20.1.12

shell grotto

I just love things like this!

In 1835 Mr James Newlove lowered his young son Joshua into a hole in the ground that had appeared during the digging of a duck pond. Joshua emerged describing tunnels covered with shells. He had discovered the Shell Grotto; 70ft of winding underground passages leading to an oblong chamber, its walls decorated with strange symbols mosaiced in millions of shells. Is it an ancient pagan temple? A meeting place for some secret cult? Nobody can explain who built this amazing place, or why, or when, but since its discovery visitors from all over the world have been intrigued by the beautiful mosaic and the unsolved mystery.
- from the Shell Grotto website





It's located in Margate, England on privately owned land. There are 4.6 million shells in the grotto. They still don't know what the glue is made of that binds the shells to the walls, except that it is fish-based. They can't carbon date the shells because they're covered in soot from the Victorian gas lamps used to light the tunnels in its early days. There are patterns swirled amongst the shell covered walls, including trees of life, phalluses, gods and goddesses and something that "looks very like an altar".

photo

Image by Squirmelia

Apparently the most recent theory is that it was a sun temple as a conical dome, the top of which reached up to an opening at ground level, captures the sun just before Spring Equinox, forming a "dramatic alignment" during Summer Solstice before leaving just after Autumn Equinox.

How old is this? Who made it? It must have taken more than one person. Well, for 3 pounds you can imagine you are Joshua discovering it for the first time. You can even hire it out for photo shoots! That's diversifying, folks.

Also seen this week: 25 of the world's most beautiful college libraries