Through their excavations, archaeologists of the 21st century have allowed scholars and historians to piece together a detailed account of the Incas, their society and achievements, though the mystery still remains as to where and how they derived certain unique aspects of their customs and lifestyle.

Among their findings was the fact that the history of the Incas went far further back than the 1600 and 1700’s to between 1150 and 1300.  At that time, the Inca empire was ruled by powerful Wari warlords from their capital near modern day of Ayacucho, until they were driven away by severe cold and drought to the valley near Cusco.  Here it was fertile and warm, with a plentiful supply of water, which allowed the Inca farmers to irrigate their fields. They also built terraces up the slopes and learned how to supply water by means of canals or aqueducts.

The royal dynasty established in Cusco produced military leaders so powerful that the Incas established through conquest the largest empire in the New World before Columbus ventured there.  It was the 8th emperor, Pachacutec, who was chiefly responsible for the expansion of the Inca empire by persuading rival tribes to surrender peacefully or, if that was unacceptable, he subdued them by military conquest.  Pachacutec ruled from 1438 to 1471 and, as a result, by the 1600’s the Quechua people who formed the Inca civilization had spread from Cusco in Peru to modern-day Ecuador in the north, Chile in the south, Bolivia in the east, and bound by the Pacific Ocean in the west.  This phenomenal expansion took place, not only as a result of conquest, but also by alliances through marriage whereby they took the daughters of nearby lords as wives.

Pachacutec singled out for conquest the southern lords of the Colla people in the region of Titicaca, with its large population living round the lake, the land rich in gold and silver, the fertile meadows supporting enormous herds of llama and alpacas.  Under his rule, Cusco was rebuilt in the shape of a puma, with lavish temples and dwellings for royalty, leaving the common people to live in the outlying areas.  Since the Inca believed they were created by the sun god, Inti, they built among other temples the Coricancha Sun Temple or Home of Gold, its walls, ceilings and altars lined with gold.  These were later plundered by the Spanish invaders.

After Pachacutec’s death, his descendants continued to conquer the southern rulers by their remarkable organizational ability.  They moved populations from obscure villages to towns controlled by the Inca and built roads to connect the towns and facilitate the movement of troops.  Additionally, they built storehouses along the routes for military provisions.

In short, they brought civilization, order and growth.  Their technical skills were unsurpassed at the time:  not only did they build about 22,530km (14,000 miles) of paved roads through rough terrain but they also built suspension bridges from natural fibre.  This was made possible by the hierarchy of the civil organization from royalty to workers and it was a successful structure whereby royalty governed and workers benefitted by trading work for food, shelter, education and health care without the pressure of a monetary system.  This did not exist in Inca society.

Inca farmers played a crucial role in the survival and expansion of the empire by mastering agriculture at high altitudes and very steep terrain, producing some seventy different crops, from corn to cotton, hot peppers to peanuts, potatoes and quinoa.  The water canals were mostly carved from rocks and the joints sealed with clay.  They were masters of hydraulic engineering, angling the canals to accommodate the steep slopes of the mountains.

Significantly, they could store food for between three to seven years in huge storehouses, the contents of which were monitored by imperial officials who took inventories by means of a quipu, with its coloured and knotted cords.  These were used like a computer or calculator to record accounting particulars, whereby the knots represented numerical values within a decimal system.  Keeping records by means of a quipu allowed the Incas to keep stock of any numerical information, including debts and production.  The cords of this useful device were made from cotton, alpaca or llama threads and the system had existed from 2600BC in earlier civilizations.  Hence the quipu demonstrated once again the Inca’s ability to find and use ancient methods to further their progress.

They were also masterly at building and engineering as shown by the structures which have remained standing for 500 years, in spite of earthquakes, wind and weather.  Excelling at stonemasonry in graphite and limestone in which the stones fitted together perfectly without mortar and without a razor blade play, they built various buildings, temples and fortifications such as the fort of Ollantaytambo and the sacred site of Machu Picchu.  This citadel of about 200 structures was situated between the Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu mountains:  it was only discovered in 1911.

When it came to craftsmanship, they also excelled in creating objects made of gold and silver as well as eye-catching textile designs, since they had great regard for cloth and its artistry.  To this end, they grew cotton, sheared wool from the alpaca and the vicuna, which belonged to the llama family and used looms to create complex textile designs for cloth, mostly worn by royalty.

After Pachacutec’s death in 1471, the Inca’s power was further expanded and consolidated.  By 1493 under the King Huayna Capac, the empire appeared to reach its zenith.  He established a new royal estate in Ecuador, namely the country palace of Quispiguanca, which was both the king’s palace and his country home and represented one of the many royal estates built over the years by various Inca kings.

The estate was sumptuous and impressive as an example of a highly developed culture and civilization.  Workers were instructed to divert the Urubamba River to the south of the valley, to drain marshes and level hills in order to plant crops, including corn, cotton and peanuts.  It was essentially the king’s place of relaxation containing banqueting halls for feasting, entertainment and gambling, a game lodge and a forest for hunting deer and other game.  The palace was surrounded by fertile fields, parks and gardens.

When the king died, his body was mummified as was the tradition and taken to Cusco where, over the years, members of his family came to consult him.  His advice was conveyed through an oracle next to him.  Inca tradition included a month of “carrying the dead,” when people fed the mummies of their ancestors.  At this time, they took them from their storehouses, dressed them in rich clothing and gave them food and drink, after which they would sing and dance and walk with them from house to house.

The Incas paid tribute to the gods through human sacrifice by offering up children and teenagers who were well fed for a year and drugged with alcohol and cocoa leaves before being slaughtered and mummified.

