How not to Investigate Old Stuff

2000 was an exciting year for old stuff. It looked like ancient history was about to be re-written. The Indian science and technology ministir released a story alleging that ruins were found 40m below the surface of the Bay of Cambay. They had found structures that resembled cities found in the Indus Valley. This was found by using sonar to map the rocks underneath a layer of sediment. A year later they dredged up some of the sediment and found a block of wood that was dated to 9,500 BCE. By the beginning of 2002, the BBC was reporting on the new city that would rewrite the way we look at the development of civilization.

Does anyone see the problem with this? First, there had been absolutely no real investigation of these ruins. They were simply lying under a pile of dirt. Second, the wood block could in no way be significantly linked to the ruins. The bay was at the mouth of the river, so this wood could have come from anywhere. Third, and most importantly, none of this had been peer reviewed before the press got ahold of it. Ironically the BBC article brought the attention of archaeologists from all over the world, who quickly debunked the idea that we had completely overlooked a 9,500 year old civilization.

Moral of this story? Check your sources. Try to read through the lines. Also, if you’re out there digging stuff up, make sure you do it in a sound manner. I’ve already posted occasions where people dug stuff up in good faith, but it turns out they were ruining any hope of further investigation. Not to get too preachy, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Also, these guys should have given up way long ago, I mean, the world is only 5,000 years old. Geez.

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Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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