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.

History

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).

Historiography

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).

Fieldwork

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.

Description:

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).

Conclusions:

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

‘Aya Tekla Church’ (2021) Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at https://bit.ly/3t4GZQI. (Accessed 25th February, 2022).

Bocachete (2006) ‘Martyrium of Saint Thecla, at Silifke, Ayatekla (Turkey)’ (Photo in Public domain), in Wikipedia. Available at https://bit.ly/354FD0m. (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 https://bit.ly/3Ie83TQ. (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 https://bit.ly/3p4JEZu. (Accessed 22nd February, 2022).

‘Spolia’ (2022) Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at https://bit.ly/3Id3f0W. (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. Organizator turystyki, który jest ospowiedzialny za przygotowanie wyjazdu to biuro Ex Oriente Lux – profesjonalny organizator tematycznych wycieczek do Azji.

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

W ramach moich szerokich zainteresowań i studiów leży niewątpliwie archeologia i mitologia Azji Południowo-Wschodniej, szczególnie wydarzenia opiewane przez eposy Ramajany i Mahabharaty, ale także język architektury hinduistycznej i buddyjskiej.

Tym razem 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

DZIEŃ 5: BOROBUDUR & BALLET SHOW (22.07.23)

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.

DAY 6: ŚWIĄTYNIA RATU BOKO & CANDI CETO (23.07.23)

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

DAY 7: ŚWIĄTYNIA CANDI SUKUH & MT. BROMO (24.07.23)

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.

DAY 8: WSCHÓD SŁOŃCA NAD WULKANEM BROMO (25.07.23)

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

DAY 9: BALI HIGHLIGHTS (26.07.23)

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

DAY 11: PODRÓŻ NA FLORES & LABUAN BAJO (28.07.23)

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.

DAY 12: KOMODO NATIONAL PARK – CZĘŚĆ 1 (DLA CHETNYCH – DODATKOWO PLATNE) (29.07.23)

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.

DAY 13: KOMODO NATIONAL PARK – CZĘŚĆ 2 (DLA CHETNYCH – DODATKOWO PŁATNE) (30.07.23)

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.

POŻEGNANIE Z GRUPĄ I PODZIĘKOWANIE ZA WSPÓŁPRACĘ

Wycieczka oparta na scenariuszu Archaeotravel.eu organizowana przez Biuro Podróży: Ex Oriente Lux. Cena bedzie dostepna pod koniec lutego, 2023. Zgłoszenia przyjmujemy do końca maja, 2023 lub do wyczerpania miejsc.

W CENIE:

• 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

POZA CENĄ:

• 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 www.livius.org. 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: holylandmap.blogspot.com.

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

“Dogon people” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <http://bit.ly/2KErjAW>. [Accessed on 18th December, 2020].

“Eye of Horus” (2020). Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <http://bit.ly/2ISTTho>. [Accessed on 16th December, 2020].

“Mauretania” (2020). Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <https://bit.ly/3dvqYNj>. [Accessed on 15th December, 2020].

“Meltwater pulse 1B” (2020). Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <http://bit.ly/3gXg7eY>. [Accessed on 15th December, 2020].

“Nommo” (2020). Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <http://bit.ly/34pNDVW>. [Accessed on 18th December, 2020].

“Richat Structure” (2020). Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <https://bit.ly/3qTYH7n>. [Accessed on 14th December, 2020].

Alexander S. G., Rosen N. (2011) Visiting Atlantis. Gate to a lost world. Wilddoor Production.

Alexander S. G., Rosen N. (2011). “Archaeology”. In: Visiting Atlantis. Gate to a lost world (2011). Available at <https://bit.ly/3nCXHCO>. [Accessed on 19th December, 2020].

Alexander S. G., Rosen N. (2011). “Gallery 11 and 17”. In: Visiting Atlantis. Gate to a lost world (2011). Available at <https://bit.ly/3nCXHCO>. [Accessed on 19th December, 2020].

Alexander, G. S (2018). “George S. Alexander answers FAQ”. In: Visiting Atlantis. Available at <https://bit.ly/2IUg9Ys>. [Accessed on 14th December, 2020].

