The Descent of Liberty: An Archeological Enigma for the Future

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"I
think at last I understand what happened to Liberty."

"Liberty?"

"As in:
u2018The Hymn to Liberty.' You know, those fragmentary inscriptions
we've been finding." The philologist was looking up from the
table cluttered with the artifacts which the archeologist had fostered
on to him in a fit of exasperation.

The archeologist
wiped the sweat from his brow. It was hot as hell in this country,
that hadn't changed since the time of the Amerikkans…for that matter,
it hadn't changed since the time of the Sumerians. "Are you
sure you haven't mixed up the labels I put on exhumations from different
strata? It's awfully easy to confuse Ishtar or Inanna with….what
did you call her? Liberty? That's not even a proper name, its just
a kind attribute or title."

"Call
her what you will, but I think I have the hymn pretty well worked
out. For one thing its not a hymn…it's a kind of lament, or an admonition."

The archeologist
made a rude gesture indicating irritation. "Lament or admonition…which?
It's not a trivial distinction. If it was a lament then your hypothesized
catastrophe was probably unavoidable. But if it was an admonition,
we're talking about people who believed their civilization could
still experience a rebirth."

"Fair
enough," the philologist sighed as he scratched his bald pate,
"why don't we put our heads together and see what we can deduce."

"Do you
think you have a sound translation of the first stanzas?"

"Better
than that, I've rendered the whole inscription as literally as I
could! But the real challenge is to come up with a satisfactory
interpretation of the meaning…there is a great deal of ambiguous
symbolism in the text."

The archeologist
looked skeptical. "Assuming we know what dialect we're working
with. As I remember, you claimed to be none too sure about of that."

"I am
now. At first I thought we were looking at Old Amerikkan…because
it didn't have that rude staccato quality that serves as a marker
for Middle Amerikkan, but now I'm convinced this is a late text…that
there was some sort of neo-classical revival at the very end. Well,
can we start into it?"

"If you
must…"

"There's
no title. The introduction must have been destroyed in the catastrophe."

"Or simply
by the ravages of time."

"Whatever.
This is the first fragment that I could make out…

This lady
left earth and heaven
     And went down into the pit

Left powers and titles
     she went down into the pit

Left fields of waving grain
     To go down into the pit
Left shore to shining shore
     Going down into the pit
Left purple mountains majesty
     And went down into the pit

…..well, does
that make any sense?"

"So according
to you u2018this lady' is referring to Lady Liberty?"

"Yes.
If you think I'm wrong, and that the fragments describe a local
fertility goddess, let me point out…"

The archeologist
waved the paleographer off of his impending justifications, "Let's
suppose for the moment that your hypothesis is correct. By u2018Liberty'
you mean the same as the colossus which once stood somewhere beyond
the mouth of the Hudson river."

"A densely
populated area at the time."

"I know,
I know. It's too bad that these colossi have a way of disappearing
without a trace. As you may know, the bronze Helios of Rhodes was
broken up and transported from the Mediterranean to the banks of
the Tigris…right around here. But we're not likely to find a single
rivet, no matter how deep we dig. Over the millennia there are too
just many upturns in the price of metals. Sooner or later…"

The philologist
blustered, "But of course, I don't mean that she was
here herself! But her devotees…"

"Just
relax, it's not that I take you for a fool…I can even see where
one might find some sort of deep allegory in these inscriptions.
As for it being Amerikkan, old, middle or late…I suppose that some
of the geographical allusions might refer to places the western
hemisphere as well as here…but it’s pretty ambiguous."

"Then
listen to the next stanzas…you know the iconography as well, if
not better, than I do…

She put
on her insignia
     And walked down

The steep
path
     That led to hell

The four
signs of her noblility:
     The seven spiked nimbus
          Of
her coronet
     The torch held aloft
          With
its mighty flame
     The book of laws
          tucked
beneath her hand
     Her robe of dignity
          Flowing
about her
And she said: "Open the gates of hell
     I desire to enter.
     I, bold and alone,
     Into the Land-of-No-Return!"

