Australian Aboriginal Sacred Site Rediscovered After 70 Years

Elder's Survey the Site Photo: Central Land Council

Elders Survey the Site
Photo: Central Land Council

A Sacred Site, called Kurlpurlunu, seemed lost for over 70 years, as elders had unsuccessfully searched the Tanami Desert. They were recently flown over the land and an elderly pair recognized the site, which had a distinctive rock and tree.

82-year-old Jerry Jangala said it was the rock he used to visit when little. He recognized  two prominent sand mounds and a waterhole. He began singing the song of the place and then cried, proclaiming that this was a place for making rain called Kurlpurlunu.

News Source: abc australian news

An Ancient Sacred Burial & Barrow Site Destroyed in The Netherlands

Neolithic barrow or tumulus sites are being lost at an alarming rate in the Netherlands. Development projects for housing and industrial use employ archaeologists who excavate these ancient sites, often leveling them in the process before they are paved over to accommodate the development.

Photo by John E. Palmer

Dalfsen Mound Leveled

Such is the case in Dalfsen, located in the province Overijssel, where during the process of building a housing project, 120 graves were discovered from the Funnelbeaker culture. The acidic soil had long ago eaten away at the skeletal remains leaving only shadowy, ghostlike images. The people buried here lived approximately 3400 to 2700 BC, were makers of hunebeds, or dolmens.  Beside the burials were grave goods including the elaborately decorated pottery for which the culture was known.

Funnelbeaker Pot Photo by John E. Palmer

Funnelbeaker Pot
Photo by John E. Palmer

According to ADC Archeo Projecten (ADC), the archaeological firm chosen for the dig, the burial site measured approximately 120 X 20 meters wide and and included remains of an earthen monument, which was marked by an oval ditch measuring around 30 X 4 meters wide or approx. 98 X 13 ft.) This aspect of the site was located in the center of the burial ground. The monument would have looked like a dolmen or hunebed, but not made of stone. A remarkable and very rare, ritual platform was part of the site that was likely used for staging rites connected with the burials. All finds were south of a 5000-year-old sand road, the so-called Middenweg, which disappeared during the 1960′s due to land consolidation. Along this road the dead were transferred for burial. Postholes indicate a Stone Age farmhouse, measuring approximately 12 meters long, with a burial found near the mound. The oldest finds at Dalfsen are Mesolithic flints dating from between 8800- 4900 BC.

Daan Raemaekers, of the University of Groningen, commented on the importance of the discoveries at Dalfsen. His colleague, Henk van der Velde, manager of ADC Archeo Projecten, a firm that conducts about 500 excavations a year, stated on Dalfsen.net, “The discovery of this graveyard is not only important for Dalfsen and Overijssel, but it even transcends the national interest.” Although this was presented as the largest grave field of the Funnelbeaker culture in North-West Europe, the site will not be saved. Neither Raemaekers, nor ADC Archeo Projecten, recognizes the earthen monument as sacred, despite the fact that it was a burial site.  The cost to excavate and level the sacred mound was estimated at US $720,870, the amount paid to ADC Archeo Projecten.

Municipal authorities and Dutch archaeologists usually do not inform the wider public until after an excavation is finished, so there is no process for voicing opposition to the development project. The discovery of such a large Funnelbeakers burial ground in Dalfsen changed all that, and the news was reported on television while the dig was ongoing. The finds at Dalfsen were presented as new discoveries, however, the excavation appears to have been started earlier this spring, the first Funnelbeakers having already been dug up during February. If the public had known about this important site in February, then perhaps it could have been stopped and the site preserved. The lead archaeologist from ADC, Henk van de Velt, reported that they kept the excavation secret because of the fear of looting.

Once the news broke on Dutch television there was such a large interest by the public that authorities felt compelled to open the site for a one-time only public viewing. John Palmer, a member of Sacred Sites International, has provided a first-hand account of the so-called Visitor’s Day, which he attended on May 28, 2015.

