Limestone Head of a Man

Limestone Head of a Man

Most limestones form in calm, clear, warm, shallow marine waters. That type of environment is where organisms capable of forming calcium carbonate shells and skeletons can thrive and easily extract the needed ingredients from ocean water.

When these animals die, their shell and skeletal debris accumulate as a sediment that might be lithified into limestone. Their waste products also contribute to the sediment mass.

Limestones formed from this type of sediment are biological sedimentary rocks. Their biological origin is often, but not always, revealed in the rock by the presence of fossils.

Sometimes evidence of a biological origin is destroyed by the action of currents, organisms, dissolution, or recrystallization.

The Bahamas Platform: A NASA satellite image of the Bahamas Platform where active limestone formation occurs today. The main platform is over 100 miles wide, and a great thickness of calcium carbonate sediments have accumulated there. In this image the dark blue areas are deep ocean waters. The shallow Bahamas Platform appears as light blue. Enlarge image.

The Earliest Depiction of Jesus Was a Mocking Tribute to Christianity

In the Palatine museum in Rome there is a collection of ancient graffiti etched on slabs of marble and limestone that once defaced the walls of palaces and public buildings across the Roman Empire. Among these is one that historians call “Alexamenos graffito”. It depicts a roughly drawn figure of a man with the head of an ass crucified on a cross. Next to the crucified figure is a smaller figure with one arm extended towards the former. Underneath the figures is a caption, written in equally crude letters, that reads “ΑΛΕ ξΑΜΕΝΟϹ ϹΕΒΕΤΕ ϑΕΟΝ”, meaning “Alexamenos worshipping his God.”

Carved sometime between the first and the third centuries, the figure is the earliest known pictorial representation of the crucifixion of Christ and his idolization. The graffiti was discovered on a building complex that was unearthed in 1857 on the Palatine Hill in Rome. The complex of imperial palace was once the house of Emperor Caligula before it became a boarding school for the Roman noble’s messenger boys. It is believed that the graffiti was drawn during this period by a mischievous student to tease another student named Alexamenos, who was apparently a devout Christian. At that time, Christianity was roundly derided by the pagans of the Roman Empire as a strange minority religion, centered on a man punished as a criminal in one of the most humiliating form of execution. The notion of a suffering god was ridiculous to them. Equally absurd was the concept of a savior who was himself defeated by the powers of evil.

Marcus Cornelius Fronto, a 2nd century Roman orator and rhetorician, asserted that “the religion of the Christians is foolish, inasmuch as they worship a crucified man, and even the instrument itself of his punishment. They are said to worship the head of an ass, and even the nature of their father.”

The reference to donkey-worship comes from a story recounted by the Roman historian Tacitus, in which a group of Jews, expelled from Egypt, wandered through the desert, exhausted and dying of thirst, until they were led to water by a herd of wild asses. In turn, they started worshipping the animal that delivered them. The association of Jews with donkeys became a common feature of Hellenistic and Latin historical writings. Christians were mocked for worshipping a donkey head and were even accused human sacrifices.

These depictions must have offended many believers, but some took them in jest. Third-century Christian author Tertullian mentions a peculiar anecdote that occurred in Carthage, where he saw an apostate Jew carry around a picture of man dressed in toga but with the head of an ass and hooves for legs. Rather than feeling insulted, Tertullian was amused at the joke and wrote that “we laughed at both the label and the image”.

But Tertullian also defends his religion. “Our god is the head of an ass,” he wrote, but then he accused pagans that “you in fact worship the ass in its entirety, not just the head. And then you throw in Epona, the patron saint of donkeys and all the beasts of burden, cattle, and wild animals. You even worship their stables. Perhaps this is your charge against us that in the midst of all these indiscriminate animal lovers, we save our devotion for asses alone.”

Aside from that one cheeky engraving, crucifixion was rarely depicted in Christian art until the 6th century. By then, the characteristic beard, shoulder-length hair and long face had become the standard.

Limestone Head of a Man - History

Not all of Glacier Park's rocks accumulated slowly and quietly as sediment in a body of water. At many places, interbedded with and cutting across the sediments, there are bodies of igneous rock which reached their present position in the form of hot molten material forced up from deep within the crust.


