5 Rediscovered Underground Temples

In the past week, the discoveries of two very different and amazing underground temples were in the news. But they are not the only ones.

1. The Lupercale
Just last week, the first pictures of a recently-discovered underground grotto in Rome were released. The chamber is 26 feet high and 24 feet in diameter. The discovery was made about a year ago as workers were repairing the remains of Emperor Augustus' palace on the Palatine, a hill in Rome. Archaeologists believe it is the original Lupercale, the site where legend says the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were nursed by a wolf after having been abandoned by their parents, the war god Mars and mortal priestess Rhea Silvia. The chamber is partly filled with debris, but the ceiling mosaic gives a glimpse of the majesty the temple had when it was in use 2,000 years ago.

2. The Temples of Damanhur
In 1978, Oberto Airaudi and a few friends began excavating the ground under the alpine hill in Italy on whch they lived. They dug for 16 years in secret, as they had no permit for the project. When authorities demanded to see the dig in 1992, they were astonished to find nine ornately-decorated chambers, with a total volume approaching 300,000 cubic feet! Although the Italian government seized the temples for a time and was going to destroy them, a retroactive permit was eventually issued. Airaudi (who prefers the name Falco) and his colleagues continue building the underground temples to this day, with plans for bigger and better underground chambers to come.

More on the Damanhur and other temples, after the jump.

Falco's organization, the Federation of Damanhur, runs tours of the Temples of Humankind complex, a two-day affair with a day of "preparation" and a day of viewing. The temples are not dedicated to any deity, but to humankind. They were built for meditation and spiritual renewal. See more photos of the temples of Humankind at the official website.

3. The Underground Temple at Hampi
The city of Hampi in Karnataka, India is a UNESCO World Heritage site as a grouping of Hindu monuments. One of these is the Underground Temple, believed to have been built in the 13th century and used until Muslim attacks left the city in ruins in the 16th century. This temple of Siva is underneath the water table, and the inner sanctum is usually flooded. However, tourists are welcome to go as far down the passageway as possible.

4. The Hypogeum at Hal Saflieni
The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Malta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest underground temple we now know of. Its 500 square meters spread over three levels of halls, chambers, and passageways carved out between 3600 and 2500 BC. It was rediscovered in 1902 by a stonemason who was building houses over the temple. The Hypogeum is open to tourism, with a limit of 80 visitors a day, so reservations should be made far in advance. See more pictures at Malta Temples.

5. The Osireion
The Osireion is a false tomb connected to the Seti I temple at Abydos in Egypt. It is the mythical burial tomb of the ancient Egyptian god Osiris. Seti I reigned in the 13th century BC. The Osireion was built below the water table and was flooded much of the time before its 20th century excavation. It was discovered during an excavation in 1902, but not fully explored until 1926. Part of the Osireion is open to the surface now, but originally had limestone roofs below ground level. This photo by Ernesto Graf shows a section that is both exposed and flooded.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
This Just In
For $61, You Can Become a Co-Owner of This 13th-Century French Castle
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, Getty Images

A cultural heritage restoration site recently invited people to buy a French castle for as little as $61. The only catch? You'll be co-owning it with thousands of other donors. Now thousands of shareholders are responsible for the fate of the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers in western France, and there's still room for more people to participate.

According to Mashable, the dilapidated structure has a rich history. Since its construction in the 13th century, the castle has been invaded by foreign forces, looted, renovated, and devastated by a fire. Friends of Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a small foundation formed in 2016 in an effort to conserve the overgrown property, want to see the castle restored to its former glory.

Thanks to a crowdfunding collaboration with the cultural heritage restoration platform Dartagnans, the group is closer than ever to realizing its mission. More than 9000 web users have contributed €51 ($61) or more to the campaign to “adopt” Mothe-Chandeniers. Now that the original €500,000 goal has been fulfilled, the property’s new owners are responsible for deciding what to do with their purchase.

“We intend to create a dedicated platform that will allow each owner to monitor the progress of works, events, project proposals and build a real collaborative and participatory project,” the campaign page reads. “To make an abandoned ruin a collective work is the best way to protect it over time.”

Even though the initial goal has been met, Dartagnans will continue accepting funds for the project through December 25. Money collected between now and then will be used to pay for various fees related to the purchase of the site, and new donors will be added to the growing list of owners.

The shareholders will be among the first to see the cleared-out site during an initial visit next spring. The rest of the public will have to wait until it’s fully restored to see the final product.

[h/t Mashable]


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