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Monday, May 27, 2024

Uncovering the Secrets of Archaeology with Bibhu Dev Misra

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Saadeqa Khan
Saadeqa Khan
Saadeqa Khan is the founder, CEO, & Editor-in-Chief of Scientia Pakistan. She's a member of the Oxford Climate Journalism Network (Second Cohort) and NASW. Saadeqa is a fellow of NPF Washington, The Falling Walls Foundation, and the Science Journalism Forum. Saadeqa has won several international journalism grants and awards for her reports.

Bibhu Dev Misra is an independent research investigator and writer on ancient cultures, archaeology, science, and symbolism. An engineer and MBA, he has worked for more than two decades as an Information Technology consultant for large global organizations, including the World Bank and the United Nations. His articles have been published in different journals, magazines, and websites, including the New Dawn, Science to Sage, Graham Hancock Forum, Viewzone, Esamskriti, and others. He can be contacted at bibhumisra@gmail.com, and his work can be found on his personal website, “Ancient Inquiries” (www.bibhudevmisra.com).

Below is his detailed conversation with Scientia’s EIC Saadeqa Khan.

Bibhu Dev Misra at Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico
Bibhu Dev Misra at Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico

Saadeqa: You have been working as a consultant in the Information Technology industry for a long time. How did you get interested in archaeological research?

Dev Misra: My passion for archaeology and historical research was ignited when I started reading the works of several independent researchers and authors such as Graham Hancock, Walter Cruttenden, Erich Von Daniken, David Hatcher Childress, and others. These writers have pointed out many unexplained mysteries of the past, which have not received the due attention of archaeologists. 

Our ancestors have left behind a large body of knowledge in the form of enormous volumes of sacred texts whose true meanings are still obscure. They have built awe-inspiring architecture works using megalithic stone blocks, some of which would be difficult to replicate even with modern-day technologies. Many cryptic symbols and out-of-place artifacts have been found, which beg for an explanation. There are reams of the past’s fantastic stories that tell us of lost kingdoms and advanced technologies, of gods and giants, which have been generally brushed off as myths and fantasies. Still, it is inexplicable why almost all ancient cultures would invent such fantastic tales.

Our ancestors have left behind a large body of knowledge in the form of enormous volumes of sacred texts whose true meanings are still obscure.

It slowly began to dawn on me that the mainstream version of history may not necessarily be correct, and we may be simply scratching the surface of the human story. The past mysteries need to be explored with a logical, inquisitive mind, without getting tied down to dogma. So I started to travel to different archaeological sites around the world – in Egypt, Mexico, and India – and tried to get a first-hand understanding of these places. I started my own website, where I began to documents my findings and observations. Many of my articles, since then, have been published in different magazines, newspapers, and websites. 

Saadeqa: Which are some of the archaeological sites from around the world that you find the most captivating?

Dev Misra: There are quite a few. Every place has its own charm. Among Mexico’s archaeological sites, one of the most enthralling is Teotihuacan near Mexico City, with its magnificent Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. The term Teotihuacan means “the place where men become gods.” The origins of Teotihuacan is still a mystery. Archaeologists believe that Teotihuacan may have been founded at around 100 BC. Still, it could be far older than that since the vast dimensions, and the grand layout of Teotihuacan is dramatically different from other Mesoamerican sites. Apart from Teotihuacan, I also loved the Mayan site of Palenque with its beautiful Temple of the Inscriptions and other monuments, set in the midst of a dense jungle that gives it an aura of mystery.

In Egypt, the Pyramids of Giza are quite breathtaking because of their sheer size and the massive stone blocks weighing up to 80 tons transported, lifted, and perfectly fitted together to create this engineering marvel. This is in stark contrast to Egypt’s other pyramids, which are much smaller and of significantly lower quality. Most of them, barring a few, have turned into crumbling piles of rocks. Although the Giza Pyramids are named after the 4th dynasty pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, there is no inscriptional evidence that they were commissioned. The Queen’s Chamber and King’s Chamber inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu, which can be reached by an Ascending Passage, is entirely devoid of any inscription or burial remains, very unlike the other royal tombs. So, there is a big mystery around who built the Giza Pyramids, how and for what purpose. 

The temple complex of Luxor and Karnak in Thebes (16th century BC) is also visually stunning. It was at Karnak that I noticed several similarities between the Egyptian triad of Amun-Mut-Khonsu and the Indian triad of divinities Krishna-Subhadra-Balaram that led me to compose my first article proposing an ancient connection between these two cultures, both of which venerated the cow as a goddess and the lotus flower as a symbol of creation.

The Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids
Temple of Luxor, Egypt

There are many other archaeological sites around the world I have not yet visited that are high on my bucket list of places to see, such as Petra (Jordan), Baalbek (Lebanon), Gobekli Tepe (Turkey) Cuzco (Peru), Angkor Wat (Cambodia), Borobudur (Indonesia) and more.

In Egypt, the Pyramids of Giza are quite breathtaking because of their sheer size and the massive stone blocks weighing up to 80 tons transported, lifted, and perfectly fitted together to create this engineering marvel.

Saadeqa: You have written many articles on archaeology and ancient cultures. Please tell us about some of your significant research findings.

De Misra: One of the topics that I have explored in detail is the considerable evidence of Trans-Pacific contacts between Asia and America, which went on for thousands of years before Columbus. I found that there are dozens of clay figurines of the Olmecs and the shaft-tomb culture of Western Mexico that depict people performing yoga asanas. The Olmecs also used many elements of Hindu-Buddhist architecture, such as the dwarf ganas that support the horizontal beams of temples, the Kalamukha or “Face of Death” that is depicted above the entrances to temples and cave sanctuaries, Makara heads (Makara is a water dragon) or Makara balustrades that flank the staircases of temples, etc. The elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesha’s sculptures, have been found in Campeche, Mexico, dating to the 7th century AD. Many Mayan gods can perform hand gestures that at exactly like the Hindu-Buddhist mudras

Figurines depicting yoga styles
The Kalamukha and Makara motifs in Mesoamerican and Indian sculptures

Scholars such as Mike Xu have noted that the Olmec script has a striking resemblance to the script of the Chinese Shang Dynasty, and there are many overlaps between Asian and Mesoamerican cultures such as the use of jade masks, the ritual use of red vermillion powder, and conch shell trumpets, etc. All of this indicates that Trans-Pacific interactions have been going on for centuries before Columbus. Yet, most American scholars continue to disregard this large body of evidence and propose an in-situ development of Mesoamerican cultures.

An interesting topic of research for me, and one that I intend to study further, are the large number of petroglyphs discovered in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, India, in 2018. These petroglyphs have been etched on the flat, rocky hilltops on the western coast of India. The petroglyphs have been tentatively dated to around 10,000 BCE by the Maharashtra State Archaeology department based on Mesolithic tools found near the sites. 

When I looked at these petroglyphs, I found that many of them depict sacred symbols that have been depicted in the art of many ancient cultures. For instance, one of the petroglyphs depicts the Winged Scarab or Khepri that the Egyptians venerated as the “dawn sun.”  A few petroglyphs depict a symbolic motif known as the Master of Animals, in which a heroic figure grasps a pair of wild animals by their hind legs. This symbol can be seen on Indus Valley seals in Mesopotamia, Greece, and Egypt. I also spotted petroglyphs that depict the symbols for the zodiac constellations of Aquarius and Pisces. 

This discovery pushes back the date for the beginnings of astrological lore and sacred symbols to around 10,000 BCE when humanity had just emerged from the cataclysms of the Younger Dryas epoch and the end of the Ice Age. It raises important questions about who carved these ancient symbols and if they may be the survivors of an advanced civilization that flourished during the Ice Age. 

Large petroglyph at Ratnagiri, India, depicting the Winged Scarab
Ratnagiri Petroglyphs depicting the Master of Animals

I have also written a few articles arguing that some of the images depicted on Indus seals and tablets can be easily interpreted based on tribal legends and customs, particularly those of the Gond tribes of Central India. Linguists have noted that the letters of the Gond script resemble the Late Harappan style of writing, which suggests that the Gonds may have migrated into Central India after the collapse of the Indus civilization at around 1900 BCE. 

I have proposed that the well-known Sacrifice Seal (Mohenjo-Daro seal No.430) depicts a Gond legend. Their primary deity Bada Dev appeared in the Saja tree’s trunk after being worshiped by the seven Gond brothers. These seven brothers are shown on the seal decked up horned headdresses with leafy branches, in the same manner as the present-day Gond tribals. Since Bada Dev (whom the Gonds also call Shembhu or Mahadev) is the same deity that the Hindus know as Shiva, it indicates that the Hindu and tribal beliefs have a common origin in Indus Valley.

