Friday, April 12, 2013

Gateway to Hell

Here's a horror movie just waiting to happen. Archaeologists claim to have recently discovered an ancient portal to the underworld once known as "Pluto's Gate" in southwestern Turkey. Italian archaeologist Francesco D'Andria led the team that discovered the site, a cave that produces toxic vapors from deep underground capable of killing any person or animal that inhales them. The digital reconstruction shown above illustrates what the site may have looked like in ancient times.

D'Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave -- all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources. “People could watch the sacred rites from these steps, but they could not get to the area near the opening. Only the priests could stand in front of the portal,” D'Andria said.

According to the archaeologist, there was a sort of touristic organization at the site. Small birds were given to pilgrims to test the deadly effects of the cave, while hallucinated priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto. The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.

It's easy to see how this natural phenomenon could have been interpreted as an entrance leading to the realm of the dead. The Greco-Roman concept of the underworld was associated with underground sites such as caverns, and this particular cave would kill any animal brought inside - almost as if its spirit were taken from it as it passed through the opening. Today the site mostly lies in ruins, just waiting to be disturbed by a party of hapless but attractive young spring breakers who it can then kill off one by one.

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