Category Archives: ancient religions

The Vincan Civilization and Symbols

In the previous post, we looked at how the oldest form of writing we know (known as proto-writing) was discovered at the Jiahu site in China. The next piece of evidence comes from another end of the world – Vinča in Serbia.

A piece of the Tărtăria tablet set with incised symbols that dates back to 5300 BC to the Vinčan culture. The tablet was discovered in 1961 by Archaeologist Nicolae in Tartaria, Romania. Vlassa. Image Credit: FlorinCB (Creative Commons)

In 1908, a Serbian archaeologist Miloje Vasić discovered the largest, and oldest Neolithic settlement in Europe dating back 5500 to 4500 BCE encompassing what is today Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, eastern Hungary, Moldova, southern Ukraine and the former Yugoslavia.

Farming and agriculture got introduced to the civilization during the First Temperate Neolithic which was maintained and further ameliorated that saw the blooming of population and construction of urban settlements – long before the Sumerians of Mesopotamia. Evidences show that the Vincans were probably the first metallurgists as one of the copper mines discovered from the site has been dated to be at least 7000 years old (Rudgley, 1999). This actually predates the Copper/Chalcolithic Age.

One of the reasons the civilization flourished and advanced so well has been associated with their use of written symbols for communication. Various artifacts that have been unearthed have embedded in them symbols that were in use throughout the culture.

Vincan symbols. Source: Creative Commons

They were also ceramicists, weavers and excellent traders – one of the other reasons the culture flourished and bloomed throughout the empire. Rudgley (1999), however, states that these symbols were probably derived from religious concerns rather than for material purposes.

Although these symbols remain to be deciphered until today (or may  never be deciphered) they have been related to the early pictograms of Sumerians with the implication that latter probably borrowed some of its symbols from the Vincan culture (a matter of great controversy and debate). But most historians agree that the Vincan fingerprint is reflected in the Cretan and Sumerian scriptures and cultures.

Bibliography 

Rudgley (1999). The Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age. USA: Simon and Schuster.

Beforeit’snews.(2013). Did Vicans invent writing before the Sumerians and Egyptians? Cryptographer translates Tartaria tablets. 

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The Oldest Piece of Writing (Jiahu, China)

Jiahu Writing

This is supposedly the oldest piece of writing, discovered at the Jiahu site in Henan, China. The excavations carried out in 1999 uncovered these symbols embedded in tortoise shells, suggesting that writing first started soon after the Neolithic Revolution, around 7000 – 5800 BCE in the Peiligang culture, long before its presumed origin on the cuneiform tablets of Mesopotamia (around 3200BCE) (Clair & Snyder, 2012).

It should be noted that these are just symbols; a form of proto-writing so there are debates about whether this pertained to any language at all as its meaning is undeciphered to date; but the symbols are related to the modern Chinese script than any other style of writing (Malone, 2012).So it is fair to say that this nevertheless is a representative of written communication; and quite possibly the oldest one.

Bibliography

Clair,K. & Snyder, C.B. (2012). A typographic Workbook: A Primer to History, Techniques, and Artistry. USA: John Wiley & Sons

Malone, M. S. (2012). The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Huan Memory. USA: St. Martin’s Press

Wikipedia

The Origins of Religion (Neolithic Era)

Göbekli Tepe, Şanlıurfa (Turkey) believed to be the oldest temple in the world (ca 10000 BCE). Photo credit: Teomancimit (Creative Commons)

The Neolithic/Agricultural Revolution that took place roughly around 12000 years ago was a cornerstone in shaping the pre-modern/modern world; an impetus transcending the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to sedentary specialized societies.

The cultivation of food crops and domestication of animals meant that the wandering ways for survival were no longer necessary. Life wasn’t all about survival. There was time,  to find a higher purpose of life; creativity, art, spirituality, political and social organizations as well as scientific development, which in conjunction with that carried down over the millennia flourished cultural and lifestyle values.

The oldest temple yet discovered is the Göbekli Tepesituated about 15km Northeast from the city of Sanliurfa in Southeastern Turkey and is believed to have been built around 10000 BCE. The ruins of the site suggest that the complex religious practices and rituals had already been well established and was already an essential aspect of life, long before the settlement took place.

Charles C. Mann, in his “The Birth of Religion” in the National Geographic Magazine goes on to say that it might have been “the urge to worship” that actually sparked civilization and settlement and rather than the other way round.

The Origins of Religion (Pre-Neolithic Era)

As we have seen in The most important discovery of man part 1 and part 2, fire gave our ancestors the light to life. It enabled them to ignite to new heights hitherto unaccomplished by any other species in pre-history. We also witnessed how the flame was sanctified across various cultures that saw the rise of priesthood that strengthened as the knowledge of fire manipulation grew profounder over the millennia.

It is not a matter of debate that the seeds of religion were sown hundreds of thousands of years ago, when man first started worshipping; as a means of his reverence for nature – and all that she vouchsafed him. The Urantia book suggests that the first objects to be worshipped were stones and hills, a practice common in Southern India even today. One can speculate that before the taming of fire, they were much more reliant on stone tools for dealing with predators, chopping food etc. This was followed by the worship of trees, plants, animals, elements (air, water, earth, fire) and the heavenly bodies.

The outburst of volcanoes, storms, cyclones, earthquakes, floods, change of seasons were incomprehensible forces of nature which greatly baffled our ancestors. Unlike other primates, as they had strayed into the territory of rational thinking,  it was hard to simply overlook the motifs behind these inexplicable phenomena. And thus the idea of nature being one powerful supreme being  was surmised, one that would eventuate into God and the various rituals in his extolment. 

This, of course is a mere generalization of the events that have taken place over hundreds of thousands of years and this kind of veneration has been subject to geographic location and lifestyle of people. For example, the desert nomads revered the night sky, particularly the moon as it allowed them to travel at night. the phases of the moon and the position of the stars and planets were very important to them for navigation. Sun was rather seen as a deterrent. But for those dwelling in bone-chilling cold of the ice age glaciers, sun and the warmth and light it provided was the ultimate savior.

Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio

I fist came across the Fibonacci Sequence while reading “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. Didn’t really pay much attention at the time. Recently, while surfing through youtube about ancient religions I stumbled across this video and it dawned on me that maybe I should do a bit of research.

I was flabbergasted to know how nature reveals herself in this order of numbers and in profusion; from the florets of sunflower to wave curves to the structure of DNA. When you divide a number in the Fibonacci sequence by its preceding one, the value obtained is close to the Golden Ratio (which is approx. 1.6180339887) and represented by phi (φ). It turns out that the Greeks were the ones to first notice that almost every jaw-dropping pattern that occurs in nature is ruled by this ratio.

It turns out that the Sanskrit scholars of early India were very acquainted with this fingerprint of nature and its use is reflected in various prosodies dating back to 200 BCE. However, it wasn’t until 1202 AD that this sequence was introduced to the west by Leonardo Fibonacci (an Italian mathematician who is also known to have spread the Hindu-Arabic numbering system to Europe).

The following is just a preamble to the Fibonacci series and the Golden ratio but there is more out there. Click here to learn more.

Sameer.