Expedition Unknown – The True Cross of Christ – S02E10

image For this episode, Josh takes on a intriguing quest, to find wooden fragments from the cross of the Crucifixion. In simple terms, after the Crucifixion, the cross lost until Helene, mother of Constantine rediscovered it, cut it into sections and sent the fragments to different locations. The cross as a single object is gone, and there is some question as to whether it was a cross at all, but either way, where did these iconic pieces end up?

Josh heads to the city of Jerusalem, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built on the site where the crucifixion took place. Josh gets permissions to go down into the caverns to where the event may have taken place. He is also shown pieces of a holy cross, said to be made from the crucifixion cross. He even receives a blessing from those very pieces. While no testing has been done, they are on a holy site and hold significant importance to the church. And of course, their power is in that belief.

To search for other pieces of the cross, Josh heads to Tel Aviv to meet with Professor Hershkovitz who says there are many misconceptions about the crucifixion. For example, the bodies would not have been nailed to a cross as we see depicted and it would not have been a cross, but rather an X shape. The process was to cause pain and suffering so this would have been the method. And as a bit more background, the wood used most likely would have been olive wood. So if Josh is going to test something, that’s the wood he should look for.

The next stop is over to Bethlehem where Josh goes to the Church of the Nativity. It’s under renovation with several interesting discoveries. Frescoes have been discovered under the plaster and one shows three different styles of crosses carved into the stone. This may be a marker as to where the cross fragments are buried, but they will have to scan the wall to see what might be hiding behind it. You can’t just take a hammer to a church. Interesting to note that one symbol depicts the X crucifix.

From there, Josh heads to Istanbul, which was the second capital for Christian Rome. It is said pieces of the cross were hidden in the Eye of Sophia. There is a massive network of tunnels and chambers. These tunnels may have been used by Emperors to move between buildings without dealing with crowds. They could also be used for storage of precious items. Josh is able to spelunk down into the tunnels and after working through the mud and unsavory air, they discover a portion that no one has been able to enter. It will take another effort to see what lies beyond. But at this point, nothing to indicate a hidden location for the cross.

For the final stop, Josh meets with a dig team at the city of Sinop where they previously discovered a stone chest and fragments they believe are part of the cross. They have also uncovered hundreds of bodies and Josh is on hand to help with unearthing what appears to be a family of four. Another stone box is found, but without any contents. The team believes such a box would have been used to hold something very important. There may be more wooden fragments in similar boxes yet to be discovered.

While there is conjecture over what a crucifixion "cross" really looks like, the pieces have been scattered all over the world. Without testing who knows which are real, and that will be a problem since those responsible for the pieces will most likely never let them out of their sight. But the search will go on and perhaps in a hidden alcove of a church or buried in a tomb, a piece will emerge that can be tested and verified as the true cross.

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Expedition Unknown – The Japanese Atlantis – S02E09

image We should all be familiar with the legendary city of Atlantis, with high society and technology that mysteriously disappeared into the ocean. But what if that story was real? It may exist in Japan where Josh investigates what appears to be man made structures including stairs, an altar, grooves for drainage and a carved stone face that have slipped into the ocean.

Many claim this is man made from a defunct civilization while other say they are bizarre, but naturally occurring. Which one is correct?

The city is known as the Yonaguni ruins, huge rock formations, structures and what looks like an obelisk that most likely broke off during earthquakes and plate shifts. There are 118 active volcanoes in Japan, so it’s certainly possible that a settlement was built too close to the shore and met with an unexpected fate.

Josh meets with the man who first discovered the ruins and goes down to have a look. Sure enough, it looks like there are stairs cut at right angles, a terrace and drainage lines. It’s shockingly impressive, then Josh finds what looks like a carved stone face, complete with eyes, nose and mouth. From that alone, this looks to be man made.

Back on the surface, Josh looks for other structures of similar composition and architecture. He finds tombs made in a similar way with the same type of steps. He winds up finding a man who takes him to see another carved stone face. It looks remarkably close to the one under water. The people of the area believe this is a totem and had ceremonial meaning.

To further support the idea that Yonaguni is a lost city, Josh heads to Okinawa to meet professor Kimora who believes the city was built on the shore and then sank due to earthquakes. The angles used and the cutting style were used by later cultures.

