Atlantis Online
June 04, 2023, 02:32:06 am
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Giant crater may lie under Antarctic ice
  Home Help Arcade Gallery Links Staff List Calendar Login Register  

Sky Caves of Nepal

Pages: [1]   Go Down
Author Topic: Sky Caves of Nepal  (Read 285 times)
Danielle Gorree
Superhero Member
Posts: 4269

« on: September 16, 2012, 02:43:25 pm »

Finally Athans sent down a funerary mask. It was made of gold and silver pounded together, with high relief facial features. The eyes were rimmed in red, the mouth was slightly turned down, the nose was linear; there was a hint of a beard. Pinholes outlined the edge. Likely the mask was sewn to fabric and draped over the face. The beads had been part of the mask.

Aldenderfer, normally restrained and scholarly, could not contain himself as he cradled the mask in his palms. “It’s stunning,” he marveled. “The workmanship that’s involved, the obvious wealth it represents, the colors, the delicateness—it’s the best thing ever found in Mustang. Period.”

Nearly all the items in the cave had been imported from elsewhere. Even the coffin’s wood had come from a tropical environment. How could a person from this place—today so bereft of resources that merely accumulating firewood requires hours of effort—gather such riches? Salt, most likely. Controlling a piece of the salt trade may have been the current equivalent of owning an oil pipeline.

The entire haul, from what seemed a nondescript cave, left Aldenderfer giddily struggling to place the find in historical context. “This is unique,” he said. “Spectacular. This is rewriting the region’s prehistory in a serious way.”

Everything the team found was left behind, in the care of Samdzong’s village leaders. Athans, as he’s done elsewhere in Mustang, also donated personal funds to endow a modest museum. “The people of Mustang should have pride in their own rich history,” he says. Only tiny sample chips and bits of bone were removed by the scientists. These will be studied in various labs—teeth go to the University of Oklahoma; metals to University College London. Paints will be separated into chemical constituents, to see which plants were used to make them. A splinter of wood, a thread of textile, a powder of tooth enamel; all will be rigorously analyzed. The process could take a decade.

That’s without any additional materials. Early Mustang, it’s thought, was ruled by powerful kings. With so many exposed caves and an unknown number of hidden crypts, far more remarkable troves may be awaiting discovery. “It could be in the next cave we visit,” says Aldenderfer. “It could be in a hundred more caves.” Indeed, as the team finished their work in Samdzong, there was one more find. Walking across the cliff top after removing the rebar anchors, Hesser came across a distinct, unnaturally round depression in the gravel. Very likely, he had stumbled upon the entrance to another shaft tomb—this one still plugged, its contents sealed within.

The team’s travel permit was set to expire; they had a long journey ahead of them. There was little choice but to let this pass by. At least for now. As ever in Mustang, the cliffs hold secrets yet to be uncovered.
In the August issue, Michael Finkel wrote about a medicinal Tibetan fungus. This is photographer Cory Richards’s first story for the magazine.

Society Grants: Aldenderfer’s and Athans’s research was funded in part by your membership.
Report Spam   Logged

Pages: [1]   Go Up
Jump to:  

Powered by EzPortal
Bookmark this site! | Upgrade This Forum
SMF For Free - Create your own Forum
Powered by SMF | SMF © 2016, Simple Machines
Privacy Policy