Before Huayna Capac died in about 1527, the Spanish had already invaded and conquered the Inca empire, which was subsequently almost wiped out by smallpox, brought by the Spanish to their shores.  When Capac’s son, Atahualpa eventually came to the throne, he was killed by the Spanish who replaced him with a token ruler.  By 1572, the Inca empire, which had reached about 10 million people, was no more.

Since, unlike the Maya, they had no system of hieroglyphic writing, their achievements and culture vanished from history and historical records.  It was only in the 1990’s that archaeologists visited the territory once more to make extraordinary discoveries and piece together the rise and fall of the Inca people.  Among other findings was the major sacred shrine of Maukallacta, south of Cusco, where pilgrims worshipped in the belief that this was the birthplace of their empire.

Although the history of the Inca was only explored in depth in the 20th century, their influence and legacy has existed in South America for hundreds of years.  Enduring Inca traditions include textile making, ethnic food, the use of the ancient Inca language, Quechua, a lingua franca spoken by between six and ten million people living near the Andes, from southern Columbia to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, New Argentina and northern Chile.

A further unexpected legacy is the sacred valley of Peru where the sacred River Urubamba flows.  This is a hummingbird paradise with more than two hundred species of birds, of which there are thirty different types of hummingbirds, strikingly diverse and richly coloured.  It is an idyllic environment for the birds, marked by good weather and an abundance of  flowers as a result of the plentiful water supply.

Although they have always been regarded as indigenous people, anthropologists propose that the Inca ancestors came from Asia as hunters who crossed the Bering Strait, which in ancient times connected Siberia and Alaska.  Over thousands of years, they moved west, more than half-way across the earth, eventually settling in the Americas and reaching the Andes somewhere between 13000BC and 10000BC.  The unique features of their civilization nevertheless remain a mystery, intriguing and often baffling.


Like the Great Pyramid of Giza, Stonehenge is also a prehistoric monument, its huge sandstone or sarsen standing stones weighing about twenty-five tons each.  Situated on the Salisbury Plan in Wiltshire, England, it is probably the most famous landmark in the UK and forms part of an entire larger landscape containing many sacred monuments, both in stone and wood, which are believed to date back to over ten thousand years ago in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

As with The Great Pyramid, Stonehenge is linked to sun worship.  The circle of stones  consisting of the large sarsens on the outside, the ring of smaller bluestones inside and within these, the five freestanding trilithons are all orientated towards the sunrise on midsummer’s day, the summer solstice and longest day of the year as well as midwinter’s day, the winter solstice and shortest day of the year.  Sun worship rituals were undertaken at these times.

The word Stonehenge derives from the Saxon meaning the hanging stone or from Old English stan meaning stone and hencg meaning hinge to signify the stone lintels, which hinge on the standing rocks in a horizontal position.

Stonehenge could have been a burial ground in early eras since human bone dating from as early as 3000BC has been unearthed.  There are also many burial mounds outside the stone circle.

Approximately 3.2 km from Stonehenge, the large Neolithic settlement of Durrington Walls contains houses, perhaps originally as many as a thousand, which means it may have been settled by four thousand people.  Circles were constructed to form an enclosure, built mostly with wooden posts from massive old trees.  These circles, like those at Stonehenge, were aligned with the solar solstices.  Signs of feasts and social activity have been found at this monument.  Researcher Mike Parker Pearson believes that the wooden circle at Durrington Walls represented the land of the living whereas Stonehenge, with its stone circles surrounded by burial mounds, symbolized the land of the dead.

The two places were connected by the Avon River, representing water and purification.  Leading from Durrington Walls were avenues, which were used for ceremonial processions from the life of the living to death, cremation and burial at Stonehenge.  And yet, his theory has not been well received by many archaelogists and experts.

Parker Pearson went on to head a project of excavation at Durrington Walls in 2016 using ground-penetrating radar, which led to the discovery that there were no buried standing stones in the area’s circle but, instead, a ring of enormous post-holes underneath the henge bank.  These had been filled with chalk rubble.

He also took charge of excavations in Wales, in the belief that the smaller stones in the inner Stonehenge circle made up of bluestones had come from several sites in western Wales and transported for up to 140 miles or 225 km as far as Stonehenge itself.  He set out with an expedition to find the exact place where these bluestones came from and by sheer physical labour in poor weather conditions managed to find the precise location, testing the stones on site for similarity.

17 miles or 27 km north of Stonehenge is the town of Avebury, which is part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site and unique for its enormous stone circle, the largest in the world as well as the village, which is partly built within the circle itself.  The large outer ring contains two smaller inner circles as well as a recently discovered large square stone monument within a smaller circle.  This was found by means of ground penetrating radar and exists mainly underground.  Like Stonehenge, the stones of

Avebury also consist of the local sarsen or sandstone.

The identity of these amorphous sun worshippers remains hidden.  We know in a very general way that they belonged to the Neolithic and/or Bronze Ages.  According to various archaelogists, Wales and the Gower Peninsula in particular was inhabited by humans from the time of the late Stone Age or Upper Paleolithic Period, namely somewhere between 50,000 to 12,000 years ago.  As early as 1823, the Paviland Cave on the Gower Peninsula revealed a human skeleton, fairly much complete, wrapped in cloth dyed with red ochre or rubbed with red ochre.  It represented the earliest burial in the entire Western Europe.  The skeleton was the first human fossil to be discovered anywhere in the world and dated at approximately 33,000 Before Present (BP) years ago.  The red ochre was thought to be the work of a shaman or pagan religious person.

