Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ancient Idiots?

I found myself watching one of those programmes about supposed 'ancient astronauts' the other day. Don't ask me why, it was just on and I couldn't be arsed to change channels - an increasingly frequent affliction I seem to be suffering from.  Anyway, they were going through the usual schtick of presenting examples of Mayan and Aztec art in order to 'prove' that these civilisations had been visited by aliens in the distant past, trying to convince the audience that various carvings could only represent men in spacesuits and the like, because these ancient peoples couldn't possibly have had imaginations, could they?  Which is where I always part company with these sorts of programmes.  Why do these 'experts' find it so difficult to accept that anyone who lived before the twentieth century were capable of creating artwork depicting stuff from their imaginations?  Moreover, why do they think that all are art is purely representative?  Surely the point of art is that one isn't supposed to take it literally?  Mind you, the kind of people who believe in the whole 'ancient astronaut' nonsense would doubtless tell me that they aren't interpreting this ancient art in literal terms - they are reinterpreting it in extra-terrestrial terms.

But you know, sometimes a picture of a snake with a man's head emerging from its mouth might actually represent a snake with a man's head emerging from its mouth, rather than a man in a spacesuit.  Besides, you need to see it in the context of their cultural beliefs, which includes a lot of stuff about snake gods, but nothing about spacemen.  Ultimately, though, what the 'ancient astronaut' brigade seem to ignore is the fact that the people who created a lot of this art were undoubtedly off of their faces.  Hallucinogenic substances played a big part in the lives of many ancient civilisations in South America.  For them, it was less a trip than a religious experience.  It was perfectly natural that their art should reflect what they'd seen whilst under the influence.  Stuff like snakes with human heads emerging from their mouths, for instance.  I'm guessing that spaceships and aliens in spacesuits would seem pretty tame to the Mayans or Aztecs, compared to the sort of stuff they saw whilst out of their boxes on local narcotics.  To return, more or less, to the original point, I'm always somewhat bemused to find the purveyors of crackpot theories assuming that our ancestors were all idiots, incapable of creating their own civilisations or excercising any form of abstract thought.  Just because their available technologies and terms of reference were more limited than ours, doesn't mean that the ancients were any less sophisticated culturally, intellectually or artistically.  The idea that they'd need the intervention of external forces like aliens to advance themselves is not just idiotic, but insulting too.  

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home