From very early times, man has made secondary use of caves as mortuary or burial
chambers. The first cave men disposed of their dead crudely, the 'Flower People'
of Shanidar paid them very considerable respect. The caves used for this
purpose had often been habitations but since man was afraid to
continue to live in a cave in which death had occurred, he
would move to a new one. This led to two obvious
consequences. There could be a local shortage
of caves, a fact which may well have
accelerated the move first to
build extensions to
the cave

and then
free-standing structures.
And the habit of interring the dead
in caves led to the move to build what now
be called purpose-built structures: cists and dolmens,
cairns and barrows, rock mounds and rock-cut tombs, sepulchres
and catacombs. In the tufaceous walls of this intricate system of galleries
were cut out rows of rectangular niches, called loculi, of various dimensions, which
could contain only one body, but not infrequently the remains of more than one person.
Oil lamps and small vases containing perfumes would often be placed beside the tombs.
The structure of the tombs were arranged in rows superimposed one upon another at different
levels.Basically it was quite natural that, in a time of real belief in the resurrection of bodies
and the immortality of the soul, overriding importance was not accorded remains.
On the contrary, from the moment when people are no longer sure that they
have a soul or that the body will regain life, it is perhaps no longer
necessary to give much more attention to the dead body,
which is ultimately the only trace of our existence
in the world and in language. The skull was un-
earthed in a Roman necropolis located in
the French town of Essonne. According
to the investigators, the find is the
only known example of an
implanted false tooth
from ancient times.

The iron
prosthesis
replaced a premolar
lost from the upper right
jaw. X-ray and electron microscope
investigation have revealed that the tooth
was probably modeled on the original, and created
through "a hot-hammering and folding process."The anthro-
pologists were impressed that "the alveolar (socket) wall and the
(false tooth's) pseudo-root fit perfectly together." The researchers point
out that, "although iron is surely not the ideal metal for dental implants, its
rugged surface must have provided satisfactory adhesion to the bone." The man, who
was around 30 years old at the time of his death, probably had the tooth implanted about
a year before he died. The experts say it was probably hammered into the jaw, under
crude anesthesia, in much the same way a nail is pounded into a board. Our first real
evidence that people held the dead, and therefore death, with any special
regard, comes with the earliest evidence for burial of the dead.
This characteristically human practice appears to have been
initiated by the Neanderthals of north-west Europe about
70,000 years ago. At Le Moustier in France the burial
of a child was found in a cave associated with tools
of Mousterian type. A similar burial in a cave
at Teshik Tash, Uzbekistan, also features
a child. The body was surrounded by
mountain goat horns, particularly
large ones, held in place by
stones and the whole
covered over with
earth.

Finally a small
fire was burned near
the burial spot. In prehistoric
times the cavern, often resembling,
or finally transformed into, a labyrinth,
was at once a theatre of initiation and a
place where the dead were buried. The labyrinth,
in its turn, was homologised with the body of the
Earth-Mother. To penetrate into a labyrinth or a cavern
was the equivalent of a mystical return to the Mother---an end
pursued in the rites of initiation as well as in funeral obsequies.
Huitzilopochli, an Aztec god of war, who was born without flesh, rather
only bones. Huitzilopochli is known in Nahua theology as Omiteuctli, 'Bone Lord.'
And it is said that even as he burned, his ashes emerged and arose: and there appeared,
before the sight of everyone, all the birds of great value which emerged and rose into
the sky. They saw the roseate spoonbill, the cotinga, the trogon, the heron, the
yellow parrot, the scarlet macaw, the white-bellied parrot, and every other bird
of precious plumage. And when the ashes were extinguished, then arose
his heart, the quetzal bird itself; they saw it. And so they knew he had
entered the sky within the sky. The marae was the cathedral of the
Tahitians. About it focused all the ceremonies of the worship of
divinity, of consecration of priests and warriors to their gods
and their chiefs. In the rear of the marae was the ossuary
where the bones of the victims were thrown. In Manila
I had viewed immense heaps of these discarded
skeletons of humans dragged from niches in a
wall and fling indiscriminately on the ground
by the monks,who owned the Paco
Cemetery, because the rent for
the niches was past due.
As they die they enable
their body to be re-
absorbed back
into the
essence
of the light
elements that created
it, and consequently their
material body dissolves
into light and then
disappears
completely.

This process
is known as the 'rainbow body'
or 'body of light' because the dissolution
is often accompanied by spontaneous manifestations
of light and rainbows. Differences in style of lettering have
been noted in different cemeteries, and inscriptions of uncertain
provenance have been identified by their style. The same sort of criterion
can be applied to paintings, where the colour schemes in one cemetery differ
notably from those in another. But no pictures have yet been found of workmen or
craftsmen at work other than the fossores. Nor is there any reference to a catacomb
painter in any extant literary source. At the center of the problem are the traces
themselves. These were usually permanently embedded in the much studied
monuments called stupas, but some were large and spectacular: two teeth,
a fragment of the Buddha's skullbone, and at the place of the great
enlightenment, bits of both bone and flesh. When one begins to
realize the considerable labor involved in embellishing such
barely accessible inner sanctuaries---pigments and other
supplies were secured, sometimes from distant sources,
scaffolding was hauled into and erected deep within
the caves to reach certain elevated areas, and a
store of lamps and implements for painting
and engraving was established in the cave
recesses--one begins to realize the
immense and deliberately
conceived initiatory
significance these
caves must have
had for the
people of
this time.

