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Climate change & high tech prehistory

Was planet Earth already a base for a technologically advanced civilization in prehistoric times? If so, then what made it disappear? Did climate change play a role in it? Also, what caused climate changes in the past, and what impacts did it have on life and human civilization?

Ancient heritage such as the Sumerian Clay Tablets, the Mesoamerican Codices and the Vedas seems to suggest the presence of an advanced civilization in ancient times. According to this pre-historic heritage, our ancestors seemed to be able to travel in space, engineer and manipulate life in laboratories and create amazing cities. The technology described includes electric vehicles, airplanes, space ships, wireless communication systems, biomedical engineering, robots, but unfortunately also powerful weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, some of these ancient records also seem to indicate a profound understanding of the nature of reality and life. Are these texts indeed referring to an advanced ancient civilization, or is all of this just an interpretation developed from a contemporary technological point of view?

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the so-called seven wonders of the ancient world, is among the best-known examples of ancient heritage that keeps on raising challenging questions, for instance related to building techniques and date of construction. Based on a reference to fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Cheops, most mainstream Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built over a 10 to 20-year period between around 2580 and 2560 BC. Though some alternative researchers point to the particular location and orientation of the pyramids at Giza to conclude that the construction should be situated much earlier in time: around 10.000 BC. According to these researchers, the alignment of the three pyramids at Giza is a representation of the trio of stars in Orion’s Belt matching the position of the stars as they appeared in the sky 12.000 years ago, which would indicate the date of construction. Furthermore, the tombs of these pyramids, but also the north-south and east-west axes of the pyramids itself, seem to have been oriented quite accurately within up to a small fraction of a degree.

As for techniques that would have allowed to build massive constructions such as pyramids many thousands of years ago, a recent (2014) study by a group of researchers led by Prof. Daniel Bonn from the University of Amsterdam refers to a wall painting in the tomb of governor Djehutihotep (1880 BC) to suggest that ancient Egyptians transported colossal statues and pyramid stones by sledge over moistened desert sand. The wall painting got damaged and partly destroyed in 1890, but drawings have been made, based on a photo taken by a certain major R. H. Brown one year before the destruction. The oldest known record about the construction of pyramids in Egypt has been written by the Greek historian Herodotus in his book Histories, part II. Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey) and visited Egypt in the 5th century BC. According to him, king Cheops compelled all Egyptians to work for him. Some had to drag stones from the quarries in the Arabian mountains to the shore of the Nile, from where they were shipped across the river in boats. On arrival, the stones had to be dragged by other labor slaves over a road that took 10 years to build. The pyramid itself took 20 years to be constructed and, according to Herodotus, was built up in stairs- or tiers-like steps with the help of stone-lifting machines, made of short wooden logs.

Signs of astronomical knowledge in prehistoric Egypt go back to the stone circles at Nabta Playa in the Nubian Desert, indicating the use of astronomical alignments, dating from the 5th millennium BC. Around 12.000 years ago, the Nubian Desert began to receive more rainfall, filling a local lake, and turning it into a savanna. As indicated by archeological findings, there was human occupation in the region around the same time. At some point, the people of Nabta Playa had well-designed villages with deep wells, holding water throughout the year. Research shows that, for that period of time, they had a rather advanced knowledge of astronomy and mathematics.

Floods and Climate Change

10.000 BC was also close to the end of the Younger Dryas, a geological period of complex and abrupt climate change that roughly took place from 13.000 to 11.700 years ago. In much of the northern hemisphere, the change resulted in a decline in temperatures of 2 to 6 degrees Celsius, while in much of the southern hemisphere and some areas of the north such as the southeast of North America there was a slight warming. The Younger Dryas followed a period of sudden warming that brought the last Ice Age to a close around 14.500 years ago. It lasted for ca. 1300 years and ended as abruptly as it started. What caused these abrupt climate changes remains puzzling so far.

After the Younger Dryas, sea levels rose due to massive meltwater pulses. Maybe this is what many of the numerous flood myths are referring to. One of the most remarkable myths is Plato’s legend about the sunken continent of Atlantis. According to Plato, Atlantis was washed away in a series of floods after its society lost its social coherence through wars and moral decline. Although there is no clear evidence of the historicity of Plato’s story, he dated the destruction of Atlantis around 9650 BC, which is about 50 years after the supposed end of the Younger Dryas. Those days temperatures rose in just a decade by 10 degrees in Greenland, for instance. Following the abrupt climate changes in the late Pleistocene and at the end of the Younger Dryas many of the larger, especially megafaunal, species disappeared in particular in North America, Europe and Eurasia.

