Editorís note: This is a timely blog by Dennis Feucht, especially regarding the title of this blog, since my hard drive just crashed a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, my data (technology) was not lost because of the existence of back-up hard drives. Enjoy the article
When the third war with the Empire was looming, historian Diodorus Siculus, a Sicilian, went down to Carthage to talk with the leaders. They controlled an important technology which was shortly thereafter lost to Europe.
Carthage was on the north shore of Africa, in Tunisia, across from Italy. Historians refer to it as a Phoenician colony, but the Phoenicians were too few in number to have populated all the ancient colonies around the Mediterranean that are attributed to them. Many of these colonies were Israelite, ostensibly dominated by the tribes of Dan and the Judahite clan of Zarah. Phoenicians and Israelites shared the same written language, paleo-Hebrew, so that it is difficult millennia later to know who was who.
What the Phoenicians had technologically were long-boats. They had them for centuries, extending back to the third millennium BCE. These boats had an eagle masthead and according to historian Cyrus Gordon had twice the tonnage of Christopher Colombusí largest ship. For centuries, the Phoenicians were the long-haul carriers of the ancient Near-East world.
According to first-century BCE historian Strabo (citing Eratosthenes), the Carthaginians had 300 towns in Atlantis. They told Diodorus that if they lost the war, they would relocate to them using their long-boats. History records that Carthage lost the Third Punic (Phoenician) War (146 BCE) with Rome, and they subsequently disappeared from history along with long-boat technology. After that, only the Norse (Vikings) had similar boats in Europe which they used to establish colonies in Greenland and New England. This was centuries before Columbusís re-discovery of the Western Hemisphere at Mesoamerica, called AztlŠn by the Aztecs, and modified for easier Greek pronunciation to Atlantis. (The whereabouts of Atlantis remain speculative if one reads only Platoís Timaeus and not Diodorus, Strabo, or Poseidonius.)
Thus we have an account in history of where a transportation technology that was important for centuries in moving people and goods long distances around Europe, the Middle East, the horn of Africa, India, and beyond, was lost to Europeans. Roman ships did not have comparable performance to the long-boats, though durable contents of sunken wooden boats, such as Roman coins and amphorae (vases), have been found off the coasts of Massachusetts, Honduras and Guanabara Bay, Brazil. Long-boat technology was lost to Europe because of war. Roman geopolitical strategists must not have taken into account the loss to the empire of an important technology in the defeat of a rival.
In our time of global interaction, could technology be lost by war or other social factors? Loss need not be caused by a social event but merely by environmental factors. A trend in information technology is toward increasing fragility. Petroglyphs have lasted for millennia. Books and parchments have lasted for centuries, even millennia. In contrast, flash memory drives are rated to reliably hold their data for at most a few decades. Magnetic memory such as audio or video tapes or floppy diskettes in a humid atmosphere fails in only a few years from mold. Non-operating hard-disk drives fail when (not if) ambient moisture eventually penetrates the seals and is not driven out by the heat dissipated during operation. In a warm, humid climate (such as around the Caribbean region), a non-operating HDD stored in humid, unconditioned air will last about a year, sometimes less.