Ettington M. K. (2018) The Real Atlantis – In the Eye of the Sahara. Lightening Source UK Ltd.

Hancock G. (2020) ”Graham Hancock Explains the Mysteries of Atlantis and Göbekli Tepe”. In: FightMediocrity. Available at <https://bit.ly/37khfG7>. [Accessed on 15th December, 2020].

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. Available at <http://go.nasa.gov/37CJL6h>. [Accessed on 19th December, 2020].

Panorama of the World (2017). “Human Landscapes and Maps”. In: holylandmap.blogspot.com. Available at <http://bit.ly/37vtEHk>. [Accessed on 19th December, 2020].

Photo by Bibi Saint-Pol (2006). Public domain. Photo source: “Atlantis” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <http://bit.ly/2J4vOED>. [Accessed on 19th December, 2020].

Photo by Clemens Schmillen (2020). CC BY-SA 4.0. Photo source: “Richat structure” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <http://bit.ly/37xrerH>. [Accessed on 18th December, 2020].

Photo uploaded by the user Bibi Saint-Pol (2007). Public domain. Photo source: “Poseidon” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <http://bit.ly/3ntYQfL>. [Accessed on 19th December, 2020].

Plato “Critias”. Benjamin Jowett (1994) trans. into English. In: The Internet Classics Archives. Available at <https://bit.ly/37pQuAi>. [Accessed on 17th December, 2020].

Plato “Timaeus”. Benjamin Jowett (2008-2009) trans. into English. In: The Project Gutenberg E-Book of Timaeus by Plato. Available at <http://bit.ly/3r4zR4Q>. [Accessed on 17th December, 2020].

Rachet G. (1994) “Horus”, “Udżet”. In: Słownik cywilizacji egipskiej. Śliwa J. Trans. Słowniki Encyklopedyczne Książnica.

Cyclopean Masonry of the Ancient World

A type of masonry, also known as megalithic architecture, characteristic of unusually huge constructions created of gigantic more-or-less rough-edged boulders adjusted to each other frequently without using mortar, and the resulting minimal clearances between them are sometimes filled with clay and small stones (Lucie-Smith, 2003:68,205; Bruschi, 2020; “Cyclopean masonry” 2022; “Mur cyklopowy” 2018). The cyclopean term can be also described as ‘polygonal (ashlar) masonry’ technique, if there are regularly-dressed boulders with fine joints in polygonal shapes, and precisely fitted together without the use of mortar and without visibly defined courses of stones (Bruschi, 2020; Lucie-Smith, 2003:206). The degree of precision may differ in polygonal masonry. The finest examples astonish even modern-day architects and builders.

Initially, such a definition was used to describe constructions ascribed to the Aegean and Mycenaean cultures (circa 1425 – 1190 B.C.), who built their fortifications and citadels of huge blocks of stone arranged horizontally (Bruschi, 2020; “Cyclopean masonry” 2022; “Mur cyklopowy” 2018; Kashdan, 2007). Their creation was attributed to the mythological Cyclops, and “[the] term [itself] was coined by Greeks in the Classical Age, reflecting the belief that only the Cyclops, gigantic, one-eyed creatures of myth, could have been strong enough to manipulate stones so immense” (Kashdan, 2007). Pliny the Elder (23/24 – 79 A.D.) in his Natural History gives an account of such a belief, which apparently traces back to Aristotle, who was supposed to claim that the Cyclopes were skillful architects and builders (“Cyclopean masonry” 2022).

One of the weathered and ruined, but significant cyclopean walls in Europe. The base, though corroded represents polygonal masonry of huge blocks, whereas on top there is typical cyclopean example of stonework of smaller boulders. The Ġgantija complex, Gozo Island, Malta. Photo by Elżbieta Elżbieta Pierzga. Copyright©Archaeotravel.

