Sunday, April 26, 2009


Baalbeck is a city in eastern Lebanon famous chiefly for its magnificent, excellently preserved Roman temple ruins. It was a flourishing Phoenician town when
the Greeks occupied it in 331 B.C. They renamed it "Heliopolis" (City of the Sun) .
It became a Roman colony under the Emperor Augustus in 16 B.C..On its acropolis, over the course of the next three centuries, the Romans constructed a monumental ensemble of three temples, three coutyards, and an enclosing wall built of some of the most gigantic stones ever crafted by man. Some tourists believe that the construction can only be attributed to extra-terrestial artwork .

At the southern entrance of Baalbeck is a quarry where the stones used in the temples were cut. A huge block, considered the largest hewn stone in the world, still sits where it was cut almost 2,000 years ago. Called the "Stone of the Pregnant Woman", it is 21.5m x 4.8m x 4.2meters in size and weighs an estimated 1,000 tons.

Stone of the Pregnant Woman

The Temples In History

For centuries the temples of Baalbeck lay under meters of rubble, obscured by medieval fortifications. But even in ruin the site attracted the admiration of visitors and its historical importance was recognized.

The first survey and restoration work at Baalbeck was begun by the German Archaeological Mission in 1898. In 1922 French scholars undertook extensive research and restoration of the temples, work which was continued by the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities.

Baalbeck's temples were built on an ancient tell that goes back at least to the end of the third millennium B.C. Little is known about the site during this period, but there is evidence that in the course of the 1rst millennium B.C. an enclosed court was built on the ancient tell. An altar was set in the center of this court in the tradition of the biblical Semitic high places.

During the Hellenistic period (333-64 B.C.) the Greeks identified the god of Baalbeck with the sun god and the city was called Heliopolis or City of the Sun. At this time the ancient enclosed court was enlarged and a podium was erected on its western side to support a temple of classical form. Although the temple was never built, some huge construction from the Hellenistic project can still be seen. And it was over the ancient court that the Romans placed the present Great Court of the Temple of Jupiter.

Aerial view of the Acropolis

The temple was begun in the last quarter of the 1rst century B.C., and was nearing completion in the final years of Nero's reign (37-68 A.D.). the Great Court Complex of the temple of Jupiter, with its porticoes, exedrae, altars and basins, was built in the 2nd century A.D. Construction of the so-called temple of Bacchus was also started about this time.

The Propylaea and the Hexagonal Court of the Jupiter temple were added in the 3rd century under the Severan Dynasty (193-235 A.D.) and work was presumably completed in the mid-3rd century. The small circular structure known as the Temple of Venus, was probably finished at this time as well.

When Christianity was declared an official religion of the Roman Empire in 313 A.D., Byzantine Emperor Constantine officially closed the Baalbeck temples. At the end of the 4th century, the Emperor Theodosius tore down the altars of Jupiter's Great Court and built a basilica using the temple's stones and architectural elements. The remnants of the three apses of this basilica, originally oriented to the west, can still be seen in the upper part of the stairway of the Temple of Jupiter.

After the Arab conquest in 636 the temples were transformed into a fortress, or qal'a, a term still applied to the Acropolis today.

During the next centuries Baalbeck fell successively to the Omayyad, Abbasid, Toulounid, Fatimid and Ayyoubid dynasties. Sacked by the Mongols about 1260, Baalbeck later enjoyed a period of calm and prosperity under Mamluke rule.

The temple complex of Baalbeck is made up of the Jupiter Temple and the Bacchus Temple adjacent to it. A short distance away is the circular structure known as the Temple of Venus. Only part of the staircase remains of a fourth temple dedicated to Mercury, on Kheikh Abdallah hill.

Temple of Jupiter

The first view the visitor has of Baalbeck is the six Corinthian columns of the Great Temple (or "Jupiter Temple") thrusting 22 meters into the skyline. Built on a podium seven meters above the Court, these six columns and the entablature on top give an idea of the vast scale of the original structure.

The complex of the Great Temple has four sections: the monumental entrance or Propylaea, the Hexagonal Court, the Great Court and finally the Temple itself, where the six famous columns stand.

The Temple of Jupiter is one of the most impressive Temples in Baalbeck.
It measures 88x48 meters and stands on a podium 13 meters above the surrounding terrain and 7 meters above the courtyard. It is reached by a monumental stairway.

Originally surrounded by 54 external columns, most of these now lie in fragments on the ground. The six standing columns are joined by an entablature decorated with a frieze of bulls and lions' heads connected by garlands.

The Podium is built with some of the largest stone blocks ever hewn. On the west side of the podium is the "Trilithon", a celebrated group of three enormous stones weighing about 800 tons each.

The Trylithon

It was decided to furnish the temple with a monumental extension of the podium which, according to Phoenician tradition, had to consist of no more than three layers of stone. The fact remains that this decision initiated the cutting, transporting and lifting of the largest and heaviest stones of all times. Not only had a wall of 13 meters in height to be composed of three ranges of stones, but in the interest of appearance the middle blocks were made of a length four times their height. Adding to this a depth equal to the height of the stones, they had to be of a volume of up to 400 cubic meters per block, corresponding to a weight of almost 1000 tons. Technically, the builders of Baalbeck proved that they could do it, since three such blocks of the middle layer are in place, but in terms of time they did not succeed - the podium remained incomplete. Nevertheless, so awe-inspiring were those blocks to all beholders ever after, that Baalbeck was known for a long time primarily as the site of the three stones, the trilithon.

Unfinished Obelisk

Location: Aswan Egypt
Height: 41.75 meters
Weight: 1185 tons
Base: 4.2 meters
Red granite

This 3000 years old obelisk in the Aswan quarry shows us an amazing feat of technology and archaeologists have learned much about the techniques of stone-cutting from examining this abandoned monument and from the tools which have been left behind (it developed a flaw during quarrying and was never completed, left to lie still attached to the living rock.)

If it had been extracted and erected as originally conceived, the Unfinished Obelisk would have stood 41.75 m (137 feet) tall and weighed 1,185 tons, dwarfing all others (the largest survivor, the Lateran obelisk in Rome, rises 105 feet and weighs "only" 455 tons.)

Unfinished Obelisk. The granite quarries of ancient Aswan lay beside the Nile, thus providing easy access to boats for transporting this prized building stone to sites downstream. A crack in the granite stopped the cutting of what would have been an enormous obelisk (estimated at more than 40 meters high). Now the abandoned partially carved obelisk gives us information about how ancient stonecutters worked.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Pyramid of Sipan - The Treasure

At midnight, on February 25th, 1987, Dr. Walter Alva, Director of the Bruning Museum, in Peru, was awakened by a phone call. On the other end of the line was the Peruvian Investigative Police (PIP) from the city of Chiclayo. The chief of police wanted Alva to come and examine a sack full of what they believed to be artifacts stolen from a local archaeological site: the smallest of an eroded and ancient set of three pyramids called Huaca Rajada.

Alva, sick with bronchitis for three days, was at first reluctant to make the drive to the station. The Police often detained suspected antiquities thieves, or huaqueros as they were called, with little reason. Undoubtedly, Alva thought, the items the police had seized were of minor importance and not worth a midnight ride. Still, the chief was insistent and Alva finally agreed to go.

By the time he arrived at the PIP station the archaeologist was sure the whole thing was a hoax. The police had been told that the artifacts came from an ancient tomb of a mysterious people known as the Moche that lived on was is now the north coast of Peru between 100 BC and 700 AD. Alva knew that the Huaca Rajada pyramids were of Chimu origin. The Chimu civilizaion came after the Moche.

The police chief handed Alva a package which he opened. The archaeologist was shocked. He had expected a piece of pottery. Inside was a human mask made of hammered gold. The eyes were of silver and had pupils made of rare cobalt blue stones. Even more surprising than the object itself was its origin. The style was definitely Moche. Alva and many other archaeologists had been wrong about the pyramids.

The raiding of the site at Huaca Rajada had started several weeks before. A local 36 year-old huaqueros named Ernil Bernal had led a small group of looters to the pyramids. Jobs in the village of Sipan, near the pyramids were scarce and the poverty oppressive. For generations the huaqueros had been looting archaeological locations hoping to find a few gold beads or rare ceramics to sell. That night at Huaca Rajada Ernil and his crew hit the jackpot.

They had tunneled into the pyramid for some distance, but not found anything of value. Then Ernil noticed that the tunnel roof looked strange, as if it had been patched. Taking a long rod he jammed it into the patch to find out what was behind it. Unexpectedly the ceiling collapsed and Ernil was buried in a cave-in. When his brother came to his rescue he found Ernil up to his neck in material from a hidden chamber above: the looter was covered with a king's ransom of gold, silver and precious stones. They had found the crypt of an ancient Moche Lord.

The raiders packed up the treasure-trove in sacks. Before they even left the tunnels, though, the thieves turned against each other and one was shot dead. Another, deprived of his share of the loot, ran to the police. Several days later the police raided Ernil's house finding the death mask and several other smaller items. Most of the treasure was already on its way through the underground market to illegal private collections and museums in the United States and around the world. It was the leftovers found at the house that had been shown to Dr. Alva.