PURCELL LAVA. Soon after the youngest layers of Siyeh limestone had accumulated on the floor of the sea and while they were still under water, a mass of molten rock was squeezed up from far below and extruded in the form of a submarine lava flow over the recently accumulated sediments. Several times this lava poured out forming a total thickness varying between 50 and 275 feet. One of the best exposures is on the west side of Swiftcurrent Pass and in Granite Park just west and northwest of the chalet. In fact it is this lava flow which gives the name, albeit wrongly, to Granite Park. The material of the flow is very fine-grained and dark (basic), in contrast to the light color and coarse grain of granite. Nonetheless, many prospectors are wont to call every igneous rock, regardless of its composition, a granite. A number of ellipsoidal structures ("pillows") up to two feet in diameter within this lava indicate that it was extruded under water. The Purcell is thickest in the vicinity of Boulder Pass, where the trail traverses its ropy and stringy surface for a distance of several hundred yards.

Later, after the Shepard and part of the Kintla formation were laid down on top of the Purcell, another similar flow spread over the sea floor.

DIORITE SILL. Few persons visit the park without noticing the pronounced black layer, within the Siyeh formation, present on many of the high peaks. It is most in evidence on the face of the Garden Wall viewed from the vicinity of Many Glacier Hotel, although it is plainly visible also in Mount Wilbur and the wall above Iceberg Lake. Passengers on the Waterton Lake launch can see it cutting across the stupendous north face of Mount Cleveland. From Going-to-the-Sun Highway it can be seen on Mahtotopa, Little Chief, Citadel, Piegan, and Going-to-the-Sun Mountains, and on the west side of the Garden Wall, where it also forms the cap of Haystack Butte. It is everywhere about 100 feet thick, and thus can be used as a very accurate scale for determining the height of mountains on which it is discernible.


This imposing layer of rock, unlike the lava, never reached the surface in a molten state, but was intruded between beds of sedimentary rook and thus became a sill instead of a flow. We need only a glance to determine its intrusive nature. Wherever it occurs it is bordered at top and bottom by thinner gray layers. These are Siyeh limestone which was changed to marble by the tremendous heat of the diorite during its intrusion. This effect is termed contact metamorphism by geologists. Because this contact-metamorphosed zone is at both top and bottom of the sill we know the latter was intruded into the adjacent rocks. Lava flows, even though covered later by sediments, of course alter only the underlying rocks.

The sill can readily be examined in a number of places where trails cross it, notably at Swiftcurrent and Piegan Passes, and north of Granite Park near Ahern Pass. But nowhere is it as accessible as on Logan Pass. It lies beneath the parking lot at a depth of only a few feet, and is exposed on both sides of the pass. To inspect it one need walk only about 200 yards along the trail leading to Granite Park. In a distance of less than 100 feet the trail traverses from fresh Siyeh limestone across the entire altered (contact-metamorphosed) zone, here 12 to 20 feet wide, into the center of the sill. All parts of the sill and adjacent rocks can readily be examined and studied in detail at this site.


A number of dikes * of Belt age, some of which undoubtedly were feeders to the sill and flows, cut vertically up through the sedimentary formations. Some of the dikes are less resistant to weathering and erosion than the rocks surrounding them consequently their more rapid removal results in the formation of narrow vertical chimneys or recesses which appear as snow-filled chutes on the mountainsides in spring and early summer. Such a feature almost invariably indicates the presence of a dike. From Many Glacier Hotel one of these can be seen on the red mountains in front of Mount Wilbur. Another, 1,500 feet high, transects the Pinnacle Wall at the outlet of Iceberg Lake. The dike which forms this impressive chute is less than thirty-feet wide. Though not so conspicuous as the sills some of these dikes are of interest because they contain various ore minerals, principally copper, which today form small deposits along their borders. About the beginning of the century these were responsible for a short-lived mining boom, the best known vestige of which is the remains of the mill at Cracker Lake. The old Cracker Mine, with entrance now caved in, was driven along a dike which has a width of over 100 feet.

From the boat landing at the head of Josephine Lake the dump of another mine appears as a tiny gray-green mound on a narrow shelf high on the precipitous wall of Grinnell Point. Like the Cracker Mine this one was dug along the edge of a similar but smaller dike. All these deposits are insignificant in size and of no commercial value. Had they been important this great area might never have been set aside as a national park.

