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Category: Archeology

Easter Island – Secrets of the Lost Empire

Travel to Easter Island to discover the secrets of this vanished civilization through the “moai,” the massive headstones that these ancient islanders created to achieve peace and harmony, yet resulted in geological disaster.

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(Video hosted on Youtube & PBS)
Easter Island – Secrets of the Lost Empire

his is the story of a team of archaeologists and a 75-person crew who sought to unravel a central mystery of Easter Island: how hundreds of giant stone statues that dominate the island’s coast were moved and erected. For one month, the team struggled to raise a 10-ton moai, using only the tools and materials available to the ancient Easter Islanders.

Easter Island has long been the subject of curiosity and speculation. How and why did its inhabitants carve and transport the massive statues which surround the island? What remains of this culture today, and what lessons can we learn from their legacy? This page is a resource for information on the Internet about Easter Island, also known as “Rapa Nui” and “Isla de Pascua”.

Easter Island is over 2,000 miles from the nearest population center, (Tahiti and Chile), making it one of the most isolated places on Earth. A triangle of volcanic rock in the South Pacific – it is best known for the giant stone monoliths, known as Moai, that dot the coastline. The early settlers called the island “Te Pito O Te Henua” (Navel of The World). Admiral Roggeveen, who came upon the island on Easter Day in 1722, named it Easter Island. Today, the land, people and language are all referred to locally as Rapa Nui.

Form: PBS

Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land

Armed with high-tech equipment and ingeniously improvised devices, NOVA and archaeologist Richard Freund embark on a fascinating detective story that may rewrite Holy Land history.

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(Video is hosted on Youtube.)
Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land
“Setting sun silhouettes a timeless scene in the Holy Land.”

ill secrets buried in an ancient cave rewrite the story of a desperate time? Nearly 2,000 years ago, a dark, inhospitable cave located in a canyon near the Dead Sea was a secret refuge for Jewish refugees fleeing for their lives from the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. In 1960, archaeologists discovered dramatic letters written by Bar-Kokhba, the heroic Jewish rebel who led a guerrilla uprising against the Romans. Could the cave conceal more historical treasure from that desperate time?

Armed with high-tech equipment, a new team led by archaeologist Richard Freund returns to explore a place that has intrigued the experts for decades. With the help of ingeniously improvised devices, they unearth long-lost artifacts and relics that provide tantalizing clues to turbulent times of messianic fervor, oppression, and revolt. The team’s discoveries lead Freund to a radical new theory that he hopes will rewrite Holy Land history—could the treasure concealed in the cave be a long-lost relic of the Great Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by the Romans? Join NOVA for a fascinating detective story that will immerse you in the strong currents of archaeological controversy.


Cambodia – Banteay Srei

A little more than 20 km north of Angkor, almost at the foot of the Kulen Mountains, sits the remarkable small temple of Banteay Srei. The name, relatively modern, means ‘Citadel of the Women, or perhaps ‘Citadel of Beauty’, and presumably refers to its size and the delicacy of its decoration. The temple’s actual name, taken from that of its central linga, was Tribhuvanamahesvara – ‘Great Lord of the Threefold World.

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(Video hosted on Youtube.)
“Angkor – Cambodia”

nlike the major sites at Angkor, Banteay Srei was not a royal temple. It was built by one of Rajendravarman’s counsellors, Yajnavaraha, who was also the guru of the future king Jayavarman V. Yajnavaraha was granted this land on the banks of the upper Siem Reap river by the king. He and his younger brother commissioned the temple, which was finished just a year before King Rajendravarman died. As usual, a settlement surrounded the temple; in this case, the name of the small city was Isvarapura. Routinely described in gushing terms as the ‘Jewel of Khmer Art’, Banteay Srei is nevertheless a temple of great beauty, and compares with little else in Angkor. Its miniature scale almost always surprises visitors, and the near-total decoration of its surfaces is exceptional. Discovered by the French only in 1914 (it escaped the attention of both Aymonier and Lunet de la Jonquiere), it achieved an early notoriety when Andre Malraux, who later wrote Man’s Fate and was Minister of Culture under the de Gaulle administration, removed four apsaras in 1923. He was caught almost immediately and the pieces recovered. The restoration of the temple between 1931 and 1936 by Marchal was notable for the first significant use at Angkor of the technique of anastylosis, adopted from the Dutch work in the East Indies.

Facing east, Banteay Srei is arranged in three concentric enclosures, each offset slightly towards the W. These are approached, from the E, by a 67m-long causeway, but there is no trace of the usual earth bank that would have marked the limits of the town around the temple -only one spacious outer gopura opening onto the causeway marks the the eastern boundary. Possibly, a wooden palisade formed the outer enclosure, which would probably have been about 500m square.

The outermost (third) enclosure measures 95 x 110m, with a laterite wall and gopuras on the E and W. Inside this is a moat divided by two causeways on the E and W. The two inner enclosures are much closer together, measuring 38 x 42m and 24 x 24m, and the space between them taken up almost completely by six ‘long galleries’, two longer ones on the N and S sides, four shorter flanking the gopuras on the E and W.

The innermost (first) enclosure had a brick wall, with a single gopura on the E and on the W. However, the central entrance of the latter was closed to create a shrine and entry was on either side. A raised terrace at its centre carries the three sanctuary towers, arranged in a N-S line, and a mandapa connected to the central tower by an antarala. Two ‘libraries’ in the NE and SE corners complete the ensemble.

Temples of Doom

The gift of the Nile. Egypt owes its very existence to the waters of the great river, which for thousands of years has made barren land fertile, given life to one of history’s great civilisations, and sustained a population now approaching 80 million people.

