Monday, 28 September 2015

The Mysterious Stone Jars in Laos

The Plain of Jars is a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos, comprises thousands of stone jars scattered around the upland valleys and the lower foothills of the central plain of the Xieng Khouang. The jars are frequently arranged in clusters ranging in number from one to several hundred. Various travelers that make it to this remote corner of Laos will find fields of ancient stone jars. Who put them there, and what were they for? Hence what purpose these stone jars served and who constructed them remains a mystery? So far 90 jar sites have been well recognized within the province of Xieng Khouang, and each site has from one to 400 stone jars. However, jars are varying in height and diameter amid 1m and 3m and are all hewn from rock. The Jar shape is alike cylindrical with the bottom always wider than the top. Unidentified to most traveler’s, thousands of stone urns dating back to the Iron Age (500 BC to AD 500) are peppered over hundreds of square kilometers in the mountains surrounding Phonsavan a lengthy detour from the typical transportation routes. 

Due to jar size and the adjacent bones, some archaeologists believe the urns were prehistoric burial sites for an ancient civilization that travelled along an elapsed overland trade route among the Mekong River and the Gulf of Tonkin. The jars lie in clusters on the lower foot-slopes and mountain ridges of the hills surrounding the central plateau and upland valleys. Therefore, a number of quarry sites have been recorded, generally close to the jar sites. Five rock types have been identified: sandstone, conglomerate, granite, limestone and breccia. Others believe the urns were used as distilling vessels during the early stages of funeral rites. So, a body would be placed inside and left to decompose before being moved to a crematorium or secondary storage location and after the corpse had fully decayed, the remains would be returned to the urn and an additional fresh body would join it, repeating the same cycle.

This faith is well supported by the traditional Southeast Asian mortuary practices used for members of royalty. Moreover, Thai royals historically had their bodies cremated several months after their death, with their body remains being moved from urn to urn until the final day of incineration, in the faith that the soul moves through a slow transformation, exiting the earth and entering the mystical world. Furthermore, the rims on to each jar are believed to have reinforced lids that would be placed on top until the body decomposed, adding credit to this theory. However, the local’s inhabitants, on the other hand, have more thrilling philosophies. Various local says the stone vessels were shaped to brew powerful rice wine to rejoice the victory of a band of mythological giants over their enemies; while the others say the jars held whisky for a thirsty hulk that lived in the mountains above Phonsavan. However, on the other side the truth is, no one knows the secret behind this ancient mystery.

In the early 1930s a French investigator concluded that the jars were related with prehistoric burial practices, well excavation by Lao and Japanese archaeologists in the intervening years has supported this interpretation with the discovery of human remains, burial goods and ceramics around the jars. The Plain of Jars is dated to the Iron Age and is one of the most significant prehistoric sites in Southeast Asia. Since most of the jars have lip rims, it is thought that the jars originally supported lids, although few stone lids have been recorded; this may propose that the bulk of lids were fashioned from unpreserved materials. Stone lids with animal carvings have been found at few sites such as Ban Phakeo.

The bas-relief carvings are supposed to portray monkeys, tigers and frog, though no in situ lid has ever been found. Walking through the fields, you can spot dozens of red and white markers placed prudently on the ground signs of a far more disturbing secret amid the mystery. Thus, “Phonsavan” was located on a flight path for United States fighter jets during the Vietnam War and became the unauthorized dumping ground for 270 million cluster bombs, manufacture it the world’s most heavily bombed place per capita. More than 80 million of these bombs failed to detonate upon landing, treacherously polluting the area and creating much of the land surrounding the Plain of Jars unusable.

