition”. In: Asian Perspectives , Vol. 19, No. 1, Japanese Prehistory. University of Hawai’i Press, pp. 107- 115.

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In the Underground Cave Church of Aya Tekla in Silifke

This field-trip to Turkey turned out to be extremely difficult. Last January, parts of the country, including Istanbul, were covered with thick layers of snow and ice. This prevented me from organizing the first two flights with a change in Istanbul, although for Turkey itself this amount of water turned out to be a blessing with the onset of hot summer weather. In any case, according to the famous saying “third time lucky”, the third flight finally took place and I eventually landed in Turkey. The winter time of visiting this country turned out to be extraordinary, as I could see Turkey in a greener and more luscious landscape than in summer. Although the snow slowly disappeared from the coastal area, and the orange of fresh fruit dominated the colours of sunny streets, the monuments located in the higher parts of the mountains were still covered in thick white folds, the amount of which increased in proportion to the car’s climbing up a winding road. Fortunately, the place where I was going had already escaped winter and turned out to be easily accessible, especially since our little group was the only one who decided to visit this place.


The sanctuary and pilgrimage site of Saint Thekla at Meriamlık is situated in south-central Turkey, in a picturesque province of Mersin, within an ancient and geo-cultural region of Cilicia, and very near the Mediterranean coast (Kristensen 2016:229; Edwards 2016:151). More precisely, the site is located one and half kilometres south of Seleukeia (modern-day Silifke), on the river Kalykadnus (the modern river Göksu) (Kristensen 2016:229-330; Edwards 2016:151), in which waters the Emperor Barbarossa drowned during the Third Crusade, in 1190, yet before his army reached the Holy Land (Portal Editor 2021).

The district of Silifke itself is very ancient, being dated back to the times before the Bronze Age (Portal Editor 2021); its name has originated from the name of one of Alexander the Great’s diadochs, namely, Seleucus I Nicator, whose Empire also included the ancient Cilicia before 63 BC. (Ibid.) Saint Thekla is believed to have lived in her cave, in the proximity of Silifke, over a century later.

Aya Tekla and her history

Saint Thecla was born as a member of a pagan and wealthy family in the Greek city of Iconium (modern Konya), in the first century AD., yet before the death and resurrection of the Saviour (Tańska-Hoffmanowa 1845:49). When Saint Paul of nearby Tarsus came to her city (45–48 AD.) to preach, the young virgin not only converted to Christianity but also became a zealous disciple and follower of Saint Paul (Tańska-Hoffmanowa 1845:49; Iza 2017; Portal Editor 2021). In order to escape from her first persecutors, including her own parents and a Roman fiancé, Thecla disguised as a man and wandered through Anatolia together with Saint Paul (Tańska-Hoffmanowa 1845:49-50; Iza 2017; Portal Editor 2021). During her lifetime, the girl was often exposed to persecutions and close to martyrdom; yet she was often miraculously saved; already in Iconium, she had been condemned to be burned at the stake, and elsewhere, she was thrown to the lions (Tańska-Hoffmanowa 1845:49-53; Iza 2017; Portal Editor 2021).

Martrydom of Saint Thecla; the Saint thrown to the lions. Limestone relief, possibly Coptic in origin, Brooklyn Museum. Wessel (1965), Pl. 52, p. 59.

At that time, many Christians were looking for a protection against Romans in underground cavities (Portal Editor 2021). One of them, near Silifke, became the last refuge of Thekla (Tańska-Hoffmanowa 1845:49-50; Iza 2017; Portal Editor 2021). Yet before she died and was buried there, she continuously preached, healed, and performed miracles (Iza 2017; Portal Editor 2021). As a legend goes, she escaped from her last oppressors by disappearing underground, leaving behind only her coat that eventually turned into stone (Iza 2017).

The cave first became a secret meeting point of local Christians and served as their place of worship, and finally became an important Christian pilgrimage site and Saint Thecla’s martyrium (Iza 2017; Portal Editor 2021). Thecla had been recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church but has been particularly venerated by the Coptic Church (Iza 2017). Her hagiography is told in the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, from the late second century, written in Asia Minor (Ibid.). According to a Greek appendix to the apocrypha, Thekla was possibly murdered on site by her persecutors (Edwards 2016:151), and so she is titled “the first martyr among women” (Ibid.:151).

The Cave of Silifke and its pilgrims

The site of Saint Thecla Church and its growing monastic enclosure was one of the most significant early Christian pilgrimage destinations of the Byzantine period in Asia Minor, especially over the period of the fourth century (Kristensen 2016:229-230). Apart from the site in Silifke, there are also alternative memorial shrines, aspiring to the title of the last resting place of the Saint, such as Saint Thecla’s grave in Maalula, in Syria (Iza 2017).

Till today, the site of Saint Thekla at Meriamlık has usually been referred to as Sancta Tecla or Aya Tekla Church (in Turkish: Aya Tekla Kilisesi,; in Greek: Hagia Thékla) (‘Aya Tekla Church’ 2021). The hill containing now the shrine of Saint Thecla is also called in Turkish Merymelik, which invokes the place of the Virgin Mary (Ibid.). Yet, “the site was intimately tied to the life of Thekla and her post mortem miracles” (Kristensen 2016:330).

In the second century, the first small Christian church was built just above the cave, which was itself enlarged and turned into an underground church (Iza 2017). Further monastic buildings were erected with time, gradually changing the area into a monastic enclosure (Ibid.). Works at a much larger scale started on site only in the fifth century, by the Eastern Roman Emperor, Zeno the Isaurian, who owed his military triumph over his rival to Saint Thekla, as she had appeared in front of the Emperor and assured him of his future victory (Kristensen 2016:230; Iza 2017). As a result, a huge basilica was founded on top of the hill, above the cave (Kristensen 2016:230; Iza 2017; Portal Editor 2021), and a “new temenos” (Edwards 2016:151) was erected around the site in 476 (Ibid.:151). Till the early sixth century, the site had been furthermore architecturally enriched due to a growing number of pilgrims; there were possibly built two additional basilicas and many supplementary buildings (Kristensen 2016:230; Iza 2017; Portal Editor 2021).


Textual context

The written sources on the site mostly comes from before the fifth century (Kristensen 2016:232). The earliest accounts of the site, attesting its importance in Christian topography, are dated back to the year 374 (Iza 2017; Kristensen 2016:230). They say that the sanctuary attracted many famous pilgrims, such as Gregory of Nazianzus – a Cappadocian Father, who later became the Patriarch of Constantinople (Iza 2017; Kristensen 2016:230). He was on site in the 370s and described the monastic sanctuary in his writing as parthenona (Iza 2017; Kristensen 2016:230). Egeria, possibly a Western nun and the author of accounts of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, visited the shrine in May 384 (Iza 2017; Kristensen 2016:230). She testifies the existence of a monastic community “beyond measure” on site, and describes a massive wall, sheltering the area from invaders (Edwards 2016:151).


Initial archaeological excavations on the site started in 1907, yet they left behind many unsolved issues and questions (Kristensen 2016:230-232; Iza 2017). In the 1940s, the site suffered much damage due to treasure hunting activities and poor quality digs, without proper recording a stratigraphic sequence or leaving the movable finds discarded, some of which keep crumbling around the site or are freely deposed without a context (Edwards 2016:151).

Consequently, it is now problematic to determine a correct chronology for the development of the monastic complex, including the building phases of the three basilicas and the underground church (Kristensen 2016:232; Edwards 2016:151). Nowadays, excavations take place on site but with longer intervals, when the site is left for tourists, while a huge area of the site has never been excavated (Kristensen 2016:230-232; Iza 2017). “Therefore, our knowledge about the [complex], its architecture, and the cave itself is incomplete [to this day]” (Iza 2017). On the other side, there are up-to-date substantial works on the site, which are provided by numerous Turkish and international scholars, who offer a more analytical approach to the research.


Elements of the complex

The architectural complex of Silifke, approximately measuring 700×350 metres, lies on northwest-southwest axis and is located on a rising rock shelf of limestone (Edwards 2016:151). Apart from the underground church, central to the site, the complex is composed of multiple buildings of a different purpose (Edwards 2016:151; Iza 2017).; there are “at least nine huge cisterns, a western-oriented aqueduct with attached conduits [from the fifth century], a bathhouse, a small church, graves, house tombs, […] numerous natural caves” (Edwards 2016:151), and the three basilicas from the fifth and early sixth centuries, the North, Central and the South, all considerably damaged but still featuring a set of key architectural elements (Ibid.:151).

