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Pyramids Archives - The Wonders Expedition™ - @Archeoastronomy

March 5, 2021

The Origins and Spreading of Buddhism

At the Dallas Museum of Art today Dr. Monica L. Smith of UCLA gave a very good presentation about her studies associated with the origins of Buddhism, a religion/philosophy I’ve never really studied, and in her presentation, I was intrigued to find out how it spread throughout Southeast Asia over time and how it got localized as it moved from one country to another. As I thought about it, I began to wonder if this same practice hadn’t happened with the development of iconic ancient sites around the world, like the building of pyramids.

During the event, co-sponsored by the Archeological Institute of America, Dr. Smith showed photos of how Buddah, once people began drawing him or creating icons to show him, they adopted their own ethnocentric identity to him–he kept much of the same pose and aura, but his head gear, or eyes, or facial shape etc. modified to reflect a stereotypical representation of the country where he was being worshiped.

Ethnocentrism in the Pyramids?

Dr. Monica L. Smith of UCLA showing Changes in Budda By Nation

Which gets me back to wondering about the whole premise that started the Wonders Expedition to begin with.

Can’t the use of pyramids in different cultures, countries and even continents be looked at the same way?  I mean the Egyptian pyramids are built the way the Pharaohs preferred.  At Lower Jackson Mound in Epps, Louisiana, they didn’t have limestone so they simply used dirt.  The Maya built pyramids but changed the design to meet their style of architecture.  The Chinese, yes, there are pyramids in China, built theirs sort of like the Egyptians, but like Native Americans, they simply used dirt.  Temples in India largely are built in pyramidic form as well.

One of my good friends, a scholar, says that pyramids are “just a pile of rocks and anyone can build a pile of rocks!”  But to me, there still appears to be something more to them to me than just a pile of rocks.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think there was some cross-culture communication going on about the building of these incredible structures?


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The Wonders Expedition–A Growing Collection Of Friends Around The World

I have a few confessions to make.  At 46-years of age, I’ve never left the North American continent.  But through the work the past nine months through The Wonders Expedition, I’ve begun to make friends with people in other countries around the world that I want to meet as much as I want to take my next breath. I used to say that I never really wanted to leave North America either, but the more I engage with those who are in other parts of the world, I am feeling a calling to go.

In my head I often hear the joke routing of English Transvestite Comedian Eddie Izzard as he’s talking to a crowd in “The City” in San Fransisco and he asks them sarcastically, “You do realize there are other countries, don’t you?!” I’ve always known that there are, but they are coming alive to me via this project in a way I never would have dreamed of.  And the excitement makes getting up each morning even more enjoyable.

Today’s Foreign Conversations–April 9, 2012

Today I talked with Jeff in Peru.  He’s a photographer and a highly skilled one at that.  He couldn’t talk with me last week because, and I quote: “I am currently in the Peruvian Amazon.”  Now tell me that isn’t the coolest reason ever offered in an email as to why you will have to speak with someone later!

Tonight I spoke via chat with Alex, who is in LA, but he was talking about how he’s been in Maui doing underwater photography with an iPad and his iPhone.  Using Aqua Box, a product I’d never heard of–and frankly a concept I’d never thought of–he’s been down as low as 20 feet underwater and suffered no leaks, but came away with some amazing videos.  Here, take a look at this one about filming in the ocean.  The Maui video isn’t far off he says!

And then today I’ve also gotten to know Iza who went to Machu Picchu in September 2011 with her Portuguese speaking BFFs in what appeared to be a Girls Night Out-type of adventure where they just happened to go to one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

Tonight, I sent off an email to a guy in Germany who is about to get up and start the day as I’m about to end this one.

And then there of course were the Twitter conversations with Hannah Pethen Barrett and her Egyptian expedition roommate Liz, who both have been in Egypt since late March exploring and mapping with cool GIS equipment Middle Kingdom sites such as Gurob.  What they are doing with hi-tech gear is absolutely fascinating.

