There’s a problem-solving principle you might have heard of called “Occam’s Razor.”
Usually, people describe it as meaning “the simplest explanation is usually the best” – and that’s close.
But it actually states “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.”
In other words, if you’re trying to find an explanation for something, don’t go making a bunch of assumptions and wild guesses. Work from what you already know about the world and you’re most likely to find the right solution.
It turns out, this applies a lot to studies of ancient cultures. Looking at people groups so far removed from us by time and/or location can put us in the mindset to think of their customs as very alien, and our minds race with speculation. My favorite example is when researchers finally realized that what they’d assumed to be an ancient Egyptian ceremonial ritual was actually just them pouring water on the sand because that made stones easier to transport from one place to another.
Tumblr user systlin started up a pretty fascinating thread with some other examples of how we’re closer in thinking and practice to ancient peoples than we may realize.
If you’re curious, this is the article they’re referring to in that last paragraph.
You can learn a lot about the regular folks of the past by talking to the regular folks of the present.
Some strategies are so good, they just never go away.
Guess it goes to show the people of the past were more clever than we give them credit for – or maybe we’re a little less clever than we imagine.
What’s your favorite archaeology/anthropology fact?
Let us know in the comments!