Previously in unfortunate scientific discoveries: the double coffin.
“Passage to Hell unearthed,” they say. “Scientists discover ancient Gate to Hell. This one is definitely it. Those other gates to hell were but precursors to this gate, which is definitely the ultimate and final gate, Hell-wise.”
A “gate to hell” has emerged from ruins in southwestern Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced.
Known as Pluto’s Gate — Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin — the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.
Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors.
Scientists–not just scientists; worse yet geologists, who have chosen a profoundly non-charismatic branch of science–desperate for funding and resources can no longer say to a grateful public, “We have found a cave in the ground, full of mysteries and old, wet rocks. We live in a striated and a secret-riddled earth, where the dirt periodically coughs up its deepest and oldest antechambers to those willing to look. Within this cave there is Science. There are Animals. There are dark and slow-moving rivers that stem from the cold heart of a mountain. Let us take our leave of human life and make our home among the slippery and quicksome beasts of the cave, sending occasional missives back to the rest of you.” That sort of thing simply doesn’t result in a full professorship and a pension these days.
Nowadays the public demands a compelling hook. We have seen the gold-spangled tombs of Tutankhamen and are no longer impressed with a few new species of blind cave spiders. Give us a historical and a literary angle, the people cry, their disgusting mouths full of sandwiches and ignorance. We want to see the cave where Odysseus and Dido betrayed Judas just before hammering the Code of Hammurabi into the walls. If possible, we would like King Arthur to have slept there.
Plutonium was once a bustling temple complex, full of eunuch-priests who were largely employed in bunging the occasional sparrow or badger into the cave mouth for public enjoyment.
“There, you see? It’s dead. Gate to hell. Dead sparrow, genuine work of Pluto, god of marrow and gaping wounds and staring eyes. Five shekels, please.”
Modern humans have changed very little. We too would like to hear about the dead birds. So the scientists oblige, and they send someone tired and cheerful up to chat with the reporters for a few minutes about how this is definitely The Cave, The One and Only Hell Cave.
“We could see the cave’s lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes,” D’Andria said.
“Very terrifying,” he added, stifling a yawn. “S’very dead birds. Ghosts too, I shouldn’t imagine. Oh, it’s terrible, how hell this cave is. Very hell cave. Who knows what dangers we have awoken, disturbing this nightmare cave with its poison breath, you’re all in terrible danger, most likely.” He then spat at the ground and returned to pulling the legs off of cave spiders, to see what happens when you pull all the legs off of them.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.