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Mystery remains in emperor's tomb

The Asahi Shimbun

 

Unlike the ancient pyramids in Egypt which gave up many of their secrets long ago, imperial burial mounds in Japan for the most part remain a closed chapter in history. The Imperial Household Agency rarely gives permission to excavate. Thus, many tombs are shrouded in mystery.

 

So it was unusual that the Imperial Household Agency decided to divulge details of a dig in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, that was presumed to hold the remains of Emperor Keitai, who was enthroned early in the 6th century. The keyhole-shaped burial mound called Ota-Chausuyama-kofun is 226 meters long, squared off at the front and protruding in a sort of circular shape. So-called kofun tombs, massive earth constructions for their time, were built mainly for the ruling elite from the fourth to seventh centuries.

 

Historians have long speculated who was buried there. Unlike the pyramids, where authorities are keen to open the tombs to study, the 240 burial mounds nationwide are almost never excavated.

 

The contents for the most part are kept secret except in the case of natural disasters when sections are exposed or because the structure has collapsed.

But in this case, the agency began its own excavations at 30 places at the foot of the tomb in October, ahead of steps being taken this year to preserve the mound.

For a long time, Ota-Chausuyama-kofun was thought to be the tomb of Emperor Keitai. But the excavations suggest someone else might have been buried there.

Limited excavation work was conducted for the first time in 1986, but archaeologists and researchers were only allowed to dig around the bank of the ancient moat. They found ceremonial figures in the dirt.

 

According to the Japanese chronicles ``Nihon Shoki,'' written in the Nara Period, Emperor Keitai died in 531. The ceremonial figures found at the foot of the mound predate his death by about 80 years, leading archaeologists to speculate his tomb is probably the Imashirotsuka-kofun in Takatsuki city, 1.5 kilometers east of Ota-Chausuyama-kofun.

 

Imashirotsuka-kofun is thought to have been constructed around the middle of the sixth century, which more or less coincides with Emperor Keitai's death.

The excavation work also yielded several cylindrical and trumpet-shaped clay works known as haniwa. Testing shows they were made around the middle of the fifth century, which again is at odds with Emperor Keitai's recorded death.

Researchers say the discrepancy could spur the Imperial Household Agency to re-examine its position that Emperor Keitai was buried at Ota-Chausuyama-kofun because ``crucial evidence'' now exists to overturn the record.

 

In 1881, the agency altered its records for the Imperial Mausoleum of Emperors Temmu and Jito. The emperors originally were thought to have been buried at Misemaruyama-kofun in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, but evidence emerged that they were laid to rest at Noguchi-O-no-haka-kofun in Asuka village, also in Nara Prefecture.

 

Proof of this was discovered in a temple in nearby Kyoto Prefecture.(IHT/Asahi: January 4,2003)

 

Shroud lifts on unearthed ancient relics

The Boston Globe

ACTON

By Paul Wasserboehr, Globe Correspondent, 1/5/2003

 

High above the banks of the Assabet River, amid the wooded hills in the southernmost tip of Acton, arch eologists have found traces of an ancient Native American civilization that dates back as far as 7,000 years, to 5,000 BC.

Duncan Ritchie, the senior archeologist for the Rhode Island-based Public Archaeology Laboratory, said the discovery of thousands of Native American artifacts excavated from the site, called Pine Hawk, includes fragments and bits from stone tools, arrow heads used for spears, hearths and fire pits, storage and refuse pits, workshops where stone tools were made, and post molds for housing circles.

 

The site, which existed at the time of the ancient Egyptian civilization when the pyramids were built, ''is considered one of the most significant discoveries of ancient Native American culture on the Eastern Seaboard,'' said Acton's Bob Ferrera, the founder of the ad hoc committee, Friends of Pine Hawk. The Acton-based group was created last summer to promote public awareness of both the arch eological and human history of Pine Hawk.

 

Now Ferrara and others want to spread the word about the discovery and the ancient civilization that used the tools and weapons. They are hoping to offer a local library exhibit to display some of the artifacts and to develop a school curriculu m about the Native Americans who left the items behind.

