Posthuman task: Going back in time to test the posthuman – ancient engineering

I’m not sure whether this is a posthuman task but here goes:

Technology is the nonhuman that extends us into posthuman. So have we been posthuman before? How do we explain the building technology of Machu Picchu ( : The site) and the Pyramids (Egypt) ( in posthuman terms?

Drawing of a pyramid (Egypt


I stand to be corrected if this is not a posthuman task. Please feel free to disagree with me.

This approach [to education] involves transcendental violence as it creates difficult situations, but it is only through these that coming into presence becomes possible (Edwards 2010, p. 13).

Machu Picchu, Peru

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 10:38 am Comments (7)
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  1. on November 26, 2010 at 10:17 pm martin Said:

    Hi Charmaine,

    This is a fascinating take on the PH, particularly suggesting that we have been through our current (or similar) evolutionary phase before, as though we humans move in cycles.

    What might be interesting would be to use your stimuli and attempt to get students to explain how the building happened, giving them an ‘uncomfortable’ task, in order to promote higher order thinking.

    Thought provoking stuff :)

  2. on November 28, 2010 at 3:37 am Charmaine McKenzie Said:

    Thanks, Martin. I like your idea of the uncomfortable task of explaining how those buildings were built. I gather there are various views on this. I also thought that it would be good to use Machu Picchu in particular to remove the posthuman theory from a European context as so many theories are based on narrow areas of application.

  3. on November 30, 2010 at 4:26 pm Mark Garratt Said:

    Hi Charmaine. I have blogged about this before, and wondered whether the very first posthumans were in fact our distant ancestors who survived through social networks that made innovations such as farming and technological developments (such as tool use) possible. Many SF writers also incorporate ancient civilisations and technological advancements into futuristic visions. I think that what you have suggested definitely resonates with the posthuman.

  4. on November 30, 2010 at 5:36 pm Jen Ross Said:

    nice thoughts here, Charmaine. I can see how this task might be very useful for challenging notions of ‘civilisation’ and unsettling simplistic ideas about development – it’s making me think about links between posthuman and postcolonial theories, which would seem to be quite fruitful. I found a recent dissertation that looks quite promising on this. Sample quote: “one of the ways postcolonials can get out of the liberal pluralistic trap is by making a leap into posthumanist agency, i.e. a post-subjective, transgressive agency” (Dahal 2010, p.11) –

  5. on November 30, 2010 at 9:38 pm Sindhu Radhakrishnan Said:

    Hi Charmaine

    Nice thought. I feel this as a threshold concept.I am wondering how they overcome that troublesome knowledge in this GEEK engineering discipline when there was no effective course design, assessment practice or digital teaching methods.May be through transcendental meditation for coherence and integration of brain functioning!

  6. on November 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm Alison Johnson Said:

    Hi Charmaine, great observation

    I agree with Martin’s reading of your ideas – the cycles of our evolutionary phases. Have we been posthuman before? Yes I think so and as Mark says the past has its own versions of technologies which have enhanced or extended our human abilities.

    In this regard your post particularly makes me think of the Nemi ships built by Caligula see which used technology thought to be a recent development only – also it is said that Emperors Tiberius and Caligula sailed on lake Nemi (where the ships were supposed to be located)to show that they were rulers aligned to the stars and the Earth’s perpetual life force, so lots of posthuman to draw from there.

    In addition, the temple of Abu Simbel in Eygpt which was built with its inner temple and 4 statue gods –

    “It is believed that the axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that on October 21 and February 21 (61 days before and 61 days after the Winter Solstice), the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark” (

    Finally this all seems to support Sian’s notion of ‘rolling presents’ ‘many nows’ ‘a successive linking of presents’ and if and we have been post human before – what does that makes us now? Back at square one?

  7. on December 12, 2010 at 10:52 pm Charmaine McKenzie Said:

    Hi All:

    I just realised that I had not responded to this very fertile seam☺. Nothing like tidying one’s lifestream to show this up.

    @ Mark, I wish I had seen your blog posting on our distant ancestors being posthumans. Might have spared me much think time. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that we will always be posthumans.

    @Jen, thanks for the link to post-colonial theories. I shall pursue it. A friend of mine had given me a reference to post-colonial literature the same day you posted this reply.

    @Sindhu, isn’t that a marvellous thought? Yes, humans could and still can learn without the structures we now know!

    @Alison, thanks for your examples of the posthuman. I don’t know if we are back at square one – I think of it more as being always in a posthuman condition.

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