ARCHAEOLOGY NEWSFLASH 440a
A blinding flash of light – a blasting wind – and fallout. Consider, for a moment, the awful possibility that your hometown was forever wiped out. Can you imagine what future generations might find?
Has it occurred to you that our noblest buildings today are scarcely more than facades supported by thin tendons of steel?
Even with no disaster, our main cities would be little more than rubble in a thousand years. Our motorways would be crumpled pieces of hardness beneath vegetation. Our once complex railway network would be red dust blowing in the wind.
Make no mistake about it. Few house chattels would survive the corrosion of time. Generally, paper books cannot last more than a few centuries (hence the need to recopy).Plastics will eventually disintegrate when exposed for long periods outside. The same goes for everything metallic.Yes, that’s right. Hair dryers, automobiles and carpets would be reduced to dust, along with photographic plates and film.
What is more, all iron and steel buildings would rust and crumble to earth. Nothing would be left except a few stone structures downtown and maybe a few statues.Stone is the only indestructible material; it will survive a dead civilization. Isn’t it ironic? Nature allows dressed blocks of stone to survive, but not thick iron girders.Probably there would not be one item left in the suburbs to show that they even existed—except for the odd stone axe-head.In the event of a total catastrophe, the survivors would be driven to the countryside, to live primitively.They might, for a time, be able to salvage and use certain elements of their civilized technology.Eventually the last machine would break down, with nobody remembering how to repair it. The transistors, toasters and x-ray machines, though revered, would be useless.To the grandchildren and their descendants they would become legends.
The "magic mirror" that could see events far away; the metal bird that could fly above the clouds; the room that could move up and down inside big houses — these would become "magical" myths of a people whose survival instinct would direct them back into the rapidly encroaching forests.Archaeologists 4,000 years later could claim that 21st century man was not yet familiar with iron.(If they found cassettes with tapes, these would be a meaningless puzzle to them.) What do you think of that?Texts speaking of gigantic cities with houses several hundred feet high would be classed as myths.Do you begin to see the picture? It is this very situation of meagre clues that confronts us in relation to the original super world.I can think of four reasons for this.
1. MOST PHYSICAL REMAINS WERE WIPED OUT
Numerous ancient cities now lie below ground level; many are covered by desert sands or swallowed by dense jungle; while others still may lie intact under the mile-deep ice of Antarctica.
On the other hand, exposed remains can disappear so fast. Take, for example, the 4,000-year-old ruins of iahuanaco, in Bolivia.As recently as the 16th century there still stood immense walls with massive rivets of silver in the stonework as well as lifelike statues of men and women in a thousand animated poses.
Even until last century, travellers could admire and sketch imposing colonnades.Of these there is no trace today. The Spaniards and more recently the Bolivian government plundered them for building materials.
Again, many scale replicas of ancient apparatuses probably perished when the Spanish conquistadors melted down all the gold artifacts they could find in Central and South America.The scale of destruction over the centuries will never be known.
2. MOST ANCIENT RECORDS HAVE ALSO BEEN DESTROYED
The destruction of printed records has been much greater than
was originally thought.
The great library of Alexandria once contained one million volumes in which the entire science, philosophy and mysteries of the ancient world were recorded (including a complete catalogue of authors in 120 volumes, with a brief biography of each author).
In a single act of vandalism, Julius Caesar destroyed 700,000 priceless scrolls.In the seventh century, the Arabs completed the wipeout. Do you know how they did it? They used the books as a fuel supply to heat the city’s 400 public baths for six months.
Totally destroyed also were the papyri of the library of Ptah in Memphis.Carthage, with a library of 500,000 volumes, was razed in a seventeen-day fire by the Romans in 146 B.C.
The library of Pergamos in Asia Minor (with 200,000 volumes) likewise perished.When the famous collection of Pisistratus in Athens was wiped out (in the 6th century), surprisingly Homer’s writings escaped.
In the 8th century, Leo Isaurus burned 300,000 books in Constantinople.In China, Emperor Tam Shi Hwang-ti issued an edict (213 B.C.) to destroy innumerable books.Thousands of Druidic scrolls in Autun, France, on philosophy, medicine, astronomy and other sciences, were obliterated by Julius Caesar. Not one survived.Much classical literature was systematically destroyed by the papal Inquisition.
Spanish conquerors searched out and destroyed the entire Mayan literature (except for four documents now in European museums).It was related that Mayan scholars screamed in agony as they saw their life’s purpose go up in flames. Some committed suicide.The Council of Lima (1583) decreed the burning of the knotted cords ("quipas") on which the Incas had recorded their history and that of their predecessors.What a story of carnage, in which the greatest
depositories of knowledge from the ancient world are lost forever!
(Yet somehow the Indian books escaped.)
Did you know that even of the Greek and Roman literature, less than 1 percent has come down to us? Is it any wonder we are ignorant of our early heritage?
I agree with Andrew Tomas that "we have to depend on disconnected fragments, casual passages and meagre accounts."Our distant past is a vacuum filled at random with tablets, parchments, statues, paintings and various artifacts."The history of science would appear totally different were the book collection of Alexandria intact today."