Working in the Gower Peninsula in the 1950’s, members of the University of Cambridge found between three hundred and four hundred flint stones used in toolmaking.  In 2010, while exploring the Cathole Cave, also on the peninsula, an instructor from Bristol University came across a rock drawing of a red deer, which was dated to between 14,000 and 12,000BC.  The cave has been described by archaelogists as a shelter for bands of Mesolithic hunters and as a Neolithic ossuary.

Perhaps the best examples of early human artistic activities are in the Lascaux network of caves in SW France near the village of Montignac in the Dordogne region.  About six thousand painted figures of animals, local fauna and abstracts found there have been dated from Upper Neolithic occupation between 28,000 to 10,000BC.  The materials used for the artworks comprise iron oxide, charcoal and ochre.

Researchers have speculated as to whether these early peoples were forerunners of the Celts or the Druids.  The learned class of Druids has been put forward.  As scholars, they were believed to have studied for about twenty years in order to undergo their training which involved law, counselling, medical knowledge, diplomacy and priesthood.  Theirs was a polytheistic religion practised at the sacred sites of nature on hills and along rivers, involving rituals using oak, mistletoe and hazel.  They supposedly used fire in their rituals and sacrificed animals and possibly humans in gory tales of blood-letting.

Although Stonehenge is far older than the Druidic religion, it is possible that a form of Neo-Druidism existed in those early times, bringing with it polytheistic sun worship rituals, shamans, burial rites and sacrificial ceremonies.




Over the centuries, man has created structures and monuments of stone for their durability.  The Great Pyramid of Giza, a gigantic stone edifice, was clearly built by very advanced and sophisticated beings who remain as mysterious today as the Great Pyramid itself.

Its significance is undeniable.  Situated precisely at the centre of the earth at the intersection of the 30th parallel of both longitude and latitude, between the coast of Mexico in the west and that of China in the east, between the northern cape of Norway and South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, it remained the tallest building on earth for thousands of years.

The proportions of the structure itself are of critical importance:  each side of its base, for instance, as measured in Hebrew cubits is 365.2422 cubits long, which is the precise number of days in the solar year.  The perimeter of the base, namely 365.2422 x 4 = 14609.68, equals the circumference of a circle in which the diameter is twice the height of the pyramid, i.e. 232.52 x 2 x 3.1416 which also equals 14609.68.

The base of this huge building covers about thirteen acres and was built of approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone weighing between twenty-five to fifty tons each.  The construction took place supposedly over a period of twenty-seven years but the time, labour and method remain unanswered and enigmatic questions.  Originally, there was a capstone or slab on top of the pyramid, probably made of Tura limestone, which was stripped from the triangular faces of the construction, again no-one knows why.

The entrance at the north face of the Great Pyramid leads to a corridor three feet square, descending into an unfinished chamber at an angle of 26 degrees.  There is a square pit dug into the trenched floor, a rough wall and an unfinished opening to a blind passage.  Another shaft forming a descending corridor from the unfinished chamber could have been used as an air vent for the workers inside.

Sixty degrees down into the descending corridor is an opening to an ascending corridor 129 feet long and at the same slope as the descending one.

At the end of the passage, from the top of the ascending corridor is a room named by the Arabs as The Queen’s Chamber, which lies precisely midway between the north-south sides of the pyramid, directly under the original capstone.  This, too, is unfinished:  17 by 18 feet, with a pointed roof rising to 20 feet high and a niche in the east wall, probably built for a statue.  There are two dead-end shafts, one in the north, the other in the south wall, which may have been used for ventilation or else for astrological reasons in the survey process while the chambers were being built.

The continuation of the ascending corridor at the 129-foot mark forms the main wall, known as the Grand Gallery, an architectural feature over one hundred feet long, with  thirty-feet long walls of polished limestone, up to seven and a half feet high.  At the foot of each wall is a catwalk, two feet high, running along the length of the gallery, with a passage, three and a half feet wide between the catwalks, sloped at 26 degrees.

At the upper end of the gallery, a stone raised three feet high from the floor gives access to a low, narrow passage about four feet square, leading to The King’s Chamber.  About a third of the way along this passageway of polished limestone, it becomes bigger to form a sort of antechamber made of polished red granite.  The passageway then continues to narrow to its original aperture of four feet square and opens into The King’s Chamber.

This is built entirely of polished red granite blocks and is 17 x 34 feet wide and 19 feet high.  The north and south walls contain shafts similar to those in The Queen’s Chamber and the unfinished room.  One of these shafts penetrates the cover of The Great Pyramid and reaches the outer surface.  Near the west wall stands a rectangular granite sarcophagus without a lid.  It is about a foot wider than the four-foot corridor and, therefore, must have been placed in position while the Chamber was being built and not brought through the corridor.

Situated 532 metres or just over 1745 feet from The Great Pyramid of Giza is the equally mysterious Sphinx with a man’s face on a lion’s body.  In Egyptian mythology, a lion was the guardian of sacred places, possibly because, according to the priests of Heliopolis who practised a solar creed, the lion guarded the gates of the underworld.  The lion, symbolised by the Sphinx, remains as sentinel, its human features referring back to the  early sun god, Atum.

The Sphinx was carved from a monolith left over from The Great Pyramid and in all likelihood was originally covered with plaster, painted in the royal colours with the snake or cobra on the forehead, the beard on its chin also a symbol of royalty as was the royal headdress.  It measures approximately fourteen feet at its maximum width and is over sixty-six feet high, about two hundred and forty feet long, weighing hundreds or thousands of tons.

In ancient times, the Gaza plateau on which the Sphinx rests was known as Postau or “the mouth of passages.”  These led to rooms rumoured to contain a mythical Hall of Records, comprising all lost knowledge of the ancients compiled before The Great Flood.  This was recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus and called The Labyrinth, which was, in fact, an underground city or cities, accessed through the passages and tunnels believed to have formed a maze of paths, also containing many palaces.   

