Ancient America

Is Humanity Doomed?

If you have ever read about our ancestors, you were probably taught that, at the end of the last Ice Age, the citizens of North America hunted the many species of megafauna (giant mammals) to extinction. After all, why not assume terrible humans are responsible for all that death?

As it turns out, evidence has been growing of a planet-altering catastrophe as the cause. Most likely an impact event centered over North America (which endured most of the extinctions), with indications of impact craters littered across the East Coast.

Why is this so fascinating? Because it reminded me of the tendency of some people to immediately blame humans for every terrible event to befall the planet. These are the same people, with their dour and glum outlook, whom have been predicting for decades, that we only have a decade or two before we destroy the planet, run out of energy, and starve to death.

Then the decades pass, and the apocalyptic scenarios do not. Continue reading

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Categories: Ancient America, History, Native Americans, Prehistory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lost City of Z

David Grann‘s book The Lost City of Z reintroduced readers to the true story of Percy Fawcett‘s epic search for the legendary Lost City of Z in the Amazon. Now, it is being told on the big screen this spring and may be a welcome respite to the same old, action films. Check out the trailer here:

Categories: Ancient America, Forgotten Places, History, Mysteries, Native Americans | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lost Cities & Deadly Jungles

The search for lost cities is what movies are made of — and many of the films were inspired by real life. A number of authors have set out following the trails and clues left by others in search of what may still be lost. The latest is thriller writer Douglas Preston‘s book  The Lost City of the Monkey God.

Rumors of the White City hidden in the impenetrable jungles of Honduras have persisted for centuries. Preston joined a team of explorers and archaeologists, using a combination new technology and old-fashioned fight-your-way-through-the-jungle, to search for lost ruins.

Indeed, they find a lost city and indications of others. This a true story of adventure into a land of deadly animals and diseases, cartels and fixers, and forgotten histories that may still hold messages for modern man.

As Preston and the authors below have shown us, there is still much of our past to be uncovered. And there are still adventures to be had.

Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Sites, Forgotten Places, History, Native Americans | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turn Right, and Meet Me in the Lost World

In my review of travel adventure books, we have searched for Sheba and explorers of the New World. We have also disappeared into the jungles of Latin America on the trail of lost cities. Now we will return to uncovering the ancient world.

Mark Adams set a benchmark for travel adventure lit with his Turn Right at Machu Picchu. This fish-out-of-water follows the trail of legendary explorer Hiram Bingham who brought Machu Picchu, the hidden Inca mountain refuge, to the world’s attention. A perfect combination of Adams’ travails and history — every bit a page turner as a novel.

Adams followed this adventure up with Meet Me in Atlantis. Here he tries to hunt down the true experts of the legendary lost city, among a field known for, how should I put it, fringe thinkers. His hunt leads to many possibilities, and even though not as much adventuring as his first book, it is a refreshing change to the libraries full of bizarre Atlantis speculations.

Now we turn to David RobertsThe Lost World of the Old Ones where he continues his many years of hiking off-trail into the Southwest. Readers will be amazed at how much lies undiscovered and unknown about the civilizations that once populated these states. Roberts chronicles the politics, history and conflicting visions that have attempted to preserve the past — not always successfully. A fascinating and entertaining account that will remind people that United States has its own lost civilization still waiting for discovery

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Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Sites, artifacts, History, Native Americans, Prehistory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Arabia to the New World

Most people love some sort of fiction whether it film, television or books. Yet, there are adventures to be had in the real world amidst all of its chaos and strife. We already took a look at some fantastic travels into Latin America where the ancient world still hides. Here are some more tales of authors who went on their own adventures to explore lost histories of our past:

Few love stories can claim to have endured centuries, but that of Solomon and Sheba has done just that. Nicholas Clapp set out in Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen to uncover the truth to what is only briefly mentioned in biblical chronicles and some other sources. Traveling through unstable Yemen in Arabia, to ancient sites in Ethiopia and to the Jerusalem, the city of Solomon, he uncovers clues to the lost empire of Sheba that tantalize us with potentially much more hidden in the sands.

Legend has it that Venetian brother Antonio and Nicolo Zeno arrive in North America a hundred years before Columbus. Is it only a legend? Andrea di Robilant tracks them across Europe and to the fringes of the New World to uncover the truth in Irresistable North. Given a recent, new discovery of vikings, should we not take a little closer look at the Zenos?

