Wednesday 3 November 2010
How China reminded me: it's not long till we're history
I wrote no blog posts in the month of October on account of taking a holiday in China. It was a great place to be to think about the world and how it’s changing, and it triggered a few ideas.
One of the most remarkable sights in China is the Terracotta Army, which can be found near Xi’an in the centre of the country. Over 8000 sculpted warriors are thought to have been buried alongside the body of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, over 2000 year ago. They were discovered by accident in 1974 by a group of farmers digging a well and have since become one of the most feted tourist attractions in China.
The fact they were discovered so recently is remarkable. It suggests that there could well be other equally amazing archaeological sites still buried underground. Our current technology and resources do not permit an exhaustive search of the planet’s surface – and until they do, we can always look forward to the prospect of amazing discoveries still being out there.
Nowadays our societies are not building anything as grand as the Terracotta Army or the Great Wall of China. But we are leaving behind a wealth of evidence of our existence in warehouses of data, in both physical and electronic form. Future generations will have the (exciting?) task of sifting through the data in order to form a view of what life was like in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is easy for us to assume that the databases and digitally encoded images will still be accessible to future generations, but hard drives corrode and file formats change. The archaeologists in the future could well find themselves dealing as much in microchips as in fossils – and they might unearth some truths about the present day that we ourselves are not aware of!