Apart from ancient the Mediterranean region, where the the Mycenaean citadel, then Nuraghe towers or megalithic temples of Malta are most typical examples, such stonework is found in all parts of the ancient world (Lucie-Smith, 2003:68; Bruschi, 2020; “Cyclopean masonry” 2022; “Mur cyklopowy” 2018; Kashdan, 2007); in Egypt, the cyclopean masonry is present in the valley temple of Giza and in Abydos; in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, there are numerous megalithic constructions, ascribed to the culture of Incas (Bruschi, 2020). A good examples of such masonry are also visible in the South-East Asia and even on Easter Island (Bruschi, 2020; “Cyclopean masonry” 2022). “But there are quite a few others” (Bruschi, 2020).

View of Hatun Rumiyuq Street. Many of the colonial constructions used the city’s Inca constructions as a base. A typical example of megalithic (cyclopean) polygonal masonry with a very high precision. Photo by David Stanley (2012). CC BY 2.0, in “Cusco” (2022). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

Featured image: Homolle, Théophile (1902). A polygonal wall, excavated at Delphi, showing very characteristic polygonal masonry with a high degree of precision in contrast to stonework on the other side, in “Ecole française d’Athènes”, in “Cyclopean masonry”. Public domain, in Wikipedia. the Free Encyclopedia (2022).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

“Mur cyklopowy”, in Wikipedia. Wolna Encyklopedia (2018). Available at <https://bit.ly/3F5pDsA>. [Accessed 30th April, 2022].

“Cyclopean masonry”, in Wikipedia. the Free Encyclopedia (2022). Available at <https://bit.ly/3LqCEz7>. [Accessed 30th April, 2022].

Bruschi, R. (2020). “The Cyclopean Walls: Construction Skills and Mystery”, in The Mystery Box. Available at <https://bit.ly/3y2tFjE>. [Accessed 30th April, 2022].

Kashdan, H. (2007). “Archaeologies of the Greek Past”, in JIAAW Workplace. Available at <https://bit.ly/3vwezBB>. [Accessed 30th April, 2022].

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

Stanley, D. (2012). “View of Hatun Rumiyuq Street, Cuzco”, in “Cusco” (2022). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Available at <https://bit.ly/3xYCP0K>. [Accessed 30th April, 2022].

Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb Within the Lore of Giants

Like two months before Christmas, 2018, a group of three archaeology students started to conduct a thorough archaeological survey of Ballyedmonduff wedge tomb in Co. Dublin, in order to gain a better understanding of the site. I was one of them. Although we were not allowed to do proper archaeological digs, we documented instead the archaeological remains in detail, including research of the folklore surrounding the so-called ‘Giant’s Graves’ as the wedge tomb of Ballyedmonduff is usually called (McGuire et al. 2019:3). Before the date of submitting the project, in February, 2019, we visited the site a number of times. “The tomb itself is marked on the Park’s map, as the ‘Giant’s Grave’ [and] is situated on land owned by Glencullen Adventure Park (GAP), a privately-run facility mainly engaged in the provision of mountain biking trails. Some of these trails run close to the tomb” (Ibid.:4), which frequently made our work in the field more difficult, when groups of people, like children of a school trip started climbing up the tomb stones and jumping between our tools and measuring tapes. The weather was not on our side either. Although it was not often raining (or snowing), it was really freezing, especially in the shadow of the forest, and adding that we were spending long hours of working in the filed, mostly staying in the same position, while taking precise measurements, making a drawing or reading levels calculations. So a nearby coffee shop often saved our lives. On the other side, I remember this project as one of the most interesting assignments at the university and the reason why I have actually chosen archaeology as my profession. Comparing it to the work I do for living, sitting for hours in a noisy office and listening to complaining clients, wading through the mud and patiently observing stones definitely win. And when no one appeared on the trail at that time, there was such an eerie silence, soaring in the darkness of the surrounding trees, that it seemed it would disturb the sleep of the buried giant who would finally wake up to leave his lair of stones.

