Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Civilization Goes Backwards (or At Least It Has Before)

Earlier Posting

You know, it's not as if the loss of the American Space Program would be the first time knowledge was lost.

Indeed, there's a shared unconscious memory of knowledge and technology lost: The Flood stories; usually preceeded with an advanced civilization which abused their power and a family picked to survive the coming punishment from (the) God(s). The universality of this story has led to many thoughts and to discovery of floodings towards the end of the ice age.

However, not all losses of knowledge are mythical. There are some example of real knowledge loss:
  • There are ruins of cities on the Indus River Valley that date from before the invasion by the Indo-Europeans that inculde plumbing and writing. Nobody knows where these people disappeared to, or what the writing refers to (though chances are they're records refer to grain distribution and the emperor as a God).
  • If it weren't for the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian as a language would not be nearly as well known as it is.
  • it is known that there was a written language in what's now known as Greece that disappeared with the invasion of the Greek peoples. Eventually writing comes back -- as an import from the Phonicians.
  • Knowledge and Technologies lost with the collapse of Rome inclides the creation of Cement and Plumbing (again).
  • The amazing thing about the Irish is not that they saved many of the Greco-Roman books, but that they saved ANY of them. And what we have points to what's missing -- imagine all the stuff that didn't make it to England or Northern France (or to the Arabs and India) before the fall of the Western Roman Empire, to be lost forever.
  • Torquemeda burned up almost all the Aztec texts, leaving just four examples and a changeable Oral Tradition to pass on pre-Spanish stories and knowledge.
  • And finally, ponder the mystery of Easter Island: Hundreds of heads looking out to some star or occurrance; and thousands of heads in the quarries not quite ready. What did the heads denote? What piece of knowledge did each statue represent?

So it wouldn't be the first time something was lost.

Indeed, there's a museum dedicated to technologies no longer used (amongst other things).

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