The South Basilica

The South Basilica was built above the cave in the fifth century (Edwards 2016:151). It was one of the largest three-nave basilicas ever built in Anatolia (79×38 meters) (Ibid.:151). The church used to have two rows of fifteen columns, and a narrow narthex and a stepped platform (crepidoma) at the west (Ibid.:151). At the east, there was a rounded apse, opened once by two windows; its remains with three buttresses on the exterior are still proudly protruding high above the ground, as a single architectural element still well visible on the slope (Ibid.:151).

“[The] enormous cavern of the basilica above […] stood in stark contrast to [the underground church], [which must have] offered to visitors an evocative experience that alternated between the darkness of the enclosed space and the [brighter spaces of the basilica]” (Kristensen 2016:258).

The Underground Church

An entrance to the underground shrine of Saint Thecla was located under the south aisle of the South Basilica (Edwards 2016:151). The exact date of its construction is not known but it can be estimated for around the fourth century and it had surely been continuously elaborated at least since that time (Iza 2017; Kristensen 2016:258; Kristensen 2016:258,260). As mentioned before, there was initially a smaller church at the entrance to the grotto before the fifth century (Edwards 2016:151). In preparation for constructing a larger edifice above it, the cave must have been reduced in size but its walls were instead beautifully decorated in gilded mosaics, which gave an additional brightness to the darkened space (Kristensen 2016:258).

After the South Basilica was built by Zeno, the cave was possibly accessed “via two descending shafts from a narrow hall flanking the south aisle; light entered by a third shaft” (Edwards 2016:151). Now the opening to the cave, located slightly south-east, is accessible from the outside; having descended a few steps, we entered an underground space through a rounded arch. Then another flight of stairs led us deeper, under a barrelled vault, inside the church of a rectangular plan, typical of a basilica layout (18×12 meters) (Iza 2017; Edwards 2016:151), with a central nave (10 metres long), defined by two rows of three Doric columns, which were reused from earlier architectural structures (Iza 2017; Edwards 2016:151). Hence, the columns can be described as spolia (Edwards 2016:151), “repurposed building stone for new construction or decorative sculpture reused in new monuments” (‘Spolia’ 2022).

Although the church had been designed in the form of a basilica, it is still visible it was adjusted to a natural shape of the limestone grotto, tangibly evoking the presence of Saint Thecla (Kristensen 2016:258). Whereas the south-east side aisle is asymmetrical (Edwards 2016:151), “the colonnade at the [north-west] almost abuts a later [ashlar] masonry wall that separates the church from a maze of ancient rock tombs” (Ibid.:151). The central nave is limited with a round arch leading further to a somewhat scarped, semi-circular apse, facing north-east (Ibid.:151). Possibly, there were no pastophories, flanking it in the past (Ibid.:151). Today there is an altar featuring an icon of Saint Thecla, protected by a glass and surrounded by flowers and candles. I lit a few of them, which filled the space with a flickering light against the artificial one that allows visitors to explore the shrine.

At the north-west side of the church, there is a narthex with a barrel-vault, leading to the funerary part of the church, possibly with Saint Thecla’s tomb (Edwards 2016:151). Along the mentioned masonry wall, separating the funerary part from the north aisle, there are a few architectural elements deposited, which are mostly remains of capitals with Christian symbols, like the Chi-Rho with the Alpha and Omega and the Latin Cross.

The north-east section of this part of the church must deliberately have been blocked by the construction of an apse with two windows, allowing limited views into the innermost part of the cave (Kristensen 2016:258). It is said that there are some mosaic fragments in the corners of its ceiling but possibly they are so poorly preserved that it is now difficult to discern them in an artificial light (Iza 2017; Edwards 2016:151).

That deepest section of the cave behind the apse is believed to have been the holy of holies, where Thekla had lived, performed miracles and finally disappeared underground or was killed (Kristensen 2016:258). “While giving visitors peeks into [the memorial] part of the cave, the windows simultaneously restricted physical access to it; this is evidence of a careful staging of access to Thekla’s divine presence where pilgrims were kept at a distance to the most sacred part of the sanctuary” (Kristensen 2016:258).


Such a layout of the underground church is typical of an early Christian cemetery or memorial basilicas, erected around or above a martyr’s tomb and dedicated to their memory, as much as Saint Peter’s Basilica, founded by Constantine the Great in 324. The access to Saint Peter’s tomb had been both restricted and allowed for pilgrims, without disturbing sacred ceremonies in the church. Likewise, the narthex in Saint Thecla’s Church allowed to move directly to its memorial part, with no need for entering the central nave of the church.

The province of Mersin, in Turkey, offers a richness of ancient and early Christian sites, among which the complex of Saint Thekla at Meriamlık, together with a contemporary to it Alahan Monastery (Koja Kalessi), lead its prime in teaching Christian spirituality and early architecture to scholars and tourists alike.

Featured image: “Just south of the [South Basilica] and the cave, there is the best-preserved cistern (out of six identified so far) in this location. Water was supplied to it by the system of aqueducts. The cistern has a rectangular plan with sides 12.6 and 14.1 meters long. It is surrounded by the 1.7-meter-thick wall. The outer side of the wall is ashlar masonry, and the inside was built from bricks covered with two layers of plaster to provide [permeability]. The cistern is covered with three barrel vaults, supported on the walls and the columns” (Iza 2017). Own photo, taken in February, 2022. Copyright©Archaeotravel.

By Joanna
Faculties of English Philology, History of Art and Archaeology.
University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland;
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Poland;
University College Dublin, Ireland.


‘Aya Tekla Church’ (2021) Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at (Accessed 25th February, 2022).

Bocachete (2006) ‘Martyrium of Saint Thecla, at Silifke, Ayatekla (Turkey)’ (Photo in Public domain), in Wikipedia. Available at (Accessed 25th February, 2022).

Edwards, R. W. (2016). ‘Ayatekla’, in Finney, P. C. (ed.) The Eerdmans Encyclopedia of Early Christian Art and Archaeology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 151–152.

Iza (2017). ‘Saint Thecla Church and Cave in Silifke’, in Turkish Archaeological News. Available at (Accessed 22nd February, 2022).

Kristensen, T. M. (Summer 2016). ‘Landscape, Space, and Presence in the Cult of Thekla at Meriamlik’, in Journal of Early Christian Studies, Volume 24, Number 2, Project Muse. Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 229-263.

Portal Editor (2021). ‘Silifke’s Ayatekla – student of the Apostle Paul’, in ALATURKA. Culture and Travel Portal. Turkey. Available at (Accessed 22nd February, 2022).

‘Spolia’ (2022) Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at (Accessed 24th February, 2022).

Tańska-Hoffmanowa, K. (1845). ‘Święta Tekla. Uczennica Świętego Pawła’, Święte niewiasty: obrazki pobożne, Volume 1. Lipsk: Nakładem Księgarni Zagranicznej (Librerie étranger), pp. 49-53.

Wessel, K. (1965). Coptic Art. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. Thames&Hudson Ltd. 59.

Zalewska, E. (2020). ‘Saint Thecla – the Iconographic Pattern of this Female Saint and Her Role in the History of Christianity’ [‘Święta Tekla – ikonografia i miejsce świętej w historii Kościoła’], in Nowak A. Z., Kuczyńska, M. (eds.), Latopisy Akademii Supraskiej 11. Dzieci w kulturze duchowej Prawosławia. Białystok, Kraków: Oikonomos. Akademia Supraska; Muzeum Ikon w Supraślu, pp. 223-239.

Jawajska Przygoda od Piramidy Światła do Świątyni Tysiąca (a tour offered in Polish).

Archeologia wyspy Jawy wraz z wizytą na Bali.

Wyprawa indywidualna dla 6 – 10/15 osób (w zależności od zainteresowania). Orientacyjny okres wyjazdu: 18-31 lipiec, 2023 (14 dni).

Nazywam się Asia i jestem archeologiem. Obecnie piszę pracę doktorską na Uniwersytecie w Dublinie. Chociaż moją specjalizacją jest głównie tematyka wczesnego chrześcijaństwa w Iroszkocji i jego powiazań z tradycją koptyjską, w ramach moich szerokich zainteresowań i studiów leży również archeologia i mitologia Azji Południowo-Wschodniej, szczególnie wydarzenia opiewane przez eposy Ramajany i Mahabharaty, ale także język architektury hinduistycznej i buddyjskiej.

Z tego tytułu zapraszam na wycieczkę w świat bogów i demonów oraz ich architektonicznych siedzib, przez wieki uznawanych przez ludzi za sacrum a przez archeologów i historyków za zagadkę. A to wszystko w transcendencji baśniowych krajobrazów.

