margin-top: 28px; The Unlikely Times: Ancient things never change

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ancient things never change

Over the weekend, a conversation turned to the somewhat tired topic of people who believe that Stonehenge and the Pyramids (a.k.a. anything ancient and big which took a lot of effort) could not have been built by humans. We glossed over it quickly and got on to more satisfying topics. But that very night I was reading the History of the Danes, by Saxo Grammaticus, written about 1200 A.D. And here was this funny parallel:

"That the country of Denmark was once cultivated and worked by giants, is attested by the enormous stones attached to the barrows and caves of the ancients. Should any man question that this is accomplished by superhuman force, let him look up at the tops of certain mountains and say, if he knows how, what man hath carried such immense boulders up to their crests. For anyone considering this marvel will mark that it is inconceivable how a mass, hardly at all or but with difficulty movable upon a level, could have been raised to so mighty a peak of so lofty a mountain by mere human effort, or by the ordinary exertion of human strength. But as to whether, after the Deluge went forth, there existed giants who could do such deeds, or men endowed beyond others with bodily force, there is scant tradition to tell us."

It's sobering to note that these things were ancient even 800 years ago. Sadly, it's easier to believe in supernatural causes than to believe that some group of humans just worked very hard. Compared to today, yes, there were "men endowed beyond others with bodily force" back then: simply men who would work themselves (or slaves) to death for goals whose importance has since been lost. 6 to 10 ordinary people can flip a car. We've all probably seen videos of bodybuilders pulling fire engines or bulldozers, even using just their teeth. I can easily picture what 100 or 1,000 strong men can do. I just don't see a disconnect. These things have never been impossible.

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