Ancient Mummies Reveal Cultural Story

ancient egyptian mummy




When you think of mummies, where does your mind go? Mine always goes to Egypt.  Now, even elaborate hairstylesfrom 2000 years ago can be recreated through even more elaborate technology. Ancient mummies reveal the cultural story of their time and the environment in which they lived. In some ways, I am saddened that technology can recreate the way a person looked 2000 years ago. It takes the mystery out of exploring culture so long ago. The mummies of the Tarim Basin in western China are far more intriguing in imagining their stories, because their hair, skin and textiles are still intact. Imagining the story is far more interesting to me. What about you? Do you find these technological wonders that can recreate a face and an image of the past a marvel or a downer? Here is an article written in the Huffington post that will either charm you, or alarm you. Ancient Egyptian Mummy’s Elaborate Hairstyle recreated in 3D:

Today, thanks to research and reconstruction work that includes high-resolution CT scans, anthropological analysis, 3D printing and facial reconstruction drawing, this woman, along with two other mummies, are being brought back to life. Their three-dimensional faces and hair, carefully reconstructed by professional forensic artist Victoria Lywood, of John Abbott College, are set to be revealed tomorrow (Jan. 25) at the Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.


Ancient mummies always reveal cultural story told through the objects that they were buried with and  the manner in which they were laid to rest. If you are a curious wanderer and wish to explore more about the new technologies which unlock the mysteries of the past, then read the full article here.


NewGrange Passage Tomb

7012 was a wonderful year of travel. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see the New Grange Passage Tomb as well as Loughcrew passage tomb in the Boyne Valley of Ireland. My Father had told me about going to the Boyne Valley, and the NewGrange Tomb with his wife Pat, who is from Ireland.  I was mesmerized by his description of the place, and the curious sense of wonder he had after going there. I read a great deal about the Boyne Valley and New Grange, and I must say, it was the highlight of 2012. Why? Because these Burial chambers were not just places to put the remains of the dead. They were remarkable feats of marking time, and precise ways to determine when the winter sun, and quarter sun events would occur, marked by the light of the sun itself. There was no technology as we rely on today, however, clearly there was a technology of the spirit that was extremely well developed.  And what is spectacular, is that these people who occupied the Boyne Valley were some of the most amazing builders, astronomers, and scientists  (if we need to identify them in the way that we think of what is amazing today.) The New Grange Passage Tomb is a place built some 3400 years ago that hosts the movement of the sun on the winter Solstice in such a way that it hits certain stones, and their symbols as if the people who were a part of this cosmology were speaking directly with light. Perhaps it was a prayer or request that the dead be received in the world of light at these exact moments of communication with the Sun. Each year, the sun rises over the Boyne Valley and sheds a beam of light through the long narrow passage at New Grange, hitting a sequential series of stones that have a language we may never know.  (Click on the image below to see the full entry to the NewGrange Passage Tomb.

If you are interested in the ancient mysteries reflected in material culture and place, you must go to the NewGrange Passage Tomb in the Boyne Valley of Ireland. There is a magnificent cultural center and museum there, and after you arrive, you are  transported on a bus to the tombs. The people of this time built many of these burial chambers and all are in relationship to one another in proximity to the sun and moon and the markers of time through the Solstices which are specific markers of time in ancient cosmologies as well as today.  Were they created for burials and ancestral communication? Were they for harvests and the rhythms of nature? We do not know the answer. What remains is a mystery that is intact, and the NewGrange Passage Tomb is a place for the spiritual seeker, the architects of the world, archeologists, and people who live in a sense of wonder about the world. Include the New Grange Passage Tomb on your list of places to see.


A Cabin in Asheville

A cabin in Asheville, NC is an experience that many people write home about. If the cabin is far enough outside of the city, you can even see the milky way. How do I know this? Because I am writing this from a cabin in Asheville on a night when I can see every star in the sky. Just 12 miles northeast of Asheville, you can experience what used to be most of the surrounding area around the city of Asheville. The Vanderbilt’s brought culture to these foreign mountains by building a railroad, and then a spectacular mansion in a more than spectacular spot. Today, the Biltmore Estate is the second largest employer in Asheville next to Mission Hospital. Why? Because it is really a masterpiece of art and culture that was built in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. Many people come to Asheville to see the Biltmore Estate, and while it is splendid, there are many more things to see and do around Asheville that are equally wonderful, and not quite as expensive. A cabin in Asheville is the perfect way to relax and survey the area.  Here’s one that might peak your interest. The sunrises are free, and inexplicably beautiful.

