Laputan Logic
Thursday, October 02, 2003
  Update on the Third Buddha It now appears that Japanese archaeologists are also on the case to find the missing third Bamiyan Buddha. This looks like it's heating up to be a race to see who finds it first.

My bet is that the only thing left to find will be its stone foundations.

Japanese team to probe Bamiyan

A team of Japanese experts departed Saturday afternoon for Afghanistan on a mission to search for an image of a supine Buddha in Bamiyan.

The team will attempt to confirm the existence of the supine Buddha that is rumored to be located somewhere in the region by using high-tech devices such as radar capable of locating buried artifacts.

Xuanzang (602-664), a Chinese Buddhist monk, described the artifact in his book "The Records of the Western Regions of the Great Tang Dynasty": "Inside a Buddhist temple located about 10 kilometers from the palace, there is a statue of Buddha in a state of passing into nirvana. The image of the supine Buddha is as long as 300 meters."

He also wrote in his book: "There is a stone image of a standing Buddha carved into the mountainside northeast of the palace. Shining in gold, and adorned with jewelry, the statue stands about 45 meters tall. To the east of the temple, stands another statue of a 30-meter-tall Buddha made with brass."

The statues he described in the book are believed to be the two Buddha statues that were destroyed by Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers in March 2001.

The research team considers that the description of the statues in Xuanzang's book is highly accurate, and the information concerning the existence of a supine Buddha is credible. It is believed that the palace and the temple are buried underground. No fact-finding probes have been conducted of the area due to the country's protracted conflicts.

The project to probe for the image of the supine Buddha was commissioned by Japan's National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. Eight researchers mainly from the institute will examine the area from Monday through Oct. 22.

The research team will use a ground-penetrating radar to determine the location of buried items and hollows under the ground, allowing the team to determine the size of the entire archaeological site before excavating it.

The radar emits electromagnetic waves into the ground using an antenna that can detect energy emitted from buried objects.

Researchers will use the radar at about 50-meter intervals over a 1.3-kilometer area from east to west, as well as 300 meters north-south of the two destroyed statues.

The image of the supine Buddha is believed to be located between the two statues.

"I don't think the image of the supine is as big as Xuanzang described in his book. It will probably be about 30 meters long, not 300 meters as he described," said Kazuya Yamauchi, the team's chief researcher.

Yamauchi said if the statue was as long as 300 meters, it should already have been discovered.

"I'm worried about whether the radar can detect the statue underground if it's not that big," he said.

The possibility that the image of the supine Buddha remains in the same condition as Xuanzang saw it in the 7th century is low, and it is highly probable that even if it is discovered, it will be damaged to some extent.

"If we succeed in discovering traces of the site, it will definitely be the key to finding out more about the former Bamiyan kingdom," Yamauchi said.

"The statue of the image of the supine Buddha will attract international attention, and it's a dream for those engaged in archaeology. I hope the Japanese research team can discover it," said Kosaku Yamada, professor emeritus of Wako University...
...before the French do. 
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
  Blogger Trick Yes, yes, we all know that Moveable Type is the way to go etc. although to be frank I'm telling you right now I'm not going to install any software to manage my blog that I didn't write myself. This is something that is definitely on the cards for some day soon but in the meantime for those few people who are so uncool as to be still using the venerable Blogger I thought I'd share a little thing that I learnt the other day which may be of interest...

For quite a while now I have been running in the right hand column a list of the headings for the posts that appear on the page (see the "Heads Up" list). This I think is a convenient indicator for people to quickly see what has changed or to spot something they may have missed. Any way I like it and all the groovy MT blogs have a "recent posts" list a bit like this by default.

Originally I implemented this feature in Javascript and it used the DOM (Document Object Model) to traverse the HTML tree in order to locate each heading, if present, or the first sentence of the post if not.

since then, however, the New version Blogger has implemented titles for posts as a built-in feature. To enable it go to:

Settings > Formatting > Show Title Field

Once enabled a new field labelled title appears in the post editor. To make it appear in your posts you need to add something like following to your template:


       ... heading stuff goes here


       ... body stuff goes here


So now you have titles for your posts and that's all well and good but one thing I didn't realise until now was that more than one of these <Blogger> blocks is allowed to appear within in a template. This enabled me to create a list of headings for my right column simply by adding the following to my template:

    <Blogger><BlogItemTitle><div><a href="#<$BlogItemNumber$>"><$BlogItemTitle$></a></div></BlogItemTitle></Blogger>

The best thing about this is that I can now pull out a whole bunch of Javascript that I no longer have to maintain. The page should load somewhat faster as well.

Hopefully someone else will find this of use. 

Used to express excited approval.

noun: A cry of “olé.”

etymology: Spanish, perhaps from Arabic wa-llh, by God! (used as an expression of admiration) : wa-, and; see w in Appendix II + allh, God; see Allah.

