Sands of time

Resultado de imagem para Photo by Chris Jordan from the series Midway: Message from the Gyre

Photo by Chris Jordan from the series Midway: Message from the Gyre

The North Sea is rich in signs of what made the modern world. It’s also a monument to what awaits us in the Anthropocene

by David Farrier is a senior lecturer in English literature at the University of Edinburgh, where his research interests include eco-criticism, postcolonial studies, and asylum and refugee contexts. He is currently working on a book about deep time in contemporary poetry. 

The red-veined rocks of Bohuslän in western Sweden have one of the highest concentrations of Bronze Age art in Europe. I was lucky enough to see the carvings during a recent October visit. The site was set back from a road, which marked where the shoreline of the North Sea would have been when the figures were first inscribed, between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago. The petroglyphs had since been painted pillar-box red so that they’d stand out for tourists, and the bright colours and wobbly lines looked like an enormous child’s drawing. But what the scene lacked in elegance it made up for in energy. Bowmen stalked antlered stags among a fleet of longships, flowing into a procession of bulls and thick-bodied giants teetering precariously atop spindly legs. Land and sea, human and animal, swam in and out of view.

Bronze Age rock art in Bohuslän, Sweden, assumed to depict the performance of a ritual. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

I found myself trying to create a narrative, some sort of lost epic, as if I were deciphering a Bronze Age cartoon. We don’t know why these inscriptions were made, or what they were meant to say. The blunt-limbed figures give no clue about where such a story might begin, or where it might end. But perhaps that tangled quality is the petroglyphs’ real message. The longships speak of a culture closely aligned with the sea; the many animals point to a strong affinity with nature. Similar sites on the Cornish and Iberian peninsulas indicate that cultural influences travelled along what the Beowulf poet would later call the ‘whale roads’, the open waters that connected Bronze Age Scandinavia to the rest of Europe for the purposes of war and trade.

We live in a similarly entangled age, in which our consumption of fossil fuels, nitrogen fertilisers, the cobalt in our smartphones, antibiotics, and plastic all bind us to faraway times and places. The world of the Anthropocene is made from this dense web of relationships, each of which leaves its imprint on the world of the future. Two hundred generations of humans have lived and died since the Bohuslän petroglyphs were chipped out of the granite, but they remain urgent and vivid, the evidence of a living presence. In their silence, they pose certain questions. How and why do we navigate the currents of time and of matter to communicate with the deep future? Is it our intentional signs and symbols that leave the most lasting marks, or our unintentional traces?

Ilive and work in Edinburgh, on the lip of the North Sea. I’ve come to see these waters as a kind of Anthropocene laboratory, somewhere that lets us peer at the long-term impacts of the way we’re living now. Its past can tell us something of our future. As the Pangea supercontinent was breaking up 200 million years ago, ancient bacteria and microscopic plants were trapped in what would become the sea floor. Sediments gradually covered them over, and the immense pressure and heat from moving tectonic plates slowly converted this organic matter into the fossil fuels for which the region is now famous.

Until the end of the last Ice Age a vast plain linked Britain to continental Europe; evidence of human presence has been discovered in the form of stone hand axes, dredged up from the sea floor in the south. Then, around 11,700 years ago, the glaciers that once smothered the British Isles in sheets of ice up to 2km thick began to melt, and the North Sea slowly emerged in its present shape – a shallow basin, edged by a deep trench where the sea meets the crenellated coast of Norway…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/the-north-sea-is-a-sign-of-what-awaits-in-the-anthropocene

WIKK WEB GURU
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