Arthur C.Clarke's Chronicles of the Strange and Mysterious by John Fairley

By John Fairley

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She reports: My first line of approach was to show examples of Neanderthal tools to the people and ask whether they had seen anything like them. I obtained the same answer from a number of widely separated groups. All agreed that the tools had been used by people 'who used to live in this area before us' and who now 'live in the mountains'. The name given to these people never varied; the locals called them either the people of Tuud or, when asked to elaborate, gave them the name Almas or one of its local variations.

The Cultural Revolution of the 1960s which so disrupted Chinese academic life, brought the controversy to an abrupt end with nothing resolved, but by then the story was out. One of the many experts in the West who learned of the Nanjing belt was Dr Joseph Needham of Cambridge University, author of the monumental Science and Civilization in China, and perhaps the greatest authority of all. He was intrigued and did not entirely dismiss the idea that the ancient Chinese had somehow found a way to isolate aluminium.

Butler and his colleagues, Dr Christopher Glidewell and Sharee E. Pritchard, of the Chemistry Department of the University of St Andrews decided to continue the search for the truth, begun a quarter of a century earlier in China. In 1986 their report was published, and was eagerly consulted by scientists and lay people whose curiosity had been whetted by the Chinese controversy. ' held out the promise that the three investigators had found an answer to the mystery. They began by acknowledging that modern research into Chinese science and technology has revealed many previously unsuspected scientific and technological achievements, some astonishingly advanced.

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