Ancient Human Skeletons

While human skeletal remains in ancient strata have been identified (Corliss, William R., Ancient Man: A Handbook of Puzzling Artifacts, 1978), none of these finds has been solidly established. It is to be expected that few such specimens would be found. The antediluvian civilization may have been fairly localized. Possibly there were cities, but most likely civilization was still mostly rural in nature. Probably there was greater ecological zone disparity than we see today. God might have provided extensive lowland swamps and even landlocked seas for optimal reptile habitat. Inland there would have been temperate high country optimal for mammals. We have evidence of massive waves crossing much of the continents, laying down the geological megasequences. But huge tsunamis coming ripping through the region where people lived would have done more than just destroy and bury the original human civilization. It would have crushed the Ark as well. Thus God would have allowed the Flood waters to rise gradually there. This would have meant few fossils. People would have just drowned and become food for marine life or their carcasses would have rotted away. Buildings would have just collapsed under the pressure of the Flood waters. Ancient bricks would have dissolved. Receding Flood waters would have spread out and scattered the remains.

Indeed the intelligence and mobility of antediluvian men would have caused them to be moving to higher ground in the initial weeks of the Flood. The result would be even fewer bodies buried. Moreover, the explicit purpose of the Flood was to destroy that wicked civilization (Genesis 6:5-7), so it should be non big surprise that we haven’t found them in the rock layers. (Snelling, Andrew A., “Where are All the Human Fossils?,” Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal vol. 14, no. 1, December 1991- February 1992, pp. 28-33.) The lack of human fossils is actually more of a problem for evolutionists. If humans have lived on Earth for millions of years, there should be hundreds of millions of human fossils, not just a handful. Nonetheless, a few human fossil finds are potential candidates for pre-Flood classification.

/>The controversial Guadeloupe skeletons are a good example. These specimens were first brought to the attention of the creationist community by Bill Cooper (“Human fossils from Noah’s Flood,” Creation Ex Nihilo, vol. 5, no. 3, 1983, pp. 6-9). Several skeletons encased in limestone were discovered in 1805 near Moule on the island of Guadeloupe, and the island’s governor decided to excavate. At the time, no fossilized human bones had been documented. Eventually the 5 ft 2 inch skeleton of a female was taken (still encased in a 2 ton limestone block) to the British Museum of Natural History, where it was on display for 50 years. Initially, these skeletons were deemed to be very ancient, from the deluge in Noah’s day. In 1825 Cuvier and others reexamined the skeletons and determined that they were more modern. Today, that skeleton is being housed in the basement of the British Museum. According to the report of the excavators there are more skeletons remaining in the Miocene limestone strata east of the village of Moule. Important questions remain. Even though this limestone is as hard as marble, it formed around these skeletons rapidly, before they could fall apart. Current processes are not speedily building up this limestone on the island. In fact, it was the process of erosion that originally revealed the skeletons to the islanders. How could the unlikely process of rapid, recent limestone buildup happen in the interior of the island?

Although the entire island of Guadalupe had been surveyed geologically, the Clerc fossil site hadn’t been included in any geological surveys. So in 1985, geologist John Mackay went to the Island of Guadeloupe to clarify the assigned age of the fossil site. Mackay came away with a number of unanswered questions. But it seems clear that the matrix in which the Guadeloupe skeletons were found matches the Miocene deposits of the island. This age (23mya to 5mya in the conventional dating scheme) is a serious problem since modern humans were not supposed to have evolved in Africa till about 3 million years ago.

In the coal collection in the Mining Academy in Freiberg, there is a puzzling human skull composed of brown coal and manganiferous and phosphatie limonite, but its source is not known. Prof. Dr. R. Vulpius, Professor of Coal Geology at the Freiberg Mining Academy, confirmed in more recent times that the skull is still in the archives. This skull was described by Karsten and Dechen in 1842. (Otto Stutzer, Geology of Coal, 1940, p.271. Stutzer was Professor of Geology and Mineralogy in the School of Mines at Freiberg, in Saxony.)

