Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Archaeological Discoveries

Typical of my own lack of organisation, I created a webpage for Ancient Sites and yet allow the topic to spill over onto this page.

Here is the link to the primary page devoted to Ancient Sites:

Freyashawk's Guide to Ancient Sites

Humanity's interest in antiquities is nothing new. Our species always has been fascinated by the past, and indeed, myths and legends often have been created to explain an ancient artifact or site. Buildings that defied the technological skills of the culture that rediscovered them were believed to have been built by a race of 'giants' or gods. Now, human beings like to think they are more sophisticated than that, but sociological theories with respect to the distant past are speculation after all. Even if they clothe those theories in scientific terms, they are no more certain of the truth than the bards long ago who wove tales about the past.

I have met individuals who had little knowledge or interest in their own ancestors and heritage. I never could comprehend that sort of indifference, but I am an explorer at heart and if given a thread will follow it to the end, however dark and complex the labyrinth may be. It is a delight to discover a new path, or to rediscover a path that has been lost.

I was thinking about our fascination with the past and what it signified in terms of our interest in others. I don't really think it is a measure of our interest in other people, to be honest, but is rather a form of self-interest. At the risk of offending an enormous profession, it has been said that every psychologist or psychiatrist is some one who is obsessed with self-analysis. Certainly I have found members of those professions in general to be less than balanced emotionally, spiritually and socially, and in many cases to have created more complex and less satisfying personal lives for themselves than one may have expected.

In the same way that psycho-analysts study others in order to better understand themselves, it is possible that we study the past in order to study our own reflections in the glass of time.

I always found it rather ludicrous that there were those who believed so-called 'cavemen' or cave dwellers to be somehow inferior intellectually or in any fashion to contemporary humanity. Why would paleolithic human beings be less human? Why would they be less capable of logic, imagination or any other human quality?

Of course, the theory that paleolithic and so-called 'prehistoric' cultures belonged to a species with 'primitive capacities' has been discredited fully now by a multitude of archaeological discoveries in the past century. It appears to have been part and parcel of a general 'superiority complex' in the 19th century. Without denigrating the accomplishments of 19th Western civilisation in the least, the spirits of the extraordinary builders in ancient Peru and Malta either must have been greatly outraged or amused by the depiction of the human beings from those periods in history as nothing more than remotely sentient creatures whose greatest accomplishment was the discovery of how to rub two sticks together to make fire!

What is ironic as well are the discoveries that, for all our advanced technology, there truly is 'nothing new under the sun'. Ancient civilisations understood the movements of the planets and constellations and possessed intricate calendars as well as knowledge of advanced medical techniques. The Greeks were correct when they defined our psychological Achille's heel as the flaw of hubris. In my view, it stems from an essential sense of insecurity. We want to feel that we have surpassed our ancestors in some fashion, even if nothing we ever accomplish truly can be considered unique or unprecedented. The truly superior human being, after all, is the one who admits he/she knows very little.

In any event, whatever the hidden motivations, I am thrilled that our contemporary culture is interested in preserving antiquities rather than allowing them to be bulldozed or otherwise swept into the dustpile. There was a time when a desire for a quick profit would have resulted in the obliteration of a newly discovered ancient site or tomb... now it appears that, even if the reasons are no nobler, governments recognise the value of tourism and are determined to preserve the history of our species on this planet. Furthermore, as much as one may cringe at the thought of thousands upon thousands of tour groups invading every corner of the globe, one does have an intense desire to be there as well. Perhaps one should be grateful that there always are people who are interested in something outside their own lives...

We do live in an exciting age. Every month, a new site is discovered somewhere and our knowledge of ancient history increases a hundredfold. Even as our own culture may be moving headlong towards a final obliteration of this planet, we are busy cataloguing and exploring our past. Perhaps our knowledge of our own power to destroy our entire planet is part of the reason we are so determined to prove our longevity as a species... if we survived despite the Great Flood and despite the sinking of Atlantis and Mu, perhaps we could survive a nuclear cataclysm as well. After all, Mad Max showed us how to do it

No comments: