What if your region was destroyed? ARCHAEOLOGY NEWSFLASH 440a
Consider, for a moment, the awful possibility that your
hometown was forever wiped out. Can you imagine what future
generations might find?
Has it occurred to you that our noblest buildings today are
scarcely more than facades supported by thin tendons of
Even with no disaster, our main cities would be little more
than rubble in a thousand years. Our motorways would be
crumpled pieces of hardness beneath vegetation. Our once
complex railway network would be red dust blowing in the
Make no mistake about it. Few house chattels would survive
the corrosion of time. Generally, paper books cannot last
more than a few centuries (hence the need to recopy).
Plastics will eventually disintegrate when exposed for long
periods outside. The same goes for everything metallic.
Yes, that’s right. Hair dryers, automobiles and carpets
would be reduced to dust, along with photographic plates and
What is more, all iron and steel buildings would rust and
crumble to earth. Nothing would be left except a few stone
structures downtown and maybe a few statues.
Probably there would not be one item left in the suburbs to
show that they even existed—except for the odd stone axe-head.
In the event of a total catastrophe, the survivors would be
driven to the countryside, to live primitively.
They might, for a time, be able to salvage and use certain
elements of their civilized technology.
Eventually the last machine would break down, with nobody
remembering how to repair it. The transistors, toasters and
x-ray machines, though revered, would be useless.
To the grandchildren and their descendants they would become
The “magic mirror” that could see events far away; the metal
bird that could fly above the clouds; the room that could move
up and down inside big houses — these would become “magical”
myths of a people whose survival instinct would direct them
back into the rapidly encroaching forests.
Archaeologists 4,000 years later could claim that 21st
century man was not yet familiar with iron.
(If they found cassettes with tapes, these would be a
meaningless puzzle to them.) What do you think of that?
Texts speaking of gigantic cities with houses several
hundred feet high would be classed as myths.
Do you begin to see the picture? It is this very situation
of meagre clues that confronts us in relation to the original
I can think of four reasons for this.
1. MOST PHYSICAL REMAINS WERE WIPED OUT
Numerous ancient cities now lie below ground level; many are
covered by desert sands or swallowed by dense jungle; while
others still may lie intact under the mile-deep ice of
On the other hand, exposed remains can disappear so fast.
Take, for example, the 4,000-year-old ruins of Tiahuanaco,
As recently as the 16th century there still stood immense
walls with massive rivets of silver in the stonework as well
as lifelike statues of men and women in a thousand
Even until last century, travellers could admire and sketch
Of these there is no trace today. The Spaniards and more
recently the Bolivian government plundered them for building
Again, many scale replicas of ancient apparatuses probably
perished when the Spanish conquistadors melted down all the
gold artifacts they could find in Central and South America.
The scale of destruction over the centuries will never be
2. MOST ANCIENT RECORDS HAVE ALSO BEEN DESTROYED
The destruction of printed records has been much greater than
was originally thought.
The great library of Alexandria once contained one million
volumes in which the entire science, philosophy and mysteries
of the ancient world were recorded (including a complete
catalogue of authors in 120 volumes, with a brief biography
of each author).
In a single act of vandalism, Julius Caesar destroyed
700,000 priceless scrolls.
In the seventh century, the Arabs completed the wipeout.
Do you know how they did it? They used the books as a fuel
supply to heat the city’s 400 public baths for six months.
Totally destroyed also were the papyri of the library of
Ptah in Memphis.
Carthage, with a library of 500,000 volumes, was razed
in a seventeen-day fire by the Romans in 146 B.C.
The library of Pergamos in Asia Minor (with 200,000
volumes) likewise perished.
When the famous collection of Pisistratus in Athens was
wiped out (in the 6th century), surprisingly Homer’s
In the 8th century, Leo Isaurus burned 300,000 books
In China, Emperor Tam Shi Hwang-ti issued an edict
(213 B.C.) to destroy innumerable books.
Thousands of Druidic scrolls in Autun, France, on
philosophy, medicine, astronomy and other sciences,
were obliterated by Julius Caesar. Not one survived.
Much classical literature was systematically destroyed
by the papal Inquisition.
Spanish conquerors searched out and destroyed the entire
Mayan literature (except for four documents now in
It was related that Mayan scholars screamed in agony as
they saw their life’s purpose go up in flames. Some
The Council of Lima (1583) decreed the burning of the
knotted cords (“quipas”) on which the Incas had recorded
their history and that of their predecessors.
What a story of carnage, in which the greatest
depositories of knowledge from the ancient world are
(Yet somehow the Indian books escaped.)
Did you know that even of the Greek and Roman literature,
less than 1 percent has come down to us?
Is it any wonder we are ignorant of our early heritage?
I agree with Andrew Tomas that “we have to depend on
disconnected fragments, casual passages and meagre
“Our distant past is a vacuum filled at random
with tablets, parchments, statues, paintings and various
“The history of science would appear totally different
were the book collection of Alexandria intact today.”
3. EVEN WHERE NOT LOST, MUCH REMAINS A MYSTERY
Undeciphered still are writings at Easter Island,
tablets at Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan, and Mayan scripts.
Some finds will remain unsolved forever.
There are no inscriptions awaiting us at Tiahuanaco or
Then there are many museum relics, whose significance
may have eluded us.
A methodical reexamination of pieces labelled “art
objects,” “cult objects” and “unidentified objects”
would yield much new data.
So would a systematic exploration of museum vaults.