…does it check
out or not?"

The archeologist
paused for thought. "Iconographically? I suppose it matches
the verbal accounts of her appearance well enough…the visual media
of that epoch were too fragile to have survived. But there are other,
and I am afraid insurmountable, objections to your hypothesis. Why
would anyone in their right mind posit a Late Amerikkan intrusion
into Mesopotamia?"

"I admit
it constitutes an apparent anomaly."

"It's
more than just an anomaly! It's positively grotesque! And I'm not
talking about technological improbabilities here. From what we know,
it would have been perfectly feasible for the Amerikkans to have
gotten over here physically during that period. Physically yes…but
motivationally improbable, for at an even deeper level it goes contrary
to everything that we can reconstruct about the meaning of the icon
herself."

"I'm afraid
you've lost me there."

The archeologist,
working hard not to loose his patience, continued. "How much
do you know about the colossus of Liberty island…or rather the archetype
that she represented?"

The July sun
was beating down on the philologist's shiny scalp and doing some
damage to his faculty of recall, but he managed as best he could.
"Well, let's see…located outside of a harbor, she must have
been a liminal deity…a kind of boundary stone inflated to divine
proportions."

The archeologist
gave a patronizing grin. "That's correct as far as it goes.
She welcomed immigrants approaching the Western Hemisphere from
the North Atlantic. The idea was that the Western Hemisphere, at
least during that period, was a kind of refuge for people seeking
asylum. It wasn't a matter of then turning around and wreaking revenge
on whoever had pushed those people out of the Eastern Hemisphere.
The Amerikkans were supposed to stay on their own continent once
they had arrived and build up a new civilization. As far as the
rest of the world was concerned, the continent to the west of the
colossus was intended to inspire by example, not the projection
of force. That's the significance of the torch in her right hand."

A flicker of
acknowledgement lit up the philologist's face. "Aha! So she
acted as a kind of semipermeable barrier…a one-way street, aloof
from extra-continental affairs. Thus my hypothesis of a Late Amerikkan
intrusion into Mesopotamia based on this literary artifact violates
the laws of symbolic grammar, and thus may be dismissed as incoherent!"

The archeologist
gave a sigh of relief. "It is a good scientist who can see
the error of his ways."

"A good
scientist perhaps, but a great scientist will never give up on a
promising paradigm, especially if it can explain an interesting
anomaly. Anomalies are precisely what we need to investigate if
we want to break out onto a higher level of explanation!"

The triumphal
look on the face of the philologist warned the archeologist that
there was no turning back…they would have to wade through the entire
text until it had rendered up all its enigmas. "Very well,
let's continue on the assumption that this inscription is going
to tell us something about the fate of Lady Liberty. To be honest,
I don't feel comfortable with where the narrative seems to be heading…not
that I am exactly the most chivalrous of men. But in all my years
of devotion to the field of Mesopotamian archeology, delving into
strata ranging from pre-Akkadian to post-Amerikkan, I have come
to the reluctant opinion that this region somehow attracts wrathful
forces. I would like to be able to hold onto the popular view of
the Amerikkan as a happy cultural epoch. Truly, I'm not sure how
I justify that prejudice, for as you know from your philological
researches, we have too few remains of their literature to form
any opinion whatsoever. To this day most people remember nothing
of that culture beyond Disney's comic redactions of Grimm's fables,
which is probably just as well. But now, if your hypothesis is correct,
and there is indeed an intrusion of Western hemispheric matter into
the cultural deposit of Mesopotamia dating from the Late Amerikkan,
we are forced to conjecture some terrible and hitherto unguessed
at tragedy which engulfed the region, and perhaps the world, around
that time. I grow weary at the prospect…but of course you are right,
we should seek no solace short of the truth."