The police drove Dr. Alva out to Huaca Rajada. The pyramids were now swarming with huaqueros drawn by the stories of treasure. It took bursts of automatic gunfire in the air to scare them off.

Dr. Alva now had a choice to make. Common sense argued that he should just fill up the tunnels and hope no more damage would be done to the pyramid until a full excavation could be organized and funded someday in some distant future. Or, Alva could start excavation immediately. If he made the second choice he would have to proceed with no money, little police support and no official permission.

The archaeologist knew the pyramid might contain more Moche burial chambers. If it did they were probably filled with artifacts that would finally unlock the mystery of the ancient Moche people. If the looters came back and raided the tombs, the secrets only a careful scientific excavation would yield would be gone forever. Alva decided to start digging.

Tensions were high at Huaca Rajada when the excavation began. The original looter, Ernil Bernal, had been killed in a confrontation with police. The villagers from Sipan grew increasingly hostile toward Alva. Many of them viewed the artifacts as an inheritance from their ancestors that belonged to them, not the archaeologist or his museum.

Alva managed to get some money together and hire a few of the villagers to help in the excavation, but the police could only spare two men to stand guard. The archaeologist proceeded carefully with the dig, slowly peeling off layer after layer of brick, soil and sand. Then they found a body. From the trappings buried with the man, he appeared to be a Moche warrior. Alva wondered if he had been interned there to "guard" something further down.

After removing the body they continued digging and soon came to the rotting roof of what had been a chamber. Sand and soil sifting through the ceiling had long ago filled the room. Alva's crew dug slowly through the chamber until they found a box with copper straps: a lord's coffin. They had found a royal Moche tomb that had never been opened.

The coffin contained the body of a Moche Lord (depicted in Moche art, left) along with his burial treasures which included a one-pound crescent-shaped headdress of hammered gold, a gold death mask, and a necklace composed of sixteen gold discs. The find was of incalculable importance.

Outside the site, which now looked like a armed camp, the villagers gathered and shouted that they wanted their "ancestor's inheritance." The police, in fear, launched tear gas. Tension mounted even more. No help was coming and it seemed as if Alva's men could hold out only one more night before those gathered around the pyramid would overrun it, assaulting the digging crew, and plundering the royal tomb.

The next morning Dr. Alva went to the edge of the dig and confronted one of the leaders of those gathered outside, a man named Alberto Jaime. He told Jaime that his "inheritance" was waiting on the top of the pyramid and he should go and get it before anybody stole it from him. Then Alva clipped the barb wire fence around the dig, grabbed Jaime by the collar and dragged him to the excavated tomb. In astonishment the rest of the villagers followed. Alva thrust a shovel into Jaime's hands and dared him to steal from his ancestors and sack "his father's sacred tomb." Jaime, speechless, did nothing.

Dr. Alva then turned to the villagers and told them that once a great King of the Moche civilization had made his headquarters in their village. When the king died his people dressed him in gold. "Nothing less was good enough for the exalted Lord of Sipan," Alva explained.

The villagers suddenly saw the tomb not as a vault of gold, but the shrine of an esteemed ancestor. From that point on the tomb was secure. Not just a few archaeologists experienced the wonder of the discovery, but thousands of visitors made the pilgrimage to see the "magic" of the Moche Lord who had been entombed in a golden uniform.

Before the excavation of Huaca Rajada was over, the tomb of another Lord of Sipan, and a tomb of a High Priest were discovered in the pyramid. Much was learned about these mysterious ancient people who were capable of creating beautiful ceramic and gold artwork, but also were capable of harsh, ritualized violence. Much of the artwork found depicted the Moche human sacrifice ceremony.

The pyramid is now a tourist attraction that has boosted the economy of Sipan. As for Alberto Jaime, the leader of the mob that almost plundered the tomb, he now works as a tour guide.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Treasure OF Troy

At fourteen Schliemann was apprenticed to a local grocer. When he hurt his back and could no longer lift heavy weights, he moved to Hamburg. Unable to hold a job there because of his injury, he signed on as a cabin boy on a ship. The ship went down during a bad storm off the coast of Holland. Finding his way to Amsterdam he got a poorly-paying job.

Schliemann might have stayed in that position for life if he hadn't discovered his knack of learning languages. He taught himself English, Dutch and French. Later he learned Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. The knowledge of these languages enabled him to find a good position in an import/export firm. He learned Russian and moved to the company's branch office in St. Petersburg in 1846. While there he increased this employer's business while making a small fortune for himself trading in indigo dye.

Now on his way to success ,Schliemann wrote to a friend in Germany and had him pass on a marriage proposal to his childhood sweetheart. He was broken-hearted upon learning she had married someone else a month earlier.

Heinrich Schliemann.

Schliemann (right) traveled to California to inherit a fortune made by his brother in the 1849 gold rush. When he arrived there he discovered the money was gone, but Schliemann managed to double his own funds through the gold dust trade. Schliemann became a naturalized U.S. citizen, but returned to Russian in 1852. He married there, but it didn't work out.

Business was still good, though, and in 1863, at age forty-one, Schliemann retired a millionaire. This permitted him to travel, and he visited the island of Ithaca and Mycenae, the homes of Odysseus and Agamemnon, two of the kings who had fought in the Trojan war. Then he crossed the sea to Turkey to look for the city of Troy itself.

Most historians and archaeologists of the time believed that there never had been a real city of Troy. Of the few that did, most pointed to a hill named Bunarbashi located a few miles inland from the Aegean sea as the location.

Schliemann visited Bunarbashi, but it did not seem right to him. The Iliad mentioned that Mount Ida was visible from the walls of Troy. From Bunarbashi the mountain could not be seen. The Iliad also mentioned that the Greek warrior Achilles chased the Trojan Hector around the walls of the city three times. Bunarbashi had a steep drop on one side that made that impossible. The distance from the sea also seemed wrong. It was eight miles where Schliemann approximated from the text that it should not be more than four.

Using geographic clues from his copy of the Iliad, Schliemann discovered another hill near the village of Hissarlik that seemed to fit the bill. The distance from the sea was right, Mount Ida was visible, and the ground around the outcropping was flat so someone could run around the walls. Schliemann did some checking and found that a couple of other people had come to the same conclusion. In 1822 Charles Maclaren of Scotland published a book claiming Hissarlik as Troy. Frank Calvert, an Englishman living in Turkey, also believed the same thing. Calvert had acquired about half of the hill.

The German was excited, but before he started digging he went to Paris for two years to study archaeology, write a book on Troy and got his Ph.D. from Rostock University in Germany. Before setting out on his dig, Schliemann decided to divorce his current wife and marry another. He wrote to a friend in Greece asking him to locate him a Greek wife. Schliemann wrote that she needed to be young, an orphan, and most importantly a fan of Homer and the Iliad. The friend found seventeen-year-old Sophia Engastromenos. When they met, Schiemann quizzed her on her Homer and she passed. The two were married in Athens. Schiemann had found his own Helen.

A firman, or agreement, was obtained from the Turkish government that would allow Schliemann to dig at Hissarlik. The agreement stated that any treasure found must be divided with the government. Excavations started in 1871 with seventy local workers. Schliemann sunk shafts and trenches into the hillside. What he discovered was not the ruin of a city, but the remains of eleven cities, each one built on the ruins of the earlier settlements.

The dig at Hissarlik.

The bottom-most city, which is referred to as Tory I, Schliemann thought must have been destroyed by an earthquake because of the cracks in the foundations. Since the Greeks had destroyed the city with fire according to Homer, this could not be the remains of the city mentioned in the Iliad. Troy II, the next layer up, had been burned. Schliemann decided that this must be the Troy of Homer's tale. The next season he hired 160 men to dig down to this layer of the hill. Scientific archaeology had not really come of age yet and unfortunately this work destroyed much of the later history of the city (right).

The main objective of Schliemann's work was to find what he called "Priam's treasure." According to Homer, Priam ruled the city of Troy during the war. Schliemann felt sure that the King must have hidden his treasure somewhere in the city to avoid its capture by the Greeks should they win the battle.

In May or June of 1873, Schliemann and Sophia were out at the site watching the digging when Schliemann's eye caught site of a glint of copper coming from the side of one of the shafts. Climbing down, he realized he was looking at a copper jug embedded in the wall. There was a hole in the jug and he could see gold inside. Telling his wife to send the workers on a break, Schliemann used his knife to dig in the wall and free the jug. Sophia soon joined him and they both shared in the discovery.

"While the men were resting and eating," he later wrote, "I cut out the Treasure with a large knife. This required great exertion and involved great risk, since the wall of the fortification beneath which I had to dig threatened every moment to fall on me. But the sight of so many objects, every one of which is of inestimable value to archaeology, made me reckless. I never thought of any danger."

The golden earrings and necklaces fournd in Troy worn by Sophia Schliemann.

The treasure included golden earrings, necklaces, pots of silver and gold and other items. The most impressive of these were two gold diadems that might have been worn by a queen or princess. The treasure was smuggled back to Schliemann's home and then out of the country.

