Pic: The promotional image for Blood and Treasure showing the main characters, Lexi Vaziri (L) and Danny MacNamara (R). Blood and Treasure airs Tuesday nights on CBS and Global
I thought about doing a weekly review of each episode of Blood and Treasure, but due to time constraints from work and other obligations, I think it’s going to be easier for me to write bi-weekly reviews of two episodes at a time. So here’s a review of episodes 3 and 4 for you, which aired on May 29 and June 5.
The third episode picked up exactly where the series openers left off. Cleopatra is still missing, Lexi and Danny are still trying to find her and through that find Farouk before he gets hold of whatever weapon he’s looking for. Ahnenerbe archaeologists still play a big part and through a combination of flashback scenes and a photograph Farouk finds (and later Lexi and Danny get hold of) we find out that in 1944 Cleopatra’s sarcophagus seems to have been taken to Germany. By the end of the episode the plan is for everyone to head to Germany in the next episode. Which is what they do. In the 4th episode, Danny and Lexi figure out that the sarcophagus was taken to Castle Shädelburg, in Germany near the Austrian border. They head to the castle and, after learning a little bit more about what the Nazis might have been up to in the 1940’s, end up having a run-in with Farouk himself.
The Tomb of Cestius
In the second half of episode 3, Danny and Asim Massod, an Egyptian detective, are standing outside of what appears to be another smaller Egyptian pyramid. And if this is where you were just tuning into the episode, it would be easy to think it was an Egyptian pyramid. But it’s not. It’s the Tomb of Cestius and it’s located in Rome, where much of this episode takes place. It’s a large pyramid similar in style to the Nubian pyramids, which are found in Sudan.
The pyramid was constructed some time between 18 – 12 B.C.E. as a tomb for Gaius Cestius. Engraved on the east side of the tomb is information stating that the tomb was built within 330 days. We don’t know much about who Gaius Cestius was, but other information engraved on the exterior of the tomb informs us he held some pretty important roles in Rome. He was a septemvir of the Epulones, which was an important religious group responsible for preparing feasts in honour of the gods. He was also a praetor (a title granted by the government to men either in command of an army or elected as a magistrate) and a plebian tribute, which were important group of elected officials who helped keep the power of the Roman Senate in check.
As to why Cestius was entombed within a pyramid in Rome, we’re not sure. Some have suggested that, since Cestius appears to have had connections to the military, he may have served during the Roman attack on Meroe in 23 B.C.E., a city within the kingdom of Nubia from where the pyramids most closely resemble the one built for Cestius. Excavations and restoration of the Pyramid of Cestius Pope Alexander VII ordered in the 1660’s found statues inside the tomb with additional engravings identifying the heirs of Cestius, but no additional information as to why a pyramid was chosen. It’s also possible that Cestius was just a big fan of Egyptian architecture, because at this point in time Rome was pretty obsessed with Egypt. My favourite part of episode 3 was when Asim Massod pointed out to Danny that the Tomb of Cestius “…began the Western appropriation of our [Egypt’s] cultural heritage.” It was a great line and I really liked that the show brought the topic up (though I wish they had explored it a bit more!).
Castle Wewelsburg and the Black Sun
In episode 4 Lexi and Danny go to a place called Castle Shädelburg, which they describe had been the Nazi centre for cult warfare. The castle is also where the viewers get to learn a little bit more about Nazi mysticism, including the show’s first mention of Atlantis and the Nazi search for proof of its existence. Despite the dramatic name (shädelburg = skull castle), this castle doesn’t actually exist in reality. But its inspiration comes from Castle Wewelsburg, located in west-centralish Germany.