Wedge tombs are the most numerous and distinctive type of megalithic passage tombs. They are found all over Ireland but mainly in the west and the south-west (Ruggles, 2005:435; O’Sullivan and Downey, 2010:36-39). Mystery surrounds these great stone monuments which stand remarkably in lonely places and fit into wild Irish landscapes (Evans, 1938:7).  Wedge tomb constructions mainly took place between 2500 – 1800 BC. (O’Sullivan and Downey, 2010:36-39), placing them chronologically towards the end of a rich tradition of Neolithic tomb construction in Ireland (Ruggles, 2005:435) and constructions petered out circa 1900-1600 BC. (O’Sullivan and Downey, 2010:36-39).  Over five hundred examples of wedge tombs are currently known in the Republic of Ireland (Ruggles, 2005:435), but many more have been destroyed over the intervening centuries (O’Sullivan and Downey, 2010:36-39).  A map of the distribution of wedge tombs in the Republic of Ireland is shown in Figure 10, based on GIS data with the latest information from the NMS (National Monuments Service Website).

The Ballyedmonduff tomb forms part of a small group of wedge tombs in the Dublin region (see Figure 11) which include Ilmashogue Wedge Tomb located half way up Three Rock Mountain near Kilmashogue Recreation Area car park – (SMR DU025- 00701); Killakee Wedge Tomb in Massey’s Estate Forest Park – (SMR DU025-022); Laughanstown Wedge Tomb in Cabinteely – (SMR DU026-024); and Shankill Wedge Tomb (SMR – DU026-059). 

Figure 11: The Ballyedmonduff as a part of a small group of tombs in the Dublin region, with Ilmashogue Wedge Tomb, Killakee Wedge Tomb, Laughanstown Wedge Tomb, and Shankill Wedge Tomb; based on GIS data for the use of the Survey of Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb (‘Giant’s Grave’), made by Maurice McGuire, Joanna Pyrgies, and Susan Ryan, February 2019. Copyright©Archaeotravel.

In terms of their chamber size, wedge tombs can be divided into two separate categories: single wedge-shaped, box like constructions, and long and low wedge-shaped galleries (O’Sullivan and Downey, 2010:36-39).  The former is typical of north-west Clare, while the latter occur particularly in the north, although examples happen elsewhere (Ibid.:36-39). Ballyedmonduff appears to be large, complex and well-built in the context of the class as a whole and as a gallery grave belongs to the second category of wedge tombs. Whilst wedge tombs vary widely in size (Ruggles, 2005:435), they have defining characteristics – a trapezoidal central chamber, with its sides formed by two lines of large, upright stones (orthostates), getting wider and higher toward the entrance end, from east to west, and forming a wedge shape (Ó’Ríordáin and de Valéra, 1952:61-81), hence their name.  An antechamber is separated from the main chamber (the burial area) by a jamb or sill.  Such tombs were often covered with cairns, which could be round, oval or heel-shaped, often with kerb stones around to support the whole construction (Ibid.:61-81).  

The other characteristic that confirms the wedge tomb as a significant category of monument, is the strong consistency in their orientation, with their doorway generally facing west (Ruggles, 2005:435; An Salisbury et al. 2007:226-227, 231-232; Ó’Ríordáin, De Valera 1952:61-81). Nearly all known examples face the western arc of the horizon, with a large group facing south-west (Ruggles, 2005:435; An Salisbury et al. 2007:226-227, 231-232; Ó’Ríordáin, De Valera 1952:61-81). It is unusual to have such a clear preference for westerly orientation among a group of Neolithic tombs (Ruggles, 2005:435; An Salisbury et al. 2007:226-227, 231-232; Ó’Ríordáin, De Valera 1952:61-81). Their pattern of alignment fits the sun descending or setting model (Ruggles, 2005:435; An Salisbury et al. 2007:226-227, 231-232; Ó’Ríordáin, De Valera 1952:61-81). In other words, Ruggles (2005:435) notes that each wedge tomb was oriented upon a position where the sun was seen either to set, or to be descending in the sky on a significant day – perhaps the day on which construction was begun.

Levels exercise on the site of Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb, located in Glencullen Adventure Park (GAP), Ballyedmonduff, Ireland. Copyright©Archaeotravel.