In June of 1971 Lin Ottinger, an amateur geologist and archaeologist, made a fascinating discovery in a Moab, Utah copper mine. Ottinger found human remains in a Cretaceous age sandstone (supposedly more than 65 million years old). He carefully uncovered a portion of what later proved to be two fossilized human skeletons. Dr. Marwitt, J. P. Professor of Anthropology at Utah University, pronounced the discovery “highly interesting and unusual” for several reasons. The bones were still joined together naturally and stained green with copper carbonate. (Burdick, C.L., “Discovery of Human Skeletons in Cretaceous Formation,” Creation Research Society Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 2, 1973, pp. 109-110.) “The bones were obviously human and ‘in situ,’ that is, in place and not washed or fallen into the stratum where they rested from higher, younger strata. The portions of the two skeletons that were exposed were still articulated indicating that the bodies were still intact when buried or covered. …In addition, the dark organic stains found around the bones indicated that the bones had been complete bodies when deposited in the ancient sandstone. …Mine metallurgist Keith Barrett of the Big Indian Copper Mine that owned the discovery site, recalled that the rock and sandy soil that had been removed by dozer from above the bones had been solid with no visible caves or crevices. He also remembered that at least 15 feet of material had been removed, including five or six feet of solid rock. This provided strong, but not conclusive, evidence that the remains were as old as the stratum in which they were found. And that stratum was at least 100 million years old.” (Barnes, F. A., “The Case of the Bones in Stone,” Desert, February 1975, pp. 36-39.)

Since the above articles were published, additional specimens have been found in the same area (between 50-100 ft away). The original mining ceased in the 1970s because the hardened sandstone was tearing up the bulldozers. The specimens found in the 1990s were even deeper into the hillside. They have been dubbed “Malachite Man” because of the green and turquoise colorations that have stained the bones. Some have theorized that it could be an Anasazi Indians burial site. But this would mean the Anasazi dug down 100 ft through very hard limestone to bury their dead! Others have postulated that the burial was the result of a mine caving in. But there is no evidence of a mining shaft (which would have to be quite long to arrive at the depth of 100 feet) or any mining tools. The fact that skeletons of women and an infant have been discovered pretty much rules out the mining accident theory. All of this is good evidence that these skeletons buried under Jurassic Dakota sandstone were pre-Flood.

A leading evolutionist has said, “We should be very surprised, for example, to find fossil humans appearing in the record before mammals are supposed to have evolved! If a single, well verified mammal skull were to turn up in 500 million year old rocks, our whole modern theory of evolution would be utterly destroyed. Incidentally, this is a sufficient answer to the canard, put about by creationist and their journalistic fellow travelers, that the whole theory of evolution is an ‘unfalsifiable’ tautology.” (Dawkins, Richard, The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, p.225) But the methodology for dating rock layers largely protects evolution from such an embarrassment. Besides, when the evidence is too strong to deny, evolutionists will slide into “just so” stories and double-standards to explain away anomalous placement. That is exactly what they have done with Malachite Man.

Fossil Footprints

Over the years a large number of fossilized human tracks have been reported at various locations around the world. Some of these shed light on the coexistence of men and dinosaurs. The Paluxy River basin in Glen Rose Texas is the location of Dinosaur Valley State Park. Many dinosaur tracks have been found along the river and a large number have been excavated to preserve them from erosion. But there have also been human tracks found in this same rock layer. To the right is the Willet print, which was excavated from a limestone ledge near Dinosaur Valley State Park. Below to the left is the Feminine Print, a “human track inside a dinosaur track,” that was found in the Paluxy River area of Glen Rose, Texas. In the center is the Delk Print, which shows a human footprint intruded by a tridactyl dinosaur print. The Delk Track has been authenticated by spiral CT scan, which can verify that there is greater compression density below the tracks then elsewhere in the rock. The right picture shows what are called “following contours” revealed by the CT scan. These would not be there if the track was carved. These Paluxy “man-tracks alongside dinosaur-tracks” have been the source of considerable controversy over the years.

