ISSN: 20456271
First published in 2012
2 issues per volume
Volume 5 Issue 1
Cover Date: June 2016
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Authors:  Edward Colless 
DOI: 10.1386/ubiq.5.1.205_1

anachronic image,semiology,fossil,code,nuclear waste,undead

Deep underground on the Finnish island of Olkiluoto, a corporation has been excavating the world’s largest nuclear waste repository. Once filled, the site will need to be sealed and left intact for 100,000 years to avoid contamination of the earth’s surface. The defences for this massive sarcophagus will need to survive and resist geological or meteorological interruptions, but also human curiosity or treasure hunting. This poses not only an engineering problem but a semiological one: how can a warning sign be written or depicted that will still be decodable for an almost unimaginably remote future? The problem is dramatized when one considers that it only took a generation for the human race to lose the ability to read Egyptian hieroglyphs, and for hieroglyphs to then remain a mystery for 1500 years until a fluke archaeological discovery of the code. Such a warning sign to stop the opening of radioactive tombs also suffers the likely indecipherability of those messages naively engraved on the plaques attached to Discovery spacecraft sent out of the solar system into deep space and deep time, with images of a naked Edenic couple etched into the metal, along with a recording of Bach’s third ‘Brandenburg Concerto’ (which is probably unplayable on even our own technology now). This article will address both the anomaly of these manufactured ‘future fossils’ and also the eclipse of meaning in pictograms or glyphs from a deep past.
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