Castle Wewelsburg, in its current triangular form, was built in the very early 17th century. The castle’s ownership changed several hands until the mid-1920’s when it became the property of the district of Büren (where the castle is physically located) and was turned into a cultural centre, which included a youth hostel and museum. At the same time, Adolf Hitler was quickly gaining attention and alongside him was Heinrich Himmler, leader of the Nazi party and a firm believer in the occult (you’ve seen me talk about him in other places where I’ve discussed Ahnenerbe archaeology). Himmler’s chief advisor, Karl Wiligut, was also a firm believer in the occult. Notably, he believed he was the Nordic Aesir god Thor (inhabiting Wiligut’s body) and was convinced he could recreate Thor’s hammer, which in turn could be used as a weapon by the Nazis. Himmler, who had been influenced by Helena Blavatsky’s theosophical writings, believed Germans could trace their roots back to the Atlanteans, who themselves had ancestry in the Hyperboreans of the Arctic Circle region. His beliefs in Nordic-Atlanteans reinforced by Wiligut, Himmler convinced Hitler they needed a castle to use as a headquarters for the SS and teaching academy. Wiligut was instructed to find a castle and in 1933 Himmler signed a 100-year lease for Castle Wewelsburg.
The castle was immediately turned into a school, with the intention of providing ideological and political training to future SS leaders. As part of this students were taught Germanic prehistory, early Germanic history, folklore studies, geneaology, etc. (referred to as a völkisch ideology), all with the goal of teaching students about the superiority of the German people and their ancestors. Very quickly, the focus of the school shifted from teaching leadership to research into German history and finding proof of ancestral superiority, which included acting as a centre for Ahnenerbe archaeology (directed by archaeologist Wilhelm Jordan), of which Wilhelm Teudt was an instructor. Just like Himmler, Teudt believed that the German people were descended from a highly advanced ancestral civilization. Teudt’s esoteric side had him believing that it was possible to pick up vibrations from artifacts Jordan was collecting to help visualize the archaeological sites the Nazis were researching on Himmler’s orders. Despite the shared occult beliefs by both men, Teudt was kicked out of Wewelsburg after a falling out with Himmler in 1938.
The loss of Teudt didn’t stop Himmler’s occult plans with Castle Wewelsburg. In 1938 he commissioned major renovations in the castle’s North Tower, though the rooms were never actually used after work stopped in 1943. The upper room, which was left unfinished was modeled after a Mycenaean domed tomb. Special gas piping into the room suggested there might have been an intention to include a type of “eternal flame” had the room been finished. The lower room was intended to be a leader’s hall and a symbol known as the Black Sun was included in the floor. We see a version of the Black Sun in episode 4 of Blood and Treasure, when Lexi and Danny enter the basement of the castle. In the show, the symbol is used as lock on a door leading to a secret chamber but in reality the meaning behind the Black Sun is unknown. What is obvious, however, is that the number 12 is important. The Black Sun is made up of 12 sig runes (one of the Armanen runes, created by Guido von List). The room has 12 columns and 12 windows and was reserved for the 12 highest ranking SS generals. The number 12 is also important in Nordic mythology, where there are 12 Aesir gods. Given that the creator of the sig rune used in the Black Sun had heavy Nordic influences in his own occult beliefs (referred to as Wotonism), and that the Nazis were absolute believers in the Nordic-Atlantean theory, it certainly seems possible that the meaning behind the Black Sun could be related to something in Nordic mythology.
So there you have it, a brief bit of background on some of the themes we saw in episodes 3 and 4 of Blood and Treasure. Episode 4 was really heavy on Nazi mysticism, which I really could have written so much more about. But I had to stop myself somewhere, before this post became way too long (though I’m sure I’ll have more chances in future reviews to talk about it some more). Given that we known that Farouk is trying to collect artifacts and information to unlock some sort of mega weapon, I’m betting the show is going to continue to play with the Nazi beliefs in Atlantis (especially since episode 4 also gave us the first specific mention of Atlantis). Specifically I’m thinking that whatever mega weapon Farouk is after it will likely be connected to Atlantean technology.
- Once again, I’m recommending Dr. Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology, which I use a lot when exploring the topic of mysticism.
- Bettina Arnold has written some great articles on archaeology and nationalism, including this article exploring Nazi use of archaeology
- I haven’t read this book on Ahnenerbe archaeology by Heather Pringle *yet*, but it was recommended (by Dr. Card) and it looks like a great source!