The alien past

There are shared themes between the science fiction and archaeology books I’ve been reading lately. There’s a sense of otherness, of alien intelligences glimpsed across a void.

Göbekli Tepe

Photo by Vince Musi from National Geographic

As little as we know about the builders of Newgrange in Ireland, we know even less about the builders of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. What we do know about these monuments is that the first were built about 11,000 years ago, during the earliest years of the Eurasian Neolithic. In other words, Göbekli Tepe predates our current understanding of when agriculture began. (And yes, it also predates Stonehenge — by six or seven thousand years.) It’s hard to imagine what motivated tribes of hunter-gatherers to create such monumental architecture, full of animal sculptures and mysterious standing stones. It’s also hard to conceive of why each succeeding structure grew smaller and less sophisticated over time.

So this is where archaeology, science fiction, and poetry all converge. As a poet, archaeology enables me to explore that alien otherness while remaining grounded in the scientific reality of human experience.

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