Wedge tomb concentrations appear to be denser around mountains than in the lowlands (Salisbury and Keeler, 2007:226-227, 231-232). Throughout Ireland, wedge tombs can be found at elevations.  They are on the summits or slopes of drumlins, hills or foothills, with a smaller number on the sides of higher mountains (including Ballyedmonduff). Unlike in the case of portal or court tombs, it seems that builders preferred hilly locations, though not to the exclusion of other landscape settings – one exception is that no wedge tombs are found on mountain peaks (Salisbury and Keeler, 2007:226-227, 231-232; Ó’Ríordáin, De Valera 1952:61-81). They do not often appear to have been in close proximity to the coastline, as in the case of Altar Wedge Tomb in Co. Cork.  Still they show a pattern of concentration closer to rivers or lakes (Salisbury and Keeler, 2007:226-227, 231-232; Ó’Ríordáin, De Valera 1952:61-81).  Salisbury and Keeler (2007:226-227, 231-232) note that it seems likely that water represented no more than an exploitable resource to the wedge tomb builders, with no ritual or cosmological significance. The suitability of an area for settlement and farming, together with the availability copper (e.g. in Cork-Kerry area), influenced the locations of wedge tombs (O’Sullivan and Downey, 2010:36-39).

The lore of the giant’s tombs

Prehistory in Ireland begins around 8000 – 7000 BC (Powell, 2012:11-16).  The most prominent remains of this early prehistoric period are the megalithic tombs in general, the majority of which were constructed in 4000 – 2000 BC. (Ibid.:11-16).  Depending on their particular shape and category, some of them have been referred to as Giant’s Tombs or Graves, others were called Druid’s Altars, mainly to describe portal tombs (dolmens) (Ibid.:11-16).  During the first part of the 19th century, before the completion of archaeological research on Irish megaliths, such tombs were widely noted in literature (Ibid.:11-16). A great number of these legendary sites reappear on the OS maps in 1902, 1904-05, 1907 and 1913-14 under names such as Cromlechs, Druid’s Altars, Giant’s Beds, Giant’s Griddles, Giant’s Graves or Dermot and Grania’s Bed (Cody, 2002). According to Survey of Megalithic Tombs of Ireland, Vol. 1-6, some of the tombs had been destroyed, others were not accepted after inspection as proven megalithic tombs, and the reasons for their rejections are noted in each case (De Valéra and Ó Nuallain, 1961-1989; De Valera, Ó Nuallain 1982).

Many megalithic structures are so huge that numerous legends say they were built by a race of giants for different purposes (Powell 2012:11-16). Some of them were believed to have held dead giants, which would account for their enormous size, and hence the name Giant’s Tomb seemed appropriate (Ibid.:11-16), although not all megalithic tombs have been known under that name. According to OS maps from the first part of the 20th century, and our GIS survey, the greatest number of Giant’s Graves is present in County Sligo (73), which looks like a huge megalithic cemetery. In Ireland, the term Giant’s Grave usually refers to wedge tombs (46), court tombs (54), portal tombs (9) and unclassified tombs (21). The same records indicate there is no passage tombs known as Giant Graves (see Figure 12) (Powell 2012:11-16; De Valéra and Ó Nuallain, 1961-1989).

The term Giant’s Grave is probably the most widely used as far afield as Ireland, Sardinia and Denmark (Evans 1938:7). It can be readily understood how giants were invoked to explain these monstrous architectural achievements (Ibid.:7).  Legends of giants, who undertake extraordinary feats are very common in Irish mythology (Powell 2012:11-16). These legendary tales were usually used by the 18th century Victorian Antiquarians and earlier writers (Ibid.:11-16).  Already in ancient times, these so-called romantic concepts abounded about the origins and the builders of great megalithic structures, not only in Ireland but worldwide (Powell 2012:11-16). The term Giant’s tomb was already recorded at the beginning of 2nd century AD. by Plutarch, a Greek biographer and essayist (Plutarch, 2nd century AD.).  Plutarch describes that when the Roman general Sertorius (123-72 BC) took over the city of Tingis (Tangier, Morocco), he broke open the tomb of Antaeus, the giant venerated by Phoenicians (Ibid.). To his surprise, he found a body sixty cubits long (about 27 metres) (Quayle and Albertino, 2017), “and after performing a sacrifice filled up the tomb again, and joined in magnifying its traditions and honours” (Plutarch, op. cit.) (see On the Southern Side of the Strait of Gibraltar).   

Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb (‘Giant’s Grave’). Photo by Maurice McGuire. Copyright©Archaeotravel.

Most of the megalithic monuments, from the Greek, megas, ‘great’, and lithos ‘stone’, are today assigned to major classes and each are named after an important distinguishing feature (Powell 2012:11-16). Among them, there are the so-called tombs, temples, fortifications, citadels, towers, alignments, and hedges (Quayle, Alberino). Megalithic architecture was also described by the ancient Greeks as cyclopean after the race of giants with only one eye, who were believed to have been great craftsmen and builders (Ibid.). For the ancient, Cyclops were the offspring of gods, and they attributed them with megalithic structures throughout the Mediterranean, such as the walls of Mycenae (Ibid.). The term cyclopean masonry is nowadays used by archaeologists to describe an engineering technique that incorporates large stones without the use of mortar (Ibid.). The style ranges roughhewn stone structures as displayed, for example, in nuraghe towers all over Sardinia, or in structures of north-western and south Europe, Africa, Near East, and southern Asia, to incomprehensibly precise edifices devised with immense polygons of blocks (Italy, Greece, Malta, Egypt, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Peru etc.) (Ibid.). The knowledge of cyclopean masonry vanished but all over the world, anywhere megaliths are present, legends of giants abound (Ibid.).

In relation to megalithic sepulchre architecture there are four major categories, such as passage tombs, court tombs, portal tombs and wedge tombs, with other minor categories (Powell 2012:11-16). The so-called giant’s tombs or graves are scattered all over Ireland: the Giant Leap (wedge tomb) in Co. Cavan’s Burren Forest Park, Giant’s Grave on the Laois and Offaly border in Killinaparson, Moytirra East Court Tomb in Co. Sligo, and Giant’s Load (dolmen) at Proleek, Co. Louth, to name just a few.  Some of them tell a story of giants buried there, others, such as the megalithic tomb in Killinaparson are believed to be the resting place of ancient warriors or heroes (Slieve Bloom Association, 2019).  In Proleek, the dolmen is said to have been erected by the Scottish giant named Parrah Boug McShagean, whose body was buried nearby (Dempsey, 2008).  Co. Cavan’s Burren Forest Park, also has a giant story associated with its name (Goldbaum 2010-2019).  According to Harold Johnson (1998), from the nearby town of Blacklion, the giant, attempting to impress a lady, failed in his final attempt to jump the nearby chasm, which is, of course, called the Giant’s Leap (Goldbaum 2010-2019).  After the giant’s fell down and broke his back, he was buried in what’s called now the Giant’s Grave (Ibid.) There are two giant’s tombs near Dublin, one of which is a portal tomb located in Brennanstown, the other is the subject matter of the project and is known as Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb.  Although the latter is also referred to as a Giant’s Grave, there is no known local folklore of a giant or giants linked to this site.

The Giant’s Grave of Ballyedmonduff is located on the lower south-eastern slopes of the Two Rock Mountain, close to the stream (Ó’Ríordáin and De Valéra, 1952:61-68). Nowadays there is a dense pine forest, but in the past, there may have been splendid views of Dublin Bay and Wicklow mountains from the site (Ibid.: 61-68). The grave’s structure consists of a gallery aligned approximately west-east (Ibid.:61-68).  Today partially destroyed and disarranged, the gallery is divided by two septal stones into three parts of different size: ante-chamber, separated burial chamber, and a smaller niche or chamber closed with the back stone (Ibid.:61-68).  The eastern side of the tomb (which was once covered by a cairn) is delimited by horse-shoe shaped kerbs with a row of orthostats forming a straight façade at the western end, onto which the entrance to the tomb opened (Ibid.:61-68). During excavations in 1940s there were some finds recorded at the site: about 150 pieces of pottery, twenty-seven pieces of flint, a perforated polished hammer, and a few fragments of cremated bone of human origin (Ibid.61-68).  

