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The Forbbiden Zone - Archeology and Archeologist is an Invented Civilization (Planet of the Apes)

The Forbbiden Zone - Archeology and Archeologist is an Invented Civilization (Planet of the Apes)



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Published by: blue_july2000 on Jan 15, 2009
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The Forbidden Zone: Archeology and Archeologists in anInvented Civilization (
 Planet of the Apes
European Association of ArchaeologistsSeptember 18-23, 2007, Zadar, CroatiaSession: Invented CivilizationsOrganizers: Michael Jasmin and Cornelius Holtorf Pre-conference draft, September 8, 2007Michael A. Cremo9701 Venice Blvd. # 5, Los Angeles, CA 90034 USAmcremo@cs.com, www.mcremo.com/academic.htmlAbstract
The novel
 Planet of the Apes
and its film adaptations depict an invented civilization that has captured theminds of people around the world, probably ranking second to
Star Trek 
in influence in the space adventuregenre. The ape inhabitants of the invented civilization, which also has a primitive human population, have ahistory of their relationship with the humans. Among the civilized apes are scientist apes, including an apearcheologist named Cornelius. The arrival of human astronauts on the planet of the apes sets off a chain of events that leads one of the astronauts and Cornelius to the Forbidden Zone, where there is an archeologicalsite with evidence that contradicts the ape scientists' view of their history and relationship with the primitive humans on their planet. An examination of the role of archeology and archeologists in theinvented civilization sheds light on the role of archeology and archeologists today, on our planet, inmaintaining the authority of a socially accepted view the past. Is there today on our planet the equivalentof a forbidden zone of archeology which could challenge the authority of the now socially accepted view of the human past?
In 1963, the novel
 Planet des Singes
by Pierre Boulle appeared. In 1968, the book wasturned into a Hollywood film called
 Planet of the Apes
, starring Charlton Heston. Thefilm was popular internationally, and generated four film sequels, as well as television programs, comic books, and merchandise. The film is still referenced in popular cultureas well as in scientific publications. For example, in September 2006,
Scientific American
 published a special edition titled
 Planet of the Apes, Becoming Human: Evolution and the Rise of Intelligence.
And in
 Journal of Evolutionary Biology
(1999, vol. 12, no. 1, p.200), we find Richard J. Smith giving the title “Planet of the Apes” to his review of the book 
 Function, Phylogeny, and Fossils: Miocene Hominoid Evolution and Adaptations
 by David R. Begun
et al.
(1997). In the film
 Planet of the Apes,
one of the maincharacters is an ape archeologist, and archaeology plays a key role in ape society. Ananalysis of the role of archeologists and archeology in the invented civilization of the
 planet of the apes can shed light on the role and practices of archeologists in our ownhuman civilization.I did not see
 Planet of the Apes
in 1968 when it first came out. At that time, I was atwenty-year old student at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I wasaware of the film, but I was not attracted to see it. Astronauts among apemen on another  planet? It sounded like a typical Hollywood fantasy, a popcorn film suitable for childrenof twelve years or less. I quite deliberately refused to see it. I fancied I had more adultsensibilities. I was regularly going to an art film theater called the Biograph to see films by Antonioni, Fellini, Bergman, Godard, Renoir and others. I was only inspired to see
 Planet of the Apes
when I started think about what invented civilization to pick for my paper in this session on “Invented Civilizations” at this conference of the EuropeanAssociation of Archaeologists. Having now finally seen
 Planet of the Apes
, I confessthat my 1968 prejudgment as wrong—I find it to be an exceptionally deep, complex, andintellectually stimulating film, as well as being good popcorn fun.In this paper, I am not going to attempt to sketch an overall theory of archeology basedon a comprehensive, consistent analysis of the film. Rather I am just going tocapriciously select some scenes from the film that will let me respond in a limited, and perhaps also capricious, way to the following question posed by the organizers of thissession in their session proposal: “What are these fictions telling us about the public’sinterest in the past or about the archaeological way of documenting and exhibitingarchaeological sites and finds?”My selection and explication of events and persons from the film is, of course, going to be governed by my personal point of view, my prejudices, my ontological commitments,my history, etc. Let me give some brief indication of what they are. First, of all, I am a bitof an outsider