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No. 19: Jan-Feb 1982

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The Diffusion Of Science In Prehistoric Times

In contrast to many archeologists who tend to play down the intelligence of prehistoric humans, B.A. Frolov insists that these "primitive hunters" constucted surprisingly sophisticated models of the natural world, especially the motions of celestial bodies. Many of these models seem to have been non-utilitarian; that is, built only to satisfy intellectual curiosity. Furthermore, some scientific notions were widespread geographically, indicating perhaps long lines of communication. To illustrate, Frolov cites the similar astronomical sophistication revealed by the Lake Onega petroglyphs in Russia and those at Stonehenge. He also points out that the aborigines of North America, Australia, and Siberia all called the Pleiades the "Seven Sisters." Coincidence is very unlikely here, he says. This and other notions must have existed before Australia and North America were peopled. The absence of writing as we know it would not have deterred ancient humans from developing and communicating mathematical and scientific skills and accumulating knowledge, possibly in the form of myth.

(Frolov, B.A.; "On Astronomy in the Stone Age," Current Anthropology, 22: 585, 1981.)

Comment. A passing thought: may not writing as well as today's omnipresent computers be crutches that permit our memories and mental skills to deteriorate? In our Handbook The Unfathomed Mind, we present many cases of remarkable memory and information-processing ability. Such skills could be common today but suppressed by technology. In ancient humans, they may have been well-used and common.

From Science Frontiers #19, JAN-FEB 1982. � 1982-2000 William R. Corliss