Lost Civilizations: a two-part series

Architectural buildings found within North and South America have been a part of the television show Ancient Aliens, due to researchers believing the structures are too well constructed and advanced to have been built by the societies surrounding them.

This is a great time to ask how old Homo sapiens are, as it is a question that doesn’t come to mind often.

The original belief is that Homo sapiens originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago — the Middle Paleolithic. This is because the earliest fossils of anatomically modern humans were found in Ethiopia in the remains of Omo and Herto, sometimes classified as Homo sapiens Idaltu.

In Latin, Homo sapiens means “wise man.” But how wise are we really?

With human history only being able to trace back for roughly 5-10,000 years into the landscapes of Mesopatamia, if we do the math; that’s leaving roughly 190,000 years unaccountable to our human history. This unaccountability could be in part blamed upon the Pleistocene Epoch — the most recent Ice Age which began a long 1.8 million years ago and ended just 11,700 years ago.

So what happened to the societies of the Ice Age?

Climate changes, changes in trade routes and war are preferable explanations as to how many of the great societies went missing; this includes the Olmec and the Anasazi.

The Olmec are considered to be the “first major Mesoamerican culture” which thrived along Mexico’s Gulf Coast from 1200-400 B.C.. They developed cities, were known for their craftsmanship and handiwork and their influences can be seen in later cultures such as the Maya and the Aztec. But what was left behind are known as the Olmec colossal heads, of which there are 12. The precision and beauty of the heads and the massive size are found to have been impossible to construct by the human hand with stone tools, and the basalt boulders used for the heads came from sites more than 50 miles away from the Olmec. The Olmec are now considered to be a civilization that disappeared.

The Anasazi on the other hand, are considered to be the ancestors of modern-day Pueblo. They constructed beautiful and massive multi-storied buildings including those in Chaco Canyon between 850 and 1250 A.D., which were oriented to lunar, solar and cardinal directions from materials that were brought from miles away. But they too, are considered to be a society that disappeared. The Anasazi are also considered to be an example of how human societies can use unsustainable land use practices to their own demise as it is believed that they fled the area due to over use of resources. But there is no evidence that the Anasazi, who constructed highly advanced towns and cities, simply used up their resources and had to flee.

But instead of blaming war, internal conflict or migration for the disbandment of each society however, there are theorists that are quick to look to supernatural or extraterrestrial forces to explain their disappearances. They would also sooner pin the knowledge of architecture and the transport of giant rock and other materials on super natural beings rather than admit that the North and South Americas were homes to astronomers, chemists, physicists and mathematicians.

In the Ancient Aliens episode “The Mayan Conspiracy,” they cover the structures of the Maya Empire which are centred in the lowlands of what is now tropical Guatemala. But the Maya themselves excelled at hieroglyph carving, pottery, agriculture, irrigation through aqueducts, calendar making and the most “astonishing” fact about them is that they were extremely adept at mathematics while also being cultural and spiritual people.

But the golden age of the Maya Empire began after the construct of stone pyramids around 250 A.D., where the civilization continued on with a religious ceremonial culture. Their population filled 40 cities which each housed between five and 50,000 people, making the population an estimated 2,000,000. Their cities were beautiful and their buildings were perfectly constructed and balanced.

It is also their expertise in mathematics and not just as architects that has reigned them to be known as Mesoamerican mathematicians, as their advances in astronomy and the use of the sum zero propelled their 365 day calendar system forward. They also made paper from tree bark and wrote in books known as codices, and only pieces of their hieroglyphs have been deciphered by modern researchers as four codices have survived. Their disappearance as a society is theorized to be the same as the Olmec and Anasazi.

But the Ancient Aliens crew utilizes the culture of the Maya to justify the belief that their knowledge was given to them by extraterrestrials, rather than their knowledge being an accumulative process of acquiring more knowledge throughout generations and through trial and error. They are also bold enough to suggest that the cause of the Mayan decline or “disappearance” was an other worldly one.

Again, there are 190,000 years of undocumented human interaction on this earth. Modern man in todays world has advanced further technologically in the past 20 years than in any other century. So, it is impossible to believe that advancements couldn’t have been made in the same way with 190,000 years to work with.

So how do you think that the oldest known civilizations could they have built these great structures and acquired the tools to do so? Stay tuned until next week for another exploration of lost civilizations to see what we’ve come up with.

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