The Turkish government was not amused and sued Schliemann. They won a $5,000 judgment. Schliemann at first refused to pay, but then relented and gave the Turkish government five times the actual value of the fine. The Turks decided to allow Schliemann to again dig at Troy, but this time they would watch him like a hawk.

Schliemann decided to start another dig at Mycenae in Greece which had been the home of Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks that had attacked Troy. The city had lay in ruins since 468 B.C.. Unlike Troy, the location was well-known. Schliemann cleared the gate of the city and then started digging within a strange circle of stones inside the entrance. He found 19 graves and a treasure of grave goods worth more than the cache at Troy. One of them was a golden death mask (see top of page). Thinking he had found the grave of the king Schliemann said, "I have gazed on the face of Agamemnon!"

Despite all his luck at finding treasure, Schliemann was consistently wrong on his facts. Later archaeologists would date the treasure at Mycenae as being two hundred years before the time of Agamemnon and the treasure of Troy over a thousand years before Homer's Trojan War. In 1878 Schliemann returned to Troy and discovered two additional small treasure troves. In 1879 he took on an assistant, Wilhelm Dorpfeld. Dorpfeld would continue the work on Troy after Schliemann died, deciding that Troy VI was really the city of Homer's poem.

Dorpfeld would later change his mind when Carl Blegan examined the site in 1932. Blegan unearthed convincing evidence that Troy VII-a was the Homeric city. Dorpfeld, in his eighties by that time, came to agree with him.

In 1880 Schliemann, who was growing old by then, decided he needed to find a permanent home for the Treasure of Troy. He donated it to a museum in Berlin, Germany. It disappeared during WWII seized by Russian soldiers, and now resides in the Pushkin Museum in Russia.

Yes, Schliemann was very lucky. Recently some historians are asking if perhaps he was too lucky. Several incidents Schliemann wrote about in his life have turned out to be fabrications. This has made some archaeologists wonder if some of the treasure he found were actually modern forgeries planted to enhance his own reputation. Even the wonderful, but incorrectly named, "Mask of Agamemnon" has come under scrutiny. Did Schliemann fake it? Or at least alter it to appear more dramatic? For the time being the nobody has proved these things a fake and despite some falsehoods in his writings his claim that he found the city of Troy still stands.

As for Troy itself, many archaeological mysteries remain. Studies show that the people who built the first Troy were not the same people who later lived there during the Trojan War. Who were these early people and what became of them? Homer's poem suggests that the war was over the kidnaping of a Greek king's wife. It's hard to believe that the Greeks fought a ten-year war over one woman. What was the real reason for the hostilities? Legend has it that Troy fell when the Greeks built a wooden horse, filled it with soldiers and the unsuspecting Trojan's rolled it into the city. Is this true?

These questions remain as challenges to future archaeologists that would dig for treasures at the ancient city of Troy.

The Copper Scroll

It was in 1947 that a Bedouin shepherd made an astounding discovery in a small cave in the hills above the Dead Sea. He found hidden there the first of eight-hundred ancient manuscripts that date back at least to 70 A.D. These works, christened the Dead Sea Scrolls, offered biblical scholars a window to the religious thinking of that critical period. A time when Christianity was just forming and rabbinic Judaism was undergoing radical changes. An intellectual treasure, indeed.

Between 1952 and 1956 archaeologists searched the caves in the vicinity of Wadi Qumran (where the first documents were found) looking for other manuscripts. Fragments of scrolls were found in eleven caves. Some of the document pieces were as small as a thumbnail, other manuscripts almost undamaged. Many were written on paper or leather. Most were inspirational in nature.

The scroll labeled 3Q15, though, was an anomaly. It was unlike its companion manuscripts in almost every way. It was written in a different form of Hebrew than the rest. It was not made of leather or papyrus, but a sheet of almost pure copper. It was found alone in the back of a cave. The contents were not literary or doctrinal in nature. It was simply a list with 64 entries that described where to find a unique and fabulous treasure of incalculable value. Not an intellectual treasure, but one composed of gold and silver.

Item Seven: In the cavity of the Old House of Tribute, in the Chain Platform: sixty-five bars of gold.

The copper scroll was discovered in 1952 by an expedition sponsored by the Jordan Department of Antiquities. When found ,it was in two parts. Apparently when the scroll was being rolled up, the thin copper sheet snapped into two sections. After almost two-thousand years in the cave, the document was so badly oxidized that it would crumble if anyone attempted to open it. Even while it was still wound up, though, it became apparent to scholars studying what little text could be seen that the scroll was a list of treasure. Despite great enthusiasm to unwind the document and examine the contents, no method could be found that would preserve the manuscript from harm. Finally, after four years of debate, it was decided to send the scroll to Manchester College of Technology in England and have it opened by using a saw to cut it into sections (above-left).

All of the Dead Sea Scrolls were assigned to be translated and published by a scholarly editing team. Each member of the team could choose to take as much time as they wished to produce a translation of the scrolls. Until they published no outside scholar could examine the original texts. The scholar assigned to the copper scroll was a man named J. T. Milik. However, another member of the editing team, John Allegro, was very excited by the document and went to England to be present when the manuscript was cut open.

The rest of the editing team did not share Allegro's excitement abouty the scroll. Supporters of Allegro say that Milik purposely withheld his translation for years longer that necessary to make it difficult for Allegro to issue his own. In any case, Allegro published his own translation in 1960, two years before the official one from Milik (though after a preliminary translation by Milik). Needless to say this caused a tremendous controversy.

Item 12: In the court of [unreadable], nine cubits under the southern corner: gold and silver vessels for tithe, sprinkling basins, cups, sacrificial bowls, libations vessels; in all, six hundred and nine.

It was Milik's opinion that the treasure in the list was only imaginary. There was a tradition of stories in Jewish folklore that describe how treasures from the first temple were hidden. Those objects sometimes included the Ark, the incense alter and Menorah. They were often hidden by a famous biblical figure like Jeremiah. It was Milik's contention that the copper scroll was just another of these stories.

Allegro was of just the opposite belief and with good reason. The treasure stories from the first temple period were works of literature. The copper scroll had all the literary value of a tax return. It had no preamble. No story. No famous figure hiding legendary relics. It was simply a list of 64 locations and an accounting of objects hidden in each place. As scroll expert Dr. P. Kyle McCarter Jr. once put it, " is extremely difficult to imagine that anyone would have gone to the trouble to prepare a costly sheet of pure copper and imprint it with an extensive and sober list of locations unless he had been entrusted with hiding a real and immensely valuable treasure and wanted to make a record of this work that could withstand the ravages of time."

Item 14: In the pit which is to the north of Esplanade tithe vessels and garments. Its entrance is under the western corner.

If the scroll does list a real treasure, to whom did the treasure belong? Ruins at Qumran are thought to be the remains of a sect of Jews known as the Essenes. Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls found near Qumran are believed to be from their library at Qumran. The texts were probably hidden in preparation for an attack by Roman soldiers who were systematically putting down a rebellion in the land.

Did the treasure belong to the Essenes at Qumran? Probably not. The treasure is much too big to have been accumulated by such a small community. By Milik's count, some 4,630 talents of gold and silver are listed on the scroll. Though nobody is exactly sure how much a talent was at the time the scroll was written, the figure lies somewhere between twenty-five to seventy-five pounds. This would mean the treasure could consist of between 58 and 174 tons of precious metal.

There was probably only one organization in Israel at the time that could command anywhere near that amount of money: the temple at Jerusalem itself. But why would the instructions to find a treasure from Jerusalem be found many miles away at Qumran?

One suggestion made by researcher Manfred Lehmann is that the treasure consisted of funds accumulated throughout Israel from about 70 to 130 A.D. This was a time between two major revolts in Israel against the Romans. During this period taxes and tithes were still being collected to support the temple, but the temple had been destroyed. Since the collectors could not deliver the treasure, they buried it. Some of the evidence suggests that the scroll was placed in the cave around 70 A.D. If this was the case, the period where the treasure was gathered might have been earlier. Perhaps 25 to 75 A.D.. If this was so, the treasure might been already at the temple, but dispersed and buried with the expectation that the Romans would attack the city to put down the revolt. Something they did in 70 A.D..

Item 32: In the cave that is next to [unreadable] belonging to the House of Hakkoz, dig six cubits. There are six bars of gold.

The fact that some of the treasure was buried on the property of the House of Hakkoz is significant. Hakkoz was a priestly family who traced their lineage back to the time of King David. Later biblical references indicate that they were disqualified from priestly duties because of a problem with their genealogy. The family was probably assigned another important role in the temple. Some biblical references suggest they were the treasurers in the temple. If so, then the fact that some of the copper scroll treasure was buried on Hakkoz land provides a definite link between it and the temple.

Some argue that the amount of treasure involved is too large even to be the temple treasury. This was one of the facts cited by Milik to support his idea that the treasure is imaginary. It is likely, though, that the amounts reported in the copper scroll are somehow encoded and may not represent the actual values. Allegro noted that monetary values often varied depending on the region and that the "talent" mentioned on the scroll might be the equivalent of a smaller unit known as a "maneh." Such a reduction would yield a more reasonable, but still large, hoard of treasure.