On his journey to the Funnelbeaker site, Palmer first travelled to the forest of the Veluwe, (province Gelderland) where he visited two preserved barrows that are part of an approximately, 6-km-long alignment, that is probably lunar oriented. This visit was designed to view barrows that were naturally and respectfully preserved in contrast to what had been done at the newly excavated Funnelbeaker site in Dalfsen

 

Tumulus at Grafheuvelweg near Niersen Photo by John E. Palmer

Tumulus at Grafheuvelweg near Niersen
Photo by John E. Palmer

Detail of Veluwe Barrow on the Right Photo by John E. Palmer

Detail of Veluwe Barrow on the Right
Photo by John E. Palmer

Palmer reported that, “Thousands of people flocked to the site on visiting day, which was advertised thusly, “Ontdek het grootste grafveld van de hunebed bouwer”s (Discover the largest gravefield of the hunebed builders). What did the visitors see at the dig? Well, nothing, for the archaeologists had destroyed all evidence of postholes, etc.

ADC Archeo Projecten, despite being a professional archaeological firm, had contracted with students to do the physical labor involved in the archaeological excavation. There were some young students from the University Groningen digging a trench, and recording information for teaching purposes or merely just for show, however, the actual excavation was over. I discovered that students participating in the excavation were from Saxon High School and the Missing Link Mangers for Archaeology. It was clear that a bulldozer had also been used as it was still sitting by the side of the leveled mound.

I was informed by ADC, that Daan Raemakers from the Archaeology Department at Groningen is also involved with the Funnelbeakers site which may indicate the elaborately decorated pottery found at the site will be studied at his University, along with the amber chains, polished axe, and flints.

After viewing the site, I went on to a tent, where a slide lecture was given on the findings by archaeologist, Henk Van de Veld. To the side stood glass cases with some of the relics taken from the site, amber beads, stone axes, and the amazing Funnelbeakers pots, of which 120 were excavated.

Henk Van de Veld, Archaeologist, on Visitor's Day Photo by John E. Palmer

Henk Van de Veld, Archaeologist, on Visitor’s Day
Photo by John E. Palmer

In fact, Mr. Van de Veld appeared at a television talk-show where he actually passed around some of the pots for participants to hold. Of particular interest was a very small, decorated pot that was taken from a child’s grave. Imagine what would have happened if someone had dropped the fragile, low-fired pots.

Passing around very fragile ancient pottery from the Delfsen Burial Site

When the presentation over, I asked Van de Veld whether anything would be saved or consolidated for posterity. He replied: That’s impossible. I mentioned that Woodhenge in England which was consolidated by pouring concrete in the ancient postholes. This, at least, leaves a sense of what was there and preserves the orientation and layout of the site. At this point, the eyes of Van de Veld eyes widened.

Woodhenge, England Photo: Wikicommons.org By GothamNurse

Woodhenge, England
Photo: Wikicommons.org
By GothamNurse

I asked him whether he had contacted the Mayor of Dalfsen, to discuss with him the possibility of consolidating the ritual platform, sacred center of the Stone Age site? Surely the plans for houses and new neighborhood could be modified somewhat, so that our ancient memorial heritage would be saved? Van de Veld became very nervous, then evasive, his speech blurred, and then he walked off. Yes, faced with the facts, and failing an explanation for the senseless destruction, he ran off!!”

The path to destruction took years. It began on September 27, 2010 when the Municipal Council of Dalfsen presented their “Structural Vision” for building 900 houses. The municipality of Delfsen noted that the housing site had “high archaeological expectations.” For four weeks, the municipality of Dalfsen provided the citizens with insight to their development and building plans and ultimately concluded that the project had sufficient public support and the Municipal Council agreed upon the project.

According to Dalfsen’s Archaeology Policy, because of “high archaeological expectations,” an archaeologist had to be employed.

Dalfsen drafted an Archaeology Policy in 2012 that stipulates:

a)     The commitment to meet technical regulations by which archaeological values in the ground can be preserved.

b)    The commitment to carry out an excavation.

c)     The commitment for the work or workings that lead to ground disturbance should be guided by an expert in the field of archaeological care of monuments which meets the standards set by the mayor and high municipal officials for the permit to meet specific qualifications.

ADC Archeo Projecten, the firm chosen to perform the excavation of the building site, presented the Municipal Council with three options for their dig and when asked by the Council which would be best, ADC recommended the second of the three, US $720,870. – the most expensive option.