3. EVEN WHERE NOT LOST, MUCH REMAINS A MYSTERY
Undeciphered still are writings at Easter Island, tablets at Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan, and Mayan scripts. Some finds will remain unsolved forever.There are no inscriptions awaiting us at Tiahuanaco or Machu Picchu.Then there are many museum relics, whose significance may have eluded us.A methodical reexamination of pieces labelled "art objects," "cult objects" and "unidentified objects" would yield much new data.So would a systematic exploration of museum vaults.
It is a well-known fact that museums are in the habit of "burying" objects that do not coincide with current theories, or that are not beautiful to look at.The vaults of the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Prehistory of Saint Germain-en-Laye are full of crates of incomprehensible objects that nobody is studying.Could it be that many objects we have discovered had a purpose that we do not yet understand? The ancients may have achieved results similar to ours by quite different processes.
(For instance, look at what happened to German technology.It diverged tremendously from that of other countries in just twelve years, from 1933 to 1945, when Germany was progressively isolated from the rest of the world.) Then again, is it possible that some of the antedeluvian artifacts we have found cannot yet be identified, simply because they are ahead of our technology?
A point to remember. As any technology advances, its methods and equipment do not become more complex; they become simplified.(Take, for example, printed circuits, silicon chips. Nano technology.)Such equipment may not be recognizable to a civilization of inferior knowledge.The point is we may be looking at objects—quite exciting objects—without recognizing them.Who would have expected that items in Baghdad Museum, long labelled as "ritual objects," would prove to be components of batteries? Do you see what I mean?
4. OTHER RELICS STILL AWAIT DISCOVERY
Here is a tantalizing thought. Some authentic and incredibly ancient documents are known to be safely locked away. We may never see them.These forbidden treasures are known to be concealed in four places:
1. Catacombs beneath the Potala in Llasa, Tibet
2. Vaults in the Vatican Library, to which even the pope does not have access
3. Morocco, where Moslem leaders are fiercely opposed to making them public
4. A secret place known to a few initiated rabbis (believed to be in Spain)
But this is not all. There must be numerous lost cities undiscovered.Hold it, I hear you say. That’s overdoing things, isn’t it? An occasional ruin, maybe, but numerous lost cities? There aren’t any unknown areas in this day and age!On the contrary, there are many totally unexplored areas left about.Quite a lot of things occur in out-of-the-way corners of the world—and some not so out-of-the-way—that most persons never hear of.Still not explored from the ground are immense expanses of the interior of Central and South America, New Guinea, Asia and Australia.
Although Europeans have lived and worked in India for some centuries, building bridges, railways and modern cities, the jungles have scarcely been investigated.There are remote villages that have never seen a white man.
In the trackless Central Australian desert, a structure from an unknown civilization was discovered when vehicles from a nearby atomic test site drove into it purely by accident.
The largest unexplored jungle area in the world is the Amazon Basin. This region is so little known that a river tributary 200 miles long was only recently discovered —and then only by satellite.
The Amazon system comprises 50,000 miles of navigable "trunk rivers" and an estimated 16,000 tributaries.The jungle on each side of the rivers is almost totally impenetrable, at least for a European.I know of settlers who have lived on riverbank clearings for forty years and never ventured more than a mile back into the jungle.
The Amazon contains some of the most solid jungles and hostile environments to be found anywhere.Surprisingly, this now mysterious region was once the center of a very intense and highly active population.Large cities flourished here, with high volume commercial traffic to the Andes.Despite satellite technology, we face almost insurmountable problems in locating any remains.A pilot over the Amazon may spy towers, villages or ruins, pinpoint them and report them. A few days later, someone setting out to verify the data will find they have already
vanished—swallowed again by the jungle since that forest fire or whim of weather that exposed them.
Karl Brugger mentions that the "Transamazonica spur of the road between Manaus and Barcellos on the lower Rio Negro, built in 1971, was overgrown by tropical vegetation within a year.
"The technicians even had difficulties locating the approximate direction of the road. It is not surprising therefore that there are no more signs of 'white cities.'"Again, there are vast stretches where the fog never lifts, and in others it doesn’t clear until late afternoon.There is an area in Eastern Ecuador from which natives have been carrying out thousands of artifacts belonging to what they describe as giant pyramids and immense deserted cities.
But don’t get carried away. This is a forbidden region; local Indians still massacre inquisitive outsiders.Intruders in the Matto Grosso region of Brazil can expect a similar welcome. Yes, believe it! Documented accounts are numerous.Once an entire patrol of 1,400 vanished in the jungle without trace.This trackless, unexplored "green hell" swallows visitors. The ruins clasp their secret.Think of it. Five thousand years ago (when our forefathers were supposed to be existing in caves or crude settlements) a highly advanced culture reached over the whole globe — from Siberia to Antarctica, from Greenland to Africa.
This super world vanished so completely we thought it never existed.It is not unlikely a whole empire could disappear like this. The more advanced the culture, the more easily it could vanish without a trace.If it were so advanced, then its powers of destruction must also have been enormous.
What an epic! The wonder is that despite wholesale obliteration of evidence, many thousands of pieces do survive — written records, oral traditions and physical remains.In one book alone (Dead Men's Secrets) I was able to catalogue about one thousand of the more interesting exhibits.Yet these can never be more than a tantalizing peep at this astonishing, unknown world, shrouded in opaque clouds of mystery.
If you appetite is sizzling for another sampling of these amazing wonders of our past, could I suggest you visit http://www.beforeus.com