"Let's
just follow the text wherever it leads us. Perhaps the Amerikkans
were able to avert tragedy. It continues…

And the
gate-keeper of hell cried out
     "Why, O lady, do you wish
to enter
          the
lapis lazuli halls of hell?
     Why do you leave the land of
dawn
          And
force your way into the
               Realms
of twilight?"

It was
as that moment
That the lady sinned.
     At the gates of hell she lied,
and said,
"I have come to free my little brothers and sisters

     The shackled ones of Mesopotamia

     I have come to strike the fetters
from their necks,
          Lest,
in trying to do so on their own
          They
should injure themselves."

…so what do
you make of that?"

"If we
read it literally? Superstitious rubbish!" The archeologist
enjoyed donning his skeptical persona from time to time.

"But should
we read it literally?"

"Probably
we shoudn't. The Amerikkans, for all the lip-service that they paid
to religion, were seldom pious at heart, which many have posited
as an explanation of their demise. Personally, am no more inclined
to believe that they were talking about a real goddess in this inscription,
than I am willing to believe in a hell that has lapis lazuli halls."

"Which
doesn't necessarily mean that the narrative is without importance.
Even if the so-called u2018lady' was not a real person, she might be
a summing up of all that the Amerikkans valued in life."

The archeologist
was inclined to grant the philologist that much. "Yes, which
makes the story even more tragic."

"Assuming
it's a tragedy. Let's continue…

Then the
keeper of the gates of hell
     Went to the palace of the Queen
of Fatality
And he said,
"My lady,
     there waits upon the gates of
hell
          a
maiden wondrous fair
     like she is unto a god
          who
speaks of liberty
     she wears a crown upon her brow

          of
seven solar rays
     In her right hand is a torch

          her
left hand holds a book
     she wears the robes of modesty

          what
shall I do with her?"

Fatality
spoke to her servant,
     "Open the locks of the gates
of hell to her
          One
by one
     But at each gate extract the
toll
          Required
for its unlocking
     Such that she will be fitted

          To
enter the Dark City."

….so how are
you liking it so far. I'm sorry I couldn't quite get it to rhyme."

"Naturally,
it's just a translation, and after all you're dealing with Late
Amerikkan, an argot only distantly related to English. I can hardly
fault your scholarship…but if this is anything other than a lament
or a tragedy…well, I don't see things lightening up anytime soon."

"They
don't, listen to this…

The door-keeper
bowed to his mistress
Returning to unlock the first door of hell
He recited to the lady her obligation
     And took from her the seven spiked
coronet
     Which once had gleamed in the
light of dawn.
"Why do you take my crown?" she asked.
     "Quiet maiden!
     This is the law of the underworld

     Which must be fulfilled.
     Do
not question the rites of hell!"

…this is the
pattern which continues for the rest of the poem, or at least the
fragments which have come down to us in this inscription."

The archeologist
laughed. "I see, it's a kind of subterranean strip show! Well,
that certainly bolsters your hypothesis of a Late Amerikkan composition
doesn't it?"

Wearing an
expression of disappointment, the philologist murmured. "Please,
try to be serious. There's a lot of depth in this text…I was hoping
you would be able to help me figure it out."

"Depth!
I should say so! There's enough matter in every verse to write a
doctoral dissertation on, which is one reason why I would just as
soon be non-committal. The other reason is that any comments I had
to make wouldn't paint a very pretty picture…not in light of what
we surmise about exogenous intrusions into this region. It's bad
enough when you have the indigenous Sumerians or the Akkadians or
the Arabs slaughtering themselves in the region around the Tigris
and the Euphrates, but when you get something really exotic, like
the Mongol invasion, the excavation pits become a happy hunting
ground for forensic anthropologists. You've seen the Mongol strata
haven't you, with all the shattered femurs and bashed in craniums?"

"Yes,
but we haven't seen anything quite that bad at the depth of our
proposed Amerikkan intrusion layer."

