Things Keep Getting Older: Archaeologists Find 'Forest Cities' that are at Least 45,000 Years Old

Temple in Cambodia

First we were told that the first human civilisations were Mesopotamia and Egypt, ca. 3000BCE. Then we found out about Göbekli Tepe, stretching the timeline back to 10,000BCE. And now, a new paper in Nature suggests that humans have been coming together in large numbers for a lot longer - but not in the now-arid regions of the Middle East. Instead, say researchers, "archaeological evidence now demonstrates that humans settled tropical forest regions "on previously unimagined scales", and have actively manipulated these ecologies for "at least 45,000 years" - and perhaps much longer:

In the last ten years, the archaeologically acknowledged human inhabitation of tropical forests has quadrupled in age. There is now clear evidence for the use of tropical forests by our species in Borneo and Melanesia by c.45 ka, in South Asia by c.36ka, and in South America by c.13ka. There are suggestions of earlier rainforest occupation c.125ka in Java, c.60ka in the Philippines, c.100ka in China, and in Africa, perhaps from the first appearance of Homo sapiens, c.200ka, though further research is required to verify these cases.

Why has it taken this long for us to notice these much older settlements? Firstly, assumptions about the inhospitability of tropical forests - you might say we couldn't see the settlements for the trees. Just three or four decades ago, the researchers point out, the learned opinion of anthropologists was that tropical forests were unattractive environments for human occupation. Archaeologists backed the anthropologists up, noting that tropical forests were incapable of supporting agricultural populations. And a key factor, especially in terms of archaeological interest, is the generally poor preservation of organic archaeological remains in tropical forest environments - old stuff doesn't last in the tropics.

However, "over the last two decades, archaeological data, including canopy-penetrating LiDAR (light detection and ranging) mapping, have revealed previously unimagined scales of human settlement in the Americas and Southeast Asia", say researchers.

The fact that humans have co-existed with - and manipulated - forest environents for tens of thousands of years offers some lessons, the authors of the paper note. Firstly, it is problematic for any environmental policy simply aimed at returning areas to their 'original' forest conditions. "If past human populations have in many cases altered tropical forests in ways that have rendered them more useable for human inhabitation",
they point out, "then perhaps restoration is a problematic goal, at least if such practices are aimed at restoring to some ‘original’ condition."

And furthermore, they say, these new findings suggest that we should study the ways of these 'primitive' people, as they seemed to learn very early on how to live in forest regions in large numbers, in a sustainable manner:

Indigenous and traditional peoples — whose ancestors’ systems of production and knowledge are slowly being decoded by archaeologists — should be seen as part of the solution and not one of the problems of sustainable tropical forest development.

Link: The deep human prehistory of global tropical forests and its relevance for modern conservation"

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News Briefs 03-08-2017

Farewell, señor Marrs. Keep on searching for answers!

Quote of the Day:

"Your mind is like a parachute. It works best open."

˜Jim Marrs (1943-2017)

19th Century Science Fiction Author Wrote a Book About a Boy Named Baron Trump Who Travels to Russia, Followed by a Novel Titled 'The Last President'

Baron Trump's Marvellous Underground Journey

Let's be honest: if you had access to a time machine, you'd be up for a bit of pranking. And the first person to build a time machine would no doubt have been a fan of science fiction books. So what better prank than going back in time and inserting some 'prank' sci-fi books into libraries just to mess with people's minds?

You probably think I'm talking about that 1949 sci-fi novel that names the leader of Martian civilisation as 'Elon'? But no, we have a new addition (or is that 'new edition'?): the 1893 sci-fi book Baron Trump's Marvellous Underground Journey, written by one Ingersoll Lockwood.

Barron (with a double 'r') Trump is of course President Donald Trump's son with wife Melania. And though the name is slightly different, according to The Huffington Post... Baron Trump’s Marvellous Underground Journey, Baron is a wealthy young man living in a place called Castle Trump, but his real adventures begin when Don, the “Master of all Masters,” inspires him to travel to Russia, where he finds a portal that allows him to travel to other lands.

Damn, that Russia thing won't go away...even when it's 124 years in the past! But if that's not enough, HuffPo also notes that Lockwood wrote another book, two years later in 1896, titled The Last President...

