Monday, April 15, 2013

Taking A Trip To Hell

Archaeological Digs

Lower Hell: Inside the walls of Dis, in an illustration by Stradanus, based on Dante's Inferno. There is a drop from the sixth circle to the three rings of the seventh circle, then again to the ten rings of the eighth circle, and, at the bottom, to the icy ninth circle.
Image Credit: Giovanni Stradano, 2007.

An article, by Elizabeth Snodgrass, in National Geographic says that archaeologists in Turkey have unearthed the entrance-way to hell. But it is neither a unique place nor what many Christians think it to be; it is rather one site among many constructed during ancient times where pilgrims came to worship their gods, the gods of the underworld.

Snodgrass writes:
Now Italian archaeologists working at the Greco-Roman site of ancient Hierapolis (modern-day Pamukkale) in Turkey have uncovered that city's gate to the underworld. Pilgrims from around the classical world came to Hierapolis to bathe in its hot springs and worship at the Ploutonion—a temple precinct built over a cave and underground thermal area.
By tracing the path of the hot springs through the ancient site, the team from the University of Salento, led by Francesco D'Andria, uncovered the entrance to the cave. An engraved dedication to Pluto above the entrance has confirmed the identification of the gate.
The ancient Greek geographer Strabo, who recorded tales of his travels in Asia Minor in the final years B.C., mentions the "singular properties" of the Ploutonion, saying "it is an opening of sufficient size to admit a man, but there is a descent to a great depth ... [The] space is filled with a cloudy and dark vapor, so dense that the bottom can scarcely be discerned ... Animals which enter ... die instantly. Even bulls, when brought within it, fall down and are taken out dead. We have ourselves thrown in sparrows, which immediately fell down lifeless."
The eunuch priests of Pluto would prove their power by entering the gassy cleft and coming out alive (presumably by holding their breath and taking advantage of known pockets of safe air within the cave), while birds that flew too close were often felled by the poison. During the modern excavations, dead birds at the site helped convince the archaeological team they'd found the Ploutonion's actual "gate to hell."
Myth is powerful in that it provides a convincing unifying narrative of what once was, but such is not necessarily how it really was. Hell is one such concept, which has undergone transformation from ancient pre-Christian times, including that of Judaism's Second Temple Period, to later medieval times with the writing of Dante's Inferno. Hell might still have a powerful hold on many Christians, but history has shown, proven indeed, that hell is man's invention, one that has been used cruelly to inflict pain, death and other inhumanities on humans.


You can read the rest of the article at [NatGeo]