"Indeed.
But perhaps they were just better at disposing of their corpses,
or the wounded were taken off to die somewhere else. Personally,
I wouldn't want to speculate on what happened."

The philologist
banged his hand down on the table, jostling the motley collection
of artifacts out of their places…in itself a terrible crime against
law of preserving chronology. "But it's our job to speculate!"
he exclaimed. "If you won't do your job and locate the level
of the Amerikkan intrusion, then at least help me do mine and try
to unravel this inscription!"

"All right,
you win!" the archeologist found his colleague's determination
compelling. "What we are proposing as the Amerikkan layer is
very thin…so thin that we can assume their presence didn't last
very long, at least as archeology measures time. Of course from
their point of view things probably dragged on at an excruciating
pace. When we compare the excavated material, or rather lack thereof,
with the verses that you just cited from the inscription, it becomes
clear what was going on. To begin with there is the reference to
the crown…"

"Representing
sovereignty."

"Of course,
and the sudden loss thereof. But we're talking about more than sovereignty
in a narrow legal sense. I get a vision of people afflicted with
a terrible hubris, bursting into the region from far away. These
people, whoever they might have been, would have initiated their
adventure according to a sense that they were in control of history,
an almost godlike feeling of omnipotence. But as time went on and
they realized that it was impossible to control the environing forces
of Mesopotamia, this confidence began to crack, and they began to
understand that they were at the mercy of forces which they had,
in their ignorance, conjured up out of the depths of history. Whether
these people actually founded a state, or whether they manipulated
the local people to do their will, is impossible to tell from the
evidence at our disposal. From the inscription we know that they
came in on some sort of pretext, that they spoke of liberty and
freedom…"

"Words
which can mean a thousand different things to as many people!"

"Exactly!
What their real motivations might have been isn't stated, but that
doesn't ultimately matter. The point is that they insinuated themselves
into the region using lies, and that initial act of bad faith set
in motion a series of calamities which would ultimately lead to
their downfall."

"That
pretty much tallies with what I get out of the inscription."

"You say
it just goes on in the same vein."

"Worse
and worse."

"I suppose
we had better accompany Lady Liberty as far down into hell as the
text will take us…so lead on my friend."

"Don't
expect any reversal in her fortune."

"I won't…but
by teasing out the remaining allegories we may be able to make some
inferences about the fate of the political class during Late Amerikkan
times."

The philologist,
who was feeling vindicated now, cheerfully continued his recitation.
"The meter just stays the same…I think there was a sense during
the Middle and Late Amerikkan that monotony was poetic….

The gate
keeper unlocked the second door of hell

He recited
to the lady her obligation
     And took from her the lamp of
leaping flame
     Which once had guided mariners
to port
"Why do you take my lamp?" she asked.
     "Quiet maiden!
     This is the law of the underworld

     Which must be fulfilled.

     Do not question the rites of
hell!"

…you see, everything
is the same but the lamp, which is usually a cipher for the mind
or knowledge in these kinds of inscriptions…although I'm not too
sure of the significance of the mariner."

"I think
you have the gist of it all right, as long as you don't loose it
by worrying the text to death. You philologists are an odd bunch
aren't you? You think you can get more out of a book by putting
your eyeballs as close to the letters as possible, but that only
makes you cross-eyed! With archeology the point is to be well cross-indexed,
not cross-eyed."

"No thanks
for the compliment, especially when you could graciously cure me
of that myopia by giving me a few clues about this lady's lamp."

"Well,
in literature, it means no more than you have already deduced…the
mind in general. But on a site like this, where we are surrounded
by hints of possible catastrophe during the Late Amerikkan, it points
to a failure of political decryption."

"There
you go again…"

"Sorry,
let me back up. We've already cross-referenced the data from the
Mongolian and the Amerikkan intrusions within this, and other, Mesopotamian
sites. The deposits are about six or seven hundred years apart,
and as we've already had occasion to point out, the Mongolian has
yielded up much more satisfactory evidence of sudden, cataclysmic
violence. However I'm not convinced that the Amerikkan intrusion
was any less contentious than the Mongolian. How could it have been?
Whenever you see that sort of sudden influx into a region it means
that exogenous forces were probably trying to force entry into the
native culture using political means."