Finally, the good fokes @AfricanCosmos posted this cool trivia photo today encouraging people to identify it.  They didn’t ask the other person I’ve been talking with a lot lately, Gigi, in South Africa, who has gotten the answer to the last three or four weekly postings right….  Gigi was trying to help me with an answer tonight but I’ve been so busy exploring Tumult’s Hype program for the Mac that makes HTML 5 animations, I totally missed them!  (Sorry Gigi!)


It’s in some ways intimidating to be talking with these people in other parts of the world because they all speak English really, really well.  Not to mention their own native language and a couple more on average.

Liz and Gigi both have used words in conversations I’ve had to go back and look up.  And I began my conversations with Iza today using Google Translate to go from English to Portuguese out of respect of trying to use her native language.  She immediately began using English like a snap of a finger.

That to me is a semi-indictment of the type of education I’ve received here in America.  I’m fairly well educated.  The US Air Force bases we were stationed at always had good schools for the officers kids.  I got a good college education through Auburn University.

But I’ve never really wanted to learn other languages.  I’m seeing at my age that it would have been nice to know along the way.  While I have seen much of America by having moved 35 times now in 46 years, I’ve still missed about 6/7ths of the rest of the world.  And here I am talking with people who are out there every day doing more exploration of our world than I’d ever dreamed of before I began researching for The Wonders Expedition.

I have much to learn.  I hope to be learning something new right up until my final moments.  In the meantime, I plan to make the most of every moment and take in as much as I have missed as humanly possible. I’m making some great new friends around the world and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Tomorrow night I’m doing an interview with a guy in Australia.  And so The Wonders Expedition keeps expanding.

And to think, I could still be sitting in a downtown Dallas office doing corporate PR…..

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Landscape Archeology–Planetary Alignments Are Significant

Archeologist and Egyptologist Hannah Pethen Barrett, who presently is in Egypt on an expedition, recently discussed with us the importance of landscape archeology.  It is her work’s primary focus and one she finds quite curious. In our conversation with her, we discuss the exploration and analysis of ancient topographical features and how they played a role in the development of ancient buildings.  This is important because as climates change over the course of time and the Earth itself shifts, it often leaves us asking today why the ancients built something so far away from a body of water or out in the middle of the desert. The short answer often times is, a couple thousand years ago, it was right next to a body of water and it wasn’t out in the middle of nowhere….

Map of Ancient Egypt, showing the Nile up to t...

Map of Ancient Egypt, showing the Nile up to the fifth cataract, and major cities and sites of the Dynastic period (c. 3150 BC to 30 BC). Cairo and Jerusalem are shown as reference cities. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, we discussed sites like the Temple of Karnak, which now is located some distance from the Nile River, but apparently was quite close to the ancient Nile River.  Over the course of time, landscapes change and most of us probably don’t realize how much.  But according to our learned scholar, things change quite a bit over the course of 2,000-3,000 years.

Though she isn’t an archeoastronomer by title, she does say that when it comes to dating the ruling periods of Egyptian Pharaohs it is largely done by “Year so and so, of such and such Pharaoh.”  That makes it hard to put into terms of something having happened in X BC/AD.

So by focusing on things like the Dog Star, Sirius, and references to Sirius’s location in the ancient night skies in the writings left behind, archeologists can do calculations to help better determine when, in terms of our modern day calendar of BC/AD, when a pharaoh reigned or a particular recorded event in ancient history likely happened.

And so, in this way, planetary alignments are of great importance in Egyptology and the study of other ancient cultures around the world.




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Egyptian Photos and Egyptian Civilization by Hannah Pethen

By Hannah Pethen
Ph.D Candidate, University of Liverpool
For ‘The Wonders Expedition’

(Editor’s Note: We constantly are asking scholars around the world to provide insights and reflections on some of the most curious places on Earth.  Today’s feature comes via Hanna Pethen of Liverpool, England.  Her incredible cache of additional photos can be seen on her Flickr account. What’s equally exciting is she’s headed back to Egypt in a few weeks! Follow her on Twitter!)

As an archaeologist and Egyptologist I have undertaken many trips to Egypt over the last six years. Although in earlier seasons of excavation I did not always have a suitable camera with me, since 2007 I have taken pictures of both modern life and ancient artifacts in the country. Some of my pictures cover sites not normally visited by tourists. These include the giant pedestals of Biahmu, which are the height of a bungalow and originally carried two enormous colossi of the Middle Kingdom Pharaoh Amenemhat III.  The giant statues may reflect a political statement associated with the reclamation of land in the Faiyum during this period.

The western Pedestal at Biahmu by Hannah Peth

Amenemhat III was buried at the pyramid of Hawara and the vast temple attached to the south of the pyramid gave rise to stories about the ‘Labyrinth,’ later made popular by Herodotus.

Other sites I have visited are amongst the most visited in Egypt, including the pyramids of Giza, the temples of Karnak and the temple of Luxor (which will soon be added to Flickr).

Visiting Karnak and Luxor

I visited Karnak and Luxor in 2007 and 2011 as part of holidays taken at the end of seasons of excavation. Our holiday in 2011 was brilliant, although protests were still going on Cairo, Luxor was very quiet and the tourists were very limited. This made trips to popular monuments like the temple of Karnak much easier and more relaxing than at the height of the tourist season.

We also met some brilliant people including Mohamed Abu El-Hagag who drives a carriage in Luxor and is often outside the temple of Karnak. A very honest man, his horse is one of the best cared for I have seen and we often went with him for trips to Luxor and the West Bank.

Visiting Denderah and Abydos

The changing political situation also meant we were able to visit Denderah and Abydos by road, without needing a police escort. Previously all tourist trips to Abydos needed to travel in convoy with tourist police to escort them, in order to be absolutely sure there was no risk to any travelers. With the changing political situation, this rule was relaxed and in 2011 we went by car with just a guide and a driver. The convoy system has now been reinstated by the current Egyptian government, as they seek to reassure people that the safety of tourists is of paramount importance. Ceiling incscription of they Hypostle Hall at Denderah, Egypt by Hannah Pethen

As a result of the convoy system, the sites at Denderah and Abydos were less frequently visited, although some Nile cruises include the temple of Hathor at Denderah, built by the Greek rulers who followed Alexander the Great. Denderah is amongst the best preserved temples in Egypt. Much of the original colour paint is preserved on the inscriptions within the temple and when I visited in 2011, restoration work was underway to remove the black soot, caused by generations of smoky lamps, and reveal the beautiful painting.

I was able to photograph some fantastic mythological scenes which had been newly revealed and conserved.

Denderah also has one of the few images of Cleopatra VII and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion. Although carved into the rear external wall of the temple at monumental scale, the image is not a true portrait, but a generic and idealised representation of an Egyptian queen with the name of Cleopatra VII attached to it. In Egyptian thought this would have been quite sufficient, the addition of a name to a statue or image conveyed the essence of the individual irrespective of the accuracy of the portrait, but it does leave the modern observer a little frustrated.

The temple of Abydos was built by Seti I and his son Ramsses II of the New Kingdom, but is located close to the ancient burial ground where the earliest Kings of Egypt were buried almost 2000 years before the foundations of the temples were laid. By the New Kingdom Abydos was considered to be the burial place of the god Osiris, a mythical King of Egypt who was murdered by his brother before being reanimated by his wife. After his son was conceived Osiris moved into the afterlife to become God of the Dead.