The entrance to this underground tunnel system leading to cities, palaces etc. was thought to have existed between the forepaws of the Sphinx, though today the entrance is obstructed by sand and rubbish.  The French engineer Baraize who was involved in the restoration of the Sphinx from 1925 to 1936 discovered a tunnel at the rump of the Sphinx, but the Egyptian authorities then banned him from the site.

In modern times, using electromagnetic sounding techniques, scientists have surveyed the    Sphinx and found proof of a north-south tunnel under it as well as a pocket of water near its northern hind paw and a cavity near the southern back paw.  And yet, on each occasion, the Egyptian authorities have rejected the theories and closed down the research in what appears to be an obvious cover-up and evasion.

Archaelogists investigating pyramids in South America are convinced that these were  built as temples and not burial chambers.  Psychics Edgar Cayce and Manly P. Hall also proposed in the 1920’s that the Egyptian pyramids were not built for entombment but as storage places for the history of mankind from the beginning, a record written in the language of mathematics, geometry and astronomy.  Manly P. Hall believed they were built by the survivors of Atlantis.  Atlantis was also described by Plato in one of his last  works, Critias, in which he comments that at the height of Atlantean civilization, gods walked with men.

The Great Pyramid was the First Temple of the Mysteries, a Holy Mountain or High Place of God, its square base symbolic of Nature’s solid bedrock and her immutable laws.

The angles of the Great Pyramid represent Silence, Profundity, Intelligence and Truth.  The south side denotes Cold, the north, Heat, the west side, Darkness and the east as Light.

Manly P. Hall believed The Great Pyramid of Giza was a repository of the secret truths, which are the foundation of all sciences and arts.  The initiator or the illustrious one, dressed in blue and gold robe, carrying in his hand the seven-fold key of eternity lived in the depths of the Pyramid.  Men entered the portals of Giza and left as gods, becoming the illumined of antiquity.  The drama of The Second Death would be acted out in The King’s Chamber, where the initiate would be crucified symbolically and buried in the sarcophagus.  During the ritual, the initiate experienced the room as a doorway between the material world and the transcendental spheres of nature.  Part of the ritual was to strike the sarcophagus, which then produced a tone unknown in the musical scale.  At the end of the rite, the initiate experienced a second birth and gained all the knowledge of the world.

A student of Eastern mysticism, Dr Paul Brunton decided to spend a night in The King’s Chamber, which is recorded in detail in his book A Search in Secret Egypt, 1936.  With permission from the Egyptian bureaucratic hierarchy, he spent the night in The King’s Chamber, commenting early on that it was “cold as death” there.  Being familiar with para-psychology, he had fasted for three days beforehand.

Striking the great coffin, he said, “there is an unusual sound which is omitted quite unlike anything ever heard by man.” (Dr Paul Brunton:  A Search in Secret Egypt, p. 90)

Next to the coffin, he noticed a large marble slab, exactly aligned with the north-south axis.  Sitting with his back to the coffin, he switched off his flashlight.  In the dark, he intuited the presence of negative entities and wanted to leave.  Then suddenly the feeling left him and he could make out two figures who looked like high priests.  He heard one of them speak as if in his head, asking why he had come and whether the world of mortals was not enough for him.  Brunton answered: “no, that cannot be.”

The priest replied: “The way of the dream shall draw thee far from the fold of reason.  Some have gone upon it, and come back mad.  Turn now, whilst there is yet time and follow the path appointed for mortal feet.” (Dr Paul Brunton:  A Search in Secret Egypt, p. 90)

Brunton insisted on staying, after which the priest turned and vanished.  The other priest motioned him to lie down on the coffin and soon he was overcome by a force, after which, within a few seconds, he was hovering outside his body.  He could see a silver lustre connecting his new body with the one lying on the coffin.  At the same time, he became aware of a feeling of freedom.

Later he found himself with the second priest who told him he must return with a message.

“Know, my son, that in this ancient fane lies the lost record of the early races of man and of the covenant which they made with the creator through the first of his prophets.  Know    too that chosen men were brought here of old to be shown this covenant that they might return to their fellows and keep this great secret alive.  Take back with thee the warning that when men forsake their creator and look on their fellows with hate, as with the princes of Atlantis in whose time this pyramid was built.  They are destroyed by the weight of their own iniquity, even as the people of Atlantis were destroyed.”  (Dr Paul Brunton:  A Search in Secret Egypt, p. 91)

When the priest had finished speaking, Brunton found himself back in his body.  He got up, put on his jacket and checked the time as exactly 12 midnight, the bewitching hour. Perhaps his subconscious had been playing tricks on him.  When morning came, he made his way to the entrance and, as he left, he gave thanks to the sun god, Ra, for his light.

The original concept of death and rebirth in connection with The Great Pyramid is the Papyrus of Ani, better known as The Egyptian Book of the Dead.  It was usually regarded as a ritual book for processing the dead with detailed instructions for the behaviour of the disembodied spirit in the hand of the Gods.  But the title also means The Book of the Great Awakening, containing rites for the neophyte looking to enter into a secret organization to gain admittance to all the worldly knowledge not available to the common man.  Hence the speculation that the Giza Pyramid was a temple rather than a tomb.  Nevertheless, the secrets of The Great Pyramid remain unfathomable.

The wisdom of Moses, Christ and St Paul were said to have been derived through the Egyptian initiation.  Though largely altered, some of the lesser ceremonies are still practised by the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians and Christian churches.  Plato, Sophocles, Pythagoras and Cicero were known to be individual Egyptian initiates.