 

Though the dig was conducted three summers ago, details of the Pine Hawk discovery were made available only recently because the site was registered as a historic property by the Massachusetts Register of Historical Places, with an edict that requires that information about such places not be made public until fragments from the site are excavated and studied.

 

Pine Hawk was discovered quite by accident five years ago when Acton began planning to build a waste-water treatment plant along the Assabet River. Before digging or construction could begin, an arch eological survey had to be completed as part of the planning process, as required by law on construction projects, such as Pine Hawk, that use federal or state funding.

 

During the survey, the Public Archaeology Laboratory, led by Ritchie, started digging for test bits and found small flakes of stone used in tool-making. Ritchie said this discovery led to further investigation and excavation, which uncovered thousands of chipping debris pieces and projectile point fragments that were implanted as arrow tips on spears. In addition, several fire pits were uncovered 4 feet deep in the soil. The pits had traces of charcoal indicating that they were used between 3,900 and 4,600 years ago.

 

Since it was not possible to relocate the proposed treatment plant and preserve the Pine Hawk site in place, the archeologists mounted a program to retrieve the fragments for analysis.

 

Ritchie said a study of the fragments followed with radio carbon-dating tests at a Florida laboratory indicate that the area was occupied by an ancient Native American culture 7,000 years ago in the post-glacial period.

 

The Assabet River served as a navigable transportation route from the Merrimack, Concord, and Sudbury rivers, and a place with rich natural resources where Native Americans could fish, hunt, and collect plant food. Pine Hawk provided easy access to fresh water, transport, as well as good drainage and soft soil. It also faced south - which provided more sunlight during the day.

''The amazing thing about the fragments is that they weren't buried; they were left on the ground, and time has added more and more material over them,'' said Doug Halley, a Friends of Pine Hawk member and Acton's Board of Health director. ''It's hard to believe that over a period of 4,000 years, almost 4 feet of it has fallen on the ground.''

 

Added Ferrera: ''It works out to be that about an inch of soil is built up per century, or approximately a foot per each millennium. The process is similar to reading tree rings to determine their age.''

 

This story ran on page 1 of the Globe NorthWest section on 1/5/2003.

Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

 

 

Book claims Chinese discovered America

By FREDERICK M. WINSHIP

From the Life & Mind Desk

Published 1/7/2003 11:49 AM

 

NEW YORK, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Scattered evidence that Chinese explorers "discovered" America 71 years before Christopher Columbus and circumnavigated the earth 60 years before Ferdinand Magellan was born has been brought into convincing focus by a book published Tuesday that is expected to rewrite history.

 

British author Gavin Menzies first aired his theory of pre-Columbian visits by the Chinese to both North and South America in a lecture before the Royal Geographic Society in London last March, resulting in a bidding war for the book he spent 15 years writing to back up his claim. Publishing rights sold for $780,000, a phenomenal sum for a non-fiction book by an unknown author.

The book was published in England in November under the title "1421: The Year China Discovered America" and is now available in an augmented American edition published by William Morrow. A 16-page postscript in the new edition offers evidence that the body of a Chinese official was found buried at Teotihuacan, the pre-Aztec ceremonial site near Mexico City.

 

The Chinese-style tomb with Chinese inscriptions found by archaeologist William Niven at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan in 1911 contained a body identified as a Chinese or Mongolian wearing a necklace of jade, unknown in Mexico.

 

Menzies, who portions of the body were split between Swiss and Swedish collections, and he hopes to get permission to take DNA samples from the remains.

 

The author, a 65-year-old retired Royal Navy officer and navigation expert, began formulating his theory when he was shown a map of the world dated 1459 while doing research in Venice. The map clearly showed Southern Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, though Vasco da Gama did not "discover" the cape as a sea route to Asia until 1497. The map noted that a voyage had been made around the cape in 1420.

 

The map also bore a picture of a Chinese junk. Menzies believes the map was based on Chinese charts taken to Venice by a merchant traveler, Niccolo da Conti, who claimed in a book he wrote in 1434 that he joined a Chinese treasure fleet in India and sailed to China via Australia, 350 years before Captain Cook's expedition reached the Antipodes. There is no evidence of these Chinese charts, but Menzies presumes they existed.