Originally the Paluxy ichnofossils (or trace fossils) were considered by creationists to be powerful evidence that men and dinosaurs coexisted. In the 1980s John Morris wrote the popular book Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs (and the People Who Knew Them) and the film “Footprints in Stone” was produced by Stan Taylor. Over time, the exposed prints became quite eroded and evolutionists argued that they were merely elongated dinosaur footprints that had experienced infilling. Some creationists are now inclined to agree that the famous Taylor Trail was made by a dinosaur, though some point to the mixture of human and dinosaur characteristics as evidence that the tracks are a composite, the human track superimposed upon the existing dinosaur footprints. (See Robert Helfinstine and Jerry Roth’s 1994 book Texas Tracks and Artifacts.)

The lack of clarity regarding these original Paluxy “man-tracks” finds prompted leading creationists to cease using the Paluxy footprints as evidence for men living dinosaurs. But then additional tracks, like the Feminine Print and the Delk Track, came to light, providing much clearer evidence. It is instructive to consider that these Paluxy human footprints are much more distinct than Mary Leakey’s famous Laetoli Track in Tanzania (left), which is universally accepted as hominid. The limestone beds of the Paluxy River containing the supposed human and dinosaur footprints are thought by evolutionists to be 120 million years old. Milne and Schafersman admit, “Such an occurrence, if verified, would seriously disrupt conventional interpretations of biological and geological history and would support the doctrines of creationism and catastrophism.” (Milne, and Schafersman, “Dinosaur Tracks, Erosion Marks and Midnight Chisel Work (But No Human Footprints) in the Cretaceous Limestone of the Paluxy River Bed, Texas,” Journal of Geological Education , Vol. 31, 1983, pp. 111-123.) Incidentally, the Laetoli prints are also problematic for evolutionists because they appear fully modern and yet the rock layer is dated to 3.5-3.7 million years ago, too old for modern Homo sapiens in the current paradigm of human evolution.

To the right is pictured the Zapata track, found in Permian limestone in New Mexico. The Permian is thought by evolutionary geologists to be over 250 million years old. Yet there is a clear fossil human footprint. It is a very shallow track, almost invisible unless wet with strong side lighting. This accounts for the dramatic hour glass shape with dots in front, similar to what you see when you walk with a wet foot on a tile floor. Geologist Don Patton attempted to cut this print out of the rock, but wore out four carborundum blades trying to make one cut! Patton reports to have personally seen a photograph of four, virtually identical tracks in an obvious right left pattern taken about one quarter mile from the Zapata track. The rock and the tracks look virtually identical. Some critics claim the Zapata print is “too perfect.” But the mud push-up on the sides and the fact that the matrix proved extremely hard to cut out (lab tests indicated it was limestone with 30% silica) would make a carving quite unlikely.

In 1987, not far from the Zapata track site, paleontologist Jerry MacDonald discovered a variety of beautifully preserved fossil footprints in Permian strata. The Robledo Mountain site contains thousands of footprints and invertebrate trails that represent dozens of different kinds of animals. Because of the quality of preservation and sheer multitude of different kinds of footprints, this tracksite has been called the most important Early Permian sites ever discovered. Some that have visited the site remark that it contains what appears to be a barefoot human print. “The fossil tracks that MacDonald has collected include a number of what paleontologists like to call ‘problematica.’ On one trackway, for example, a three-toed creature apparently took a few steps, then disappeared–as though it took off and flew. ‘We don’t know of any three-toed animals in the Permian,’ MacDonald pointed out. ‘And there aren’t supposed to be any birds.’ He’s got several tracks where creatures appear to be walking on their hind legs, others that look almost simian. On one pair of siltstone tablets, I notice some unusually large, deep and scary-looking footprints, each with five arched toe marks, like nails. I comment that they look just like bear tracks. ‘Yeah,’ MacDonald says reluctantly, ‘they sure do.’ Mammals evolved long after the Permian period, scientists agree, yet these tracks are clearly Permian.” (“Petrified Footprints: A Puzzling Parade of Permian Beasts,” The Smithsonian, Vol. 23, July 1992, p.70.)