"Lady
Liberty trying to insinuate herself into the halls of hell?"

"Exactly.
But we still have to account for the relative paucity of forensic
evidence in comparison to the Mongolian strata. First, I think some
of that evidence was deliberately destroyed, but second, I also
think that the information war played a much larger role during
the Amerikkan epoch than the Mongolian."

"Those
are mutually supporting hypotheses."

"Yes.
And now we see what became of the lady's torch. The longer an information
war persists, the harder it is to isolate its negative side effects.
At first the idea is to gather accurate information from one's friends
and disseminate disinformation among one's enemies. However as the
struggle persists into later phases, the boundary between allied
cadres and adversaries begins to blur causing information and disinformation
to circulate indiscriminately. At first this corruption of data
is only severe around the raw boundaries of violent conflicts, but
if the struggle goes on interminably, it begins to seep back into
core areas of the contending cultures. Ultimately the core civilizational
norms are themselves corrupted, as philosophy gives way to propaganda,
mental clarity and sound judgment to shadow-boxing with erroneous
data. Indeed, the erroneous data works, at the level of thought,
much like a transfusion of bad blood would physiologically."

"I prefer
the way our anonymous poet allegorizes it."

"That
the lady lost her means of illumination…yes, that would have been
yet another fitting toll to extract from one who had embarked on
such a misadventure. So now she is forced to witlessly stumble her
way down into the City of Darkness."

"And her
stripping is far from finished. Perhaps I should continue….

The gate
keeper unlocked the third door of hell

He recited
to the lady her obligation
     And took from her the book of
laws
     Which she had long clutched to
her bosom
"Why do you take my book?" she asked.
     "Quiet maiden!
     This is the law of the underworld

     Which must be fulfilled.

     Do not question the rites of
hell!"

…you see how
everything just iterates around the same phraseology."

"The repetition
of the phrase u2018rites of hell' is what catches my attention. I think
it refers to something more inclusive than the abode of the dead…although
I'm afraid the historical circumstances which provoked the narrative
witnessed a sharp uptick in morbidity. Note, for example, that the
ruler of the underground, this so-called u2018hell' is Lady Fatality,
a kind of negative counterpart to Lady Liberty."

The philologist
piped up with pride, "We call that a u2018syzygi'!"

"No, you
call it a syzygi, I call it a miserable blunder. Liberty in itself
is a problematic idea. On the one hand it can represent a political
system freed from despotism, but it also has voluntaristic connotations
as in u2018free will.' I suspect the poet, whoever he or she might have
been, was playing on this ambiguity. Liberty, as long as she stayed
west of the North Atlantic, was the incarnation of the anti-despotic
sort of freedom. However when she shows up here, in Mesopotamia,
she personifies an arrogant denial of the law of cause and effect.
She walks headlong into the element of Lady Fatality, and the latter
obliges her by springing the trap. The story of her journey down
into hell may be long and dolorous, but the underlying impetus is
really quite simple."

"Bravo!
That is precisely what I had deduced about the underlying unity
of the text, and it’s good to get confirmation on that point. But
the real reason I'm asking you to tag along with me through this
rather terrifying inscription is to get at its significance in historical,
as opposed to mythical, time. What does this tell us about our hypothetical
Late Amerikkan intrusion?"

"A hypothesis
which, I now concede, is looking less and less hypothetical all
the time. Alas, to seek the source of a mirage is itself an illusion!
No doubt the people who suddenly showed up in Mesopotamia during
the epoch we call Late Amerikkan…no doubt they felt that they were
somehow magically exempt from the law of cause and effect. Perhaps
they saw themselves as racially superior to the indigenes…although
there is evidence to the effect that the Middle to Late Amerikkans
typically conducted their campaigns under the auspices of anti-racialist
symbols."