 

His findings in Venice led Menzies to research existing Chinese documents describing the outfitting of a great treasure fleet by the Yongle Emperor, Zhui Di, under the command of his eunuch admiral Zheng Hi. The fleet of many-masted junks that were five times the size of European caravels and carried 1,000 men each made seven great voyages from 1405 to 1423 when the ships were mothballed as the result of an expensive land campaign against the invading Mongols.

 

It had long been known that Zheng Hi's ships sailed around Southeast Asia, crossing the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, but Menzies is convinced they also sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to Western Africa and across the Atlantic to the Eastern coast of North America, from Florida to Rhode Island, and parts of the South American coast. Other Chinese ships cleared Cape Horn and explored the Western coast of both South and North America, he claims.

 

Zheng Hi was also known by the name of Sin Bao, hence the legend that arose in Europe of the fabulous voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.

 

Menzies writes that after his lecture before the Royal Geographic Society, "new evidence began to pour in from all over the world, all of which had to be evaluated and checked for accuracy by experts." He said he has been notified of new discoveries from Vancouver Island to Chile that lend credence to his claim that Chinese fleets visited the Americas, leaving bloodline traces that only recently have been found in the DNA of Indians living in Northern Brazil, Venezuela, Surinam and Guyana.

 

In the United States, the accumulation of evidence of a pre-Columbian Chinese presence is strongest in California, around San Francisco, the Mississippi River area west of Kansas City, and Florida, the book says. Other American areas probably visited or even settled by Chinese are said to be Mexico between the Pacific coast and Mexico City, the Caribbean coast of Venezuela, Colombia, and Guyana, and the Amazon Basin.

 

Menzies reports 50 ancient stone carvings of ships believed to be Chinese and 40 of horses -- extinct in America after 10,000 B.C. -- from the floodplains of he Mississippi. He quotes 16th century Spanish historian Pedro de Castaneda as saying he met people resembling Chinese living along the Arkansas River and his contemporary, Pedro Menendez, as saying he saw the wrecks of gilded Chinese vessels on the banks of the Missouri River.

 

Menendez's report no longer seems incredible in light of the discovery 20 years ago of a medieval Chinese-style junk buried under a sandbank in the Sacramento River off the northeast corner of San Francisco Bay, Menzies says. Fragments of wood taken from the ship have been carbon-dated to 1410 and identified as cut from Keteleria, a Chinese evergreen tree unknown in America.

The author offers long lists of plants, animals, and birds that were carried to the Americas, probably by foreign visitors, in the pre-Columbian era. The first European explorers found fields of rice -- a crop foreign to the Americas but common in Asia -- in Mexico and Brazil and Chinese root crops in the Amazon basin. The list goes on and on.

 

This book is likely to be the most fascinating read of 2003.

 

("1421, The Year China Discovered America," by Gavin Menzies, William Morrow, 576 pages, $27.95.)

Copyright 2001-2003 United Press International

 

 

Earliest House In Scotland Found At Lafarge's Dunbar Cement Works Quarry

 

Archaeologists undertaking advanced investigations for Lafarge Cement UK on the site of the next area of mineral reserves to be worked in the quarry to the north of its cement works at Dunbar, in East Lothian have uncovered evidence of possibly one of the earliest 'houses' in Scotland.

 

Lafarge Cement, which makes the famous Blue Circle brand cements, has had planning permission to work the reserves to the north of the Works since 1979 and will shortly start the transition to the next area of the quarry. Initial archaeological investigations during 2001 in this next quarrying area identified potentially interesting remains and the company subsequently contracted Edinburgh-based AOC Archaeology Group to undertake some advance detailed archaeological work.

 

John Gooder, senior project officer with AOC Archaeology Group, has managed the project. He said:

 

"What we have unearthed here is evidence of a Mesolithic family of hunter-gatherers who roamed the Scottish landscape between 8,000 and 4,000 BC. It's a very exciting find. Structures of this period are extremely rare, and there are only a handful of comparable examples in the British Isles and this is the only example so far found in Scotland.

