Archive for June 1st, 2008


Reexamining Myth

I’ve always been fascinated by scientific discoveries. Particularly discoveries that challenge our base of knowledge and force us to reevaluate our view of the world. One such discovery was revealed this week when aerial photographs of an “uncontacted” tribe were published, showing a primitive culture thriving in the Amazon basin near the Brazilian/Peruvian border. In some shots, you can even see a couple of men on the ground (adorned in red body paint) aiming their bows at the intruding aircraft from which the photos were taken. This encounter instantly reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law of prediction: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I can only imagine how the sight of a low-flying airplane impacted the tribe’s day/life/religion/society. While I’m not necessarily supportive of such drastic (and potentially devastating) intrusions, the photos were required to prove the existence of such tribes in an effort to persuade governments to protect their lands from illicit logging. I guess that’s why the prime directive is a bit flexible at times. Nevertheless, it makes me wonder how this event is being interpreted by the tribe. It is certainly fertile territory for the creation of a legend or myth.

Outside of UFOs, Sasquatch, and the Loch Ness Monster, we don’t generate many myths of our own anymore. But I’m still amazed when scientists confirm the existence of creatures that were believed to be extinct or purely fictional. The giant squid (Architeuthis) is a prime example. Before one was photographed in 2004, the giant squid was little more than a myth, popularized by Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Such discoveries urge us to question the origins of our myths. Perhaps our myths are based on some element of fact? Just like someday the tribe in the Amazon may discover the buzzing metal bird that visited their village was really a man-made aircraft.

Too Human has reinvigorated my interest in mythology and its role in cultures. As a result, I’ve spent some time checking out online resources for background info, mostly on Norse mythology. My research was recently sidetracked by an engaging documentary called The Goblin Man of Norway. It details the discovery of ancient (but technologically advanced) artifacts recovered from a receding glacier in Norway. The freaky thing about it is, these artifacts are thousands of years old yet exhibit mechanization that possibly exceed today’s technology. Such discoveries of lost technology aren’t totally unprecedented. Remember the Antikythera mechanism? Anyway, the Norwegian Film Committee is hosting The Goblin Man of Norway film on their website, broken into three parts. The first part is available now and is well worth checking out.