AO Magazine - August 2019
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Every corner of the Earth has now been mapped, photographed, measured and scanned and— courtesy of Google—we can explore every inch of it, from the streets of Rome to the jungles of Guatemala. But beneath our feet is a world that remains largely unseen. Google’s cameras have yet to reach the subterranean world – the endless tunnels, caves, caverns, and even cities! Perhaps that’s what makes ‘the underworld’ so captivating. It’s a little slice of our planet that remains hidden, silent, and mysterious.
Caves have always held an attraction for humans. They have witnessed our evolution, serving as shelters, homes, refuges, and strongholds. But beyond physical need, those dark and silent spaces have served as a gateway to the ‘otherworld’. In ancient legend and mythology, they are places where the dead cross to the afterlife, and where gods and beasts dwell.
In this issue, we visit the place where humankind first left their mark – Sterkfontein caves in South Africa – where over two million years ago, individuals from five species of pre-humans ventured underground, but never escaped alive. We dig into the world beneath Mexico’s City of the Gods, the vast labyrinth of caves and tunnels that extend below the great site of Teotihuacan. We examine the land of subterranean cities – Cappadocia, in Turkey – where for thousands of years, people carved out their lives; tombs, temples, and towns deep below the surface. And we delve into one of the most enigmatic cave systems in the Americas – Cueva de Los Tayos in Ecuador – with a first-hand account of Ancient Origins’ own expedition into this intriguing and, at times, dangerous network of caves.
We escort you through the deepest realms, journeying to the underworld, populated by gods, beasts, and characters of ancient legend; from guardians of hell in Greek, Norse, Hindu and Chinese mythology, to gods of justice, and demons of death. From the deepest chasms, we soar to the highest mountains, turning to Tibet where a very unique form of funerary rite takes place – sky burial. In these high-altitude ceremonies, human corpses are offered to vultures as a final, honorable service to nature.
Dr Eran Elhaik, geneticist and expert on paleogenomics, has made world history by developing the first DNA test to compare modern-day people’s DNA to that of ancient people who lived thousands of years ago. Will you soon discover that you are related to a Roman gladiator…or a famous Egyptian Pharaoh? Speaking of fame, the infamous Elizabeth Bathory was a 16th-century countess recorded as one of the most prolific serial killers in history. But was she instead the victim of political betrayal?You be the judge!