King Herod’s sarcophagus;
excavation of shaman’s grave
near the Sea of Galilee
By Pat Browning
Just in time for Christmas, King Herod is in the news again. You remember Herod – the king of Christian tradition who got upset with the Three Wise Men who were on their way to Bethlehem with gifts for the baby Jesus.
An AP story from the West Bank reports:
“King Herod may have been buried in a crypt with lavish Roman-style wall paintings of a kind previously unseen in the Middle East, Israeli archaeologists said Wednesday. The scientists found such paintings and signs of a regal two-story mausoleum, bolstering their conviction that the ancient Jewish monarch was buried there.
“Ehud Netzer, head of Jerusalem's Hebrew University excavation team, which uncovered the site of the king's winter palace in the Judean desert in 2007, said the latest finds show work and funding fit for a king.”
In May 2007, an article in National Geographic reported:
“The king's highly ornamented, 8-foot (2.5-meter) sarcophagus, crafted of red-colored limestone with rosettes on its sides, had been shattered. Hundreds of fragments have been found around the site, but no inscriptions have been discovered so far … No human remains have been found in or near the tomb, and the skeleton of Herod himself will probably never be recovered, (Netzer) added.”
Photos from Herod’s burial site are intriguing, but what stopped me in my tracks was a photo in a companion story about the 12,000-year old skeletal remains of a female shaman. The photo was taken from the mouth of a cave, looking down on an archaeological dig.
A story in National Geographic reports:
“Archaeologists in northern Israel say they have discovered the world's oldest known grave of a shaman. The 12,000-year-old grave holds an elderly female of the mysterious Natufian culture, animal parts, and a human foot …The immediate area contains several burials, but the shaman's grave is unique in its construction, contents, and arrangement.”
What struck me about the photo is that I’ve seen it before, many times, years ago. For 20 years, every time I slowed down long enough to meditate, and often just as I was drifting off to sleep, it was always the same, a swirl of purple color, and then the view from the cave. I decided that it was a memory from a long-past life, where I had been left in a cave to die.
Hmmmm. Do you suppose … I was that shaman? Nah … couldn’t be … could it?
But wait, there’s more. The AP reports that Polish archeologists have found the remains of Copernicus. I couldn’t make this stuff up. Blame it on DNA.
“Researchers said Thursday they have identified the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus by comparing DNA from a skeleton and hair retrieved from one of the 16th century astronomer’s books. The findings could put an end to centuries of speculation about the exact resting spot of Copernicus, a priest and astronomer whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe.”
Meanwhile, at Pennsylvania State University scientists are mulling the regeneration of a living mammoth from clumps of mammoth hair. Estimated cost: $10 million. Quoting The New York Times: “ Dr. Schuster and Dr. Miller said there was no technical obstacle to decoding the full mammoth genome, which they believe could be achieved for a further $2 million.”
The key word is “decoding.” It could keep fiction writers busy for years. The Herod Code. The Shaman Code. The Copernicus Code. The Wooly Mammoth …
Cue Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs …”Uno-Dos-One-Two-Three-Quatro-WOO-LY BUL-LY …”