Archaeology—the Romantic Science

When historians define their subject as a "chronological record of events," they are leaning toward the truth— but only leaning. For whereas this definition may aptly apply to a person's medical background, family tree or some other chain of continuing events that can be easily traced, historians have barely scratched the surface of the true history of the earth.

And what a surface it is!

Scarred by cataclysmic earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and devastating floods, and bombarded by an uncountable number of meteorites of varying sizes for thousands of years, the thin, rocky crust that covers our planet's molten core has undergone so many transformations that its current pockmarked face bears no resemblance to its original facade. The earth has been tortured unmercifully by the savage hands of time and bears the scars to prove it.

It has often been said that our imagination is the only quality that separates us as humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. Yet what really transpired on this planet during the early years of its development reaches far beyond our comprehension. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, science has made gigantic strides forward into outer space. But when it comes to relating the intricate details of our own distant history we stand mute. The ooparts—out-of-place artifacts—that have been uncovered over the years (see Secrets of the Lost Races) have introduced serious doubts into our concept of history. While they have enabled us to retrieve from antiquity minute details which have increased our understanding of the ancients, they have also intensified our bewilderment and stimulated our desire to learn more and more about those who have gone before us.

Our globe has had a catastrophic history—of that there is no doubt—and its human occupants are responsible for much of it. Apparently not satisfied with the intensity of natural calamities that disturbed the serenity of the blue planet, tribal warfare, rampaging armies, conquering despots and merciless tyrants have engulfed entire continents in practically continuous warfare, sometimes uprooting entire civilizations and destroying everything in their paths.

When looking at the ooparts of the past, it really doesn't take much imagination to realize that the silent unknown has hidden from us the stories of people whose lives might have been open books if their legacy had not been crushed by avenging armies. The ruthlessness of the Islamic conquerors and the brutal devastation and savage slaughter of humanity wrought by the Roman armies are but token examples of the upheavals caused by the unpredictability of the earth's confused occupants. And whenever plundering armies approached or civil unrest threatened, frightened people gathered their belongings and fled into the hills and onto the beaches in order to hide their treasures in remote places considered unlikely to attract the greedy eyes of the frenzied looters. Sometimes they hid them so well that the treasure troves remained entombed for thousands of years, awaiting discovery by the lenses of infrared cameras or the finely tuned electronic metal detectors of the twentieth century—not to mention the probing minds of psychic investigators.

The continual discovery of various ooparts is beginning to bring us closer to our forefathers in a way we never imagined. Studying the various remnants of their technological achievements has added an entirely new dimension to our concept of the lives of these peoples. We are now beginning to learn how they may have lived, and the scattered fragments of their high technology are providing us with little hints that enable us to effect an imaginary reconstruction of some of their accomplishments.

But there is more to be discovered, and the soil that is being turned over by archaeologists with romantic vision is slowly beginning to yield still more of its buried secrets. Archaeology has often been called the "romantic science" because it is a science where dreamers abound. But it is those dreamers who have dug deep into the distant hills and have discovered vast treasures in a thousand different places, testifying not just to the technology but also to the tremendous riches of the nations of old. Archaeologists and their amateur counterparts periodically stumble on some of these secret hiding places; and when they do, others soon join the hunt, spending long hours in smoke-filled rooms, studying ancient maps and translating fragmentary inscriptions, searching for clues to other treasures.

Not long ago a hoard of 139 bronze coins dating back to the reign of Agrippa I (A.D. 37-44) was discovered in an old oil lamp during a series of well-planned excavations of a first-century (A.D.) building at a kibbutz near En-Gedi on the shores of the Dead Sea. The find caused a momentary flurry of excitement. But much more spectacular was the accidental discovery made by a summer volunteer with an archaeological team that was unearthing the walled city of Kurnub some twenty-four miles southeast of Beersheba. There the scraping tools of the amateur archaeologist found, stuffed in a bronze jar hidden in a stairwell, no fewer than 10,000 Roman provincial silver tetradrachms, most of which had been struck during the third century after Christ.

Who hid them, and why?

Only the earth knows, and she doesn't tell—at least not audibly. Our planet is still reluctant to share her treasures, but even so, they are slowly being brought to the surface.

The city of Augst in Switzerland was the site of another interesting find in the early 1960s, when excavations with a mechanical shovel uncovered a treasure hoard consisting of almost three hundred pieces of extremely ornate silver, including medals, dishes, eating implements, ingots, and candelabra. Historians who rushed to the scene soon identified the items as having belonged to the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, who lived in the Roman fort of Augusta Raurica, leaving there in A.D. 351, never to return. It has been speculated that his belongings were buried for safekeeping by loyal servants who then presumably died with the emperor.

