Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sea Cow Worship Site in United Arab Emirates

This is very interesting - the archaeologists seem certain that this is not an abbatoir but a site of worship. AFP from Yahoo News French find prehistoric animal worship site Thu Sep 24, 1:34 pm ET PARIS (AFP) – French archaeologists have discovered the oldest known place of worship dedicated to the dugong, or sea cow, on an island just north of Dubai, two research centres said Thursday. The sanctuary believed to date back to 3,500 to 3,200 years BC was discovered on Akab island in the United Arab Emirates, 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Dubai. The French archaeological mission in the Emirates and the Umm al-Quwain museum there said in the specialist magazine Antiquity that the sanctuary on the deserted island provided key details "on the rituals of prehistoric coastal societies in the Gulf." Akab was a tuna fisherman's village more than 6,500 years ago with circular buildings and a pile of dugong bones detected in the 1990s. The scientifically named "Dugong dugon" still exists in the Gulf, with adults growing up to four metres (12 feet) long and weighing up to 400 kilogrammes (880 pounds). The sanctuary was first thought to be an abattoir but on analysis was found to be a carefully constructed platform on two levels containing the remains of around 40 dugongs as well as tools, stones and ornaments. The archeologists said the Akab monument was used for rituals celebrating the giant mammal and "has no parallel in neolithic times in other parts of the world." Similar structures have been found off the Australian coast but are only several hundred years old.
Years ago, I did some research into the legends of the "water horse" - and some authors have suggested that sea cows, seals or walruses may be the foundation for various legends of the water horse. I was fascinated by the etymological roots of the creature, variously known as:
  • EACH UISCE or EACH UISGE (the Highland water horse, pronounced something like ech-ooshkya)
  • AUGHISKY or AUGHISKA (same as the Highland water horse, known in Ireland, pronounced something like agh-iski)
  • Related is Cabyll Ushtey, which literally translated, means something like fish horse

Notice the connection between the word mare (from Latin mare-sea), which also means horse/mare (mare = a female horse, the LL 'caballus' = male horse) in English, march in Welsh (female horse) -- "King Mark" (a/k/a "March") in the tale "Tristan and Isolde:" The king's name - March, may have meant "ass' ears", which explained why the latter legend says that he had the ears of horse or ass.

And then there is the cabyll ushtey - the fish horse - possibly so named because of the resemblance of the spiny "ruff" that runs down the middle of the head/back of such species of fish to a horse's mane. "Cabyll" might be from L caballus, a gentleman trained in arms and horsemanship, a mounted soldier: knight. However, it also might be from "cavalla" : Sp (Spanish) caballa, a fish, fr. LL., mare, fem. of L caballus) 1. CERO 2. also ca-val-ly: any of various carangid fishes (esp. genus Caranx). From Webster's Collegiate:

Cero: n. pl. cero or ceros [modif. of Sp sierra saw, cero]: either of two large food and sport fishes (Scomberomorus cavalla and S. regalis) of the warmer parts of the western Atlantic ocean. Caranx (no definition found); Carangid: adj [deriv. of F carangue shad, horse mackerel, fr. Sp caranga]:of or relating to a large family (Carangidae) of marine spiny-finned fishes including important food fishes - carangid n.

So - where am I going with all of this, you ask. Well - here's the reach. I've been fascinated for years by chess historian Pavel Bidev's description of the knight's move in chess as being related to water and that it traces out the shape of the crescent Moon. (Transcribed article at Goddesschess) As we know, the Moon is anciently and intimately related to various goddesses who are also connected to the sea and, of course, there is the well known effect of the Moon's phases upon the tides. Thus, my research into - literally - water horses.

Someday I'll put all of this research together into a coherent (I hope) article and relate it to the history of the chess piece we call the knight.

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