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  • Volcano or Leopard Skin? July 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric

    volcano blast

    It is regularly cited as the earliest map in the world (‘the greatest find in cartographic history’); it is ‘certainly’ our earliest landscape painting. Here, at level VII, in one of the world’s first cities, Çatalhöyük in Turkey, is a remarkable mural. A group of tessellated squares that appear to be houses painted beneath a twin mountain, one of which might be erupting: the claim was first made in 1964 by the original excavator of Çatalhöyük, James Mellaart. Mellaart was particularly excited by this image because the mountains match the nearby  Mount Hasan, which has a characteristic dual peak. And wait for it… Geologists have examined the mountain in question and established that not only is it a volcano but it was active in the relative period, 6430–6790 BC, so slam dunk and back slaps all round. Only, there is an irritating minority opinion, but one that it is only proper to share. An archaeologist Stephanie Meece looked at the painting and saw not a mountain blowing lava with a terrified village below but… a leopard skin hung above some geometric shapes. At this point it might be worth showing a photograph of the original mural.

    real picture

    In 2006, she published an article* and made a strong argument. Leopards are a favourite animal at Çatalhöyük, in terms of decoration: they were not yet extinct in Anatolia.

    leopard skin

    Geometric designs are also common at the site.

    geometric shapes

    For Beach though the crucial part of the argument is the fact that the mountains in the picture do not resemble the mountains as seen from Çatalhöyük:

    In Mellaart’s 1967 monograph, a photograph of Hasan Dağ is included… from an angle with accentuates its two peaks.  This photo was not taken from Çatalhöyük, however, but rather from the Aksaray-Nevşehir road, looking south toward the peaks, rather than east towards them, which would have been the orientation from Çatalhöyük. The photograph of Kara Dağ in the 1967 volume… was indeed taken from the mound, but Kara Dağ is not a volcano. Additionally, though Hasan Dağ has two peaks, when viewed from the direction of Çatalhöyük the higher peak is on the left and the smaller on the right; in the ‘map’, this is reversed.  Mainly because of this reversal of the peaks, Ülkekul… believed that the ‘map’ depicted Melendiz Dağ, also an extinct volcano, located near Niğde in Cappadocia. Melendiz Dağ has three peaks, however; discounting the third, (as it ‘seems to be in a separate position’… Ülkekul claimed that the heights of the peaks are in the same proportions as those depicted on the ‘map’.   To photograph Melendiz Dağ, Ülkekul had to travel as far east as Aksaray, choosing a vantage point on the Aksaray-Ulukısla road.

    In short Dr Meece makes a very strong case. The world would have to wait until about 4000 BC for the first maps in Mesopotamia, c. 1500 BC. What Beach finds most fascinating here is the triumph of the volcano over the geometric shapes argument, cemented with a geological study of the volcano in 2014. The more serious sites include the minority opinion, but news outlets generally do not. It is a nice example of how sex sells: volcanoes will make it into the Daily Mail, geometric shapes never will…

    Beach is always on the look out for competing interpretations of ancient pictures: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    PS For other supposed ancient volcanoes.

    * Meece, Stephanie (2006) A bird’s eye view – of a leopard’s spots. The Çatalhöyük ‘map’ and the development of cartographic representation in prehistory. Anatolian Studies 56:1-16

    Rabbit Death at Manassas July 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Rabbit Death at Manassas

    In 1863 some Confederate troops had a horrific experience at Manassas: this is important for understanding the rabbit incident that follows. So steel yourself, reader. On the morning of July 21, 1863, our regiment, the 5th North Carolina State Troops, under Col. Duncan K. McRae.  ordered to double-quick across Bull Run and charge a  Battery […]

    A Sumerian Heliocentric Universe July 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Sumerian Heliocentric Universe

    Beach got this email from ANL, an old friend of the blog, a couple of months back and he wondered whether any enthusiast, astronomer or logician can help: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Something about circles has been bothering me for some time, and I was wondering whether you or one of your readers can […]

    Medieval Marvels: Carving Liquid for Stone and Marble July 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Marvels: Carving Liquid for Stone and Marble

