How does information get lost?

  • Thread starter Evo
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  • #1
Evo
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I've always wondered about how thing like the pyramids, the sphynx, stonehenge, etc... become mysteries although the area has supposedly been continually occupied since their creation. I mean in every generation aren't these things odd enough that someone would ask "what is that and where did that come from" so that the knowledge would never be lost?

I can understand ancient ruins in Peru where the people left and the jungle swallowed the buildings so that they vanished from memory, but these others, how is that possible?
 

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  • #2
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The lesson here is don't rely on your memory, write it down.
 
  • #3
Evo
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The lesson here is don't rely on your memory, write it down.
:rofl:
 
  • #4
lisab
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It could be that critical information was concentrated in a small, select group - not widely known enough to survive famine, plagues, political upheaval, etc.

Jimmy is right...biological databases* are fallible.

*Aka 'memory'
 
  • #5
Pengwuino
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You should watch Idiocracy.

Hilarious and based on a true story.
 
  • #6
Evo
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It could be that critical information was concentrated in a small, select group - not widely known enough to survive famine, plagues, political upheaval, etc.

Jimmy is right...biological databases* are fallible.

*Aka 'memory'
But, they're huge, how can you not talk about them? The general public would surely have noticed and if not specifically privy to the meaning, they would certainly have passed down memories of them being built. It's like suddenly they woke up when an outsider asks

outisder: what is that
native: what is what?
outsider: those huge stones
native, what, that pile of rocks?

How can an entire population not talk about them generation to generation, unless the native populations were wiped out and replaced? Perhaps like lisab suggests. Perhaps there was not a continual line of native people?

No one is quite sure who the people were that built these. Perhaps the areas were re-occupied, either by force or natural causes. It seems there would have to be some break that caused the loss of knowledge that would be automatically passed down.
 
  • #7
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You should watch Idiocracy.

Hilarious and based on a true story.

That's the second time that film has come up in a week now... perhaps it's a sign.
But, they're huge, how can you not talk about them? The general public would surely have noticed and if not specifically privy to the meaning, they would certainly have passed down memories of them being built. It's like suddenly they woke up when an outsider asks

How can an entire population not talk about them generation to generation, unless the native populations were wiped out and replaced? Perhaps like lisab suggests. Perhaps there was not a continual line of native people?

No one is quite sure who the people were that built these. Perhaps the areas were re-occupied, either by force or natural causes. It seems there would have to be some break that caused the loss of knowledge that would be automatically passed down.

Perhaps in the same way religions 'stop' people thinking about things. Give some BS story, claim it was the gods (or whatever the current story is), keep the people away from the truth / discovering the truth by whatever means necessary. All depends who the story keeper happens to be.

However, I would agree with the above in that a break in the population would be most likely. It wouldn't take much, to disrupt things just long enough for people to forget what's going on and in come the stories...
 
  • #8
Evo
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That's the second time that film has come up in a week now... perhaps it's a sign.


Perhaps in the same way religions 'stop' people thinking about things. Give some BS story, claim it was the gods (or whatever the current story is), keep the people away from the truth / discovering the truth by whatever means necessary. All depends who the story keeper happens to be.

However, I would agree with the above in that a break in the population would be most likely. It wouldn't take much, to disrupt things just long enough for people to forget what's going on and in come the stories...
Religion could do it, forbid talk about them because the religious rulers changed. Good suggestion.
 
  • #9
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Religion could do it, forbid talk about them because the religious rulers changed. Good suggestion.

My vote would be that, loss of that particular group for various reasons (drought, simply moving on, extinction* etc) or invasion (who may or may not bring about the previous event - either way they could cause the loss).

* Extinction of the local population - not on the same scale as the dinosaurs - I'm sure there's a better word but I can't remember it, it's too late.
 
  • #10
Pengwuino
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I don't see what the big deal is. Look at Mt. Rushmore. On the time scales we're talking about, that thing is brand spankin new. Our society has the internet so knowledge is more accessible then it has ever been by a long shot. Yet how many people in the younger generations know much about it? I think people simply aren't too interested in preserving history if they're the ones in charge preserving it.
 
  • #11
Evo
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My vote would be that, loss of that particular group for various reasons or invasion (who may or may not bring about the previous event - either way they could cause the loss).
I never considered that, but it makes so much sense, you don't physically displace the population, you stop discussion, and back when information was passed down to the general population in oral form...