Interested in going to a cabin in Asheville? Check out this wonderful spot and tell them you saw it at Cultural Travel News for a special treat. Go here to see a cabin in Asheville.


Asheville, NC What Gives?

Asheville, NC sits at the epicenter of my heart, and I have witnessed it’s transformation from the good, the bad, and the ugly. The ugly is the part that wrecks my soul. Before the year 2000, Asheville was a ghost town, with very few people considering it as a “culture spot” or even a place where you could find people on the streets after 10:00 pm. Now, it is town Shi Shi with hip restaurants, bistros and everything in between. So often, people focus only on the downtown, and what there is to see and do in Asheville. What many people miss is the extraordinary beauty, and “free things” that are gifts of nature that are within 4 to 15 minutes from downtown. For people who were born and raised in Asheville and the surrounding areas, the “new” Asheville is sometimes hard to bear. Two hour traffic jams, poor planning, and lots of ugly buildup on tunnel road make this beautiful paradise seem like Las Vegas on a good night. What is to be remembered in the past, as well as now, is that we are the intruders to a magical and splendid gift of nature that is fragile. Asheville, NC as a tourist destination is a multifaceted gem with so many wonderful things to do. Honor it as a gift of nature, and perhaps we can sustain the fragile environment in which it abides. It is not just about the cool restaurants and hip farm to table restaurants that make Asheville, NC a retirement destination and a tourist destination. It is also the splendid display of beauty that the blue ridge mountains give to everyone who gets to enjoy them that makes this place shine brightly in everyone’s eyes. Bottom line is that it takes more than 48 hours in Asheville to know what travel tips are worth pursuing. These mountains are some of the oldest mountains in the world. How do I know? I live near Asheville, NC. Look deeper Lonely Planet, much deeper than what you see in 48 hours in Asheville.

Downtown Asheville is compact and easily stroll-able, its streets lined with boutiques, bars and art galleries set inside historic buildings that retain their 1920s glamour. A short drive away, West Asheville is an up-and-coming ‘hood where hipster hair salons (free beer with your trim!) abut auto body shops and old-fashioned dollar stores. Wherever you are, the dense blue-green mountains never look far away.

If you’re going to Asheville, NC, check out a splendid cabin which rents for pennies on the dollar compared to the downtown hi’fi hotels. Plus, you’ll have a room with a view, and a sunrise with a few cows interspersed. Go here to see more:

Senior Travel To Stonehenge

If you’re in the 55 and older rang and you love to travel, then get ready and pack your bags in 2012. Senior travel to Stonehenge has never been more important than this year. Why? Because Stonehenge, and the surrounding Salisbury Plain is really ancient and wonderful, and you’ll bring back some of the “good vibrations” that occurred over 4000 years ago. I just returned from a trip to Stonehenge, NewGrange in Ireland, and the sacred sites of the Salisbury plain. Stonehenge is a human marvel that makes you want to throw away your cell phone and lie down on the Earth to feel what we have been missing for so many years. Most people have heard of Stonehenge, but few know exactly where it is, or what it is. Where is Stonehenge? It is West of London, a bit south of Bath, and not too far from Glastonbury, (another place you need to add to the list.)

What is Stonehenge? It is an amazing piece of architecture that people around 2400 BC. created out of huge stones. It was important enough for people to haul stones from as far away as 150 miles, and they weren’t just any old stones. The large ones, called Sarsens, came from an area a bit north of Stonehenge, and the BlueStones came from Wales. What is interesting is that the line from Stonehenge to the Preseli mountains in Wales, where the stones came from, is the same line that runs directly across the Pyramids in Gaza. In trying to re-create the way in which they might have been transported, they simulated putting one of these massive stones on a boat around the southern most part of England, and it sank with the weight of the stone.

Stonehenge was a part of a larger cosmology that reveals that the ancient people who constructed the stone circle, had a very developed technology for watching the stars, the sun and the moon. This was important to whatever ritualistic events that took place at Stonehenge. In 2005, the Riverside project unveiled the largest Neolithic village (near Stone-henge) that has ever been found in Europe. So, what is Stone-henge? It is an amazing sacred piece of architecture that was connected to an advanced system for viewing and identifying the movements of the larger universe of which we are a part. It is also a place where the dead were cremated (remains have been found), as well as a place where feasts occurred. We must put the pieces together with our imagination and with the pieces unveiled by archeologists and historians. To witness these massive stones, is a moment that you will never forget. Senior Travel to Stonehenge is easy on your own, or with a friend.



