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NEW CHALLENGES TO CIVILIZATION’S AGE

Turkey and Syria are both providing new evidence for the greater antiquity of civilization, and establishment re­searchers are once again being challenged to reexamine their assumptions and readjust their timelines.

In October, archaeologists reported finding a building in Syria dating to 8,800 B.C. and in the meantime artifacts in Turkey have been dated to 10,000 B.C.

The Syrian building is a large circular affair near the town of Ja’de on the banks of the Euphrates. Eric Coqueug­niot, a French archaeologist who led the investigating team, says the building takes the shape of a bull’s head and ap­parently served a ceremonial purpose. Many multicolored geometrical paintings, said to be the oldest ever found, dec­orate the building.

At Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, researchers believe they have made discoveries even more dramatic. Unearthed has been what could be a temple older than the one in Syria. The sculpture of some sort of reptile or dragon is carved in great detail, and many standing stones on the site bear neolithic carvings. Klaus Schmidt, the lead archaeologist, thinks the artwork tells the story of the Garden of Eden, which he believes represented the transition from hunter-gatherer to agrarian society.

Like recent discoveries in the Gulf of Cambay in India and elsewhere, the new finds provide evidence for advanced culture before the end of the last ice age, but some suspect that despite all the drama, we have, so far, barely scratched the surface of the ancient records.

ATLANTIS ON SARDINIA?

The well-known game of arguing that your own country or its environs was once the site of Atlantis is still afoot. Over the years nearly every place on earth has been entered in the Atlantis sweepstakes. From Emanuel Swedenborg’s Swe­den, to the claims of many anglophiles for the British Isles, from arguments for South and North America to the Med­iterranean, all have found new and chauvinistic ways to reinterpret Plato. The latest comes from the Italian island of Sardinia, where, not surprisingly, an Italian is making the argument.

Journalist Sergio Frau has written a book The Pillars of Hercules on the subject and seems to have excited quite a bit of interest in some sectors. In fact the United Nations cultural heritage body UNESCO staged an October sympo­sium in Paris to suggest that the idea is worth serious consideration.

Plato was the earliest writer to mention Sardinia. The island was destroyed by a natural disaster which some be­lieve was a tsunami in the third or fourth century B.C. Frau’s main point is that Alexandrian geographer and librarian Erathothenes, in the third and second centuries B.C., made a mistake on the location of the Pillars of Hercules, which became the basis of our modern designation for the spot. Frau says the actual Pillars referenced by Plato were, in fact, on Sicily. If true, then Sardinia, he says, becomes the obvious location for Atlantis.

Frau believes the bronze age Nuragic people, whose well-known ruins still exist, were the Atlanteans. The Nuragic civilization is thought to have been wiped out by a tsunami around 1175 B.C.

As with most other Mediterranean-area Atlantis theories, such as the Santorini hypothesis popularized by Jacques Cousteau, Frau’s case does not take seriously many of Plato’s original Atlantean details such as the island kingdom’s great size (larger than Libya and Asia Minor combined) and great antiquity (more than nine millennia before Plato). By thus discounting Plato’s actual account, Frau makes himself acceptable to orthodox scholars, who scoff at any ar­gument which takes Plato at his word. The irony is that despite the near universal rejection of Plato’s literal Atlantis by mainstream science, the campaign to explain him away has never stopped.

THRACIANS WERE BRAIN SURGEONS

The ancient Thracians, according to the Iliad, were allies of the Trojans. Now a new discovery in Bulgaria indicates they were also brain surgeons.

A skull unearthed near the city of Svilengrad contains a precisely cut hole which appears to have been for surgery. Dated from 2500 to 1800 B.C. the skull is said to be the first evidence of such medical practices from Thracian times.

Archaeologist Georgi Nehrizov, who headed the team of researchers, announced the discovery.

Other ancient skulls with similar surgical holes have turned up in other regions throughout the world. Recently discoveries in Pakistan and China show the ancients were capable of drilling very small and very precise holes in teeth and elsewhere, as long as 9,000 years ago. Maybe the primitive stereotyping of our ancient ancestors can soon be replaced with a little respect.

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