DZIEŃ 1: JAKARTA (18.07.23; lot z Warszawy w tym wypadku odbędzie się 17 lipca)

Witamy w Indonezji! Po wylądowaniu w DŻAKARCIE (zachodnia część wyspy Jawa) czekają Was procedury imigracyjne oraz odbiór bagaży. W hali przylotów będzie czekał na Was przewodnik oraz prywatny, klimatyzowany pojazd, którym wyruszamy w 3-4 godzinną drogę na południe, kierując się tym samym w stronę naszego hotelu. Droga wiedzie nas przez chłodny BOGOR, „miasto deszczu”, za sprawą najwyższego poziomu opadów w Indonezji (pada tu ponad 320 dni w roku!), nad którym majestatycznie góruje WULKAN SALAK. Następnie trasa prowadzi przez plantacje herbaty i rejon PARKU NARODOWEGO GUNUNG GEDE PANGRANGO o powierzchni 150 km2, skupionego na dwóch WULKANACHGEDE i PANGRANGO. Nie trudno zgadnąć, że to właśnie im Park zawdzięcza swoją nazwę. Widowiskową trasę urozmaicimy przerwą na posiłek, relaks w gorących źródłach oraz wizytą u stóp okolicznych wodospadów w okolicy Bogor (w zależności od czasu). Kolację zjemy w rejonie południowego podnóża wulkanu Gede, w przyjemnie chłodnym mieście SUKABUMI (ok. 100 km od Dżakarty), a noc spędzimy w niedużym, 3* hotelu SANTIKA HOTEL SUKABUMI z odkrytym basemen (Superior Room, 25 m2). To świetna baza wypadowa oraz znakomite miejsce, aby zregenerować się po długim dniu aklimatyzacyjnym.

*Free photo source

DZIEŃ 2: BANDUNG (19.07.23)

Po wczesnym śniadaniu czas na wykwaterowanie. Wyruszamy w 2-godzinną trasę do kompleksu megalitycznego GUNUNG PADANG (tłum. “Góra Światła” lub wymiennie “Góra Oświecenia”), którego odkrycie spowodowało sporo zamieszania w powszechnie znanej historii. Tarasy i dziedzińce kompleksu zbudowane są ze skalnych bloków i głazów o wadze 250-600 kg. Nie to jednak stanowi o niezwykłości tego miejsca. Otóż klejone starożytnym cementem ruiny zlokalizowane są na… wzgórzu stworzonym ludzkimi rękami! Archeolodzy dowodzą, że pod spodem kopca o kształcie piramidy czai się najstarsza konstrukcja wybudowana być może nawet 22 000 lat temu przez nieznaną cywilizację sprzed epoki lodowcowej! Oznacza to, że wyprzedziła ona pierwszą znaną cywilizację Mezopotamii o blisko 15 000 lat, a Göbeklitepe o 10 000 lat … Zapraszamy na spacer, który ukaże podobieństwo Gunung Padang do peruwiańskiego Machu Picchu, a także unaoczni rozległość terenu, który jest kilkakrotnie większy od świątyni Borobudur. Porozmawiamy również o kontrowersjach wokół Góry Światła – jak choćby o ofercie kupna praw do tego terenu wartej 1 miliard dolarów amerykańskich. Mówi się, że rząd Indonezji odrzucił tę propozycję licząc, że plotki o złocie ukrytym w piramidzie nie są jedynie plotkami. Gdy emocje nieco opadną, skierujemy się na lokalny lunch oraz w kierunku aktywnego WULKANU TANGKUBAN PERAHU (tłum. “Odwrócona Łódź”, ze względu na kształt góry), skąd rozpościera się oszałamiający widok na region BANDUNG. Następnie wizyta w kalderze wulkanu z wyjątkową panoramą krateru oraz (jeśli czas pozwoli) wizyta w kolejnych gorących źródłach w CIATER, aby odpocząć w ciepłej, siarkowej wodzie lub wizyta na lokalnym targowisku w miejscowości CIWDEY. Kolacja i nocleg w pobliżu KRATEROWEGO JEZIORA KAWAH PUTIHCIWIDEY VALLEY RESORT & HOT SPRING WATERPARK, BANDUNG (Superior Room, 25 m2).

*Photos from ‘Gunung Padang’, in Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia (2022).

DZIEŃ 3: KAWAH PUTIH (20.07.23)

Przed nami kolejne wczesne śniadanie, wykwaterowanie i wyjazd. Drogę umilą nam aromatyczne truskawki, „popisowy numer” tutejszych rolników. Na celowniku mamy KAWAH PUTIH (tłum. “Biały Krater”) ze swym emblematycznym jeziorem o wulkanicznym rodowodzie. Naszym zdaniem jego kolor bliższy jest turkusowi i może zmieniać się w zależności od zawartości siarki. W słoneczne dni kolor jeziora jest surowy i jasny, a w pochmurne cały krater może być spowity mgłą, co zapewnia równie niesamowite doznania. Niezależnie od palety barw hipnotyzujący widok uśpionego krateru jest jednym z najbardziej niezapomnianych przeżyć z Jawy. Posileni lunchem wyruszamy w stronę centralnej Jawy, do PEKALONGAN. 6-7 godzinną trasę pokonujemy klimatyzowanym pojazdem, rekompensując sobie w ten sposób brak połączenia lotniczego na trasie Bandung – Jogjakarta. Do Pekalongan docieramy wieczorem, w samą porę na pożywną kolację i nocleg w hotelu 3* SANTIKA PEKALONGAN (Superior Room, 22 m2), na skraju Morza Jawajskiego.

DZIEŃ 4: YOGYAKARTA (21.07.23)

Po śniadaniu wykwaterowanie i wyjazd z Pekalongan. Upewniamy się, że mamy pod ręką kurtkę przeciwdeszczową, ciepłą bluzę i czapkę, dzięki którym nagłe zmiany warunków atmosferycznych na wysokości 2 300 m n.p.m. nie będą bolesne. Kierowca zabiera nas w malownicze okolice płaskowyżu DIENG (tłum. “Siedziba Boga”), w którym zakochują się wszyscy miłośnicy przyrody. Droga urozmaicona meczetami, wioskami, tarasami ryżowymi na stromych zboczach, plantacjami owoców i warzyw zajmie nam ok. 2-3 godzin. Na dnie kaldery zobaczymy jedne z najstarszych indonezyjskich świątyń, które zostały odkryte przez archeologów w wyniku osuszania gigantycznego jeziora. To nie tylko najstarsze zabytki kultury jawajskiej, ale przede wszystkim jedno z najpiękniejszych miejsc w Indonezji! Mistycyzmu dodają mu aktywne wulkany, na których w VII w. zbudowano świetnie prosperujący, górski kompleks świątynny, o który dbali hinduscy kapłani i pustelnicy. Spędzimy czas nad JEZIOREM TELAGA WARNA, którego kolor wody zmienia się w zależności od czasu, pogody i perspektywy. Wspólnie polować będziemy na moment, w którym woda przybierze fenomenalną, szmaragdową barwę, bowiem o kolorach decyduje załamanie światła osadów siarki, które zalegają na dnie kolejnego, spektakularnego jeziora. Po przerwie na lokalny lunch wyruszamy do YOGYAKARTY (Jogjakarty) (4-5 godzin drogi) – kulturowego centrum wyspy. Zakwaterowanie w GALLERY PRAWIROTAMAN YOGYAKARTA (Deluxe Room, 35 m2), kolacja i odpoczynek.

