I can’t help but feel this is one of those things where we had actual documents saying “it was done with this and this”, and some old rich white guys looked at it and went “oh mirth, the ancients were so silly. They probably wrote this basic stuff down and the actual builders had Secret Techniques we need to Discover”

For a long time, archeologists didn’t know how greek women did their high-piled braids and hair. There was a word that translated to “needle” in the descriptions. They went, “seems like we’ll never know.” Then a hairdresser took a fucking needle (big needle) and did the fucking thing you do with needles, which is sew – and by sewing the braids into place, she replicated ancient styles.

The Egyptians had diagrams of construction steps for their pyramids. Archeologists went “oooh, ancient primitive people, how they do this?” LITERALLY MYTHBUSTERS OR THE OLD DISCOVERY CHANNEL or someone went “what if we did the thing the pictures said they did” AND GUESS FUCKING WHAT. GUESS FUCKING WHAT.

Also that thing with native Americans saying squirrels taught them how to get sap for maple syrup, and colonizers going “that’s a myth sweaty”

Sincerely, if the scientists had to do actual analysis like spectroscopy or whatever, kudos, and no flame. But swear to god, if all these years, we’ve had the recipes and there was just this fuckin institutional bias against just TRYING THE THING THEY SAID WOULD WORK, HELLFIRE AND DEMENTIA.

In this case, it was more they had roman writings saying what went into it but figured there was some secret because when they followed roman recipes it never turned out quite right. 

Because the sources left by Romans always just said to mix with water. Because, if you were a Roman??? Obviously you knew that you used seawater for cement. Duh. That’s so obvious that they never really bothered specifying that you use seawater to mix it, because it wasn’t necessary, everyone knew that. 

But then the empire fell, other empires rose and fell, time passed, and by the time we were trying to reconstruct the formula the ‘mix the dry ingredients with seawater’ trick had been forgotten, until chemical analysis finally figured it out again. 

It’s sort of like the land of Punt, a ally of Egypt that’s mentioned all the time, but we don’t actually know where it was located. Because it isn’t written down anywhere. Why would they write it down? It’s Punt. Everyone knew where Punt was back then. It’d be ridiculous to waste the ink and space to specify where it was, every child knows about Punt. 

3000 years later and we have no damned clue where it was, simply because at the time it was so blindingly obvious that it was never written down. 

So moral of story is be specific

I was thinking it was stupid that they didn’t specify seawater but then I had the thought that we don’t specify to use chicken eggs in baking because DUH so we just write eggs

2000 years in the future people are going to be making scrambled fish eggs and crying bc the ancient recipes make no sense

I have, for some time, been researching something called a Horde. They appear in archaeology digs in the oddest places. For example, in the tiled floor of the back room of an ancient bathhouse. The minting dates of the monies hidden in the hole span, sometimes, centuries, and were never retrieved. Some are stuffed into leather bags and stored in clay pots buried in the ground. We had no banks back them, so it isn’t unreasonable to find a buried treasure, but it is odd that they would span so many periods of time. Currency wasn’t “collected” but it was often cycled out.

Then there is the horde found in the west of England, a selection of silver and gold baubles, bits, chunks, some ripped from larger objects, some picked apart, spanning, again centuries, the most recent piece dating from more recent times, 16-1700’s, but buried in a pit in the ground. Where were the items obtained? Some ancient, some modern. They were dissected for the shiniest parts, all the precious metal lumped into a bag and tossed in a hole. Why? When you rob a house, you don’t pick apart the jewelry for the gems and leave the costume bits. You take the whole thing and store it. And how did they find all the old objects?

I have my notions. I have my sundry proofs, my knowledge and my secrets. But can you imagine how amusing it is for me to watch the archaeologists say “What the devil is this, and why?”

Next time, perhaps the magpie picking shinies from dead cathedrals and old burial mounds ought to leave a note…assuming he has language.


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