“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Various forms of that quote are attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but if Honest Abe had lived during the Bronze Age in northern Italy, he would have seen an example of how ritual leaders of the time created a magic pool that fooled all of the people into thinking they were peering into a portal to another realm. Would Abe had been fooled too? Would you?
"You've had one way of life in operation for hundreds of years, and then you seem to have a switch to fewer, larger settlements, more international trade, more specialization, such as textile manufacture, and a change in burial practices."
While this unique wooden structure was discovered in 2005 in the Noceto province of northern Italy, it was only recently dated to 1444 BCE in the late Middle Bronze Age. That date makes these pools (a second pool was added above it ten years later) significant to Sturt Manning, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Classics at Cornell University, who dated the wood using a new technique called tree-ring sequenced radiocarbon "wiggle-matching," where wooden objects are dated by matching the patterns of radiocarbon isotopes from their tree rings with patterns from datasets found elsewhere around the world. That put the Noceto Vasca Votiva (Noceto Votive Tub) at a pivotal time in history that required building a suitable monument to mark it. That monument was Noceto Vasca Votiva – not quite Stonehenge but perhaps just as mystical as the rock circle.
"It's tempting to think it was about creating a reflective surface that you can see into, and where you put some offerings, but you're also looking at the sky above and the linking of land, sky and water (rain)."
In a new study with photos published in PLOS ONE and the explanatory press release, Manning explains that the stacked pools were located at the top of a hill so they couldn’t have been used as a reservoir, nor was it used for irrigation. That meant it was placed there for visitors to peer into with wonder and leave offerings – the bottom was covered with ceramic vessels, figurines and other stone, wood and organic items – as part of a supernatural water ritual celebrating, or possibly lamenting, the big changes going in the local society at the time. Sadly, peering into the watery abyss didn’t help the people see what was coming soon.
“The collapse of the whole social and economic system in the area around 1200 B.C. seems to occur because it becomes much drier."
Good old climate change. The leaders fooled the residents into thinking that spiritual offerings would fix the problem. Sound familiar? If Honest Abe were alive today, he might point to the lessons not learned at Noceto Vasca Votiva and offer a new maxim for our times.
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool around with climate change.”