Additional information, implications and dimensions have been revealed about the Sphinx as an ongoing process.  In 1990 Edgar Cayce had already predicted that the mythical Hall of Records would be discovered underneath the forepaws of the Great Sphinx.  Over and above this prediction was the startling revelation that the Sphinx was not 4500 old as had been suggested but 10,000 to 12,000 years or more.  He proposed that its age may well be before the last Ice Age and that Khufu did not build The Great Pyramid of Giza or the Sphinx but only repaired them.

Cayce noted that the Sphinx is aligned with The Great Pyramid and the Nile River in a way which mirrors the orientation of the stars about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in Sumerian times.  The Sumerians had written about gods from the sky whom they called Anunnaki who brought advanced technological knowledge.  This spurred on the development of man in modern times.  Many believe the Anunnaki were not gods at all bult ancient aliens who came to mine gold on planet Earth.

The Anunnaki were thought to have built massive cities underground, entered through a tunnel, its entrance hidden by sand and protected by a monster they called Huwana, his teeth those of a dragon and his face that of a lion, which points to the Sphinx itself.

An Arab historian of the 10th century, Masoudi, wrote about the labyrinth of tunnels under the Sphinx leading to the paths and palaces of the cities under The Great Pyramid.  According to him, these subterranean galleries contained written accounts of the wisdom of the various arts and sciences, hidden deep to remain as records for those who could understand them afterwards.  He maintained the tunnels were guarded by mechanical statues with amazing capabilities, which today we would probably know as modern-day robots in science fiction or even in reality.           

Bearing this in mind as well as modern-day sounding techniques, which point towards this underground maze, it is not surprising in the 21st century that the Egyptians have been building a huge system of walls round the site of the pyramid as well as round larger

unexcavated areas of Giza over an area of eight square kilometres.  In some places, the wall is 22 feet or 7 metres high:  construction on a deep and wide foundation of about 2 metres below the ground with iron supports at intervals along the trench have been dug for this foundation.  Guards are stationed at intervals, which makes one speculate as to why and what the Egyptians need to hide or protect.

Ultimately, the Sphinx as well as The Great Pyramid of Giza remain as intriguing mysteries, yet to be solved.

10th July, 2022.  In one week, the British Prime Minister steps down and pays the price for partying while royalty is buried and covid rages, the former Japanese Prime Minister is assassinated, Sri Lankans storm the presidential palace in Columbia just after the police curfew is lifted and Malema swans it in Ischia.  Headlines in the local newspaper “ANC IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CRIME SYNDICATES IN THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICA.”

“Never mind swanning it in the sun, what about the privileged cabinet ministers enjoying a life of luxury without loadshedding,” I observed tartly to Hannali over a perfect cup of Illy coffee.  “With apologies to William Shakespeare, ‘All is rotten in the state of Denmark.’”

“For me, driving is the worst kind of obstacle race,” Hannali, ever competitive, took over the conversation, “weaving between the potholes, offering up a prayer at each intersection with robots down and a novice directing the traffic, let alone hoping to keep the hijackers at bay.  Going down south recently past the notorious Orange Farm squatter camp, I spotted four young men at the side of the road.  Suddenly they rolled a boulder towards me and you know me – always a fighter and a logical thinker – I swerved sharply but not quite in time and not enough.  At the last minute, the rock hit the left front fender, ripping away part of the underside but I kept going and luckily there was no damage to the suspension so I got away safely!

“When I arrived at the Children’s Home, the young manager became quite agitated when I told him what had happened. “You need to report to the police straightaway,” he advised.  But I refused on the grounds that by the time they got going and if ever they even chose to go to the scene of the crime, the anonymous youngsters would have long gone.  In any case, how to identify them among the amorphous mass of people?”

I tut-tutted, complimented her on her survival reflexes and then tucked into a nouvelle cuisine breakfast of poached eggs, sprouts, arugula goat cheese and avocado.  Hannali, having no pretentions to health food, ordered the full English breakfast, her plate piled high with fried eggs, crispy fried bacon, grilled tomato, pork sausage, mushrooms and toast with marmalade.

“It’s no fun driving around the suburbs anymore.” I reached over for another slice of a delicious sourdough bread.  “And the city’s definitely a no-no.  I hear they hijack you at just about every robot…”

Hannali quickly interjected with “Did I tell you about our insurance agent, a tough lady if I ever met one, aside from being very experienced in her job.  She was driving her char to the taxi stop, came through the infamous hotspot, Linksfield offramp, and stopped at the red light.  Next thing, she looked up and saw a man pointing a gun at her head.  In a spontaneous rush of indignation that he should want her car, she thrust her face forward, out of range of the gun, and at the same time accelerated violently through the traffic light, which, fortunately, turned green.  Following the incident, she was so shocked that she applied for leave from her company.  Within a few months, she flew to Melbourne.  But in the end, she turned down the inferior offer made to her for a similar position and came back here.  That was pre-Covid.  I never managed to ask her if she regrets her decision.”

We continued eating in silence.  Feeling replete, expansive and comfortably warm in the sun, which shone benignly on the patio where we sat, I remembered a moment of elation from the previous evening.  “Heard the strangest story last night.  I wasn’t quite sure if Toni was pulling my leg.” Hannali was all ears.  “Ever heard of the Ignite and Revive project in the Free State town of Kroonstad?”

“Never!  What the heaven is that?” Hannali looked puzzled.

“Well, I couldn’t believe what Toni told me.  A planned rejuvenation, no, rather a revival, a resuscitation of the place with slogans like” Let’s Make Kroonstad Great! Let’s Make South Africa Great!  I looked it up and found an organized campaign, spearheaded by the resident businessmen and women already in 2016.

