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Lid of Palenque | Atlantis Off Cuba? | Black Mummies | White Mummies | Books

The controversial "Lid of Palenque", a massive, 5-ton sarcophagus lid found in the Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque, an ancient Mayan city near the city of Palenque, Mexico, near the Yucatan Peninsula. The intricate carving on the lid has been interpreted as anything from a spaceman in a spaceship about to take off, to a diagram that visually portrays the Mayan view of the cosmos. The lid, at 5 tons, is impossible to remove, and questions remain as to how it was set in place. Image from The Bat Cave.

For years the dense jungle in the foothills of the Tumbal� Mountains of southern Mexico covered a secret known only to the ancient Mayan civilisation. The discovery of the magnificent ruined city near the modern day town of Palenque was to keep scholars and archaeologists happy for years. But none of them knew that these ruins held yet another secret, until one day in 1952.

The ancient city known today as Palenque (named after the nearby modern town of Palenque, as no one actually knows the ancient city's real name) was believed to have been abandoned around the 10th century. Being situated in an area of Mexico that receives the highest rainfall, the city ruins were soon overgrown by the thick jungle and lay hidden until the early half of the 18th century.

The infamous Spanish conquistador Hernan Cort�s passed within 30 miles of the ancient city without realising it was there. There seem to be many conflicting reports as to who first discovered Palenque, but stories proliferated about an Atlantis-like city in the jungles of Mexico. People came and went but it wasn't until 1841 that the jungle was cut back and the ruins were actually studied and described in detail.

Palenque is renowned as one of the most magnificent of the Mayan ruins so far discovered in Central America. Of its six pyramid temples the most magnificent, and the tallest at twenty-three metres, is the Temple of Inscriptions. Scientists and archaeologists worked for the next century unaware that Palenque's real treasure lay in its most dominant feature.

The discovery of pyramids in these ruins lay open speculation that the Mayan civilisation was linked to the ancient Egyptians. But how? Thousands of miles of ocean separated the two. They cultivated the land with simple instruments, and showed no signs of being ocean- going. One theory is that the Mayans, along with the Egyptians, were all descendents of the lost continent of Atlantis. The pyramid temples were the same, but so far that was all.

One day in 1952 a scientist named Alberto Ruz Lhuillier was excavating the staircase of the Temple of Inscriptions when he chanced upon a sealed passageway and the remains of what appeared to be guards. Further exploration of the passageway revealed the real prize, at the bottom of the narrow staircase, deep inside the pyramid, lay the tomb of the Mayan King, Pakal. Up until now there had been no evidence of a burial crypt anywhere in Central America, further fuelling the link with the Egyptians.

During its early years the city was ruled by the club-footed King Pakal, who reigned from 615 to 683 AD. It was under his reign that Palenque flourished and thus Pakal was revered by his people; so much so that it soon transpired the Temple of Inscriptions was actually built specifically for the burial of Pakal. But what was even more fascinating was the sarcophagus lid, known to everyone now as the Lid of Palenque.

This lid is intricately carved with depictions of Pakal surrounded by serpents, mythical monsters, the sun god and glyphs recounting Pakal's reign. The entire solid stone lid seemed to tell one amazing story, and scientists hoped it would reveal much about this mysterious race. Some believe that the stone lid shows Pakal sitting inside of a rocket ship, pointing to the fact that he is looking at what appears to be a control panel, his hands manipulating the panel. Moreover, there appears to be some sort of respirator attached to his nose and, to top it off, flames are clearly shown bursting forth from the bottom of his vessel.

Pakal's jewel-adorned body and priceless jade death mask were removed and placed in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City (the mask was stolen from there in 1985), but the lid is so big and heavy that it cannot be removed. Much of Palenque is still being excavated, just like most of the ancient Mayan cities in the Yucatan. It is widely believed that there are still many more undiscovered ruins hidden by the Yucatan's dense jungles.

