I am far from certain what the above object is, nor how old it may be. It lies at the centre of a large garden that borders the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, Cusco Peru. It seems to be made from black basalt rock and its precise and complex form defies any attempts by modern minds to guess at its function and purpose. I suspect it dates from before the arrival of the Spanish in South America – perhaps many thousands of years before the Incas. If so, how may we explain the existence of the sophisticated knowledge and technology that must have produced it? (© Dave Truman).
More Questions than there are Answers
I have been obsessed with the remote past for as long as I can remember. What is more, I have come to the conclusion that our human past is far more extensive – and downright strange – than we are encouraged to believe.
Even at the age of four or five, I recall that I used to answer, ‘archaeologist’ when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Granted, I did not become an archaeologist, but my passion for the past has never abated in the years since then.
History, and what we call prehistory, are as much a reflection of our own aspirations, dilemmas, fears and preoccupations as they are a true image of the past. The value of the past, it is often said, lies in what it can teach us about the modern world and our place in it. This is the essence of George Santayana’s oft paraphrased statement, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Santayana’s maxim is astute, but only if we have the ability to perceive at least something of what was very different about the world and the people who inhabited it in distant epochs.
The Lost Science of the Andes – the book and website – are my attempts to gaze into the history and prehistory of South America, as well as across the wider ancient world. I have tried to set myself free from the shackles of exclusively modern world-views. In doing so, I feel that I have gained certain insights. Wherever possible, I have tried to allow concepts and voices from the past to speak for themselves. I have found a singular coherence to those voices across many parts of the globe, which raises the unfashionable spectre of ancient cultural diffusions.
That said, I have not ruled out all modern ways of thinking, but I have sought to question the all-too common assumption that we in the contemporary western world must know better than any ancient predecessors. (There is a case to be made that some mysterious artefacts are far more ‘modern’ than we today are able to appreciate, either culturally or technologically).
This has been – and continues to be – a surprising and exciting experience that I should like to share with you.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting.