Cosco is one of those people just everybody likes: outgoing, sensitive, supportive, laughing a lot and straight forward to the bottom. That way he got himself caretaker-ships for not just one Cortijo (stand alone farm dwelling) in the Alpujarra Mountains of the Sierra Nevada (South Spain), to where he has moved with his wife about a decade ago to live and work in something like the middle of nowhere. People just trust him.
He moved to this remote place in Southern Europe from his home town of Antwerp in Belgium not to become a recluse or next generation Hippy but because he wants to make a difference in favor of the environment, the human world and human history. And that seemed impossible within the establishment of the Belgium recognized art scene in which he was swimming around successfully until around 2005. The establishment started to make him mentally and even physically sick. As a result, he retreated himself from it for a year during which he stayed quietly with himself, studying those things which had caught his attention as critical issues over the years. And those were mainly two things: the risk of environmental collapse due to global warming and the loss of historical consciousness in society which poses another threat to humankind from within.
During this private sabbatical he made a decision and a discovery. The decision was to move to a place where sustainable work with the environment in a historically important area would be possible. The discovery was regarding the believed to be lost Labyrinth of Egypt. A supposedly mindboggling structure in terms of size and content in the upper Nile valley. An area which today is the breeding ground for Egypt’s most radicalized Islamists, who aim at the complete destruction of Ancient Egypt’s legacy including possibly the pyramids. (The head of the son of a well known London Archaeologist, who was working in the area has been sent back to his father in a box….. The area is marked purple on the CIA’s risk index.)
The place which Cosco chose for his and his family’s future life was as already mentioned the Alpujarra. A mountainous but fertile area which was regarded paradise on earth by the Moorish who accepted to resettle there from Granada without fight until being totally expelled and exterminated by the Spanish Inquisition. Upon his arrival Cosco found an assignment as assistant of a Swiss self-declared horse hoof doctor who was tending to the local horses, which walk without shoes. After learning the basic skills, it turned out soon that the pupil had a better hand with the rather wild animals than the master – who consequently choose to leave after a year leaving Cosco alone with the kicking creatures. Over time he taught the locals how to care about their horses hoofs themselves. A process which made him well known in the area. He also ended up as an owner of some 14 horses which he bought to save them from being butchered since the owners had no money to care for them as a result of the Spanish recession. Subsequently, while looking after the almond tree plantation with its trees, horses, bees etc. on which he and his wife had found a home, he set out to convince local farmers to possibly switch to organic farming and helped them to organize themselves in a cooperative to facilitate better marketing of the products.
Parallelly, the Labyrinth of Egypt kept calling. The last time an expedition was launched for its location was at the end of the 19th century by British archaeologists. They found a giant stone plate next to the Pyramid of Amenemhat III at Hawara. This, it was declared must be the labyrinth’s foundation with the structure itself being destroyed and vanished. However, according to Cosco’s studies, the labyrinth had to be rather an underground than an above ground edifice. Could it be that the giant plate was featuring the roof – as described by Herodot – and not the foundation? One had to go and see!
What follows is an amazing story of coincidences in getting support from hitherto complete strangers, of lobbying with archaeologists from Cairo to London to Gent, of identifying the latest underground scanning technologies and scrambling them together for an expedition, of finding donors for the newly set-up Mahata (Egyptian for Labyrinth) Foundation so the whole thing could be financed. At some point the head of the reputable Gent University Archaeology Institute provided Cosco with blue prints for the application of the Institutes authorizations of whatever kind necessary and the Alma Mater’s Free Mason’s Loge – whose name is “The Labyrinth” – invited Cosco to speak about his theory. After all it all came together and during the fall of 2008 (after leaving his wife with all keys, codes and whatever private information necessary in case he would not return) he headed the Mahata expedition into the upper Nile valley.
The result is as simple as it is stunning: the scanning revealed a giant underground labyrinth beneath the stone plate. And Cosco returned in one piece. It was the time of the Arab Spring. ….
It took another decade of lobbying with the Egypt Ministry of Culture and especially the Inland Security Department until permission for an excavation project could be obtained. It finally has been granted and excavation preparations are under way.
In the meantime Cosco continued and continues his work with the locals in the Alpujarra and the newly arrived alike devoting his time and effort at improving the work and organization of local farms, putting together a cultural center focused on art and education deriving inspiration from the harsh but rewarding challenges of this historical heartland. There is much more to tell but that is reserved for another place.
Basel, February 2018