*Free photo source


Po śniadaniu dzień, na który wszyscy czekaliśmy z nutką ekscytacji. Przygotowujemy niewielkie plecaki, wodę oraz nakrycie głowy i wyruszamy na spotkanie z historią starożytnej Jawy. Główną atrakcją dnia są obiekty wpisane na listę światowego dziedzictwa UNESCO, czyli BOROBUDUR – największa na świecie świątynia buddyjska oraz pobliski PRAMBANAN – imponujący kompleks świątyń hinduistycznych, które swoją wspaniałością mogą konkurować nawet z Angkor Wat. Sąsiedztwo obydwu świątyń będzie przyczynkiem do rozmowy o harmonii i tolerancji. Opowieść rozpoczniemy od zaznajomienia się z nazwą „candi”, którą w języku indonezyjskim określa się świątynie hinduskie i buddyjskie. Candi Borobudur to świątynia z przełomu VIII/ IX wieku. W jej piramidalnej konstrukcji odzwierciedlona jest buddyjska wizja świata. Przez niektórych określany jako mistyczny – krajobraz kilkudziesięciu posągów Buddy, zamkniętych w stupach i ułożonych na planie mandali, którego tłem jest porośnięta dżunglą równina Kedu z wystającym na horyzoncie stożkiem wulkanu Merapi. Prambanan to hinduistyczny kompleks z IX w. Pierwotnie liczył 232 obiekty architektoniczne ułożone na planie trzech wielkich czworokątów, które zostały poważnie uszkodzone przez trzęsienie ziemi za sprawą wybuchu Merapi. Świątynie z Prambanan zniknęły wówczas na tysiąc lat, przysypane pyłem wulkanicznym. Porośnięte lasami czekały cierpliwie, bowiem dla bogów czas przecież nie istnieje. Mieszkańcy Jawy nie odważyli się ruszyć kamieni przez stulecia, bo wierzyli, że wszystkiego pilnują demony. Obejrzymy zatem największy i najbardziej znany kompleks hinduistyczny leżący poza granicami Indii. Posłuchamy o kulcie 3 bogów – Śiwie (Bóg Niszczyciel), Wisznu (Bóg Utrzymujący Świat) i Brahmie (Bóg Stworzyciel), analizując detale ozdobnych reliefów inspirowanych scenami z Ramajany – największego hinduistycznego eposu. Kolejnym przystankiem na tym samym obszarze będzie piękna, choć mało znana, królewska świątynia – CANDI SEWU (tłum. “Świątynia Tysiąca”), druga co do wielkości świątynia wyznawców Buddy na Jawie (tuż po Borobudur). Mówi się, że dawniej otoczona była ponad tysiącem mniejszych stup, stąd wzięła się jej nazwa, jednak archeolodzy doliczyli się 249 pomniejszych świątyń. Zajrzymy jeszcze do buddyjskiej świątyni CANDI PLAOSAN z IX stulecia, składającej się z dwóch bliźniaczych kompleksów. Legenda mówi, że tłem powstania Plaosanu było wielkie uczucie pomiędzy hinduskim księciem i buddyjską księżniczką, których do końca życia nie rozdzieliła religia. Wejścia do świątyni strzegą 4 potężne postacie, przypominające uzbrojone ogry – to wojowniczy dvarapala, czyli strażnicy drzwi lub bramy, dość powszechny element architektoniczny w kulturze hinduskiej i buddyjskiej. W zależności od wielkości i zamożności świątyni strażników ustawiano pojedynczo, w parach lub w większych grupach. Mniejsze budowle mogły mieć tylko jednego dvarapala. Po lunchu czas na ostatnią świątynię na naszej dzisiejszej trasie. Niewielka w porównaniu z Borobudur, buddyjska CANDI MENDUT, szczyci się trzema 3-metrowymi posągami. Wewnątrz ruin z chłodnego mroku wyłonią się trzy monumentalne rzeźby przedstawiające mistyczne ciała Buddy – sami wówczas zobaczycie, że Cewi Mendut jest niesłusznie omijana przez odwiedzających, ponieważ tutejsze rzeźby są arcydziełami na światową skalę. Wieczorem zapraszamy na kolację z set menu (18:30) oraz na wyjątkowy spektakl, który odbędzie się w amfiteatrze pod gołym niebem (w okresie pory suchej, czyli maj – październik; obowiązują 3 klasy biletowe; 19:30 – 20:30). Na naszych oczach odegrany bedzie taneczny dramat RAMAJANA BALLET – czyli interpretacja sanskryckiego eposu „Dzieje Ramy” o indyjskich korzeniach. Godzinne przedstawienie to znakomite połączenie choreografii, muzyki i zachwycających kostiumów blisko 200 tancerzy. Tancerze i aktorzy wystąpią dla nas na tle oświetlonej świątyni Prambanan. By mieć pewność, że nie poczujecie się zagubieni, przed rozpoczęciem spektaklu nakreślimy jego fabułę, a także podpowiemy na co zwrócić szczególną uwagę. Druga noc w GALLERY PRAWIROTAMAN YOGYAKARTA (Deluxe Room, 35 m2) i czas na regenerację po aktywnym dniu.


Po śniadaniu wykwaterowanie i przejazd do ruin RATU BOKO, których funkcja do dziś pozostaje zagadką. Niektórzy eksperci sądzą, że miejsce miało character religijny, inni zaś upatrują w nim ufortyfikowany pałac królewski z wyraźną pozostałością murów obronnych. Dzięki położeniu na zboczu wzgórza rozpościera się stąd piękna panorama Prambanan i WULKANU MERAPI – tło, które aż się prosi, by uwiecznić je na zdjęciach. Wyruszamy na zachód wyspy, w kierunku CANDI CETO. Po drodze postój na lokalny lunch, następnie około 3 godz. drogi z okazją do degustacji tutejszych owoców egzotycznych. Uprzedzamy, że droga do jawajsko-hinduskiej świątyni Candi Ceto jest wymagająca – złośliwi mówią, że tylko dla ludzi o mocnych nerwach, bo pnie się stromo w górę wzdłuż wysokich klifów. Pora przyodziać się w coś cieplejszego, bo Candi Ceto wzniesiono na zboczu STRATOWULKANU GUNUNG LAWU, na wysokości blisko 1 500 m n.p.m. Świątynia do złudzenia przypomina obiekty, które znać możemy z Bali. Dysponuje kilkoma tarasami, z których najwyższe są niedostępne dla odwiedzających, bowiem Candi Ceto wciąż pozostaje aktywnym miejscem kultu religijnego. Warto pamiętać, że Gunung Lawu stanowi także umowną granicę pomiędzy Centralną a Wschodnią Jawą, którą przekroczymy już jutro. Nocleg w SUKUH COTTAGE NEAR CANDI SUKUH (Standard Room, 16 m2).

*Free photo source


Stałym zwyczajem tuż po śniadaniu wykwaterujemy się, będąc gotowi do drogi w stronę pobliskiej, hinduistycznej świątyni CANDI SUKUH, określanej mianem „erotycznej świątyni”. Ukryta w lesie, pozwoli nam odbyć krótki trekking nim dotrzemy do piramidy z grubo ciosanego kamienia, która przywodzi na myśl budowle Majów z terenów dzisiejszego Meksyku i Ameryki Centralnej. Przed nami trzypoziomowa architektura z XV w. ulokowana na zachodnim zboczu góry Gunung Lawu. Zagadkowa, odizolowana świątynia słynie ze swych płaskorzeźb, na których większość postaci jest naga od pasa w dół. Genitalia są przedstawione na kilku posągach, co jest dość rzadkie wśród klasycznych zabytków jawajskich. Niektórzy tłumaczą to historią powstania świątyni. Była ona bowiem wybudowana w czasie, gdy na Jawie toczyły się walki o władzę między muzułmanami, którzy zajmowali północ wyspy, a hindusami, którzy przeważali na południu. Miecze i penisy miałyby symbolizować hinduistyczne zwycięstwo z powodu większej męskości. „Erotyczna świątynia” będzie głównym tematem rozmów podczas lunchu, natomiast tuż po nim wyruszamy w długą drogę do aktywnego WULKANU BROMO – jednego z najsłynniejszych wulkanów w całej Indonezji. Zajmie nam to ok. 7-8 godz., które urozmaicimy historiami o starożytnej i dzisiejszej Jawie. Zmieniający się krajobraz umili nam najdłuższy z transferów na naszej trasie. Dzisiejsza noc będzie krótka, ze względu na wczesną pobudkę i obserwowanie wschodu słońca nad Bromo, dlatego po kolacji zachęcamy do porządnej regeneracji. Zakwaterowanie i kolacja w CEMARA INDAH HOTEL NEAR MT. BROMO (Standard Room, 18 m2), możliwie najbliżej punktu startu jutrzejszej eskapady.


Przygotowani na chłód i wiatr, wyruszamy już o 3:00 – 3:30. Mrok nocy przecinają wiązki światła naszych samochodów terenowych. Kierujemy się do PARKU NARODOWEGO BROMO TENGGER SEMERU, a dokładniej w stronę zbocza Mt. Penanjakan, do najpopularniejszego punktu widokowego. Czeka nas krótki, acz intensywny spacer z latarkami lub czołówkami z parkingu do najwyżej położonego punktu widokowego “King Kong Hill” (ok. 15 min) lub „Seruni Platform” (mniej popularnego). Warto być jednak przygotowanym na nieprzyjemne warunki atmosferyczne, przede wszytskim chłód. Już za moment niebo zacznie płynnie zmieniać kolory, szykując dla nas jeden z popisowych spektakli Matki Natury. Z ciemności wyłonią się kolejno trzej kompani – WULKAN BATOK (2 470 m n.p.m.), BROMO (2 329 m n.p.m.), SEMERU – najwyższy szczyt Jawy (3 676 m n. p. m.) oraz kilka mniej popularnych wulkanów i kalder znajdujących się na terenie parku. Z każdą minutą ich zbocza będą mienić się coraz cieplejszymi barwami. Uroku temu pocztówkowemu krajobrazowi dodaje położenie Bromo. Wulkan znajduje się wewnątrz masywnej kaldery Tengger (krater wulkaniczny o średnicy około 10 km), otoczonej morzem jasnego piasku wulkanicznego. Nim oddalimy się w stronę hotelu i śniadania, przejedziemy w pobliżu krawędzi Bromo, a chętni będą mogli przespacerować się po wulkanicznym pyle i wykorzystać poranne światło do fantastycznych ujęć. Uwaga: najlepszą przejrzystość powietrza i szansę na podziwianie panoramy Parku Narodowego niesie ze sobą okres od kwietnia do października. Wracamy do hotelu, aby sprawnie zjeść śniadanie, spakować bagaże i wyruszyć na lotnisko w Surabaya (ok. 4 godz.), skąd odlecimy do Denpasar (Bali). Po drodze przerwa na lunch lub posiłek na lotnisku (w zależności od zapasu czasu). Pożegnanie z polskojęzycznym, jawajskim przewodnikiem i check-in na przelot na Bali – wyspę, o której mawia się, że zagęszczenie świątyń to 4 budowle na 1 kilometr kwadratowy! Lądujemy na BALI, odbieramy bagaże i witamy się z kolejnym polskojęzycznym przewodnikiem. Kierujemy się wspólnie do komfortowego, kameralnego hotelu SOL BENOA BY MELIA 4* (Sol Room, 50 m2) z dostępem do dość szerokiej plaży ze złotym piaskiem. Trasa do hotelu zajmie nam ok. kilkunastu minut dzięki niedawno wybudowanej, płatnej drodze ekspresowej. Kolacja we własnym zakresie – w hotelu, w jednej z pobliskich restauracji lub w punktach ze street-foodem do których z łatwością można dotrzeć pieszo wybierając się na spacer poza kompleks hotelowy. Uwaga: w przypadku zmian w programie lub jeśli wyda się to Wam zasadne, na Wasze wyraźne życzenie możemy wykupić pakiet all-inclusive 24/7. Pakietu nie możemy rezerwować na wybrane dni, może obowiązywać wyłącznie przez cały czas trwania zakwaterowania.

*Free photo source


Wczesne śniadanie oraz spotkanie z przewodnikiem, który porwie Was w drogę na północny zachód Bali oraz na kolację i zakupy w UBUD. Przed nami kolejny, intensywny dzień. Na początek ok. 2 godz. trasy wiodącej przez wioski i zielone tarasy ryżowe. Prawie na pewno napotykamy przynajmniej kilka procesji religijnych (pogrzeb, ślub lub cykliczne lokalne ceremonie) – szybko przekonacie się wówczas, że Bali jest jak jeden wielki plener fotograficzny! Odwiedzimy PURA BESAKIH na zboczu świętej GÓRY AGUNG, zwaną „Matką Wszystkich Świątyń”. Ze względu na to, że jest to najważniejsza świątynia, celebrowane są tutaj liczne święta – około 70 w ciągu 210 dni balijskiego kalendarza. Znajdziemy się na wysokości ok. 1000 m n.p.m., aby zwiedzić cześć z zespołu 23 świątyń i mniejszych sanktuariów. Najważniejszym miejscem jest PURA PENATARAN AGUN LEMPUYANG, do której można się dostać po pokonaniu wysokich schodów i przejściu przez “candi bentar” (rozszczepioną bramę). Przyjrzymy się ołtarzom dedykowanym hinduistycznej trójcy – Trimurti. Ołtarze udekorowane są na różne kolory odpowiadające konkretnemu bóstwu. Biały to kolor Sziwy, czerwony Brahmy, a czarny Wisznu. Następnie pora na górzysty region KINTAMANI z emblematycznym, masywnym wulkanem i KRATEREM BATUR, jeziorem o tej samej nazwie i okolicznymi dolinami. Jeśli pożywny lunch i aromatyczna kawa z tutejszej plantacji, to koniecznie z widokiem na wulkan! Zatrzymamy się w malowniczej wiosce na krawędzi krateru na szereg balijskich specjałów i kolejną porcję zdjęć. Po ok. 1 godz. przejździe znajdziemy się w pobliżu Ubud, a dokładniej mówiąc w GUNUNG KAWI  – kompleksie grobowców i świątyń rodem z XI wieku. To jedno z najbardziej fascynujących stanowisk archeologicznych na Bali. Otoczone polami ryżowymi, częściowo pochłonięte przez dżunglę, sprawia wrażenie opuszczonego i niedostępnego miejsca. Gunung Kawi obejmuje grupę 9 królewskich nagrobków, wykutych w skalistych klifach po obu stronach wąwozu świętej rzeki Pakerisan (która dalej niespiesznie płynie do świętych źródeł wody w pobliskiej świątyni TIRTA EMPUL, jednej z najsłynniejszych i nie bez kozery najładniejszych miejsc na wyspie). Zobaczymy je pod warunkiem pokonania 370 schodów, które doprowadzą nas do zacisznego miejsca pośród skał. Tu bije ogromna energia niosąca ze sobą harmonię. Przed wejściem na teren kompleksu mija się szpalery sklepików z całym swym dobrodziejstwem – wygospodarujemy nieco czasu na zakupy, na które pojawi się także szansa w Ubud. Pół godziny później jesteśmy już w leśnym parku „Monkey Forest Sanctuary”, na spacerze w towarzystwie zuchwałych makaków. Pilnując okularów i plecaków niespiesznie maszerujemy do XIV- wiecznej świątyni DALEM AGUNG PADANGTEGAL, wzniesionej ku czci bogini śmierci, Durgi. W międzyczasie pojawią się kolejne okazje do zakupu rękodzieła (m. in. wiklinowych torebek, łapaczy snów, kadzideł, ubrań i dodatków) w sklepikach z mydłem i powidłem oraz na pchlim targu w Ubud. Czas wolny warto przeznaczyć na samodzielną kolację w wybranej przez siebie (lub rekomendowanej przez nas) restauracji, następnie wspólny spacer przez Ubud w stronę naszego pojazdu. Po zmroku wracamy do hotelu SOL BENOA BY MELIA 4* (Sol Room, 50 m2).

DAY 10: CZAS WOLNY (27.07.23)

Dzień, który zawsze niesie ze sobą wiele frajdy – czas wolny, który można spędzić we własnym stylu. Awanturnikom i niespokojnym duchom pomożemy zorganizować dodatkową, indywidualną wyprawę np. całodzienną eskapadę na słynną wyspę NUSA PENIDA z okazją do snorklowania i plażowania; CEREMONIĘ OCZYSZCZENIA w wybranej, balijskiej świątyni; wyprawę w okolicę UBUD, by przespacerować się przez tarasy ryżowe i spędzić dzień w Jungle Beach Barze; masaż i zakupy w modnych dzielnicach Bali. Lunch i kolacja we własnym zakresie. Kolejna noc w hotelu SOL BENOA BY MELIA 4* (Sol Room, 50 m2).

*Free photo source


Kolejna zmiana adresu. Dzień rozpoczynamy śniadaniem w hotelu, wykwaterowaniem i przejazdem na lotnisko w Denpasar. Stąd o 10:20 wyruszamy w rejs liniami Batik Air do LABUAN BAJO na wyspie FLORES (czas przelotu ok. 1 godz.; możliwe są późniejsze połączenia, aby wykorzystać czas na Bali), meldując się na miejscu już o 11:30. W trakcie całej podróży towarzyszy polskojęzyczny przewodnik. Przejazd na lunch z zimnym piwem oraz check-in w hotelu w Labuan Bajo. Czas wolny na basenie, na plaży lub w mieście. Samodzielna kolacja w restauracji hotelowej lub poza miejscem zakwaterowania. Zakwaterowanie w PURI SARI BEACH HOTEL 3* z bezpośrednim dostępem do plaży.


