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Mummies
Out of work no longer? Photo by sculpture grrrl.

There’s an interesting article in the current New Scientist about reverse archaeology. Here’s the problem: The USA has thousands of tons of amazingly lethal waste to dispose of. What they’re going to do build a storage facility and leave the stuff there for 250,000 years. It’s potent stuff and it’s going to be a serious danger for at least the next 10,000 years so it would be helpful to leave a warning. There are a few problems.

One is language. How many people are fluent in Latin, which was a major language till quite recently? What’s your ancient Greek like? How good are your hieroglyphs? These languages have all only existed for a fraction of the time that these warnings need to last. How do you leave a message for the future? Signs are going up in major languages, but the US military have asked anthropologists for help. Their suggestion is pictures, the proposal is two faces, one showing fear and the other disgust. Another is a comic strip of a man digging and then becoming sick.

Once you have your message how to you display it? You need a billboard that will last 10,000 years. Serious and Delirious descibes the plan as ‘Evil Stonehenge’. It does look like the military will be returning to Stone Age technology to hold the message.

The final problem is making sure the message is believed. This could be where it fails. The waste will be under a mound with magnets and radar reflectors, which in a few thousand years time might be the epitome of mystical weirdness. Now at the mysterious keep out signs warning of a deadly curse which must not be disturbed.

Now who wouldn’t want to open that mound pronto?

You can read more on the same project at Wired, via unsane1. You can also read about Cornelius Holtorf’s considerably less noxious Incavation Project via the Wayback machine.

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