This NY Times Article tells of the discovery of an ancient Maya mural, much older than they expected to find. "[I]t's like knowing only modern art and then stumbling on a Michelangelo," one of the experts says.
My purely Secular Humanist side takes great faith, ironically enough, from discoveries such as these. There have been recent breakthroughs with technology that can actually read burnt papyrus from ancient Egyptian trashheaps, or the quasi-petrified remains of Roman libraries in and around Herculaneum. In the October 20th edition of the NY Review of Books, Anne Carson published a new translation of a Sappho fragment, whose nearly complete text had been recovered, in all seriousness, from the scrap paper used to wrap a mummy.
To me, it is heartening because of how quietly reassuring the great company of humanity can be. Nothing can be truly immortal, but echoes and ripples endure even when all of their original energy was long since spent. My actions and my accomplishments today reflect the impact of Diomedes and Seneca, just as the tiniest drop of residual cream will influence the strongest coffee poured in a cup.
To me all of these old voices are painstakingly making their tortuous ways to us to say, "Yes, I've been where you are now, and yes, it's hard. This is how we managed. Hold on. It gets better."