 

"Considerable effort must have been involved in building this round-house so perhaps our Mesolithic family spent a relatively lengthy stay in the area, or perhaps returned to the house at particular times of the year over a long period. This contrasts strongly with the prevailing view of Mesolithic settlements as little more than temporary camps scattered over a hunting territory, used only once for a short period."

 

The team of archaeologists has discovered a roughly circular structure that was created by digging into a natural hollow. This feature was enclosed by a wooden framework, evidence for which comes from postholes found on the perimeter of the 5-metre diameter structure. The postholes average 20 cm in diameter and some are as deep as 50 cm. The main postholes are dug at an angle and the posts they held must have inclined towards the centre to produce a teepee-like structure.

 

Approximately 25,000 flint objects were also found in and about the roundhouse. These have been meticulously cleaned, recorded and contain diagnostic microlithics [characteristic of the period] and waste from flint making. Carbonised seeds and fruits, including whole hazelnuts, and burnt animal bone give hints as to the make up of the Mesolithic diet, which will be the subject of further study.

 

Lafarge Cement UK took the initiative to commission the work by AOC Archaeology Group without any planning obligation to do so. The company nevertheless agreed to fund the investigations in accordance with a 'Written Scheme of Investigation' approved by the heritage officer at East Lothian Council, Bridget Simpson. She said: "In advance of submission of a detailed working scheme for the next quarrying area, in accordance with existing planning permission, Lafarge anticipated the likelihood of being asked to undertake archaeological investigations, and took the responsible initiative of commissioning the work."

 

Lafarge's Dunbar quarry manager, Allan Ruxton, commented: "We have a strong track record of working our mineral reserves in a way that is sympathetic to environmental, geological and archaeological needs. Clearly recording rare archaeological heritage such as this is of vital importance." It is more than likely that without the investigations, which were prompted by Lafarge's quarrying operations the Mesolithic house would never have been discovered.

 

Lost castle found on the internet

DAVID ROSS

 

AN archive of sixteenth-century maps published on the internet has led a historian to the forgotten site of a medieval castle on the Black Isle.

The marriage of modern technology with rudimentary mapmaking could help an army of amateur historians to fill in the gaps left by professional historians and archaeologists, according to David Alston, a museum curator, who made the discovery.

 

When the mapmakers of the Ordnance Survey surveyed the Black Isle in the early 1870s they recorded "Castledownie'' as the name for vestiges of a fortification on the coastal cliffs, high above the spot where the Eathie Burn flows into the Moray Firth, opposite the site of the Ardersier fabrication yard.

However, the suggestion that it was the site of a medieval castle found little favour with archaeologists when they visited the site in the 19th century and again in the middle of the 20th. But within the last year, the late 16th-century maps of Timothy Pont have become available on the world-wide web through the National Library of Scotland. One of his maps shows a prominent tower house inside an enclosure at the Black Isle site.

 

Pont, who lived from 1565 to 1611, was parish minister of Dunnet, in Caithness. He produced the earliest surviving detailed maps of Scotland. His principal interest was in recording the features of civil society in the 1580s and 1590s, noting castles, towers and mills. Many of his tiny drawings of castles are accurate sketches of the buildings.

 

Mr Alston, curator of the museum in nearby Cromarty who used Pont's map to track down the castle site at Eathie, said he found evidence of abandoned buildings.

 

"Locating the castle or tower, which would have been the manor place or laird's seat of the small Eathie estate, is particularly interesting because close by there is a remarkably well-preserved "farmtoun'', abandoned in the mid-nineteenth century," he said. "This consists of remains of many turf-walled houses and farm buildings, and a stone kiln, all lying within a turf dyke.

 

"Although this farm settlement remained in use until the 1840s, many of its features are likely to long pre-date this and can give us an idea of what the medieval landscape would have been like before 1500. Within a short distance we seem to have the remains of both the laird's house and the mains farm associated with it."

 

He argues that this is only one example of how online resources are revitalising the study of local history.

