We all know the adage "history is written by the victors." Without a healthy dose of skepticism, taking the historical record at face value is a recipe for misinformation. With their series Ancient Civilizations, the Gaia network investigates the strangest mysteries lurking amid the ruins and weathered relics—and urges us to reevaluate our perspective on ancient civilizations.
Sites like Göbekli Tepe, the Tellem burial caves of the Dogon tribe in Mali, and, of course, the pyramids and temples of Egypt each possess puzzling secrets that indicate the existence of ancient cultures with an understanding of science and astronomy that challenge our perception of the knowledge available in those eras. I got a chance to sit down with two researchers from Gaia's Ancient Civilizations, authors Matt LaCroix and Kaedrich Olsen, to discuss what makes these sites compelling, why we should probe deeper into their origins, and what evidence supports their claims.
BOING BOING: Throughout the Ancient Civilizations program, the phrases prediluvian and antediluvian pop up quite often. Can you explain why these phrases are so important?
Kaedrich Olsen: Yeah, Prediluvian and antediluvian are actually the same thing. They're just different ways of saying it. "Ante" being like the front. You know, the anterior chain of the body. So, antediluvian, prediluvian, they're synonymous. And what we're referring to there is, at some point in history, all of these cultures talk about a worldwide flood or a flood that happened. And we are starting to uncover more evidence to show that this did indeed happen, outside of ideological or biblical references or anything, that there's definitely some evidence of that. And we are exploring the cultures and civilizations that would have existed before this massive deluge came in.
Matt LaCroix: That was nicely said, Kaedrich. But specifically, the time period has been associated with a specific point in our history that's been identified and generally agreed upon by many, many different groups that are in these studies. And that time period is known as the Younger Dryas period of Earth's history, which was somewhere between ten and a half and about twelve and a half[to] 12,800 years ago. So ten and a half to 13,000 years was this period identified from ice cores and geologic evidence as being this volatile time in Earth's history.
BOING BOING: What caused this volatility?
ML: Those sources are something that we debate and discuss in the series. But regardless of what caused them, it's basically a period of great Earth upheaval and disasters that affected huge areas of the globe. And commonly, the idea is that something shifted tectonic plates, or there was a cosmic impact, that, at one point during that, [caused] a massive rise of both ocean levels, but also maybe tsunamis that traveled around and completely destroyed and wiped out cultures. And that is generally considered the great flood or great deluge, which is what is called this diluvian period of history. Prediluvian is anything before about 12,000 years ago. That existed and was wiped out and disappeared.
BOING BOING: The series speaks about several relics that have survived to the present that could have roots in prediluvian history. If sites like the Temple of Edfu in Egypt or Göbekli Tepe are older than the historical record indicates- and they allude to an advanced ancient civilization- why has history turned a blind eye to this? Why isn't this a commonly accepted theory?
KO: That's one of the things Matt and I talk about all the time. You know, like, "Why are these things not more public record? Why are they not out there?" And one of the things that we keep coming across is that there is the established norm, which is fine. The established norm of scientific precedent has set whatever things into motion. And it's our finding that people have based their careers on these scientific precedents. You know, they feed their families with it; they take care of their homes with it; and now comes along somebody who finds like Göbekli Tepe, for example, looks at it and goes, "Oh, oh, oh, this is older than we thought it was." [The established scientist] buries it, hides it, and says, "Nope, I'm not ruining My career because this goes against the established norms." and then later on, decades later, somebody comes across it and goes, "Wait a minute, why are we talking about this? What's going on here?"
ML: I actually go a little bit deeper in my personal opinion looking at it. When you see something like the Roman Empire and how they started to alter history and destroy certain libraries around the world, and [how] they were fighting for this established viewpoint/narrative of both religious background studies, as well as scientific and historical information. It seems to be something that started there in an organized way. Where they said, "Okay, we're going to teach this certain perspective, and this is what's going to be established because of Christianity."
So, it gets into some religious connotations on how the Bible talks about how everything was created, let's say, like five or six thousand years ago. We find that civil human civilizations are considered to have emerged out of being nomadic five and a half to six thousand years ago. I think it's more of a Christian origin on how [those historical alterations] got started.
KO: And that is one of the things we came across in our research [are] those people who were geologists and archaeologists [setting out] with the specific intent, to prove the Bible correct. And so, that's one of the things that we do in our research; we don't try to go with any sort of predetermined conclusion. We try to get the data, we try to get the information, and put the pieces together and go, "Oh, here's the better questions to ask."
I try to emphasize all the time [that] we're not answering anything. We're trying to find better questions. And we put the data together to come up with like a, "Oh, What does this mean? Oh, what is that? uncover, what's going on here?" So that we don't give answers. We don't say, "This is definitively what happened." We want to go, "Could this be what happened? And if so what does that mean? And what does that mean for us?"
