The Dividing of the Ways

More going on than meets the eye…

When Doc Paget first arrived here in 1962 he did not suspect that there was anything more than an abrupt change in the passage’s direction of about 20º to the right, associated with a steeper descent. But on second glance some things here look a little strange.

The dividing of the ways and descent to the River Styx

The tiles in 290

Looking at the Dividing of the Ways and 290, the passage to the River Styx.

We see that there is a row of tiles set at an angle in the tunnel roof. These tiles look to be Roman and similar to ones seen around the surface buildings at the entrance. On the right, shown here by the shadow line, is a recess about 20cms (7 ¾ inches) wide.

NATO archaeological team 1970

Left picture: Peter Knight. Right picture: Peter Knight again, behind the person with the torch, whose name is now forgotten. Both were members of Doc Paget’s archaeological team, belonging also to a local NATO archaeological club. Seen here at the Dividing of the Ways circa 1970.

Looking back at the Great Antrum, 270

Looking back the way we came in.

Turning around and looking back into the Great Antrum 270, we can see this curved recess on the left and on the opposite side a hint of another recess about half the width. But of greater interest is the cement we can see here on the right, over the top of the original surface.

Tapping the wall here shows in fact that it is hollow. What is this wall hiding? We shall see in due course.

Doc Paget’s diagram

Doc Paget's diagramThe black circle

Left: Doc Paget’s diagram and on the right, the curious Black Circle shown on the sketch.

After much further exploration and some months later, Doc Paget and his younger co-explorer Keith Jones discovered that there was a passage leading to the space behind this wall. The Romans had blocked it off and done their best to disguise it by blending the wall seamlessly into the continuing wall of 290.

Key features

  • The two recesses. These appear to be for a door to sit into – a door that could close either one of the two tunnels. It is for this reason Doc Paget called this area the Dividing of the Ways. Doc thought he saw a door cardinal in the floor that corresponded with the pivot of this door. This cardinal disappeared in the years to follow.

    As the tunnel starts to slope down at this point and the floor has accrued crystalline deposits since, it seems doubtful that Doc saw part of the door mechanism sitting on the surface – possibly it was just débris.

  • The intersection of N120 above 290. This was presumably open before the Romans sealed it off with the row of tiles. The aperture may have been used to pour down smoke to obscure the doorway here, or to provide sound effects, or it could possibly form part of a ventilation system for the tunnels deeper in the hill.

Keith Jones had crawled all the way back here from deep within the hillside. Details of what lies directly behind the wall are scarce, but Jones and Paget had a conversation behind the wall and tapping from both sides proved it is only a thin wall. In addition Jones found a break into another tunnel, North 120, which is the tunnel that intersects somehow with the row of tiles in the roof. This tunnel runs more or less parallel to S120 and meets again with South 120 at a feature Doc Paget called the Traverse. From S120 to N120 it rises about two metres and is offset by a similar amount. It will be described elsewhere.

In more recent years

In 2001 Robert Temple obtained permission to enter the tunnels and did so with Michael Baigent. As did Jones before him, Michael Baigent crawled along S120 with headroom of about 0.46 metres high (18 inches). A conversation was held behind the wall between Michael and Robert.

Photograph © Michael Baigent. This is the only known photograph in existence of the twin tunnels in S120 near the blocked doorway at the Dividing of the Ways.

Michael Baigent photographed a previously undocumented feature: a short distance before reaching the area behind the wall, the tunnel splits into two. The left one goes directly to behind the wall, with a battered hole into N120. The right hand tunnel extends a short way and then turns left, to drop about 0.46 metres high (18 inches) into the same area behind the blocked wall. None of this makes any sense at present. What is the reason for this curious arrangement?

Alastair Reid and Robert Temple converse through the blocked up doorway. Alastair is photographing himself on a hand-held device while he speaks in a very confined, hot and dusty location.

In 2003 Robert Temple made a documentary about oracles, and the site at Baia in particular, and this time his Director Alastair Reid volunteered to reach the back of the blocked wall.