It is fascinating to watch both professional and amateur archaeologists in the field with their scraping tools and brushes, probing and cleaning unidentified fragments of something they hope will have historical value. Archaeology as a science isn't all that old. In fact, until the eighteenth century, unearthed artifacts were thought to have been the tools of dwarfs and witches, and it was left to Thomas Jefferson to enter history as the first truly "scientific" archaeologist. It was he who excavated the Indian mounds in his native Virginia, keeping careful notes of his digs and observations—practices which were unheard of up to that time. Napoleon's scientific commission to Egypt and the British and French expeditions to Mesopotamia, on the other hand, were concerned not so much with scientific observation as with grabbing whatever they could and dragging it home as efficiently as possible.

They were merely collecting enterprises. From that point on, the study of archaeology proceeded undisturbed but without specific guidelines for many years. It was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that the subject, began to find its own niche in the world of scientific inquiry.

Stimulated by the thoughts of such men as ethnologist Lewis Henry Morgan and Sir Edward Taylor, the early anthropologists entered the scene, reasoning that if there was indeed such a process as biological evolution, then why not consider the possibility of a social evolution as well? Suddenly the search for clues was on, and anthropologists and historians began to examine minutely the soil of the earth, hoping to recover traces of extinct societies.

The advances made since the second world war in the fields of electronics, space exploration and high-resolution photography have introduced new techniques to archaeology and have opened new vistas, greatly expanding the reach of the conventional spade.

Aerial photography has been an accepted tool of the archaeologist for years, and it has proved to be an extremely effective one. From the very moment it was realized that photographs taken from airplanes could sometimes reveal traces of buried structures or roads not visible from the ground, aerial photography was "in." Thanks to new film and filters, aerial pictures can almost be said to talk, for under favorable conditions they present a veritable X ray of topographic features that might otherwise be overlooked.

The photographic capabilities, of space satellites which transmit high-resolution pictures of selected target areas back to earth have tied archaeology and photography even closer together. The heart of this process is a new technology called "remote sensing," which means sophisticated interpretation of photographs and other data provided by high-flying aircraft and earth-orbiting satellites. Aerial reconnaissance has several advantages for the archaeologist. It allows scanning for ancient sites much more quickly, less expensively, and on a far greater scale than would ever be possible on the ground. Much of the photography done this way is stereoscopic, providing precise three-dimensional measurement. Computers help manipulate photographs to bring out traces that might escape the human eye. These add up to a new "nondestructive archaeology" which discovers sites but does not disturb them, as opposed to the manual probing of ruins, which leaves them exposed to potential harm. Using photographs such as these, historical detectives have managed to discover hidden structures in Great Britain, lost irrigation canals in Mesopotamia, Etruscan cities in Italy, remains of ancient biblical cities in the Holy Land, and many other centers of antiquity still to be investigated.

But that's only part of the story. Photographs only indicate that there is something underneath the earth's surface. At this point another modern-age tool, the resistivity meter, takes over. With the aerial photographs as a guide, electrodes are hammered into the ground at strategic points, and an electric current is passed through the ground. Buried objects or structures tend to obstruct the expected current flow, and measuring this resistance supplies the field archaeologist with guidelines as to where to dig and possibly what to expect.

The development of the transistor and the subsequent miniaturization of the mine detectors used by the armed forces have led to still another important development— that of scouting for buried metallic objects with the use of metal detectors. Professionals and amateurs alike now comb fields and beaches for buried treasure, and when the original aerial photographs and resistivity soundings are further supported by the insistent beeps of a metal detector, the romance of archaeology evolves into diligently planned activity.

During explorations that were being conducted in Tarquinia in 1958, a geophysical prospecting team found indications of the presence of a great number of what appeared to be tombs in the ancient Etruscan cemetery of Monterozzi, forty miles northwest of Rome. Aerial photography and electrical probing techniques had located several promising spots; and in order to make a detailed inspection of the tombs without disturbing their tranquillity, the experts decided to utilize their newest tool, the "photographic drill."

Developed by Carlo M. Lerici, vice-president of the Lerici Foundation of the Milan Polytechnic Institute, the "drill" consists of a three-inch tube that has been fitted with a tiny Minox camera of the type originally used in wartime espionage. The camera, which is extremely compact and uses a film only slightly larger than regular 8-mm movie film, is mounted behind a window in the tube, while a second window in the tube houses the high-intensity flash unit.

