Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time capsules and the future of exploration

It's tempting to think that the age of exploration is over and that all of the exciting new discoveries will come from...I don't or space or maybe the deep sea. As I don't (currently) have a particle accelerator or a spaceship or a submarine, that would essentially mean that I'm not going to be making any great discoveries in this lifetime.

But maybe I shouldn't give up. 

If you are like me, you've probably never heard of Xi'an before. It's a bit embarrassing when I think about that now; something like 8 million people live here. 8 million people.

That China has big cities and a lot of people is not a new concept for me; it's just strange to think of other places that are so familiar to the world and which are so miniscule by comparison. And it's not like this place is unknown because it lacks history; there's a good 3,000 years of history here (actually, a lot more, depending on what you want to count).
The main attraction for many visitors to Xi'an is a tomb, located not far from the city. The tomb was built around 300BC, but only discovered (accidentally) in 1974. 1974! 

8,000 life-sized terracotta warriors, 700 horses, and over 100 chariots; decked out with armor and weapons to protect the emperor in the afterlife. It's the work of an estimated 700,000 people; all hidden under ground, away from thieves and enemies for several thousand years.

On the one hand, I suppose that a time capsule like this only survives because it disappears for thousands of years. On the other hand, it still surprises me to think that an incredible human constructs as this (and as Machu Picchu, for example) can go undiscovered for so long.

This place is exciting to visit not just for the enormous effort that went into its construction, but because it was so recently discovered - right next to a city of millions - and by accident. I think that's amazing.

Adding to that, I got a little news blast on my blackberry saying something about new (old) pyramids recently discovered using google earth. Really? Imagine what else is out there!

Maybe the age of exploration isn't over. Maybe you don't need fancy and expensive equipment. Maybe you just need to go out and use your feet and ears and eyes and let the world reveal itself.


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