 

"Until recently it would have taken a number of trips to Edinburgh, or further afield, to gather this kind of evidence. Not many had the time or the money. Now it is readily accessible and local historians, history societies and museums, are well placed to make use of it. The castle or tower house at Eathie is a good example. There is nothing dramatic to be seen here, but this is beginning to expand our understanding the past.''

 

Christopher Fleet, deputy map curator at the national library, agrees: "This is an excellent illustration of how local experts can assist academics and historians in interpreting Timothy Pont's manuscript maps.

 

"The importance of Pont's maps lies not only in them being the earliest detailed cartography of Scotland, but also in providing relatively accurate elevations of buildings."

 

He added that Pont spent 20 years researching maps of Scotland after graduating from St Andrews University in 1583.

 

"Seventy-seven of his hand-drawn maps survive today on 38 sheets of paper, a treasure of the National Library of Scotland," said Mr Fleet.

 

High-resolution, zoomable images of all the Pont maps can be consulted on the NLS website at www.nls.uk/maps.

-Jan 3rd

 

Dales dig turns up surprises

Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 17:54 GMT

 

The Yorkshire Dales may not have been a backwater

 

An unusual prehistoric burial site has been unearthed in the Yorkshire Dales by a team of archaeologists from the University of Leeds.

 

The discovery of the 3,000 year old Bronze Age cairn at Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale follows two years of work by Dr Roger Martlew and his students.

Their discoveries indicate that a range of ancient rituals took place there.

One find is the burial place of an infant carefully laid in a stone-lined hollow with more stones placed on top of the body.

 

According to Dr Martlew no other site like this has been found in the Dales.

And it shows the Dales may have been more significant in the Bronze Age than previously thought.

 

Dr Martlew said: "The site is full of features which have not been found together in one place before.

 

"It could show that the Dales, which had been thought to be a bit of a backwater at the time, actually had wider connections with other parts of the country."

 

Child in prehistoric grave 'may have been sacrificed'

 

THE remains of a child who could have been a human sacrifice have been found in a prehistoric graveyard unearthed in the Yorkshire Dales by Leeds University archaeologists.

 

The bones of the child, aged about four and thought to have lived in the Bronze Age about 3,000 years ago, were discovered in a stone-lined hollow one of eight sets in the ring cairn near Kettlewell in Upper Wharfedale.

 

The unique discovery of the remains along with prehistoric cattle bones, pottery and an arrow head, suggested the cairn was used for rituals as well as a burial site, said Roger Martlew, who made the find with a team of students from Leeds University's school of continuing education.

 

Dr Martlew said: "The site is full of features which, although found individually at different ring cairns around Britain, have not been found together in one place before.

 

"It could show that the Dales, which had been thought to be a bit of a backwater at the time, actually had wider connections to other parts of the country.

 

"What is unique is that we have a mixture of two elements we have got different ritual activity but we have got burials as well."

 

He said he had not expected to find the remains of the child because it was usual for Bronze Age ring cairns to be ceremonial and not actual burial sites.

 

Some ring cairns circles of underground stone-lined hollows found across England and Wales contain nothing but pits of pure charcoal that suggest the cairns were used for some ceremony not necessarily connected with burial.

Dr Martlew added: "We have taken a quick look, and the bones seem to be of a child aged four although we haven't determined yet whether it was a boy or a girl.

"There is a suggestion elsewhere that children were offered as human sacrifices and that is a possibility here.

 

"We think there may well be more bodies to be found, as there generally tends to be an important primary burial of some sort and this is not it."

 

The discovery is the culmination of a two-year project by Dr Martlew and his team of mature students which began as a field survey of the area.

 

The excavation has already provided the focus for archaeological field courses run by the school of continuing education, and funding has also been obtained from the Centre for Field Research in the US. Work will continue to unravel the complexities of the site over the next year.

alex.buller@ypn.co.uk

 

Ancient bones tell a tale of violence

Jan 7 2003

By The Evening Gazette

 

A grisly find during pipeline work on the outskirts of Hartlepool led to the discovery of a 2,000-year-old war grave.

 

Two male skeletons were discovered in a rough grave at Newton Bewley by subcontractors working on a BP pipeline.

 

The pair are thought to have died in the 5th Century and both suffered violent deaths, one possibly being decapitated.

 

Their remains were discovered close to a chieftain settlement, where pottery and other relics have previously been discovered.

 

The settlement is known to date from the Iron Age through to the 6th Century AD.

Robin Daniels, from Tees Archeology, which has taken possession of the brothers-in-arms, said to find skeletons which showed evidence of violent death was "very rare".

 

"The fact we have two men who seemed to have died from wounds means there's certainly been some fighting at the settlement.

 

"The fact they were in the same grave, buried in the way they were, makes us think they were attackers rather than defenders," he added.

 

Pathology reports confirmed that the men were likely to be soldiers and were "killed in a battle or skirmish".

 

One had suffered several heavy blows to the skull in addition to deep cuts to his neck and arm.

 

"The penetrating wound to the front of the skull may have occurred first and appears most likely to have been caused by a projectile rather than hand-to-hand fighting," said the pathologist.

 

"This probably stunned him even if it did not render him unconscious, perhaps explaining the lack of any defence wounds on the arms and legs."

 

He said murder was another possibility, but execution seemed unlikely in view of the number of injuries.

 

The remains are being stored by Tees Archaeology at Sir William Gray House in Hartlepool.

 

Devon treasure goes on display

Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 18:31 GMT

The gold goes on display next week

 

One of the largest ever hoards of gold and jewellery discovered on a shipwreck off the Devon coast is to go on display at the British Museum.

 

It is thought the ship was sunk off Salcombe during the 17th Century after being attacked by pirates hunting white slaves.

 

Experts have pieced together the past of the unnamed ship and a fascinating story has emerged.

 

It is believed the vessel was used by pirates who raided the coastline for white slaves to sell in North Africa.

 

 I like to think the gold is telling the tale of these lost souls

 

 Neville Oldham Southwest Maritime Archaeology Group

 

"All your life as a diver this is your dream, it's a fascinating story," said Neville Oldham from the Southwest Maritime Archaeology Group.

"It's Boy's Own stuff, treasure and pirate ships.

"I like to think the gold is telling the tale of these lost souls.

"And I'm pleased our team of divers uncovered this story."

 

A team from the BBC's Timewatch programme has chronicled the discovery of the gold bullion, jewellery and other items and work on the artefacts by the British Museum.

 

Archaeologists are puzzled by the mixture of European items and gold coins from Morocco and how a vessel containing one of the largest ever seabed finds came to be in waters off Salcombe.

 

The gold goes on display next week and divers will continue their hunt for further relics later in the year.

 

Timewatch - White Slaves, Pirate Gold - is on BBC Two on Friday at 2100 GMT.

 

Knights Templar to use latest imaging in search for Grail

By Paul Kelbie, Scotland Correspondent

06 January 2003

 

For centuries the intricately carved stones of Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh have tantalised historians, archaeologists and devoted Christians.

 

A labyrinth of vaults beneath the 15th-century home of the Knights Templar is reputed to contain dozens of holy relics, including early gospels, the Ark of the Covenant, the fabled Holy Grail and even the mummified head of Christ.

More than 550 years after the first foundation stones were laid, modern technology is about to put the legend to the test.

 

A group of Knights Templar, successors to the warrior monks who sought asylum from the Pope by fleeing to Scotland in the early 14th century and fought for Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, are to make a "non-invasive" survey of the land around the chapel. They will use the latest ultrasound and thermal imaging technology in the hope of finding evidence of the existence of the vaults.

 

"The plan is to investigate the land around the chapel to a depth of at least 20ft," said John Ritchie, Grand Herald and spokesman for the Knights Templar.

"The machine we are using is the most sophisticated anywhere and is capable of taking readings from the ground up to a mile deep without disturbing any of the land.

 

"We know many of the Knights are buried in the grounds and there are many references to buried vaults, which we hope this project will finally uncover."

Rosslyn Chapel, or the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew as it was to have been, was founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair, third and last Prince of Orkney. Built as a celebration of Christ, it is also a monument to craftsmanship.