A visit to this area will be well rewarded. Palenque is now a national park, and visitors flock to the area, along with scientists and archaeologists. You can stay in the town of Palenque, or choose as I did and stay at Camping Mayabell, the closest accommodation to the ruins. Walk, drive or jump on one of the many passing buses to get there. But whatever you, make sure you don't miss this out. - Click here to travel right!

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire: Sacred Architecture of Mesoamerica: Palenque
University of Texas: Precolumbian Art and Art History: Palenque Palenque
Ancient Enigmas: The Slab of Palenque
Palenque on the Web
Thresholds: Palenque Ruins
Mexico Chronicles: Palenque
Jaguar Sun: Palenque Palenque Palenque
The Palenque Project Palenque
TravelTalkers: Mexico
The Embassy of Mexico

In July of 2000, a commercial expedition found several large, manmade structures 2,200 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, southwest of Cuba, near the Yucatan Peninsula. National Geographic has contacted the discoverers and plans to work with them to do further investigations, but as of this issue no known steps have been taken to uncover more information about this critically important find.

In the summer of 2000, in the Yucatan channel off the coast of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula in southwestern Cuba, two intrepid researchers found what may be remnants of legendary Atlantis.

Paulina Zelitsky and Paul Weinzweig, officers in a Havana-based Canadian company called Advanced Digital Communication (ADC), which has expertise in deep-sea exploration, had been contracted by the Cuban government to search for gas, oil and sunken treasure off in the Cuban-held areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Sailing off the southwest coast of Cuba in their converted trawler, the Ulises, since 1999, the husband-and-wife team had discovered several large oil and gas deposits, and about 20 shipwrecks, including the battleship Maine.

However, in July of 2000, using their sophisticated side-scan sonar equipment, Zelitsky and Weinzweig found something very unusual. Rudely interrupting the endless, flat plains of the ocean bottom, they saw on the screen a large, underwater plateau with clear images of symmetrically organized stone structures that looked like an urban development partly covered by sand. From above, even to their eyes, which were not trained to search for signs of human habitation, the shapes resembled pyramids, roads and buildings. This was a problem as, though submerged structures had been known to appear partially or completely submerged under shallow water in other parts of the world, these structures had been sighted at a depth of 2,200 feet — an impossibility, according to modern scientific standards.

Initially afraid that they had accidentally stumbled upon a secret U.S. military installation, the pair did not reveal their finding for months. However Paul, after puzzling over the identity of the structures one day, glanced at a wall calendar one day which contained pictures of Mayan pyramids, and made the connection — the underwater structures were pyramids! The intrepid pair then resolved to get a closer look, and in July of 2001, one year after they had originally spotted the enigmatic structures, they teamed up with Cuban geologist Manuel Iturralde to perform further investigations. Taking to the sea once again in the aptly named Ulises, the team employed an additional tool, a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to get a closer look at the structures.

What the ROV found was nothing short of spectacular. A vast plain of smoothly cut granite blocks, some rectangular, some circular, some stacked into pyramidal structures, others jumbled far and wide across the ocean floor, splayed out across their viewscreen. Not only were the structures clearly manmade, but the stone they were made of, granite, was not local to the area, indicating that it had to have been brought in from central Mexico, many hundreds of miles away. These three proofs, the cleanly cut blocks, the stacking of these blocks into pyramidal structures, and the fact that the rocks are made of materials not native to the area, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the structures are in fact pyramids from a forgotten period in man's history.

But who built these structures, and when? And what are they doing at the bottom of the ocean floor? Though granite is not used in this area, it was used by the nearby Maya and their ancestors, the Olmec, who used them to build colossal cyclopean structures all over Central America. Native legends from around the area also tell of a cataclysm, with a "fiery snake" appearing in the heavens, and raining down death and destruction on the area, breaking apart what once was a larger landmass into many smaller islands. Rosenzweig and Zelitsky believe that volcanic and tectonic action were responsible for the sinking of the landmass upon which the pyramids are situated, and that that landmass was once a 100-mile-long landbridge that once connected Cuba with what is now the Yucatan peninsula in southeastern Mexico.

