Sunday, September 25, 2022


 I was led off tonight in my reading by a reference to Great Zimbabwe and a whole host of wonderful things Africans and their spirit advisors believe about the place. It seems that it was a city that rivaled London in population back around 2000 years ago and was quite the trade emporium. On the other hand I take any stories about prehistoric peoples that never learned to write a written language with the a grain of salt roughly the size of Gibraltar. You have bee hives with more bees in them than many towns or cities but without a written language they remain mute to history. Making up stuff is what fantasists and writers do but it is not history. It is off putting to have some writer lay claim to some sort of civilization that, on the first hand, never discovered any way to record history. Say what we will, true civilizations were writing and recording in the written word over 5000 years ago.

I can watch the occasional show on the history of some nomadic people and listen to the narrator tell the amazing story of their ancestors based on oral tradition. I'm not really a believer of oral tradition. Like many of you I've had way too many garbled messages relayed to me from trusted sources that were, when all is said and done, garbled to a fare thee well. On the gripping hand, I don't have more than a few words from relatives beyond my grandparents. My mother can tell me some things about her great in-laws and great grandparents and there are photos of them on the 600 acre farm they used to own inside the Washington DC beltway but there is nothing of them in writing that has fallen into my hands. I do like the story about how he and his brothers beat the hell out of a lawyer they hated coming out of court one day. My great grandfather was the constable of the county in Maryland where it happened and one of his brothers was killed in a shoot-out somewhere out West where he was a deputy. I have written four volumes of my own history. I'm not sure it will survive but it was there for a brief and shining moment for anyone to read or record.

As you can read, I'm talking about memories within living memory of some people (not really me). I find it impossible to believe tribal myths or anything of pre-historic sub-Saharan Africa before it was investigated by the ones with a written language. I don't think the Egyptians count since they apparently, in 4000 years of written history never went further abroad then Sudan and perhaps Ethiopia. 4000 years hugging the Nile River and basking in total ignorance of the rest of the world. Kind of hard to believe really.

I enjoyed the Dirk Pitt books by Clive Cussler. He had the people of those days sailing treasure and mystery all the way to Texas 2000 years ago. It would be nice to think it happened but the stories that do bear the test of time because they were written down, don't bear out any voyages of exploration outside the Phoenicians and I haven't read any of what they might have written about their voyages thru the Mediterranean and the founding of Carthage. All that I have read of that era was by the Romans or the Greeks. If you have never read Thucydides you missed out on how the world really works. Spoiler, the world works by leveraging the stupidest people in the world into power and then letting them do what the stupidest people in the world like to do. ie, Biden. Oddly enough, it really only takes one single solitary stupid world leader to fuck over the world for all the rest of us. Just one stupid SOB is the equivalent of 2000 megatons of nuclear death delivered wholesale.

On the other hand, my reading tonight did strike a bell and I decided to reread Wilbur Smith's The Angels Weep and the rest of the series. I last/first read them in college during a summer and while I never read any of his other books, those were worth the time.


Dan said...

History is written by those in charge. Thus history is not always truth.
If the current trend in America continues then American history will be rewritten to make our history appear as evil and abusive as the criminals currently in power can make it. And any history they don't approve of will be eradicated. A millenia from now people are unlikely to know the real truth about NOW.

HMS Defiant said...

No. The current "scholars" can write their fantasies as history but a thousand years hence, the real scholars will be free to read history up to the interregnum and know it.

Trish said...

I am a great fan of Wilbur Smith. I have read every book he has written. The Angels Weep series is one of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

I believe it was in one of James Mitchener's historical novels on Africa that archaeologists excavating Zimbabwe noted that the brick walls were stacked rather than interlocked. Pretty much sums up sub-Saharan technology.