After a hole had been drilled in one of the tombs with an electric earth drill, the tube was slowly lowered into the cavity below. The Etruscan tombs have often been called the "tombs of gold" because of the jewelry and other objects that have been found buried with the dead; and it was with high expectations that Franco Brancaleoni, the leader of the field party, pushed the remote-control button, taking picture after picture. After he had taken twelve shots, turning the camera thirty degrees after each exposure, the entire interior of the tomb had been photographed; then the tube was retracted, leaving only a three-inch hole in the covering rock.

The treasures revealed by the pictures were astounding in many ways, for instead of gold, the camera had photographed a sixth-century B.C. art collection of frescoes of such rare beauty that renowned experts such as Professor Bartoccini and his associate Dr. Mario Moretti of Rome are even today astonished at the quality of this unexpected find.

But while we live in the twentieth century and have access to the newest developments in the field of science in our search for treasure, we are still deeply affected by superstition and by belief in supernatural guidance from one source or another; and thus it was only a matter of time until the psychics would bring their highly controversial talents to bear on the science of archaeology. Using psychic insight is admittedly a rather unorthodox approach to a respected discipline, and because of that it has kicked up a veritable dust storm of debate. In my work as a journalist, I was first confronted with the practice in the early seventies while writing a book about a self-proclaimed psychic, David Bubar.

"My relationship with Ike [Miller] began in the year 1964, when I visited an acquaintance, Dave Early, in Eureka, California," David recalled. "His brother-in-law, Joe Jessel, was reputed to be a faith healer, and desperate people from both the United States and Canada continually sought his help. One such man who was searching for a cure for his arthritis was Ike Miller.

"I fail to recall why Ike happened to be at the Earlys' that day, but I was with him only a few moments when I psychically 'felt' silver all around him. When I told him he grinned, tobacco juice dripping down the corners of his mouth.

" 'I've been a prospector and a jack-of-all-trades most of my life,' he countered proudly. 'I'll be eighty-three on January 24, and you name it and I've been there and done it!'

"I sat down beside the old miner and concentrated on him.

Archaeology—the Romantic Science.

" 'I feel that you have connections with several pieces of property,' I told him, and went on to describe each of them in the minutest detail. 'Two of these lots are in a mountainous region, and I see a heavy silver vein running through the mountain.'

"We talked some more about prospecting in general, and then parted for the evening. I thought our discussion was finished. That is, until he called me a few months later from somewhere in British Columbia.

" 'I've got me some old maps of this mountain terrain up here,' he shouted excitedly over the phone, 'and want to mail them to you. I have a feeling there's a lot of silver up here. Can you take a look at the maps and mark the spots for me?'

"Not long after our conversation, I received the maps. Silver veins ran in all directions . . . With a thick crayon I carefully marked several X's on the maps and mailed them back to him.

"Shortly thereafter I received another phone call from Ike.

" 'Got the maps, David,' he chuckled. 'You must be quite something.- Your X's are just about where I had figured the silver must be. What now?'

" 'Jump, Ike! Jump on it!' I said as forcefully as I could. 'There is a lot of silver up there, but you'll be too late if you don't charter a helicopter today—right now— and stake your claim. Tomorrow will be your last chance. Saturday will be too late. File those claims tomorrow or forget it!' "

Without a moment's delay Ike chartered a helicopter, staked his claims and filed them the next day. How fortunate that he did, for the following day headlines screamed about one of the largest silver strikes in British Columbia's history, and precisely in the same area. Within hours eager prospectors were crawling all over the mountains, with their picks and shovels at the ready, staking claims left and right and swearing their choicest oaths when stopped by Ike Miller's claims.

But that wasn't all. One evening a few short weeks later, as I was having a sandwich with some friends, the phone rang. It was Ike.

" 'I'm rich, David!' he yelled into the phone. 'I've struck it rich! Remember the mountain you said was on one of the claims? Well, it's an artificial mountain. It was a huge pile of silver ore. This pile was formed when overhead buckets from another mining operation passed over this piece of land years ago, sloshing some of the ore from the buckets as they made a sharp turn. In time a huge pile of ore has built up—and now it's mine!'

" 'How high is the pile of ore?' I asked.

" 'About seventy-five thousand tons of it,' Miller replied.

" 'How much do you think it's worth?'