“Serious,” Hannali seemed to be stunned into silence.  I’d won the news of the day.

“You should see the place now – immaculately clean streets and gutters, neat parks, traffic islands newly planted in massed groupings of geometrically arranged succulents and water-wise vegetation, new Welcome to Kroonstad signs.  The stats say it all.  They’ve got 4000 supporters, have ‘saved’ 90 public areas and some R65,000 for the projects, aside from the time, effort and money various businesses have invested in improving and cleaning up the place.

“Now there’s a Make Robertson Great Again plus good old Kimberly with the slogan Bring Back the Sparkle.   

“The Age of Miracles is here, my dear Hannali.”

Ever pragmatic, Hannali shrugged.  We left shortly afterwards and I could see she was deep in thought.

A Babalawo in ancient Nigerian Yoruba religion is a priest of the Ifá oracle, appointed to communicate with the gods on behalf of other people.  He is also known as the father of secrets.  Although the majority of Nigerians are Muslim, closely followed by Christians, the indigenous religions still prevail.

The Ifá oracle is a West African religion and system of divination, representing among other gods, the teaching of the orisha, Orunmila, the Grand Priest, who revealed divinity and prophecy to the world.  The Babalawo, in turn, uncovers the future of his client through communication with Ifá.  This is done mainly by interpreting the patterns of the divining chain or opele Ifá, made from the seed pod of a particular tree.  It consists of   eight seeds in a row or chain and is held in the middle so that four seeds hang to the left and four to the right.  Alternatively, the sacred palm or kola nuts called the Ikin are thrown on a wooden divination tray called Opon Ifá.

Depending on the way the nuts fall, so the Babalawo refers to answers from the Ifá literary corpus, which is called the Odu Ifá.  It comprises sixteen books with a total of two hundred and fifty-six verses, which the Babalawo learns by heart and from which he selects relevant ones for his client, depending on how the sacred nuts fall.  By this means, he can identify his client’s spiritual destiny and help him to live out that path.

Men mostly are involved in Ifá worship although there are also women diviners or Iyanifas who may be recommended in particular circumstances.

There is a hierarchy of gods, spirits and manifestations of gods called orishas.  According to Yoruba religious myth, the Supreme God is Olodumare, sometimes called Olurun, the Owner of the Heavens or Chief of the Heavens and the Earth.  Under Olurun, the hierarchy of Yoruba gods totals about six hundred, with two hundred on the right and four hundred on the left side, the commonly worshipped gods being Ifa, Ogun, Oshosi, Osun, Ori, Orunmila, Obafala etc.  The orishas who are regarded as manifestations of Olodumare are powerful but not immortal, with names such as Shango, Oshun, Oya, Oba etc.  They need sacrifices and are sent by the higher divinities to guide humanity as to how to live and be successful on Earth.


Squatting on his mat, the Babalawo generally questions his client, sitting opposite him, as to why he has come and what he wants to know.  Having established these, he then proceeds with the divination process.

To begin with, he sits facing the door, so that the light reaches the divination tray and no shadows are cast on it.  The divination tray is placed so that the image of Esu-Elegbara, Yoruba divine messenger and intermediary between the world of the living and the spiritual realm, faces the priest during consultation.  His image is carved at the top of the tray’s elaborately worked border.  While reciting various incantations, the Babalawo taps the divination board with his pointer or Iroke Ifa to invoke the relevant gods.  This wooden tapper could be carved in various shapes such as an elongated conical wizard’s hat.  He then sprinkles a thin layer of wood dust on the divination tray.  Close at hand is his carved oracle bowl or Agere Ifa, also elaborately worked and featuring, in this case, a female figure seated behind a circular box or drum, a bird in the shape of a guinea fowl sitting on top.  The box itself forms the bowl containing the sixteen palm nuts.

The diviner holds the sixteen palm nuts between his hands and shakes them, closing his hand to capture a few.  He makes a mark in the dust of the tray, based on whether the nuts in his hand mean an odd or even number.  This shaking is repeated eight times, with the eight marks in the dust of the tray indicating a verse from the Odu Ifá, which the Babalawo then recites.

The two hundred and fifty-six verses represent the binary coded language of the universe, which, as we know, is also the language of computer science.  Hence, when the oracle opens up and the Holy Odu appears, the Babalawo will mark the series of strokes made in the wood dust from right to left, representing forces from the positive Ire to the negative Ibi.  The verses pointed to by the sacred nuts reveal the forces that have brought misfortune (the negative Ibi) and suggest solutions (the Ire) to the problems.

Interpretation of the verses is a lifetime task on the part of the Babalawo who may also delivers his prophetic findings to the client in parables.  As a result, he is highly respected by the community, consulted during all important rites of passage in Yoruba life and can directly influence the policies of the society.

It is remarkable that the system of Ifá, developed over twelve thousand years ago, should be based on the modern binary 2-choice Clifford algebra C1(8) as well as the N=8 ternary 3-structure, as has been investigated, among other work, in 2013 by three academics at the Bowen University in Nigeria in a paper titled “A Comparative Study in Ifa Divination and Computer Science,” which appeared in the International Journal of Innovative Technology and Research, Volume No 1, Issue No. 6, October-November 2013, p. 524-528




To be in the unusual and fortunate position of inheriting early on all the wealth of a very rich older father and possessing an aristocratic mother, once lady-in-waiting to Queen Sophia of Württemberg, Dutch born Alexandrine Tinné was doubly graced by Lady Luck.