BOING BOING: For the sake of argument, let's suppose the data you're accruing is correct. What piece of undeniable evidence do you think would cause people to take this work seriously? Or does that evidence already exist, in your opinion?
ML: There's actually quite a few [pieces of evidence]. You call them, like, "smoking gun evidence areas," right? Like, these things you present and say, "Hey, look, Göbekli Tepe is astronomically perfect [at] tracking the cosmos, and yet it's double as old as civilization supposed to be. How could they have known about the cosmos if they were primitive?" Or, like, how did the Dogon tribe of Mali [in] West Africa, that had Egyptian information, how could they have known about a star before it was even discovered with telescopes? Before[telescopes] were even invented? How could civilizations [have] constructed these giant megalithic stones in perfection using granite, and yet civilizations less than 6,000 years old were only supposed to have achieved the Bronze Age tools at that time period? Which means that bronze tools never could've manipulated granite because granite is a harder material, so it's impossible. It's like taking a piece of plastic and trying to carve a rock. It doesn't do anything.
KO: I think probably the biggest question is, "How is this relevant to me today?" And, it's like what Matt was saying, once upon a time, if they had these tools that we don't have today, they have this knowledge that we don't have today; what would our world be like if we could reclaim that knowledge? What if we could reclaim those techniques? What would we be doing now if that chain of knowledge was unbroken? So how is that relevant to me today? Like, who are we? Who have we always been, and what can we do to recover those ancient ways?
BOING BOING: When I hear stories like this and stuff from "Ancient Aliens," my mind always goes to Occam's razor, in that the most straightforward answer is probably the best. All of the theories and questions posed in the series are very elaborate compared to the historical record. Why do you feel Occam's razor gives your ideas an edge, as opposed to just shredding right through them?
KO: Yeah, we try to avoid[alien intervention], but we do agree with Occam's razor. Go to the simplest answer. What if there was a common knowledge? What if there was a civilization around for a lot longer than we thought of, and they had come up to these realizations? [What if] they came to this understanding, and they had some means, I don't know, learning it? So, the simplest answer is they knew. We don't know how they [knew]; that's the big question, "how did they know?" But the simplest answer is they knew, and they were able to use that. But I don't know how they knew. We're still looking for that one.
ML: And it's not really about having this cool story that we're trying to fit things to. And I think that perspective sometimes gets stuck in people's eyes. Like you said, "Oh, it's aliens." It's this idea that if something doesn't exactly match our understanding, then it has to be part of this narrative that people seem to sometimes get frustrated over because they've heard it too many times, and then they reject it. It's almost like they don't want to hear it anymore because they haven't accepted it as being possible. And so [they think] we're just formulating things around that to match that. But really, it's the complete opposite.
BOING BOING: So what would you say to someone who is 100% skeptical of everything you're talking about? What do you talk about in the series that would cause even the staunchest skeptic to take a second look?
ML: I would say look at how we extensively talk about dating geologically, looking at ice core samples from Antarctica and Greenland, giving specific dates for when there was a distinctive thing we can see, looking at a 20,000-year history of this event that exactly matches the description that Plato gives of when these civilizations were destroyed, like Atlantis. And [how] the Sumerian king list, specifically states a period of a great flood, and the different dating and time periods of when the kings ruled, that all matches up. I would tell people to look at the data and keep an open mind [to notice] if what they're seeing matches the narrative we're taught. Like, for instance, these megalithic stones that are built with such precision that it would have been impossible for a primitive civilization to be able to build them. [Or] how precisely they were able to use the materials they built them with. [Or] how they would sometimes carry stones hundreds and hundreds of miles, multi-ton stones, to build these[structures also doesn't] fit the narrative. So, look at this with fresh eyes and just see for a minute if that makes sense. Having an alternative view based on the evidence, just see if that makes sense logically.
KO: This is kind of funny. You may have never found a bigger skeptic on the worldwide flood than me. Because, looking around, sure there are documentations of regional floods. And when we're looking at some of these prehistoric societies- shall we use that term-when their world flooded, that was their whole world flooded. And when we, in our 21st century, go back and read the documents and we say, "Oh, the world flooded," we tend to project our concept of what the world means to them when they just meant their region. And so I was going, "No, there's no worldwide flood, never happened, not at all." Then as we're digging into the data [and], we're digging into the studies, we're finding that the floor of the ocean suggests that there wasn't as much water then. We're digging in deeper. And so as we start uncovering this evidence, actual evidence from the geological record and from archaeoastronomers, we're going into this, and I suddenly went, "Oh, I need to rethink what I thought I knew about things."
You can check out the Ancient Civilizations series on the Gaia network.