Indigenous Culture and Tourism

I have been to many places the world where I felt like the first Caucasian to step foot in certain territories. The very reason that I traveled there was to see “inside” a culture without the stage of tourism. Indigenous culture and tourism is wrought with all sorts of issues, and yet, there are opportunities for cultural awareness to travel throughout the world from the people who become aware of cultural differences. The  art, language, rituals and beliefs of a culture are what give meaning to a culture. To witness this directly through cultural travel, is a gift and a privilege. Indigenous culture has been romanticized, demonized, and put through a myriad of scopes. Recently, there has been a resurgence of cultural travelers who wish to experience Indigenous culture and explore the history, song, story and beliefs. A recent article in gives an example of the increase in cultural travel to Indigenous cultures of Austrailia and  Aboriginal tourism.

Mining royalties, government grants and the persistence of culturally minded tourism operators are bringing developments in what has always been a difficult arena.

Ayers Rock Resort now has a popular indigenous activities program, and the Wilpena Pound Resort in South Australia has come under indigenous ownership, with plans for Aboriginal touring and employment.


In the Top End, the indigenous-owned Wildman Wilderness Lodge is in its second season, while the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land have won an $825,000 grant to develop a tourism master plan for the region.

In Queensland, an impressive $20 million indigenous eco-tourism development has opened at Mossman Gorge, north of Cairns, with local Aboriginal people making up the majority of employees and tours including exclusive access to indigenous land.

Another development is taking place on the Gold Coast, with Dreamworld being awarded a $1 million grant for an indigenous experience at the park.

The federal government grant will help turn the park’s existing “wildlife experience”, which includes more than 800 native animals, into an Australian Aboriginal wildlife experience.

A theme park might seem an unlikely player in cultural tourism, but Dreamworld says it has been working with indigenous clans for the past two years and has a “reconciliation action plan” to increase cultural awareness at all levels of its operations.

                                           This image of aboriginal art work is
                                           from wikipedia. Source-                           /australia2005/index.html

Istanbul and Cultural Gems

The most exotic and wonderful place I’ve ever been is Istanbul. Istanbul’s cultural sites are cultural gems that have to be experienced to be appreciated. The Ottoman architecture such as the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque are thousands of years old, and hold  secrets of a time when beauty and embellishment were relished as important cultural gems. Mosiacs that take your breath away reflect a time when every detail was considered in constructing space. This year, Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace and the Sophia Museum were among Turkey’s top places for cultural visits. Read this blurb from the “Daily News.”

Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace and Hagia Sophia Museum and Ephesus in İzmir were the three places visited tourist sites in the first half of 2012, the Culture and Tourism Ministry has said, noting that it made over a billion Turkish Liras off of entrance fees around the country.

A total of 189 museums and 131 historical sites managed by the Culture and Tourism Ministry were visited by almost 13 million people in the first half of 2012, bringing in revenue amounting to 1.08 billion Turkish Liras, it said.

Topkapi Palace- Sultan's room

Topkapi Palace- Sultan's room


Topkapi Palace- Sultan's room

Jean Baptiste Van Mour-


If you are going to Istanbul, you must visit the Topkapi Palace. It is a masterful cultural gem of Turkey. This palace, which is a centerpiece of Ottoman culture was built in 1478, by Mehmet the Conqueror. It served as the center of Ottoman culture for 380 years. Istanbul and it’s cultural gems are rich in knitting today with a time thousands of years ago. The Turkish people are warm and inviting, and have traditions of craft and textiles that span thousands of years in a language that is embedded in pattern and texture. The bazaar is not to be missed, and will transport your senses into the realm of  beauty, history and splendor! Read the whole article here.


The Mysterious Location of Stonehenge

Stonehenge is a mystery that many theorists have tried to understand. The mysterious location of Stonehenge haunts us to this day. There is the temple theory originally  presented by William Stukeley, a man who studied pieces of the past and felt that the mysterious stone circle was a place for Druid ceremonies. Then there is the theory that the stones have healing properties and were brought the long distances to cure people. Then in 2005, everything changed. Mike Parker Pearson, a passionate archeologist, opened the portal to Stonehenge through a project called, “The Riverside Project.” This excavation project changed the whole scope of Stonehenge, and how we now perceive the place. How? Mike and a team of Archeologists found evidence in an ancient ditch in what is called, “the southern circle.”  This ditch contained evidence of nine small houses that held bones and pottery. The exciting part was that these nine houses were a part of a larger settlement with as many as 1000 houses.

The southern circle revealed a place of the living, one of the largest Neolithic settlements in northern Europe. An avenue originally made of flint, linked Stonehenge with the southern settlement. This passage, or roadway, links the light of the sun setting to the Southern Circle. Sunrise at Stonehenge, and sunset at the Southern Circle. Then, on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, the pattern reverses with the sun setting through the great trilithon of Stonehenge. In other words, the two places on the earth marking time at the two most important days of the year.