    Beach has sometimes looked, in this blog, at the marvellous works of Gervase of Tilbury, 104. Here is another from his book of curiosities. A liquid that allows for the moulding of stones. In our times, during the papacy of Alexander III [1155-1181], when I was a boy, a phial was found at Rome full […]

    Arab Embassy to Dark Age Scandinavia July 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Arab Embassy to Dark Age Scandinavia

    The Vikings were attacking everyone in the ninth-century and this included the Arabs of southern Spain. After their most famous raid, in 844, when Seville was memorably captured by those northern psychos, the Emirate of Seville did something quite extraordinary. He decided to send an embassy to the Viking homelands to buy them off. This […]

    The Coming Destruction of Minneapolis! July 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Coming Destruction of Minneapolis!

    Minneapolis is in a cavey region. It is also true that the discovery of the Schieks Cave in 1904 under downtown Minneapolis did cause some panic, but the concern was more about perceptions in a growing and prosperous city than danger. Little in the way of precautions seem to have been taken. Enjoy then this […]

    Fairies are Oh So… Neolithic July 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
    Fairies are Oh So… Neolithic

    In his early career as a fairyist, Beach gently kicked at the idea that fairies and vegetation were connected. All this modern nonsense about fairies in roses (‘she was small with pink taffeta wings and…’) was probably getting on his nerves. But he’d now like to apologise to folklorists, to historians, to fairy-believer and, should […]

    Intelligence vs Wisdom in Public Debate July 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Intelligence vs Wisdom in Public Debate

    Beach has previously railed against the tyranny of experts, pointing out that experts should be proffered as much respect as they have knowledge of their field: a dentist knows a lot more about teeth than a neurologist knows about the brain; a garage mechanic knows a lot more about cars than a sociologist knows about […]

    Witch Wars in Devon! July 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Wars in Devon!

    1869, the Empire is at its height, teeming millions walk through Britain’s mighty metropolises and out in the Devon countryside the locals are consulting witches. A witchcraft case reported from South Devon. Two or three young women living at Dittisham fell ill. Their mothers, thinking they had been illwished – that is, looked upon with […]

    The Drumming Well July 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Drumming Well

    This is one of these paranormal legends that just seems to have no parallels: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com. In Northamptonshire there was a well that drummed (!) on occasions of national importance. ‘[155] When I was a school-boy at Oundle, in Northamptonshire about the Scots coming into England, I heard a well, in one […]

    Living on Other Planets July 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Living on Other Planets

    Beach recently, while looking for ghosts, ran across this in one Daniel Defoe’s work. This is what it would be like to live on other planets according to an intelligent eighteenth-century thinker. In Saturn they are to live without Eyes, or be a Kind so illuminated from their own internal Heat and Light, that they […]

    Fairies in Old Oaks? July 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairies in Old Oaks?

    Beach recently came across this curious sentence in Della Hooke’s Trees in Anglo-Saxon England (103). ‘Fairy folks are in old oaks’ and on closer examination the rhyme is everywhere. It appears, for example, twice in Katharine Briggs, Dictionary of Fairies at 159 and 313. Needless to say that has also travelled, like a spore, across […]

    Foch and the Twenty Year Armistice: A Myth? July 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Foch and the Twenty Year Armistice: A Myth?

    It is one of the most famous sentences of the twentieth century. Marshal Foch on being told of the final conditions of the Paris Peace Conference stated: ‘This is not a peace treaty, it is an armistice for twenty years’ (Ce n’est pas une paix, c’est un armistice de vingt ans). The Oxford Dictionary of […]

    Twin Countries July 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Twin Countries

    This is an idea that has been going around and around in Beach’s head for a few years, the way that certain pairs of countries seem to have a strange sense of reciprocated fascination with each other. Three examples from Europe: Ireland and Germany; France and Poland; Italy and Britain. All these pairings include an […]

    The Pirandello-Lenin Statue July 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Pirandello-Lenin Statue

    Beach has proud form in reporting stories of Lenin statues: including one in the United States and one (what spasm of Soviet insanity…) in Antarctica. However, he was thrilled to be recently sent this great story by LTM, to whom this post is respectfully dedicated. This letter appeared in the London Review of Books and […]

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