Prehistory Decoded ペーパーバック – 2018/12/27
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Nearly 13,000 years ago millions of people and animals were wiped out, and the world plunged abruptly into a new ice-age. It was more than a thousand years before the climate, and mankind, recovered. The people of Gobekli Tepe in present-day southern Turkey, whose ancestors witnessed this catastrophe, built a megalithic monument formed of many hammer-shaped pillars decorated with symbols as a memorial to this terrible event. Before long, they also invented agriculture, and their new farming culture spread rapidly across the continent, signalling the arrival of civilisation. Before abandoning Gobekli Tepe thousands of years later, they covered it completely with rubble to preserve the greatest and most important story ever told for future generations. Archaeological excavations began at the site in 1994, and we are now able to read their story, more amazing than any Hollywood plot, again for the first time in over 10,000 years. It is a story of survival and resurgence that allows one of the world's greatest scientific puzzles - the meaning of ancient artworks, from the 40,000 year-old Lion-man figurine of Hohlenstein-Stadel cave in Germany to the Great Sphinx of Giza - to be solved. We now know what happened to these people. It probably had happened many times before and since, and it could happen again, to us. The conventional view of prehistory is a sham; we have been duped by centuries of misguided scholarship. The world is actually a much more dangerous place than we have been led to believe. The old myths and legends, of cataclysm and conflagration, are surprisingly accurate. We know this because, at last, we can read an extremely ancient code assumed by scholars to be nothing more than depictions of wild animals. A code hiding in plain sight that reveals we have hardly changed in 40,000 years. A code that changes everything.
Martin Sweatman is a scientist at the University of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. His research, which involves statistical analysis of the motion of atoms and molecules to understand the properties of matter, has helped him to solve one of the greatest puzzles on Earth - the meaning of ancient artworks stretching back over 40,000 years.
Sweatman’s key discovery was to translate paleolithic art into a vocabulary of constellations. He proved, to a statistical certainty, that a stone pillar at the prehistoric site of Göbekli Tepe represents the sky at summer solstice circa 10,950 BC – earlier than the date of the site by almost 1,500 years.
This alone revolutionizes our understanding of human prehistory.
But Sweatman went much further than that.
He inquired why the architects of Göbekli Tepe took such pains to record this specific date from their deep past.
He found that it coincided with a period of devastating climate change known as the Younger Dryas event.
The nature of the Younger Dryas event has long been in dispute. Many have maintained it was a gradual shift. A minority have suggested a sudden catastrophe, such as cometary impact.
Sweatman found that ca. 10,950 BC, earth’s orbit intersected the Taurid meteor stream – debris from an immense, decaying comet. He found corroborating evidence in inscriptions at Göbekli Tepe representing swarms of meteors emanating from the appropriate constellation.
In 2018, Sweatman published additional tests of his extraordinary theory, analyzing two more famous paleolithic sites: Lascaux (ca. 15,000 BC) and Çatalhöyük (ca. 6,000 BC). In each case he found a coherent vocabulary of constellations little changed from that used at Göbekli Tepe. Crucially, he found representations of disaster emanating from the radiant of the Taurid meteor stream.
With its periodicity of 3,000 years, the Taurids were now implicated as a major driver of human history – wiping out entire cultures, obliging survivors to commemorate the events in art, history, and ultimately myth.
Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, and as anthropologists, we were eager to read the rebuttals.
We are aware of only two, but they fell far short of overturning Sweatman’s evidence.
Stunned silence, then, was the understandable reaction to undermining decades of archaeological orthodoxy. What could it all mean?
Sweatman did not stop there.
In 2019, he published the subject of this review: Prehistory Decoded, his eminently readable synthesis of all the current evidence for his astonishing theory.
The book is a tour de force of the scientific method.
Sweatman includes many jaw-dropping suggestions that we will not spoil for you here.
His bombshell conclusion is that these cometary catastrophes may have engendered civilization itself, with agriculture as a secondary effect.
We believe one reason Sweatman’s book has not garnered worldwide attention is the high level of education required to appreciate the gravity of his findings.
Sweatman ably summarizes the science for the layman. But to appreciate not only the weight of his evidence, but the staggering implications of his theory, the reader requires acquaintance with the following disciplines:
The list is not comprehensive, but representative.
Who, even among scholars, will bring this breadth of understanding to the subject?
(Excepting, of course, the editorial board of the Journal of Anthropological Engineering.)
We believe a second reason Sweatman’s book is not instantly famous is because of the many academic applecarts it upsets.
The concept of gradualism in climate change is fatally challenged, as are contemporary explanations of human origins, language, culture, evolution and biology.
Who will admit that so many years of antediluvian scholarship have washed away in biblical flood?
However, like the comet swarm he investigates, Sweatman’s work is not simply destructive, but constructive.
He breaks the fields of anthropology and archaeology wide open for new discoveries.
We observe that 40,000 years is an evolutionary timescale, and we now look for evidence in human adaptation.
Was pareidolia, that peculiar human affinity for pattern recognition, critical for transmitting a vocabulary of constellations – and the spur to the so-called “cognitive revolution”?
We know that our paleolithic ancestors were taller and larger-brained than we are: were their eyesight and pattern recognition also keener?
With their keen eyesight, and lives depending on understanding astronomy, did they anticipate not only Hipparchus – but Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton?
Might archaeoastronomy explain why Homo Sapiens is the only hominin species left alive on Earth?
We have hesitated to write this review because the more we contemplate Sweatman’s revelations, the more questions we have.
But we need your help answering those questions.
We paraphrase James Joyce:
It took Martin Sweatman 40 years to write Prehistory Decoded: it should take you 40 years to read it.
3 stars for the courage and effort.
Even though I'm not good at mathematics, I was able to follow his explanations and was inspired to learn more on precession. I finally feel better oriented in space.
I also enjoyed the tour of the solar system, the Taurid swarm, Centaurs, etc. The ancient zodiac system was pretty fascinating too.
It is mentioned in the end that the Greenland crater was discovered as the book went on print. Good timing, eh? Hopefully the Greenland crater (and the second impact discovered several months afterwards!) will be dated more accurately, and we'll get a better idea of what happened in the distant past and what might await in the future. Highly recommended reading!
Do not care for the chatty style. I'd rather look for the information slsewhere.