If I had a time machine I would have a lot of fun. Now, I do subscribe to the cultural anthropology model of one must spend a great deal of time within a cultural group, shed one's cultural bias, and make thoughtful objective observations of behaviors and actions before one can even pretend to understand a different group of people. Conducting high quality anthropology teaches us all what it means to be human throughout this shared planet.
I'd like to say that if I had a time machine I'd use it to foster a great and profound understanding of those that walked this earth before us. That I would take the time to embed myself in a different space and time and do cultural anthropology proud. But let's face it, that's a lot of work. The love of my life is in my house and cold beer is in my fridge - I'm devoting eight hours a day to time travel, tops. Now that we all know I'm totally not in this for the greater good, here's my shallow list of the top five places I would go.
1. The Trojan War - Helen's face launched a thousand ships. I need to see that face! I don't need to see that face for any dirty, amorous, or exploitative reasons. I'm just curious. And I'd really like to get Helen's take on all this. A thousand ships. One thousand. Ships.
2. Mesa Verde circa 800 years ago - They built villages inside natural shelters carved into sheer cliff faces! How did they get in there?? I know, I know, very carefully. But seriously, I've been there. I know people say they farmed on top of the mesa and did something mumbled to get into the cliff dwellings, or there were ladders and they climbed in, etc. But I can't visualize it. I can't get my head around it. I just need to see some Mesa Verde people travel from some point outside of the cliff dwelling to some point inside the cliff dwelling.
3. Europe circa 40,000 years ago - I'd like to see a Neanderthal, hat in hand with a sheepish but hopeful expression on her/his face bringing his/her Homo sapiens date a handful of wildflowers. Or maybe a big ol' Homo sapiens would be coming at our Neanderthal friend with a big ol' club. Either way, mystery solved.
4. Somewhere on earth circa 1 million to 700,000 years ago - Right at that moment when someone discovered how to start a fire. I'm betting that if it wasn't a gift from Prometheus then it was probably a real pee your pants kind of moment.
5. Alexandria circa 2200 years ago - In time to visit the Great Library. The other day I was reading some Sappho, as one does, and came upon "Then the god of war Ares, boasted to us that he could haul off Hephaistos, master of the Forges, by sheer force." What happens next?!?!
That's my list. Where would you go? Let us know!
Jennifer Riddle started her professional career as a happy field hand in the Nevada desert. She worked her way up to Principal Investigator and romped through the American Southwest and Great Basin for 15 years, stopping the romping only when she decided to join the Archaeology Almanac ranks and write articles for a living.