Item 37: In the stubble field of the Shaveh, facing southwest, in an underground passage looking north, buried at twenty-four cubits: 67 talents.

After finishing his initial translation and sending it back to the authorities in Jordan, Allegro was surprised to see an official press release stating that the treasure mentioned in the copper scroll was without a doubt completely imaginary. He theorized that the official statement had been crafted to avoid setting off a treasure hunt throughout the region that might have destroyed important archaeological sites.

If that was the purpose of the release, it didn't work on Allegro. He soon gathered some help and in late 1959, to the chagrin of his colleagues, set out to find the treasure.

Allegro knew it would be extremely difficult to pinpoint the locations mentioned on the scroll. In the course of almost two-thousand years, the names of places often changed. Old names might now be attached to new locations. Others had disappeared completely. Still, he had some ideas about where to look for some of the items, and he followed up on his hunches.

The first item on the scroll had read:

Item 1: In the fortress which is in the Vale of Achor, forty cubits under the steps entering to the east: a money chest and its contents, of a weight of seventeen talents.

Allegro was certain that the Vale of Achor (which means "Trouble") was a plain near Qumran. There was only one major fortress there, a defense post on top of a cone-shaped hill. In ancient days it had been known as Hyrcania. Now it was called Khirber Mird. This led Allegro's group to a vaulted underground room in the fortress some forty-feet long, sixteen-feet wide and twenty-five feet high. Unfortunately they had no way of knowing where the original eastern entrance lay, so they were unable to guess at the location of the chest, if it was still there.

The group held out hope that they might be able to locate the next item on the list which Allegro thought was probably also somewhere in Khirber Mird.

Item 2: In the sepulchral monument, in the third course of stones: 100 bars of gold.

On the southwest edge of the fortress was a mound of rubble on top of a small hill. Allegro thought that this might be the monument. Unfortunately, the metal detector they had with them was affected by the natural magnetism of the rock and they couldn't get a reading on any metal in the monument. Fortunately they decided against tearing down the whole monument to look for treasure that might not be there. Allegro's group visited other locations, but was unable to find any of the treasure and eventually gave up the search.

A small earthen vessel found in a cave near Qumran. Part of the treasure?

In 1964 another man became intrigued with the copper scroll. Vendyl Jones, a former Baptist minister from Texas turned archaeologist, started looking for some of the items mentioned on the scroll. More than twenty years later, in 1988, his excavation team found a small earthen vessel in a cave near Qumran (left - copyright VJRI, photographer Yosi Cohen). The jug was filled with a dark liquid substance. Analysis of the material showed that it was a sweet-smelling oil probably used in the temple to cover sacrifices. Jones believes that this jug and its sacred contents was one of the items listed in the copper scroll.

Will the other locations mentioned on the list be found and the treasure recovered? One of the most intriguing ideas about the treasure is inspired by the last entry on the list.

Item 64: In a pit adjoining on the north, in a hole opening northward, and buried at its mouth: a copy of this document, with an explanation and their measurements, and an inventory of each and every thing.

This entry seems to imply that there is another copy of the scroll with more complete information. In fact, some have suggested that neither the original copper scroll, or that one mentioned in entry 64 are sufficient by themselves to locate all the treasure. Only someone with both can hope to recover the treasure.

If this is the case, does the duplicate scroll await a finder? Is it still buried in its hole? Or perhaps it is hidden underneath the floor boards of an antique dealer's home awaiting a buyer to offer the owner the right price. Or perhaps it has been destroyed forever, closing the chapter on this mysterious treasure of the copper scroll.

Lost Nazi gold

Deep in the Austrian Alps early one morning in 1945, Ida Weisenbacher answered a knock at her door. The 21-year-old Austrian farm girl found herself confronted with a Nazi officer.

"Get up immediately," he told her. "Hitch up the horse wagon. We need you."

Weisenbacher did as she was told and pulled the family wagon up next to a military vehicle. Soldiers then loaded heavy boxes onto the wagon. Each was marked with a series of letters and numbers that gave no hint as to the contents. When the wagon was loaded the officer told the girl to drive it to nearby Lake Toplitz. Once she was given the destination the need for the wagon became obvious: The road did not go all the way to the lake. Only the horse-drawn wagon could take the cargo over the final distance.

It took three trips to transport the whole load to the lake. On the final run Weisenbacher saw that the soldiers were out on the lake and that the boxes were being dropped into the water. They quickly sunk out of sight. Weisenbacher wondered what the boxes contained that they had to be sunk to the bottom of that deep, dark, cold place. What secrets did they possess?

"The Largest Robbery in History"

During World War II German troops invaded numerous countries across Europe. As they did so they looted the bank reserves of those countries and took the gold back to Germany. Victims of the holocaust were also stripped of any valuables they had, including gold jewelry. The gold from these sources was then melted down and cast into bars with the mark of the German central bank, the Reichsbank, imprinted on them. Much of this loot was used to pay for the war effort, but a large portion was still intact and in Nazi hands as the end of the war neared.

In February of 1945 the President of the Reichsbank ordered that the majority of the gold reserves be sent to the village of Merkers some 200 miles south of Berlin. There it was concealed deep underground in a potassium mine. The mine was also used to store many art treasures, some belonging to German museums, others looted from conquered nations.

In April Merkers was captured by the U.S. Third Army commanded by Lieutenant General George Patton. French civilians who had worked at the mine told the American military what was hidden there and the hoard was soon in American hands. A tally of the treasure showed that there were 8,198 bars of gold bullion in the mine along with gold coins, silver bars, and paper money. The total value (in 1945 dollars) was estimated to be over $520 million . This constituted the bulk of the Nazi loot, but not all of it. Some of the gold and other valuables had been left in Berlin.

By April of 1945 the Allies were closing in on the German capital and Nazi officials decided to move the remaining contents of the Reichsbank to Oberbayern in southern Bavaria. There, in the mountains, the Nazis hoped to hold out and try to regroup. At least nine tons of gold were sent to Oberbayern along with bags of foreign currency and coins. This treasure, including 730 gold bars, was thought to be hidden around Lake Walchensee. After the end of the war U.S. soldiers were able to find and account for $11 million of that final hoard. Over $3 million was never found, however. Some small portion of it might have been smuggled out of the country by escaping Nazi officials, but what happened to the rest of the missing gold?

The disappearance of this treasure was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as "the largest robbery in the history of the world."

Lake Toplitz

Lake Toplitz is one mile long and lies between steep limestone cliffs in the Salzkammergut region in Austria. It is a beautiful, but remote place. The water is over 300 feet deep and oxygenless. Without oxygen nothing can live in the lake except some specialized bacteria and one specie of worm. With its dark, deep recesses and isolated location, the lake seems the perfect place to hide something.

Were those boxes seen by Ida Weisenbacher filled with some of the missing gold? A lot of people thought they might be. In 1959 the German magazine Stern sent divers to the lake to investigate. What they found was not gold, but crates of counterfeit British pounds, secret documents and a printing press.

Operation Bernhard

It was learned what that had found was remnants of a secret German project called Bernhard. The idea for the operation had come from Adolph Hitler himself. Skilled printers were recruited from concentration camps and given the best printing and graphic equipment available. Their assignment was to counterfeit enemy currency. It would be used to pay for the war effort and at the same time weaken the enemies' economies.

It is estimated that the equivalent of $4.5 billion was forged in operation Bernhard. Most of the false money were British pounds. The operation was so successful that at the end of the war the Bank of England recalled and redesigned all it's currency. The American dollar was also a target, but the war ended before any significant amount of United States currency could be made.

When operation Bernhard was moved out of Berlin, the S.S. apparently chose to hide the evidence at the bottom of Lake Toplitz. Was anything else also hidden down there?

In 1963 a German sport diver was hired to find out. Unfortunately he died in the attempt. The Austrian government responded by making it illegal to dive in the lake for the purpose of hunting treasure. They also started a search of their own. The operation located eighteen crates of counterfeit money on the bottom along with the printing plates needed to make forgeries. Rockets, projectiles, mines and other experimental weapons were also salvaged from the bottom of the lake. Apparently during the war Toplitz had been used to test torpedoes and even a missile that could be launched by a submarine from underwater.

By 1983 it was thought that the lake was completely cleaned of all Nazi material, but in that same year a biologist, Professor Hans Fricke, started diving in Toplitz and found even more items. Fricke hadn't initially been interested in treasure, but had obtained special permission to dive in the lake to research what kind of life might survive in its oxygenless depths. He discovered several types of bacteria and a worm that manage to live under the hash conditions. He also found more counterfeit British pounds along with additional military hardware. His discoveries sparked more speculation that the lake still hid gold bullion. If it did, though, Fricke never came across it.

The most complete examination of the lake came in 2000 when the American television network CBS, along with the World Jewish Congress, sponsored an exploration of the Toplitz by a company called Oceaneering Technologies. Oceaneering Technologies went over the bottom of the lake inch-by-inch using a remote-controlled submarine named Phantom. They found the floor of the lake covered with trees that had fallen off the surrounding mountains. In some places the wood was stacked as deep as sixty feet. This made using the submarine difficult. Its long tether, which connected it to the crew on the surface, was always in danger of being tangled in the dead branches and roots. When the robot submarine found what looked like the remains of a crate, Oceaneering sent down a manned submarine that found more forged British bank notes.

