Ancient Cliff Dwellings
Cliff dwellings have existed in many different parts of the world. In many cases, basic homes could be made simply by utilizing the existing walls and roofs of caves. Rock could be tunneled into rather than having to be carved out in great quantities for use as building materials.
- Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, Colorado, US
- The Bandiagara Cliff Dwellings, Mali
- The Gila Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico, US
- The Uçhisar Cliff Dwellings,Turkey
- Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Colorado, US
- Guyaju Cave Dwellings, Yanqing District, China
The cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde (picture 1) are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are considered among the best preserved and most important sites of their kind in North America. They were inhabited by Ancestral Pueblo peoples, built between 1190 and 1300 CE. The structures and villages range from a 200 chamber Cliff Palace to single room storage spaces.
The origins of China’s Guyaju cave dwellings (picture 6) are shrouded in mystery, as there are no records of the people who created them. However, they are thought to be over 1,000 years old and may have been the work of the Xiyi people, of whom little is known. The dwellings are the biggest ruins of their kind ever discovered in China and feature 170 caves with more than 350 chambers. Relics such as stone bedding, air vents and rainwater collection devices have been found, as well as caves that housed horses.
Underwater Secrets of the Ancient Maya
Ancient Maya believed that the rain god Chaak resided in caves and natural wells called cenotes. Maya farmers today in Mexico’s parched Yucatán still appeal to Chaak for the gift of rain, Meanwhile cenotes are giving archaeologists new insights into the sacred landscapes of the ancestral Maya.
In ancient times, the natural well, or cenote, acted as a sacred sundial and timekeeper for the ancient Maya on the two days of the year, May 23 and July 19, when the sun reaches its zenith. At that moment it is vertically overhead, and no shadow is cast. The fact that the cenote is directly northwest of the main staircase of El Castillo, the famous central pyramid of Chichén Itzá, is not coincidental. The ancient Maya came here during times of drought to deliver offerings and to give thanks for a plentiful harvest. The Maya people have a strong relation to their gods, their sacred city and their extraordinarily accurate calendar.
(Source: National Geographic)
Oldest Footprint Ever Found
This fossil footprint found near Ileret, Kenya, is 1.5 million years old. These footprints are the oldest ever found of the human genus.
Bikinis from 4th Century A.D.
Regarding the history of swimsuits, the bikini was first introduced to the public by French engineer Louis Réard at the Piscine Molitor swimming pool complex in Paris. The two-piece was named the “bikini” by Réard because he believed the revealing swimsuit would cause the same explosive effect as recent atomic tests at the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Réard might have been the first person to make a bikini for consumers, but he was not the first person to conceive and illustrate one.
The Ancient Rock-Cut Tombs of Myra’s Lycian Necropolis
The ancient town of Myra in Turkey may sound familiar to you, because St. Nicholas (one of the Santa Claus origins) was the bishop of Myra. Another claim to fame for the region is the many ancient ruins one can see there.
Perhaps most striking of all the ancient ruins in Myra are the rock-cut tombs of the ancient Lycian necropolis. Two burial sites, the river necropolis and ocean necropolis, with frontages resembling classical temples, are hewn from the cliffs towering above the town.
You can imagine the years of work that went into carving these tombs out of the cliff faces.
The Most Famous Mummies in the World
One of the most important archaeological finds, and certainly one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century, are the hundreds of well-preserved mummies that have been found buried in the sands of the Tarim Basin in the far western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.
According to scientists, these mummies, three in particular, are among the most important human remains ever found: the much-celebrated Yingpan Man with his gold-foil and white mask and beautiful robes; an infant wrapped in a woolen blanket, wearing a blue and red bonnet of lightly felted wool; and the spectacular woman known as the “Beauty of Xiaohe,” a 3,800 year old mummy whose beauty is startling and is considered to be one of the most well-preserved, exquisite mummies ever discovered.
The reason these mummies are so historically important, and have created such a controversy, is their high degree of preservation which has allowed scientists to see far more detail than would normally be expected in a burial site. These mummies are not Asian-looking, but rather light skinned, round-eyed, with long noses, red or blond haired men, women and children.
The Caves of Faith
The Magao Grottoes (Thousand Buddha Caves) sits at the cliffs of the Soughing Sand Hill about 16 miles southeast of Dunhuang in the Gansu province of China. It is an oasis strategically located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road.
It was first dug in the year 366 AD and kept evolving for over a millennium. The caves house over 2400 colorful clay statues and 4500 square meters of wall paintings (murals). These grottoes contain the most beautiful Buddhist inspired artwork in the world. If you are a traveler, these caves should definitely be in your top ten places to visit.
(Source: National Geographic)