Archaeologist David Wengrow pushes back against Ancient Apocalypse, urges us to consider the power of everyday people

Originally published at: Archaeologist David Wengrow pushes back against Ancient Apocalypse, urges us to consider the power of everyday people | Boing Boing


That part is true, but they chanted things like “You, get the ropes and snatch blocks hooked up to the block, and you, bring over that team of workers!” :rofl:


I remember the days of the Ancient Astronauts theories, from way back when. I always figured if you get enough people, attaching enough ropes and then pulling in unison, then you get big old hunks of stones moved and eventually levered into place, no outer space technology needed>


While it’s absurd and ridiculous, this kind of junk science is never just harmless crankery. Brush away the surface dirt and you’ll find white supremacy underneath.


I’m reading The Dawn of Everything RIGHT NOW! And they make some interesting and intriguing points. One thing that always bothered me was how the assumption was always made that modern hunter-gatherers were perfectly acceptable as stand-ins for ancient neolithic peoples… that they are just ancient people preserved in Amber, unchanging from the distant past… and how does that make any sense whatsoever. But they take that concept and just tear it apart. They also show that Native American critiques of European civilization played an important role in the various enlightenment political discussions!

Just really excellent stuff that helps to reinsert the humanity that many of the more racist, essentialist anthropology/archaeology has stripped away since the 19th century.


Also people underestimate the power of boredom in the days when the only mass media was people telling stories to each other.

“Nothing for us to do but wait for the grain to grow. You know what would be fun? Lets build a 'henge!”


never forget that in these ancient societies we had just as many Einsteins and Katherine Johnsons and Steve Jobs creating — solving. Plus they had the story tellers and dreamers like Asimovs keeping the knowledge alive between generations.

I have worked with low socioeconomic kids for over 20 years … in my classrooms I see that there are some really clever smart kids, there are story tellers, there are empathetic healers … we as a society have failed to kindle their internal fires to let them become their full selves.

We can do better


nice! - thank you for this book info


I’m only part way through, but it’s great!


This is never not funny


man, i had to read the entire post several times before i finally googly’d the book title to find that it is not, in fact, a collaboration between the problematic Mr Hancock and Mr. Graeber - a thought that had confused me greatly - and is indeed not Hancock, but Wengrew and Graeber.
whew! that bit had me really troubled for a bit. glad to clear that up.


@orenwolf, possible correction needed in the OP…


Welp, there’s my video entertainment for the evening.


You have to watch all of them. Matthew McConnaghey’s true identity will shock you.


Back in the 70s there was a book “Chariots of the Gods” about how aliens built the pyramids and everything else. The PBS show NOVA debunked it "Nova" The Case of the Ancient Astronauts (TV Episode 1978) - IMDb


It is truly amazing what ancient people have done, that we know about. To me, Stonehenge and the pyramids are incredible, and I’ve seen them myself. I’ve never been to Easter Island but that’s also an amazing accomplishment. Stonehenge and Easter Island were done by people so primitive they didn’t have a writing system (although maybe) or metal. For a long time it was mysterious how those things were even done, but they can be done by people with some creativity and lots of labor, without needing to invoke some mysterious ancient civilization, aliens, or whatever.

It’s pretty common for various groups to make up crazy pre-history for themselves. The Mormons have all kinds of beliefs about international travel between ancient Egypt and the Americas, although they seem to downplay those ideas as archeology makes progress.


Flinders Petrie was definitely a man of his time. Plenty to dislike about him as the article points out, but he is also one of the greatest Egyptologists of all time.

His work on the Giza Plateau was ironically originally inspired by the original nonsense archaeologists - those that believed the whole of human history and destiny was encoded in the dimensions of the Great Pyramid.

Petrie’s family were close friends of the greatest pyramidiot Charles Piazzi Smyth (a man who truly loathed the Egyptians) and Petrie’s phenomenal survey of the Giza Plateau which was only surpassed in accuracy relatively recently, was intended to prove Smyth’s ideas - it didn’t and Petrie pretty much founded scientific Egyptology as a consequence. Even today his work on the Giza Necropolis is regularly cited because it was so good - and so far ahead of the rest of contemporary archaeology, and because the site has been so altered in the past 120 years or so.

His work elsewhere in Egypt, at preDynastic sites close to Abydos and in the tombs of the First Dynasty kings was absolutely foundational to our understanding of how the Egyptian State emerged in the Old Kingdom, and he did enormously significant work excavating some of the Middle Kingdom Pyramids around the Fayum.

Mostly just wearing pink underpants.


Exactly. The refusal to accept that the Egyptian State was advanced enough to be able to coordinate huge numbers of people and distribute huge amounts of foodstuffs to workers during the 3-4 months when much of the country was underwater is fundamentally racist.

That they continue to refuse to accept it when the evidence of the workers and their lives has been excavated around the Giza Plateau for decades now is simply stupidity.

John Romer’s books on the Great Pyramid and the first volume of his three part history of Egypt are well worth a read for how the Egyptian State functioned in the Old Kingdom and the colossal amounts of evidence we have for the people who built these incredible monuments being the ancestors of modern Egyptians.


Recently I’ve been doing a fairly deep dive into the prehistoric cultures of the American Southwest (and into Mexico.) During the progression from roaming hunter-gatherers to the cliff dwellings of Ancestral Pueblans, there was some fairly sophisticated knowledge amassed in dryland farming and ecology, construction, astronomy, and other concepts that still astonish modern researchers. That, and the abrupt dispersal of the cultures that constructed things like Pueblo Bonito, Montezuma’s Castle and Mesa Verde, although still not well explained, seems like clickbait for ‘ancient alien’ theories, and I’m pleasantly surprised no one has tried to attribute it to anything but normal human behavior and abilities. They’ve certainly tried with Mesoamerica.


Racism wasn’t invented in the Enlightenment. Every traditional society had its racial theories including the Chinese, the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus, the Norse, the Aztecs and, based on the evidence, just about everyone else. They had their own genetic theories of superiority as well. Just about every civilization of any size was ruled by a genetic aristocracy.

The Enlightment was when Europeans started looking under the rock and examining their assumptions. The supremacy of religion was under attack after all the religious wars. The genetic aristocracy was being questioned. Even ideas about race and sex were being challenged as explorers returned with stories of other societies and peoples.

One of the point of the book being discussed was that this was the first time Europeans actually listened to outsiders explain their cultures and their views of European culture. This listening led to changes within Europe in terms of government, religion, philosophy, sex, race and culture. It’s a great book about the evolution of European thought.

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