The temple built by Seti I and Ramsses II celebrates the myth of Osiris as well as the cults of various other gods. At the rear of the temple is the Osireion, a separate sunken structure believed to be a simulacrum of the tomb of Osiris where various rites could be performed. Although partly flooded by high ground water, it is still and impressive structure. Within the temple, the raised reliefs (where the surrounding rock has been cut away to reveal the image) of Seti I are particularly fine and many retain their original paint. Seti built the inner cult chambers and chapels and the inner Hypostyle Hall.

Ramsses completed some of the peripheral decoration as well as that in the outer Hypostyle Hall, portico and temple courts, but the sunk-relief of Ramsses is not as refined or elegant as the carving commissioned by his father.

The temple of Abydos famously contains a King List, which details the royal names of all the Kings of Egypt from the earliest times. It is a valuable historical document, although a number of Pharaohs are missing. Unusual or dangerous Pharaohs, like the woman Hatshepsut and the monotheist Akhenaten, have been airbrushed from the official version of Egyptian history in the Abydos King List. Some political realities never change.

The Work of Hannah Pethen

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Two llama overlooking the tourists at Machu Picchu in Peru

So, along the lines of, “A llama walks into a bar,” here are two llama overlooking Machu Picchu in Peru

It just begs a funny cutline, caption or quote.

“There goes the neighborhood….”

“I remember when …”

“If only ….”

Or, “There were two llama overlooking the tourists at Machu Picchu in Peru…. ”


The photo was taken by Dr. Mark Van Stone who visited Machu Picchu back in January of 2011.  We’ve received dozens of photos from him about this incredible site, but this one just jumped out at us.  We want to have a serious site, but there are times, too, when it just makes sense to let one’s hair down a little.

So if you could write a caption for this photo, what would you say?


We’ll give a $25 iTunes gift card to the person who can come up with the funniest caption or comment.  (No profanity or vulgarity here).  We’ll leave the contest open until Saturday, March 10, 2012, at 5 p.m. CST.

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Your Photo Galleries Are Welcomed!

We’ve added a photo gallery for inclusion on TheWondersExpedition.com and wanted to share with you the opportunity to post some of your visits to some cool sites on our pages.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

Image via Wikipedia

Do you have photos from:

Just to name a few?

If so, leave a comment and make sure you include your email address when you register.  We’ll be in touch shortly thereafter.  Would you like to offer a guest post on your adventure?  What was it like to be there? Do you have travel tips? The name of a great guide or tour service to use?  Where did you stay?  What were the smells and sounds like?


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Mayan Light Beam from 2009 Now Making Waves in 2012

Well, we couldn’t pass this one up.

Over on Yahoo! they’ve posted a story about a man, one Hector Siliezar, who was visiting the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza back in 2009 and took three photos of El Castillo, a pyramid built to honor the god Kukulkan, and some how, what appears to be a Hollywood death ray is emanating out of the top of it and shining into the heavens.

Needless to say, we’re waiting for Giorgio A. Tsoukalos to appear at the end of it and affirm once again that this is proof that aliens are no longer ancient, but actually living amongst us.  Erich Von Daniken can’t be too far off, and Lord knows, David Childress needs to be involved here doing his imitation constipated and strained former President Bill Clinton voice saying, “Extra Terrestrials.”

But it is what it is.  Probably something to do with the lightening storm in the area and the light bouncing around in the guy’s iPhone.  That, or maybe it’s actually video of Steve Jobs ascending into the Heavens.

We will never know for sure.  It is great looking video.  But seriously, friends and amigos, if you had taken these photos back in 2009, wouldn’t you have had them out on the Net say, back in 2009 and not just be having them surface here in 2012?

Okay, Giorgio, let’s hear you: “There can only be one possible answer here….”



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A Fact About Ancient Sites–The Power of Community and Common Purpose

Much has been written and said about the ancient sites that confound us today with their mysteries about their origins, purposes, and the techniques used to build them.

But one essential fact needs to be thought about–these sites were built with a lot of cooperation from what had to be population centers of significant size and united behind a common goal.

