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British Museum realises 'vase' is in fact an ancient mace-head upside down (theartnewspaper.com)
179 points by ohaikbai 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 93 comments



This reminds me of a tour I was once on, by one of the resident archaeologists in the open-air museum in Biskupin, Poland. It's the site of an iron age fortified settlement and there is both ongoing archaeological excavation and a reconstruction of sections of the settlement for visitors.

Anyway, the archaeologist showed me a shallow elongated oval wooden vessel with a slight depression in it, that had been on display. She explained that for a very long time it had been believed it was used for offerings as part of religious ceremonies. Only when she first began working there as a student this struck her as odd since she remembered her grandma had used an almost identical vessel for kneading dough for bread. Needless to say, its purpose has since been relabeled.

Her observation to me was that in archaeology, any time researchers are uncertain of the purpose of an object they tend to ascribe a religious meaning to it and so any time an object is described as having a religious significance one should always take that assessment with a grain of salt.


David Macaulay's "Motel of the Mysteries" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/108831.Motel_of_the_Myst...) satirizes this bias, with archeologists from 4022 inspecting a modern day motel room and uncovering the "holy" toilet. It's a gem.


I've got to thank you for this suggestion. I read this maybe 20 years ago in middle school, the concept stuck with me ("everything is oriented to this big box in the largest room, clearly it's a holy space" - television) and spent years thinking about it and never able to figure out what book it was.


Well how isn't it a holy space? What is religion but an avenue to impart morals and support to a community? Does TV not reach this goal, especially given shows like CSI/Law and Order which basically give the impression that the police/authority have god-like powers to solve crime, which is our societies codified morals? Shows like "Good Morning America" in which the hosts are our pastors giving us our daily dose of what to buy and which celebrities to pay attention to?


https://i.stack.imgur.com/LKl5c.jpg

one of my favorite books of all time.


Thank you so much! I remember reading this book during my childhood, but the title and author have been lost to me for like two and a half decades.

I actively look for these books I remember little snatches of... I thought this one was a Stanislaw Lem book, and though I really, really enjoyed "Memoirs found in a bathtub" - but that wasn't this. The chant of "sanitized for your protection" during the ritual use of the toilet really sticks out in my childhood memory. I wonder if it will be as great, reading it as an adult?


Thanks for that, I was just thinking about how people years from now would interpret stuff like our erm, sacred thrones used in the daily cleansing rituals.


Check out "Body Ritual Among the Nacerima": https://msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html


And in the same vein, The Sacred Rac : http://www.drabruzzi.com/sacred_rac.html


Daily? More like every other day...


Somewhat similarly there's a tendency to see items as "fixed" in time to when they were found. The archeologist was ranting about how there was this whole taxonomy of stone tools: handaxes, picks, scrapers, knives, etc. and that nowdays we think of those things as set items.

They then picked up a wedge shaped chunk of stone used it as a hand axe for a few minutes, took a chunk that had cracked off it to use as a knife, smashed it again to make a scraping tool and on and on.

I think it's just hard to understand how tools in the past were used.


I don't think it's hard to understand, it's just the plague of consumerism IMO. Most people have the attitude that an item has a purpose, and that this purpose is it's only sanctioned one, and you can't use the item for anything else. So instead of using an item for multiple purposes, they'll just keep buying the same thing with different labels ("food scissors", "paper scissors", "knife for X", "knife for Y", "knife for Z", ...).

I doubt kids in the past would hear from their parents such bullshit like "you can't dice these eggs with this, it's for dicing onions", etc.


> I don't think it's hard to understand, it's just the plague of consumerism IMO.

It's not consumerism it's specialisation: with the advance of sedentarisation and techno-industrial might, we can afford to go beyond one tool doing a bit of everything not very well (e.g. shave and punch holes and cut food and …) and instead use plenty of tools which do one job very efficiently or conveniently.


It's not just specialization, often it's overspecialization, driven by commercial interests. Even though a generic tool G can do tasks A, B and C well, people are told to buy specialized tools for each of those tasks that are only marginally better at their specific tasks (sometimes, not even that) at the expense of being worse for the other tasks. Hell, sometimes it's the same tool, but with a specialized label and extra markup (e.g. disposable shaving razors for men and women which differ only by a) color, and b) price). But people fall for that.


Shaving razors aren't just different in that - the angle of the blade relative to the handle is different, because it's more comfortable/easier to control for different regions of the body.

The price difference isn't particularly justified, but presumably "face razor" and "leg razor" doesn't sell as well.


