A big story, overwritten by history
If history began with writing and writing is to be believed, everything started in the Bronze Age. Such is a stunted picture of how we came to be who we are. By the time of the first cuneiform inscriptions and hieroglyphs, there existed already greed and war, contested landscape and conflicting belief systems; the beginnings of disconnection from things elemental & natural. It wasn’t always like that. While most folks have heard of Mesopotamians, Minoans, and Etruscans, those societies did not drop out of space. They descended from an earlier undocumented culture. Thousands of years before the birth of Abraham or the Fall of Troy, huge things were happening which would eventually come to impact all the modern world.
How that happened is a fascinating and unexpected tale that takes more space to tell than we have here. By way of a thumbnail . . . :
The story begins with the genesis of monumental architecture & agriculture. These two explosive advancements laid the groundwork for “civilization” and the values that have come with it. It was not, however, a smooth transmission. While lifestyle changes caught on like wildfire, physical evidence nearly disappeared because of ancient scriptural directives to destroy every trace of it. Thankfully, the obliteration was localized and not completely successful. The world’s oldest buildings and their artifacts lay buried underground and standing abandoned in remote landscapes. By some miracle, all the conquest and bombing and population sprawl missed them until the last few decades when they could be properly identified and protected.
Neolithic Period, also called New Stone Age: final stage of cultural evolution or technological development among prehistoric humans. It was characterized by stone tools shaped by polishing or grinding, dependence on domesticated plants or animals, settlement in permanent villages, and the appearance of such crafts as pottery and weaving.
~ Encyclopedia Britannica
This time period is defined by different dates in different parts of the world. Our focus is on the Levantine/Mediterranean/European legacy that has set so many standards in our lives.
The European Neolithic tale relates the Gobekli Tepe shrines in Turkey, the megalithic temples of Mediterranean Malta, Stonehenge in England, Newgrange Passage Tomb in Ireland. Examinations of archaeological records and museum collections, genetic research, and other multi-disciplinary reports outline a massive migration of people from Anatolia in what is known as the New Stone Age. Who did they become? Lots of us.
Familiar (and maybe unfamiliar) monuments provide a visually stunning anchor for telling the story. Physics and engineering explain architectural features of the structures in a way that archaeologists haven’t considered. Little-known artifacts show evidence of a unifying cultural tradition that once spread across Europe and the Levant. Archaeoacoustic research in an intact 5,000+ -year-old temple for the dead brings haunting implications for the ancient pursuit of “super-“natural sound and a transcendent buzz. Relevance is amplified by the potential for advancing modern neurotherapies for depression, PTSD and other disorders; as well as confronting today’s crisis of the seeking of alternative consciousness through dangerous substances.
The “lost wisdom of the ages” could be right out there in front of us in the practices of ancient societies that made no weapons, built no defensive walls and had no money. The all-time greatest revolution in human development is an untold tale that comes with more than a few surprises.