Great Wall of China near Jinshanling

Image via Wikipedia

The Pyramids once were said to have been built with slave labor.  Until recently, that seems to have been disproved and that there were actually commissioned craftsmen who built them.

Stonehenge in England took a lot of work to be built; just dragging the stones several hundred miles, let alone hoisting them into place.  So did Gobekli Tepe in Turkey and then there was the Great Wall of China.  Don’t forget about the pyramids in South America, the temples throughout Cambodia, Thailand and India, and the incredible mounds located in the United States such as Poverty Point and the Monk’s Mounds, at Cahokia, in Illinois.

The point is, each of these places took the cooperation, coordination and the combined labor of thousands of people–their local communities, with people giving up their time and effort in this thing we call life to build something bigger than themselves, that ultimately, has stood the test of time.

The question for discussion here is do we, in 2012, hold a candle to their levels of determination, grit and desire to see a project to completion?

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TWE Pinterest Site

We’ve been working on our photo collection of Wonders sites around the world and finally have launched a Pinterest page we are excited to share with you.

Already people are beginning to pin some of the curious points we’ve included, and literally, we are just get started.

English: Red Pinterest logo

Image via Wikipedia

But we can’t help but noticing the way that all these photos combined on one long scrolling screen just further points out the incredible similarities we’re trying to emphasize via The Wonders Expedition.  And to us, that makes what’s happening with Pinterest, pretty cool and amazing.

Do you have photos you’d like to add to our collection?  Send us the links and we’ll be happy to add them if they’re in the scope of TWE.

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The Mysteries of Poverty Point, LA, USA–And The Beginnings of The Wonders Expedition™

We’ve been doing a lot of work lately to assemble the core team to launch The Wonders Expedition™ and our other  legacy products that are in development, but back on December 22, 2011, our Founder, Don Claxton and his daughters were at the historic site, Poverty Point/Lower Jackson Mound, near Monroe, Louisiana in the southeastern United States making some pretty curious findings.

The Lower Jackson Mound

The Lower Jackson Mound, which is about eight feet high and more than 130 feet at its widest point, is said to have been built almost 5,400 years ago.  If that is true, and Carbon Dating has suggested that to be the case, that means it was built here in the United States prior to Stonehenge/Woodhenge/Sillbury Hill/The Henge of Avebury in England, AND the Pyramids of Giza in Northern Egypt.

Stop and think about that for a second.  We normally refer to Native American Indians in the historic lore of the United States as “savages.”

Poverty Point, LA

Poverty Point itself was built about one-half mile from Lower Jackson Mound about 1,650 BC, which is about 3,660 years ago, and after Stonehenge and Giza.  It is fascinating nonetheless.

From accounts of local historians, its mounds, like Lower Jackson Mound, were all constructed out of dirt.  “There are no rocks in the area,” we were told.  Certainly no limestone.

But here in the Southeastern United States, just about 20 minutes north of Interstate 20 in Northern Louisiana, mankind once had made this a thriving area of life, civilization and trading.  There are utility rocks that have been found at Poverty Point that were used for spearheads, cooking, idols, etc.  And science has found those rocks came from all over the eastern United States and even as far away as the Great Lakes Region.

The Wonders Expedition™

We won’t argue that there may seemingly be many other more curious and interesting places around the country–Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico come to mind.  But it is important to not overlook places like Poverty Point as well.  It has tremendous historical value and possesses its own lore and mysteries.

What happened to the people who lived here?  Some suggest they migrated into Meso America and became what we know of as the Olmec.

Just like the Anastazi had a major site in Chaco Canyon and then abandoned their site, or like the people who built Stonehenge used it for many years and then stopped,  similar things seem to have happened here at Poverty Point.

We are in search for answers to many questions that make these places around the world so intriguing.  Thank you for reading.  We invite you to follow us on Twitter for additional updates and to LIKE us on Facebook.  Very soon we will be opening a subscription service so you can receive more frequent updates about the activities we have underway around the world.


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