May 17th, 2017

Messengers to the Gods


Why did the ancient Egyptians invest so much in the afterlife of creatures? Unlike Greeks and Romans, ancient Egyptians believed animals possess a soul, or ba, just as humans do. “We forget how significant it is to ascribe a soul to an animal,” says Bleiberg. “For ancient Egyptians, animals were both physical and spiritual beings.” In fact, the ancient Egyptian language had no word for “animal” as a separate category until the spread of Christianity. Animal cults flourished outside the established state temples for much of Egyptian history and animals played a critical role in Egypt’s spiritual life.

The gods themselves sometimes took animal form. Horus, the patron god of Egypt, was often portrayed with the head of a hawk; Thoth, the scribe god, was represented as an ibis or a baboon; and the fertility goddess Hathor was depicted as a cow. Even the pharaohs revered animals, and at least a few royal pets were mummified. In 1400 B.C., the pharaoh Amenhotep II went to the afterlife accompanied by his hunting dog, and a decade later his heir Thutmose IV was buried with a royal cat.

However, large numbers of mummies in dedicated animal necropolises did not appear until after the fall of the New Kingdom, around 1075 B.C. During the subsequent chaotic 400-year span known as the Third Intermediate Period, the central Egyptian state collapsed and a series of local dynasties and foreign kings rose and fell in rapid succession. Without the pharaoh, people needed to approach the gods on their own. Against this backdrop, pilgrims visiting temples began to purchase animal mummies from priests to bury as votive offerings.

Some wealthier pilgrims bought bronze statuettes of divinities that were also wrapped as mummies and placed in animal cemeteries. But real animal mummies would have been a much cheaper option, and they were soon a pervasive presence in Egyptian life. A few mummies have been found with papyri petitioning the gods for help to resolve a family matter or cure an illness. However, that the majority of animal mummies were not accompanied by written petitions and that it’s possible most were intended to carry oral messages.

Perhaps pilgrims whispered their requests in the ears of the mummies, which then delivered their messages to the gods.

Kemo D. 7
Source: Archaeology Magazine

The Lost City of Aztlan


The Aztec people of Mexico created one of the most powerful empires of the ancient Americas. While much is known about their empire located where today’s Mexico City can be found, less is known about the very start of the Aztec culture. Many consider the missing island of Aztlan to be the ancient homeland where the Aztec people began to form as a civilization prior to their migration to the Valley of Mexico. Some believe it is a mythical land, similar to Atlantis or Camelot, which will live on through legend but will never be found in physical existence. Others believe it to be a true, physical location that will someday be identified.

Searches for the land of Aztlan have spanned from Western Mexico, all the way to the deserts of Utah, in hopes of finding the legendary island. However, these searches have been fruitless, as the location – and existence – of Aztlan remain a mystery. The formation of civilization at Aztlan comes from legend. According to Nahuatl legend, there were seven tribes that once lived at Chicomoztoc – “the place of the seven caves.” These tribes represented the seven Nahua groups: Acolhua, Chalca, Mexica, Tepaneca, Tlahuica, Tlaxcalan, and Xochimilca. The seven groups, being of similar linguistic groups, left their respective caves and settled as one group near Aztlan.

The word Aztlan means “the land to the north; the land from whence we, the Aztecs, came.” It is said that eventually, the people who inhabited Aztlan became known as the Aztecs, who then migrated from Aztlan to the Valley of Mexico. The Aztec migration from Aztlan to Tenochtitlán is a very important piece of Aztec history. It began on May 24, 1064, which was the first Aztec solar year. To this day, the actual existence of an island known as Aztlan has not been confirmed. Many have searched for the land, in hopes of having a better understanding of where the Aztecs came from, and perhaps a better understanding of ancient Mexican history. However, like other lost cities, it is not clear whether Aztlan will ever be found...

Kemo D. 7

Planet HAT-P-26b


Astronomers have spotted water vapor and evidence of exotic clouds in the atmosphere of an alien planet known as HAT-P-26b. The researchers also determined that HAT-P-26b's atmosphere is dominated by hydrogen and helium to a much greater degree than that of Neptune or Uranus, the alien world's closest counterparts in our own solar system in terms of mass. "This exciting new discovery shows that there is a lot more diversity in the atmospheres of these exoplanets than we have previously thought," David Sing, an astrophysics professor at the University of Exeter in England, said in a statement. "This 'warm Neptune' is a much smaller planet than those we have been able to characterize in depth, so this new discovery about its atmosphere feels like a big breakthrough in our pursuit to learn more about how solar systems are formed, and how it compares to our own," added Sing.

HAT-P-26b lies about 430 light-years away from Earth.

Kemo D. 7
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