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Moses striking the rock by Murillo after Bartolomé Esteban Perez (style) – (1666-1670) (Public Domain)

Hit the Rock and Water Must Come Out of It: Was Moses a Dowser?

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"Then Yahweh said to Moses: 'Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel and your rod with which you struck the river Nile. Take it in your hand and you must walk. Behold, I stand before you on the rock in Horeb. And you must hit the rock and water must come out of it and the people must drink it. Then Moses did so before the eyes of the elders of Israel..."  (Exodus, 17, 5-6)

Statue of Moses by Leonardo Sormani and Prospero Antichi.  Acqua Felice fountain, in Rome. (Public Domain)

Statue of Moses by Leonardo Sormani and Prospero Antichi.  Acqua Felice fountain, in Rome. (Public Domain)

The Moses Fountain

In Rome, near the Largo di Santa Susanna - a stone's throw from Termini Station - there is a fountain that never found favor with the local inhabitants. In the central niche there is a statue of Moses and the 'miraculously flowing’ water from the rock. The sculpture by Leonardo Sormani, in collaboration with Prospero Antichi,, is tainted by the false legend that due to the shame he felt for the 'unsightliness' of the statue, he threatened to commit suicide. In addition to the anachronism of the presence of the Tables of the Law - which Moses had not yet received at the time of the miracle of the waters - the marble ensemble is quite stocky, leading to the Romans, in their usual ironic vein, to label the fountain 'Moses Ridiculous'.  One could affix one of the usual pasquinate or satire to the sculpture: "Look with a grim eye / the water that flows to the feet / thinking horrified / at the damage that it made him / a stunned sculptor."

Ancient Dowsing

Dowsing is as old as man, since traces of the practice can be found in the third millennium BC when the emperor of China, Ta Yü, dedicated himself to the techniques of probing for water, before drilling for it! In a bas-relief of the Han Dynasty he is depicted with a strange tuning fork-shaped instrument, while the inscription in the frame reads: "Yü, of the Hsia Dynasty, was a master in earth sciences and in water veins and springs; he knew the Yin principle well and, if required, built dams".

The Chinese emperor Ta Yü with 'dowsing rod' in the shape of a tuning fork. (Public Domain)

For thousands of years nothing changed in the ancient art - certainly not yet a 'science' - of searching for and finding water.


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Dr Roberto Volterri is the author of 40 books including Archeologia Dell Invisible

Top Image:   Moses striking the rock by Murillo after Bartolomé Esteban Perez (style) – (1666-1670) (Public Domain)

By Dr Roberto Volterri


Dr Roberto

Born in Rome, Dr Roberto Volterri graduated in archaeology with an experimental thesis in archaeometry in the mid-'80s after previous university studies in Biology.  As an academic, he worked in university research (Archaeometallurgy) for more than 40 years, after he... Read More

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