Several other Indus seals and tablets appear to depict events from Lingo’s life – a warrior-prophet of the Gonds – whose life and exploits show a remarkable similarity with that of the Hindu god Krishna. These research findings indicate that our understanding of the Indus culture will be greatly enhanced once we begin to use tribal lore and customs to interpret the Indus seals and tablets’ images.

These are some of my observations and findings in the area of archaeological research. There are many more articles on my website, covering a range of topics.

Indus Seal depicting the Gond deity Bada Dev in the Saja Tree

Saadeqa: How is modern technology helping in conducting archeological research and discoveries? 

Dev Misra: Archaeology has always been an interdisciplinary subject connected to geology, paleontology, anthropology, and other disciplines. Archaeologists are also using a variety of sophisticated technological tools to speed up the discovery of new sites. Satellite imagery such as Google Earth helps to detect new settlement mounds, burials, and stone formations.

LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology uses laser beams directed from an aerial vehicle to create three-dimensional images of the earth’s surface. Since LIDAR can see through dense vegetation, this technique is particularly suitable for detecting ancient sites hidden inside tropical forests. LIDAR has been used extensively to identify hidden cities and monuments in the forests of Cambodia and Mesoamerica. Drones are also being used for aerial surveys. 

Archaeologists can analyze soil composition in the field by using a portable technology called Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (pXRF). This helps them determine if there was a human settlement in the area earlier since human activity leaves behind many chemical residues that stay in the soil for a long time. Underwater explorations are being carried out using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) to survey the sea bed using high-resolution 3D photography. This technique has already helped in the discovery of several ancient shipwrecks.

All of these, however, are preliminary survey methods that help in the detection of potential sites. Once they are found, archaeologists still have to perform traditional excavation using picks, shovels, and brushes to find artifacts and accurately date them using radiocarbon, thermoluminescence, and other dating techniques.

Saadeqa: What are your thoughts on the state of archaeology in India and Pakistan? 

Dev Misra: The Archaeological Survey of India is a big and well-equipped organization that generally does a good job maintaining the huge number of archaeological sites across the country (around 3650) and conducts many new excavations every year. However, there are no tourist facilities at many sites to speak of, and the level of maintenance can definitely be improved. I am not sure to what extent emerging technologies are being used by ASI to speed up discoveries. It would be great if the ASI focuses on building cross-cultural teams to investigate the interactions between the IVC and the later-day Indian civilization and other cultures.

As for the state of archaeology in Pakistan, my view as an outsider is that there seems to be a general lack of interest and funding in conducting archaeological research. There are dozens of known Indus Valley mounds which not being excavated. In Baluchistan, the Sphinx and nearby structures are lying around in plain sight, and yet not a single official survey has been conducted. I don’t know how well the existing sites in Pakistan are being maintained, but there seems to be a definite lack of interest in conducting new excavations.

Saadeqa: What would you like to suggest to youngsters who are interested in pursuing a career in archaeology? 

Dev Misra: These days, there is a great deal of interest worldwide to learn more about the ancient cultures and understand the meanings of the text, monuments, and symbols that our ancestors have left behind. Therefore, this is a good time to become an archaeologist and get armed with the skills needed to make important discoveries.

My advice to the youngsters would be to be fearless in the pursuit of the truth. They should follow the evidence and not get tied down by dogmatic views and peer pressure to conform to a certain ideology. It is a fact that in academia and large organizations, you are expected to “toe the line,” and those who do not conform are not given the best treatment. But I hope that the new generation of archaeologists and scientists will break free of these shackles and chart new courses. 

A lot of what we used to believe in the past is crumbling away. Nothing is set in stone anymore. The discovery of Gobekli Tepe showed that people were constructing megalithic temples at around 9000 BC, soon after we emerged from the cataclysms of the last Ice Age. The petroglyphs at Ratnagiri have pushed the date back for the origins of sacred symbolism to around 10,000 BC. Scientists have found agriculture dating back to 10,500 BC, while recently, an 11,000-year-old underwater mine was discovered in Mexico. So, the dates for the origins of human civilization are continuously pushed back. It may be a matter of time before realizing that our civilization is a legacy of a lost civilization that flourished during the Ice Age. Much of what we consider as myths and folklores are actually ancient historical narratives.

Therefore, the new generation of archaeologists should keep an open mind and allow the evidence to speak for itself, without getting sidetracked by dogma and preconceived notions.

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