Thursday, 21 December 2006

Professional Suicide

By David Mulholland

The find was important, nearly as important as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and for Greek scholars, such as myself, it was much more important, since the language is primarily Greek. The new find, you probably heard about it several months back, was in the papers. The cache of scrolls that was found in Turkey by a shepherd? Why is it always shepherds?
For me, it has been wonderful. I am one of the people working with them. No longer am I pouring over old manuscripts that have been pored over time and time again, trying to glean new meaning from them, or simply a clever way of looking at something so that I can write an article, proposing a new viewpoint to argue and defend, but not to actually believe.
The Anatolia find has turned my life around. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Anatolia Scrolls cast light on a host of poorly understood issues, such as navigation, astronomy and trade in the Hellenic world.
Already I have been able to map some of the amber trade. I have discovered that there were two routes, the sea route around Spain and France and into the Baltic, used by the Phoenicians and a new, unexpected route through the river systems of Russia used by the Balts and Greeks. Greek wine and fine textiles were much in demand. I have also found that the Balts were unwilling to trade their plentiful bog iron, which was much stronger than the Greek’s bronze, so jealous were they of their cold and marshy land.
I was able to glean that from shipping manifests and a map that showed part of the Russian river system. A map of the Dnieper and the short overland route between what is now Smolensk and Vitsyebsk to the Daugava that leads to the Gulf of Riga. All of this two millennium before Rurik the Viking’s dynasty came and founded Kievan Rus.
It took some work to decipher the map because many of the cities that now exist on those rivers didn’t exist when the map was made. Riga then was only a small settlement by a Finnic tribe, the Livs, who lived on the muddy banks.
There is another map that is … puzzling. My colleagues and I have studied it for countless hours to no avail. It appears to be a globe, but there are no recognizable features. It had a companion map, but unfortunately, it was on the outside of the documents and exposure even to the mild climate of the cave where the documents were found was too much for the delicate image. Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to recover any detail from it.
I have taken a copy of the map to geographers. They have examined the image but have not been able to correlate it to anything. I had so many copies made that I wound up framing a large one and putting it in my living room, with unforeseen consequences.
There is debate that goes along with every discovery: do I announce what appears to be true and risk professional suicide, or do I keep quiet. If I do go public, it will endanger all the work I’ve done so far and threaten the veracity of the Anatolian Scrolls. You see, the map that has had me confounded was found in the same bundle as the rest, on the same parchment, with the same ink.
The mysterious map on my living room wall was recognised, not by a geographer, nor a cartographer, but by a friend over for drinks that does not share my musty world of human antiquity. But he nonetheless has a searching mind and is a fellow academic. He studied the map and then began pointing out features that he recognised. “Mare Muscoviense”, “Mendeleev”, “Tsiolkovskiy”, “Mare Orientale”.
“Very clever,” he said. “I like the style of this map. Where did you get it?”
“It was in the Anatolian scrolls,” I said. “Do you recognise it?”
“Yes.” he replied, “It’s the far side of the moon.”

1 comment:

Loraine Despres said...

This story is so good, you ought to be a professional writer.