by S.C. Compton
Genres: History, Nonfiction
You may be thinking, "a historical nonfiction book as a Fun Read Friday? You've got to be joking!" But I'm not. History doesn't have to be dull and boring, that is entirely up to the author and subject matter. The Olmecs were an ancient people that just suddenly appeared in Mexico. There has been no archeological findings of them developing their technology. They arrived with this knowledge and subsequently influenced both the Mayan and Aztec cultures. But where did they come from?
Due to high acidity levels in the soil and the rain forest environment, archeologists don't have much to work with. Human remains and even most ceramics haven't survived these harsh conditions. Compton hypothesizes that this society migrated from Egypt. He goes to great lengths comparing many aspects of Egyptian culture to what is known of the Olmecs. Religion, funerary beliefs, sacrificial traditions, architecture, even clothing is similar and lends credence to his theory. How could two cultures, separated by an ocean be so similar without being related somehow?
Compton points out that the Olmecs sacrificed to a rain god. He ponders as to why a society in a rain forest would offer sacrifices to appease a god that is most traditionally worshiped by desert people who pray for rain. While it is most likely that he is correct with his conclusion that this rain god was "grandfathered" into the Olmec society from their desert dwelling ancestors, another aspect occurred to me. Now I don't profess to be an expert on ancient gods, but it seems to me that an angry rain god has two extreme options to punish his subjects, drought or flood. I ponder if it is likely that while the Olmecs adopted this god from their ancestors they may have wanted to appease him in times of great storms to stop the rain and not that they were praying for rain to come. It has been raining here for three days now, I might be willing to sacrifice a goat in the hopes that the rain would stop.
While the author is describing Egyptian times, he also touches on biblical stories. Truth be told, I'm not a very religious person. I was raised in parochial school and am familiar with various biblical stories but again, I am no expert. However, I find it fascinating when archaeology and historians find proof that the Bible is not just a story but actual history. Compton cites cases of tree circles and polar cap borings that support the story of Joseph's seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, as well as credible explanations and hypotheses of additional biblical stories.
I found this book interesting on so many levels. Those with a Kindle Fire can enjoy the multitude of pictures and drawings in full color. Readers that own an e-reader with a touch screen can easily access the end notes as they are referenced, which I highly suggest. The footnotes contain more than just information that cites the books being referenced but also sometimes contains the exact quote from said book as well as further clarification of the point being made.
I highly recommend this book to anyone with even the remotest interest in ancient history, Egyptian history, or even biblical history.