Chiemsee Cauldron

It would seem that with all this searching the reputation of Lake Toplitz as a location for lost treasure should be gone. This isn't the case. Some people continue to believe that the lake or others like it in Austria or Germany still hold millions in gold. Their speculation was strengthened in 2003 when an amateur diver discovered a solid gold cauldron at the bottom of Lake Chiemsee in Bavaria. The cauldron was decorated with Celtic and Indo-Germanic figures and is thought to have been commissioned by a top Nazi official who drew inspiration from such mythology. It is estimated that the cauldron, which weighs 23 pounds, is worth almost $100,000.

Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan was, at its height in the first half of the 1st millennium CE, the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas. The city during its existence was larger than any European city of the same era, possibly including Rome. The civilization and cultural complex associated with the site is also referred to as Teotihuacan. Its influence spread throughout Mesoamerica; evidence of Teotihuacano presence, if not outright political and economic control, can be seen at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya region. The city was located in what is now the San Juan Teotihuacán municipality in the State of México, Mexico, approximately 40 km (24.8 mi) northeast of Mexico City. It covers a total surface area of 83 kms and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

The early history of Teotihuacan is quite mysterious, and the origin of its founders is debated. For many years, archaeologists believed it was built by the Toltec. This belief was based on colonial period texts such as the Florentine Codex which attributed the site to the Toltecs. However, the Nahuatl word "Toltec" generally means "craftsman of the highest level" and may not always refer to the archaeological Toltec civilization centered at Tula, Hidalgo. Since Toltec civilization flourished centuries after Teotihuacan, they cannot be understood as the city's founders.

In the Late Formative period, a number of urban centers arose in central Mexico. The most prominent of these appears to have been Cuicuilco, on the southern shore of Lake Texcoco. Scholars have speculated that the eruption of the Xitle volcano may have prompted a mass emigration out of the central valley and into the Teotihuacan valley. These settlers may have founded and/or accelerated the growth of Teotihuacan.

Other scholars have put forth the Totonac people as the founders of Teotihuacan, and the debate continues to this day. There is evidence that at least some of the people living in Teotihuacan came from areas influenced by the Teotihuacano civilization, including the Zapotec, Mixtec and Maya peoples. The culture and architecture of Teotihuacan was influenced by the Olmec people, who are considered to be the "mother civilization" of Mesoamerica. The earliest buildings at Teotihuacan date to about 200 BCE, and the largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun, was completed by 100 CE.

The Pyramid of the Sun

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacán and one of the largest in Mesoamerica. Found along the Avenue of the Dead, in between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, and in the shadow of the massive mountain Cerro Gordo, the pyramid is part of a large complex in the heart of the city.

The name Pyramid of the Sun comes from the Aztecs, who visited the city of Teotihuacán centuries after it was abandoned; the name given to the pyramid by the Teotihuacanos is unknown. It was constructed in two phases. The first construction stage, around 100 A.D., brought the pyramid to nearly the size it is today. The second round of construction resulted in its completed size of 738 feet (225 meters) across and 246 feet (75 meters) high, making it the third largest pyramid in the world behind the Great Pyramid of Cholula and The Great Pyramid. The second phase also saw the construction of an altar atop of the pyramid, which has not survived into modern times. The Adosada platform was added to the pyramid in the early third century, at around the same time that the Ciudadela and Temple of the Feathered Serpent, Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent were constructed.

Over the structure the ancient Teotihuacanos finished their pyramid with lime plaster imported from surrounding areas, on which they painted brilliantly colored murals. While the pyramid has endured for centuries, the paint and plaster have not and are no longer visible. Few images are thought to have been included in the mural decorations on the sides of the pyramid. Jaguar heads and paws, stars, and snake rattles are among the few images associated with the pyramids.

It is thought that the pyramid venerated a deity within Teotihuacan society but the destruction of the temple on top of the pyramid, by both deliberate and natural forces prior to the archaeological study of the site, has so far prevented identification of the pyramid with any particular deity. Some scholars have suggested that the deity of the pyramid was the Great Goddess, one of two major Teotihuacan deities and one of the few goddesses in ancient Mesoamerica. However, little evidence exists to support this theory.

Modern investigations

The first major archaeological excavation of the site was done by Leopoldo Batres in 1906. Batres supervised restoration of the Pyramid for the 1910 centennial of Mexican independence. Some aspects of Batres' reconstruction of the pyramid have been questioned by later archaeologists. Subsequent excavations of Teotihuacan have continued to the present. In 1925 Pedro Dosal discovered skeletons at the 4 corners of the foundations of the temple, which he interpreted as human sacrifices at the dedication of the temple.

Structure location and orientation

The orientation of the structure may hold some anthropological significance. The pyramid is oriented slightly northwest of the horizon point of the setting sun on two days a year, August 12 and April 29, which are about one divinatory calendar year apart for the Teotihuacanos. The day of August 12 is significant because it would have marked the date of the beginning of the present era and the initial day of the Maya long count calendar. In addition, many important astrological events can be viewed from the location of the pyramid that are important in terms of both agriculture and belief systems of the ancient society.

The pyramid was built over a man-made tunnel leading to a "cave" located six meters down beneath the center of the structure. Originally this was believed to be a naturally formed lava tube cave and interpreted as possibly the place of Chicomoztoc, the place of human origin according to Nahua legends. More recent excavations have suggested that the space is man-made instead, and could have served as a royal tomb. In 2008 scientists used muon detectors to try to find other chambers within the interior of the pyramid, but substantial looting has prevented the discovery of a function for the chambers in Teotihuacan society.

Recovered artifacts

Only a few caches of artifacts have been found in and around the pyramid. Obsidian arrowheads and human figurines have been discovered inside the pyramid and similar objects have been found at the nearby Pyramid of the Moon and Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent in the Ciudadela. These objects may have represented sacrificial victims. In addition, burial sites of children have been found in excavations at the corners of the pyramid. It is believed that these burials were part of a sacrificial ritual dedicating the building of the pyramid.

Temple of the Feathered Serpent

The "Temple of the Feathered Serpent" of Teotihuacan is an important religious and political[citation needed] center of the city. The Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent has revealed a great deal about religious ceremonies, burials, and politics in ancient Mesoamerica for the site of Teotihuacan. The structure contains some of the earliest-known representations of the Mesoamerican "plumed serpent" deity figure, most generally known by the term Quetzalcoatl, from the Nahuatl language of the much-later Aztec peoples.

The Feathered Serpent Pyramid is located at the Pre-Columbian site of Teotihuacán, which was at one time the largest city in the western hemisphere. The Feathered Serpent Pyramid is located in the Ciudadela at the South end of the Avenue of the Dead, a long avenue which is surrounded by platforms displaying the talud-tablero architectural style.

The Ciudadela

The Ciudadela is a Spanish term first used when the Spanish conquistadors arrived at Teotihuacán. It is a structure with high walls and a large courtyard that surrounds the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. The Ciudadela¹s courtyard is massive enough that it could house the entire adult population of Teotihuacán within its walls, which was estimated to be one hundred to two hundred thousand people during its peak. Within the Ciudadela there are several monumental structures, including the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, two mansions on the North and South side of the pyramid and the Adosada platform. The Adosada platform is located on the front, West side of the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, blocking its front view.


The Feathered Serpent Pyramid is built in the talud-tablero style, with several platforms forming the pyramid. In between every platform there is a wall where a feathered serpent¹s head sticks outward. Its body wraps around the entire pyramid. Along with the feathered serpent there is also another figure that some believe is a representation of a crocodile or a representation of the deity Tlaloc. These figures alternate around the pyramid. In the eyes of these figures there is a spot for obsidian glass to be put in, so when the light hits, its eyes would glimmer. In between the heads a row of three shells can be found, showing that the people of Teotihuacán were trading with people along the Mexican coast. In antiquity the entire pyramid was painted. Today it is hidden by the adosada platform built in the 4th century hinting at political restructurisation of Teotihuacan during that time.

Burials at the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent

The people of Teotihuacan believed in ritual sacrifice to satisfy the gods. Multiple burials were found at the pyramid, and it is believed that they were sacrificed as part of the dedication of the temple. The numbers of the burials are 4, 8, 9, 13, 18, and 20; these numbers represent significant ideology in Mesoamerica. There are four directions in the world, nine layers of their underworld, thirteen layers of heaven and earth, and a ritual calendar of thirteen months of twenty days or two hundred and sixty day calendar, and a solar calendar of eighteen months of twenty days.

Relation to the Calendar

As stated above there was a correlation between the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent and a calendar for the people of Teotihuacán. The pyramid also is thought to contain two hundred and sixty feathered serpent heads between the platforms. Each of these feathered serpents also contains an open area in its mouth. This open area is big enough to put a place holder in. Thus, it is believed that the people of Teotihuacán would move this place marker around the pyramid to represent the ritual calendar. When a spiritual day would arrive the people would gather within the walls of the Ciudadela and celebrate the ritual.

