The start of South 120

The Rise and start of South 120

Left: the Rise and shelf forming the start of South 120. Right: the Traverse to North 120 is on the left and the continuation of South 120 is the formidable black hole seen in the right of the picture.

Robert Temple bids farewell to film director Alastair Reid, who has agreed to attempt the journey along South 120. Once past the first soil blockage Alastair can just be seen standing again in the right hand picture.

Three people are known to have undertaken this journey. Keith Jones in the 1960s, Michael Baigent in 2001 and Alastair Reid in 2003. Both Michael and Alastair have regrettably died. Nothing is known about Keith Jones’s whereabouts today.

Some facts about South 120

  • South 120 starts at the blocked door to the Sanctuary.
  • There is a shelf alongside the Rise which forms the floor of South 120, at which point it enters solid rock as a passage 0.6 metre (2 feet) wide and 2.44 metres (8 feet) high.
  • When Doc Paget first found it, the tunnel was completely blocked. Once cleared enough to crawl over the soil, the Traverse is reached, so there is a soil blockage 6 metres (19 ½ feet) from the Sanctuary door that can be crawled over to reach standing height.
  • In this section there is a pile of bones. Said in Robert Temple’s documentary to be those of a hare, it seems that these may be scattered remains of a larger animal.
  • There is a second soil blockage 6.1 metres (20 feet) long, starting 24.4 metres (80 feet) from the Traverse.
  • As in North 120 there is a change of bearing here and a further 6.1 metres (20 feet) or so of passage continuing to behind the blocked doorway at the Dividing of the Ways.
  • Somewhere here the roof height increases and the width doubles. It slopes down a 1 in 3 incline. At this point it is possible but not easy to turn around.
  • At the eastern end the tunnels inexplicably split into two and are largely blocked with soil, which can be climbed over, to meet the blocked doorway at the Dividing of the Ways.
  • Behind the blocked doorway at the Dividing of the Ways there is break into the end of North 120, where the row of tiles is set into the roof of 290. It is possible to enter North 120, but it is blocked a short way in.

Continuing along South 120

Progress is difficult along South 120. It is claustrophobic and dusty. Accounts of this tunnel are sketchy, but Michael Baigent gives us his impression in his book ‘The Jesus Papers‘: “The roof of the tunnel was so close that with my hard hat on to protect me from the rough stone above, I had to slide along on my stomach, pushing with my feet and pulling with my hands. I was unable to raise my head to see much of where I was going. I was also unable to turn around, since the tunnel remained at the same width of roughly twenty-one inches… I became aware of the huge weight of rock pushing down onto the roof of the tunnel from above. My head scraped the roof, my elbows scraped the sides, my body was prone upon the two-thousand-year-old rubble. Behind me was a long tunnel; what lay in front of me was a complete mystery. The whole task suddenly seemed completely mad, even foolhardy.”

The pile of bones in South 120. What was it that found its way in here? It seems very torn apart.

A second indistinct picture shows a wider scatter of bones.

Left: the second stretch of soil-filled South 120 tunnel from Robert Temple’s ‘Descent into Hell’ documentary. Right: The double barrel twin tunnels at the approach to the area behind the Dividing of the Ways – picture Michael Baigent from ‘The Jesus Papers’.

Alastair Reid’s diagram

Where am I?

Soil in S120 tunnel

Is this really the Oracle of the Dead?

A brief conclusion to the subject of the tunnels and the historical background to Doc Paget’s findings finish our look at the interior tunnel system at Baia.

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