Also during the 10th millennium BC human settlements arose, in particular along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, which are now considered by many scientists to be the cradles of modern civilization. Though, could it be that these sites where abodes built up by those who survived the floods or whatever other cataclysm during those days? If so, then what happened with their allegedly very advanced knowledge and technology, referred to in the myths?

During the Holocene, which is the current geological epoch that began approximately 11.700 years ago, several other major events of rapid climate change took place:

• According to climatologist and author of ‘Climate, History and the Modern World’, Hubert Horace Lamb, the most rapid phases of sea level rise were between 8000 and 5000 BC. The rise of the oceans ultimately led to the flooding of the Mediterranean Sea, followed by the flooding of the Black Sea.
• Around 6200 BC or ca. 8200 years ago a sudden decrease in global temperatures occurred which is called the 8.2 kiloyear event and lasted for ca. 200 to 400 years. During this cold snap, methane emissions shrunk by 15%. The effects were most notable in changed sea levels.
• Roughly 6000 years ago, during the so-called mid-Holocene, there was a period of natural warming, caused by orbital climate forcing. In the Northern Hemisphere, summers were generally warmer than today, while in some locations winters could be warmer as well.
• Around 3900 BC the 5.9 kiloyear event occurred, a period of intense aridification, triggering a rapid desertification of the Sahara, five centuries of colder climate in more northerly latitudes, as well as human migration to river valleys such as the Nile. Recovery was at best only partial, with accelerated desiccation during the following millennium.
• About 2200 BC, was the start of the 4.2 kiloyear event, another period of severe aridification that probably lasted for the next 100 years and affected North Africa, the Middle East, the Red Sea, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian subcontinent, northern China and mid-continental North America. According to archaeological evidence, there was a massive abandonment of the agricultural plains of northern Mesopotamia, followed by dramatic influxes of refugees into southern Mesopotamia around 2170 BC, while the drastic climate change also led to mass migration from the affected northern China area.
• The collapse of the Late Bronze Age civilizations shortly after 1200 BC may have been triggered by climate change, droughts, famine and earthquakes, and have been further accelerated by invasions and internal rebellion.
• Mainly in the northern hemisphere, a Medieval Warm Period occurred from about 950 to 1250. While in some regions temperatures matched or exceeded recent temperatures, global temperatures remained cooler than today though. Possible causes of the medieval warming include increased solar activity, decreased volcanic activity, and changes in ocean circulation. Starting from around 1500, temperatures declined again.
• The period of cooling that began in the 16th century is called the Little Ice Age and is, according to the NASA Earth Observatory, characterized by three particularly cold intervals: one beginning around 1650, another around 1770, and the last in 1850, all separated by periods of slight warming. Causes proposed to explain these intervals of modest cooling in mainly the northern hemisphere include: orbital cycles, decreased solar activity, heightened volcanic activity, changes in the ocean circulation, and reforestation following major population declines in Eurasia and the Americas.
• The present global warming and climate change include the century-scale rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system and all related effects. The scientific community almost unanimously agrees that human influence, and in particular the increased emission of greenhouse gases, is extremely likely (> 95% probability) the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

To describe the present epoch of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology, environment and ecosystems, the term ‘Anthropocene’ has been proposed. Although the time of the Industrial Revolution is usually considered to be the start of the Anthropocene, paleoclimatologist William Ruddiman proposed in 2003 the Early Anthropocene Hypothesis, stating that the Anthropocene already began 7000 – 5000 years ago, when direct anthropogenic emissions, caused by intense farming activities and deforestation, began to play a substantial role in the slow rise of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

Is there a link between rapid climate change and social change? Although this matter is complex, at least some of the archeological and environmental evidence points in that direction. In different cases (for instance during the 4th millennium BC), rapid climate change provides a plausible explanation for social / cultural change or appears to have played a substantial role in it. The frequent coincidence of abrupt climate events with periods of migration, cultural transitions and disruptions, including societal collapse, is obvious. According to research, the human-climate interaction often led to successful long-term adaptations, but the degree of adaptation and resilience differs and can be limited depending on the severity of climate changes and environmental consequences.

Some remarkable archaeological and mytho-historical records:

Jericho, West Bank

Between 9500 and 9000 BC a site of permanent settlement was developed in Tell es-Sultan, near Jericho in the West Bank. This site is often called ‘the oldest town in the world’.

Gilgal I is another archaeological site in the Jordan Valley, located at walking distance of Jericho and Tell es-Sultan. In its ruins archaeologists discovered remains of figs that according to them could be the earliest known cultivated fruit crop and maybe the first evidence of domesticated food production. The carbonized figs were found in an 11.400 year-old house and appear to be a mutant variety, bred for human consumption. The finding suggests that the fig plantation was maintained through artificial vegetative cloning by planting branches every year again.

Göbekli Tepe, Turkey

In 1994, archaeologist Claus Schmidt discovered Göbekli Tepe, an astonishing Temple complex situated in South Turkey, dated to the 10th millennium BC (ca. 9500 BC). The site contains sculptural pieces that show a great craftsmanship, and should have been the fruits of a complex society. Within sight of the Göbekli Tepe site an original type of wheat has been discovered which today is still growing there in wild just like it did ca. 12.000 years ago. That wild type of wheat just needed one gen to be modified in its genetic make up to introduce the dawn of domesticated wheat and farming.

Varna Necropolis, Bulgaria

In 1972, researchers discovered the Varna Necropolis, a burial site on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, pointing to a well-developed prehistoric civilization. The what is said to be the oldest golden treasure in the world, dating back almost 7000 years, has been found at this site. These golden objects belong to a civilization that should have had the necessary technical and creative skills.

Written language and astronomy in ancient Peru

According to a recent study by archaeologists of San Marcos, Peru, there is increasing evidence that in ancient Peruvian societies around 5000 years ago a written language had already begun to develop as a way to communicate, similar to what happened with the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians around that same period of time. Long before this San Marcos study, historicians Fernando de Montesinos (17th century) and Charles-Etienne De Bourbourg (19th century), also had stated that the ancient Peruvians had an accurate knowledge of the art of writing and how to measure the solar year. They wrote on the leaves of plantain trees at least as early as 1800 BC.

In 2006, Robert Benfer and his team discovered the ‘Temple of the Fox’, a 4200 year-old observatory, at Buena Vista, Peru. Several astronomical alignments at the site suggest that the Andeans used astronomical markers and constellations to compose their agricultural calendar. Furthermore, the observatory is characterized by sophisticated carvings and a 3D sculpture of a musician, unique for that period of time in that particular region.

Sumerian Clay tablets and pre-Colombian Meso-American codices

4000 years old Sumerian Clay tablets and pre-Colombian Mesoamerican codices seem to refer to processes of life creation in laboratories, including amazing genetic and biological information which according to mainstream history is not supposed to be known by the Sumerians and Mesoamericans in those times.

The Popol Vuh of the Quiché Maya, Guatemala

The Popol Vuh, a mytho-historical text of the Quiché Maya suggests that sensorial capacities of humans have been lowered on purpose in ancient times.

The Vedas and the Bhagavatam, India

Ancient Indian writings such as the Vedas state that the physical and phenomenal ‘reality’ we experience is nothing more than imaginary perception, an illusion and projection, conditioned and limited by the capacities of our sensory system, veiling the infinity of pure consciousness. Furthermore, the Vedic literature includes a cosmology corresponding to modern science, knowledge about ocean and maritime activity, significant mathematical concepts such as zero, infinity and the binary number system, descriptions of satellites and weapons of mass destruction, etc…

Weapons of mass destruction are described the Puranas, and in the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India: Mahabharata and Ramayana. The Mahabharata is a narrative of the Kurukshetra War which would have taken place in the current state of Haryana. The date of the war is still debatable and has been put by historians between 6000 BC and 500 BC, depending on various interpretations of astronomical and other information in the writings. According to some researchers, the Mahabharata was a war fought with technologically advanced weapons. Some of these war tools, such as the Brahmastra, seemed to have outcomes similar to current day nuclear bombs and could cause severe environmental damage. The land where the Brahmastra was used became barren for centuries, all life in and around the affected area ceased to exist, both humans and animals suffered from infertility, greenery vanished and rainfall seriously decreased, leading to aridification. In the Puranas, the Brahmanda Astra is described as a weapon that can cause oceans to boil, earth and mountains to float on air, and everything to burn without ever leaving ashes.

In ‘The decision to drop the bomb’, an NBC documentary from 1965 with personal interviews of the men involved in the decision-making to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was one of the ‘fathers’ of that atomic bomb, quoted the following line from the Bhagavad Gita (part of the Mahabharata): “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”, adding ”I suppose we all thought that, one way or another” while watching the great fireball of the first artificial nuclear explosion test in Los Alamos (16 July 1945).

The Bhagavatam, another Indian manuscript referring to the prehistoric past, seems to describe aeronautics and spacecraft engineering in ancient times.
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