Po śniadaniu wyruszamy na prywatną eksplorację PARKU NARODOWEGO KOMODO – jednego z najbardziej oryginalnych, a przez to najciekawszych parków we wschodniej Azji, nie na darmo wpisanym do „7 Nowych Cudów Natury”. Zobaczymy wszystkie miejsca, które przyciągają turystów z całego świata niczym magnes, pamiętając przy tym, że na PN Komodo składa się aż 30 wysp! Przygotowujemy ręczniki, stroje kąpielowe i kremy z filtrem, łapiemy wiatr w żagle i cumujemy przy KELOR ISLAND, aby jeszcze przed słońcem w zenicie wdrapać się na tutejszy punkt widokowy dla wspaniałej, niemal katalogowej panoramy – na horyzoncie okoliczne wyspy, wszelkiej maści łodzie i turkusowa woda. Na dole czeka na nas poczęstunek oraz czas na pierwsze snorklowanie. Uwaga: podłoże jest kruche I kamieniste, dlatego podczas wspinaczki przydadzą się zakryte, dobrze trzymające buty sportowe z bieżnikiem. Nim zrobi się okrutnie gorąco, a my poczujemy się jak w terrarium, cumujemy przy słynnej RINCA ISLAND, jednego z dwóch adresów waranów z Komodo. Wyruszamy w trwający blisko godzinę trekking po sawannie w towarzystwie lokalnych rangerów, aby na własne oczy spotkać endemiczne, 3-metrowe smoki z Komodo ze skórą niczym zbroja. Jak to z naturą bywa, możemy napotkać ich kilka lub wcale, ospałe lub aktywne. Na wyspie Rinca żyje ich ok. 1050 sztuk na 198 km2 (na Komodo ok. 1 700 sztuk na 390 km2; źródło: BBC 2020, dane na 2018 r., brak aktualnych danych na temat populacji w podziale na wyspy). Szlaki trekkingowe mają różne poziomy trudności i długość. Czas na schłodzenie się w orzeźwiającej, krystalicznie czystej wodzie, następnie lunch z przekąskami z grilla oraz zimne piwo na łodzi. Na kolację i nocleg wracamy do hotelu PURI SARI BEACH HOTEL 3* z bezpośrednim dostępem do plaży. Samodzielna kolacja w restauracji hotelowej lub poza miejscem zakwaterowania.


Przed nami kolejny dzień na terenie PN Komodo, dlatego wypływamy skoro świt. Po najpiękniejszą panoramę regionu wyruszamy na PADAR ISLAND, przytulnie umiejscowioną pomiędzy Rinca a Komodo. Jest tu naprawdę bajecznie, a tej panoramy po prostu nie wypada przegapić. Wspinaczka zajmie nam ok. 20-40 minut, na szczyt wiedzie całkiem komfortowa, betonowa trasa ze stopniami i kamieniami. Nie ma roślin czy wzniesień rzucających cień, więc zawsze maszeruje się tu w pełnym słońcu. Po drodze pojawia się wiele punktów widokowych na których możemy poprzestać, ale te najbardziej spektakularne są na samym szczycie. Cumujemy przy niewielkiej wyspie KOMODO, gdzie na dość rozległym, leśnym terytorium (390 km2) żyje blisko 1700 waranów. To nasza drugie podejście na wypadek gdyby wizyta na Rinca skończyła niepowodzeniem, a Wami targały mieszane uczucia. Rezerwujemy czas na lunch, zdjęcia i snorklowanie na rafie przy PINK BEACH, której kolor nadają małe cząsteczki czerwonego koralowca. Przed zachodem słońca kierujemy się na wyspę Kalong, by pokazała nam kolejny cud Parku – zrywające się do lotu „latające lisy”, które o zmierzchu wyruszają na sąsiednie wyspy w poszukiwaniu jedzenia. Olbrzymia kolonia niegroźnych dla człowieka nietoperzy na tle wielobarwnego nieba wygląda jak wielka migracja ptaków. Na kolację i nocleg wracamy do hotelu PURI SARI BEACH HOTEL 3* z bezpośrednim dostępem do plaży. Samodzielna kolacja w restauracji hotelowej lub poza miejscem zakwaterowania.

Brama niebo przy świątynii balijskiej PURA PENATARAN AGUN LEMPUYANG z widokiem na wulkan o zmierzchu

*Free photo source

DAY 14: POWRÓT NA BALI (31.07.23)

Śniadanie w hotelu, wykwaterowanie i wyjazd w kierunku lotniska Labuan Bajo. W towarzystwie polskojęzycznego przewodnika lecimy do DENPASAR, na Bali (wylot rejsem linii Batik Air; czas przelotu: ok. 1 godz.), skąd kierujemy się na pożegnalny lunch. Wybraliśmy dla Państwa miejsce, które robi wrażenie tak na gościach, jak na nas samych. Beach bar z pięknym designem, smacznym jedzeniem, kolorową mieszanką gości – La Brisa Beach Restaurant Canggu w rejonie SEMINYAK, słynącego z dobrych restauracji, modnych barów i klubów. Dla chętnych czas na zakupy oraz 60-minutowy masaż ciała w PRANA SPA, który rozluźni Was przed podróżą. Transfer na lotnisko uzależniamy od ostatecznej godziny Waszego wylotu.


Wycieczka oparta na scenariuszu organizowana przez Biuro Podróży: Ex Oriente Lux. Cena bedzie dostepna końcem jesieni 2022. Zgłoszenia przyjmujemy do końca marca, 2023 lub do wyczerpania miejsc.


• Loty wewnętrzne (Surabaya – Denpasar; Denpasar – Labuan Bajo – Denpasar)

• Prywatny transfer klimatyzowanym pojazdem

• Polskojęzyczny przewodnik na Jawie

• Polskojęzyczny przewodnik na Bali

• Zakwaterowanie w obiektach kategorii 3* i 4*

• Wyżywienie full-board na Jawie (śniadanie, lunch, kolacja)

• Wyżywienie half-board na Bali (śniadanie, lunch)

• Spektakl Ramajany

• Masaż ostatniego dnia

• Butelkowana woda (2 x 0,5 l dziennie)

• Opłaty wstępu, niezbędne podatki

• Ubezpieczenie KL i NNW


• Wiza (pod warunkiem dalszego obowiązywania w lipcu 2023).

• Loty międzynarodowe

• Napiwki uznaniowe

Jeżeli chcesz do nas dołączyć, proszę o kontakt.

Looking in the Eye of Horus

According to the previous article, Sunk Island in the Sahara Desert, the geographic description of Atlantis corresponds to that of Richat, in Mauritania (Kosmiczne […] 2019). However, there is still missing solid archaeological evidence of the advanced civilization described by Plato in the Eye of the Sahara (Ibid.). Artifacts and remnants of structures created once with the hands of the Atlanteans are absent (Ibid.). Yet, such an argument should not be regarded against the proposed theory. Archaeological remains, if any exist buried on site, cannot dig themselves out. They need archaeologists’ systematic work and study. Unfortunately, if the subject is not treated seriously by mainstream Academia, there will not be any excavations in the region. Moreover, Mauritania is not a safe country, and the Eye of the Sahara itself is vast; it takes a multi-day trip to get to Richat from the coast of Mauritania (Kosmiczne […] 2019; Ettington 2018:33). As the region does not attract tourists at all, the organisation of transport there may be problematic and expensive (Ettington 2018:33). So far, no official institution has been interested in undertaking long-term thorough excavations of the structure with specialistic equipment (Kosmiczne […] 2019). Even if such a project appears, its realization will be costly.

Despite the lack of proper archaeological digs, many artifacts have already been found on the surface of the structure, such as tools, jewellery, interesting spheres with precise shapes, and a mysterious oval stone artefact weighing about fort kilograms that locals call ‘a surfboard of the gods’ (see: Alexander, Rosen, “Archaeology. Visiting Atlantis” 2018; Kosmiczne […] 2019). Independently, some people have also found within the structure various geometric structures on Google Maps; they resemble the foundations of buildings covered with soil (Ibid.). However, one has to wait for specific archaeological works (if they miraculously happen) (Ibid.).

Elephants live in Africa

Another interesting argument for the Eye of the Sahara as real Atlantis relates to the following description of Plato (Kosmiczne […] 2019):

” Moreover, there were a great number of elephants in the island; for as there was provision for all other sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes and rivers, and also for those which live in mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal which is the largest and most voracious of all”.

Plato, Critias

Virtually every proposed location of Atlantis contradicted the passage saying that there were, among other animals, elephants in Atlantis (Ettington 2018:38; Kosmiczne […] 2019). Indeed, elephants lived in Mauritania, unfortunately they have recently died out, though (Kosmiczne […] 2019). In addition, many elephant skeletons and petroglyphs depicting these animals on rocks have been found in the region (Ibid.).

Disasters came in the past

As mentioned above, a very convincing argument for the theory that Atlantis really existed is Plato’s timeframe for the destruction of the city  (Ettington 2018:37-38).

“Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years, for that is the number of years which have elapsed since the time of which I am speaking”.

Plato, Critias

 “Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe”.