Though Cuba is off limits for travel, you can still visit the Yucatan peninsula, which has an interesting history that may also be tied to Atlantis. Meanwhile, though National Geographic has promised funding for additional expeditions that would prove definitively whether or not these structures are man made, funding has not yet materialized, due largely to the State Department's proscription of trade with Cuba. So, until Castro is overthrown and democracy is realized in Cuba, critical knowledge of our ancient past will remain buried. - Click here to travel right!

BBC News: "Lost City" Found beneath Cuban waters
St. Petersburg Times: Underwater World: Man's Doing or Nature's?
National Geographic: New Underwater Finds Raise Questions About Flood Myths
Morien Institute: Advanced Digital Communications Interview
Cyber Diver News Network: Mysterious Stones off Cuba Could Be Lost City of Atlantis
Boardbot/George Erickson: Ruins of Atlantis Off Cuba?
Eden: The Search for Atlantis in Cuba
Crystalinks: Atlantis, Lost City Found Off Cuba
Atlantis Found: Cuba
jop Yucatan Travel
Yucatan Today

A 5,000-year-old Chinchorro woman's mummified body, completed with manganese-painted clay mask. The Chinchorro "black" mummies, so-called because of their dark manganese paint, predate the oldest known Egyptian mummies by 2,000 years. Image from Archaeology magazine, � Philippe Plailly/EURELIOS. All rights reserved.

Most people think that the ancient Egyptians were the first people to mummify their dead. So-called "mainstream science" has consistently pontificated on the subject, stating that mankind before recorded history was naught but a race of savages, barely scraping together a hardscrabble existence as if they were little more than intelligent animals. Time and time again, however, the assumptions of mainstream science are being proven wrong. The "black mummies" of the Chinchorro people, the ancient inhabitants of Chile and Peru, are only the latest in a series of blows to the arrogant presumptions of mainstream science.

Though the ancient Egyptians are indeed ancient, to the Egyptians, the Chinchorro were ancient. The Egyptians mummified their dead as far back as 3000 b.c., but the Chinchorro mummified their dead as far back as 5000 b.c., possibly even earlier. Interestingly, Chile borders with Peru which, as we saw in our Autumn 2002 article on Atlantis, may have been an ancient colony of Atlantis. However, though Atlantis was destroyed in a cataclysm as far back as 10,000 b.c., its colonies lived on, one of which was situated on the west coast of South America, an area which is now comprised of the countries currently known as "Peru" and "Chile".

The methods the Chinchorros used to mummify their dead were quite unique. The bodies were actually ripped apart piece by piece, the head, torso and all of the limbs being prepared separately. Each part of the body had the internal organs, fluids, the muscle tissue and often even the skin removed, leaving only bones. The body was then heat-dried, and reassembled. The limbs and spine were strengthened with sticks, and the body was packed with various dry filler, such as clay and feathers. The dried skin was then relaid over the bones, and a white ash paste was used to fill in the gaps left by the reassembling process. Then, the final stage of mummification took place, which gave the mummies their trademark "black" appearance: the skin was given an additional layer of manganese, giving them a shiny, black appearance.

Unlike the Egyptians, who mummified only royalty and select members of the upper classes, a great many of the Chinchorro dead were found mummified, with no class distinctions in evidence. No one knows whence the Chinchorro came from originally, or why they developed the practice of mummification. Perhaps like the later Egyptians, they noticed that the dead buried in the desert — and Chile does have a very dry desert, which apparently has not seen rain in geologic history — did not decay like those buried in moist soil, and began to create artificial mummies to imitate the natural. Or, as many have conjectured, both the Egyptians and the Chinchorros both descended from a common root race in which mummification was routinely practiced as part of their burial ritual.

Though most, if not all, ancient cultures believed in the afterlife, the Egyptians and the Chinchorros took it one step further, mummifying their dead in an attempt to prolong their remembrance on earth as well as in the afterlife. However, unlike the Egyptians, the Chinchorros apparently used their dead ancestors in rituals, as the later inhabitants of the area did with their dead, and still do even to this day. In either case, the existence of mummies in a part of the world that not only has not previously been associated with mummies, but also has been cited as a possible colony of ancient Atlantis, is intriguing to say the least.