"One can
seldom go wrong overestimating the power of hypocrisy."

"How true!
Another possibility is that the exogenous forces put their confidence
in some sort of technological differential. The difficulty with
that idea is the evident technological uniformity of the world during
the Late Amerikkan. But it may be that, from an archeological point
of view, we are too impressed by the brevity of the Amerikkan strata.
At the time fleeting delays in the extension of technology might
have loomed large in people's minds, and they might have thought
that, for example, the countries situated on the North Atlantic
had a permanent advantage over those, say, surrounding the Indian
Ocean. At an even higher level of abstraction they might not have
been aware of the mobility of capital, and thus felt that gains
in productivity were somehow an intrinsic and inalienable aspect
of their own civilization."

"I find
that hard to believe! I'm no archeologist, but it does seem to me
that you are imputing to the Amerikkans an ideology which would
be more appropriate to the Sumerians or the Akkadians. After all,
we speak of the Middle and Late Amerikkan as industrial…even post-industrial."

"Oh, I'm
not saying that they weren't smart enough to understand their own
economy and technology, to be sure that would be a complete absurdity.
But there must have been some fatal gap between people who had experiential
knowledge of these matters and the political class. Otherwise how
could something as potentially catastrophic as an exogenous penetration
into Mesopotamia have even been conceived?"

"Perhaps
there was something here that they wanted very badly?"

"Oh, undoubtedly
there was! Let's suppose there was a wish-fulfilling stone buried
somewhere in the desert, something that would give its possessor
omnipotence. You are the mythologist, you are the one who knows
how all these attempts at circumventing the laws of cause and effect
turn out in the end."

The philologist
gave a grim chuckle. "Badly of course…at least in song and
fable. Which is one reason I think there is often more wisdom to
be found in poetry than science."

"And to
that end you probably think we should rejoin Lady Liberty on her
downward course to perdition."

"By all
means."

"Even
though you have already perused the inscription a hundred times
and have come to your own conclusions."

"As you
have correctly divined, I need archeological confirmation."

"Well,
I have little more to add at this point. As you say, the text has
an integrity which is founded on Lady Liberty's lack thereof. She
lies herself into hell and from that point on matters take their
course. First she looses her crown, namely, the ability to control
events. Inevitably this causes her to loose her mind, as represented
by the torch. Once the ability to distinguish true from false is
extinguished, the capacity for judging right from wrong rapidly
ensues. This is symbolized by the loss of the book of laws."

"That
much I know…but how is this reflected in the archeological record?"

"I'm afraid
we've passed the point at which I can be of much assistance. It's
a dicey business making conjectures about extinct political and
legal systems from stones and bones. Things would be much easier
if we had a copy of their constitution, but up until now none has
turned up. Its ironic, we have a better knowledge of the constitution
of Athens, thanks to the preservation of Aristotle's works, than
we do of political organization during the Amerikkan period, which
is much more recent."

"I think
the phrase u2018book of laws' indicates that they had a written constitution."

"I tend
to agree, and furthermore, the preservation of that fragment alone
would vindicate all the hard work that you've poured into deciphering
this inscription."

The philologist
gave a whimsical look and muttered, "Thank you."

"But what
actually happened I can't say. When we find aggregates of indigenous
and Western hemispheric material in the Late Amerikkan level, is
it too much of a conjecture to suppose that political organization
had entered a period of rapid transformation? Was Mesopotamia actually
annexed and administered as an integral part of the Amerikkan polity?
I would be curious to know. The most that one can say is that there
would have been a great deal of mutual interpenetration among the
political classes of both regions. Naturally this would have led
to changes in legal and moral norms on both sides of the relationship.
Whether for good or ill…I don't suppose that's for either you or
I to judge."

"No, but
the author of the inscription has judged, and judged very clearly."