Plato, Critias

According to the records, Solon heard the story of Atlantis in ancient Sais in 600 BC. (Kosmiczne […] 2019). The priest told him that the city had been destroyed 9,000 years ago (Ibid.). Consequently, the destruction of Atlantis must have occurred around 9,600 BC. (Ibid.)

Reconstruction of the Oikoumene (inhabited world), an ancient map based on Herodotus’ description of the world, circa 450 BC. Photo by Bibi Saint-Pol (2006), based on the GIF by Marco Prins and Jona Lendering from Public domain. Photo source: “Atlantis” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

This date 9,600 BC. is extremely interesting; in the period between 10,900 and 9,500 B.C. the sudden cold period of the last Ice Age, the so-called Younger Dryas, took place (Kosmiczne […] 2019). Reasons behind it have not been yet fully understood, however, there is the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, namely the cooling event happened after the Earth was hit with meteorites or there was an explosion of a swarm of comets in the Earth’s atmosphere (Ettington 2018:39-40; Kosmiczne […] 2019). According to this hypothesis, the sequence of such events eventually caused a sudden change in climate and a global cooling (Ettington 2018:39-40; Kosmiczne […] 2019). At that time, the so-called Clovis culture had disappeared, ocean currents altered, and much of North America’s megafauna had gone extinct (Ettington 2018:40; Kosmiczne […] 2019).  

But it did not finish there.

“But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island”.

Plato, Timaeus

Plato writes that “the island of Atlantis disappeared in the depths of the sea”, and “violent earthquakes and floods” could have been a successive result of the Younger Dryas impact, which is called by geologists Meltwater Pulse 1B (Hancock 2020). The latter was triggered by “the rapid release of meltwater into the oceans from the collapse of continental ice sheets” (“Meltwater pulse 1B” 2020). At the end or just after the Younger Drays, it was a period of either rapid or just accelerated post-glacial sea level rise (it is hypothesised to have occurred between 11,500 and 11,200 years ago at the beginning of the Holocene) (Ibid.), and could be the reasons for gigantic tsunamis, which were able to flood the whole landmass (Kosmiczne […] 2019); Hancock 2020). Was it the time of the Biblical Flood?

The so-called influence of the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, however, still remains unproven in academic circles (Kosmiczne […] 2019).

Island in the desert

While the formation of the Eye of the Sahara is promising as a potential location of Atlantis, its main problem is that, it is not an island and is now situated as much as 500 kilometres north-east of the Atlantic Ocean (Kosmiczne […] 2019). The authors of Visiting Atlantis (2011) say that approximately 12 000 years ago, some of the lands of Africa were beyond sea level, which made its coastline different from the contemporary one. Moreover, proponents of the geographic location of Atlantis in the Eye of Africa, however, refer to the hypothesis of a Younger Dryas impact on the destruction of Atlantis (Ettington 2018:45; 39-44; Kosmiczne […] 2019).

Sea thiasos depicting the wedding of Poseidon and Amphitrite (female prsonification of the sea) from the Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus in the Field of Mars, bas-relief, Roman Republic, 2nd century BC. According to Greek mythology, Poseidon was the god of the sea and the founder of the city of Atlantis, sometimes depicted as half-fish, half-human. Some authors compare such sea creatures to the Dogon’s ancestral spirits, Nommos. Photo uploaded by the user Bibi Saint-Pol (2007). Public domain. Photo source: “Poseidon” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

In their opinion, photos of the structure in the Sahara desert show that the place looks as if it was once flooded by powerful waves of the ocean, similar to giant tsunamis (Kosmiczne […] 2019). As George S. Alexander (2011) says, the place is harshly eroded and washed out, which is unusual for one of the driest places on Earth.

“For the fact is that a single night of excessive rain washed away the earth and laid bare the rock; at the same time there were earthquakes, and then occurred the extraordinary inundation […]”

Plato, Critias

“[…] when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, [Atlantis] became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.

Plato, Critias

The fragments above are intended to indicate that Atlantis was flooded with waves, which resulted in mud covering of the entire area (Kosmiczne […] 2019). Then the water was withdrawn and the ocean was cut off from the south, so that the ships could no longer get there (Ibid.). It is worth remembering about the huge amount of wells producing just salt water as well as thousands of shells discovered around the Sahara on the way to Richat (Alexander, Rosen 2011; Kosmiczne […] 2019). Additionally, the Bright Insight channel (2018) has shown pictures of the remains of a whale in Mauritania (Ibid.). The inhabitants of this country have equally encountered skeletons of fish and marine mammals in the area (Kosmiczne […] 2019).

Welcome to Atlantis

The researchers’ journey in contemporary Mauritania, from its seaside to a small town of Atar, led them through the desert (Alexander, Rosen 2011).

Guelb er Richât, Mauritania. Photo by Clemens Schmillen (2020). CC BY-SA 4.0. Photo source: “Richat structure” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

In the time of Atlantis, that place must have been under the ocean, yet on the threshold to its main island; today the Adrar Highlands would border its western steep and mountainous edges, as Plato also describes the Atlantis island’s landform (Alexander, Rosen 2011). And to the east of the range of mountains, there lies a large plain with the Eye of Africa, which may have been once the capital of Atlantis (Ibid.). The terrain is now covered in tricoloured stone; it is white, black and red, as Plato portrays the natural material the Atlanteans used to construct their dwellings (Ibid.). According to the Philosopher, the stone was quarried from the centre of the island (Ibid.). Surprisingly, by a careful examination of satellite images of Richat, one could see in its centre a formation that resembles a quarry or a mine, just as Plato indicates (Ibid.).

Theory of land elevation

The geological origin of Richat assumes that this place has been geologically elevated since Atlantis’ destruction (Kosmiczne […] 2019). Currently, the Eye of the Sahara is about 485 metres above sea level. For the increase in elevation are responsible terrestrial processes, such as volcanism or earthquakes (Ettington 2018:45). The author of the Bright Insight channel has demonstrated computer simulations according to which, at a lower position, the Eye of the Sahara would have been an island surrounded by the ocean’s waters (Kosmiczne […] 2019). This would confirm the description of Plato, according to which Atlantis was an island behind the Gibraltar Strait, and it would have had access to water in the south (Ibid.). Of course, such a theory is based on a number of assumptions and cannot be any evidence (Ibid.). This is why the theory of the Eye’s elevation requires more geological studies in the matter to determine if the area was indeed naturally raised up above sea level (Ettington 2018:45).

Cycles of wet and dry periods disrupted

The combination of land uplift, climate and water-level changes, and the impact in the Younger Dryas may have greatly influenced the geographic shape of the Eye of the Sahara (Kosmiczne […] 2019). Before its destruction, around 11,600 years ago, it may have been a paradise island connected to the ocean from the south, as much as Atlantis was, according to Plato (Kosmiczne […] 2019; Ettington 2018:47-48). The visible river channels in the mountains of Richat are linked to the fact that the Sahara then was much wetter than it is today (Kosmiczne […] 2019; Ettington 2018:35,47-48).

Richat Structure in Mauritania. This image was acquired by Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) sensor on January 11, 2001. This is a false-color composite image made using shortwave infrared, infrared, and green wavelengths. The image has also been sharpened using the sensor’s panchromatic band. Image provided by the USGS EROS Data Center Satellite Systems Branch. This image is part of the ongoing Landsat Earth as Art series. Photo source: “Richat structure in Mauritania” (2001). In: NASA Earth Observatory.

After Sahara pump theory, the Sahara region has kept changing for thousands of years from a desert in arid periods to a savanna grassland during pluvial periods (Ettington 2018:35,47-48). When the cooling of the climate was subsiding, there must have been then huge rivers and lakes all over the area, which was fertile and characterized with moderate climate (Ibid.:35,47-48). The whole region of Richat was then green, not a desert, as it is today (Ibid.:47). The Younger Dryas, however, disrupted the whole cycle and ended not only with heavy rains but also with a disaster, bringing the fall of antediluvian civilizations, such as Atlantis (if they had ever existed).

King Atlas and his heritage

“The eldest, who was the first king, [Poseidon] named Atlas, and after him the whole island and the ocean were called Atlantic”.

Plato, Critias

After Plato, the first king of the city of Atlantis was Poseidon’s son, Atlas (Kosmiczne […] 2019). It is also known that the north-western part of Africa was inhabited by ancient people known in antiquity as the Mauri (Kosmiczne […] 2019; “Mauretania” 2020). They were Berber speaking tribes and lived in Numidia and in neighbouring Mauretania (not to be confused with modern-day Mauritania), located in the ancient Maghreb region, being colonized by Phoenicians throughout the first millennium BC. (“Mauretania” 2020). Tribal Berber kingdoms established there between the third century BC. to 40/44 AD, when the region was incorporated into the Provinces of the Roman Empire with the capital in Volubillis. At the time of the Berber kingdoms, ancient Mauretania “stretched from central present-day Algeria westwards to the Atlantic, covering northern Morocco, and southward to the Atlas Mountains” (“Mauretania” 2020).