" 'There's over a million dollars' worth of ore lying there, David,' he replied in a hushed tone; and with a voice choking with emotion he added, I am rich, David! I am rich! It has finally happened!' "

This occurred back in 1964. It never made the headlines; psychic geology and psychic archaeology didn't make much of an impression in those days. Today, however, things are changing. In a recent article in the January/February 1981 issue, Science Digest calls attention to a number of notable cases of psychic archaeology and reports that a Los Angeles-based firm called Mobius used psychics to help them uncover the two-thousand-year-old Ptolemaic ruins of the ancient city of Alexandria in Egypt. The Mobius Group, founded by Stephen A. Schwartz in 1977, is an independent research organization working primarily in the field of applied parapsychology. Beginning in late 1978, after several smaller experiments, Mobius began planning a project which by now has given them a good deal of publicity, most of it favorable. The thrust of the Alexandria Project, as it is known, was to investigate Alexandria's harbor for artifacts dating back to the time of Egypt's Queen Cleopatra. In two separate diving experiments during 1979-80, the thirty-nine-year-old Schwartz and his team of divers found the columns and walls of a large house they believe to be the actual remains of the home of Egypt's Cleopatra, the queen who ensnared Roman emperor Julius Caesar and his general Mark Antony. They also claim to have found the ruins of Mark Antony's palace, known as the Timonium, in nearby waters at a depth of eighteen to twenty-five feet. Other finds by Mobius in the same area include a seven-to-eight-foot stone pharaonic crown which may have been part of a statue of the god Osiris; the body of a small sphinx; and a large temple complex close to the area where Pharos Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was discovered.

Schwartz's method for locating these hidden objects with the use of psychics is unique. At the start of a project, he mails each psychic on his list a map of the area, together with a list of relevant questions, each one sealed in an envelope. He calls it his "fortune cookie approach." "The psychics get the envelopes, tear them open, read the questions, and respond to them, using whatever approach they find comfortable. While we don't understand a lot of this very well, we do know that we have individuals who work with us regularly and who consistently provide accurate data. The psychics involved in the project circle areas of interest on their map and describe what they "feel" or "see" there. Once all these maps are back at Mobius headquarters, the originals are photocopied and put into a bank. The copies then become the basis for an overlay which shows areas of consensus. It is at this point that the scientists take over from the psychics and put their expertise to work.

Mobius is convinced of the validity of its method, but all doubts have not been erased from the archaeological community. Robert Bianchi, associate director of Egyptian and classical art of the Brooklyn Museum, is one who doesn't believe in it. "There are bound to be underwater ruins in a place as big as Alexandria," he reasons, "but whether they can be identified is another story." In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Schwartz defended his use of paranormal phenomena. In response to criticism about his Alexandria Project, he said, "There is no question that a great number of scientists don't believe [in the paranormal], find it difficult to understand, or have an emotional position based on no knowledge whatsoever. It is also true that many of the leading scientists in the country not only accept it as, reality, but are actively doing research in it.

"Physicists, among others, have taken a close look at paranormal abilities during the last decade. In 1979, nine respected scientists wrote The Iceland Papers, detailing physical experiments on psychics. In the book, Brian D. Josephson, Nobel laureate of physics at Cambridge University, wrote, 'in recent years, a number of reputable scientists have entered the field [of paranormal research] with expert knowledge of how to perform good experiments . . . still it appears that the phenomena occur.' "

Controversial? Most definitely. But Mobius is not the only one to claim that psychics have the inside track.

Half a world away in Arizona, Jeffrey D. Goodman, a professional archaeologist, claims that it was a psychic who led him to a site in the mountains near Flagstaff that may contain 100,000-year-old human artifacts, even though his training has taught him that Homo sapiens did not appear on the world scene until approximately 40,000 years ago—though even that is one hundred percent speculation. What this all means is that psychic investigators are now beginning to supply information that may be too startling even to the individuals who hired them for their "expertise." Thus, Goodman's findings have not solved a problem but have merely added fuel to the controversy concerning psychic archaeology.

Comments Kenneth L. Feder of Central Connecticut State College, "Psychic archaeologists don't want to play by the same rules that scientists play by. They don't set out to test their hypotheses; they set out to prove them."

But is that so bad? No matter which technique or discovery method is used to retrieve the treasures tucked away deep within the folds of Mother Earth, whether it be a crude spade, satellite photography, current resistivity, metal detectors or psychic visions, discovering the undiscovered is the ultimate aim, and this aim has become one of this century's major preoccupations. Professionals are now joined by the amateurs with their costly detection equipment and inventive methods, which will only add to the controversy of who's right and who's wrong; but let's hope this will not distract either group from their goal. Whatever they find will undoubtedly further our understanding of the customs, development, technical know-how and riches of the many nations whose memories and treasures were inadvertently trampled underfoot.