"I sense
a certain amount of bitterness in the text. But then, assuming the
hypothesis that we have framed to be correct, it must have been
a terrible experience, seeing one's world implode so suddenly. Or
was it as sudden as the thinness of the strata, together with the
alarming tone of the text, seem to indicate? Let's have the final
stanza and be done with it, this thing is making me depressed and
making you more cross-eyed than you already are!"

Ignoring the
insult the philologist burst out. "Agreed! This is where she
goes out for the count and we finish our labors….

The gate
keeper unlocked the fourth door of hell

He recited
to the lady her obligation
     And took from her the robe
     The single garment which covered
her body
"Why do you take my robe?" she asked.
     "Quiet maiden!
     This is the law of the underworld

     Which must be fulfilled.

     Do not question the rites of
hell!"

…and that's
it, its over, she's standing there stark naked, presumably in front
of Lady Fatality who is grinning like a cat with its paw in the
canary's cage. Any comments?"

"Well,
not a very satisfactory ending is it? Obviously there are a great
many missing fragments."

"Then
go dig up some more inscriptions! My job is just to do the decoding."

"Well,
somehow you've finagled me into doing both of our jobs, and I suppose
now that you want my amateur opinion on the symbolism of the robe."

"And I
suspect that you will say that it represents the loss of dignity."

"No, I
won't fall for that. Of course whoever wrote the poem must have
felt a great deal of shame, as if having been stripped naked by
the winds of history. But he or she was also an acute symbolist,
and knew that a garment stood in the same relationship to the body
as the body itself does to the soul. Thus the loss of the garment
symbolizes death. The terrible truth is that the momentum of the
whole narrative, from the very beginning, is hurtling towards the
death of Liberty."

"You've
confirmed my own hypothesis…although I would have preferred it if
you hadn't. It's as if the poem was a cry of anguish from the past.
Now that we've given it a careful reading, how would you place its
genre: a lament or an admonition?"

"Both!
A lament for them, an admonition for us."

The philologist
gave the archeologist a searching look. "And what precisely
is it that we are being admonished about?"

"Well,
I'm a skeptic myself, but at the risk of sounding like an ancient
Mesopotamian, the admonition is very clear: don't betray and blaspheme
your god…or goddess as the case may be. Liberty underwent a transfiguration
on her way to hell, in which her icon was first drained of all meaning,
and finally came to signify virtually the opposite of what she had
stood for in her native land. I assure you, nations don't long outlive
the death of their gods!" The archeologist thought he had done
a good summing up, but his colleague was holding up his hand in
a gesture of defiance. "What, do you think I've gotten it wrong?"

"Yes,
you've omitted an essential element in the story. Hope! You see,
although we only have fragments of the text, we can try to guess
its outcome by relating it to the classical structure of Mesopotamian
epic. I hope some day we find further fragments of the poem, fragments
which tell how Lady Liberty either extricates herself from hell
or is rescued by a benevolent force. You describe the poet as bitter…I
would say indignant, and resolved to see a new birth for Liberty,
rising up from the underground. After all, that's what all the old
myths promise, in one form or another, isn't it?"

The archeologist
gave a sigh. "I suppose you're right…but I'm tired. To begin
with, tired of pondering the fate of the Amerikkans! They had their
day in the sun, and its time for us to get out of it…back to town
and into the shade."

"Very
well, but let me lock the Descent of Liberty inscriptions
up in the storage shed first. They say the antiquity thieves are
on the prowl again, and at the minimum I hope we can at least safeguard
these meager fragments, lest their testimony of a long forgotten
freedom vanish utterly from the earth."

Amongst
other things, The Descent of Liberty: An Archeological Enigma
for the Future is a layman's tribute to the now threatened field
of Middle Eastern archeology. For more information on the Mesopotamian
epics see Poems
of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia
.

September
17, 2007

Mark
Sunwall [send him email]
teaches Anthropology and English at the University of Hyogo, Japan.
He has studied Austrian economics at George Mason University and
is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
.

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