The Zenos may not be the only ones to beat Columbus as Paul Chiasson writes in The Island of Seven Cities. Ruins on Cape Brenton in northeast Canada, not all that far from Viking sites, could be the remains of a Chinese outpost. If this wasn’t interesting enough, the Zeno brothers had mentioned encountering some sort of non-native settlement in the region. Vikings or Chinese or one of these intermixed with natives?

I’m thinking real life adventures like these beat television any day. So where do you want to go?

Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Documents, Ancient Sites, Bible, History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What the Vikings Can Teach Us

We’re all taught that Columbus “discovered” the New World in 1492, with the caveat that the Vikings arrived centuries earlier circa 1000 A.D. This is always added as a bit of a footnote, as if it’s not all that important. Sure, it didn’t have the impact of the Spanish-backed Columbus voyages, but the Viking voyages have always been begrudgingly admitted to existing. Even before ruins were found in the 1960s, the Viking Sagas and other accounts were largely written off as myth. Even after the finds, the story went like this, “Yes, they came here, probably over a couple centuries, but these infamous explorers never did much of anything.” Doesn’t really make much sense, does it? Why the reluctance to give the Vikings their due? In light of the discovery of a new Viking site in Canada, perhaps our prejudices in studying our own history need re-examined. Continue reading

Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Sites, Critical Thinking, Native Americans | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Choose Your Adventure

The busyness of the Christmas season has become nearly a tradition itself. Many are bogged down in the Retail Apocalypse right to the last hours of Christmas Eve. Stores will do anything to get in you in the door and our leaders will smile at the minor economic bump and run and hide when it’s erased with post-holiday debt. Nevertheless, perhaps you’re like me and try to carve some time out of these weeks to tone it down a bit. Perhaps you’d like to go on an adventure? Disappear into the jungles searching for lost cities like Indiana Jones?

No, seriously, you can for only a few dollars.

In The Lost City of Z, you can follow the trail of legendary explorer Percy Fawcett. In 1925, he disappeared into the Amazon looking for the fabled city. When you’re done, head to Honduras in Jungleland and search for Ciudad Blanca — perhaps the fabled El Dorado. Then head back down south and follow the footsteps of Hiram Bingham and explore Machu Picchu in Cradle of Gold.

So take a breath, turn the lights down, and vanish into another world.

Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Sites, artifacts, Books, Forgotten Places, History, Mysteries, Native Americans | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fire of Exploration

Exploring the final frontier has never been easy. For decades, in fits an spurts, we have explored the Solar System and established manned outposts in orbit. We even reached the Moon, which has been so long ago now, that it seems a dream.  We can probably blame the tortoise pace of space exploration on it being largely controlled by the government and their ever changing, and short-sighted, whims. In recent years, private companies have taken up the torch. As witnessed by this week’s crash of the spacecraft Galactic, exploration on the edge of frontiers is still fraught with danger.

It always has been and always will be.

When the New World was being rediscovered by Europeans from 1492 on, it was much the same. Driven by politics, economics and the innate desire of humans to explore, not all went well. The early voyages were often about finding wealth and conquering lands. Later, though, it would be about building a better life, improving the human condition. The powerful desire to improve the existence of one’s family and future descendents has long been entwined with that frontier spirit. It’s often difficult to tell them apart. Interestingly enough, we would later learn that 1492 wasn’t the first rediscovery of what would later be named the Americas.

In 1000 A.D., the Vikings arrived in North America. It seemed almost inevitable that these quintessential seafarers and explorers would do just that. For centuries the sagas and rumors attesting to their arrival was largely discarded as myth. Then archaeological remains of a settlement were found in Canada in 1960.  Still, the idea of pre-Columbus explorers was seen as unlikely and supposed accounts quickly dismissed.

This was for two reasons: One, the level of required verified evidence is high. Is it too high? The Viking sagas told of exploring America, but were dismissed as legend. Even now, the extent of their exploration is unknown, but it is admitted that they voyaged to the coast for decades, if not longer. Only one settlement? These legendary warriors never ventured far from the beaches?

Two, early attempts to dismiss all natives as not much more than primitive cavemen saw many people ascribe anything of sophistication to foreign visitors. We now know the New World was replete with civilization and we know they arrived here longer ago than originally thought, through multiple paths. That paradigm shift has led many to wonder: Is it reasonable to think that people here for so long remained isolated from the rest world? A world that had many accomplished seafarers?  After all, didn’t the natives make it here at one point? Does any civilization live in isolation for over 10,000 years?