Well, tourists to the site must stay close to the marked, cleared zones, because answers to the mystery were long gone; only spider webs and still water remained. Time and war may have removed any chance we have of understanding who built these marvels and why. The Lao PDR government and “NZAID” built a visitors center that was opened on 13 August 2013 at the Plain of Jars Site 1 and it is at the bottom of a hill 200m before a car park. The center provides English language information panels on the history of the Plain of Jars culture, as well as its modern history during the 1964 to 1975 conflict. Moreover, Lao PDR government is considering applying for status as a UNESCO World Heritage site for the Plain of Jars.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Natural Smoking Hills of Canada

In the middle of eighteen century (1850), a British Captain Robert McClure was sent on an expedition to aboard the Investigator to the Arctic to hunt for the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin who had departed England 5 years earlier. It was the 2nd exploration party who went searching for the 129-crew Arctic exploration team, and one of several dozens that were to follow for the next four decades.
Therefore, the Investigator sailed north through the Pacific and entered the Arctic Ocean by way of Bering Strait, sailing eastward past Point Barrow, Alaska to sooner or later link up with another British excursion from the north-west. However, when McClure’s search party comes close to the mouth of the river Horton on Beaufort Sea near Cape Bathurst in Canada's Northwest Territories, he observed smoke in the some distance. Though, suspecting the smokes could be from campfires, maybe from Franklin, McClure at once sent an exploration party to investigate. Nevertheless the party found not flames from Franklin's campfires, but thick columns of smoke evolving from vents in the ground. Then the sailors returned with a sample of the smoldering rock, and set it down on McClure's desk it burned a hole in the wood.

Hence, McClure presumed the rocks to be volcanic, but the real truth was something else. The mountains comprise large deposits of sulphur-rich lignite (brown coal) which ignite impulsively when the hills erode and the mineral veins are uncovered to the air. The fumes they give off comprise sulphur dioxide, sulphuric acid and steam, all of which has acidified the nearby shallow pools making a pocket of distinguishing acidic biota, in disparity to the naturally Arctic biota in nearby alkaline ponds. Thus, The Smoking Hills is thought to have been burning for many centuries, and will do so for many more.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Shenandoah National Park Time-lapse

This is a short time-lapse video highlighting the best locations in Shenandoah National Park. The park is located in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's one of the most beautiful national parks across the United States and is known for it's scenic drive, Skyline Drive, that travels all the way through the park. Shenandoah has everything from cascading waterfalls to spectacular vistas. I hope you enjoy the video and go check out Shenandoah for yourself to find your own spots!
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Music: "Beauty In The Breakdown"(Instrumental) -Seth Glier

Shenandoah National Park Time-lapse from Garrett Martin on Vimeo.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Saarinen Falls Baraga County Michigan-time lapse

 Saarinen Falls is on the Falls River in the L`Anse area of Baraga County. North of Powerhouse Falls and south of the set of waterfalls in downtown, this along with a series of other beautiful cascades is primarily on private property along the river. I am fortunate enough to know someone with property on this section of the river. The first time I lay my eyes on the scene to take just some pictures, I was happily surprised at the jewel in my friends backyard. I made a return trip to the area with a bit more time on my hands and spent the 3+ hours it took to capture the 5000 pictures I needed for my video. I hope to return in the fall to record it in full Autumn color, too.

Saarinen Falls Baraga County Michigan-time lapse from Douglas Feltman on Vimeo.

The Lion Gate, Greece

In Southern Greece “The Lion Gate” of Mycenae was the entrance to the city erected during the 13th century BC in the northwest side of the acropolis and is named after the relief sculpture of two lionesses in a heraldic pose that stands above the entrance. Atop the gate, two lions fecund are carved in stone relief. Alike bas-reliefs of two lion’s rampant facing each other are found in a number of places in Phrygia in Asia Minor. The “Lion Gate” is the sole surviving monumental piece of Mycenaean sculpture, as well as the largest sculpture in the prehistoric Aegean. Therefore, the greater part of the cyclopean wall in Mycenae, including the “Lion Gate” itself, was built during the 2nd extension of the citadel extended fortifications also included Grave Circle A, the burial place of the 16th-century BC royal families inside the city wall. Although, this grave circle was establish east of the Lion Gate, after the expansion, Mycenae could be entered by two gates, a main entrance and a postern, while the most extensive feature was unquestionably the remodeling of the main entrance to the citadel, famous as “The Lion Gate”, in the northwestern side built circa 1250 BC.