Political influences

The Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent was not only a religious center but also a political center as well. The rulers of Teotihuacán were not only the leaders of men; they were also the spiritual leaders of the city. The two mansions near the pyramid are thought to have been occupied by powerful families. An interesting feature of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid is that there are examples of a shift in power or ideology in Teotihuacán and for the Pyramid itself. The construction of the Adosada platform came much later than the Feathered Serpent Pyramid. The Adosada platform is built directly in front of the pyramid and blocks its front view. Thus, it is thought that the political leaders lost favor or that the ideology of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid lost virtue and was covered up by the Adosada.

Teotihuacan reached its zenith between 150 and 450, when it was the center of a powerful culture whose influence extended through much of the Mesoamerican region. At its height the city covered over 30 kms (over 11 1/2 square miles), and probably housed a population of over 150,000 people, possibly as many as 250,000. Various districts in the city housed people from across the Teotihuacano region of influence that spread south as far as Guatemala. Notably absent from the city are fortifications and military structures.

The nature of political and cultural interactions between Teotihuacan and the centers of the Maya region (as well as elsewhere in Mesoamerica) has been a long-standing and significant area for debate in Mesoamerican scholarship. It is clearly established that substantial exchange and interaction occurred over the centuries from the Terminal Preclassic to the Mid Classic period, and that "Teotihuacan-inspired ideologies" and motifs persisted at Maya centers into the Late Classic long after Teotihuacan itself had declined.

However, there are several schools of thought contending the extent and degree of Teotihuacano influence, which range from a direct and even militaristic dominance, to one where the adoption of 'foreign' traits was part of a selective, conscious and bi-directional cultural diffusion. But because of new discoveries, it now seems that Teotihuacan was not much more different from the later empires, such as the Toltec and Aztec. It is believed that Teotihuacán had a major influence on the Preclassic and Classic Maya, most likely by conquering several Maya centers and regions including Tikal and the region of Peten, and influencing Maya culture.

Architectural styles prominent at Teotihuacan are also found widely dispersed at a number of distant Mesoamerican sites, which some researchers have interpreted as evidence for Teotihuacan's far-reaching interactions and political or militaristic dominance.

A style that has been particularly associated with Teotihuacan is known as talud-tablero, in which an inwards-sloping external side of a structure (talud) is surmounted by a rectangular panel (tablero). Variants of the generic style are found in a number of Maya region sites, including Tikal, Kaminaljuyu, Copan, Becan, and Oxkintok, and particularly in the Petén Basin and the central Guatemalan highlands.

However, it has been established that the talud-tablero style pre-dates its earliest appearance at Teotihuacan in the Early Classic period, and instead seems to have first originated in the Tlaxcala-Puebla region during the Preclassic.

Analyses have also been able to trace the development into local variants of the talud-tablero style at sites such as Tikal, where its use precedes the 5th-century appearance of iconographic motifs shared with Teotihuacan. Thus it appears that the talud-tablero style disseminated through Mesoamerica generally from the end of the Preclassic and not specifically or only via Teotihuacano influence. It is unclear how or from where the style spread into the Maya region.

The city was a center of industry, home to many potters, jewelers and craftsmen. Teotihuacan is known for producing a great number of obsidian artifacts. Unfortunately no ancient Teotihuacano non-ideographic texts are known to exist (or known to have existed), but mentions of the city in inscriptions from Maya cities show that Teotihuacan nobility travelled to and perhaps conquered local rulers as far away as Honduras. Maya inscriptions mention an individual nicknamed by scholars as "Spearthrower Owl", apparently ruler of Teotihuacan, who reigned for over 60 years and installed his relatives as rulers of Tikal and Uaxactun in Guatemala.

Most of what we infer about the culture at Teotihuacan comes from the murals that adorn the site (and others, like the Wagner Murals, found in private collections) and from hieroglyphic inscriptions made by the Maya describing their encounters with Teotihuacano conquerors. The creation of murals, perhaps tens of thousands of murals, reached its height between 450 and 650 CE. The painters' artistry was unrivalled in Mesoamerica and has been compared with that of Florence, Italy.

Teotihuacano culture


There is archaeological evidence that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic city, with distinct Zapotec, Mixtec, Maya and what seem to be Nahua quarters. The Totonacs have always maintained that they were the ones who built it, a story that was corroborated later by the Aztecs.


In his 2001 paper,[17] Terrence Kaufman presents linguistic evidence suggesting that an important ethnic group in Teotihuacán was of Totonacan and/or Mixe-Zoquean linguistic affiliation. He uses this to explain general influences from Totonacan and Mixe-Zoquean languages in many other Mesoamerican languages many of which do not have any known history of contact with either of the above-mentioned groups.


The religion of Teotihuacan is similar to those of other Mesoamerican cultures. Many of the same gods were worshiped, including the Feathered Serpent and The Rain god. Teotihuacan was a major religious center, and the priests probably had a great deal of political power. As with other Mesoamerican cultures, Teotihuacanos practiced human sacrifice. Human bodies and animal sacrifices have been found during excavations of the pyramids at Teotihuacan; it is believed that when the buildings were expanded, sacrifices were made to dedicate the new building. The victims were probably enemy warriors captured in battle and then brought to the city to be ritually sacrificed so the city could prosper. Some were decapitated, some had their hearts removed, others were killed by being hit several times over the head and some were even buried alive. Animals that were considered sacred and represented mythical powers and military might were also buried alive but imprisoned in cages: cougars, a wolf, eagles, a falcon, an owl, and even venomous snakes.

Site Layout

The city's broad central avenue, called "Avenue of the Dead" (a translation from its Nahuatl name Miccoatli), is flanked by impressive ceremonial architecture, including the immense Pyramid of the Sun (second largest in the New World after the Great Pyramid of Cholula) and the Pyramid of the Moon. Along the Avenue of the Dead are many smaller talud-tablero platforms. The Aztecs believed they were tombs, inspiring the name of the avenue. Now they are known to be ceremonial platforms that were topped with temples. Further down the Avenue of the Dead is the area known as the Citadel, containing the ruined Temple of the Feathered Serpent. This area was a large plaza surrounded by temples that formed the religious and political center of the city. The name "Citadel" was given to it by the Spanish, who believed it was a fort. Most of the common people lived in large apartment buildings spread across the city. Many of the buildings contained workshops that produced pottery and other goods.

The geographical layout of Teotihuacan is a good example of the Mesoamerican tradition of planning cities, settlements and buildings as a representation of the Teotihuacano view of the Universe. Its urban grid is aligned to precisely 15.5º east of North. The Street of the Dead, in particular, seems to line up with Cerro Gordo to the north of the Pyramid of the Moon. Pecked-cross circles throughout the city and in the surrounding regions indicate how the grid was managed over long distances.

Archaeological site

Knowledge of the huge ruins of Teotihuacan was never lost. After the fall of the city, various squatters lived on the site. During Aztec times, the city was a place of pilgrimage and identified with the myth of Tollan, the place where the sun was created. Teotihuacán astonished the Spanish conquistadores during the post-conquest era. Today Teotihuacan is one of the most noted archaeological attractions in Mexico.

Excavations and investigations

Minor archaeological excavations were conducted in the 19th century, and in 1905 major projects of excavation and restoration began under archaeologist Leopoldo Batres. The Pyramid of the Sun was restored to celebrate the centennial of Mexican Independence in 1910. Excavations at the Ciudadela were carried out in the 1920s, supervised by Manuel Gamio; other sections of the site were excavated in the 1940s and 50s. The first site-wide project of restoration and excavation was carried out by INAH from 1960-65 and supervised by Jorge Acosta. This focused on clearing the Street of the Dead, consolidating the structures facing it, and excavating the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl.

During the installation of a 'sound and light' show in 1971, the entrance to a tunnel and cave system underneath the Pyramid of the Sun was accidentally discovered. Long thought to be a natural cave, more recent examinations have established the tunnel was entirely artificial. The interior of Pyramid of the Sun has never been fully excavated.

Another major program of excavation and restoration was carried out 1980-82 at the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent and the Street of the Dead Complex. Most recently, a series of excavations at the Pyramid of the Moon have greatly expanded evidence of cultural practices.


It was previously believed that sometime during the 7th or 8th centuries, the city was sacked and burned by invaders, possibly the Toltecs. More recent evidence, however, seems to indicate that the burning was limited to the structures and dwellings associated primarily with the elite class. Some see this as evidence that the burning was from an internal uprising and that the invasion theory is flawed due to the fact that early archaeological work on the city was focused exclusively on the palaces and temples, places used by the elites, and because all of these sites showed burning, archaeologists concluded that the whole city was burned. Instead, it is now known that the destruction in the city was focused on major civic structures along the Avenue of the Dead.

Some statues seem to have been destroyed in a methodical way, their fragments dispersed. Evidence for population decline beginning around the 6th century lends some support to the internal unrest hypothesis. The decline of Teotihucán has been correlated with the droughts related to the Climate changes of 535-536 CE. This theory is supported by the archaeological remains that show a rise in the percentage of juvenile skeletons with evidence of malnutrition during the 6th century. This does not conflict with either of the above theories however since both increased warfare and internal unrest can also be effects of a general period of drought and famine.

Other nearby centers such as Cholula, Xochicalco, and Cacaxtla attempted to fill the powerful vacuum left by Teotihuacan's decline. They may have aligned themselves against Teotihuacan in an attempt to reduce its influence and power. The art and architecture at these sites shows an interest in emulating Teotihuacán forms, but also a more eclectic mix of motifs and iconography from other parts of Mesoamerica, particularly the Maya region.


The Pleiades also known as M45 or the Seven Sisters, is the name of an open cluster in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest to the Earth of all open clusters, probably the best known and certainly the most striking to the naked eye. This asterism is sometimes referred to as the Maia Nebula, perhaps erroneously considering that the reflection nebulosity surrounding Maia is extrinsic.

The cluster is dominated by hot blue stars, which have formed within the last 100 million years. Dust that forms faint reflection nebulosity around the brightest stars was thought at first to be left over from the formation of the cluster but is now known to be an unrelated dust cloud that the stars are currently passing through. Astronomers estimate that the cluster will survive for about another 250 million years, when it will have dispersed due to gravitational interactions with the spiral arms of the galaxy and giant molecular clouds.

Observational History

The Pleiades are a prominent sight in the Northern Hemisphere in winter and in the Southern Hemisphere in summer, and have been known since antiquity to cultures all around the world, including the Maori and Australian Aborigines, the Chinese, the Maya called them Tzab-ek, the Aztec and the Sioux of North America. Some Greek astronomers considered them to be a distinct constellation, and they are mentioned by Hesiod, and in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. They are also mentioned three times in the Bible (Job 9:9, 38:31; Amos 5:8).

The Pleiades (Krittika) are particularly revered in Hindu mythology as the six mothers of the war god Skanda, who developed six faces for each one of them. In Islam The prominent commentators of the Noble Quran like Ibn Kathir mention At-thuraiya (the Pleiades) to mean the Star in Najm 53:1 according to tafsir of Mujahid ibn Jabr, as confirmed by Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari. Also there is a hadith in relation to verse of Quran Al-Jumua 62:3 suggests that if faith were near At-thuraiya (the Pleiades), then a descendent of these folk, i.e, Salman's Salman Al-Farsi would attain it.

A Spitzer image of the Pleiades in infrared light, showing the associated dust. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech They have long been known to be a physically related group of stars rather than any chance alignment. The Reverend John Michell calculated in 1767 that the probability of a chance alignment of so many bright stars was only 1 in 500,000, and so correctly surmised that the Pleiades and many other clusters of stars must be physically related. When studies were first made of the stars' proper motions, it was found that they are all moving in the same direction across the sky, at the same rate, further demonstrating that they were related.

Charles Messier measured the position of the cluster and included it as M45 in his catalogue of comet-like objects, published in 1771. Along with the Orion Nebula and the Praesepe cluster, Messier's inclusion of the Pleiades has been noted as curious, as most of Messier's objects were much fainter and more easily confused with comets - something which seems scarcely possible for the Pleiades. One possibility is that Messier simply wanted to have a larger catalogue than his scientific rival Lacaille, whose 1755 catalogue contained 42 objects, and so he added some bright, well-known objects to boost his list.


The distance to the Pleiades is an important first step in the so-called cosmic distance ladder, a sequence of distance scales for the whole universe. The size of this first step calibrates the whole ladder, and the scale of this first step has been estimated by many methods. As the cluster is so close to the Earth, its distance is relatively easy to measure. Accurate knowledge of the distance allows astronomers to plot a Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram for the cluster which, when compared to those plotted for clusters whose distance is not known, allows their distances to be estimated. Other methods can then extend the distance scale from open clusters to galaxies and clusters of galaxies, and a cosmic distance ladder can be constructed. Ultimately astronomers' understanding of the age and future evolution of the universe is influenced by their knowledge of the distance to the Pleiades.

Results prior to the launch of the Hipparcos satellite generally found that the Pleiades were about 135 parsecs away from Earth. Hipparcos caused consternation among astronomers by finding a distance of only 118 parsecs by measuring the parallax of stars in the cluster, a technique which should yield the most direct and accurate results. Later work has consistently found that the Hipparcos distance measurement for the Pleiades was in error, but it is not yet known why the error occurred. The distance to the Pleiades is currently thought to be the higher value of about 135 parsecs.


The cluster is about 12 light years in diameter and contains approximately 500 stars in total. It is dominated by young, hot blue stars, up to 14 of which can be seen with the naked eye depending on local observing conditions. The arrangement of the brightest stars is somewhat similar to Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. The total mass contained in the cluster is estimated to be about 800 solar masses.

The cluster contains many brown dwarfs, which are objects with less than about 8% of the Sun's mass, not heavy enough for nuclear fusion reactions to start in their cores and become proper stars. They may constitute up to 25% of the total population of the cluster, although they contribute less than 2% of the total mass. Astronomers have made great efforts to find and analyse brown dwarfs in the Pleiades and other young clusters, because they are still relatively bright and observable, while brown dwarfs in older clusters have faded and are much more difficult to study.

Also present in the cluster are several white dwarfs. Given the young age of the cluster normal stars are not expected to have had time to evolve into white dwarfs, a process which normally takes several billion years. It is believed that, rather than being individual low- to intermediate-mass stars, the progenitors of the white dwarfs must have been high-mass stars in binary systems. Transfer of mass from the higher-mass star to its companion during its rapid evolution would result in a much quicker route to the formation of a white dwarf, although the details of this supposed transfer from a deeper gravity well to a lesser are unexplained.

Age and Future Evolution

Ages for star clusters can be estimated by comparing the H-R diagram for the cluster with theoretical models of stellar evolution, and using this technique, ages for the Pleiades of between 75 and 150 million years have been estimated. The spread in estimated ages is a result of uncertainties in stellar evolution models. In particular, models including a phenomenon known as convective overshoot, in which a convective zone within a star penetrates an otherwise non-convective zone, result in higher apparent ages.

Another way of estimating the age of the cluster is by looking at the lowest-mass objects. In normal main sequence stars, lithium is rapidly destroyed in nuclear fusion reactions, but brown dwarfs can retain their lithium. Due to its very low ignition temperature of 2.5 million kelvins, the highest-mass brown dwarfs will burn lithium eventually, and so determining the highest mass of brown dwarfs still containing lithium in the cluster can give an idea of its age. Applying this technique to the Pleiades gives an age of about 115 million years.

The cluster's relative motion will eventually lead it to be located, as seen from Earth many millennia in the future, passing below the feet of what is currently the constellation of Orion. Also, like most open clusters, the Pleiades will not stay gravitationally bound forever, as some component stars will be ejected after close encounters and others will be stripped by tidal gravitational fields. Calculations suggest that the cluster will take about 250 million years to disperse, with gravitational interactions with giant molecular clouds and the spiral arms of the galaxy also hastening its demise.

Names and Technical Information

The nine brightest stars of the Pleiades are named for the Seven Sisters of Greek mythology: Sterope, Merope, Electra, Maia, Taygete, Celaeno and Alcyone, along with their parents Atlas and Pleione. As daughters of Atlas, the Hyades were sisters of the Pleiades. The name of the cluster itself is of Greek origin, though of uncertain etymology. Suggested derivations include: from plein, to sail, making the Pleiades the "sailing ones"; from pleos, full or many; or from peleiades, flock of doves.

Seven Dusty Sisters
NASA - April 13, 2007

The Pleiades in Folklore

Ancient civilizations looked to the heavens as guides for their daily lives. They attributed many things to these gods who were both god and bad - kind and harsh. They created mythological tales about those who came from the different star systems. They believed that the gods lived in the heavens and sometimes flew down to the planet bringing messages of teaching or warnings of disasters. These people communicated with their gods through meditation and dreamtime. They believed that the gods would one day return.

The alignment in the heavens is like a blueprint upon which those on the planet can plan their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly activities. The heavens were also the way they plotted their seasons so they would know when to plant and when to harvests, when the waters would come and when it would be dry. In essence they worshipped those from the skies, the Pleiades being a major factor for many civilizations.

The Pleiades' high visibility in the night sky has guaranteed it a special place in many cultures, both ancient and modern.

The Pleiades are mentioned three times in the Bible, twice by name and once by reference, in Job 9:9, again in Job 38:31, and alluded to in Amos 5:8.

Hebrew - Kimah: a cluster (Hebrew)

Egypt - the Pleaides represent the goddess Net or Neith, the "divine mother and lady of heaven".

Japan - the word for Pleiades translates to 'Subaru'. If you examine the insignia logo for this line of cars, you'll see a stylized symbol of the Seven Sisters as ancient mythology meets modern industry.

China - Kimah - The Pleiades seem to be the among the first star mentioned in astronomical literature, appearing in Chinese annals of 2357 B.C. China - The Blossom Stars and Flower Stars

Rome - The Bunch of Grapes and The Spring Virgins

Old English, Old German, Russian, Czech and Hungarian - The Hen and Chicks

To the Vikings, they were Freya's hens, and their name in many old European languages compares them to a hen with chicks.

To the Bronze Age people of Europe, such as the Celts (and probably considerably earlier), the Pleiades were associated with mourning and with funerals, since at that time in history, on the cross-quarter day between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, which was a festival devoted to the remembrance of the dead, the cluster rose in the eastern sky as the sun's light faded in the evening. It was from this acronychal rising that the Pleiades became associated with tears and mourning. As a result of precession over the centuries, the Pleiades no longer marked the festival, but the association has nevertheless persisted, and accounts for the significance of the Pleiades astrologically.

The early Monte Alto Culture and others in Guatemala such as Ujuxte and Takalik Abaj, made its early observatories, using the Pleiades and Eta Draconnis as reference, they were called the seven sisters, and thought to be their original land.

Heliacal risings very often mark important calendar points for ancient peoples. The heliacal rising of the Pleiades (around June) also begins the new year for the Maori of New Zealand, who call the Pleiades Matariki. There is an analogous holiday in Hawaii known as Makalii.

Indigenous Australians: Depending on the tribe or clan, some Indigenous Australian peoples believed the Pleiades were a woman who had been nearly raped by Kidili, the man in the moon. Another version, often painted by Gabriella Possum Nungurayyi as this is her dreaming (or creation story), daughter of the late Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri from the Central desert art movement of Papunya, depicts the story of seven Napaltjarri sisters being chased by a man named Jilbi Tjakamarra. He would practice love magic to seduce the sisters but they had no intention of being with him and ran away. They sat down at Uluru to search for honey ants but when they saw Jilbi, they went to Kurlunyalimpa and with the spirits of Uluru, transformed into stars. Jilbi transforms himself into what is commonly known as the Morning Star in Orion's belt, thus continuing to chase the seven sisters across the sky. Pitjantjatjara tribe - Kungkarungkara: the ancestral women. Australian Aboriginal - Adnyamathanha tribe - Makara: The wives of stars in the Orion constellation

In Japan, the Pleiades are known as Subaru, and have given their name to the car manufacturer whose logo incorporates six stars. Subaru Telescope, located in Mauna Kea Observatory on Hawaii, is named after the Pleiades also.

In Chinese constellations, they are mao, the Hairy Head of the white tiger of the West, while the name of the Hindu God Kartikeya means him of the Pleiades.

South Africa - Khuseti: the stars of rain, or rain bearers. (Khoikhoi tribe)

In the Swahili language of East Africa they are called "kilimia" which means "digging stars" as their visibility was taken as a sign to prepare digging as the onset of the rain was near.

Hindu - The Flames of Agni (the god of Fire): the divinities of fire in its beneficent form and the wet nurses for Kumara, the god of War. Also The General of the Celestial Armies. In Western astrology they represent coping with sorrow and were considered a single one of the medieval fixed stars. As such, they are associated with quartz and fennel. In Indian astrology the Pleiades were known as the asterism (nakshatra) Krittika (which in Sanskrit is translated as "the cutters.") The Pleiades are called the star of fire, and their ruling deity is the Vedic god Agni, the god of the sacred fire. It is one of the most prominent of the nakshatras, and is associated with anger and stubbornness.

The word has acquired a meaning of "multitude", inspiring the name of the French literary movement La Pleiade and an earlier group of Alexandrian poets, the Alexandrian Pleiad.

Aztec - Tianquiztli: 'marketplace' or 'gathering place'

Inca - The seed scatterer or sower

Paraguayan - Abiponestribe worshipped them as their ancestors.

Peru - Verano - which means summer, or dry season - possibly in association with the Pleiades ritual at the summer solstice during the dry season. A Peruvian cosmological chart from around 1613 seems to show the Pleiades. Pachacuti Yamqui, an Inca nobleman, drew the chart to show the objects that were depicted on the temple in Cusco, adding Spanish and Quechua notations.

Native Americans: The Sioux of North America had a legend that linked the origin of the Pleiades to Devils Tower. According to the Seris (of northwestern Mexico), these stars are seven women who are giving birth. The constellation is known as Cmaamc, which is apparently an archaic plural of the noun cmaam "woman". It was common among the indigenous peoples of the Americas to measure keenness of vision by the number of stars the viewer could see in the Pleiades, a practice which was also used in historical Europe, especially in Greece.

Native Amercians believed in constellations and created ancient star maps. Legend has it that they exist at the center of the Earth or 'Turtle Island'. That beyond them was the sky and that beyond the sky were dimensional portals or sky holes. Beyond the dimensional portals was an area that they call the 'Ocean of Pitch', were the beauty of the night sky and the galaxies spun out towards them. Beyond that were the boundaries of the universe. And that set along the rim at the boundaries of the universe were 4 different extraterrestrial groups.

At the destruction at each of the ages of mankind the people that were pure of heart went down into the buxom of the Earth and there remained protected. According to them they dwelt in the center of the Earth with a group of beings that they call the Ant People. Drawings of the Ant People are remarkable similar to the gray aliens, large heads, little stocky bodies, long spindly fingers, in some cases 4, 5, or 6 digits. Some of these drawings have the indication of telepathic thought waves coming from the beings'.

Early Dakota stories speak of the Tiyami home of the ancestors as being the Pleiades. Astronomy tells us that the Pleiades rise with the sun in May and that when you die your spirit returns south to the seven sisters.

The Hopis called the Pleiadians the 'Chuhukon', meaning those who cling together. They considered themselves direct descendents of the Pleiadians. Hopi Prophecy and Legend

The Navajos named the Pleiades the 'Sparkling Suns' or the 'Delyahey', the home of the 'Black God'.

The Iroquois pray to them for happiness.

The Cree came to have come to Earth from the stars in spirit form first and then became flesh and blood.

They believe that Mythic Mountain is actually the home of the Kachinas [Gods]. This mountain top is sacred. Being the home of the Kachina spirits it is the place where all of the large mythic beings they honor in their rituals land. "We come as clouds to bless the Hopi people" is a quote passed from generation to generation. There are some remarkable drawings that appear to be luminous discs of light in the petroglyphs in the southwest.

Native Americans believed that the home of the Kachinas was on top of a mountain where there were great cloud formations. Today we know that UFO's often hide in what we call Lenticular Clouds. These are cloud formations that resemble UFO's and are said to hide actual spacecraft.

One legend ties the Pleiades to a Savior. On a street in the Holy Land, the Savior smelled the delicious aroma of freshly-baked bread. Entering the shop, the Savior was instantly recognized by the baker who presented Him with a tasty treat and a chance to rest from His labors. In gratitude, the Savior placed the baker, his wife and seven daughters in the Heavens to be safe with Him forever.

Some Native Americans believed that all tribes in North America came from the Pleiades. That they were actually descendents and had been given a task by the Pleiadians to keep the Earth safe.

Another legend tells of seven maidens who were being pursued by a ferocious bear. Kneeling to pray for help, they called on the Indian gods, who raised the ground where they were located high into the air. Angered, the bear clawed at the earth in a vain attempt to reach them. After leaving huge claw marks in the unyielding earth, the bear finally gave up and retreated. The maidens were turned into stars and placed in the sky forever out of harm's way. The site is what we now call the Devil's Tower, scene of the climactic alien visit in the movie 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.'

Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, the Pleaides represented the Seven Sisters. Greek astronomer Eudoxus of Knidos (c. 400-350 BC) set them apart as a distinct constellation: the Clusterers. Greek sailors were said to consult the skies before setting sail. If the Pleiades were visible, all was well. Otherwise, storm conditions were likely.. They are mentioned in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.

  • Maia - eldest of the seven Pleiades, was mother of Hermes by Zeus
  • Electra was mother of Dardanus and Iasion by Zeus.
  • Taygete was mother of Lacedaemon, also by Zeus.
  • Alcyone was mother of Hyrieus by Poseidon.
  • Celaeno was mother of Lycus and Eurypylus by Poseidon.
  • Sterope (also Asterope) was mother of Oenomaus by Ares.
  • Merope youngest of the seven Pleiades, was wooed by Orion. In other mythic contexts she married Sisyphus and, becoming mortal, faded away. She bore to Sisyphus several sons.

After Atlas was forced to carry the world on his shoulders, Orion began to pursue all of the Pleiades, and Zeus transformed them first into doves, and then into stars to comfort their father. The constellation of Orion is said to still pursue them across the night sky.In the Pleiades star cluster only six of the stars shine brightly, the seventh, Merope, shines dully because she is shamed for eternity for having an affair with a mortal. Some myths also say that the star that doesn't shine is Electra, mourning the death of Dardanus, though a few myths say it is Sterope.

One of the most memorable myths involving the Pleiades is the story of how these sisters became, quite literally, stars. According to some versions of the tale, all seven sisters committed suicide because they were so saddened by either the fate of their father, Atlas, or the loss of their siblings, the Hyades. In turn Zeus, the ruler of the Greek gods, immortalized the sisters by placing them in the sky. There these seven stars formed the constellation known thereafter as the Pleiades.

The Greek poet Hesiod mentions the Pleiades several times in his Works and Days. As the Pleiades are primarily summer stars, they feature prominently in the ancient agricultural calendar.