It is a well-known fact that museums are in the habit of
“burying” objects that do not coincide with current
theories, or that are not beautiful to look at.
The vaults of the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum
of Prehistory of Saint Germain-en-Laye are full of crates
of incomprehensible objects that nobody is studying.
Could it be that many objects we have discovered had a
purpose that we do not yet understand? The ancients may
have achieved results similar to ours by quite different
(For instance, look at what happened to German technology.
It diverged tremendously from that of other countries in
just twelve years, from 1933 to 1945, when Germany was
progressively isolated from the rest of the world.)
Then again, is it possible that some of the antedeluvian
artifacts we have found cannot yet be identified, simply
because they are ahead of our technology?
A point to remember. As any technology advances, its
methods and equipment do not become more complex; they
(Take, for example, printed circuits, silicon chips. Nano
Such equipment may not be recognizable to a civilization
of inferior knowledge.
The point is we may be looking at objects—quite exciting
objects—without recognizing them.
Who would have expected that items in Baghdad Museum,
long labelled as “ritual objects,” would prove to be
components of batteries? Do you see what I mean?
4. OTHER RELICS STILL AWAIT DISCOVERY
Here is a tantalizing thought. Some authentic and
incredibly ancient documents are known to be safely
locked away. We may never see them.
These forbidden treasures are known to be concealed in
1. Catacombs beneath the Potala in Llasa, Tibet
2. Vaults in the Vatican Library, to which even the
pope does not have access
3. Morocco, where Moslem leaders are fiercely opposed
to making them public
4. A secret place known to a few initiated rabbis
(believed to be in Spain)
But this is not all. There must be numerous lost cities
Hold it, I hear you say. That’s overdoing things, isn’t
it? An occasional ruin, maybe, but numerous lost cities?
There aren’t any unknown areas in this day and age!
On the contrary, there are many totally unexplored areas
Quite a lot of things occur in out-of-the-way corners of
the world—and some not so out-of-the-way—that most persons
never hear of.
Still not explored from the ground are immense expanses
of the interior of Central and South America, New Guinea,
Asia and Australia.
Although Europeans have lived and worked in India for
some centuries, building bridges, railways and modern
cities, the jungles have scarcely been investigated.
There are remote villages that have never seen a white
In the trackless Central Australian desert, a structure
from an unknown civilization was discovered when vehicles
from a nearby atomic test site drove into it purely by
The largest unexplored jungle area in the world is the
Amazon Basin. This region is so little known that a river
tributary 200 miles long was only recently discovered —
and then only by satellite.
The Amazon system comprises 50,000 miles of navigable
“trunk rivers” and an estimated 16,000 tributaries.
The jungle on each side of the rivers is almost totally
impenetrable, at least for a European.
I know of settlers who have lived on riverbank clearings
for forty years and never ventured more than a mile back
into the jungle.
The Amazon contains some of the most solid jungles and
hostile environments to be found anywhere.
Surprisingly, this now mysterious region was once the
center of a very intense and highly active population.
Large cities flourished here, with high volume commercial
traffic to the Andes.
Despite satellite technology, we face almost insurmountable
problems in locating any remains.
A pilot over the Amazon may spy towers, villages or ruins,
pinpoint them and report them. A few days later, someone
setting out to verify the data will find they have already
vanished—swallowed again by the jungle since that forest
fire or whim of weather that exposed them.
Karl Brugger mentions that the “Transamazonica spur of the
road between Manaus and Barcellos on the lower Rio Negro,
built in 1971, was overgrown by tropical vegetation within
“The technicians even had difficulties locating the
approximate direction of the road. It is not surprising
therefore that there are no more signs of ‘white cities.'”
Again, there are vast stretches where the fog never lifts,
and in others it doesn’t clear until late afternoon.
There is an area in Eastern Ecuador from which natives
have been carrying out thousands of artifacts belonging
to what they describe as giant pyramids and immense
But don’t get carried away. This is a forbidden region;
local Indians still massacre inquisitive outsiders.
Intruders in the Matto Grosso region of Brazil can expect
a similar welcome. Yes, believe it! Documented accounts
Once an entire patrol of 1,400 vanished in the jungle
This trackless, unexplored “green hell” swallows visitors.
The ruins clasp their secret.
Think of it. Five thousand years ago (when our forefathers
were supposed to be existing in caves or crude settlements)
a highly advanced culture reached over the whole globe —
from Siberia to Antarctica, from Greenland to Africa.
This super world vanished so completely we thought it never
It is not unlikely a whole empire could disappear like this.
The more advanced the culture, the more easily it could
vanish without a trace.
If it were so advanced, then its powers of destruction must
also have been enormous.
What an epic! The wonder is that despite wholesale
obliteration of evidence, many thousands of pieces do survive
— written records, oral traditions and physical remains.
In one book alone (Dead Men’s Secrets) I was able to
catalogue about one thousand of the more interesting exhibits.
Yet these can never be more than a tantalizing peep at this
astonishing, unknown world, shrouded in opaque clouds of
If you appetite is sizzling for another sampling of these
amazing wonders of our past, could I suggest you visit
Anyway, until next time, all of the best to yourself and
those dear to you.
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?
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you with any questions on ancient mysteries. Just
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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International explorer, archaeologist and author
Jonathan Gray has traveled the world to gather data
on ancient mysteries. He has penetrated some largely
unexplored areas, including parts of the Amazon
headwaters. The author has also led expeditions to
the bottom of the sea and to remote mountain and
desert regions of the world. He lectures
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