Marvelous Caves in Benifallet: The Memory of Water

Benifallet would have been just another barely interesting village in Tarragon, Spain, if it were not for its caves. Once inside, we quickly came to realize that what we were about to experience would definitely exceed our expectations: in addition to common rock forms like stalactites and stalagmites, there were also columns, flowstones, straws, and the incredible helictites, which seem to defy gravity.

As we moved from one ‘hall’ to the next in the aptly named Cave of Marvels, one could only shiver at the thought that it took one century for one centimeter of stalactite to form! Looking at the jungle of pillars and stalactites that seemed to extend in all directions, one could think of the incredible rock formations all around as cosmic calendars…time capsules…a ‘memory of water’: as rain water infiltrated the rock ceiling over thousands of years, it dripped slowly but surely, creating these calcium formations/depositions.

At one of the halls, our guide ‘played’ music using nothing but a row of stalagmites, each with a different diameter. The row, enclosing a cavity behind, allowed for the sound to resonate, producing different tunes: a natural rock organ producing cave music, like the one that was –probably- played by our ancestors long ago!

Surprisingly, these caves were discovered only in 1968 by a group of Speleologists from Barcelona. Only two of the six caves are open to visitors, namely the Cova del Dos (Cave of the Two) and the Cova Meravelles (Cave of Marvels). A combined ticket allowed us to combine the cave tour with a one-hour cruise along the Ebro River. We enjoyed our ride, enjoy the photos.

Course Review: Masterpieces of Ancient Egyptian Art (7 Aug 2014)

Yesterday, I delivered my Prehistoric and Ancient Egyptian Art Course in Cairo. The course tackled Rock Art, Predynastic Art and Ancient Egyptian Art (normally –but inaccurately- referred to as Pharaonic Art). Among other things, we shed light on 8 masterpieces, namely:

The Bird Lady, Naqada II (Brooklyn Museum);
Gebel el-Arak Knife, Naqada II (The Louvre);
The Narmer Palette, Naqada III/Early Dynastic (The Egyptian Museum);
The Statue of Khafre Enthroned, IV Dynasty (The Egyptian Museum);
The Tomb-Chapel of Nebamun, XVIII Dynasty (The British Museum);
The Amarna Art, XVIII Dynasty (Various Museums);
The Tomb of Sennedjem, XIX Dynasty (Deir el-Madina);
The Papyrus of Hunefer, XIX Dynasty (The British Museum).

Special emphasis was given to Egypt’s Predynastic Period. Predynastic cultures are the ones that directly preceded the final consolidation of the Upper and Lower Egypt into one state and the rise of the First Dynasty. These cultures produced striking examples of artifacts and left a legacy that is currently scattered across some of the world’s most prestigious museums: pottery, palettes, game boards, statuettes, decorated knives, combs, etc. These objects represent a ‘vision of life’ and help us understand how these cultures related to the world that surrounded them. The archaeological sites of Hierakonpolis, Abidos and Nagada provide most of the material vestiges of these cultures.

Among the most important Predynastic Cultures in Egypt are the Fayoum, the Merimda, the Omari, and the Maadi Cultures in Lower Egypt and the Delta; as well as the Badarian and the Nagada Cultures in Upper and Middle Egypt.