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The icon painting of B'hala

The Bantaca spire in the ruins of B'hala, discovered in 2373

B'hala was an ancient city on the planet Bajor, lost to history for some twenty thousand years until its rediscovery in 2373. B'hala was revered as a holy city in the Bajoran religion. Like many ancient Bajoran cities, B'hala was built around a Bantaca spire that bore markings denoting the city's position in the cosmos.

Prior to 2373, the only known evidence that the city existed was an icon painting, created at a time when it did exist, that depicted the city's Bantaca spire. Only two sides of the spire were depicted, making it difficult to decipher the city's location from the markings visible in the painting. This precious cultural artifact was stolen by the Cardassians during the Occupation of Bajor, but was eventually returned in 2373 following unrelenting pressure by the Bajorans.

Bajoran archaeologists searched for B'hala for millennia without success. According to Zocal's Third Prophecy, only someone who had been "touched by the Prophets" could find the ruins of the lost city. When the icon painting of B'hala was returned by the Cardassians it passed through Deep Space 9 en route to the Bajoran State Museum in Ilvia, giving Benjamin Sisko the chance to study it. He created a holographic representation of the Bantaca spire from the painting, and using the spire's reflection in a waterfall, he extrapolated the symbols on the other two sides. He was injured by a plasma burst in the holosuite, and subsequently experienced a vision of B'hala. Following his vision, Sisko was able to determine the coordinates of the lost city and find it on Bajor buried some two hundred meters underground.

Many of the Bajoran people, and Sisko himself, believed that he had found B'hala as a direct result of a sacred vision – a pagh'tem'far – sent by the Prophets, although Starfleet officially remained skeptical. The discovery of the sacred city served to reaffirm Sisko's status as Emissary of the Prophets among the Bajorans, including even long-standing doubters such as Kai Winn Adami. Excavation of the ruins began immediately. (DS9: "Rapture")

It was discovered that B'hala was built upon the ruins of an even more ancient city, abandoned some 25,000 years prior. It was during excavation of these older ruins in 2374 that Bajoran monks discovered a stone tablet over thirty thousand years old directly beneath the Temple of B'hala. The tablet bore the inscription "Welcome Emissary", and prophesied the Reckoning, a duel between a Prophet and a Pah-wraith that were locked inside the tablet. The battle began when Sisko later smashed the tablet aboard Deep Space 9. (DS9: "The Reckoning")

Background information

The painting of B'hala in "Rapture" was designed by John Eaves and then constructed by Doug Drexler in a 3D computer program. Michael Okuda used Photoshop to add in people, shading, and the reflection of the bantaca spire in the water. The physical painting was singed by Herman Zimmerman to add the authenticity of age. The views that Sisko enhances in the episode sections were illustrated by James Van Over. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (4th ed., vol. 1, p. 56); Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 6, p. 112)

A complete version of the painting was included as an image in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual, p. 11.

In the first Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Avatar novel, Jake Sisko is seen working at B'hala following the events of "What You Leave Behind". Benjamin Sisko was mentioned to have worked at B'hala in 2379, in the novel Rough Beasts of Empire.

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