At present, there has not been any ground plan of the sacred site before excavation released to the public. A site plan can help shed light on the orientation of the sacred monument to lunar and solar alignments. This information can lead to a deeper understanding of the sacred beliefs of the people who created the site. Having the site plan can at least keep the memory of the sacred monument alive. Absent a ground site plan, all that remains is a dusty wasteland where once stood a magnificent ancient sacred place.

Ancient Burial & Barrow Site after Archaeological Destruction Photo By: John Palmer

Ancient Burial & Barrow Site after Archaeological Destruction
Photo By: John Palmer

 

 

 

Nazca Lines Damage Update

NazcaLHummingbirdUnukornoNazca Lines Hummingbird  Photo source: WikiCommons by Unukorno

Peru’s Minister of Culture, Diana Álvarez-Caldrón, continues to pursue the highest legal measures against Greenpeace, who seriously damaged the hummingbird figure, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nazca Lines, one of Peru’s great cultural treasures. She is holding Greenpeace responsible for illegally entering a restricted area and placing large yellow letters spelling out a message urging climate action during a Global Climate Summit held in Peru in December of 2014.

Representatives of Greenpeace have continued to say the stunt was a mistake, not illegal activity. Greenpeace has suggested that they will send a team to evaluate and repair the damages. The Ministry of Culture will not allow this and they have already undertaken steps to evaluate and complete a Site Management Plan for the hummingbird. A Peruvian team will be visiting the site to see if the damage can be repaired.

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Winnemem Wintu Sacred Sites may benefit from Biologists’ Report

Photo copyright: Toby McCloud

Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu Tribal Chair, in Front of Shasta Dam     Photo copyright: Toby McCloud

 

Will the U.S. Bureau of Fish and Wildlife Biologists’ Report

Save the Sacred Sites of the Winnemem Wintu?

In 2014, Sacred Sites International launched a Letter-Writing Campaign to help the Winnemem Wintu, of Northern California protect their sacred sites from flooding from a proposed raising of the Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet.  And, the Wintu and the McCloud River Watershed, were featured in our 2008 Most Endangered Sites List.

We feared that the Winnemem Wintu sacred places were going to be lost when, in November 2014, California voters approved a $7.545  billion Water Bond with $2.7 billion earmarked for new water storage. The water storage portion of the bond could provide funding for the raising of Shasta dam.

We learned, however, on January 28, 2014, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a 394-page revised draft Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act report concluding that they cannot support any of the dam project’s 5 options under consideration. None of the options for raising the dam’s level would benefit endangered salmon – the primary justification given for the project. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was using a fraudulent premise for raising the height of the dam and for justifying billing taxpayers $655 million out of a total cost of 1.1 billion for the project.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns Shasta Dam is claiming that the 18.5 foot increase in the dam would result in the lake behind the dam storing 14% more cold water, enough to boost the population of Chinook salmon. However, biologists at Fish and Wildlife have said that habitat restoration along the Sacramento River would be a better solution than any of the proposed options for the dam. The biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also found that historic rainfall records show that there would be no benefit in 90% of the years, and in some cases, negative impacts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that despite slight benefits to winter and spring run Chinook salmon upstream from the Red Bluff Pumping Plant (RBPP), conditions downstream of the RBPP are so poor in drier years, that upstream benefits are completely negated.

The concern is that some of the report’s language might be changed and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Regional Director, Ren Lohoefener, who was appointed by former Assistant Interior Secretary Julie MacDonald, a Bush appointee. It should be noted, that Julie MacDonald was the subject of an investigation finding that she rewrote biologists’ findings to benefit extractive industries.

The Bureau of Reclamation must take the biologists’ recommendations under consideration and is still scheduled to release a final Environmental Impact Statement which they need to provide to the Interior Secretary before Congress can consider whether to fund the project.

Volunteer Day at the Ohlone Village Site (Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont, California)

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont, California
Sunday, June 22, 2014, 2 – 4:30pm

Join Sacred Sites International as we care for a 2000-year-old Ohlone Indian village site. We will help clean, weed, and renew structures at the site. The park staff will make a presentation about the historical and cultural significance. There will be snacks, water, gloves and tools provided. This free event is open to individuals older than 12 years of age and registration is required: 888-327-2757. Tell us you’re coming and we will bring a free tee shirt!

Contact us at sacredsite1 AT gmail.com