Of course, there are those who consider any suggestion of diffusion racist. They are driven by those who have, or still do, see natives as inferior. The other side of the coin are those who believe it did happen, repeatedly, and assert that it’s racist to say it couldn’t have happened.

So much for academic inquiry.

To be certain, the field has been full of fringe writers pushing many a bizarre theory or those motivated by ideology. Not all are so driven. Many are simply looking for the facts, some of which have always hidden in plain sight.

Sometimes it was intention, other times apparent chance, but in either case exploration burned in the souls of many men and women. What resulted wasn’t always good, but the overall condition of man usually improved. Does the fire of exploration still kindle? Are we too busy to see past tomorrow, buried in our televisions and self-created busyness?

Time will tell if humans will quit ignoring the calls to be something greater than what is pushed upon them. Modern steps into space are part of a long legacy that reaches back millennia. The crash of the Galactic won’t extinguish the flame.

It reminds us there are still those in which the fire still burns.

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Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Sites, Books, History, Native Americans | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Finding our Past, and Future, in the Jungle

Many of you have grown up with fictional characters like Indiana Jones. Swashbuckling tales of danger in search of lost cities. There was a time when such adventures weren’t the realm fiction.

In the last decades of the heyday of exploring the last wilds of the Earth, Colonel Percy Fawcett led an expedition into the Amazon to search for the fabled Lost City of Z.

He was never seen again.

Decades of rumors of his fate ensued. Had he found the lost city? Was he living among the natives? Had he succumbed to the jungle many years before? David Grann takes us on a tour of Fawcett’s obsession in The Lost City of Z, in part by heading into the jungle himself following the footsteps of the lost explorer.

But Fawcett wasn’t the only one. Theodore Morde had claimed he had found the lost White City in Honduras. He never returned to explore his find and may have tried to obscure its location to dissuade others. Christopher S. Stewart dives into this man’s life in Jungleland. He too goes to the jungle and tries to locate Morde’s discovery and, perhaps, what haunted him to the end.

Then there was Hiram Bingham who discovered the legendary mountaintop city of Machu Picchu. This site was not lost and has become an iconic wonder of the Mesoamerican past. Christopher Heaney chronicles Bingham’s quest in Cradle of Gold. The classic journey of that era that has impacted history decades later to our time. Its forgotten history of a sprawling empire is still being revealed. And Machu Picchu has become the prime example of the need to return artifacts to their rightful nations that were acquired (not always honestly) during the age of relic hunting.

These books are windows into the bygone era of journeys into the unknown. Sometimes driven by fame or fortune, discovery or quest of knowledge, the explorers were nearly the last of their kind. Perhaps those who have left Earth into space are our only successors to them.

In any case, there are still discoveries to be made on our world; jungles that still cling to their secrets and can make men vanish in an eye blink. We are desperately in need of a generation that takes mankind’s history seriously while looking forward and are willing to explore new frontiers and push us beyond new thresholds.

Ignoring history, not seeing past tomorrow and thinking a new phone is “innovation” just doesn’t cut it.

Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Sites, Forgotten Places, Native Americans | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Were there Giants in Ancient America?

“Now that’s an odd question,” you ask. “Giants?”

Well, I haven’t posted on ancient history in awhile, so let me wander for a bit. The thing is, many of the old county histories detail the findings of giant human bones throughout the country. There have been hoaxes, so many are apt to discard all accounts. Why would history after history write about something nonexistent? These books aren’t full of fantastic tales, but report local history matter-of-factly.

Then we never hear about the giants again.

Suspicious? Perhaps. Why no discoveries since? A cover-up or were there simply not that many of them? Were they just inspired by the tall-tale-telling of the 19th Century? Was inserting giants into histories just a passing fad?

The tone and widely spread accounts seem to argue for authenticity in the face of no proof of hoaxing. So were they all misidentifications of mammoth or other animal bones, as some have suggested? Or perhaps we are just reading our understanding of the past into history.

Without actual bones, this is mostly an exercise in various views trying to disprove the other. Perhaps if some of the more extreme views have not clouded the issue, and others weren’t so quick to dismiss things that didn’t fit the status quo, maybe it wouldn’t be such a fringe topic.

Ultimately, we should ask, legends often have kernels of truth, so why not history itself?

Categories: Ancient America, Legend, Mysteries | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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