From Black Land to Fifth Sun: The Science of Sacred Sites

From Black Land to Fifth Sun: The Science of Sacred Sites

From Black Land to Fifth Sun: The Science of Sacred Sites

From Black Land to Fifth Sun: The Science of Sacred Sites

Synopsis

A prominent archaeologist uses the latest scientific techniques to interpret the spiritual lives of ancient people

Until Recently, Archaeology Was Concerned mainly with piecing together the material lives of our ancestors. In this groundbreaking book, master storyteller and respected archaeologist Brian Fagan explains how cutting-edge science can now take us beyond the artifacts -- into the mystical realm of shamans and spirit mediums, ancestor worship, and ritual sacrifice. From the Nile's black land to the Aztec's world of the Fifth Sun, from Stonehenge to Jericho, Fagan describes how Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Geographic Information Systems, Computer Automated Design-mapping and other sophisticated scientific methods are helping us to decode the religious and spiritual beliefs of our forebears. This new "archaeology of the mind" blends a wealth of scientific disciplines -- from botany, zoology, and geology to neuropsychology, palynology, and nuclear physics. With vivid imagery and a transporting voice, Fagan revolutionizes our understanding of the inner lives of ancient people.

Excerpt

From Black Land to Fifth Sun describes how archaeologists use modern science to study ancient cosmologies and religious beliefs. All archaeologists analyze the material remains of human behavior in the past, using such durable finds as pottery, stone tools, building foundations, and food remains. In recent years, some scholars have turned from the material to the intangible. They ask a question that was unthinkable even twenty years ago: What can archaeology tell us about the relationships between ancient cultures and their world as they perceived it? The answer comes from the cutting edge of a still-young discipline that treads a fine line between science and the free-for-all world of imagination and pseudoscience.

Archaeology is, fundamentally, a science that relies heavily on logical observation, reasoning, and plain old-fashioned common sense. Without such common sense, the sophisticated scientific methods described at intervals in these pages would be meaningless. Archaeology is not, however, an exact science replete with irrefutable proofs. We archaeologists study people in all their bewildering diversity and sometimes maddening perversity. Inevitably, we also describe, and interpret, the past through our own cultural biases and perspectives, which means that our conclusions are only mere— although hopefully close—approximations of reality. Imagine asking a Cro-Magnon family of 15,000 years ago to describe and interpret twentieth-century France with the aid of a spark plug, a handful of cow bones, a computer keyboard, a chess piece, and the concrete foundations of a shopping mall, and you will understand the complex . . .

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