Lost Civilizations: Human History Hidden in Plain Sight
New imaging techniques have revealed extensive ancient human settlements in two very different remote environments.
Sahara civilization: By scanning satellite images, David Mattingly from the University of Leicester found that habitation of the Sahara from 1000 BC to 700 AD was much more widespread than realized. Lizzie Wade at Science Magazine reports on a presentation given to the AAAS. In “Drones and satellites spot lost civilizations in unlikely places,” she says that Mattingly–
…studies a culture known as the Garamantes, which began building a network of cities, forts, and farmland around oases in the Sahara of southern Libya around 1000 B.C.E….
Many Garamantian structures are still standing in some form or another today, but very few have been visited by archaeologists. It’s hard to do fieldwork in the hot, dry, remote Sahara, Mattingly explains. “And that relative absence of feet on the ground leads to an absence of evidence” about the Garamantes and other cultures that may have thrived before the Islamic conquest of the region. But because many Garamantin sites haven’t been buried or otherwise destroyed, they show up in stunning detail in satellite photos. By analyzing such images, “in an area of about 2500 square kilometers, we’ve located 158 major settlements, 184 cemeteries, 30 square kilometers of fields, plus a variety of irrigation systems,” Mattingly says.
That phrase “the Islamic conquest of the region” sounds hauntingly familiar, as ISIS makes inroads into modern Libya.
Amazon civilization: Just as startling was the presentation by José Iriarte, an archaeologist at the University of Exeter. He is using drones outfitted with radar and infrared cameras to peel away the story of ancient Amazonian dwellings. His findings are changing the paradigm about rain forest inhabitants:
When ecologists look at the Amazon, they see “virgin wilderness” untouched by humans, Iriarte says. But thanks to the discovery of large-scale earthworks called geogylphs and terra preta—“black earth” that was purposely enriched by humans in the past—archaeologists have concluded that at least parts of the rainforest must have been home to large, agricultural settlements. “Now it’s time to start quantifying past human impact in different parts of the Amazon,” Iriarte says….
If past cultures “farmed” the rainforest by cultivating helpful crops in specific places, their practices may have shaped which species grow where, even today—which could change the way we think about conservation in the Amazon. “The very biodiversity that we seek to safeguard may itself be a legacy of centuries or millennia of human intervention,” Iriarte says.
Iriarte is rushing because development threatens to erase the signs of past civilization.
Wade weighs the impact of these discoveries:
What do the Sahara desert and the Amazon rainforest have in common? Until recently, archaeologists would have told you they were both inhospitable environments devoid of large-scale human settlements. But they were wrong. Here today at the annual meeting of the AAAS (which publishes Science), two researchers explained how remote sensing technology, including satellite imaging and drone flights, is revealing the traces of past civilizations that have been hiding in plain sight.
There could also be important lessons in considering the inhabitants of those areas today. If those areas once supported thriving cultures, why are they forsaken now?
Remember the paradigm of jungle tribes, naked in a virgin forest, living close to nature like the early hunter gatherers of upwardly-evolving man frozen in time? Remember evolutionists depicting them as savages not as far on the evolutionary scale as civilized people? (That was Darwin’s view.) These new findings are flipping that image upside down. Their ancestors built extensive settlements, made large earthworks, and processed the soil. Those ancestors shaped the jungle environment by planting their preferred crops. If anything, today’s inner rainforest tribes have degenerated from those high levels of culture. The Garamantians built large structures, cemetaries and extensive irrigation systems.
All through observable human history, we see evidence of human beings acting as highly capable and intelligent beings, capable of great works requiring long-term planning and social cooperation. From the first written records, we see accounting and long-distance trade. The picture fits the Biblical record of mankind’s dispersion after Babel, not a long, slow, gradual evolution. The environment was different, too. Satellite images show river beds under the Sahara that suggest a former rich habitat just a few thousand years ago; look how quickly it changed! It didn’t take millions of years. Egypt, Israel and Iraq probably were much more fertile than they are now, as would be expected for the days after the Flood. And on the other side of the world, large pluvial lakes in California and Nevada show evidence of vast inland seas that dried up into the hot deserts (like Death Valley) that they are today.
All this evidence of rapid dispersion of intelligent humans into scattered civilizations in a time of different climate fits the Genesis record, not evolution. “Archaeologists would have told you…. But they were wrong,” Wade said. Darwin’s teachings have misled history, archaeology and anthropology long enough. We have a written record; let’s use it. And let’s learn from the long-lost Garamantians that Islamic conquest means death and destruction. Those who love civilization and reason must band together against those who intent on destroying both.