But he needs to find out why this isn’t considered a man made heads to Osaka. In the lab he is shown that the angles used for the stairs and other parts of the city can be made by the force of the ocean. Sandstone, can shear off to form steps and other man made looking shapes. The professor shows Josh an example of what he means and believes that volcanic activity, plate shifts and the force of the current have made an incredible, but natural phenomenon.

It’s then time to try a little science. Josh takes the photos he took of the under water carved face and the stone carved face on the island and creates a 3D rendering. With the debris all cleared away it gives a better idea that while the stones have features we want to identify as a face, they do not appear to have been made by tools. And when compared side by side and even overlayed, they do not have many similar characteristics, as in not made by the same group and most likely not man made at all.

So what do we have? At first glance, it looks like a fantastic set of carved structures that have toppled into the ocean with the civilization either scattering or blending into other regions of the area. We have carvings and features that look to be the work of tools. It looks like we even have totems of cultural or religious significance.

On the other hand, we have formations that may have been made through the constant change of the landscape through earthquakes and plate shifts. It’s even pointed out that a whole new island was recently formed through this process. It also possible the constant flow of the current has broken the sandstone creating perfectly normal but deceiving angles. And while we want to see faces carved in stone, this may be erosion.

Do we have an answer? Man made seems more plausible than random works of nature, but then again, nature works in mysterious ways.

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Expedition Unknown – Coumbus Unearthed – S02E08

image Our previous episode concludes with Josh and a small group of men making an impressive discovery in a field containing a significant number of artifacts from the time period Columbus would have run aground. There are pottery items from the Taino people, the natives Columbus would have met when he landed. But there is quite a mystery about those people. When Columbus lands, he is on good terms and is welcomed. However, that may have soured and Columbus forced them to find gold and other wealth he promised to his benefactors.

The link between the Taino and Columbus can be found in cave paintings. In the beginning of the drawings there are no horses, those were brought over by men like Columbus. And before Columbus arrives, there were over a million Taino people. A couple of decades later only a few hundred survive. Is this merely a coincidence or did Columbus bring disease and oppression with him? Clearly there is no definitive answer.

After his return home, Columbus is given the opportunity for multiple trips to continue looking for China. He ping-pongs around the world, but in reality, doesn’t seem to land in North America. He comes close, but did he set a foot on the continent? A curious thing.

But as we question where Columbus may have gone, there is still the question of where he is buried. It is claimed his Will requested he be buried in Santo Domingo. There is a large memorial to Columbus and those who guard over it are absolutely sure he’s in their sarcophagus, yet they won’t let anyone test the remains for confirmation. They have nothing to prove and won’t allow any more testing. As we see, the grave is guarded with military effort. In fact, Josh and his team are kicked out of the church because filming isn’t allowed and they’re getting too close.

To follow up on the dodgy story, Josh heads to a cathedral where his remains are supposedly kept as well. Josh is given permission to go into the subterranean crypts and discovers the platform where Columbus would have rested. There are no traces of Columbus, but I think it’s incredibly neat there is a crypt under the church.

The other resting place of Columbus is Valladolid. Seville is where he actually died and was interred for a time. Josh meets Javier and Andrea who have a copy of his Will and nothing states he should be buried in Santo Domingo. Since the remains were in Seville for quite some time, the small team puts together an idea of where they would have been stored. In a bit of irony, it appears that site is currently occupied by a casino, restaurant and other businesses. Like the tunnels in Britain, Josh is able to enter the catacombs simply by entering the sub-basement. He finds some old bones, but they are most likely from an animal and have nothing to do with Columbus.

Without much to go on from this angle, Josh goes to a museum that has the actual contract giving Columbus permission to go exploring for China. It gave Columbus rights to all sorts of things including the previously mentioned titles and lands. But even within these records, there is nothing declaring his final resting place.

It is also in Seville, where the University of Granada was previously given the opportunity to test the remains located in Santo Domingo. Despite what we may think, the remains they had access to were meager at best, a mere 150 grams of material most of which was ash, not a complete skeleton. Dr. Miguel and his team didn’t have enough material and it was too degraded to be of use. Interestingly, it is stated that since Columbus never sat for a portrait, the images we see of him are artist renditions and not necessarily pictures of the real man. Is nothing about this guy real?