Wedge tombs are said to have primarily served as collective burials for social groups (Evans, 1938:7) and territorial markers (Salisbury and Keeler, 2007:226, 231-232).  Yet, some giant’s graves yield no osseous remains (Frazer, 1895:64). Some scholars even suggest such constructions as wedge tombs did not originally serve as sepulchre at all but they were re-used as tombs by later generations or cultures (Brennan, 1994).  According to Walsh (1995) wedge tombs were not simply burial structures or territorial markers.  They seem to have served a variety of functions ranging from the practical to the symbolic (Walsh 1995).  Studies in archaeoastronomy carried out by scientists such as Lomsdalen (2014) and Brennan (1994) show that megalithic architecture holds a strong relationship to the sky. Accordingly, some theorists, for example Kaulins (2003), claim Ballyedmonduff used to be a geodetic astronomical planisphere (i.e. a star chart formed by the position of the stones), and the largest megalith on the site marks the constellation of Andromeda, while other stones are related to other major stellar constellations of the sky.  He believes that all of the stones were intentionally placed there to serve a particular purpose and were not placed there by chance (Ibid.).  Each was selected for their particular position out of the many stones available (Ibid.).  Kaulins (1995) also notes that megaliths made of quartz, granite or particular colour deserve special attention. 

As there is no straight answer on the purpose of giant’s graves in Ireland, it is valuable to look closer at other megaliths bearing the same name outside Ireland and compare them, especially the tombs built in Sardinia – an island famous for its legendary gigantic inhabitants.  All over this island, there are massive stone sepulchres commonly called the tombs of giants.  Similarly, in Ireland, most of the megalithic stones once incorporated into ancient monuments were partially dismantled long ago by residents of local villages, however, they are still impressive (Quayle and Alberino, 2017).  Sardinian licenced archaeological guide Maria Paola Loi, confirms there are legends in Sardinia saying that the tombs themselves were not designed to house the bodies of giants (Loi, 2017). The giant’s body was inhumated first underneath and the monument was built on top once the body was buried (Ibid.).

Loi (2017) explains that an aperture inside the tombs was used by young men during the so-called rite of passage ceremony to stay in contact with the soul of ancestors, known as heroes or giants. Boys would crawl into the narrow opening of the entrance stele and sit down in the tomb gallery on particular celestial events, when it was believed that the giants’ powers were released (Ibid.). She notes that each boy would individually spend a few days and nights there, meditating alone and absorbing the energy of the mighty one buried beneath (Ibid.).  Likewise, O’Sullivan and Downey (2010:36-39) explain that in Ireland “megalithic tombs were symbolic expressions of ideological beliefs, ritual authority and access to the supernatural”.  They also note that the wedge tomb was at the centre of a community of individuals who shared the same beliefs and values (Ibid.:36-39). The ancestors may have been regarded as spirits whose function was to communicate with higher spirits to further the prosperity of the whole community (Loi, 2017).

Francesco Cubeddu (2011). Aerial view of the Giant’s grave of Sa Domu ‘e S’Orcu in Sardinia. CC BY-SA 4.0. In “Giants’ grave”. In Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

There are two kinds of giant’s tombs in Sardinia (Loi, 2017).  The major group consists of the so-called horned cairns, namely long wedged-shaped galleries of upright stones, divided or segmented by stone pillars, sometimes with low transverse slabs between them, dividing them into oblong compartments (Evans, 1938:10-12). Unlike Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb, they do not feature a distinct chamber at the end, as the gallery is thought to have been an actual burial place (Ibid.10-12).  If preserved, the gallery is roofed by corbels and covered with cap stones (Ibid.:10-12), some weighing up to 20 tons (Quayle and Alberino, 2017).  Although cap stones were once present at Ballyedmonduff, as shown in the Ordnance Survey sketches, they are missing now at the site.  A very significant feature of the tombs in Sardinia is the entrance (Evans, 1938:10-12; Quayle and Alberino, 2017).  Namely, it is emphasized and set off by a curving line of orthostates, forming an imposing semi-circular façade embracing a forecourt (Evans, 1938:10-12; Quayle and Alberino, 2017). 

The term horned cairns come from the resemblance which the layout of the forecourt bears to the horns of a bull (Evans, 1938:10-12).  This type of forecourt does not occur in the typical form of Irish wedge tombs. Although monuments with this type of forecourt are found especially in the south-west of Scotland and the south of France, and seem to derive from Sardinia, Northern Ireland is the region of their richest development, and they are mostly clustered around Carlingford Lough in Ulster, such as Browndod tomb in Co. Antrim (Ibid.:10-12).