Rather than luxuriate in a life of sensuous pleasure, expensive restaurants, soirées, jewels and furs, she preferred to travel, as she had done with her merchant father when he was alive and when, as a girl, she accompanied him to Switzerland, France and Italy for his business dealings in sugar and ship building.  She seemed to have been an independent individual who was educated at home and particularly liked the piano and the photography of those early times in the mid 1800’s.  Being self-sufficient from a young age, her parents allowed her to travel by herself when she visited friends in France and England, showing at this stage that she was a natural linguist:  she learned English and French with ease.

After her father died, when rumour has it that she became the wealthiest heiress in the Netherlands, she and her mother travelled to Scandinavia and toured extensively in Europe.  In between, she spent time in the Royal Library at The Hague where they lived:  here she studied archaeology, botany and geography, subjects which intensified her desire to travel and explore unknown territory.

Alexandrine and her mother then went to the Middle East, landing in Egypt, first in Alexandra and then Cairo.  They stayed there for a year, during which time Alexandrine taught herself to read and write Arabic.  They also hired a luxurious boat for a cruise up the Nile to various monuments, sailing as far as Aswan.

After both the cruise and Christmas in Cairo, she and her mother tried to sail up the Nile to Khartoum but were unable to go further than the second cataract.  They returned to Cairo, left Egypt and enjoyed Europe for most of 1857 before returning to the Netherlands.

By now, bitten by the travel bug, she and Mama explored Europe once again for the next three years, going as far as Moscow.  All the while, Alexandrine took photographs and honed her photographic skills.  Both women then agreed it was time to return to Africa.

Africa lured them.  Besides, Alexandrine felt free there from the restrictions of Victorian Europe, the corsets and the crinolines, the social manners and confines for women.

It took about ten months of planning before they left for Egypt in 1861, having also invited her aunt, Adriana van Capellen, to join them.  The women planned to spend time in a little-known area of modern-day Sudan, so as to follow and map the White Nile and its tributaries in the west.  Because of the white-water areas of the Nile, this part of the river was supposedly not navigable and had not previously been reconnoitred.

But first, Alexandrine rented a large house in Cairo, spending several months furnishing it comfortably and luxuriously, including her musical favourite, a grand piano.  Some months later, accompanied by servants, pets, food supplies and any amount of luggage, she, her mother and Aunt Adriana left in three boats for Korosko, a settlement on the Nile, about 190 km south of Aswan.  Here they disembarked in order to cross the Nubian desert on camels, arriving at Berber, where they waited for a few weeks for their three boats in order to sail from there to Khartoum.

News of the pending arrival of explorer John Hanning Speke via the White Nile made Alexandrine decide to sail south on the river in the hope of seeing Speke.  The journey proved to be harrowing, the settlements along the Nile often sheltering slave populations, the river a mess of swamps and streams.  She fell ill before finding Speke, decided to cut short the expedition and returned to Khartoum.

Not to be deterred by any setbacks, Alexandrine already started planning a second expedition, this time with professional help from German ornithologist, von Heuglin and the botanist Steudner, who was also a medical physician.  She included the Dutch explorer, Baron Daniel van Arkel d’Ablaing.  Heuglin had studied natural sciences and was interested in zoology.  He had been to Cairo in 1850 where he, too, learned Arabic and he travelled in Ethiopia among other places, all the while collecting natural history specimens.  Some years later, he met up with Hermann Steudner, detoured through Abyssinia to reach Khartoum, where the two men joined Alexandrine and her mother on their second expedition.

This exploration started out as a mammoth project, with Heuglin and Steudner leaving in advance to set up a base camp in south-Sudan.  Alexandrine, her mother and Baron d’Ablaing left Khartoum with a procession of over two hundred people, including an interpreter, servants, ladies’ maids, mules, camels, horses, ammunition, provisions for ten months, crockery, cutlery, goods to trade, all accommodated in two passenger and two freight boats.  Aunt Adriana decided to stay behind in Khartoum.

Having sailed south on the White Nile, they explored a large part of the Bahr-el-Ghazal

River in modern-day south-Sudan, sailing as far as the River Bahr-al-Hamr and finally on to Meshra-el-Rek in the most dire, rainy weather, through wet, filthy swamps, infested with mosquitoes.  They lost equipment and supplies among hostile local tribes:  as a result, Alexandrine and the Baron had to return to Khartoum for further provisions.

The German explorers had suffered badly.  Steudner died of fever early on, before they reached Meshra-el-Rek and von Heuglin fell ill and could not continue with the expedition until he recovered.  Fortunately, Baron d’Ablaing made a sedan chair for the sick man so that he could be carried with them.

When the two men caught up with Alexandrine, they found her in distress, having contracted the fever (probably malaria) and, moreover, having had to deal with a mutiny among the porters and soldiers of her party.  It took her a month to recover, after which they travelled to Wau, where they appeared to have no choice but to stay in the protected area belonging to a slave trader named Biselli.

Alexandrine’s mother died here, a month after their arrival, followed by the death of many other members of the expedition, including Alexandrine’s ladies’ maid, Flora.  After eight months of travelling, Alexandrine decided to cut things short and return to Khartoum.  On the way back, they met up with the rescue team arranged by Aunt Adriana.

The return journey proved to be a nightmare of illness brought about by clouds of mosquitoes and hindrances to sailing as a result of the water plants which choked the river.  The locals were uncooperative, unwilling to serve as porters and often stole their supplies.

Once at Khartoum, where Alexandrine opted to stay outside the city, she was accused of slavery by the Governor-General of Sudan since she had hired traders, local soldiers, merchants, etc.  Fortunately, his seemingly illogical accusations were dropped through the intervention of von Heuglin who had a good relationship with the governor-general when he met him in his role as Austrian consul at Khartoum.