Interestingly, as it turns out, the first legendary king of Mauretania was called Atlas (Kosmiczne […] 2019; “Mauretania” 2020). He was an outstanding philosopher, mathematician and astronomer (Kosmiczne […] 2019; “Mauretania” 2020). Atlas is therefore not only the first king of the capital of Atlantis, but also of the ancient region of Mauretania, which was, however, located in the north of the Eye of the Sahara (modern-day Mauritania).

How did the Dogon find out?

During past thousand years the majority of the local population of Northwest Africa has converted to Islam (Alexander, Rosen 2011). Nevertheless, there are still African people in the region who are attached to their ancient religion and tradition (Ibid.). One of such cultures are the so-called Dogon, who largely live to the east of the Mauritania border, in Mali and Niger (Ibid.). Their beliefs and outstanding astronomical knowledge, especially about Sirius Star System, are the matter of debates among various scholars and researchers (Ibid.).

Twin demi-gods

The Dogon have particularly believed in the Nommo or Nummo – primordial ancestral spirits who passed on to them the astronomical understanding and wisdom (Alexander, Rosen 2011; “Nommo” 2020).

Dogon people in Mali. Photo by Devriese (2003). Originally uploaded to Flickr as Dogon #12. CC BY 3.0. Photo source: “Dogon people” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

Those spirits “are usually described as amphibious, hermaphroditic, fish-like creatures. Folk art depictions of Nommos show creatures with humanoid upper torsos […] and a fish-like lower torso and tail. Nommos are also referred to as ‘Masters of the Water’, ‘the Monitors’, and ‘the Teachers’” (“Nommo” 2020). As such, Nommos resemble half-human sea creatures dwelling in the realm of the god Poseidon, who was the founder of Atlantis city and the deity worshiped by the Atlanteans (Alexander, Rosen 2011). He was also the divine father of the five pairs of twins, who then ruled ten kings of Atlantis (Ibid.). As their mother was a mortal woman, they were only half-divine beings. What is more, according to Dogon’s beliefs, their half-divine ancestral spirits, Nommos, also transformed into twins (four pairs, though, not five as in the case of the kings of Atlantis), and the twin cult has always been very common in West Africa, finding its expressions equally in works of local art (Ibid.). May then the Dogon’s beliefs and knowledge have stemmed from the highly advanced civilization as Atlantis? (Ibid.).

Another ancient notice of Atlantis?

Ancient map made from a description by the famous historian Herodotus, around 450 BC. reveals another clue, specifically, the name of Atlantes in Northwest Africa (Kosmiczne […] 2019). Sometimes a question mark accompanies the name (Ibid.), which seems intriguing as if the author was not sure about his accuracy. The World according to Herodotus shows the known geography of the inhabited World, whose cartographic image is built up of various accounts and assumptions. This is why it is difficult to associate the name Atlantes precisely with an exact place in Africa. It may have been thought to appear beneath the Atlas Mountains, which are located in Morocco and Algeria, more than 1000 kilometres from the Eye of the Sahara (Ibid.). On the other side, Martin K. Ettington (2018:49-51,63) suggests Herodotus’ map rather represents the range of mountains north of the Eye of the Sahara, not of the Atlas Mountains, and so the author believes that the map is another ancient record of Atlantis, independent of Plato’s writings.

 The world map of Herodotus showing the name ‘Atlantes’ in the area of Northwest Africa. Photo source: Panorama of the World (2017). “Human Landscapes and Maps”. In:

It is probable that Herodotus could just refer to a group of people living in the Atlas Mountains (Kosmiczne […] 2019). On the other side, it is a real coincidence the name associated with Atlas (and Atlantis) appears again in relation to Northwest Africa. Moreover, Herodotus as a historian travelled to Egypt and had an access to its ancient libraries (Ettington 2018: 51). His information about the history of Pharaonic Egypt and magnificent monuments, especially those which no longer exist, is invaluable to contemporary Egyptologists and historians. Though-provoking, for example, is his account of the Egyptian Labyrinth that “surpasses the Pyramids” (Herodotus, the fifth century BC.). Was he then aware of any Egyptian records of Atlantis and its inhabitants? Are they depicted in his map?

Good-luck bringing charm

Discussing still the issue of Atlantic-Egyptian relations, Plato indicates that Egypt was within the Atlantean influence (Alexander, Rosen 2011). Although any preserved ancient records in Egypt do not mention such connections, it is worth investigating ancient Egyptian art, its symbolism and mythology in quest for any clues. One of the most recurring images in Dynastic Egypt is unquestionably the symbol of the Eye of Horus, known as wadjet, wedjat or udjat (“Eye of Horus” 2020).

Horus, the god of Egypt was usually depicted as a falcon, or a man with a falcon’s head; as such he was the god of the heavens and the forerunner of the pharaohs (Rachet 1994:135). Horus was also the son of divine siblings, Isis and Osiris, and played a decisive role in his father’s struggle against his brother, Set (Ibid.:135). According to the Texts of Pyramids, Isis, as a vulture, sat on the body of the dead Osiris (murdered by Set) and hence conceived Horus (Ibid.:135). Having grown up, Horus provoked Set to a fight in which he lost an eye (Ibid.:135). He regained it, however, and defeated Set, depriving him of his manhood (Ibid.:135).

Nazars, charms used to ward off the evil eye. After George S. Alexander (2011), each looks like a miniature model of the capital city of Atlantis. Photo by FocalPoint (2006). CC BY-SA 3.0. Photo source: “Evil eye” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

The Eye of Horus was in an ancient Egypt a “symbol of protection, royal power, and good health. The Eye of Horus is similar to the Eye of Ra, which belongs to a different god […] but represents many of the same concepts” (“Eye of Horus” 2020). Actually, in the Old Kingdom, the Eye of Ra symbolised the sun, whereas that of Horus, the moon (Rachet 1994:356). As one of the most popular warding off evil amulets, it was usually depicted in Egyptian tombs (Ibid.:357). Mediterranean sailors have “frequently [painted the same] symbol on the bows of their vessels to ensure safe sea travel” (“Eye of Horus” 2020). Even today, such an image as a protection against the evil eye is typical in this region, though in Muslim countries, it is usually called the Eye of the Prophet (Alexander, Rosen 2011).

Atlantean symbol or Egyptian amulet?

Udjat in ancient Egyptian art can be seen as a symbolic sign of a lined eye with an element characteristic of the falcon head (Horus), added later below (Rachet 1994:356).

The Eye of the Sahara resembles the Egyptian amulet known as the Eye of Horus with the upper part of ‘the eye’ well emphasized by the range of the steep mountains from the north. Photo received from a cropped satellite image on Google Maps (Google Earth). Imagery©2020 CNES/Airbus, Maxar Technologies; Map data ©2020.

Some researchers indicate, it is related to Atlantis, and indeed, its representation resembles the Eye of the Sahara, with regard to its centre and surroundings, where the range of mountains to the north of the pupil-like centre are similar to Horus’ lined eyebrow (Ettington 2018:58; Alexander, Rosen 2011). Was the amulet original to Atlantis, before it was adopted by the Egyptian symbology?

No other site more than this one

No other place in the world fits the description of Atlantis so closely as the Eye of the Sahara (Ettington 2018:35; Kosmiczne […] 2019). There is yet no conclusive archaeological evidence; therefore the issue remains unresolved (Kosmiczne […] 2019). Only if archaeologists engage in long-term and reliable work within the mysterious structure, the ancient mystery of Richat may be exposed, either as a natural structure or the lost city of Atlantis (Ibid.).

Nevertheless, if Atlantis really once existed, the Eye of the Sahara remains the most likely location for this legendary civilization (Alexander, Rosen 2011; Ettington 2018:31,35-38,51; Kosmiczne […] 2019).

Featured image: A topographic reconstruction (scaled 6:1 on the vertical axis) from satellite photos. False colouring as follows: • Brown: bedrock • Yellow/white: sand • Green: vegetation • Blue: salty sediments. Photo by NASA/JPL/NIMA (2004). Public domain. Photo source: “Richat structure” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

By Joanna
Faculties of English Philology, History of Art and Archaeology.
University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland;
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Poland;
University College Dublin, Ireland.


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