To the left is the “Meister Print,” found in Utah within a block of shale. It was first publicized in the CRS Quarterly as the footprint containing a trilobite fossil. Bottom left is a fossilized shoe sole found petrified in Triassic rock. This print specimen is so clear that the threads are visible to the naked eye! Also published in this journal is the 1995 study of quasihuman ichnofossils (supposed human tracks) found with tracks of dinosaurs in strata near Tuba City, Arizona. Photomicrographic analysis indicates that the human-like impressions were created by pressure which created relatively smooth surfaces, unlike the rougher surfaces of impressions formed inside concretions and unlike surrounding surfaces. Comparison of the quasihuman ichnofossils with modern tracks in wet mud shows them to be closely comparable, supporting their theory that the fossil imprints were made by human feet. (Auldaney, Rosnau, Back, and Davis, CRS Quarterly, vol. 34, pp. 133-146.)

In 1983 Professor Amanniyazov, Director of Turkmenia’s Institute of Geology, reported what appeared to be human footprints in Mesozoic strata. “This spring, an expedition from the Institute of Geology of the Turkmen SSR Academy of Sciences led by found over 1,500 tracks left by dinosaurs in the mountains in the south-east of the Republic. Impressions resembling in shape a human footprint were discovered next to the tracks of the prehistoric animals.” (Rubstsov, “Tracking Dinosaurs,” Moscow News, No. 24, p. 10, 1983.) Dr. Amanniqazov was shocked beyond belief to find a human footprint mingled with dinosaurs. He discusses one of the footprints and says: “if we speak of the human footprint, it was made by a human or a human-like animal. Incredibly, this footprint is on the same plateau where there are dinosaur tracks. We can say the age of this footprint is not 5 or 10, but at least 150 million years old. It is 26cm long, that is Russian size 43 EEE [9.5 American], and we consider that whoever left the footprint was taller than we are…this would create a revolution in the science of man.” (Amanniyazov, Kurban, Science in the USSR T 986, “Old Friends Dinosaurs,” p. 103-107.) There is also this fascinating quote from the Russian journalist, Alexander Bushev who investigated these trackways: “But the most mysterious fact is that among the footprints of dinosaurs, footprints of bare human feet were found…We know that humans appeared much later than dinosaurs – that there was an extraterrestrial who walked in his swimming suit along the sea side.” (Bushnev, Alexander, Komsomolskya Pravda, January 31, 1995, p. 61ff.)

Perhaps the most intriguing such fossil footprint report was that made by the head of department at Berea college in Kentucky of a human-like track left in sandstone of the Upper Carboniferous Period. Numerous scientists have investigated these tracks and concluded that they are genuine (even going so far as to count the sand grains under magnification to ensure that it was compressed at the bottom rather than carved). In Scientific American, geologist Albert G. Ingalls writes, “If man, or even his ape ancestors, or even that ape ancestor’s early mammalian ancestor, existed as far back as the Carboniferous Period in any shape, then the whole science of geology is so completely wrong that all the geologists will resign their jobs and take up truck driving. Hence, for the present at least, science rejects the attractive explanation that man made these mysterious prints in the mud of the Carboniferous with his feet.” Ingalls suggested that they were made by some unidentified amphibian. But a human-sized Carboniferous amphibian is just about as problematic for evolutionary timetables as humans in that era!

However, in an attempt to dismiss these tracks, the Scientific American article did not include the real photos in their article, instead showing some pretty obvious fakes (probably Indian carvings) and not the actual prints, which they had access to. Why would they not show the real tracks? Because this evidence is highly problematic to their worldview, the theory of evolution. As evolutionary atheist Richard Dawkins observed, authenticated evidence of humans in the Carboniferous would “blow the theory of evolution out of the water.” (Dawkins, Free Inquiry, vol. 21, no. 4, 2001.)

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Zahi Hawass

Zahi Hawass doesn’t like what he’s seeing. Clad in his familiar denim safari suit and wide-brimmed bush hat, the famed archaeologist is standing inside the burial vault of the Step Pyramid of Djoser, a six-tiered, lopsided mound of limestone blocks constructed nearly 5,000 years ago. The huge, gloomy space is filled with scaffolding. A restoration and conservation project, at Saqqara outside Cairo, initiated by Hawass in 2002, has been shoring up the sagging ceiling and walls and staving off collapse. But the February 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak—and also ended Hawass’ controversial reign as the supreme chief of all Egypt’s antiquities—is now threatening to unravel Hawass’ legacy as well. With tourists nearly gone, funds dried up and the Ministry of Antiquities leadership reshuffled several times in the past two years, preservation work on the pyramid has ground to a near halt. The new minister has diverted reconstruction money into hiring thousands of unemployed archaeology graduates, claims Hawass, in a desperate move to stop protests. “He has done nothing,” Hawass says, with perhaps a touch of schadenfreude in his voice, scrutinizing the rough limestone ceiling and walls.