What a loss to mankind. It's happened so many times through men wanting to re-write history though. So tragic.
 
  • #12
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What is the mystery of the pyramids? I think the knowledge that they were tombs was preserved uninterupted through the ages. We have lost the details of how they were built. Is that the mystery?
 
  • #13
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I don't see what the big deal is. Look at Mt. Rushmore. On the time scales we're talking about, that thing is brand spankin new. Our society has the internet so knowledge is more accessible then it has ever been by a long shot. Yet how many people in the younger generations know much about it? I think people simply aren't too interested in preserving history if they're the ones in charge preserving it.

Good point, I suppose if you built it it would just be "that [spiritual / mystical / divine] thing over there". It's only when you look back the depth of knowledge is required.
 
  • #14
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I never considered that, but it makes so much sense, you don't physically displace the population, you stop discussion, and back when information was passed down to the general population in oral form...

What a loss to mankind. It's happened so many times through men wanting to re-write history though. So tragic.

Well of course, every time you won a battle you wrote the history you wanted not what was necessarily the truth. Bit of a bugger British historians have to deal with often.

Also, in the case of Britain particularly, language varied wildly in different regions. Different parts of the country had their own versions of English. Anyone outside your area would have difficulty understanding you, if they were able to at all. Between that and the various invasions, it's not surprising certain information was lost, or even 'lost in translation' if you will.
 
  • #15
Evo
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What is the mystery of the pyramids? I think the knowledge that they were tombs was preserved uninterupted through the ages. We have lost the details of how they were built. Is that the mystery?
I believe that it was not until modern archaeology that the hypothesis that they were built as tombs was suggested. Even in writings of the ancient Greeks, I don't remember them suggesting them being tombs.
 
  • #16
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I believe that it was not until modern archaeology that the hypothesis that they were built as tombs was suggested. Even in writings of the ancient Greeks, I don't remember them suggesting them being tombs.
The famous Greek historian (of a kind) Herodotus knew. Here is what he wrote:

Herodotus said:
Chephren imitated the conduct of his predecessor and, like him, built a pyramid, which did not, however, equal the dimensions of his brother's. Of this I am certain, for I measured them both myself. It has no subterraneous apartments, nor any canal from the Nile to supply it with water, as the other pyramid has. In that, the Nile water introduced through an artifical duct, surrounds an island, where the body of Cheops is said to lie.

http://books.google.com/books?id=YTCrx1KB3HQC&pg=PA96&lpg=PA96&dq=herodotus+cheops+tomb&source=bl&ots=0XzW6YkWdI&sig=gy6FvmKL96YNJeBPEqMPVtoiGrY&hl=en&ei=VUUyTaqdAoLVgAfIsKmJCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CEwQ6AEwCA#" [Broken]

Also, the pyramid robbing business thrived for a long time so there were plenty of people who knew what was inside the pyramids long after they were built. Over a hundred pyramids were built over a roughly 1000 year period. Also, some 800 years after the last royal pyramid was built, there was a revival of pyramid building for the upper classes, so the knowledge of their purpose lasted that long at least.
 
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  • #17
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Because some of the interesting information is kept confidential or simply hidden from the public? Wiki, open source are very new things.

If earth is destroyed, all of our information will likely be destroyed.
 
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  • #18
Pengwuino
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If earth is destroyed, all of our information will likely be destroyed.

Well...... yah.
 
  • #19
Evo
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The famous Greek historian (of a kind) Herodotus knew. Here is what he wrote:



http://books.google.com/books?id=YTCrx1KB3HQC&pg=PA96&lpg=PA96&dq=herodotus+cheops+tomb&source=bl&ots=0XzW6YkWdI&sig=gy6FvmKL96YNJeBPEqMPVtoiGrY&hl=en&ei=VUUyTaqdAoLVgAfIsKmJCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CEwQ6AEwCA#" [Broken]

Also, the pyramid robbing business thrived for a long time so there were plenty of people who knew what was inside the pyramids long after they were built.
You're correct. But that still doesn't explain why an entire culture would be unaware of their building.
 
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  • #20
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Well...... yah.

Didn't we send a gold disc into space with various information on it?
 
  • #21
Evo
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Didn't we send a gold disc into space with various information on it?
Yeah, it had whale songs on it.
 
  • #22
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You're correct. But that still doesn't explain why an entire culture would be unaware of their building.
He knew because he learned of it from the Egyptians.
 