Strange that tech seems to be moving in the opposite direction, with single-purpose devices like MP3 players, GPS devices and cameras being consolidated into phones.


I'm not sure it's strange: these are "nomadic" not sedentary devices, you don't keep your MP3 player and GPS device and camera in your shed, you have them on you at all times, so combining them makes for a much simpler nomadic experience.

Not to mention phones are really quite good at being mp3 players and GPS devices and cameras at least for the average person, so the tradeoff is not big.


Also the fact is that the user interfaces are the "huge" part for devices compared to the processing. It brings to mind the cyberpunk trope of full keyboard sized "decks" with a tiny screen if that as opposed to modern laptops which have long used squarer and abbreviated keyboard layouts.


Personal electronics perhaps. I'd argue there are more specialty hand and power tools than ever before though.


That's probable, but at the same time e.g. woodworkers would tend to build their own tools on the fly to fit their specific or personal needs, these tools were not standardised or widely available but I'm guessing the average wood carver in the 15th or 16th century had dozens of very specialised tools, it would just be tools they made themselves or asked a friend to make for them rather than tools they bought from a big box store.


That might be true for some people from wealthier regions but I'd be surprised if that were the case for people from poorer backgrounds - even in wealthier countries. Plus it's not as if we don't have a whole plethora of multi-purpose tools from Swiss army knives, to drills that can also be used as electronic screw drivers, and even hammers that have nail pulls on them.

I suspect the reason most archaeological finds are attributed to a single purpose is a much simpler one: it can sometimes be hard to derive an accurate description for a lot of tools when you're only looking for a single use. Trying to find multiple uses is therefore going to be an order of magnitude harder. So you therefore go with the most easily identifiable use case.


I keep getting wierd looks when I do things with a regular utility knife instead of spending five minutes fetching "the right tool for the job".

I bet the ancient ones had the same problem when someone used a small shard of rock for a job that a larger shard was clearly better suited for! ;)


Who hasn't used a flat bladed screwdriver to pry open a can of paint, scrape crud off of a car part, lever apart two things after removing the bolt, as a chisel and then turned it around and used the handle as a hammer. In some areas of life, not much has changed.


> any time researchers are uncertain of the purpose of an object they tend to ascribe a religious meaning to it

https://www.sfu.ca/~palys/Miner-1956-BodyRitualAmongTheNacir...


Unless they're biologists. Then it's for mating displays.


With non-human animals, though, aren't there much fewer possibilities than with humans? Most animals don't have the kind of food surpluses humans have, and so have can't afford to spend energy on things that aren't hunting or gathering food, fighting over territory, or reproducing.

So if an animal is doing something prominently that isn't hunting or fighting or mating or raising young and others are watching but not getting upset by it, mating display is probably a reasonably safe assumption.


I was thinking of extinct animals. (Maybe I should have said "paleontologists".) Whenever there's a structure or physical feature in a fossil whose purpose we can't identify, the default assumption is "it was probably used for mating displays." Sometimes further study (or comparison to extant species) comes up with a more practical use later. It's all hypothetical, of course, but so is "religious purposes." :)


On this note, a vast amount of human energy (surplus and sometimes not, in the aggregate) can be understood as mating displays. Of course, we have added gender to the equation, which complicated things quite a bit.


I'm not sure what the "gender" part of your comment refers to? In the animal world it's generally only animals of one gender (usually males) that engage in these displays.


The means easily becomes the goal for us. Is a dysfunctional mating display still a mating display?


Your anecdote reminds me of the Roman Dodecahedron. I saw a video on here some years ago about it being a suprisingly good tool for knitting fingergloves. But the wikipedia page still says it is all but that.


Another confirmation for your archaeologist's observation: my mother studied archaeology & cultural studies, and she learned the same thing from her professors.


The "religious" label has been a sort of running gag on Time Team. I really miss that show.


Even objects correctly identified as being used for religious rituals are often still derived from practical objects, whether cups, spoons, etc, or ritualized weapons. Few objects are purely religious in their derivation.

Sometimes the distinction between ritual and practical use is absolute, i.e "the sacred chalice shall only be used for services", or sometimes sacred vs. profane is distinguished by timing, or the incanting of particular verses.

In general, we have an overly dualistic view ("it is one or the other") of of the sacred and profane as pertains to ancient objects, perhaps influenced by the dualities pervasive in Western philosophical systems.


