“Once upon a time…”

Photographer: Carl Campbell

Perhaps one of the most recognizable phrases in the English language; one that signals the reader (or listener) is about to be told a tale of mythical legend where the heroes always win. And in the year 2022, it could also indicate one is about to read a book about human history.

They say history is written by the winners, but that is not true. History is written — and rewritten — by the survivors. One need only look at the molotov cocktail that was The 1619 Project to see how flimsy accepted history — based on the words and deeds of colonizing forces — obfuscates the horror and betrayals upon which modern culture is built. Before that, in the United States of America, there was the fable of the “Lost Cause”. Despite losing the Civil War, powerful members of The Confederacy merely bided their time. Once a generation or two had passed, it took only a handful of dedicated True Believers and a lot of gullible rubes to convince a non-insignificant portion of the USA populace that the American South had seceded over “states’ rights” and not their desire to continue to enslave black and indigenous peoples. This lie took root despite the fact every state which left the Union wrote a public declaration of secession. Primary documents which are still available and make it very clear the reason for secession was “states rights”…to own other humans like property.

That’s not to say the United States of America is alone in rewriting history. Every modern culture shaped by colonialism has skeletons hiding in their closets. For example, until 1861 there was no country known as “Italy.” Instead, there were warring states. Even after unification, regional divides grew more hostile. When the conflict came to a boil, millions of citizens from the Italian Peninsula fled to the United States. If you asked those immigrants where they were from, they wouldn’t say Italy. The folks who passed through Ellis Island labeled themselves by their village or regional name; their campanilismo. The modern concept of “Italian” was created by USA print media in the early 20th century as the Italian Peninsula diaspora — called Atlantians at the time — began to coalesce into a single ethnic group.

Simultaneously, much of what we think of as Italian culture was created by Mussolini’s revisionist nationalism of “Rome”. From the academic paper “‘GHOSTS OF ROME:’ THE HAUNTING OF FASCIST EFFORTS AT REMAKING ROME AS ITALY’S CAPITAL CITY” by John Agnew:

“[T]he cult of romanità. Romanità celebrates the ancient Roman past as a key to making the current Italy and is closely associated with what turned out to be the later years of Fascism […] Indeed, numerous contemporary Romans of my acquaintance seem completely unaware of the precise architectural genealogies of [Italian ruins].”

The good news is the truth will out. Fields such as archaeology and geology — along with their various subfields such as archaeogenetics, archaeobotany, and geochemistry, volcanology, and climatology — are making great strides in sweeping away the “fog of history” to reveal a past that was much more complex, technologically advanced, and global than the current narratives that compartmentalize ancient groups into hermetically sealed cultures with little to no interaction outside of small quantities of trade.

The nature of this blog is to correlate these scientific discoveries and contextualize them. By comparing and contrasting science in the field against hagiographies that have been taken as gospel truth despite little to no corroborating evidence, the hope is to begin to tease the truth from our myths. After all, how can we know ourselves if we don’t truly know who we are, where we came from, and how we got here?

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