  • #23
lisab
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Yeah, it had whale songs on it.

But no info on how to build a bridge?!
 
  • #24
Evo
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But no info on how to build a bridge?!
if you watch what was on that disc, you'd be embarrassed for any alien civilisation to find it. Talk about drugged out hippy politically correct production. :uhh: Whale songs, really? But they were so popular back then, there was even that Star Trek movie about them.
 
  • #25
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According to Chinese tradition, the first three dynasties were the Xia, Shang, and Zhou. Confucius lived during the Zhou, but wrote with admiration of the Xia and Shang. If I'm not wrong he even gave a list of Shang Emperors. However, later historians were unable to find any intiquities that they could identify as coming from either Xia or Shang and so in time these came to be regarded as mythical. Then, in 1928 a Shang site was excavated and written documents were found. From these documents it was posible to construct a list of Shang emperors. Again I refer to my own faulty memory but I think they verified the Confucian list. So even when the information is written down, there is no guarantee that it will be remembered. The jury is still out on the Xia.
 
  • #26
AlephZero
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It you take any practical interest in industrial archeology (as I do) you soon discover your neighbourhood is full of "stuff" that is no longer used for anything, with no clear records of what it was originally used for - and some of it is only 50 years old. OK, with something that "new" you MIGHT get lucky and find somebody who can remember, but often they don't have any "expert" knowledge, and personal memory doesn't work over a timescale of even 100 years unless somebody's children take notice of the boring old stories their parents tell about what things were like in their day.

I suspect most Egyptian peasants were simply not interested enough in pyramids to bother to find out much about them. In other words, they were pretty much the same as most 21st century humans living within sight of something like a wind farm - sure, everybody knows it exists, but it doesn't interest them enough to want to find out any more about it that the bare fact that it exists.

And if your nearby Central American temple was used for human sacrifice, it was probably a bad move to get too interested in religion, unless you had a death wish...
 
  • #27
lisab
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if you watch what was on that disc, you'd be embarrassed for any alien civilisation to find it. Talk about drugged out hippy politically correct production. :uhh: Whale songs, really? But they were so popular back then, there was even that Star Trek movie about them.

If I ever start a production company, I'm going to call it the Drugged Out Hippy Politically Correct Production Company.
 
  • #28
AlephZero
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A specific example from Roman Britain. There is no dispute there was a major military road from London up to York and beyond. Most of it is still part of the current British road network. But, how did the Romans cross the River Humber? This is several miles wide, and the current Humber suspension bridge is one of the world's longest. The foundations of the Roman road (which still exist) just stop in the middle of nowhere, a couple of miles away from the current river bank on either side. There is also the remains of a large military camp on the south side, but that is a few miles away from the end of the road.

There are plenty of contemporary records of Roman activity in the area which have survived. For example we know the name and family history or a retired military officer who liked the place so much he built himself a villa (which has been excavated) not far away. But there is not a scrap of evidence, either written or archeological, about the logistics of the river crossing, which must have been used regularly by whole legions of troops and their equipment.
 
  • #29
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I'm so glad this isn't a discussion of Hawking vs. Susskind.

1. An illiterate society, which is not that uncommon even today, has difficulty in producing or saving information. Illiteracy was perhaps both a cause and a result of the dark ages. People resorted to making up rhymes to remember information.

2. History taught to younger generations may be altered for political reasons.
 
  • #30
Evo
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I'm so glad this isn't a discussion of Hawking vs. Susskind.
:biggrin:

It's refreshing to get the feedback in this thread. I hadn't thought of all of the reasons why a population could forget something that seems so unique to us.

I find it hard to believe that we would forget where the statue of liberty came from, or that we landed on the moon, but I guess that is more a by-product of living in more affluent times and the availability of information.
 
  • #33
lisab
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OH DEAR GAWD, it's worse than I remembered!!! :surprised

How embarrassing...we're the biggest dorks in the universe!
 
  • #34
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we seem to have a hard enough time just understanding how our parents and grandparents lived. it's surprising we've learned as much as we have about the ancients.

some think the great pyramid was actually a big water pump.
 
  • #35
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some think the great pyramid was actually a big water pump.

Some think they were built by aliens. 'Nuff said.

Classic human trait there: If you don't know it and can't work it out, 'fill in the blanks' yourself.
 

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