What the Riverside project revealed was Stonehenge within a context of a larger place, and the positioning of that place having meaning through the placement of the large stones, and the positioning of the living, or settlements.

Stonehenge- Photo by garethwiscombe Wikipedia Commons

Stonehenge- Photo by garethwiscombe Wikipedia Commons


If you want to read how our perception of Stonehenge changed based on Mike Parker Pearson’s “Riverside” project, then go to amazon and get this book, “If Stones Could Speak.” To understand the ancient past requires a relentless curiousity and creative mind. Stonehenge holds the mysteries of people thousands of years ago. Mike Parker Pearson, and Ramilisonina, a retired archaeologist who was born in Madagascar, cracked open a whole new way of looking at the mysterious location of Stonehenge.


Ireland, and New Grange

There are many ways to experience a place, whether it be Europe, Africa, Canada, or the USA. Ireland is a place that compels us to visit during the summer months when it is teeming with life. There are so many things that Ireland, oh Ireland have to offer. For instance,Ireland has some incredible Neolithic archeological remnants that are mysteries that compel one to dig further. Places such as New Grange. What is New Grange?

320px-Newgrange_at_a_distance-photo by Jimmy Harris

New Grange- Neolithic Structure, Ireland

New Grange-Second Passage- Photo by r Bkwillwm


Neolithic structures such as New Grange, Stone Henge and other structures around the world, reflect a connection to the larger planetary world. How? Each structure is aligned with the summer solstice, and the winter solstice. New Grange is constructed in such a way that the winter solstice(Dec. 21st) sheds it’s light for 17 minutes through a shaft of light between stones  and onto the chamber floor dating back as far as c.3100 to 2900 BC. The photo above reflects a bed of quartz stones that were laid in front of the second passage. The tools used to construct the stone chamber were all of stone, as metals had not yet been introduced into the world. New Grange predates Stone Henge by a thousand years. When you consider how long ago this structure was built, it is remarkable that the healing technologies of Neolithic people held such precision in connection with the sun and the planetary alignments. Additionally, the spiral was a symbol used on many of the stones there.  The Maori, indigenous peoples of the South Pacific, as well as the early remains of the people of western China in the Tarim Basin, both used the spiral as a significant symbol of communication to the Divine or afterworld.

Each year, on the Winter Solstice, a lottery gives a group of people the rare opportunity to witness the shaft of light entering the chamber at New Grange. This is done on a lottery basis since only a few may fit inside the narrow passage that makes up the chamber at New Grange  Today, the earliest light enters the chamber 4 minutes after sunrise, but 5000 years ago, the light would have entered the chamber exactly at sunrise. Being a mound of stone and earth, the place itself is 250 feet across and 40 feet high.  There are speculations as to it’s purpose 5000 years ago. A burial ground, a place of honoring the winter and summer solstice? There are many speculations as to what the chamber’s purpose was intended for. If you are interested, perhaps you should investigate this ancient place in greater detail.



Wine, the Brancott Estate and Cultural Travel to New Zealand

The world down under, on the other side of the world from the United States is a green lush wonderland that is teeming with life. There, wine, the Brancott Estate, and cultural travel await whomever wishes to open their senses to New Zealand. In the 1970′s the valley of Marlborough was pasture land with sheep grazing. Now, it is home to some of Australia’s finest wines. A recent article in the Telegraph describes the sensory treasures of the Brancott Estate.

Until 1973, the wide green valley of Marlborough was home to herds of sheep and when the owners of Brancott Estate decided to try growing grapes here, they were treated as madmen. “The climate round here is far too cool,” they were told. Two years later, after comparing Marlborough’s conditions with those of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley in France, the mad pioneers decided to plant a few sauvignon blanc vines.

By the time I arrived in the region a decade later, the Brancott Estate vineyards had already produced delicious gooseberryish and asparagussy whites that tasted like nothing I had ever encountered elsewhere. I was so bowled over, in fact, that the 1987 sauvignon blanc was named White Wine of the Year in my 1988 Sunday Telegraph Good Wine, an extraordinary achievement for a wine produced from vines planted a dozen years earlier in a sheep paddock.

Whether you are traveling to New Zealand for one of the “Great Walks” or to see the many national parks which are unique to the areas where they are located, Australia is a destination trip that can change your view of the world. Wine, the Bancott Estate, and cultural travel to New Zealand can change the whole lens of perception about the world down under. Read the whole article about Robert Joseph and the Brancott Estate here.




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