History
is inseparable
from the earth,
struggle is underground,
and, if we want to grasp
an event, we must not show it,
we must not pass along the event,
but plunge into it, go through all the
geological layers that are its internal history
(and not simply a more or less distant past).
Reality always lies beyond, and this is as true
for materialists as for idealists, for Plato and for
Marx. Reality, however one interprets it, lies beyond
a screen of clichés. Every culture produces such a screen,
partly to facilitate its own practices (to establish habits)
and partly to consolidate its own power. Reality is inimical
to those in power. There was, to begin with, Hades--that is,
the imaginary underground is first of all the locus of death and
rebirth, the place where dead souls go to be washed of their memories
and returned to life on earth. In this sense, the underground is both place
of origin and place of final rest. But now I see the reason for coming here. Not far
away there's a balcony - an open view of the line of tunnels below. And it's a place to
make camp. We sit back and rest. Slowly, without instruction, everyone turns off his or
her lamp or flashlight and it goes dark - totally black. And silent. Not a sound. No
dripping. Nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G!! I have never experienced anything like it. You
don't have to close your eyes. You don't have to tune anything out. One man's
tomb is another man's refuge. I don't know how long we stay like that. Finally
Emmanuel asks me to turn on my flashlight so he can fire up his lamp.
He grabs his knapsack and heads off. The others start a fire with
liquid propane and open tins of chili and canard confit. We con-
verse quietly, in French and English. Below Emmanuel is
planting and lighting a candle at each tunnel inter-
section. There are easily twenty disappearing
away in a line as far as the eye can see.
Another magical moment. I think of
Robert Smithston. Earthworks -
30 years later - this time under
the earth.
a bloody hand speaks
an imprint on a clammy wall this
voice crying back down
the ages these same
feet that have
limped and
hobbled

over these
stones from time
immemorial pilgrims
all found no end in wandering
mazes lost sacred geometry embraces
all angles all possibilities in the webs of a palm.
Animal remains are much more frequently
found as deposits in wells (than are human
remains), however,some times skulls alone,sometime
so the parts of the body, andsome times whole skeletons.
In suchcases it may be impossible to distinguish ritual deposits
deposits from domestic rubbish. Itwas the fumes rising from the cleft
in the rock which affected me most, for I was far more aware of them
now that I was sitting directly over them: they were poisonous and
nauseous. It was horrible, and the thought flashed through my
mind that the cleft was believed by some to run right down
into the realms of death, from which the oracle really drew
its power; for death knows all things. I was seized
with horror at having this beneath me, horror
of losing consciousness and perhaps
sinking and being engulfed in it,
horror of the realms of death.
I felt myself sinking,
sinking
.
.
.

 

         
                             


In order of Appearance

 

D. Kempe, Living Underground. London, 1988.
"Outline of the Catabombs."  http://www.catacombe.roma.it/en/descriz.html
M. Foucault, "Of Other Spaces." Diacritics. Spring 1986.
T. Molleson, "The Archaeology and Anthropology of Death: What the Bones Tell Us." In, S.C. Humphreys and H. King,
Editors, Mortality and Immortaliity: The Anthropology and Archaeology of Death. London, 1981.
R. Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic. London, 1987.
Nature. Vol. 391 (1997)
F. O'Brien, Mystic Isles of the South Seas. New York, 1921.
Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. New York, 1992.
M. Eliade, Myths, Dreams & Mysteries. London, 1972. 
"Quetzalcoatl's Hero Journey, W. Gingerich, trans. In, R. H. Markman and P.T. Markman, The Flayed God:
The Mesoamerican Mythological Tradition
. San Francisco, 1992.
J. Stevenson, The Catacombs: Rediscovered Monuments 0f Early Christianity. London, 1978.
M. Eliade, Myths, Dreams & Mysteries. London, 1972.
N.  Falk, "To Gaze on the Sacred Traces." History of Religions 16 (4) 1977.
R.E. Ryan, The Strong Eye of Shamanism. Rochester, VT., 1999.
G. Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image. London, 1989.
J. Berger, "The Production of the World." In, The Sense of Sight. New York, 1985.
W. Lesser, The Life Below the Ground. Boston, MA., 1987.
M. Battle, "Paris Underground:  A Tour of the Dark World Beneath the City of Lights." Infiltration 9 (June 1998).
C. Guectin. From, "Incarnation." http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/traced/guertin/incarnation/maze.htm
P. Lagervist, "The Sibyl." New York, 1958.

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