Wednesday, July 9, 2014
There is something in the human psyche that makes us want to look for buried treasure. It can be an actual trunk with a wrought iron lock or it can be at the bottom of the ocean in a sunken ship. It can even be the ever elusive Sasquatch roaming the wilderness of North America. On a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia--Oak Island--people have been exerting themselves for decades through fiendishly difficult environments searching for either buried pirate treasure or the wealth of the Knights Templars. Either one will bring considerable gratification, not to mention wealth.
In a sense, archaeology is a hunt for buried treasure. It is not particularly the monetary value but the chance to find something ancient, something untouched for centuries or an item that challenges long held beliefs. To reach across the centuries and say, 'Yes, this is how you lived, this is what you ate and how you found pleasure and enjoyment in your life.' We long for that connection; the commonality that unites us. We want to tell them that we now know of their challenges, the struggles that moved them and their society incrementally closer to our own. We want them to know that we are not so different and we appreciate what they did. Perhaps we long to go back to a simpler time before technology changed everything. Except for antibiotics and anaesthetic. We want to keep those.
There is a place in Arizona where trilobytes are almost as common as pebbles on the shore. At what was was a former inland sea, these million year old fossils can be picked up by campers and hikers easily. When I held one in my hand it was almost frightening but it was surely a treasure that had survived.