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Unorthodox Thoughts

chewing gum for the mind

Category Archives: Ancient Technology

It drives me crazy when I watch television shows that ask questions such as, “How could ancient man have created massive stone monuments, such as the Great Pyramid or Puma Punku, without the benefit of modern tools and machinery?”  ; then follow the question up with speculation about how Aliens must have made the monuments from a researcher like the floofy-haired guy pictured below.

I like to believe that mankind has been a species of thinkers, innovators and technologists for much longer than our modern telling of history gives us credit for, but in this case let’s take a look at the technology known to have been in use and accepted by most historians.  Take for an example Ancient Aliens The Mystery of Puma Punku season 4, episode 6.

The H blocks, Gateway of the Sun, and other square-cut objects (pictured below) at Puma Punku are said to be too difficult to cut with stone age tools by ancient alien/astronaut proponents.  Often times on these television shows, books and blogs, it is speculated that these materials can barely be cut or moved now; so that alone should be proof enough of evidence for extraterrestrial influence.

Puma Punku is provided as evidence for E.T., but look at the detail of carving on the Code of Hammurabi. Diorite tools and vessels were being used thousands of years ago.

In fairness to the ancient alien proponents, the stones at Puma Punku are very heavy, difficult to cut and sourced from more than 15km away in some cases.  The blocks found at Puma Punku are made of red sandstone or andesite, with the latter being used for more intricate work such as the inset cuts.  These ancient builders also were metal workers, which is evidenced by the use of I-shaped metal clasps.

The limestone obelisks and granite blocks of ancient Egypt are known to have been worked using diorite and/or dolerite stone cutting tools (pictured) in combination with the application of fire for increased cutting speed and efficiency.  I recently watched Dr. Zahi Hawass perform experiments proving that using fire pits to soften the rock allowed it to then be quickly pulverized by workers using stone balls of greater hardness.

Cutting limestone is one thing, but ancient alien proponents often point out that granite and diorite are much harder, if not impossible, to cut with ancient tools to high levels of precision.  After a little searching around, I found many examples of intricate stonework being produced thousands of years before the Puma Punku site was erected such as the Code of Hammurabi.  Carved in 1772 B.C from a large piece of diorite (more than equivalent to the hardness and durability of the andesite blocks at Puma Punku), it was created more than 2,000 years before Puma Punku.

Diamond tools are known to have been used for thousands of years (2500 B.C. in China), and maybe even much longer as nothing would have barred the mineral from being collected (as it is found naturally in the Earth’s crust).  The reason that no diamond tools remain on these sites to be found today should be obvious to any modern or ancient observer; their value would not allow them to be discarded.

The drill holes and complex interlocking blocks would be a complicated engineering feat, but stone drills have been proven to be able to cut those holes at a similar level of precision in granite and sandstone.  Since copper was known to have been in use as well, the claims of drilling being proof of ancient aliens requires more than a stretch of the imagination.  Also at Pumu Punku can be found hydraulic hoses and aqueducts used for sewage management and irrigation of agriculture.  The Greeks, then later the Romans were known to have similar aqueduct and pumping/piping technology which also predates the Puma Punku site.

In closing, I suggest that anyone who doubts that ancient man could have moved large stone blocks around should watch this YouTube video.  Without the aid of pulleys, hoists, metal levers and/or other advanced tools, a  man named Wally Wallington is able to not only move and position large stone blocks weighing many tons each; but actually erects a 19,000 pound obelisk by himself on video.  How does Wally accomplish this?  Sticks and stones!

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Pigment was blown onto the cave walls using hand stencils, perhaps by Neanderthal?

While writing my previous post related to the knowledge of ancient man, I was concerned about pushing the limits of accepted timelines around the Lascaux cave paintings of France.  The conservative dating of most cave painting sites around the world have always been considered to be roughly 17,000 – 24,000 years ago.

Reverence for the bull is common amongst ancient cave paintings

Recently, this thinking has changed as a result of a new archaeological technique that measures the growth of  tiny stalactites on top of the paint pigments.  Using this method, the world’s oldest cave paintings have been dated in Northern Spain within a series of 11 caves; the most prominent being at El Castillo.  It appears that not only are many of the finds at least 40,000 years old, but according to researchers may have been created by Neanderthal.

These boat pictures give new meaning to the term ‘Ancient Mariner’

Another interesting facet of this discovery is that these cave paintings were created over a period of more than 20,000 years; which is two to four times longer than Lascaux site is thought to have been maintained.

Many people have accused me of trying to portray ancient man as a ‘Noble Savage’.  The argument most of these critics give is that ancient myth, religion and knowledge are useless to study because ancient man didn’t understand the world in the way we did today.  People can’t get past the fact that ancient cultures used stories filled with anthropomorphic figures (part-man, part-animal beings) and other symbolic metaphors.  It doesn’t occur to people that it would be difficult to pass down knowledge to an ancient audience in a way they could not only understand it; but themselves repeat it.  In my opinion, shamanism and myth/story telling was the instrument for both passing down this knowledge and the framework for preserving succession so that this knowledge could continue to be propagated.

