The Lost Culture Of New Island Is 43,500 Years Old

You can't find New Island on most maps of the Indian Ocean because its location was a secret for most of the twentieth century. But now one man has chronicled the long, strange history of its ancient inhabitants.

The ruins you see here come from a group known locally as the "Old People," who probably started living on the island 43,500 years ago. In the modern age, the island was discovered in the late eighteenth century by two convict ships that crashed there on the way to Australia. One of those ships was filled with hundreds of female convicts, who eventually founded their own civilization on the island, based on sexual equality and paganism. Today the island is a bustling place, full of trains and welcoming visitors.

Unfortunately, you can only visit via a website created from the imagination of Lee (Rusty) Mothes, a worldbuilder who loves to draw maps and island landscapes. New Island is a place he's been imagining for over a decade, and he finally put all his pictures and ideas about it into one place, which reads like a work of fantasy travelogue.

Here, for example, is Mothes on the ruins:

More thorough digging in later years has revealed that the hilltop ruins were built by a prosperous and intelligent population. The oldest signs of habitation, found in some caves on the island's eastern coast, date back to 41,500 years BCE, according to carbon dating techniques. Known locally as the "Old People", this pre-European civilization left impressive stonework buildings, harbors, roads, fortress walls, and several curious platforms at the ocean's edge before disappearing about 800 years ago!

The Lost Culture Of New Island Is 43,500 Years Old

At one point, New Island was menaced by an iceberg - roughly around the same time New Zealand was being menaced by icebergs too. Mothes naturalistic painting and map-making skills make this a place that I'm now longing to visit.

The Lost Culture Of New Island Is 43,500 Years Old

Need to get around on the island? Mothes says:

New Island Railways offers daily passenger service between Putney and Victoria Harbor, either by the PVH express route or via the more leisurely Irain-Southwestern route.

The Lost Culture Of New Island Is 43,500 Years Old

Want to know where New Island is? Here's your answer:

New Island has been 'suppressed' on most maps, mostly due to a little-known agreement with the US and the old Soviet Union made in the 1940s. Because of it's strategic value as a tracking station during the Cold War, the American CIA and the Soviet KGB quietly asked map publishers to delete New Island from maps or atlases of the region. To this day, the island does not appear, except on very few copies of the National Geographic Atlas of the World, Sixth Edition, 1995!

The Lost Culture Of New Island Is 43,500 Years Old

There is a mysterious part of the island, pictured here, that gives way to a region called Roger's Dreamland. Mothes writes:

People have trekked to the place known as Three Rocks, and untold numbers have "gone in" to the Dreamland. A few hours or sometimes many days later these 'dreamers' return by way of the same rock. They usually describe a sandy, desert-like landscape with beautiful freshwater pools and streams, lovely coves and beaches and a pervasive, eerie charge of energy in the air. Some have come back with stories and descriptions of a far different nature. The sign-in register at Three Rocks contains the names of many who haven't come back yet...

The Lost Culture Of New Island Is 43,500 Years Old

This is a map of settlements on New Island over the years. But the earliest settlers were freed prisoners. Mothes tells a story about how the prisoners set up a new kind of female-dominated, pagan culture:

Many meetings were held that seemed to go on forever. Captain Hayes realized that none of the guards, crew nor he could "command" 700 pissed-off women—women who had largely been abused or otherwise caught up in a harsh legal system designed by and for the men of England! Hayes intuitively felt that Cecelia could be a leader, and declared that she be in charge. In the weeks following the first shipwreck, spring had arrived, and the wildflowers, green grass, and warming weather enlivened some spirits, but there was a much resentment between nearly all the women toward their erstwhile keepers. And the the guards and sailors began to seethe against Capt. Hayes, Cecelia and a few of the other "enlightened ones". Several of the older women had brought memories and skills of ancient Gaelic and Celtic spiritual traditions, healing methods, and ways of living together that far preceded the Judeo-Christian England of that time . . . When Cecelia asked these women to address a general meeting of all the women, the 'healers' were jeered by the world-weary streetwise crowd: Renounce Christianity? Bring back witchcraft? And when the men heard of these ideas, The captain had all he could do to keep order! But then there was a shift—it came slowly as the wheels began to turn in many minds.

There is a lot more to see on Mothes' Commonwealth of New Island website.