Did ancient aliens or unfettered human ingenuity create change?
A series of TV programs called “Ancient Aliens” aired recently on History’s H2 channel. I listened as countless self-proclaimed alien experts pointed to all kinds of ancient artifacts that defy their idea of our ancestors’ capabilities, and most concluded that they must therefore be the work of advanced extraterrestrial visitors. Entertaining though it was, there was no doubt in my mind that the marvels they pointed to were the work of humans.
Contemplate, if you will, the laser-machined precision of the intricate block cuts of Puma Punku and Teotihuacan at 12,000 feet in the mountains of Bolivia; the Nazca lines stretching 50 miles across the top of a high plateau in Peru; 2,000-year-old writings describing Vimana flying machines in India; the monolithic statues on Easter Island in the South Pacific; the light bulb-looking Dendera wall carvings and Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt; Stonehenge in southern England; and the Antikythera Mechanism with its 29 finely tuned interlocking gears found in an ancient shipwreck off the coast of Crete. The list of mysterious marvels from antiquity is seemingly endless.
Not counting the effects of sleep deprivation, junk food and pharmaceuticals on our modern brains, the brains of our ancestors were probably little if any different than our own. We can never know of all the extraordinary advancements in science, mathematics, technology and philosophy forever lost in the jungles and mountains of South America and in the burning of the great library of Alexandria in Egypt.
The work of inventor Ctesibius of Alexandria, the son of a Greek barber, laid the foundation for the revolutionary technologies of Archimedes and his laws of mechanics, buoyancy and gravity — as well as the 2,000-year-old Antikythera Mechanism, a machine that mechanically measured the movement of our solar system with uncanny precision. The Antikythera Mechanism is an example of advanced technology that disappeared and was forgotten until it was rediscovered in a sunken Roman ship in 1901.
Will people thousands of years from now look back on the 20th century and attribute Nikolai Tesla’s alternating current that powers our modern world to alien contact? Who’s to say that some determined ancient alchemists in Egypt and South America didn’t harness electricity in simple copper batteries?
Do we not depend on silicon, the second most common element in the Earth’s crust, to operate our modern computers? Did we need an ET to point that out to us? “Hey, humans, look what you can do with the teeny, tiny crystals in your own sand!”
Will future generations travel to the moon and mistake Neil Armstrong’s boot-print on its surface as proof of an alien outpost en route to Earth? You know, to bring us the worldwide web, iPhones and hydraulic fracturing because we silly humans couldn’t possibly figure out such advancements on our own.
It’s impossible to imagine the human discovery, knowledge and technology lost in the burning of the Alexandria library. It took nearly 1,500 years for European scholars to reinvent the most basic of mathematics as recorded on the scrolls that filled its ornate halls.
We’ll never know how many pre-Columbian codices with detailed calendars, astronomical calculations, agricultural methods and mathematics written in elaborate detail on sheets of fig bark were destroyed by war and invasion.
Just imagine how advanced our technology would be today if we had access to the codices, scrolls and great libraries of antiquity, if we could build upon the knowledge and innovations of our curious and tenacious human ancestors.
I can’t help but mourn the loss of that knowledgeand wonder what compels a people to destroy libraries and other great works of science, art and human ingenuity.
Perhaps in each of those cultures with their advanced knowledge and technologies, the warring factions felt they no longer had need of libraries, learning, innovation and collaboration among those with differing points of view. Maybe they no longer saw any value in the lessons of history.
How many human civilizations throughout the world, with all their knowledge and advancements, have come and gone in the past millennia of homo sapiens’ dominance? How much evidence of those civilizations has been destroyed or misinterpreted? And why?
These extraordinary and seemingly implausible artifacts — their science and mathematics long destroyed, forgotten or passed beyond our modern sense of superiority — offer a glorious opportunity. They remind us that we have not learned all there is to know, that there are mysteries yet to be solved, that our libraries and laboratories are living assets deserving of our protection, that it’s all right to feel a sense of awe and respect at the ingenuity of our species. We are capable of the extraordinary. Why credit ETs?
Oops, look at the time. I’d better “phone home.” May the force be with you.