Remains of a statue representing an opulent woman or a goddess found in the area of the temple Ggantija. Is it a representation of the Giantess Sansuna? Copyright©Archaeotravel.

Although passage tombs in Ireland are not remembered as giants’ tombs, an Irish legend has it that the passage tombs of Loughcrew were created when a giant witch, walking across the land, dropped her cargo of huge stones from her apron (Ireland’s Ancient East 2018; see Sliabh na Callighe (Mountains of the Witch). Actually, very similar story is known on Gozo Island in Malta, where the giantess Sansuna is said to have built the temple Ggantija – the Place of Giants, carrying huge stones upon one of her shoulders or in an apron four kilometres to their current resting place (Newman 2016). On her way, likewise the Loughcrew witch, she dropped some of the stones (Ibid.). One of them is called Sansuna’s Dolmen and it is located exactly one kilometre south-east of the Ggantija temple (Ibid.) (see Sleeping Beauty of the Underworld).

Situated in the Golden Heights, south of Damascus, there is another giant’s tomb, however, of an outstanding shape (Hamilton-Brown 1990s; “Rujm el-Hiri” 2022). It is called Rujm el-Hiri or Gilgal Refaim (from Hebrew, Giant’s Circle of Stones) and it is an ancient megalithic construction consisting of an estimated four thousand tons of loose rocks of huge and various sizes, which makes it another cyclopean construction (Hamilton-Brown 1990s; “Rujm el-Hiri” 2022). The stones form concentric circles, with a tumulus at its centre (Hamilton-Brown 1990s; “Rujm el-Hiri” 2022). It is dated to around 3000–2700 BCE BC. (“Rujm el-Hiri” 2022). Like the other giant’s tombs, Rujm el-Hiri is also strongly associated with the race of giants, yet in this case it is not only a folk story but the biblical narrative that supports that (Hamilton-Brown 1990s). An Israeli archaeologist, Daniel Herman, claims that the tomb must have been dedicated to someone really powerful as its construction should have taken an enormous amount of time and effort (Ibid.). When Israelites came to this area, the tomb had already been there and they documented the identification of the site by saying that this region had been ruled by Og, the king of the Basham (Ibid.). The Bible mentions that king in Deuteronomy 3:11: “For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants […]” (Ibid.)

Hebrew Wikipedia (2007). Gilgal Refā’īm is an ancient megalithic monument in the Golan Heights (Early Bronze Age II, 3000–2700 BC.). CC BY-SA 3.0. Photo modified. In “Rujm el-Hiri” (2022). Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.

I do not know if the giant buried in Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb was one of those mentioned in the Bible. Maybe … However, the world’s ancient tradition of giants is extremely rich, especially in the British Isles and in Ireland. Similar folk stories, some extremely attractive, and especially the connection of the race of giants with megalithic constructions, are now taken with a pinch of salt, especially among archaeologists. Today, mostly tourists are likely to listen to such tales, who, usually indulged amid the sounds of Irish music, are sipping beer in pubs. Yet, the stories of giants and their beds resound with a deep note of melancholy, especially for those who are longing for the unknown past. Actually, despite further archaeological research to reveal the truth about prehistoric megalithic structures, such as the Ballyedmunduff Wedge Tomb, their secrets continue to persist and stimulate the human imagination.

Article based on research conducted on site of Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb by Maurice McGuire, Joanna Pyrgies, Susan Ryan (2017). Survey of Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb (‘Giant’s Grave’). University College Dublin.

If you wish to follow Irish giants’ trail farther, feel welcome to join our archaeological tour: A Tale of the Deeds of Tuatha de Danann and the Formorians – the Race of Giants.

Featured image: There are at least two giant’s tombs near Dublin, one of which is known as Ballyedmonduff Wedge Tomb. Although it is referred to as a Giant’s Grave, there is no known local folklore of a giant or giants linked to this site. Photo by Maurice McGuire. 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.

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