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Ancient Origins – Ancient Diversity…

by Richard Sutton on February 11, 2017

From childhood, I’ve wondered a lot about how diverse the ancient world must have been. Once I understood, from reading history books in school and the few really engaged teachers I was lucky enough to have, that history is written by the conquerors; I began to mentally assemble alternatives to the Roman-Centric precedents to our civilization. Laughably, not the regular sort of thing for a twelve-year old to think about frequently; but then, I was also a “cereal box reader” and non-stop tinkerer, so attempting to figure out the past just made some kind of sense, I guess. At least to me.

In the interim, with more education and actual research, I realized my half-baked childhood theories weren’t that far off from the truth of things or at least the current thinking. The Roman World was one of flaring resentments, widespread warfare and reprisal. The often-touted, Pax Romana was only secure and peaceful for some lucky Romans. Amid the chaos of military occupation and crushing cultural burdens as Rome’s rule settled upon mostly unwilling shoulders, there are stories of almost miraculous preservation of the older cultures and languages despite the yoke of occupation. An amazing resourcefulness was displayed as the older cultures resisted in any ways they could, then rebounded. The sudden resurgence of Clan Rules and unchecked xenophobia in the outlying regions once Rome’s heavy hand was even partially lifted, led directly to what we now call the Dark Ages. It’s a natural succession we see today in many conflicts worldwide. In truth, however, I can imagine it was plenty dark for many cultures long before the Dark Ages. Their survival, even in fragments seems miraculous.

The knowledge compounded over millennia by these cultures has had some revealing light shed upon it over the years. In some cases, a better understanding has grown through the work of committed archaeologists and linguists. Recently, the new-ish science of genetics has provided better understandings of ancient bloodlines and the migrations of the earliest of our cousins and direct forebears. But entire worlds of ancient secular knowledge and culture remain obscure, even completely unknown.

Four of these subjects particularly attracted my young mind and have persisted to the present. They are, the Library at Alexandria, storehouse of vast amounts of ancient learning and knowledge going back to Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt around 330 BCE (and quite possibly even further than that); the ancient “sinking” of a large, highly advanced civilization somewhere to the West of Gibraltar and referred to by Roman historians as “Atlantis”; The still largely unknown “Sea People”, including Danites (also referred to as the Danaan and the Shardana), Pelasgians and Phoenicians who possibly invented written language, developed navigation and wide-ranging trade routes as well as introducing metallurgy; and finally, the European Celtic tradition which still endures despite Rome’s strenuous efforts to eradicate it.

Researching remnant cultures can be very time-consuming as there is no clear arc of data to follow. Each bit is a new discovery and requires puzzling out how it fits or adjusting the framework to admit it. The recorded histories of these four subjects only touch upon dim fragments of truth left from the conquests of the Hellenes and later Rome and the Ascendant Church. The remaining compilations accepted now as known facts are very few and mostly serve to excite speculation. Almost all of the individual, secular knowledge of ancient cultures in Europe, The Middle-East and Northern Africa has been lost to the torch or to revisionists. Scattered, monumental art and architecture remain along with some scraps of engineering mathematics, poems, prayers and the occasional commercial document; but ascendant, conquering cultures among our species, seem to always find the need to cast the conquered as inferior in as many ways as possible. Part of this process involves eliminating reference to, or ridiculing any previous knowledge which might disagree with their own. If they can’t simply rewrite it as their own invention.  Another common practice still used in today’s world, is to build over the remains of older cultures, erasing memories in the process.

In my mind, the only thing left to do, beyond lots and lots of digging and site documentation, is to write informed speculative historic fiction. In this way, we can use available research to try and reveal some of the enormous possibilities of what might have been. Storytelling is a deep part of what makes us human. Many unseen, older influences still work their magic in our world and can be found in quirks of language, folk-tales, superstitions, traditional medicines and many other examples that remain active today. Since there is often little left to create a direct line of facts accurately describing these ancient ancestors and details of their practices, it’s left to writers to describe them. In my own work, I hope that readers might find a passage that will fire a spark in them.  Maybe even open their eyes and hearts to remain on the lookout for anything which reveals a glimmer of truth about how we got to be who we are and how wonderfully diverse our family has always been. In that spirit, I’ve begun my new series, The Gift. I hope it will find readers that enjoy wondering as well as discovery.

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