Beam me up, ancients
Of stone circles, crop circles, mounds and ancient phenomena, I have seen a few. I have a travel companion fascinated by such matters and I don’t need much persuading. Reading a T&I cover story on Stonehenge and Wiltshire’s Great Stones Way (February 11-12), I was able to tick off most of the attractions. I have pondered the majesty of the Great Pyramids of Egypt and been bailed up by wild dogs at the pyramids of Teotihuacan in Mexico. And, of course, I have lapped up all those documentaries that “finally reveal the true stories” behind how the pyramids were built and why Stonehenge was so arranged — the backbone of the SBS library, along with never-before-seen colour footage of Adolf Hitler.
One of the most fascinating sights is the Uffington White Horse, in Oxfordshire, England, which is a huge Bronze Age chalk hill figure that, with its sleek lines, is a design masterpiece. But the strange thing is, only an aerial view gives you the full appreciation of its form; there is no perfect “viewing platform” on Earth.
I’m the sort of guy who is happy to leave the how and why of these relics in the realm of wonder, but it brings to mind the must-read of the 1960s and 70s, Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past. The question mark in the title, I’m sure, was author Erich von Daniken’s wink, wink that what you were about to read was utter tosh, but nevertheless, here goes. The thesis was that ancient astronauts arrived on Earth with their sophisticated ways, bestowing knowledge on the locals. To borrow a line from comedian Kitty Flanagan, “It’s so much better than science, it’s pseudo- science!”
We’re lucky here in Australia to have our own links with ancient Egypt, like the Obelisk in Sydney’s Hyde Park, a sandstone structure topped with a filigreed bronze pyramid. Detect a whiff of fraud? It was actually built in 1857 as a sewer vent. But 75km north of Sydney, search out the Gosford Hieroglyphs in bushland at Kariong. You’ll need a “mud” (being the operative word this wet March) map from the internet and it involves clambering up a rock cleft but there they are, about 300 carvings in sandstone, discovered in the 1970s and the subject of much speculation. The idea of ancient Egyptians arriving on our east coast and making tracks several kilometres inland to tell their story tickles my fancy. More prosaic explanations involve a soldier once stationed in Egypt; an academic fallen on hard times (the area was home to transients during the Depression); or some talented schoolchildren. Be warned: recent carvings suggest the craftsmen of the erotic temples of India have called this way too, but have sadly lost their artistry.
Back on the trail in southern England, a road sign proclaims, Crop Circle Next Roundabout. Should I be taking a photo of the roundabout? And what of the elaborate stick structures on my beach that weren’t there late yesterday? So much is unexplained in the Twilight Zone.
Susan Kurosawa is on assignment.