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Every so often, a discovery happens that forces us to re-imagine what we think we know about humanity, and how we got to where we are today. Turkey’s Göbekli Tepe is certainly one such discovery. The site, located at the top of a mountain ridge, is composed of more than 200 pillars, up to 20 feet in height and weighing up to 20 tonnes, arranged in roughly 20 circles. Many of the pillars have predatory animals engraved on them. And none of this would be surprising if it was built in, say 2000 B.C., but Gobekli Tepe was built more than 13,000 years ago, predating Stonehenge by more than 8,000 years. Its existence completely up-ends the conventional view of the rise of civilisation. The idea of a religious monument built by hunter-gatherers flies in the face of our knowledge about both religious monuments and hunter-gatherers. Prior to the discovery of this site, we believed that the people of that time lacked complex symbolic systems, social hierarchies, and the division of labour — three prerequisites, we thought, for building a 22-acre massive temple. Formal religion, meanwhile, is supposed to have appeared only after agriculture produced such hierarchical social relations. The findings at Göbekli Tepe, however, suggest that we might just have the story backward — perhaps it was the need to build a sacred site that first fuelled hunter-gatherers in their quest to organise themselves as a workforce, to settle down in one place, to secure a stable food supply, and to, eventually, invent agriculture. But the existence of the site raises far more questions than it answers. How did nomadic, neolithic man manage to organise a workforce to complete this site? Why was it built? How come it predates similar structures by thousands of years? Excavation started on the site in 1996, and most of it still remains to be unearthed, but for now these questions must go unanswered.
During the late Bronze Age, civilisation was progressing at an impressive rate in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean regions. Kingdoms rose, order was established, and technology advanced. The Mycenaean and Minoans had intricate palaces in Greece and Crete, the Hittites dominated what is now Turkey. And the Canaanites controlled what would become the holy land — Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan. But in the years surrounding 1200 B.C., all of the would change. Over the course of a single generation, all of those civilisations would be almost entirely wiped off the map, and those that did survive would be set back a thousand years, losing the ability to write and turning back the clock on the sophistication of their art, architecture, and pottery in the hundred years to follow. This event was part of what is known as the Bronze Age collapse, and it remains one of the largest dark spots in historians’ records. And one of the causes of this bizarre collapse was the mysterious “Sea Peoples” — a technologically inferior, unaffiliated group of seafaring warriors who raided the lands and are often credited with the collapse of these once-great civilisations. The problem is, historians still have little if any idea of where these warriors came from, or what became of them after their conquest finally ended in Egypt. Also unknown is how the Sea Peoples managed to conquer civilisations hundreds of years more advanced in weaponry. But without solid records from the time, and with only scattered details of the origins of these strange raiders, we may never know their true identity.
The Antikythera mechanism is an incredibly intricate analogue computer found in a shipwreck near Greece in the year 1900. The device was used to determine the positions of celestial bodies using a mind-bogglingly complex series of bronze gears. The device in and of itself would already be impressive, but the unbelievable part of the mechanism? It was created 100 years before the birth of Christ, and more than 1,000 years before anything even approaching its level of technological complexity and workmanship would be discovered again. The device also came long before our modern understanding of astronomy and physics. The Antikythera mechanism was built over 1,600 years before Galileo was born, and over 1,700 years before Isaac Newton was born. Now, the rational explanation is that the device used working theories on the movements of celestial bodies established at the time, and some remarkably brilliant craftsmen. But if you were looking for a jumping-off point for your new time-travel novel or alien sci-fi epic, this one should hit you like a 10-tonne brick. Because for all the explanations we can offer, the Antikythera mechanism raises even more questions.
When we think of electricity, most of us recall back to a time in school where we learned about Benjamin Franklin, a metal key, and a kite. The year of Franklin’s fateful discovery was 1752. But the existence of the Baghdad batteries suggests the possibility of far more shocking scientific advances in the field — a mind-blowing 2,000 years earlier. Discovered in 1936, and thought to have been created in the Mesopotamian region, these clay pots contain galvanised iron nails wrapped with copper sheeting, and some archaeologists theorise that an acidic liquid was used to generate an electric current inside the jar. If correct, these artefacts would predate the currently accepted timeline for the invention of the electrochemical cell, attributed to Alessandro Volta, by more than two millennia. Whether or not the artefacts were in fact used as batteries is highly contested by archaeologists, and what the resulting electrical current was used for is also a complete mystery, as we have no historical records from that time. Some people theorise that they might have been used for electroplating objects, but such evidence of their use for that purpose is yet to be found. What we do know, however, is that the batteries would actually work, at least in theory. At least twice, experiments were conducted to test replica constructions of the batteries, including once on the show Mythbusters, and both experiments showed that the batteries were indeed capable of producing electricity when filled with an acidic solution. But for now, the true purpose of these artefacts remains unknown.
originally posted by: Sparta
Great thread man, nothing more entertaining than the unexplainable!
The sea people mainly focused on invading Egypt and small coastal towns through the med and of the Hitties, over a period of time after eventually loosing and never returning. I'm not aware of them wiping out any civilisation but no doubt contributed to the area which was collapsing.
I read a really interesting theory they were infact survivors of the Trojan people, and even early Vikings who travelled far. It does get the imagination going.
originally posted by: swanne
a reply to: daaskapital
A battery over 2,00 years old?
Now I wonder if incandescent lights and simple electric motors ("sorcery") wasn't already there 2,000 years ago. Otherwise why would they need the battery for?