I've always been curious how many items thought to have religious or societal significance are more in reality "yeah that's a backscratcher, yeah that's a dildo, yeah that's the equivalent of the 7th grade shop ceramics project that ancient Emo-Grok made, yeah that's just a random rock a bored prisoner carved as he slipped into madness".


I have found the same. When a building's purpose is unknown it will usually get labelled a temple.


Man, archeology is hard, but this one, with all the upside-down writing, is a bit of a face-palm.

My favorite examples in archeology is the Chaco Canyon Cultures. If you are in the western US, have a 4 wheel drive car, and a free few days, I'd go no where else. Those people are an astonishing mystery. You know how with some places, going on the journey is kinda the point? Sometimes with archeology, that's kinda true too. You find out things along the way, you get a feel for the peoples, you get in their heads, you empathize.

The Chacoans are the rare exception to that process. Chaco is a place of questions and not much more. Despite decades of work on the canyon, we know nearly nothing about them. Nothing makes any sense, getting into their heads has proven nearly impossible; it's very difficult to empathize with them across the centuries. The only plan right now is to rebury all the pueblos and wait for new technology to come out, really.

Cool thing is, though, you can go right up to the ruins and interact with them any way you please. Not that you should, but you can. Since it's a bit hard to get to, the rangers pretty much let any visitor roam free. If you are looking a very 'Indiana Jones' kinda vacation, Chaco Canyon should be #1 on your list.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pueblo_Bonito

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaco_Culture_National_Histori...


After a decade of telling people about my favorite places around Portland (where I grew up) and watching them get absolutely destroyed by Instagram-tourists, I would highly advise against this sort of promotion of fragile amazing places.


Thanks for the tips!

Chaco Canyon is not very close to any large-ish city to begin with. Just driving from Albuquerque is about 3 hours to get to the 4-wheel-drive-only road into the park. That road is generously described as 'washboard' in the best of conditions, which are rare. Once there, there is only tent camping. Water and toilets are available, but not any food or drink though, 'amenities' are sparse. It's difficult to get to and stay at, so you really have to want to be there. Though I may not know too much about the current zeitgeist of Insta' , I'd imagine that Chaco is not 'worth' the trip if you are just there for the photos and likes. However, if you are there to experience the archeology, the people, and the astounding mystery of the Chacoans, the effort is very much worth it. Besides, the stars at night are some of the clearest I've ever seen, and those show up terribly on a phone camera.


My impression (largely drawn from Ken Burns' series on the national parks and visits to Taos Pueblo) is that the ancient inhabitants of Chaco canyon are the ancestors of the present-day Pueblo people who live to the south in the Rio Grande valley.


Yes! They are, sort-of.

Most Puebloan peoples seemed to have gathered at Chaco a few times a year, during the heyday. There is some evidence of continuous habitation at Chaco, but not as many as you'd expect. To me, an interesting thing is that the Puebloan peoples do not share genetic markers that would indicate that Chaco was used as a place to mix and mingle the bloodlines, so to speak. It's very strange that the young people would not 'notice' each other in the large gatherings every year. Also, the kivas have very different usages in the different tribes, despite their near universal religious significance in all the tribes. Some are used as sweat-lodge type structures, some are sprouting houses for crops, some have foot powered drums in them, etc.

So despite the common heritage, each tribe of Puebloan peoples is still very distinct, even genetically. Again, Chaco is a place of questions, not answers. The closer you look, the stranger it gets.


I'm amazed that the words "factory" or "warehouse" never appear once in that article, because that's kind of what the floor plan looks like at first glance.


As far as anyone can tell (which isn't very far) those circular pits were used as 'kivas'. They held some sort of semi-religious significance, but what sort is nearly unknown. Some Puebloans use the kiva as a simple sweat-lodge, some use it as a 'sprouting house' for initial crop growth, some use the kiva as a church-like ceremony building, some use it as a giant drum (really). Since most of the Puebloans came to Chaco Canyon in it's heyday and had interactions there, it's very strange that they all then evolved to have different uses for such a special place. The Santa Ana Puebloan People think that there is a sipapu, or 'world navel', just off to the western side of that North-South dividing wall, so there's that as well. An interesting thing is that the Puebloans all met at Chaco, that is fairly well understood, but genetic studies show that they did not interact enough to mate and have children with the other groups. Despite the annual interactions, they remained distinct peoples.

Acoustic studies of the kiva pits show that giant drums, beaten with the feet, had resonances that may have interacted with canyon walls too. But the largest kiva in existence at Chetro Ketl, perfectly south of Pueblo Bonito, is no where near the canyon walls and the size of the kiva makes the resonance in the far sub-sonic for human hearing. In the kiva at Chetro Ketl, there is also evidence of layers of burn sand and dust going down many meters into the ground. There's at least a dozen PhD theses waiting in that dirt.