Chile is an excellent travel destination, offering the widest possibly variety of geographical features and terrain. Mountains, hills, plains and deserts, a seashore hundreds of miles long, a fascinating history and culture and famous nearby Pacific islands such as the mysterious Easter Island, Chile has everything the adventuresome traveler needs for a complete vacation. Visit or any one of a half dozen websites listed below dedicated to Chilean travel to learn more about this excellent travel destination. - Click here to travel right!

Archaeology Magazine: "Making the Dead Beautiful: Mummies as Art"
Detroit Free Press: "Chilean Mummies Give Insight into Ancient Group"
Mummy Tombs: "Chinchorro Mummies"
Channel 4: "Bodies of Evidence"
Discover Magazine:
"The Sickness of Mummies" Arica, Chile Tourism, Travel Info and Tour Operators in Chile
Chile Information Project Travel Guide
Chile Discover Arica, Chile

This mummy was one of many found in the Takla Makan desert in central Asia, in the far northwestern corner of China. Though many mummies have had typical Asian features, this and many more displayed distinctly European features. This ancient beauty forms a link to a part of humanity's ancient past that had previously been forgotten. Image from NOVA Online.

Secreted away in the sands of the Takla Makan desert in northeast China are the remnants of an ancient civilization previously unknown to mankind. This civilization was not distinguished by its riches, power or military prowess, but by its incongruity.

Surrounded on the north by the Tien Shan mountains — beyond which lies vast Khazakhstan — on the west by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, on the south by Pakistan, and on the east by central China, the Takla Makan mummies should be ethnically either Asiatic, Arabic or, more likely, a combination of the two. These mummies, however, are neither ethnically Asiatic nor Arabic, but distinctly European, both in dress and in appearance.

When Sir Aurel Stein found the first group of mummies near the city of Loulan in 1906, they were dressed in woolen garments, and wore hats made of felt that were festooned with jaunty feathers. Upon further examination, it was also discovered that these mummies had facial and body characteristics that were clearly European, including high cheekbones, blond or red hair, facial hair on the men, and a height and stature typical of northern Europeans.

Theorists believe that these were Celtic European settlers who, in the ancient past, had once presided over the central Asian silk trade — specifically, the famous "Silk Road", through which vast amounts of silk and other exotic goods from China were once carried to Europe. This road, which has long since fallen into disuse in favor of overseas trade, once spanned the vast deserts and steppelands of central Asia, and has been the setting for many stories, legends and international intrigues, both in Asia and in Europe, for many centuries. Though it is not known why they disappeared, some of the mummies suggest evidence of violence, perhaps due to conquest by another people or, some speculate, ritual sacrifice.

Though these mummies have been found scattered around the valley of the Tarim river that bisects this vast desert, the oldest groups of mummies have come from the cities of Cherchen, where mummies date as far back as 1000 b.c., and Loulan, where they date as far back as 2000 b.c. The best preserved mummies were those that were buried in the sandy desert in the wintertime, in open-bottomed coffins that allowed the cold, salty sand of the Takla Makan desert to quickly freeze dry their bodies. Some of the mummies wore beautiful silk wraps that, in appearance, look almost fresh from the loom, whereas others, particularly the Celtic types, were buried in colorful tartan fabrics that closely resemble European fabrics of the same period.

These fabrics, as well as the clearly European features of many of the mummies, have led many scientists to the inescapable conclusion that a previously unknown civilization once thrived in along the Tarim river in the midst of the vast Takla Makan. This civilization once may have been vast, spanning the central Asian region, but only that part of it that spanned the Takla Makan is now remembered, due to the incredible preservative properties of its salty sands that preserved enough of this ancient civilization to bring it to remembrance. The Takla Makan mummies, also known as the "Urumchi Mummies", are currently on display in the Provincial Museum of �r�mchi.

