This week’s WordPress Photo challenge prompt Resilience fits well with what I was thinking about last night. For some unknown reason my mind turned to recollections of the ancient sites I have been lucky enough to visit in my life. I found myself marvelling over the way these sites have lasted through time yet still resonate with the energies of the cultures that created them.
Here are some photos of some such places –
Ireland’s largest Neolithic wedge tomb at Glanworth in County Cork. In local folk lore this site is known as Labbacallee and is said to be the burial the place of the Celtic Crone Goddess, ‘Caillech Bhearra’. It dates from approximately 2,500 BC. The tomb is aligned so that the light of sunset on the autumn equinox shines directly into the interior. The cap stone of this tomb weighs over 10 tonnes. Just how it was manoeuvred into position remains a mystery.
I can still remember my feeling of shock when I looked inside the tomb. The place was so unlike anything I had ever seen before it took me by surprise. I felt like I was looking down through the lens of time into a culture and belief system I had absolutely no understanding of.
I also felt surprise when I finally saw the Treasury building at Petra although, of course, I had seen photos of it before. What surprised me when I saw the building for the first time was its immense size. Carved around 300BC from living rock the building reflects the incredible perseverance and far sighted vision that lay behind such an endeavour.
One marvel after another unfolds at Petra. One that really impressed me wasn’t a grand towering edifice but a simple dam wall that had been uncovered in a recent excavation. Although Petra only received about 2 inches of rain every year the Nabataeans were expert engineers. They captured every drop of rain that fell and siphoned it into underground cisterns. From time to time torrential rain fell. The dam wall I saw was in a canyon that led off the Siq, the narrow chasm that leads down to the Treasury. It would have prevented flood water from rushing into the Siq. It amazed me that people knew so much about living in a dry climate so long ago yet that knowledge has now been lost.
Some of the oldest sites I have visited are in Turkey. One that made a big impression on me was Aphrodisias, a temple to the Greek Goddess Aphrodite. Although the temple ruins that can been seen today date from around the first century AD there is evidence that the Greek temple was built on the ruins of a much older temple dedicated to the Mesopotamian Goddess, Ishtar.
Although Aphrodisias was devastated by an earthquake around 700 AD it is still a is a beautiful place. When I was there bees hummed in air redolent with the scent of flowers. As I explored the site I fell into a waking dream where it felt as if time was circular rather than linear and that the Goddess still walked among those tumbled ruins.
To visit these marvellous places I had to take long plane journeys from Australia then make my way to places that were often quite hard to get to. By an odd quirk of fate the oldest site of human habitation I have ever visited is just a ten minute drive from where I now live. Down on the coast of Warrnambool, Victoria is a rocky outcrop know as Point Ritchie. The Aboriginal middens and shell scatters at this site have been dated back as far as 40,000 years. At Point Ritchie there is a shell scatter that is currently being studied that may date back as far as 80,000 years. If this can be proven it will totally rewrite human history. Although the local Aboriginal tribe, the Gundijtmara people were decimated in massacres when white people first arrived they still live in the area. It is an a testament to their generosity that so many are open, warm hearted people eager to share their understanding of the local environment with anyone who asks.
It is amazing to think that people have walked across this planet for so long. Through cultural shifts, droughts and floods, seismic activity, wars and brutality people have continued to survive, even thrive. Although we live in difficult times where the future is uncertain there is always the possibility that human resilience, adaptability and the ability to persevere will carry us forward. Maybe some of the wisdom that will help us do this lies in looking back to the knowledge and belief systems that helped people survive in the distant past.