By Dean Thomas
Aug. 28, 2002
Perhaps the most frequently asked question I am challenged with while speaking about the Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great deals with the relative obscurity of the region in question. "Why here," I am often asked.
Early in my investigation I often asked myself this same question. My initial answer being, "Why not here." However, further investigation and repeated trips to the Tomb site have revealed great amounts of information about this region and why it might be the ideal location for ancient old world colonization.
First of all it must be realized that European and North African civilizations have been traveling to and trading with indigenous peoples as well as with old world colonies in the Americas for some 5,000 years. There is no way of knowing when the first people made the trip by sea but it is generally known that copper from the Michigan region of the present United States fueled colonies and permanent trade routes from the inception of the "Bronze" age until the early "Iron" age. The unusually high grade copper ore in Michigan accounts for 95% of all copper mined on planet Earth. This ore body is immense. Current estimates suggest that only 1% of this ore has been mined. Although Europe, Africa and the Near East have copper ore deposits, they are small, infrequent and of relatively low grade. Michigan copper is of the highest quality known to exist. This single body of ore probably accounts for the majority of copper consumed during the Bronze Age. When old world technology reached the level of sophistication required to forge wrought iron then the need for copper dropped to a level below that in which old world production could sustain thus the need for Michigan copper ceased and subsequent mineral trade between the old world and new diminished accordingly.
Realizing that trade existed between these two ancient worlds would seem to suggest that settlers might have migrated into various areas of the new world. Colonies would have formed occasionally, introducing slowly, over time, old world customs, traditions, religious practices, language, technology and any of a host of other cultural ideologies indicative of migration of culture from one area to another. This infusion of cultural identity would have left a permanent mark on the aboriginal people occupying the region prior to old world infusion. It would not then seem improbable to stumble upon a burial chamber in the new world that is occupied by settlers from the old world. Settlement
But why here? Why would you travel thousands of miles to make your home in what is present day Marion County, Illinois? Is there something unique about this place?
The North American continent of 2,000+ years ago was a very different place from what we experience today. There is little resemblance in today's "United States" of this long ago wilderness we call Ancient America. Only the most dominate land marks would be recognized today, such as major water ways or mountain ranges. Mountain lions, woodland buffalo and great bears would have called this place home. The forests were virgin as were the prairies. No flood control projects hindered the flow of water during annual floods. No roads crisscrossed the land. It was a new place. Free of man's infringements. It was a vast, untamed wilderness, free for the taking by any species dominate enough to do so.
The hardships endured by early white explores just a few hundred years ago are well documented. Those hardy souls who attempted to settle northern latitudes often failed to predict the severity of the winter months and more often than not, perished. Likewise, early settlers of southern latitudes frequently met their demise much more rapidly due to the insidious disposition of new world disease. In these wet, warm southern regions, the mosquito ruled with omnipotence. Life along the major water ways such as the Mississippi, Ohio, Wabash, Cumberland, Missouri or Illinois would have met with disaster during times of flooding when water levels can remain in flood stage for months, eliminating travel, agriculture and low lying settlements. Often, floods were followed by disease, and death.
It would not then seem unreasonable that we might find the remnants of an ancient civilization at mid latitudes where winters are relatively moderate, but not so far south as to be subject to the higher humidity associated with disease and pestilence. Only a hundred miles north or south of Marion County, Illinois you will encounter a substantial change in climate. A unique feature of Marion County is its central location relative to the great river systems that surround Illinois. Running down the Eastern edge of Marion County from north to south is the hydrological divide that segregates the water shed of southern Illinois into East / West drainage systems. Water run-off to the east drains into the Wabash River while run-off to the west drains into the Mississippi River. An additional feature of this divide is that water never stands on this "high" ground during even the worst of floods, providing access to other regions year around regardless of weather conditions.
The site were the Tomb is believed to exist lies just to the east of this divide at the upper most beginnings of a water shed where it would be safe from flooding. Nearby, just a little down stream from the Tomb site are many large man made earthen mounds. These mounds date to approximately the same time period as the tomb (2000 years ago) and all stand upon basins adjacent to the river system. These mound complexes prove definitively that a great, technological culture inhabited this area during ancient times.
These colonial expeditions to the new world were organized by great leaders … Kings, or nobles. They were highly educated men. Were they not, they would never have proven themselves capable of such a journey. A journey so incredibly difficult and completely saturated with peril, that even today, there are those who still refuse to accept that ancient man, with all his apparent technological shortcomings, was ever able to embark upon such a journey. "Columbus," they chant, "was the first."
But we know better.