...which does not feature the Baron Trump character but has some interesting parallels to modern times. It begins in New York City, which is up in arms over the election of an outsider candidate. The news causes those “in the upper portions” of the city to sit “as if paralyzed with a nameless dread... Mobs of vast size are organizing under the lead of anarchists and socialists, and threaten to plunder and despoil the houses of the rich who have wronged and oppressed them for so many years,” an early passage of the book reads.

Time travel, the imaginal world bleeding into reality, low-pay-grade simulation engineers, or coincidence - take your pick. Let's just hope War of the Worlds isn't the next sci-fi book to be based on a future reality...

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News Briefs 02-08-2017

We've got all your elongation curiosity covered in today's news. Well, most of it...

Quote of the Day:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: At the first gate, ask yourself “Is is true?” At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?” At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?


Erik Davis: The Weirdness of Being

At the recent Breaking Convention 2017, counterculture author (e.g. (Techgnosis) and sometimes Darklore contributor Erik Davis gave a talk on 'the weird':

To understand psychoanalysis, you have to understand the uncanny. But to understand psychedelics, you have to understand the weird. The weird is more than the uncanny’s low-brow country cousin. Nor is it simply a domain or style of cultural production. The weird is a mode and category of being. We may enjoy weird tales, but the world is telling us one all the time–and we can respond in kind. There are many reasons to heed Alan Watts’ advice to “follow your own weird.”

In this talk we will try to add some ontological heft to this peculiar but persistent term, which is widely used in a casual way but rarely analysed, historicised, and granted its own singular if sometimes disturbing substance. Tracing the etymology and use of the world through literature, pop culture, anthropology, and physics, we will find that the weird forms a Möbius strip between the spookiness of fate and necessity, and the eccentric, aberrant twist of deviance.

Weirdness is the cause and costume of anomaly. It thus provides a naturalistic—if sometimes esoteric—way of understanding and talking about “supernatural” phenomena, as well as the fringes of our own experience.

News Briefs 01-08-2017

Meatspace children are terrifying...

Quote of the Day:

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Hall of Records, Resurrected: Researchers Say the Great Sphinx is Older Than Believed - and it 'Guards' a Hidden Chamber

The Great Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids

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A quarter of a century ago, researchers Robert Schoch and Robert Bauval were at the centre of two controversial debates in Egyptology: Schoch, with his geological redating of the Great Sphinx to a period earlier than its supposed builder, the Pharaoh Khafre; and Bauval, with his 'Orion Correlation Theory' that suggested the three famous pyramids of Giza were laid out to mimic the stars in the 'belt' of the constellation Orion.

Now, in 2017, Schoch and Bauval have teamed up again to revisit the Sphinx debate. Hot on the heels of their recent book collaboration, Origins of the Sphinx (Amazon US/Amazon UK), the pair have now - along with independent researcher Manu Seyfzadeh - published an academic paper titled "A New Interpretation of a Rare Old Kingdom Dual Title: The King’s Chief Librarian and Guardian of the Royal Archives of Mehit" (free full PDF download available from that abstract page).

Don't let the rather staid title fool you - the paper continues on in the same vein as Schoch and Bauval's previous radical Egyptological theories. They point out some textual (i.e. hieroglyphic) evidence suggesting the Sphinx predates Khafre's reign by many centuries - and also that the hieroglyphs representing it may be suggestive that the Sphinx is guardian of a hidden 'hall of records'.

One of the more pointed criticisms of the idea of an older Great Sphinx is that no written evidence exists which proves a lion-like monument stood on the Giza Plateau before its currently accepted date of creation during the Old Kingdom, circa 2500 B.C.E. In this paper, we would like to address this contention by showing evidence to the contrary.

Researchers Seyfzadeh, Schoch, and Bauval focus on a part of the title of a number of Old Kingdom Pharaohs' viziers that hasn't yet been properly translated. The official title is made up of seven distinct, vertically aligned hieroglyphs: Axe - Reed and Inkwell - Sedge - Bread Loaf - Axe - Bent Rod - Recumbent Lion. The last two symbols - the 'bent rod' and 'recumbent lion', which are strangely combined, with the rod-like object connected to the back of the lioness - have puzzled translators thus far.