 

Bristling with flying buttresses and gargoyles in the highest Gothic style on the outside, the interior is carved with scenes from the Bible, the fall of man, the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the birth of Christ, the crucifixion and the resurrection.

 

"Rosslyn is an amazing building. It is a book in stone but, because the symbolism which is written into the chapel is in a medieval language, we haven't even cracked the introduction page yet," Mr Ritchie said.

 

Pillars and arches are covered with hundreds of exquisitely carved leaves, fruit, animals and figures. Some curious carvings are said to depict cactus and sweetcorn, chiselled before Columbus set foot in America in 1492.

 

"There is a whole series of stuff on each section of the chapel, which relates to a different period of time," Mr Ritchie added. "We have to go back to the 15th century and read it with a medieval eye to understand what it all means. All these symbols relate to events in history. It is a book created in stone, which brings in all the apostolic religion, laid over by an astrological form which tracks the seasons, and the plants in the seasons." Both the Freemasons and the Knights Templar claim the ornate stonemasonry of the church is a secret code which, if broken, will reveal the whereabouts of treasures.

 

One theory suggests that one of the ornate columns, known as the Apprentice Pillar, may contain a lead casket in which is hidden the legendary cup used by Christ at the Last Supper and later used to collect his blood, the so-called Holy Grail. "Once we understand the introduction page we will begin to understand what this book in stone means," Mr Ritchie added. "We hope to start as soon as possible and get a load of readings from it. We hope to at least find this burial place and maybe the Holy Grail itself."

 

Monday, 6 January, 2003, 19:18 GMT

Cannabis linked to Biblical healing

Many of the miracles concerned healing

 

Jesus Christ and his apostles may have used a cannabis-based anointing oil to help cure people with crippling diseases, it has been claimed.

Researchers in the United States say the oil used in the early days of the Christian church contained a cannabis extract called kaneh-bosem.

 

They suggest the extract, which is absorbed into the body when placed on the skin, could have helped cure people with a variety of physical and mental problems.

 

The medical use of cannabis during that time is supported by archaeological records

 

Chris Bennet

The author of the article, published in the US drugs magazine High Times, says his findings are based on a study of scriptural texts.

 

The article does not question the validity of the miracles reported in the Bible but rather examines whether the early Christian Church may have made use of substances with an active medical effect.

 

It does not rule out the role played by blind faith in Christ.

 

Chris Bennett said cannabis was widely used at the time to heal the sick.

"The medical use of cannabis during that time is supported by archaeological records."

 

He said the ancient anointing oil contained high levels of cannabis extract.

"The holy anointing oil, as described in the original Hebrew version of the recipe in Exodus, contained over six pounds of keneh-bosum - a substance identified by respected etymology, linguists anthropologists, botanists and other researchers as cannabis extracted into about six quarts of olive oil along with a variety of other fragrant herbs.

 

"The ancient annointed ones were literally drenched in this potent mixture."

Miracles

 

Mr Bennett suggested the drug may have played a role in some healing miracles carried out by Jesus and his disciples.

 

He wrote: "In the ancient world, diseases such as epilepsy were attributed to demonic possession.

 

"To cure somebody of such an illness, even with the aid of certain herbs was considered exorcism or miraculous healing.

 

Jesus often becomes the final hope for the pharmacologically impaired

 

JesusJournal.com

"Interestingly, cannabis has been shown to be effective in the treatment of not only epilepsy but many of the other ailments that Jesus and the disciples healed people of such as skin diseases, eye problems and menstrual problems."

 

Mr Bennett said the findings suggested that it was unchristian to persecute people who used cannabis.

 

"If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient Christian anointing oil, as history indicates, and receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians, then persecuting those who use cannabis could be considered anti-Christ."

 

However, Christian groups in the United States have rejected Mr Bennett's claims.

 

They have insisted that the arguments made in the article are lame.

In a response to the article published on JesusJournal.com, critics said: "As many of us know firsthand, Jesus often becomes the final hope for the pharmacologically impaired."

 

John Cunyus, the author of a book on Christian healing, said: "Well, the Bible does say that St. Stephen was stoned... but perhaps not in that sense!"