Also, the layout of Pueblo Bonito is only the first few stories of the building. For preservation, they have buried the lower stories of the pueblo. When you look at the full design plan, it makes zero sense. The mostly rectangular rooms have doors that lead to all kinds of weird places. There are nearly no hearths, and the rooms would have been in total darkness, as little evidence is found of suit on what remains of the roofs (lots of destruction has taken place, so who knows in the end).

We do have evidence from the oldest parts of Pueblo Bonito (the Pueblo was built in stages over about 300 years), that near total darkness was the norm. Skeletons of macaques (yes, from the Yucatan!) show severe deformities associated with lack of sunlight. Also, pottery shards have cacao residue on them from other parts of Central America. The oldest part of Pueblo Bonito is also the only part that has burial of human remains. There, 4 people (likely some form of sub-priest) were interned above 2 other people (likely higher priest-like persons), one of whom likely died of leg wounds just before burial, all in the structure and above the ground level at the time. Coincidentally, half of all the turquoise ever discovered via archeology was found with these 6 people. That's a LOT of turquoise. No other bodies have ever been discovered in the Canyon and very little 'trash' is in the Canyon as well.

Sorry for the ramble. But Chaco really is a place of questions, not answers. It's very unique in the world for this reason and well worth the visit and deep-dives into it.


A fired-clay headed mace? I'm the daft one now, but how does this work? What fired-clay is sturdy enough to whack someone with more than once? Clearly there is some, but if someone can point to a modern example I might know I will get over this disbelief more easily.


Given it was owned by a king, it sounds like a ceremonial weapon.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceremonial_mace


I believe the best modern analog would be a brick.


You're probably thinking about pottery. Think about bricks and glasses.

The word "brickbat" refers to a piece of brick used as a weapon. In modern times, since bricks are small and guns exist, it is likely describing half of a broken building or paving brick, thrown at a line of police with plastic riot shields. In ancient times, it could have been a literal brick on a literal bat.

Imagine how durable a wooden baseball bat is. It's a pretty decent weapon on its own, but if you whack anything harder than flesh with it, you might damage it. So you soak the wood, coat the end with clay, inscribe a two-page treatise on how your enemies are total bastards and they just suck so much, and put it in the kiln. Now you have a hard and brittle brick-ceramic surface, over a softer but more durable wooden core. The composite weapon is superior to an all-brick club, which would snap off at the shaft whenever you hit someone with it, and a wooden club, which would split with the grain if you hit something hard with too much force. The brick coating keeps the wood from splitting. The wood core keeps the brick head from shattering.

The modern example is tightly wrapping a baseball bat with a coil of barbed wire or baling wire. The tensile strength of the wire keeps the bat from splitting. Ceramic technology has advanced a lot since the bronze age, too. The auto-glass windshield on your car is a sandwich of hard glass and soft plastic, that is at once clear enough to see through, hard enough to deflect flying debris without scratching, and durable enough to sometimes also deflect hard objects without cracking. In addition, if it does break, it doesn't turn itself into sharp knives that could cut you.

The ancients used wood (and leather) the way we now use plastic. If you sandwich wood and brick, it's not as good as sandwiching glass and plastic, but it's the same concept.


> Now displayed right-side up, the mace head is topped by a painted representation of a net that was used to immobilise enemies for execution.

It sounds like they had a thing of capturing enemies, tying them down in a net, and then bashing them to death to really show them who was boss. If this mace wasn't entirely ceremonial, it was probably at least used in fairly controlled circumstances.


What fired-clay is sturdy enough to whack someone with more than once?

Sometimes once is enough!


I thought the same thing initially, but then I saw it was Irving Finkel making the claim. He's one of the foremost Mesopotamian bronze age historians in the world. Like yeah, this is just an appeal to authority, but damn, what an authority.


It was for a King, so potentially it was just ceremonial..


If they thought it was a vase, I guess it is empty and it has a hole at the "top"/"bottom". It doesn't look like a good design for a real weapon.


I imagine the hole is where the wooden club was inserted/attached, which has probably since disintegrated long ago.


Quite. An axe head would also have a similar hole after the wooden handle disintegrates.


The king's weapon combined the best qualities of the two bashing weapons that had previously been available to elite soldiers of the 22nd century BC: bricks and sticks.