In the end, Josh is no closer to finding the truth about Columbus than when he started. There is confusion over the sinking of one of his ships, there is confusion about his relationship with the native people, there is confusion about whether or not he reached and set foot on North American soil and there is just as much confusion about where he is buried and if those remains are even his. It seems we may not know a whole about Columbus at all.

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Expedition Unknown – Secrets of Columbus – S02E07

First of all, congratulations to Josh on the news he’s going to be a father!

image In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue

Or so the story goes. Josh is out to discover details about the life of Christopher Columbus. Where did Columbus come from, where is he buried, where is the wreckage of the Santa Maria and did he really discover America?

Not much is known of Columbus and his early life. He appears on the stage as a fully formed man without a past or early childhood. He emerges as a map maker and navigator with the main ambition of finding a new route to China by going West. Of course, neither Columbus or anyone else knew what lay in the way of going such a route. But Columbus sets out on his journey and becomes one of the most celebrated figures in maritime history. He is made an Admiral and becomes governor of the lands he has discovered.

In order to get some background about the ships of the time, Josh is able to get aboard a replica of the Santa Maria and to be honest, it’s surprisingly small. Considering the distance they were to travel and the supplies they would need to carry, these are pretty meager boats. And as we see, even in only slightly choppy water, the boat rocks in a wild fashion. Had the original sailors hit any sort of severe weather, this boat would have been a goner.

Josh then heads to Haiti where the boat supposedly ran aground. The story goes a little something like this. Columbus hands over the helm while he goes to get some rest. The helm is then turned over again, this time to a young boy. With his inexperience, the boat crashes into the reef. But that story seems a little off considering how skilled a navigator and seaman Columbus was. Why would he turn over the boat when so close to a reef?

After the ships runs aground, Columbus strips the wood from the decks and builds fort La Navidad. He leaves a large envoy of men behind while he sails back for reinforcements. Columbus made friends with the native Taino people, but their relationship deteriorated so when Columbus returned, his men were dead and the fort destroyed.

Some believe the Santa Maria was wrecked on purpose to give Columbus a reason to come back to this New World. If everything had gone according to plan, there might not be another voyage or commission. A good theory, so the goal is to find the wrecked ship and learn more. But where is the wreckage?

Josh meets with Jean Claude who has looked for shipwrecks for 40 years and the Santa Maria for 15. He knows of over 200 wrecks in the area. He takes Josh out into the waters and they do indeed discover a wreck, but alas, it’s too new and the wrong type of ship. But wait, there’s more. They find another wreck and while it’s closer to the correct time period, it’s still not the right kind of ship, but it’s worthy of more investigation. This clearly shows plenty of ships have crashed in this area.

He then meets up with Manuel Rose, a researcher who believes the Santa Maria was wrecked on purpose. Josh and Manuel head inward on the shores of where the ship would have run aground and where the Fort of La Navidad would have stood. They meet a local man who almost immediately takes them to a large cannon sticking out of the ground. It’s not the type of cannon they’re looking for, but clearly there was a shipwreck here and possibly a small settlement. Again, there are all sorts of maritime relics in this area, so the chances of them finding something that belonged to Columbus are actually pretty good. Hopefully a research time will be able to catalog this are as well.

From there, Josh meets Alain Norstein who believes he is well on his way to discovering the settlement of La Navidad, however, it’s inland from the coast and is basically a field. We have to admit, the landscape has changed quite a bit in the 500 years since Columbus was at sea, and just because something is land now, doesn’t mean it’s always been that way.

Using basic tools, the men are sifting through the area and make a pretty nice discovery. They unearth pottery from the Taino people which suggests this would have been a significant settlement. Another impressive series of artifacts that hopefully will be cataloged in the future.

So at this juncture, there are quite a few leads about the sunken ship, but it all remains a mystery. Columbus may have wrecked the ship on purpose, may have oppressed the native Taino people who turned against his crew and he may have been a touch on the manipulative side to get what he wanted – further rights at exploration.

While they may be close to discovering the wreckage of the Santa Maria, what about the actual remains of Columbus himself? Where is his final resting place? On that front, it seems he’s buried in two different places.

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