Archaeological Dig Poses New Questions

Postouvin, Solitude - For several months now, archaeologists have been excavating an important find on the first planet in the Postouvin system. Results of some of the preliminary analyses are in, and the researchers now feel that they can confidently date the site to roughly some eleven thousand years before the signing of the Yulai Treaty ushered in the modern era.

"It really is quite a unique and astonishing find," said Dr. Kender Quillian, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Caille's Osmeden campus and director of the dig site. "It offers us tantalizing evidence of a culture that perhaps survived the collapse of the EVE Gate, living in isolation for several millenia before finally dying out. However, these clues pose further questions. Who settled this far-flung outpost? Were they living in isolation? What were they like? And what ultimately led to their disappearance?"

Even the researchers working at the dig have differing theories. Wendella Houvier, an archaeology graduate student explained, "See this support beam? This style of rib-and-skin architecture was almost universal throughout the structures at the site. It's made of a high grade of alloyed steel, but we haven't found any remnants of facilities capable of manufacturing something of this size or complexity here." Similarly, the skin of the shelters was made from an advanced type of polymer sheeting. Some researchers believe these finds imply either that there are further sites waiting to be discovered, or that the settlement here had trading partners, perhaps from off-world.

So far, an extensive search of the surrounding area has turned up a frustrating absence of other sites. Dr. Quillian posits a theory; "I believe that this was at one time a scientific outpost, one that perhaps became cut off from its parent civilization. Postouvin I is a relatively inhospitable planet, though geological evidence proves that it is much cooler now than it was in the time these people lived here." Dr. Quillian goes on to hypothezise that as a small, isolated outpost, the entire community probably numbered no more than perhaps ten thousand inhabitants at its peak. Yet that small community was at some point forced to become a civilization unto itself.

The scientists' understanding is further deepened by the findings of Dr. Jansen Pettigrew, a paleo-botanist with the expedition. "Though it was certainly much warmer then than it is now, the planet is still not suitable for wide-spread agriculture. The soils are very acidic, and with no native vegetation to hold them, they are prone to rapid erosion. The natural atmosphere is also very thin. Yet we find seeds, microscopic leaf detritus, and even pollen from a variety of edible plant crops present here." Dr. Pettigrew concludes that this is evidence of intensive synthetic indoor horticulture, probably in the form of hydroponics.

Indeed, it is this likely dependence on hydroponics which may hold the biggest clue to the eventual disappearance of the civilization. Dr. Quillian explained, "There is virtually no surface water on the planet. Though there are subsurface aquifers and ample evidence of wells and pumps at the site, geological shifts could well have cut off that supply." Similarly, the gradual cooling of the planet could have locked progressively more and more water up in solid ice, leading to a gradual reduction in available water. "I cannot imagine what that would have been like, living through that long, slow decline."

The excavation, which has been lavishly funded by the Federation Endowment for the Arts and Sciences, is planned to continue at least eight more months. In addition to the scientific findings, unique art and cultural objects from the site are slated for a museum tour once they have been fully catalogued, probably sometime mid-year.