This photo caption makes more sense if you are inscribing your gripe against the city you are warring with on your weapon:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:This_cuneiform_text_gives...


You may just be joking, but just in case, the Mesopotamian early dynastic period was very familiar with metalworking. Metal swords were common, and there are several examples of fine gold and silver-decorated weapons.


I was joking. But because it was the bronze age, I figured I'd make it a little clearer by specifying "bashing" weapons. As far as I know, metal would have been expensive, and limited specifically to the purposes where it would be strictly advantageous: spearheads, axe heads, sword blades, forge tools, helmets, shields, maybe torso-only armor. And if you're rich: mirrors, cups, jewelry, and artwork. The king of Umma would have likely owned a lot of bronze stuff, commanding soldiers with bronze arms and armor.

It is possible that a mace head with cuneiform inscriptions served a ceremonial purpose. Executions of captured prisoners, maybe? I imagine it would have been like Negan from the Walking Dead, except barbed wire hadn't been invented yet.


A pretty embarrassing oversight!

If the picture in this article is the mace, it's clear from the cuneiform that the 'object' would be upside down if it were in a vase orientation. Rarely ever do you start an impression from the left and trail off to the right.


“we realised how daft we’d been”, says Irving Finkel, a co-curator of the show.


Irvin Finkel is a truly entertaining and intelligent speaker. He has a bunch of videos and lectures on a range of subjects on YouTube through the British Museum Channel. I highly recommend not only his work, but the whole channel.


His video with Tom Scott playing "The Royal Game of Ur" is super fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZskjLq040I


I was so inspired by that video when I first saw it that I built my own Ur board. I prefer the 4 2-sided dice approach to the single 4-sided die, because the normal distribution of values allows for slightly more strategy. We also house ruled that rolling a 0 gave you a reroll token.

Oh, and it is a genuinely fun game.


> 2-sided dice

I wasn't sure if this was an allusion to a coin flip.

Turns out there are actual 2 sided die though.

https://boingboing.net/2015/10/01/how-do-you-design-2-sided-...


You can make most oddly-sided dice as barrel forms (a.k.a. "long dice"). Take a cylinder of uniform density, and grind the ends down to cones, at an angle such that they cannot be a stable result. Now plane off the required number of stable surfaces at equal intervals around the barrel, and scribe its value on the opposite side. (Or for even-numbered sides, you can also construct it as an antiprism, capped by pyramids.)

If one cone has finger-grips added, the die can also be spun like a top. These are teetotums. A dreidel is essentially a teetotum d4.

For a d2, you add two parallel planes to represent the two stable results, and unstable-angled planes on the sides so that the die will always roll from them onto one of the stable planes on any flat, level surface. Or you can just curve the two sides, such that they meet at a point.

You can even make a (nontrivial) fair d1 with a clever arrangement of planes on the barrel. When rolled, the fair d1 will always come to rest on the same face, without being unbalanced, because all other planar faces are angled to roll the die to an adjacent face. I can't recall if dice of this type are dependent on being rolled in Earth gravity or not, but it seemed like they were dependent on angle of repose in some way.


Teetotums are great. Games like TRGoU frequently use beans that have a spot on them. In my case, I painted the faces of wooden craft cubes black or white, 3 sides each.


Thankyou.

I'm not sure I've come across so many new words outside of a science paper that I didn't understand :S .

What would be the use case for a d1 ?


Math/physics curiosity and absurdism, mainly.

It's a die that always comes up 1, without cheating. How is that not art?


I hadn’t seen that one, and it was a blast, thanks.


There are a lot of wild writing styles: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boustrophedon


No, there are not. Top-down right-left, right-left top-down, left-right top-down, boustrophedon, "filling the available space (hieroglyph)" and that's it. I never heard of a writing system going bottom to top.


The case that comes to mind is some road writings: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/08043/...

I find it rather confusing that way, though; I think I've read it as "AHEAD STOP" and mentally scratched my head every time I've seen text like that (which isn't too often).


> I never heard of a writing system going bottom to top.

Ogham. Not exclusively bottom to top, but basically written around a standing stone in a ↱↴ fashion.


Out of curiosity, why is single-directional reading more efficient (is it?) the Boutstrophedon? The latter would seem, at first glance, more efficient by minimizing eye "seek" time.


Skimming requires tracking line parity. Remember that spaces are a relatively modern concept—lines of text just sort of break in the middle of words & all sort of nonsense.


