Sunday, September 16, 2018

Stone Age Atlantis?

“The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age” is an interesting book by Richard Rudgley, a British scholar. I bought the book hoping it would contain some sensational information on Atlantis and related contrarian topics. Actually, most of the claims in Rudgley's work may not be *that* controversial today. Essentially, the author argues that the Stone Age saw a gradual and progressive development of “civilization”, eventually morphing into the well-known high cultures of the Bronze Age. I don't think anyone would deny that certain Neolithic cultures, such as Catal Huyuk or the megalith-builders, could be called “high cultures”. At the time the book was published, the idea that the Neanderthals had a symbolic culture and buried their dead was more contentious, but apparently the pendulum has swung the other way since then, rehabilitating the intelligence of Homo neanderthalensis.

Some other claims are probably still slightly beyond the pale of Neanderthal settlement. Rudgley has a soft spot for Marija Gimbutas and her ideas about an advanced matriarchy in “Old Europe”. He believes that Neolithic cultures developed writing and that even Paleolithic humans kept track of lunar phases and had basic mathematical knowledge. The most contrarian part of the book discusses sites in the Americas which suggest that the continent was inhabited already 50,000 years ago, or in one case 200,000 years ago (that's even more extreme than George F Carter's speculations about early man in America). However, even in the most “alternative” chapter, Rudgley also mentions facts that are undeniable, for instance that remains of Homo erectus have been found on Flores, an island in the East Indies. How did Homo erectus, usually assumed to be more primitive than Homo sapiens, manage to colonize an island?

Rudgley's purpose in writing “The Lost Civilizations” is to debunk Atlantis, since a more sophisticated Stone Age makes Donnelly, Hancock and hyperdiffusionism redundant. No Atlantis-type lost civilization is needed as an explanation for the supposedly “sudden” appearance of Bronze Age civilizations. Of course, there is a moderate version of Atlantomania which claims that Plato's fabled continent was actually a Stone Age culture, albeit an unusually advanced one (a kind of Über-Stonehenge, presumably). Ironically, “The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age” is referenced by Druid Revivalist and ritual magician John Michael Greer in his seminal “Atlantis: Ancient Legacy, Hidden Prophecy”.
Well, it's a small post-deluvian world!

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