Sonntag, 1. April 2012

On the appearance of civilizaiton.

It must be the lack of sleep and coffee that's gotten me so jittery and crotchety. It's not usual for one to wake up in the morning cursing at their dreams for obvious intellectual laziness. Or I suppose it is if you stayed up until 4 AM killing hagravens and Foresworn on top of an ancient Nord ruin.

The feeling is mutual.

So I wake up this morning chastising myself because for some reason while in my dream I thought "Who built these ruins? They're so advance and just came out of nowhere". Damn it boy! You're an archæologist. You know goddamn well that's a stupid question. Civilizations don't come out of nowhere. They aren't just spontaneous. My problem with my in-dream reasoning is that it leads to presuppositions and it's intellectually lazy. It leads to presuppositions because when trying to rationalize the idea of "who built this advance civilization", the almost inevitable assumption is that something supernatural/out-worldly did it or that a civilization we're more familiar with did it. Case in point:

Nothing says authority like a poorly skilled hairdresser and a History Channel logo.

Ah History Channel - the only actual history covered is all about Hitler. But I've seems other reasoning that are just as bad. In the 19th century french explorer Henri Mouhot "rediscovered" the Angkor ruins in Cambodia, and his immediate reaction was similar to my dreams. (How he managed to rediscovered something that wasn't really lost is beyond me. The locals knew of the temples.) He was in disbelief of how grand the temple complex were. He could not reason with how advanced the temples seemed with how "backward" the locals were. And this lead to a subtle assumption: White(ish) people made it, because to Mouhot and many other people at the time, Western Europeans were the only capable of such feats. Presuppositions! And this has been used by all sorts of people: Some claim the civilizations of the Andes came from Japan because the vessels "looked similar". Some claim Nubians created the Olmec because of the facial features of the colossal head. Early British scholars assumed the creators of Great Zimbabwe were of Caucasian stock. Some believe the whole of the Americas were populated by Semitic people.

And for no reason, here's some subtle 18th century racism!

Now here's where the intellectually laziness comes in. The Nord ruins in Skyrim were already well explained in the history of the Elder Scrolls. Ysgramor lead the first humans out of Atmora to occupy Tamriel. They built the places. You would know that if read up on the materials ahead of time (some of which are available in-game.) It's also intellectually lazy to assume aliens created any of our modern civilization. You're explaining away a problem rather than doing the proper research. At the very least you should consider the more logical explanations. For Angkor, there existed ruins that dated before them namely Funan ruins, whose existence is recorded in both stonework and Chinese writings (in Oc Eo). As for why the current Khmers at the time of French Colonialism were not building large stone monuments: The Khmers underwent religious change from Hindu and Mahayana Buddhism to Theravada Buddhism. The new religion was not so demanding of their temples (though state leaders did build large temple to show their power, such as those at Udong, in modern Kandal Province, Cambodia.) More over, war with Ayutthaya (pictured above) sacked national resources. The kings no longer had the power to demand the peasant class to build as much as the Angkor kings did. The same goes for the example provided. The Olmecs didn't just appear. There were already numerous cultures predating the Olmec. The colossal heads by no means reflect realistic human heads and therefore couldn't be influenced by Nubians or other east African civilization (and fails completely anyway since the "typical" physical features of the Nubians and their descendants looked nothing like those heads). The superficial similarities between the pottery in the Andes and Jōmon (pre-Classical Japan) are just that - superficial. Anyone who studied those cultures can tell the difference between a Haniwa and Moche pot. The whole idea of the Americas being settle by Semitic people just blatantly ignores everything.

Sometimes I feel like I'm talking to Patrick Starfish when I try to pass those points to others

It's intellectually lazy because you're failing to think it through. You're failing to do the research. But it's all to common isn't it? I make archæological assumption all the time and most of us don't even know to question them. Some are so ingrained, we don't even see what's wrong because others may not see what's wrong. (Gender is one such concept where that happens.) So as I finish this noon with a strong cup of God-know-how-old coffee, I'll sit and hope people don't make the same bad thinking while awake that I did while asleep.

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