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(Video hosted on Youtube.)

et those same waters are now threatening some of the world’s most spectacular monuments. The ancient temples of Luxor and Karnak, and several others in southern Egypt, are in real danger from rising ground water in the Nile Valley. However the temples are not only being threatened by damage from salt water and the environment; their survival is also being compromised by an ever-expanding army of tourists. Egypt currently receives eight million tourists a year, most of them attracted to the ancient sites of the pyramids, the valley of the kings, and Luxor. The Egyptian government recently announced plans to double the number of visitors to the country within the next decade, to 16 million by the year 2016. Temples of Doom examines the real concern that Egypt’s ancient sites simply cannot cope with this volume of traffic. The antiquities of ancient Egypt have survived for more than four millennia, but if they are to be preserved for future generations, drastic action is required across the region – and time is running out.

The Karnak temple complex, universally known only as Karnak, describes a vast conglomeration of ruined temples, chapels, pylons and other buildings. It is located near Luxor in Egypt. This was ancient Egyptian Ipet-isut (“The Most Selected of Places”), the main place of worship of the Theban Triad with Amun as its head, in the monumental city of Thebes. The complex retrieves its current name from the nearby and partly surrounding modern village of el-Karnak, some 2.5km north of Luxor.

Luxor (in Arabic: al-Uq?ur) is a city in Upper (southern) Egypt and the capital of Luxor Governorate. Its population numbers 376,022 (1999 survey), and its area is about 416 square kilometres (161 sq mi). As the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor has frequently been characterized as the “world’s greatest open air museum”, the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor standing within the modern city. Immediately opposite, across the Nile River, lie the monuments, temples and tombs on the West Bank Necropolis, which include the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Thousands of international tourists arrive annually to visit these monuments, contributing a large part towards the economy for the modern city.

(From: Al Jazeera.)

The history of Angkor

Traditionally, the history of Angkor as we know it from inscriptions and the existing temples begins in the ninth century, when the young king Jayavarman II declared himself the supreme sovereign and established his capital first near present-day Roluos, and a little later in the Kulen Mountains. Up to that point, Khmer history had been that of small independent states occasionally consolidating into larger empires, but never for long. It took a conqueror to establish the beginnings of one of Southeast Asia’s most powerful empires.

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(Video hosted on Youtube.)

he Angkor region, bordering the Great Lake with its valuable supply of water, fish, and fertile soil, has been settled since neolithic times, as is known from stone tools and ceramics found there, and from the identification of circular habitation sites from aerial photographs. For the whole Khmer country, there is more descriptive evidence from the accounts of the Chinese, who began to trade and explore the commercial opportunities of mainland Southeast Asia in the early centuries of the Christian era. The picture is one of small town-states, moated, fortified and frequently in conflict with each other. The Chinese called the principal country with which they traded Funan; it had a strategic importance in controlling the sea routes around the Mekong delta and the Gulf of Thailand. In particular it controlled the narrow Isthmus of Kra – the neck of the Malay Peninsula -which connected eastern Asia with India. Indeed, it was trade with India that gave the Khmers their primary cultural contacts, and introduced them to Hinduism and Buddhism. Khmer religious beliefs, iconography, art and architecture all stemmed directly from India, and this had a profound influence on the development of its civilization.

The 6th century sees the first historical evidence from local inscriptions. At around this time, the Chinese accounts begin to write of a kingdom called ‘Chenla’ in the interior, but this is a Chinese rather than a Khmer name. In the second half of the century there is a record of a city called Bhavapura, with its king, Bhavavarman I extending his rule from near the present-day site of Kampong Thorn to at least as far as Battambang in the west. He was succeeded by his brother, who ruled as Mahendravarman, who in turn was succeeded by his son, Isanavarman I. These three kings progressively conquered the Khmer part of Funan, while the western part was taken by other peoples, in particular the Mons of the kingdom of Dvaravati to the W of Bangkok, Isnavarman I was responsible for the temple at Sambor Prei Kuk, establishing the first of the pre-Angkorean styles of architecture. Under Isanavarman’s son, Bhavavarman II, who took the throne in 628, the empire disintegrated back into small states, and it took until 654 for Jayavarman I, a grandson of Isanavarman I, from one of these princedoms, to reconquer much of the territory. There is evidence that he ruled from Aninditapura, close to Angkor. On his death, the empire again collapsed, and his successors, including his daughter Jayadevi, the only ancient Khmer queen, controlled only the small kingdom of Aninditapura. The country remained this way until the end of the 8th century, when Jayavarman II became king in 790.

Jayavarman II’s conquests, first of Vyadhapura (SE of Cambodia), then Sambhupura (present-day Sambor), then N as far as Wat Phu, ind finally of Aninditapura, established his power. He settled first at t iariharalaya, an ancient capital in the region of what is now Roluos, Sut then, trying to go further NW, experienced an unknown setback -hich resulted in him relocating to the Kulen Plateau, some 30 km NE of Angkor. Here he pronounced himself ‘world emperor’ in 802, but it was many years before he was strong enough to move his capital back to Hariharalaya on the shores of the Great Lake, where he died in 835.

His son Jayavarman III succeeded him on his death. He seems to nave built the laterite pyramid of Bakong, which his successor, Indravarman I, had clad in sandstone. The date of his death is unknown, but most probably his successor took the throne with Molence. This king remodeled his capital, building in his palace the Preah Ko temple, dedicated in 880 and improving Bakong. He also began the baray of Indratataka, which his son Yasovarman I completed after he came to power in 889. This accession was a bloody one, involving a struggle with the crown prince, his brother, and destruction of the palace. Therefore he decided to move his capital to Angkor.

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