How Much Can We Really Know about the Past?

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posted on Jul, 30 2014 @ 11:08 PM
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a reply to: Astyanax

Not very reliable at all concerning some things, and pretty reliable concerning other things. It would be a hit and miss depending on what you take out of it.




posted on Aug, 11 2014 @ 05:10 PM
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a reply to: Astyanax

I've always thought most historians and archaeologists, especially the armchair kind, are a lot better provisioned in the arrogance department than they are in the valuable insight department.

I bought an encyclopedic book of ancient history recently, full of big color pictures, charts and graphs for your typical uneducated moron like myself. In it there are maps, starting around 4000 or 3500 BC or so, showing where all the known civilizations were located and what their names were. It starts with cultures in the Middle East, then later it shows where the Roman Empire was, and when and where China and India started and all that, according to mainstream dating.

But what really caught my attention was how much they didn't know. Most of these maps, even up to around 1000 AD, were totally black. Meaning, outside of the well-known historical areas (basically southern Europe, the Middle East, and parts of India and China) they had no idea what societies existed, though pre-historic human remains have been found all over the Earth. It seems that often ancient cultures are assumed basically just to have been a bunch of incapable cavemen or jungle dwellers, even though later someone will come along and find very impressive remains of some construction that these no-name apemen apparently made. The kind of stuff people find from these unknown societies is often so impressive that it causes the educated professionals to ignore it and the uneducated morons such as most of us to argue about how it would have even been possible to make with sticks and rocks and plant ropes.



posted on Aug, 14 2014 @ 02:31 PM
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a reply to: BridgebyaFountain


what really caught my attention was how much they didn't know. Most of these maps, even up to around 1000 AD, were totally black. Meaning, outside of the well-known historical areas (basically southern Europe, the Middle East, and parts of India and China) they had no idea what societies existed, though pre-historic human remains have been found all over the Earth. It seems that often ancient cultures are assumed basically just to have been a bunch of incapable cavemen or jungle dwellers, even though later someone will come along and find very impressive remains of some construction that these no-name apemen apparently made. The kind of stuff people find from these unknown societies is often so impressive that it causes the educated professionals to ignore it and the uneducated morons such as most of us to argue about how it would have even been possible to make with sticks and rocks and plant ropes.

Another member posted earlier that we can never really know the past. That's self-evident, though we can still know quite a lot. We have a lot of information from the parts of the world you mention because literate cultures arose in them, and left records that have survived the journey through time. But even in India, few records go back much beyond the first millennium AD. The sub-continent has had literate civilizations rising and falling on it for far longer than that, but apart from a few stone inscriptions their works have perished. China is different; it has an ancient and impressive literary tradition, and even very ancient works have been copied and preserved down the centuries. They even survived the book-burnings of the Qin period.

Historians and archaeologists don't deny that complex — even literate — cultures have arisen on what you call the 'black' (did you mean 'blank'?) parts of the map. But unless there's some evidence of those cultures there's nothing they can say about them. They arose, endured for a span and died — but no traces of them have been found. They are lost to us, at least for the present.

As time goes on, we will uncover more traces of vanished cultures, and we shall know more about them. We shall never the whole story of Man on Earth, or even a fraction of it; but as long as we keep finding new pieces of the puzzle, there's every reason to carry on.

edit on 14/8/14 by Astyanax because: well, why not?



posted on Aug, 15 2014 @ 01:09 PM
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originally posted by: Astyanax
Historians and archaeologists don't deny that complex — even literate — cultures have arisen on what you call the 'black' (did you mean 'blank'?) parts of the map.


No, the maps are shaded in colored areas to signify civilizations and cultures occupying certain areas. For example, the map for 610 has Viking areas shaded in blue, Celtic areas another shade, Rome another color, etc. All the areas where they don't know much about what was going on, are shaded black. And for most of recorded history, up until after 1000 AD, most of the world is shaded black. India is one of the first areas to pop up in their maps, even if they don't know much about the people who lived there at the time. I may scan one of these if I can get the book to fit inside of my scanner. It's called "The Last Two Million Years" and it really is a nice book, with high quality photos of artifacts from all over the world, and maps and things.


But unless there's some evidence of those cultures there's nothing they can say about them. They arose, endured for a span and died — but no traces of them have been found. They are lost to us, at least for the present.


That's not completely true about them leaving no traces. Often we do have physical evidence of cultures and civilizations, but the evidence is so little that we can't say much about the civilization, or even give it a name. For most of the areas that are black on the map in this book, we could fill them in a little more, we just wouldn't even know what names to give to the civilizations in the mystery areas, or how far their influence extended, or maybe not even what time period they existed in. But we still have evidence for something being there of course, like ancient structures or maybe inscriptions.

We can't say much even about the "Indus Valley Civilization" in India, but they still included it on these maps. Even though we haven't deciphered their language, and don't know what they called themselves or much else, we still know much more about this culture than we do others, sadly.

Sometimes things in the Americas get dated back to 1000 BC or even earlier, and we have even less of an idea what kind of culture these things came from. I don't mean the Olmecs (though we don't know much about them either really) but just other random artifacts and archaeological sites where people lived and built things from stone for which remains are still apparent today. The same is true for sites in northern Europe, Africa, China and in US states like Ohio and Illinois where there are many many ancient mounds that some unknown culture built at some unknown time. I don't mean the Newark site (people at least have various theories for who built that) but there are probably literally of hundreds of others for which no one seems to have any ideas.


In regards to the topic, "How much can we really know about the past?", I don't know how much we can know, but how much we actually do know about all the ancient cultures that once existed on Earth is very far from complete considering all the unattributed structures and undeciphered languages. It seems like when people think of the earliest civilizations they think of Egypt, and then later in the 1800's Sumer was discovered and thought to be even older, but then we have the "Indus Valley Civilization" and others that don't even have names yet. I'm not complaining, though. In a way it's exciting to have all of these new things to look at.


Anyway we still know a lot more today than we did 100 or especially 200 years ago, and that's always a good thing.





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