So I read this headline today about the confirmation of four skeletons being confirmed as members of the original Jamestown settlement.
It said something like "First English Speaking US Settlers."
It sorta had to qualify things like that because we're talking east coast settlers from around the year 1600.
For a little reality check, Europeans landed about 100 years earlier, Vikings had been raiding the coast 700 years earlier, and well, the land bridge that probably brought all the people that were already living on the two continents, well, they'd sorta been around about 11,000 years before that.
Not that they had really done anything special with the place in all that time.
They genetically modified a tasteless, nutriciousless, grain weed, into what we now know as corn.
That's about it.
Which you're probably saying to yourself . . . but wait . . . didn't they build empires like the Aztecs and Incans and Mayans? Great pyramids and roads and cities and such?
Well sure . . . but, and I couldn't freakin beleive this when I looked it up . . . those empires didn't get rolling until the 1300's. The first Incan cities were't established until around 1437 and were completely abandoned (conquered/anihilated/whatever) by 1572. They had about 70 years of pre-european fun and then the rest . . . history.
Put that into perspective, if the US lasted that long, we would've gone under in 1911.
Just before the First World War.
Imagine the world without 20th Century America. Can't say good or bad . . . but I can say different.
Anyway, despite the heat, and the dirt, and the having to teach undergraduate classes at a liberal arts college the rest of my life . . . I think I would've made a pretty good archeologist.
I like the puzzleness about the endeavor.
Dinosaurs are neat and all, but the rise and fall of civilizations can teach us so much about the present and the future as much as it can about the past that it is almost criminal that we don't teach history more effectively.
Like pre-internet, if you were to ask me about the timeline of humanity . . . this is what i could tell you.
Apes . . . Egyptians . . . Jesus . . . King Arthur . . . Columbus . . . George Washington . . . Abe Lincoln . . . Hiroshima . . . One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.
One small step indeed.
And nothing in between.
That's some serious tragedy right there. And it's not just limited to numskulls like myself.
After finding ancient recurve bows, european museum currators broke hundreds of them before an amature archer realized they were stinging them backwards.
But you can't know everything, and they just wanted to see how far the bows could shoot. Why? Because that will tell you buttloads about hunting and fighting techniques. It'll tell you about Fort structures and why they had to be a certain height. Warfare, colonization, and alpha-male pissing contests are the main drivers of all of human history. A little knowledge goes a long way.
I think if I were to be an archeologist I'd like to concentrate on all the really stupid things that were tried and should have failed but didn't and then summarily changed the world.
Take Jamestown for example.
Lets send a bunch of dandies and their manservants across the Atlantic to establish a colony and send us back gold.
That was the thinking.
That a bunch of upper middle class twats could arrive in uncharted land half a word away and within a few years build Downton Abbey. And it lasted just about 100 years until a fire burned most of the church which meant that the capitol had to be moved to Williamsburgh (where it sits today)
Jamestown, which by all accounts shouldn't have lasted the winter, lasted just thirty years shy of the entire Aztec Empire.
How rad is that?
Or how come after the fall of the roman empire the anglo-saxons saved Jesus but didn't bother to consider sanitation as important?
Running water? Screw that. Pee wherever.
India still hasn't figured out how to keep people from dumping dead bodies in the Ganges.
On average they speak three languages and yet still a massive amount of their population dies of dysentary.
My new favorite . . . and this is classic . . . and brings us right back to Jamestown . . . is that interred with one of the skeletons . . . was a little silver box.
The archeologists . . . I shit you not . . . haven't figured out a way to open it.
They know what's inside . . . a small bone fragment and a vial of what is probably Holy Water . . . relics like that were extremely very common for the era and the man was a priest.
But they had to x-ray the box.
Like . . . they had to use the power of nuclear radiation . . . to do what probably couldv'e been done with some needle nose pliers and a squirt of WD40.
Maybe they didn't want to contaminate it, but I'm pretty sure radiating something doesn't not contaminate things.
Anyway . . . they still can't open the box.
So the moral of today's How to Tuesday is simple. If you don't know what to do with your life . . . go be an archeologist. No matter what happens . . . you never ever not once . . . be bored.
Hot and sticky and bested by a four-hundred year old tchotchke, maybe.
But never bored.