Sadly both Alastair Reid and Michael Baigent have died. It is presumed Keith Jones is also dead or very old, so it is doubtful there is anybody alive today who can give us any more information.

Alastair Reid’s diagram

On emerging from his ordeal in reaching behind the Dividing of the Ways, Alastair Reid drew a sketch of where he went.

It is possible to decipher much of this in terms of what Michael Baigent and, to a lesser extent, Keith Jones also described. I have added this information in red.

This really concludes what is known to date about this area of the tunnel system.

Where am I?

You have arrived at the Dividing of the Ways.

Soil in S120 tunnel

Examination of the facts

Being a trained architect, something did not look to me quite right about Doc Paget’s analysis. Eventually I put my finger on what was bugging me.

  • Firstly, photographs show us that the pivot point for a door would be in the middle of our view as we approach it. Paget has it on the right wall, so that that 270 can continue on to become S120.
  • Secondly, I was not convinced by the fact that Doc Paget’s door would have had to be very wide for it to operate as he suggested.
  • Thirdly, a 20º angle between the continuation of 270 and 290, carved out of tufa and forming the back of the pivot point, would be both precarious and vulnerable to crumbling.
  • Fourthly, this area also has to support the intersection with N120 above it, right where the pivot has to be. If one pivot was in the ground and one in the roof there must be some rock there to hold the pivot. Alternatively there could be hinges on the side of the door, located where the fragile 20º angle of rock is. If the door was as wide as I think it would have to have been, then it would have needed some hefty hinges or pivot.

Something is wrong, and it needs looking at again…

The door position

Could there really have been a door here? My conclusion is yes. We can deduce where the pivot might have been.

Here are four photographs, with my reconstructions over the top.

Top left: the original view. Top right: where a door would sit, if the wall was removed
Lower left: if the door were swung to the right. Lower right, if the door were completely removed.

My logic

  • The opening I have shown in the background is the batter into N120. It is not really rectangular, so this opening of mine is diagrammatic. It cannot be located too far from the wall blockage, because Alastair Reid shows himself behind the door, with his head and shoulders in N120, while he is talking to Robert Temple.
  • As it would seem any pivot would have been central to the approach, logically one might assume it diverges in a similar way to 290 but in the opposite direction. This would allow an angle of 40º between the two tunnels and a greater support area at the crucial knife-edge behind the door.

The door width

To address my concerns about how wide a door might have to be to fit Doc Paget’s plan, I made a 3D model, using the given tunnel dimensions. It was then easy to look at what door would fit.

Sure enough, for a tunnel height of about 1.8 metres (6 feet) and a tunnel width of 270 of around 53.5 centimetres (21 inches) we need a door that is wider than its height. It is unlikely this is correct – just think of the weight of that door and the problems in keeping it true and operational, although maybe it only needed to be made of wicker or somesuch material.

Having the two tunnels diverge equally with a 40º angle between them vastly reduces the door width and indeed it starts to look like a sensible door size and shape. Hence I think mine is a more realistic idea.

Adding in the extras

We now know there is that curious double tunnel and drop, so we have to factor that in. There probably is another entrance from S120 into N120 somewhere, but there is too much soil at present to know where this is hiding.

Left: Doc Paget’s plan. Right: my revised plan (in grey)

A detail not in my diagram is the dead end Alastair drew. Until further investigation is made and the wall and soil is removed we will never know exactly what is behind that wall.

Which brings me to my final thought about this area…

Relationship of North 120 to 290

290 is the lower tunnel with the tiles in the roof. Somewhere there is an intersection with North 120 above it.

Access behind the wall is very confined. We know that three pairs of people have tapped and spoken to each other from either side, but we don’t precisely know how high up they were in relation to each other and thus how exactly 290 intersects with North 120.

Where am I?

You have arrived at the Dividing of the Ways.

Soil in S120 tunnel

To the underground water course – the River Styx

Our story continues with a descent down 290 to a man-made underground watercourse that Doc Paget inevitably called the River Styx.

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