Exhausted and dispirited by the expedition’s failure, her mother’s death followed by that of Aunt Adriana a few months after their return to Khartoum, she decided to leave the city for Cairo where her half-brother, John Tinné, visited her in order to persuade her to return to the Netherlands and give up the madness of African travel.

With a great deal of courage and determination, which some may have regarded as foolhardy, Alexandrine refused to go back to the old country, though she gave John a large portion of her photographic and natural history collection, including specimens, materials and writings on the flora and fauna, geology and climate of the regions she had explored.

In order to regain her strength and peace of mind, she took an extended holiday.  Retaining her base in Cairo, she sailed the Mediterranean on a yacht and eventually settled in Algiers about a year later.

There the Touareg people of the Sahara came to her attention and she decided to become the first woman to cross the Sahara from Algeria and Mali to Burkino Faso, moving in Touareg land.  In her inimitable style, she first learned the Touareg language before finalising plans for an expedition, complete with sixty camels and three horses but the trip aborted after three months in which she made no progress and encountered many problems, which do not appear to be revealed in her diaries.

In 1868 she travelled to Malta and then returned to Africa and settled in Tripoli where, once again she met some German explorers, namely Gerhard Rohlfs and Gustav Nachtigal.  Having learned Arabic in Morocco, Rohlfs had first-hand experience of the desert and the oasis in Morocco where he had been attacked and severely injured.  When he later returned to Morocco to explore, he took the precaution of disguising himself as an Arab and became the first European to investigate Africa from Tripoli to Lake Chad and across the Sahara along the Niger River as far as modern-day Lagos.  As a result, the Royal Geographical Society of London awarded him a Patron’s medal.

Gustav Nachtigal, a trained medical man and surgeon, also took part in an expedition to North Africa and learned Arabic.  Having returned to Germany, he was approached by Rohlfs to go to the Bornu Empire (the present-day north-east Nigeria), during which time he travelled in central Sahara.  Eventually, after a five-year period of previously unknown regions of African exploration, he was awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s Founder’s Gold Medal in 1882.  That was thirteen years after Alexandrine’s tragic third expedition in 1869.

Rohlfs warned Alexandrine of the dangers of crossing the Sahara, both physical and as a result of hostile tribes who could potentially rob her.  Unfortunately, he could not accompany her since he already had orders from the king of Prussia to join an expedition in Abyssinia.  In spite of these warnings, she decided to go ahead with a large and costly caravan of fifty people including two Dutch sailors for protection, seventy camels, much luggage and some large drums of water.

They left Tripoli in January 1869, travelling slowly with such an unwieldy caravan to Marzug in southern Libya where she fell ill.  It took almost six months for her to recover sufficiently to proceed.  At this point, she hired a Touareg chief as guide across the desert but he wanted to delay the departure.  Meanwhile a band of eight Touaregs arrived on the pretext that they had been sent by the chief.  They followed the caravan to the next oasis where Alexandrine was forced to rest once more and recover from her illness.

At this point, the Touaregs attacked the caravan.  They fought with the camel drivers, killed the Dutch sailors and slaughtered Alexandrine who came out of her tent to intervene in the fighting.  They left her mutilated but alive in the sun to die which, according to the Arab witnesses, took seven hours.

Some of the caravan of camel drivers and servants saw the Touaregs ransacking their luggage, emptying the tanks of water, apparently looking for money and jewels, though nothing was found.  Most of the servants were then released by the attackers.

About seven weeks later, news of Alexandrine’s death reached Tripoli.  At this point, the Turkish governor sent an expedition to track down the perpetrators, some of whom were  caught and put on trial.  Her body was never found.

In spite of her bravado and conviction that she preferred an interesting life, there is no doubt she did not anticipate her long, agonising and tragic death.  Moreover, unlike the male explorers such as von Heuglin, Steudner, Rohlfs and Nachtigal, she was never formally acknowledged or honoured for her work.  She received no recognition, no accolades.  Von Heuglin, for instance, who was primarily an ornithologist, had various birds named after him as well as the northwest point on an island in the Svalbard Archipelago, which was called Cape Heuglin.

Steudner had a plant genus and a dwarf gecko named after him and a monument erected in his honour in his home town of Görlitz.

Rohlfs was awarded the Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London and Nachtigal received the Royal Geographical Society’s Founder’s Gold Medal, after which, the Berlin Geographical Society presented a Gustav Nachtigal Medal in his honour.

It is some small consolation that at the time of her death at a young thirty-three years of age, Alexandrine Tinné had accumulated a great deal of information about unknown parts of Africa, including the Senna River, a tributary of the White Nile, as well as collecting specimens and taking photographs of Central African flora and fauna, unknown in Europe.  Among her collections were articles of tribal clothing and household utensils, stuffed birds, antelope and rhino horns and weapons.  She also recorded facts and customs of unknown tribes in south-Sudan. Her diaries and letters to relatives provided much information about her travels.

Fortunately, her half-brother, John Tinné, assisted in ensuring that her collections of specimens and all other items were displayed in various museums, herbariums, archives and libraries.  The ethnographic collection he received from her of the Bahr-el-Ghazal region was housed in the collection archives of the World Museum in Liverpool, England.  Botanical specimens were displayed in the Imperial Herbarium in Vienna and published by John Tinné in 1867 in a book under the title Plantes Tinnéennes, as an acknowledgment at least from a family member of her work.

There are also papers, photographs and artefacts housed by the family in the Royal Archives and the library of her home town, The Hague, as well as in the Tinné Family Archives in England.

Her story and her achievements belong with the heroic pioneer explorers of the Victorian Age.