Don’t buy that argument?  I will leave you with this quotation by the late Giorgio de Santillana, History of Science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, of whom I will be talking more about in future posts concerning myth:

“[the modern reader] insists on his capacity to understand mythical ‘images’ instantly, because he can respect as ‘scientific’ only page-long approximation formulas, and the like.  He does not think of the possibility that equally relevant knowledge might once have been expressed in everyday language. He never suspects such a possibility, although the visible accomplishments of ancient cultures – to mention only the pyramids or metallurgy – should be a cogent reason for concluding that serious and intelligent men were at work behind the stage, men who were bound to have been used to a technical language…”

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It is commonly accepted by most that before agriculture and animal husbandry held sway within the fertile crescent, most humans were rather brutish and simple people who were only concerned with their basic needs.  Hunting, fishing, gathering, shelter..

However we know that our brain’s ability to reason, at least on an anatomical level has remained the same for about 200,000 years.  We also know that there have been extinctions of roughly thirty known hominins (hominids); and these are not monkeys, these are humans I am talking about.

In fact, all hominins since homo habilis (2.4 million years ago) have been human.  All of these branches of humanity failed in the end, with the last failure happening between 30,000 and 24,000 years ago in Neanderthal. (but not until they gave us some of their DNA)  Could you imagine if there were other forms of human life that were sentient living on Earth with us today?  That was the reality during prehistory.

The Lascaux Cave paintings discovered in France by four teenagers in 1940 changed the way we think about pre-history to some extent.

Estimated to be between 17,000 and 30,000 years old, they not only represent art; but a good understanding of time and long-term project work, maintenance and restoration as the cave walls show forensic evidence of being painted (and the caves complex being occupied) over a period of 5,000 – 10,000 years.

lascaux caves, franceI have read articles written that ask silly questions such as “Can the Lascaux paintings be considered art?” After visiting Lascaux, Pablo Picasso emerged from the caves so impressed that he lamented, “We have discovered nothing!”

During the winter solstice sunset these paintings are lit up within the cave, implying an understanding of time and astronomical cycles.  The star constellations of the Bull, Unicorn and Capricorn are also depicted in the paintings; which in turn reinforce their dates of creation due to the known position of star constellations at the times of creation.

The interesting thing to me about Lascaux is that it was found in an undisturbed cave, safe from the ravages of man and nature.  In fact, after only 72 years the paintings have been seriously damaged by the presence of humans and are no longer able to be visited.  How did ancient man keep the same series of paintings congruent for 5,000 – 10,000 years?  To me, it implies a dedication to culture and a respect for the past that hasn’t been possible for the last 5,000 years at all.  Maybe we can learn more than just about art from the Lascaux paintings?

(NOTE – there is another hominin that died off between 17,000 and 12,000 years ago named Homo floresiensisThis was a dwarf human with a smaller brain and was discovered on the island of Flores, east of Java.  The brain of Home floresiensis was much smaller than Neanderthal and modern humans.  Coincidently, Neanderthal had a larger brain than ours.)

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Television shows like the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens are entertaining, but drive me nuts.  Speculation by weird looking people with floofy hair and titles like ‘research scientist’ are presented almost as fact- without any evidence presented whatsoever.  The result of this sensationalistic approach to what is actually a very interesting topic is that any respectable observer discards the argument in whole.

Some examples of pseudo-science and wishful thinking as related to Ancient Aliens and ancient aircraft that add to the confusion and detract from serious analysis, but there are far more:

  • The account of Alexander the great and flying silver shields as retold by the show Ancient Aliens cannot be corroborated historically and is taken from a single reference in a book written in the late 1800s.  For some reason, this is reprinted everywhere without any research being done to authenticate its validity as a historical sighting.
  • The assuredly faked Indian flying machine codex published in 1975, but claimed to be copied from earlier source documents, called the Vaimanika Shastra.
  • The 1950 FBI memo where a field informant reported the Roswell Incident and the recovery of aircraft.
  • Crop circles in general.
  • The ‘wooden bird model’ found in 1898 in a tomb at Saqquara, Egypt credited to be an ancient Egyptian aircraft by some.
  • There is also the carving of what looks to be a rocket with men standing outside of it supposedly discovered at Kush, Egypt, which also cannot be verified.

If you go looking for ancient aircraft and spend some time filtering out the new age sites, there are some relics, interesting formations best viewed from the sky, and historical accounts that appear to stand the test of skeptics (at least at a general level) and our current knowledge of aircraft design.

Here are some examples that I found compelling supporting at least the idea that the ancients may have understood flight dynamics:

In Egypt at a place called Abydos, there were hieroglyphs discovered in 1848 that appear to illustrate modern/futuristic aircraft.

discovered at Abydos, Egypt in 1848

discovered at Abydos, Egypt in 1848

The bizarre account of an air battle by the Mayor of Nuremberg, Germany on April 14th, 1561.