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Video: The Secret of Nefertiti's Glare

Zahi Hawass, shown in silhouette inspecting murals in Giza, laments the halt of many restoration projects since his departure. "Antiquities are collapsing in front of my eyes," he says. (Nasser Nasser / AP Images) For more than a decade Hawass was, arguably, the Osiris of antiquities. (Myriam Abdelaziz / Redux Pictures)

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Hawass alights on the subterranean floor and shines a flashlight on the Pharaoh Djoser’s granite sarcophagus. I follow him on hands and knees through a low tunnel, part of a network of five miles of passages that workers burrowed beneath the pyramid in the 27th century B.C. The air is redolent of mud and dust. “The dead king had to go through these tunnels to fight wild creatures until he could become Osiris, the god of the underworld,” he tells me, stepping back into the sunlight.

In Egyptian mythology, Osiris ruled on earth as the all-powerful king, until the jealous god Set murdered him and usurped his throne. Osiris’ fall set in motion a drama of rivalry and revenge in which Set was finally defeated—and Osiris resurrected. Only through the return of the king could order be restored to Egypt.

For more than a decade Zahi Hawass was, arguably, the Osiris of antiquities. A regal combination of showman and scholar, he ruled a netherworld of tombs and temples, investigating age-old mysteries—the burial place of Antony and Cleopatra, the cause of death of Tutankhamun—for rapt television audiences. Hawass’ megalomania was legendary: In “Chasing Mummies: The Amazing Adventures of Zahi Hawass,” a reality television series on the History Channel, the archaeologist led his trainees on Howard Carter-type adventures, an exercise in self-aggrandizement so unabashed that it prompted a New York Times critic to smirk: “One hopes. Dr. Hawass will unearth some ancient Egyptian chill pills and swallow a generous helping.” Yet he also earned the admiration of peers and millions of fans. The National Geographic Society named him explorer-in-residence in 2001, an honor he shared with primatologist Jane Goodall, filmmaker James Cameron and paleontologists Meave and Louise Leakey. He wrote best-selling books. He commanded lecture fees ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. A traveling exhibition he put together of five dozen artifacts from the Egyptian Museum, “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,” earned $110 million for Egypt during its tour of seven cities in Europe and the United States. It was one of the most lucrative museum shows of all time.

It all ended with the revolution. Hawass was vilified when protests against President Mubarak erupted in Tahrir Square in January 2011. Protesters called him “the Mubarak of Antiquities” and accused him of corruption. Underlings in the antiquities department and jobless and frustrated archaeology graduates besieged his office, demanding his ouster. “And take your hat,” they shouted. In April 2011 he was sentenced to a year in jail, stemming from an alleged case of rigged contract bidding at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. (The verdict was later overturned.) In July 2011, after serving two successive post-Mubarak governments, Hawass finally was obliged to give up his job. According to one Egyptian blogger, Hawass was “escorted out the back door of the ministry into a cab, showered with insults and angry chants from young archaeologists,” an event captured on video and watched by thousands of Egyptians.

Today, Hawass finds parallels between his fall and that of Osiris. “I had lots of enemies—the enemies of success,” he says. “They are the friends of the god Set, the evil desert god in ancient Egypt.” Many in the archaeological community seem to agree. “No one in Egyptology. has accomplished even a tiny fraction of what Zahi has. That, plus his fame, enrages people,” says Peter Lacovara, an Egyptologist at Emory University in Atlanta who has known Hawass for decades. “Zahi is a lightning rod, because he’s got so much energy and passion, and he doesn’t pull any punches,” says one noted Egyptologist in the U.S., who insisted on anonymity because her museum wants to stay on the sidelines. “People became envious of how high his profile became.” Others say that his blustering style and sometimes belittling manner, as well as his utter misreading of the public mood on the eve of Mubarak’s overthrow, all but assured his downfall.

