Archae-radiology

November 23, 2012

What would a future civilization think if they were to come across our radiological gear?

I recently took a trip to Egypt. In addition to the usual enjoyment I get from immersion in another culture, this enabled me to avoid the 24-hour vigil of Election Day coverage and its aftermath (as much fun as it is to hear folks opine about how their candidate is the Second Coming and the opposition is the devil incarnate).

Far and away, the highlight of the trip was visiting multiple ancient temples, tombs, and other assorted archaeological marvels that have remained surprisingly intact over the millennia.

A recurring theme, despite having well-educated tour guides throughout the experience, is that there’s an awful lot which remains unknown about the folks who built these magnificent structures. Such major efforts, especially given the lack of modern contrivances such as power tools, heavy construction vehicles, etc. clearly indicate far more importance to the builders than simple decoration. Modern explanations for the meaning of it all vary, but that doesn’t stop Very Smart People from speaking authoritatively on the subject.

It got me thinking about what might happen if, for whatever reason, our society ceased to be, and a few thousand years went by before another civilization came across our archaeological legacy. Without knowing our language or necessarily having the means of powering up our computers and such, they could well be puzzling out what our radiological gear was for, in much the same way that we now try to determine the significance of hieroglyphs and obelisks.

Their academicians’ best guesses, as with our own, would likely be offered in the form of authoritative certainty:

Circular scanners: These impressive constructions came in several shapes, with varying depth and internal diameter. A common feature was a bed-like horizontal platform meant to project a passenger into, and sometimes through, the aperture. These were often found in settings for the dying or at least very ill members of society, and may have been considered symbolic portals to the afterlife or focal points for communing with deities, whose names were typically inscribed on the apparatus: GE, Toshiba, etc.

Transducers: Several configurations of these have been found. They may have served as wands or scepters, and some could even have been used as mace-like weapons. Their elaborate construction indicates that they were not for the common citizenry, and indeed most of them are found in secluded chambers deep within edifices, where there is only sufficient space for a small number of occupants. These were likely inner sancta or audience chambers for the nobility or priesthood.

Monitors: Large, flat panels, with faces designed to limit reflection of light into the face of the beholder. Often found in pairs or even triplets, and situated in darkened rooms with little access to the general public. Surviving documents and icons suggest that a single individual would typically gaze into these for prolonged periods, perhaps to divine wisdom. These individuals may have been oracles or other esteemed members of society, as there was a pattern of multiple others, not qualified to view the panels, providing support or otherwise doing the bidding of the scriers. It appears, however, that there was a growing trend of the scrier becoming a subordinate and doing the bidding of these others…s/he may have sometimes been confined to the panel-room involuntarily.

More archaeological findings next time, including some of the members of the radiological pantheon!