at this meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, being, inthe strict sense, neither a European nor an archaeologist, although I can say that mygrandparents were Italians and I have been peripherally associated with archaeologists for over twenty years through my work. And what might my “work” be? We could call itinter-traditional (or cross-cultural) communication on human origins and antiquity.Therefore one might further ask what tradition I claim to represent. Since the early 1970s,I have been a practitioner of a kind of Hindu devotional mysticism, which I learned frommy guru Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1877), who introduced these teachingsto the world outside India through the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.So I have deeply entered into a tradition different from that into which I was born. My practice has an internal mystical aspect but also an external scholarly aspect to it, whichincludes study of the ancient Sanskrit literature. One part of this literature, the
contains accounts of human origins (spiritual) and antiquity (extreme) somewhat differentfrom those now prevalent in the knowledge tradition represented by modern scientificarcheology. So I have been in dialogue with archeologists, historians of science, andothers about this for twenty years, through books like
 Forbidden Archeology
(with R. L.Thompson)
 , Forbidden Archeology’s Impact,
 Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory,
as well as through presentations of papers at conferences2
on archeology, anthropology, and history of science (while simultaneously busyingmyself with my more mystical pursuits).I regard the whole of what I am doing as a contribution to the program advocated by PaulFeyerabend in his book 
Science in A Free Society
(1978, London: Verso Editions, pp.9-10): “A free society is a society in which all traditions have equal rights and equalaccess to the centres of power (this differs from the customary definition whereindividuals have equal rights of access to positions defined by a special tradition—thetradition of Western Science and Rationalism)….How can a society that gives alltraditions equal rights be realized? …. People in many countries now realize that the lawgives them more leeway than they had assumed; they gradually conquer the free spacethat has so far been occupied by specialists and they try to expand it further.”With this introduction, I hope that you now have some basis for judging how and why Iselect and interpret certain scenes from
 Planet of the Apes.
I am, of course, vulnerable tocriticism of the kind “you picked this scene, which supports your ideas, but neglected tomention this other scene, which does not support your ideas.” Or, “You did not mentionthat the planet of the apes is (as revealed in the film’s final scene) really the earth.” I plead guilty to all such charges. But I would hope you will not insist on total consistencywith the whole of 
 Planet of the Apes
as an absolute requirement for this little intellectualexercise of mine. (I note, however, that in the original novel, the planet of the apes is infact a planet different from our earth planet.)In the 1968 film version of 
 Planet of the Apes
, an American astronaut named Taylor, played by Charlton Heston, crash lands with his crew in a lake on an unknown planet.They escape from their sinking spaceship, taking a raft to the shores of a desolatemountainous desert, with no sign of life. After crossing the desert, they come to a green,semi-forested area, where they observe humans foraging for food in lush agriculturalfields. The astronauts join the speechless humans, who appear to be on the level of animals, in feeding on fruits and vegetables. Suddenly, the humans begin to flee, pursued by bands of intelligent gorillas, clad in dark military dress, riding on horses and armedwith rifles. Some of the humans, including Taylor, are captured and taken to an ape city.In his captivity, Taylor learns that the ape population has three classes—the gorillas, whoserve as soldiers and laborers; the orangutans, who serve as administrators; and thechimpanzees, who serve as research scientists and intellectuals. Speechless humans, of alow level of culture, are treated as animals. Mostly they live in the wild, but some arekept as research animals.During one of his attempted escapes, Taylor runs through an ape museum of naturalhistory. The museum has displays showing the ape version of humans and their history.According to official ape science, humans are now and always have been speechlessanimals, with a very low level of intelligence. They live in the forests, and sometimes become a nuisance by raiding the apes’ agricultural fields. Humans kill other humans,whereas apes never kill other apes. Taylor, running through the museum, frightens an apemother and child who had been viewing the exhibits. It is as if an australopithecine in a3

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