Why not space migration?
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Anomalies in the Barsoom Paradigm
(and possible solutions)
By Oberon Zell
Part III: Space, Time, and Human OriginsWe also have another area to address regarding science. The ancient Barsoomians were civilized for many thousands, possibly tens or even hundreds of thousands of years. Why didn’t they develop a technological civilization and simply migrate to Jasoom (Earth)? They must certainly have had sufficient time to do this, since after all, in only 66 years, we went from the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk to landing on the Moon. There certainly were other authors writing about space flight who were contemporary to ERB.32Indeed, this one has bothered ERB readers for a century. This is a great area for speculation! Could it be that the development of spaceflight was deliberately suppressed by opposing interests? The cessation of manned expeditions to the Moon (and thus Mars) from the 1970s to this very day (an era Robert A. Heinlein was the only SF writer to predict) is a case in point.
There are two obvious candidates for the suppression of Barsoom spaceflight: the Firstborn and the Orovars/Therns. The Firstborn “Black Pirates” claimed to be from the moon Thuria (and apparently the Orovars did in fact colonize it—the Tarids of Thuria are just blue-haired Orovars). Therefore some early Barsoomians must have had at least limited spaceflight capabilities. But if so, why not go on to Jasoom/Earth?
The Therns also practice deceit towards other peoples, and would also be likely to suppress other races’ technology. But again, why not develop spaceflight for themselves? Perhaps they were just not that technological, or their technology didn’t include any means of propulsion.33 After all, on Earth, spaceflight was developed by white races rather than black, red, or yellow (although the yellow people here are definitely catching up!).
But if suppression of Barsoom spaceflight was not done by native Barsoomians, perhaps it was done by non-Barsoomian spacefarers, such as the Morgors of Sasoom/Jupiter, whom we are told have a strong vested interest in keeping other races down. This could have been done by simply destroying any Barsoomian craft that attempted to leave the planet. The mysterious destruction of nearly two thirds of all NASA and Soviet Mars missions has fueled rumors of possible alien intervention in our own attempts at interplanetary exploration:Looking over the past 48 years of Mars exploration, it makes for sad reading. A failed mission here, a “lost” mission there, with some unknowns thrown in for good measure. It would seem that mankind’s efforts to send robots to Mars have been thwarted by bad luck and strange mysteries. Is there some kind of Red Planet Triangle (much like the Bermuda Triangle), perhaps with its corners pointing to Mars, Phobos and Deimos? Is the Galactic Ghoul really out there devouring billions of dollars-worth of hardware?And finally, we may consider geological factors. Mars is a much lighter planet than Earth, and has far less heavy minerals, such as iron and uranium. This lack would have precluded Barsoom from entering into an Iron Age, with all the industrial technology arising therefrom, which on Earth eventually led to a program of space exploration. And while “radium” (Carter states explicitly that this is not necessarily the same as what we call radium on Earth, but is the best analogy he can come up with in translation) and the “7th and 8th rays” may provide useful fuels for surface and aerial transport, weaponry, etc., they may be insufficient to power interplanetary spacecraft.
The “Galactic Ghoul” has been mentioned jokingly by NASA scientists to describe the misfortune of space missions, particularly Mars missions. Looking at the statistics of failed missions, you can’t help but think that there are some strange forces at play.34
Time after Time
Another problem is correlating stated periods of time in Martian vs. Earth years. One Earth year is 365.2422 days long. The Martian year is 668.5921 Martian days long; and Martian days comprise the equivalent of 1.03 Earth days. So a Martian year is 686.98 Earth days long, or 1.88 Earth years, and one Earth year is .53 Mars years.35
For practical purposes, regarding short periods of time, we can round these numbers off and say that a Martian day is about the same length as an Earth day, and that a Martian year is just under two Earth years long. So when John Carter returns to Barsoom in 1886 after a ten-year absence Earth time, only 5.3 Martian years have passed. He encounters his son, Cathoris, who had hatched in the meantime after a “five-year” incubation (i.e. 9.4 Earth years). Since Dejah Thoris laid her egg on Oct. 9, 1866, and this was “nearly five [Mars] years” before the atmosphere factory incident, which occurred on March 5, 1876 (PM/27), Carthoris is the equivalent of 19½ Earth years old when he meets his father in 1886, but had been in the egg half his life!Oct. 9, 1866 - Dejah Thoris lays an egg (Carthoris)The Time of the Orovars