The Lion Gate was come up to by a partly natural, partly engineered ramp on a northwest-southeast axis. Because, the eastern side of the approach is flanked by the steep smooth slope of the earlier enceinte. Hence this was embellished with a new facade of conglomerate. Therefore, on the western side a rectangular bastion was erected, 49 feet long and 24 feet wide, built in pseudo-ashlar style of enormous blocks of conglomerate. Moreover the term "Cyclopean" was therefore applied to imply that the ancient structures had been built by the legendary race of giants whose culture was presumed to have preceded that of the Classical Greeks, as described in their myths. Between the wall and the bastion, the approach narrows to a small open courtyard measuring 49 feet × 24 feet, possibly serving to limit the numbers of attackers on the gate. The bastion on the right side of the gate facilitated defensive actions against the attackers' right hand side, which would normally be vulnerable as they would carry their shields on their left arms. At the end of the approach stands the Lion Gate. Read out The Lion’s Mound of Battlefield of Waterloo.

The Lion Gate is a huge and imposing construction, standing 10 feet wide and 10 feet high at the threshold. It narrows as it rises, measuring 9 feet below the lintel. The opening was closed by a double door mortised to a vertical beam that acted as a pivot around which the door revolved. The gate itself consists of two great monoliths capped with a huge lintel that measures 15×7×3 ft. Well, above the lintel, the masonry courses form a corbelled arch, leaving an opening that lightens the weight carried by the lintel. This relieving triangle is a great limestone slab on which two confronted lionesses carved in high relief stand on either sides of a central pillar. The heads of the animals were fashioned separately and are missing. The pillar, specifically, is a Minoan-type column that is placed on top of an altar-like platform that the lionesses rest their front legs on.

Furthermore the imposing gate of the citadel with the representation of the lionesses was an emblem of the Mycenaean kings and a symbol of their power to both subjects and foreigners. It also has been argued that the lionesses are a symbol of the goddess Hera. Nevertheless the Lion Gate may be compared to the gates of the Hittite Bronze Age citadel of Hattusa, in Asia Minor. Since the heads of the animals were of an unrelated material from their bodies and originally were fashioned to look toward those approaching below, a number of scholars have recommended that they were composite beasts, perhaps sphinxes, in the typical Middle Eastern tradition. Therefore, on the top of the pillar is a row of four discs, actually representing rafters supporting a further piece of sculpture that has since been lost?

The design of the gate had precedents in other remaining artworks of the time; a related design was depicted on 15th-century Minoan seals and a gem found at Mycenae. Well, several other pieces of Mycenaean artwork share the same basic pattern of two opposed animals separated by a vertical divider, such as two lambs facing a column and two sphinxes facing a sacred tree representing a deity. Beyond the gate and inside the citadel was a covered court with a small chamber, which probably functioned as a guard post. On the right, adjacent to the wall, was a building that has been identified as a granary because of the Pithoi found there enclosing carbonized wheat. The Lion Gate is popular tourist destination in Mycenae for many centuries, and it was mentioned by the ancient geographer Pausanias in the 2nd century AD. Moreover, as you walk in through the gates, there is a little compartment within the rock wall, inside the gate, which several legends believe was either a guard post or meant to keep guard dogs. The Lion Gate has become over the years the trademark of the entire archaeological site of Mycenae. In the ancient times, there was a wooden door to shut the entrance. The door opened inwards and it used to lock with a wooden bar. 

Prague’s Klementinum, The Most Beautiful Library in The World

Prague’s Klementinum library is one of most beautiful libraries in the world, and it was opened in 1722. Though, aside housing more than 20,000 books for your reading pleasure, this location showcases unquestionably spectacular Baroque architecture. As you are checking various timeworn bookshelves, you can take a moment to look up and see Jan Hiebl's heavenly, Renaissance-style ceiling paintings. Between his splendid works, there’re symbolic designs that represent the significance of education, along with fanciful portraits of Jesuit saints. Hence, Hiebl's paintings in fact pay homage to the fact that the library was formerly a Jesuit university. Several of the school's rare, 17th-century books are still amongst its collection these days. That would easily explain why Emperor Joseph II's portrait is displayed at the head of the hall, since he was the one who arranged for eliminated monastic libraries to send their books to “Klementinum”. At present, Google has numerous of these volumes in their possession because they're scanning them for Google Books. In 1777, Maria Theresa declared “Klementinum” to be a public and university library. This permitted the Prague community to observer this local treasure in person, to marvel at the globes that line the center of the library, and to study Jan Klein's intricate astronomical clocks. Source: Charismatic Planet