Notes

Chapter 12: The Principle of Computational Equivalence

Section 10: Intelligence in the Universe


Purpose in archeology

Ideas about the purpose of archeological objects most often ultimately tend to come from comparisons to similar-looking objects in use today. But great differences in typical beliefs and ways of life can make comparisons difficult. And certainly it is now very hard for us to imagine just what range of purposes the first known stone tools from 2.6 million years ago might have been put to—or what purpose the arrays of dots or handprints in cave paintings from 30,000 BC might have had. And even when it comes to early buildings from perhaps 10,000 BC it is still difficult to know just how they were used. Stone circles like Stonehenge from perhaps 3000 BC presumably served some community purpose, but beyond that little can convincingly be said. Definite geographical or astronomical alignments can be identified for many large prehistoric structures, but whether these were actually intentional is almost never clear. After the development of writing starting around 4000 BC, purposes can often be deduced from inscriptions and other written material. But still to work out for example the purpose of the Antikythera device from around 100 BC is very difficult, and depends on being able to trace a long historical tradition of astronomical clocks and orreries.


From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]