No amount of searching will unearth ancient astronauts or ancient cultures with anything close to the level of technology that we enjoy today. But, there is still something stirring about the search for lost civilizations. Making sense of the Sumerians and the Minoans. Unraveling the origins of the first civilizations we can identify from the historic period in the prehistoric Neolithic cultures that came before them. Piecing together the family tree of the languages we know of in history, some themselves lost, to connect them into a larger whole. Tracing the migrations of man from Africa to points across the globe to discern how the peoples that inhabit it now came to be. Looking at history on the scale of millenia. Identifying the sources of are archaetypical myths, giving them the context from the times that they originated. Unearthing the substrates in our contemporary languages and cultures to reveal their mixed origins. Learning the details of the process by which we became farmers and herders. Determining if the cultures that died were victims of war, of changing climate, or of the collapse of their own organizing principles.
Part of it is an act of overcoming demons and ghosts and myths of the past by gaining a better understanding of where they came from in the first place, of piercing back beyond the veils of our oldest layers of myth and legend and religious doctrine. Nothing demystifies the Biblical Philistines, for example, more than being able to figure out that they were real people, being able to determine when they arrived and where and from whom, being able to understand that larger forces that drove their exile, and being able to make sense of their culture from the perspective of disinterested outsiders rather than warring Levantine factions.
Where did we come up with tales like Atlantis and Lemuria? Were Sumerian and Egyptian myths original, arising with writing, or were they much older oral traditions? How much older?
We live in an era where it seems we have a genuine capacity to answer some of those questions with new methodologies and technologies, and when the evidence has not irrevocably been erased.
Tracing our ancient history in detail also sheds light on who were are as a species on a grand scale. What are we capable of? What drives the rise and fall of empires? What causes new languages to form and old ones to die? What are the cyclical trends of deep history? What are the trends where progress seems inevitable? To the extent that we can determine definitively what happend in pre-history, can we at least model it well enough to determine the processes and forces that shaped it? What factors drove history? Which factors were merely secondary?
We know which cultures survived. We don't know nearly as well which cultures did not, or why they succumbed to that cultures of others. Can we put the myriad bits and pieces we understand about our deep past into a coherent narrative? Can we tell a Genesis story that has more than oral tradition and old books of uncertain veracity to back them up? We have the broad outlines of that story, but filling in the detail breathes life into it, makes it real.