Underworld

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Chapter Twenty-Seven
Confronting Yonaguni

The Face and the Stone Stage

On our sixth and final dive at Yonaguni in March 2001 I took Wolf to a place called Tatigami Iwa eight kilometres east of the Palace and about two and a half kilometres east of the main cluster of monuments around Iseki Point.

Tatigami Iwa means “Standing Kami Stone” and refers to a rock pinnacle 40 metres high, weirdly gnarled and eroded, left behind thousands of years ago when the rest of a former cliff of which it was once part was washed away. Understandably revered as a deity in local tradition it now stands lashed by the Pacific Ocean a hundred metres from shore like a ghost sentry for this haunted island. But it is what is underneath it, in the underwater landscape nearby, that really interests me and that led me to chose it as the site for our sixth dive. For here, at a depth of around 18 metres, a huge carving of a human face is to be seen - with two eyes, a nose and a mouth hacked, either by natural forces or by human agency, into the corner of an outcrop of dark rock that juts up prominently from a distinctive ‘blocky’ plain.

I showed Wolf how the “face formation” manifests a combination of peculiarities. For it is not just a “face” -- or something that looks like one (which nature provides numerous accidental examples of) -- but a grim and scary face, which seems designed to overawe, carved with care and attention to the lines and flow of the base rock. Moreover, far from appearing haphazardly with no context, as one would expect with an accidentally-formed natural “face”, it seems framed within a deliberate ceremonial setting. Thus a horizontal platform just under two metres high and five metres wide - called by local divers the “Stone Stage” -- opens out from the side of the face at the level of the mouth and runs along to the back of the head where a narrow passageway penetrates the whole structure from west to east.

The “Face”, therefore, has to be viewed together with its “Stone Stage” as a single rock-hewn edifice and I note, as does Sundaresh in his report cited earlier, that the flat area out of which the Stage and Face rise is easily large enough to have accommodated thousands of people before sea-levels rose to cover it. Also noteworthy, however, is the fact that Face/Stage edifice is not alone in this big area but is part of a neighbourhood of anomalous rock-hewn and often rectilinear structures clustered around the base of Tatigami Iwa.

Natural?

Or man-made?

Or a bit of both?

My vote is weird and wonderful nature, enhanced by man, thousands of years ago.

But what did Wolf think?

WOLF: First of all we have to mention that this is a totally different sort of sandstone from what we find at Iseki Point. It’s very thick - a series of very thick and massive banks which consist, contrary to the Iseki Point material, of quite soft sandstone which is very, very sensitive to erosion and erodes generally in more rounded forms than the Iseki Point sandstone or mudstone. Secondly erosion of rock, all around the world, often produces forms that look accidentally like human faces So I cannot say very much to the Face. To become clear of that fact, again, you would have to remove all the organisms around because that would give you a free view on the rock and the way it was carved.

GH: Did you notice, looking into the eyes, the eye sockets of the face, that both of them had a central prominence?

WOLF: No. No, sorry I haven't looked.

GH: You didn't see.

WOLF: I saw the face and I thought, "Yeah, hmm, what to do with this?"

GH: Yes.

WOLF: But you see, I'm used I'm not used to go straight to the things but to -

GH: Yeah, to stand back, yeah, I noticed that.

WOLF: - take a distance and look, hmm, how can this be formed? But it was my first view on that. I don't have an answer on that at the moment.

GH: Something else about it too, for me, is the sense that I keep finding these problems - if we look back over our drawings over the last couple of days - well here from our first dive we have within a short area, parallel curved walls, a ramp, a tunnel, two megaliths. We come round in front of the monument, a clear pathway, and as far as I'm concerned still with the mystery of the missing material - if indeed, as we also agreed earlier, all of this mass of material that we see in the embankment came from the south side - because as you said, it doesn't look like it belonged on the north side.

WOLF: On this view, yes.

GH: It's the proximity of all these peculiar things, each of which requires a rather detailed geological explanation and, in some cases, requires hypotheticals such as a cliff which once hung over that area and dropped these two megaliths down there. I find - and this is how I felt always almost from the third or fourth visit that I made to Yonaguni - is that this, this fantastic combination of peculiarities in a very compact area - because as you saw today the peculiarities continue as we go further along the coast to the Face and the Stone Stage -

WOLF: That's right, I was deeply impressed when I saw that.

GH: The thing that's striking is that all of these peculiarities occur along the south and east coasts of Yonaguni, and none of them are found along the north coast - at least if they've been found, divers aren't talking about them, and divers usually do talk about places like this. So, you know, we find them along the south side but not along the north side. We find them compacted into a relatively tight area, and each one requires a rather different, and to my mind, rather complicated geological explanation, you know, disposing of a mass of rock that is two and a half metres thick and 35 metres in length [and 15 metres wide] is simply banishing it. And attributing that to wave action, to me that's just going a little bit too far -

WOLF: I see what you're getting at.

GH: - -on the strength and the variability of geological forces in a small area, and it catches in my throat. I find that I can't, I just can't buy it.

WOLF: Okay. I would ask you to have a look into new or even older geological and geographical literature. You’ll find all these things precisely described in newly published literature and -

GH: Nowhere in the world - never mind the literature, books are books - but nowhere in the world, not a single place in the world will I find all these things together because one thing's for sure, look at the publicity that this structure has attracted.

WOLF: Because you raised it.

GH: Actually, not me it was -

WOLF: Together with others.

GH: -many other peopleWorldwide it has attracted an enormous amount of publicity. I think it's a fair bet that if something comparable had been found, anywhere else on this planet of ours with it's 70% cover by water, if something similar had been found, we would have heard about it by now. And it's the uniqueness of this structure and the series of structures along the south and east coasts of Yonaguni, that really leads me towards the involvement of man. Now I believe that the people who were involved in this, were a megalithic culture, they understood rock, and they worked just as currents and erosive forces do, that is they worked with the natural strike of the rock; where there is a fault, it's a good place, let's take advantage of it. Any great sculptor still looks for the natural forms in rock and, indeed, this is an art form in Japan up to this day. So, you know, these are all the factors that lead me to the conclusion that I'm looking at rock that has been overworked by people.

WOLF: And I would say, on the contrary, that it is a natural miracle And just to finish that, my definite point of view is that all that we have seen in the last days could have been made by nature alone without the help of man. That does not mean that people did not have any influence on it. I didn't say that I would never say that. But I say it can have been shaped by nature alone.

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