"Why should we be so arrogant as to assume that we're the first homo-sapiens to walk the earth?" (J.J. Abrams et al., 2010)
No one remembers one's moment of birth and neither does humanity. The beginning of man is a scientific mystery. This article, however, is not about how man came to be, but about shortly after that; it is about the dawn of humanity, a missing chapter in human history. People, in this forgotten chapter, mapped the earth and sky long before there were ancient Egyptians or Jews. They are not to be confused with Australopithecus, Homo Habilis, or Homo Ergaster. Instead, they are remembered by ancients as 'gods' because it is they who first engineered societies, leaving baffling traces on earth.
The idea of how humanity's progress began is relative. Before the enlightenment, human civilizations throughout history viewed the past as glorious and expected the future to simply resemble and repeat the past. Mankind did not think highly of themselves until after Kant declared the motto "Sapere aude," - dare to think for yourself
. But the question remains: what is it in our distant past that made the ancients behold it with such impressiveness?
Scientific and technological progresses do not necessarily take thousands of years. The pace can be exponential, slow, or even regressive - exponential through accidental breakthroughs and inventions, e.g. the 20th century, but slow when impeded by a major force such as the Roman church or the Black Death that prolonged the dark ages for a century. Regression occurs due to a massive loss of knowledge, e.g. the burning of the Alexandria Library in 391 A.D. The idea that scientific and technological development takes millennia is an impression that we get from our assessment of the known history. Progress is inevitable and desirable for any civilization.
The progress of science and technology changes the way we live presently as well as how we see the past and future. Our expectations of the future change based partly on the breakthroughs we make and the pace of the scientific development. Our visions of the past, too, change as we develop new ways of investigating facts. The current worldview of the past is that things were primitive, and that mankind emerged from a state of barbarism to become smarter and more capable. However, emerging evidence suggests otherwise beginning with Plato's account of Atlantis, although, across the past two millennia, his account was considered fictional. In 1882, U.S. Congressman Ignatius Loyola Donnelly published his book Atlantis: The Antediluvian World
in which he gathers the then-available evidence in favor of an early mighty civilization that was far more advanced than they had any right to be. He mainly studied ancient myths and believed Plato's account of Atlantis to be historically accurate.
Forty-seven years later, in 1929, a medieval map called Piri Reis was found at the Imperial Palace library in Constantinople (Istanbul). This map inexplicably depicts, with unprecedented fine details, the continents of South America and Antarctica corresponding to present longitude and latitude albeit it dates back to 1513. It was not until after the Piri Reis map discovery that other maps of high precision started emerging, eg: the Ribero maps 1520-30, the Ortelius map 1570, and the Wright-Molyneux map 1599 (McIntosh, 2000:59).