Whatever its ultimate cause, Hawass’ departure has raised concerns about the future of Egypt’s antiquities. He may have antagonized people, but he was also an effective and enthusiastic manager who “cut through the bureaucracy,” says Naguib Amin, a consultant and friend since their days as graduate students in the U.S. Now many projects, including Saqqara, have stalled, and some say that Hawass’ fall has adversely affected both fund-raising and stewardship of the country’s treasures. “Antiquities are collapsing in front of my eyes,” Hawass says. Lacovara says that the new director of antiquities, Mohamed Ibrahim Ali, “is well respected and has done an excellent job. He has restored stability [and] things are running smoothly.” But Hawass says that Lacovara, who has ongoing projects in Egypt, may be reluctant to criticize the new boss. “I wanted to support Ibrahim, I wanted him to be good, but he is not doing anything,” he insists. Some colleagues in the ministry agree, saying that Ibrahim lacks Hawass’ dynamism, and has been forced to slash budgets because of a steep decline in revenue.

Egyptian tourism, a big piece of the country’s economy, has declined by as much as 50 percent since 2010, raising questions about whether the government will decide that it needs Hawass and his famous face to revive it. President Mohamed Morsi has never discussed the issue publicly, and Hawass has been critical of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement to which Morsi belonged and whose members dominate his administration. However, he also points out that in 2010, Muslim Brotherhood members overwhelmingly supported a bill he introduced to impose more severe sentences for antiquities theft and ban domestic trafficking in ancient artifacts. “Mubarak’s party was against me,” he adds, and only a watered-down version passed. Some former colleagues believe that Morsi may have no other choice but to bring back Hawass. “His charisma was bringing in money,” says Ali Asfar, the director of the Pyramids. “Nobody can fill his shoes.” Kamal Wahid, the director of Saqqara, concurs. “Every site misses him,” he said. “Tourism [at Saqqara] is down to 10 percent of what it was before the revolution. We are waiting until Dr. Hawass comes back again.”

The Stone Walls of Ireland

Travelling across rural Ireland from the east to the west, one thing that arouses curiosity among many first time visitors is the hundreds of miles of stone walls that meander across farmlands in all directions as far as one can see. These stone walls are nothing odd or unusual for the Irish population, but visitors question about them a lot.

Although Ireland’s landscape is mostly green, you only have to dig a little way beneath its lush verdant carpet to discover that underneath the rolling greens lie a thick layer of hard, blue limestone. This famous blue limestone is found all over the country and it lies under more than half of the island.

Ireland is mostly a rocky island composed of Carboniferous limestone formed about 370 million years ago. At that time, Ireland was part of a shallow sea between two land masses near the equator. Shifting continents raised a part of seabed above the the sea level, which later became Ireland, and over hundreds of millions of years, the mud evolved into a tough, finely-grained limestone just below its surface. These rocks extracted from the earth became the most commonly used building material for the Irish population. From the Stone Age tombs on the Burren, to the Iron Age hill forts of Inishmore, to the battered castles and monasteries of the Middle Ages, these stones are everywhere. Particularly ubiquitous are the stone walls that criss-cross the country.

The stones for these walls are usually unearthed from the field itself. The fields need to be cleared of the stones in order to be farmed, and since there is no easy way to get rid of the rocks the farmers use the material at hand to build low walls to delineate each others property.

The walls are nothing more than boulders piled on top of each other without mortar. They are often quite low and not very stable because of which they need constant maintenance. The instability of the walls, however, work in their favor making them good barriers against livestock that are reared in the area. Animals who have learned from experience that they collapse rather easily keep themselves away from the walls.

One of the most beautiful places where you can see a vast network of stone walls is at Aran Islands. The Aran Islands are a group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. The largest island is Inishmore also known as Aranmore. The middle and second-largest is Inishmaan and the smallest and most eastern is Inisheer. Once a series of barren rocky outcrops on the edge of the Atlantic, its inhabitants have over thousands of years, created life where there previously was none, making things grow out of the rocks by developing a unique farming technique where dirt dug from cracks in the rock are combined with composted seaweed. Today, the islands are impossibly green with low stone walls dividing the farming fields, segregating livestock, and keeping the thin layer of soil from blowing away.


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