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Forgotten Ancient Secrets of Memory

The vast Hebrew Torah that, according to conventional scholarship, comes down to us as the first five books of the Bible, was passed down orally from generation to generation, long before it was written down in the sixth century BC. Similar claims can be made for many ancient scriptures including those of Indian religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

Speech or song, folktales, ballads, chants, prose, or verses have been used with great accuracy for thousands—or even tens of thousands—of years. The phenomenon has caused many to wonder how anyone could remember so much. Certainly, it is a gift seldom found in today’s Google-and-short-attention-span culture.

Australian science writer Lynne Kelly is convinced that sacred places, like Stonehenge, Nazca, Easter Island, and sites all over the ancient world have played a little understood, but crucial, role in the preservation of ancient memory. In her book The Memory Code Kelly argues that neolithic people were able to use their monumental memory places to train their minds. The nomadic Britons, she thinks, may have originally preserved knowledge, by using the landscape as a mnemonic tool, much as is used in the memorization technique known as Method of Loci. Operating as a kind of memory enhancement technique, the method employs visualizations and spatial memory, familiar information about one’s environment, to facilitate the quick and efficient recall of information. The Britons, says Kelly, could have built Stonehenge in an attempt to replicate locally a more distant landscape, helping them to memorize and store knowledge that would otherwise be forgotten. Circles and stones or timber posts could have represented the landscape, and each stone would have been associated with a segment of their knowledge system.

The henges across northern Europe, the elaborate stone houses of New Mexico, huge animal shapes in Peru, the statues of Easter Island were all built, believes Kelly, to serve as “the most effective memory system ever invented by humans.”

 

Lost Civilization –Advanced and Otherwise– Above the Arctic Circle

According to a December 2017 report from National Public Radio (NPR), an archaeological dig at Alaska’s Bering Land Bridge National Preserve can tell us a lot about living with climate change. During a period of significant warming about a thousand years ago, the indigenous local peoples were forced to find new ways to get the food needed for survival and, in the process, learned many tricks now memorialized in hundreds of artifacts, including knives, sled runners, leather clothing, whale bone implements, and much more. Archaeologists from the University of Patheon-Sorbonne and the University of Alaska Fairbanks are doing the study at a site called ‘Rising Whale.’ Earnest though they may be, however, the researchers could be missing the most important, albeit forgotten, chapter in the long saga of human survival above the Arctic Circle.

Just a few hundred miles further north, on the Point Hope Peninsula, in 1938, the archaeologist F.G. Rainey found, outlined in the permafrost, the extensive remains of a settlement, which he would later call Ipiutak. In a report for the widely respected Natural History Magazine, Rainey wrote, “We have now found an Arctic metropolis many times larger than anything previously thought possible in this part of the world and inhabited by people whose material culture differed markedly from that of the Eskimos, as we know them.” Another researcher, Rene Noorbergen, wrote in his popular 1979 book Secrets of Lost Races that the prehistoric inhabitants of Ipiutak “had a knowledge of mathematics and astronomy comparable to that of the ancient Maya.” Though scant attention has been paid to the Ipiutak story, it remains to this day without any satisfactory explanation from orthodox academia.

For more on Rainey’s exploration see Frank Joseph’s article “Lost City of the Arctic” in Atlantis Rising #123, May/June 2017.

CAPTION: Domestic ruins in the Rising Whale archaeological site, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.