Eight Wonders of the World (con’t) Lalibela

Lalibela is a town in Ethiopia famous for its rock-cut monolithic churches. The whole of Lalibela is a large antiquity of the medieval and post-medieval civilization of Ethiopia. To Christians, Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Axum, and a center of pilgrimage. Unlike Axum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian.

Ethiopia was one of the earliest nations to adopt Christianity in the first half of the 4th century, and its historical roots date to the time of the Apostles. The churches themselves date from the 7th to 13th centuries, and are traditionally dated to the reign of the Zagwe king Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (r. ca. 1181–1221).

There are two main groups of churches – to the north of the river Jordan: Biete Medhani Alem  (House of the Saviour of the World), Biete  Mariam (House of Mary), Biete  Maskal (House of the Cross), Biete Denagel (House of Virgins), Biete Golgotha Mikael (House of Golgotha Mikael); and to the south of the river, Biete Amanuel (House of Emmanuel), Biete Qeddus Mercoreus (House of St. Mercoreos), Biete Abba Libanos (House of Abbot Libanos), Biete Gabriel Raphael (House of Gabriel Raphael), and Biete Lehem (House of Holy Bread). The eleventh church, Biete Ghiorgis (House of St. George), is isolated from the others, but connected by a system of trenches.

The churches were not constructed in a traditional way but rather were hewn from the living rock of monolithic blocks. These blocks were further chiseled out, forming doors, windows, columns, various floors, roofs etc. This gigantic work was further completed with an extensive system of drainage ditches, trenches and ceremonial passages, some with openings to hermit caves and catacombs.

 

Lady Liberty

Lady Liberty

Currently our internal population growth rate is actually negative. It is only through immigration that we have a modest overall growth rate of .6% per annum. Our economic growth as measured by GDP has averaged over 3% per annum over the past two decades. Combined with the aging of our population and the slowing of the birthrate we need immigrants to bolster our labor force.

Prejudice against immigrants is not a new phenomenon. You might remember the movie “Gangs of New York” where the earliest immigrants considered themselves the true “Americans” and all later arrivals (like the Irish) were considered as intruders. I do wonder what the Eastern Native Americans were thinking?

My opinion is that we all need to be reminded of the words of Lady liberty:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus – 1883

Puma Punku

Eight Wonders of the World (con’t) Puma Punku

Puma Punku is part of a large temple complex or monument group that is part of the site near Tiwanaku, in western Bolivia. It is believed to date to AD 536 and later.

Tiwanaku is significant in Inca traditions because it is believed to be the site where the world was created. In Aymara, Puma Punku’s name means “The Door of the Puma”. The Pumapunku complex consists of an unwalled western court, a central unwalled esplanade, a terraced platform mound that is faced with stone, and a walled eastern court. Some of the unique features of the site are walls of faces, the massive H-blocks, and the precision (machine-like) stone tooling.

Tiwanaku is significant in Inca traditions because it is believed to be the site where the world was created. In Aymara, Puma Punku’s name means “The Door of the Puma”. The Pumapunku complex consists of an unwalled western court, a central unwalled esplanade, a terraced platform mound that is faced with stone, and a walled eastern court. Some of the unique features of the site are walls of faces, the massive H-blocks, and the precision (machine-like) stone tooling.

The faces are all almost different and resemble a wide range of racial features.

The Puma Punku site is located at an altitude of over 12,000 feet!

Many of the H-blocks are identical in size and weigh up to ten tons each.

These precision cuts  could only be achieved using computer-aided systems and laser technology.

At its peak, Pumapunku is thought to have been “unimaginably wondrous, adorned with polished metal plaques, brightly colored ceramic and fabric ornamentation, and visited by costumed citizens, elaborately dressed priests, and elites decked in exotic jewelry. Current understanding of this complex is limited due to its age, the lack of a written record, and the current deteriorated state of the structures due to treasure hunting, looting, stone mining for building stone and railroad ballast, and natural weathering.

The actual date of construction is debatable. When an Austrian explorer named Arthur Posnansky performed a study on Puma Punku back in 1926, he put forward the idea that it’s one of the oldest archaeological sites on the face of Earth – dating back to at least 13,000 BC. Posnansky was one of the first modern explorers to examine the site, but his hypothesis continues to have many supporters.

Archaeologist Neil Steede, for example, has discussed how the astronomical alignments of the main temple at the site do suggest that it was built to coincide with the summer and winter solstices and the spring equinox as these events would have been seen 17,000 years ago.

The Tiwanaku people who inhabited Puma Punku were polytheistic and had a special focus on agriculturally-themed gods. Their creator god is believed to be depicted in the famous Sun Gate , which many scholars think was once located at Puma Punku and only later moved to Kalassaya.

 

According to the local myths, Puma Punku is related to the gods and the time of the first creation. Legends state that the first inhabitants had supernatural powers and were able to move stones from the ground and carry them through the air using sounds.

The Inca people accepted those legends and added that Viracocha – their creator god (and the figure depicted on the Sun Gate in their interpretation) – first made humans at that site. In the legends, it is said that this is where all of humanity’s ancestors, people of various ethnicities, set out to populate the world. For a time, the stone portraits found at Tiwanaku were believed to depict those first humans. Later interpretations suggest the faces are former rulers of the city.