Carthoris’ egg had been laid “nearly five years” before the atmosphere factory incident (PM/27). I would normally assume five Earth years, except this should be the same period as for the green men’s quinquennial hatching traditions (which must logically be Barsoomian years). This works well as long as we use scientific years and days. In that case, the laying is about two and a half months after the marriage, which may or may not be a normal Barsoomian “pregnancy”…36
But by far the greatest discrepancy in time concerns the oft-repeated million-year span since the Time of the Orovars, when shallow oceans covered much of Barsoom, and a great seafaring civilization of white-skinned, golden-haired people called the Orovars ruled the world and plied the seas in great sailing ships. Three of the novels (PM, FMM, LG) provide specific references:[Hadron in Xanator] From the upper floor a wooden ladder extended upward through the centre of the tower above. It was of solid skeel, which is practically indestructible, so that though I knew it might be anywhere from five hundred thousand to a million years old, I did not hesitate to trust myself to it.37Let’s consider this in light of the origins of humans on the Red Planet:
“The inhabitants of Horz are, as far as we know, the sole remaining remnant of the once dominant race of Barsoom, the Orovars. A million years ago our ships ranged the five great oceans, which we ruled. The city of Horz was not only the capital of a great empire, it was the seat of learning and culture of the most glorious race of human beings a world has ever known. Our empire spread from pole to pole.38It's pretty clear that if all of these interplanetary races are derived from terrestrial humans, then Earth is necessarily the origin planet. Why? Because we fit on this planet. There is an extensive fossil record for proto-humans here. On top of that, there’s an extensive taxonomy of related species, including apes, monkeys, protosimians and even mammals. It can be shown fairly easily that our biology, and peculiarities of our skeleton and anatomy are shared, and we simply fit in context here… We’re clearly related to a variety of actual apes and monkeys. We’re clearly situated in the taxonomy of mammals, so that even such common creatures as dogs and cats have unmistakable skeletal correspondences with us. Nope, humans are definitely from Earth.39Since, as Den Valdron points out, it is obvious that humans on Mars (as well as other planets in Burroughs’ universe) originated on Earth, we have to consider the relative timeframes accordingly.
Martian years are nearly twice as long as Earth years, and the recurrent references to the Time of the Orovars being a million years ago presumes Mars years, which would make that time 1,880,000 Earth years ago! This is simply impossible. 1.88 million years ago the most highly evolved hominids on Earth were Homo erectus (c. 1.9-.5 MYA), and there is no way that transporting them to the Red Planet at that time would have resulted in the worldwide maritime trading empire and grand cities of the Orovars—let alone the modern racial types.
But perhaps a million years is an error on the part of John Carter’s translation. Other references give a shorter time-span:[Dejah Thoris] told me that these people had presumably flourished over a hundred thousand years ago. They were the early progenitors of her race, but had mixed with the other great race of early Martians, who were very dark, almost black, and also with the reddish-yellow race which had flourished at the same time.40100,000 Mars years would be 188,000 Earth years ago. Anatomically-modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens in the Middle Paleolithic, between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago, which would therefore be the earliest possible timeframe for them to be transported to Mars. Neanderthals were a subspecies of Homo sapiens who lived in Europe and Asia from c. 130,000-28,000 BCE. The earliest known remains of “early modern” or Cro-Magnon-like humans have been radiocarbon dated to 43,000 years ago. They eventually replaced the Neanderthals to become the primary ancestors of all current humans, although remnant Neanderthal DNA in some modern populations proves that there was some interbreeding.
In A Princess of Mars, John Carter describes the Orovars as they are depicted in frescoes painted on the walls of the ancient dead city of Korad:The decoration of the walls was most elaborate, and, unlike the frescoes in the other buildings I had examined, portrayed many human figures in the compositions. These were of people like myself, and of a much lighter color than Dejah Thoris. They were clad in graceful, flowing robes, highly ornamented with metal and jewels, and their luxuriant hair was of a beautiful golden and reddish bronze. The men were beardless and only a few wore arms. The scenes depicted for the most part, a fair-skinned, fair-haired people at play.41Since the ancient Orovars of Barsoom are clearly fully modern humans, even apparently northern European, that puts the earliest date of their possible transition from Earth to Mars within the past 40,000 years; and so we must look for a much more recent dating for the “Time of the Orovars.”
Archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos has pointed out that most ancient civilizations had no concept of the “zero,” let alone the decimal point. Rather, as with Roman numerals, different symbols were used to indicate large numbers—as with our words hundred, thousand, million, trillion and bazillion. Therefore when we come across references such as in Plato's “Atlantis” story that give time frames such as “this happened nine thousand years ago,” the symbol interpreted as “thousand” might really mean “hundred,” and moving the decimal point may yield a perfectly reasonable figure that can be correlated with known history:Marinatos argued that Solon may have confused the Egyptian glyphs for “hundred” and “thousand,” and that the destruction of Atlantis should have been read as having occurred 900 years earlier, rather than 9,000. If so, then the proper date would have been 1,600 BCE—the time of the Thera eruption. Reducing the figures of thousands to hundreds also brings Plato’s reported dimensions of Atlantis into accord with those of Thera.42So let’s apply Marinatos’ logic to the long time-spans referred to in the Carter Chronicles. 1,000,000 years ago Mars time would be 1,880,000 years ago Earth time. But let’s consider quite reasonably that Carter’s understanding of the Barsoom terms for such vast periods of time may have been confused. Let’s suppose that Carter misunderstood the Barsoomian term for “ten thousand” and translated it as “million.” That would place the Time of the Orovars at 10,000 Mars years ago, or 18,800 Earth years ago, when human culture was in the Upper Paleolithic (40,000-9,000 BCE), an era paleo-archaeologists refer to as the “Cultural Explosion,” characterized by magnificent cave paintings, pottery, and figurines in various materials. This was the coldest period of the Last Glacial Maximum—an excellent time for as many humans as possible to translate from Earth to a more pleasant Mars!
Excavations of remote upland settlements from that period indicate an astonishing degree of sophistication in tool making, pottery, cave painting, musical instruments, jewelry, burial goods, and other cultural artifacts. But the choice locations for human settlements have always been at the mouths of rivers, where there is abundant fresh water, seafood, and easy means of transportation—upriver and along the coastline. 18,800 years ago sea levels were as much as 400 feet lower than present, exposing as dry lands the vast areas of the continental shelves—more than ten million square miles. This is where the earliest and highest civilizations would have been established—but all coastal and lower riverine valley habitation sites of that time are today submerged under hundreds of feet of water and the accumulated river silt of over 10,000 years. As the waters began to rise, did the most advanced and evolved people master astral projection and flee to the Red Planet and elsewhere?Four people have made at least nine trips, between Earth and Mars, Earth and Venus, and Earth and Poloda… Their ability to reach Mars and Venus respectively, suggest that other humans have done this repeatedly in the past, perhaps in greater numbers.
And if humans could project themselves to Mars or Venus, then they could undoubtedly project to the Moon and Thuria. Possibly even Jupiter and Poloda. Of course, this means that humans could have originated anywhere and spread. But for reasons that I’ve given, I suspect that Earth remains the ultimate origin world.43
Anomalies of Barsoom Footnotes for Part III
32. Steve Warner, op cit.
33. Den Valdron, “The Secret of Thuria, Part I,” ERBzine Volume 1421http://www.erbzine.com/mag14/1421.html
34. “The Mars Curse” by Ian O'Neill, Universe Today, March 22, 2008; http://www.universetoday.com/13267/the-mars-curse-why-have-so-many-missions-failed/#ixzz2uTwGftTW
36. Fredrik Ekman, “Chronology for the Princess of Mars Trilogy and The Master Mind of Mars,” 2nd edition, April 2006. ERBzine Volume 0507 http://www.erbzine.com/mag5/0507.html
37. A Fighting Man of Mars, op cit. ch. 3, p. 34.
38. Llana of Gathol, op cit. book 1, ch. 4, pp. 16-17.
39. Den Valdron, “Are the Barsoom Inhabitants Human?” op cit.
40. A Princess of Mars, op cit. ch. 11, p. 52.
41. Ibid. ch. 11, p. 49.
42. Oberon Zell, “Paradises Lost,” in Lost Civilizations & Secrets of the Past, ed. Michael Pye & Kirsten Dalley, New Page Books, Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ, 2012.
43. Den Valdron, “Are the Barsoom Inhabitants Human?” op cit.
A New Map of Barsoom :: ERBzine 3937
Clues to Barsoomian locations in the Chronicles :: ERBzine 3938
The Fall of Ancient Barsoom by Steven A. Warner and Oberon Zell :: ERBzine 4497
The Doom of Barsoom :: ERBzine 485
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by Oberon Zell
Painstakingly referencing clues in all eleven books of the ERB Barsoom series,
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