Japanese is still like that. No spaces, and lines can just break in the middle of words -- though there are certain cases where word wrap algorithms are not allowed to split lines (and standardized rules for these cases). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_breaking_rules_in_East_As... if you're curious.


True, but fortunately the particles come to the rescue. Generally a word is "tagged" with a particle indicating its grammatical significance, e.g. that it's the object of the sentence. And all the particles are Hiragana, so they stick out nicely. Helps with reading.


Reminds me of the story of the Matisse painting that was hung upside-down.

https://news.masterworksfineart.com/2018/09/19/moma-hung-mat...


I hate this kind of article where you have no source and no reference to anything related to the object presented in it. As a learner of Sumerian language, I would have loved a link to the transcription of the text on the object or a link to an academic paper about it.


A biological example of this phenomenon: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucigenia

This bizarre creature was discovered that walked on spikes. Then it was realized that it was just upside down, and in fact was just a worm with spines sticking out the top.


When I was a kid we went to the Peabody museum in CT.

The docent giving us a tour told us about the mixup of a dinosaur head, and this story sprung to mind when reading this.

https://www.nytimes.com/1981/10/26/nyregion/yale-brontosauru...

The story was amazing to me as a kid, adults were wrong sometimes and they could fix their mistakes.


What am I actually looking at here? I see a rough, pitted, badly damaged surface with smooth, white stuff showing where it's cracked away. Is the smooth inner layer part of the original, a solid object with a decorated exterior? Or is the inner part a modern reconstruction, and the outer all that remains of a hollow original?


The smooth surfaces are modern filler to make the object whole. The pitted and damaged surfaces are pieces of the original.

It'll be hollow since they thought it was a vase.

It's unlikely the filler is solid, these reconstructions are generally made as faithfully as possible to the original without too much synthesis. So it should be the same shape as the original is presumed to have, but no engravings or anything which might be unreasonably speculative.


Thanks!


The last part talks about a net used for executions... was their idea of a Public execution trapping someone in a net and beating them to death with a blunt mace?


There is an image from the Stele of the Vultures (https://www.thoughtco.com/oldest-peace-treaties-from-ancient...) of captives in a net. No idea if there is anything to the execution part.


considering how some museums seem like they are 75% ancient vases and cups, it makes you wonder what else is out there


Also makes you wonder about the mistakes we're making when things get truly ancient, but cannot be proved to be wrong. This vase is only 4,000-5,000 years old and the mistake was ostensibly very obvious. By contrast we have made a variety of statements, generally taken as true fact, about prehistoric humans tens of thousands of years past.

Funny to think that one day we'll be that 4,000-5,000 year old ancient civilization. Modern 'archaeologists' will be quite lucky in this regard. Digital records don't leave much room for ambiguity, and there are already countless organizations working on preservation as a purpose in and of itself, and other organizations working on data preservation for less idealistic reasons.

There will probably 4 tiers of history. Prehistory, glyphic history, written history, and finally digitized history. Well that's making the probably bad assumption that there's no tech beyond digital that we cannot even yet conceive of. Even to the smartest man of the pre-electric era, the notion of digital data storage and transmission would just be literally inconceivable.


> Digital records don't leave much room for ambiguity, and there are already countless organizations working on preservation as a purpose in and of itself, and other organizations working on data preservation for less idealistic reasons.

You say that, but there's data on media from 40 years ago that can't be accessed either because of bit rot or because the technology no longer exists. Hell, most of the content on the internet from 20 years ago has since vanished forever.


Indeed. I've been searching for stuff that I could easily find even as little as 10-15 years ago, and it's gone. Nothing on archive.org (even though it started in 1996), mirrors are gone, it's just not there. Heck, even some more recent stuff can't be found anymore, by any search engine.

As for digital storage in general.. magnetic storage is quite good. Leave your harddrive on the shelf for a few decades and it'll probably still be ok. At least the magnetically stored data. Spin up the disk every two years and the rest is taken care of too. But Flash storage gradually lose data, it's not permanent. Come back in twenty and it's gone.

To keep digital data you'll have to implement a scheme of regularly refresh + copy/convert to newer media. That's a Herculean task if you want to keep all that we currently have of digital records.

Whereas a stone tablet will keep nicely.


Did they check whether the clay of the mace is a narrow shell around a vibranium core?

Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2KJxdvckEk


The Debate Over Europe’s Stolen African Art: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOlmXQihow8


Isn't vase supposed to be hollow? Mace is a blunt weapon that you whack people with... Why did they think a filled object as a vase?


Possibly it had a hole for the handle part of it.




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