April 1561

Pre-Columbian Gold Planes, most were discovered to have working flight characteristics- SETI investigated.  There is much conjecture around this, but there was a good amount of research done with mixed results.  The link examines it from a skeptic’s perspective.

skeptics examination of ancient columbian artifacts that can actually fly!I have been very interested in the geoglyphs of the Nasca people of ancient Peru for some time.  Ancient Alien proponents use this as evidence of alien landing strips, but why does it have to be alien?  There is no reason to assume that phenomenon observed from Earth is extraterrestrial, is there?  Why do so many make this assertive leap so quickly without evidence?  The aspect of the Nasca lines that is intriguing to me is that these lines are very ancient, are difficult to see unless you are standing on certain hills in the area, and appear to be designed for best viewing from an airborne perspective.  I am not saying that they weren’t made by people on the ground for purveyance by gods as part of a religious or cultural ritual, but what a difference it makes to see observe them from an aircraft– and wow that looks like a modern airport.

nasca airstrips?? maybe not, but still pretty cool and relevant

A more conservative approach would be to assume that the human imagination could be at play in the form of ancient science fiction.  Man has always wanted to fly, has always had a penchant for storytelling, admired the hawk and eagle and dreamed of visiting the stars I am sure.  Something like a Jules Verne from antiquity could be at play.

In the Indian Sanscrit epics written 3000 years ago, The Mahabharata and Ramanaya, there are references to aircraft and perhaps what many believe could be advanced and/or nuclear weapons.

“It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas.”

“An incandescent column of smoke and flame, as bright as ten thousand suns, rose with all its splendor”

“The universe is similarly said to consist of Vishnu. Vishnu is, again, the Soul of the holy Bhava of immeasurable energy. For this the touch of that bow-string became unbearable to the Asuras. And the lord Sankara cast on that arrow his own irresistible and fierce wrath, the unbearable fire of anger, viz., that which was born of wrath of Bhrigu and Angirasa. Then He called Nila Rohita (Blue and Red or smoke)–that terrible deity robed in skins, looking like 10,000 Suns, and shrouded by the fire of superabundant Energy, blazed up with splendour…”

(NOTE- My personal beliefs around aliens and ancient aircraft are agnostic, much as my belief in both religion and myth.  To overtly not believe or discard topics, without evidence, is nothing more than its own dogma.)

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Today is Easter, 2012.  I just came back from Cancun, Mexico with my family.  My son and I just climbed step pyramids at Ek Balam and our family overheard an archeologist (who has worked on site since the 1960s) talking to an Irish visitor about how these structures within Mesoamerica were actually most likely of Egyptian, Chinese or another Eastern Asian origin.

If you look up Ek Balam on Wikipedia, none of this connection with Egypt is talked about.  The archaeologist himself said that this idea was unconventional and not accepted by most.

On the way in, there were Maya dressed in traditional garb asking to take a picture in exchange for Peso.  I wish I had the picture taken because the warrior garb was very cool, even if it was tourist trappy.

After paying a very knowledgable guide at Chichen Itza named Manuel $60 USD for a private tour (more on that gem later), we had no more cash on hand to take a guided tour at Ek Balam.  The only solution was to eavesdrop.

Now comes the part where I show you how this has anything to do with unorthodox thoughts..

Every major ancient culture of Central and South America have a legend about a bearded man god coming from across the sea to the west to teach.  Some call him Viracochas, some call him Kukulkan, others Kon-Tiki.  He is always bearded, unlike the Maya or anyone else in that region- usually depicted as breathing life into the world.  One of the amazing things I have read as recounted by Spanish Friars is that Kukulkan was attended by 19 ‘gods’, who were wearing dark short sleeved shirts and robes.  These ‘gods’ possessed tools that made them gods of agriculture, gods of thunder and learning.

bearded man

He is the reason that the natives didn’t fight the Spanish when Cortez arrived.  He is the reason those cultures handed over their tribute to the perceived Spanish god before it was due.

Could a civilization that was located more than 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers) away from the Yucatan, muster the logistical might to construct buildings on another continent?  If you examine anything in Egypt, you know that the Egyptians most certainly were ahead of the technology curve for their time.

Some facts> the number of steps, shapes, lines and construction of the site is in much more in line with Egyptian and Asian culture– not Mesoamerican.

Question #1>  Could the Egyptians (or Chinese) have come over to Mesoamerica and built (or help build) structures like this?

Question #2> For what gain or reason would some Egyptians migrate westward (or Chinese go Eastward) and does this construction and/or its downfall fit into some timetable that could correlate?

Question #3> Doesn’t a question like this make a lot more sense than little guys in flying saucers going around creating temples and pyramids?

Comment and I will moderate the non-nonsense into text here…

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