Conspiracy theorists rarely approach objects of antiquity with any real level of expertise. Often, when they claim that monuments such as Stonehenge where built with unimaginable technology and that an ancient stick-figure painting with an unusually large head is an astronaut, it’s easy to be skeptical. Still, somehow their theories find an audience to resonate with. Their views spread simply based on the fact that most followers don’t know what to make of objects and depictions from our past themselves, and thus wild conclusions are born. Neil deGrasse Tyson may have expressed the shortsightedness of these ideas best on Twitter.
Just because you can't figure out how ancient civilizations built stuff, doesn't mean they got help from Aliens.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) December 6, 2014
According to the J. Paul Getty Musem, the Grave Naiskos depicts a woman on a throne with her attendant who is holding out a shallow chest. Carved out of marble in the eastern region of Greece, possibly in the city of Delos, the Grave Naiskos predates the birth of Jesus by 100 years.
But is there a laptop in this depiction?
YouTuber StillSpeakingOut posted a video raising the question of whether or not modern tech companies have tapped into ancient technology. The rambling narration could almost be a parody of itself. British tabloid The Daily Mail, however, has picked up the story asking readers, “Is this ancient Greek statue proof someone took a laptop back in time (or is it just a TABLET?).” Because there is no way it could possibly be a significantly less anachronistic object.
“When I look at the sculpture I can’t help but think about the Oracle of Delphi, which was supposed to allow the priests to connect with the gods to retrieve advanced information and various aspects… Not saying that this is depicting an ancient laptop computer.”
But the Getty Museum knows exactly what is going on it the depiction and it’s in no way supernatural.
“Lounging in a cushioned armchair, a woman reaches out to touch the lid of a shallow chest held by a servant girl on this funerary relief. The depiction of the deceased reaching out for an item held by a servant has a long history in Greek funerary art and probably alludes to the hope of continuing earthly pleasures in the afterlife. The dead woman must have come from a prominent and wealthy family. Numerous elements on the relief signal her high status, as do the scale and overall quality of the work. She wears snake-bracelets, presumably gold, on her upper and lower arms. Her elaborate chair has a turned leg decorated with lions’ paws and an eagle arm-support. Also the clothes and hairstyle of the attendant characterize the young girl as a slave.”
The piece would have originally come from a tomb. Unless the woman is about to IM someone from beyond the grave, the “laptop” is more likely a shallow jewelry box.
In the past, academics have largely ignored the “ancient aliens” crowd. But with more and more conspiracy theories permeating society at different levels, scholarly backlash is on the rise. From Neil deGrasse Tyson to Jacquelyn Gill and many other prominent figures is the scientific community, the true experts are shaking their heads on social media and expressing the need for better education to thwart the spread of misinformation about the past.
Ben Carson thinks the pyramids were used to store grain, not buried rulers. 1) pyramids aren't hollow, and 2) ancient Egyptians could write.— Jacquelyn Gill (@JacquelynGill) November 5, 2015
[Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]