Traveling the ancient Silk Road in search of ancient mummies, or living history, has been a life-changing experience for many a traveler. The bazaars and quaint yurts of the Uyghur peoples of central Asia present a hospitable and friendly face to travelers of all nations. One can even travel the Takla Makan desert safely with a guide, moving from oasis to oasis, soaking in the timeless charm of the Uyghur peoples. The Uyghurs are famous for their art and culture, and particularly for their music and dance. So, be sure to partake in the local cultural festivities, as a night under the stars dancing to the Uyghur Muqam may prove to be a night to remember. - Click here to travel right!

Discovery Online: Riddle of the Desert Mummies
NOVA Online: The Takla Makan Mummies
Mummy Tombs: Urumchi Mummies
The Information Center: Asian Mummies
Science Frontiers: Blondes in Ancient China
The Daily Republican: 2,000 Year Old Mummies
1911 Encyclopedia: Takla Makan Desert
Uyghur Music Dance and Songs Online
Following Ancient Footprints: Exploring the Northern Silk Road
Travel Concepts International, Inc.: China Silk Road Expedition Urumchi-Turpan-Kashi 8-day tour
Silkroad Foundation: Urumchi
Golden Bridge International Tours: Across the Takla Makan

Lid of Palenque | Atlantis Off Cuba? | Black Mummies | White Mummies | Books

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Moon Handbooks Yucatan Peninsula: Including Yucatan, Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Quintana Roo
(Moon Handbooks Yucatan Peninsula, 7th Ed)

Chicki Mallan, Oz Mallan (Photographer)
Since its creation in 1973, the award-winning Moon Handbooks series has become a top choice among travelers who want a completely unique experience, a new perspective -- and a few new stories to tell. Want to know about your destination's history, culture, and social issues? Looking for the lowdown on recreational opportunities, dining and accommodations options, and the most interesting regional sights and entertainment? No problem. Big or small, mainstream or obscure, every worthwhile detail is included in these books. Moon Handbooks: Yucatan Peninsula provides eye-opening coverage for those looking to dig beneath the tourist culture and touch the true heart of Mexico. Now in its seventh edition, Chicki Mallan's groundbreaking work guides you from the caves of Balankanche and the haunting ruins of Palenque to the pulsating nightspots of Cancun and Cozumel. It also contains new maps, color photos, illustrations, and updated information on shopping, culture, and practicalities. "Don't even think about going to the Yucatan without Chicki Mallan's book." (Review by New Orleans Times-Picayune)
Click here to buy this book.

Lonely Planet Yucatan (Yucatan, 1st Ed)
Scott Doggett
The Yucatan peninsula is the place to go for majestic Mayan temples, tranquil white-sand beaches and wild nightlife. From Cancun's nonstop indulgences to Merida's colonial elegance to Cozumel's world-class dive sites, this in-depth guide will help you discover Yucatan's many treasures.
Places to say and eat — from budget cabanas and cantinas on the beach to high-class resorts
Coverage of parks where you can visit colonies of red flamingos and frolic with dolphins
Walking tours and driving routes
Intriguing and helpful menu guide
36 detailed maps
(From the back cover)
Click here to buy this book.

Beyond Death: The Chinchorro Mummies of Ancient Chile
Paul M. Barrett, Kevin Padian (Introduction), Raul Martin (Introduction)
Thousands of years before ancient Egyptians mummified their dead elite, the South American Chinchorros performed elaborate mummification rituals for deceased members of every level and age of their society. The Chinchorros are exceptional for the sheer number of known mummies — nearly two hundred — and the variety and complexity of their mummification techniques. Although first discovered in 1917, the Chinchorro mummies are little known throughout the world and most literature about them is in Spanish. In Beyond Death, Bernardo Arriaza brings to light these unprecedented remains, offers new interpretations of Chinchorro mortuary practices, and reconstructs this culture's daily life of 8,000 years ago. (From the front flap)
Click here to buy this book.

Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island (Chile and Easter Island, 5th Ed)
Wayne Bernhardson, Jeff Davis, Carolyn Hubbard
From the searing Atacama Desert to frosty Patagonian glaciers, this book highlights an array of diverse destinations. Whether you wish to scale an Andean peak or sail the southern fjords, explore colonial Santiago or hit the beach in Vina del Mar, this guide will get you there.
Accomodations for a range of budgets, from rustic refugios to family-run hospedajes to hot-springs resorts
The best places to taste patel de choclo and sip pisco
Where to trek, ski and run the rapids or observe llamas, penguins and condors
86 detailed maps, including many national parks
Spanish language section and glossary
(From the back cover)
Click here to buy this book.

The Mummies of Urumchi
Elizabeth Wayland Barber
The 2000-year-old mummies of �r�mchi, found in central Asia along the famed Silk Road trading route, are so well preserved as to show clearly that they seem to be of Caucasoid origin. Where did these people come from? Where did they go? You can find their pale-skinned, light-haired descendents among the people of the region, but the story of their presence in this forbidding land leaves more mysteries than it answers. Mass migrations during the Bronze Age scattered many peoples across Europe and Asia, and these startlingly lively-looking mummies may help answer some questions about this period of human history. Their intact, fantastically colored and patterned clothing captures much of author Elizabeth Wayland Barber's attention--she is an expert on prehistoric textiles. Her enthusiastic descriptions of the sewing skills of these migrant people, while focusing on details, lend an immediacy to this fascinating tale. Black-and-white as well as color photos, maps, and diagrams illustrate Barber's colorful tale of anthropology. (Review by
Click here to buy this book.

The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West
J. P. Mallory, Victor H. Mair
The best-preserved mummies in the world are not found in Egypt or Peru but in the museums of Xinjiang, the westernmost province of modern China. For thousands of years the occupants of the barren wastes and oases that would later become the Silk Road buried their dead in the desiccating sands of the Tklimakan, the second greatest desert on earth. This arid environment, preserving body and clothing, allows an unparalleled glimpse into the lives and appearance of a prehistoric people. While the mummies lie mute, their faces eloquently challenge modern scholars to identify them. For these are not the faces of ancient Chinese but rather those of Indo-Europeans who settled in the Tarim Basin on the western rim of ancient China some four millennia ago, 2,000 years before West and East recognized each other's existence. This intriguing study describes the discovery of these people of ancient China and reveals the latest attempts of Chinese and Western scientists to explain their origin and determine their ethnic identity. The book examines the clues left by physical remains; their economy, technology, and textiles (some of the mummies even wore tartans); and the later traces of the languages of the Tarim region. The trail ultimately leads to two major contenders: the Indo-Iranians, those masters of the Eurasian steppes who poured south into the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, India, and China, and the Tocharians, the most elusive of the major branches of Indo-Europeans. (From the book description)
Click here to buy this book.

Life Along the Silk Road
Susan Whitfield
With a nod to the storytelling traditions of the ancient central Asian bazaars that it describes, Life Along the Silk Road is a wily half-breed of a history book. Mixing narrative and historic minutiae, each chapter introduces an inhabitant of the Silk Road at the end of the 10th century. Following the lives and stories of the Merchant, the Soldier, the Monk, the Courtesan, and others, Susan Whitfield brings the dramatic history of pre-Islamic central Asia down to a human scale, fleshing out the battles of conquest and trade with the details of everyday life. (Review by
Click here to buy this book.

Lonely Planet Central Asia (2nd Edition)
Bradley Mayhew, Richard Plunkett, Simon Richmond
Ancient civilizations, awe-inspiring landscapes and intricate architecture — Central Asia is a challenging and fascinating destination. This guide helps you explore glittering mosques, honour local customs and negotiate the infamous bureaucracy.
55 detailed maps
Special sections on the Silk Road, architecture & peoples
Details on how to organize home-stay accomodation
Advice on getting visas, changing travellers cheques & exporting carpets
(From the back cover)
Click here to buy this book.

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Mysterious World