Mystery hieroglyph combination

The title has been traced right back to the beginnings of Dynastic Egypt, being found on seals of Narmer imprinted on yellow clay locks used to securely shut vases and pouches. But nobody has so far been able to explain why the bent rod emerges from (or enters) the back of a lioness, or the combined symbol's connection with royal scribes/viziers and locks used for shutting vessels. However, the trio of researchers say that they now have a possibly theory:

We believe the most likely meaning [for the rod symbol] is “key”... It is known that the ancient Egyptians had developed a lock and key device to secure an entree by at least the Middle Kingdom. By then, the key was a tooth-brush like object used to displace wooden pins obstructing a wooden bolt.

[H]owever, we do not think this word stood on its own. Instead it, in combination with Mehit, formulated the more abstract concept of a guard, explaining why it was used as a symbol on seals imprinted onto clay locks to secure tomb goods such as vases and pouches...

Here, we are now able to associate scribes with a lock-secured facility either dedicated to a lion goddess or, in fact, a facility made in the shape of a recumbent lioness. This is further corroborated by the way the rod symbol ostensibly enters the back of the lioness as if the latter physically bore the lock belonging to this key.

The most obvious choice for a location 'in the shape of a recumbent lioness', say the three researchers, "ought to be the monumental Great Sphinx on the Giza Plateau. And what might 'the facility' at the Sphinx be?

Seismic probing has also revealed a hollow space beneath the Great Sphinx’s northern paw and the signal demarcations and geometry suggest this space was man-made , raising the intriguing possibility of a hidden and secured stony vault within the bedrock under the Great Sphinx where ancient records may have been kept.

Seyfzadeh, Schoch, and Bauval believe that the name of the Great Sphinx during the Old Kingdom and even before was Mehit, a feline goddess. And they note there may be some further physical evidence to link the two. They point out "a peculiar feature of the neck area of the Great Sphinx" - an oblique limestone ridge - may mimic the ornamental rings depicted on some of the strange 'recumbent lion' hieroglyphs. Though it's unknown whether the hieroglyphs might have been modeled on the Sphinx, or the Sphinx on the hieroglyphs.

Sphinx neck rings

In summary, the researchers say...

...we have presented written, hieroglyphically recorded evidence that: a) two, heretofore incompletely translated, tandem titles conferred to Hemiunu, Wepemnefret, and Hesy-Re are semantically interwoven within the context of overseeing the creation and secure storage of scribal documents; b) secure storage was concretely symbolized by a key-like device metaphorically “locking” the Upper Egyptian goddess Mehit; c) this mythical metaphor of Mehit’s aspect as a recumbent lioness guardian so symbolized was based on her physical, monumental stony counterpart on the Giza Plateau long before the Fourth Dynasty, corroborating previous archeo-astronomical, geological, and seismographic evidence that the Great Sphinx is a modification of a much more ancient monument; and d) beneath this monument is a man-made, ornamented palace-like façade, and bolt lock-gated vault with chambers known to both 1st and 18th Dynasty kings, likewise corroborating prior seismographic evidence of a non-random, likely man-made, void beneath the north-east zone of the Great Sphinx. Our interpretation of this textual evidence is unequivocally testable and initially only requires a small drill hole and optic equipment to explore this already known void.

And for those who might be saying "maybe the recumbent lion is just a picture of a recumbent lion?", Seyfzadeh, Schoch, and Bauval have perhaps one of most quotable counter-responses in an academic paper: "One does not insert a key into a real lioness". Well, not unless you've got some good running legs on you...

Remember too that you can find more up-to-date discussion of the mysteries of the Giza Plateau in Schoch and Bauval's recent book, Origins of the Sphinx (Amazon US/Amazon UK).

Link: "A New Interpretation of a Rare Old Kingdom Dual Title: The King’s Chief Librarian and Guardian of the Royal Archives of Mehit"

News Briefs 31-07-2017

What have I become?

Quote of the Day:

There is no shorter way of disposing of any thing
than to deny or disbelieve it.

Edward Topham

News Briefs 28-07-2017

”We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return.”

Quote of the Day:

“Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the non-existence of Zeus or Thor — but they have few followers now.”

Arthur C. Clarke