-- American Heritage Dictionary

When I visited Spain a few years ago, the place that I loved the most of all was Cordoba.

This is a city that apart from its relaxed atmosphere, its food and its flamenco exudes history from every corner and leaves you with the impression that it's built a bit like a layer-cake made up of different historical epochs, one on top of each other, each one just as remarkable and interesting as the next.

The notion is best exemplified by the magnificent of architecture of the Mesquita, a beautiful former mosque that was once the largest of its kind in the world. This building recalls a time when Cordoba was the capital of the Caliphate of Cordoba, a western arab emirate that had broken free from the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate based in Bagdad.

In tenth century Cordoba it was said:

When Allah was furnishing the empty shell of the world, al-Andalus petitioned for five blessings:
  • clear skies,
  • a beautiful sea bountifully stocked with fish,
  • trees hung with fruit,
  • fair women,
  • and a just government.

Allah granted all but the last wish, reasoning that if all the others were given a proper government, al-Andalus might rival Paradise.

A little history is in order if you want to fully understand the amazing scope of the Mezquita. The original Mosque was built in 785-787, soon after the Moorish conquest of 711. Abd al Rahman I wanted his mosque built quickly, so they used recycled materials from the former Visigoth church and ancient roman temple formerly on the site - thus many of the more than 850 columns are of slightly different heights or materials, and they compensated by slightly burying them or raising them on pedestals to make the columns uniform. The columns support the amazing double arches, which dominate the inside of the mosque. The bottom arches connect the columns, while the top arches support the roof. The red-and-white color is a result of the building materials used - sandstone (white) and brick (red). The brick was used for two reasons - not only is it cheaper than stone, but it also allows for some give and movement in the case of earthquakes. Later, the Mosque was expanded several times by Moorish leaders, each time to accommodate the growing Moslem population of Córdoba. The 10th Century expansion included the building of the Mihrab, the magnificent prayer niche whose sea-shell shape provided microphone-like acoustics. During that renovation, the powers-that-be wanted to show their wealth and power by making arches of pure sandstone, and just painting them with the brick pattern so they would match - a bad move, since this was the area of the mosque that was most damaged by earthquakes in later centuries.

The final major renovation of the Mosque was the most destructive, but it also lead to its current role - Roman Catholic Church. After the Christians re-conquered Córdoba, a small Christian chapel was built in the Mudéjar style in 1371. But the Bishop of Córdoba wasn't satisfied, and he wanted to show the full strength and glory of the Church, so he petitioned to Charles II (against the wished of many other church leaders in Córdoba) for permission to build a cathedral within the walls of the Mezquita. Having never seen the Mezquita for himself, Charles said "sure, the church is strong, go for it" (or something like that) and allowed the bishop to knock out dozens of arches smack dab in the middle of mosque and start construction on the cathedral. A few years later, when Charles II traveled to Córdoba to marry Isabella, he saw the Mezquita with his own eyes for the first time. He realized his mistake in letting the bishop cajole him into allowing the destruction of such amazing architecture, but it was far too late. It took 200 years (and therefore encompasses a wide variety of architectural styles, from Renaissance to Baroque) but the cathedral-within-a-mosque turned out pretty good, in the end. Although it is a shame that so much was destroyed, the exquisite decorations in wood, marble, and gold are simply breathtaking.


...or really really trashy if you want my honest opinion.

Charles himself had complained that the conversion of the Mesquita to a baroque cathedral had destroyed "something unique to build something commonplace.''. Oh well, just another layer to Cordoba's layer-cake, I suppose.

Any way, it shouldn't be too surprising to discover that buried under the layers of Christian and Moorish architecture that Roman Cordoba was not just some second-rate provincial capital either but was in fact an imperial city of great prestige and pretention:

Discovered: Europe's biggest amphitheatre after the Coliseum

Archaeologists in the Spanish city of Cordoba have uncovered beneath the university's old veterinary faculty Europe's biggest Roman amphitheatre after the Coliseum.

The find, considered to be "of transcendental importance", dates from the first century AD, when Corduba, as it was then known, was the provincial capital of Betica, today's Andalusia, in imperial Hispania. "We initially thought it was a circus, the circular arena the Romans used for horse races and chariot rides," says Desiderio Vaquerizo, professor of architecture at Cordoba University. "But we discovered it was an immense oval amphitheatre - 178m by 145m and up to 20m high - that would have been used for gladiatorial contests and other bloodthirsty spectacles." The find reveals Cordoba as an imperial city built in Rome's image.

"The amphitheatre shows that Cordoba symbolised Rome's authority in the west: it was the setting for imperial ceremonies, the place where the emperor showed himself to the plebs and displayed all his power and authority before up to 50,000 spectators," Mr Vaquerizo told The Independent yesterday.

Less than one tenth of the arena is visible, but archaeologists plan to uncover one sixth of it - 2,000 square metres - in coming years.

The rest of the vast stadium - bigger, more sophisticated and elegant, than even that at Italica outside Seville - is likely to remain buried under buildings piled on over the centuries.

In bloodsoaked contests popular between the first and fourth centuries, gladiators were set against each other, or against lions or other wild beasts, or - with the huge space flooded with water - engaged in gigantic naval battles.

Archaeologists have found a plaque marking the seats reserved for a prominent Cordoban family honoured by imperial Rome. They also found 20 carved gravestones of fallen gladiators, the biggest such collection outside Rome, prompting experts to conclude that Cordoba was an important training school for gladiators. "Combatants were between 20 and 25, and their comrades, their concubines or their families carved epigraphs on stone tablets laid on the graves where the fallen were buried inside the amphitheatre," Mr Vaquerizo explained.

The inscriptions record the category of the gladiator, his victories, the laurels and prizes awarded, and the age he died.

Cordoba's amphitheatre was abandoned in the 4th century, when Emperor Constantine, influenced by Christianity, banned the murderous sports as immoral.

Then in 711, Muslims originally from Damascus occupied Cordoba and for the next 200 years built an entire neighbourhood upon the handsome curved terraces, plundering the stonework for buildings of their own. "The discovery is of transcendental importance for the city. It recovers the importance of Roman games, a key aspect of popular daily life," Mr Vaquerizo said. It shows the continuity of mass spectator sports from the Roman empire to today's fiestas and bullfights.

"The bullring originated in an amphitheatre; it is the historical thread linking today's popular fiestas to ancient times."

The university and the city authorities plan to turn the site into an archaeological park.


That last remark is so true, the other theme of Cordoba (and of the former Roman provinces generally) is one of continuity. This point was really brought home to me when I visited the ancient city of Nimes in Southern France, home to the best preserved Roman coliseum in the world.

Today it serves as a bull-ring

  13th Century tablet could lead to lost archives of Ramses II The discovery of a stone tablet detailing diplomatic ties between the ancient Egyptians and Hittites in the 13th Century BC could be the key to the lost archives of Ramses II, according to archaeologists.

Discovered at Qantir 120 kilometres north-east of Cairo, the tablet dates back to the time of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh, Ramses II (1298-1235 BC) and confirms his capital, Pi-Ramses, was in the Nile Delta.

"Its the first time that such a written record has been found in the capital of Ramses II, which confirms the location of Pi-Ramses," Mohammad Abdul Aksud, director of antiquities in the Delta region told AFP.

Although small and badly preserved, the tablet takes the form of an 11-line letter sent by the central Anatolian Hittite court to that of Ramses II, Mr Aksud said, which "could lead us to the lost archives of Ramses II".

It was found by a team of German archaeologists, lead by Egyptologist Edgar Pusch, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, Zahi Hawass told AFP.

It dates from shortly after the Egyptian and Hittite empires made peace in 1278 after years of war, Mr Hawass added.

The tablet is written in cuneiform script, invented in about 3,300 BC by the Sumerians and used throughout the Middle East until the first century AD.

Quoting Pusch, Hawass told AFP it was comparable to another tablet written in cuneiform found in Turkey and others found at Tell Al-Amarna, in southern Egypt.

Tell Al-Amarna was capital during the time of Akhenaton (1372-1354 BC), remembered in history for having switched his kingdom to monotheism with the worship of the one sun god, Aton.

The tablets found there show the earliest diplomatic correspondence ever discovered.

The Qantir tablet may be followed by the discovery of a temple in the same region, where Ramses II built his capital.

Ramses II married a Hittite princess to shore up peace with the central Anatolian empire, so he could concentrate on the threat posed in Mesopotamia, where the Assyrian empire was bent on conquest. [link

Fanciful. Preposterous. Absurd.

October 06, 2002 / October 13, 2002 / October 20, 2002 / October 27, 2002 / November 03, 2002 / November 10, 2002 / November 17, 2002 / November 24, 2002 / December 01, 2002 / December 08, 2002 / December 15, 2002 / December 22, 2002 / December 29, 2002 / January 05, 2003 / January 12, 2003 / January 19, 2003 / January 26, 2003 / February 02, 2003 / February 09, 2003 / February 16, 2003 / March 02, 2003 / March 09, 2003 / March 16, 2003 / March 23, 2003 / March 30, 2003 / April 13, 2003 / April 20, 2003 / April 27, 2003 / May 04, 2003 / May 11, 2003 / May 18, 2003 / May 25, 2003 / June 01, 2003 / June 08, 2003 / June 15, 2003 / June 22, 2003 / June 29, 2003 / July 06, 2003 / July 13, 2003 / July 20, 2003 / July 27, 2003 / August 03, 2003 / August 31, 2003 / September 07, 2003 / September 21, 2003 / September 28, 2003 / October 05, 2003 / October 19, 2003 /

Powered by Blogger