Archive for April 19th, 2018

April 19, 2018

Archaeology, A Subject To Let — #Milosz #6Of40 #RoadsideDog #Books

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon


Ok now, this week and next are a couple of Let Subjects that this jester really likes. Archaeology & Mrs. Darwin (you know what that’s going to be about, right?): reading, writing, and science, it’s a good match.

I’ll forgive you now if you are thinking, “It’s Miłosz & his mortality again”. But you might be surprised that you are wrong.

In this essay, Miłosz says each era operates oblivious of what went on before (and alludes to what happens after as well). Man has no appreciation for those who came before. He even insists that those before and those who came after would not understand and therefore despise the other.

This jester is a genealogist. Researching and studying your family history you see how tenuous things were/are for us modern humans. Indeed, we genealogists say its miracle that we were ever arrived at. The string of ancestors is so fragile that one decision by one person can prune so many potential branches. Therefore the rarer it is that any one of us exists at all.

So a genealogist favors his ancestors and perhaps blesses God for them because he is. Against all odds we are. So now we have genetic genealogy allowing us a dim view of upto 200,000 years ago. Writing having arisen only a bit over 5,000 years ago means 195,000 of those earliest years are “pre-historic”, i.e. no record or history was written down or preserved. Can there be an oral history older than written history? I suppose so, but how reliable could that be?

My point is that we have no window into the first 195,000 years … except for our DNA. Those A-C-G-T , molecular bases are our only record of us in particular. But who reads DNA? Who writes DNA? I think it is a language. Can we marry DNA to fossil record and artefacts dug up from various strata? What bits of history can we divine or winnow out after these long eons? Even so that is so vague or imprecise and not specific to the individual person. How could we have feelings about such primordial times/places/people, even if we have their DNA? If I have any feeling it is, “Thankfulness” that ALL my predecessors were so clever or lucky to survive to bring about me! I am the culmination of about 5,700-6,000 generations surviving to replicate the necessary DNA to become, I. My family tree is woefully small in those terms!

So given all that, I think Miłosz believes not only that we’re connected (by definition), but that it is foolish to think ill of our pre-historic forebears. Their record is written in our DNA and without that I’d not be writing this nor would you be reading this!

But lets go easy on the future too we’re connected to that as well.

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