Category Archives: civilization

The Slow Journey Of Wheel

800px-A_Wheel_in_Kudumiyanmalai_Temple
A Wheel in Kudumiyanmalai Temple. Source: Wikimedia Commons

It is not the wheel itself, but the problem of rotation that’s dogged our minds for thousands of years – John Lienhard

He must have first observed it in the wild, and many times during the Paleolithic (2.6 m – 10,000 ya) the much less strenuous movement of the rolling tree log; something that must have been puzzling and tantalizing while he himself was left to haul for example the prey that was captured hundreds of meters outside his dwelling.

Astonishingly, however, it was not until about 3500 BC that he was able to leverage his knowledge of the mechanics to invent the wheel for good. If that does not sound odd then consider the fact that the first stone tools were invented around 2.6 mya, the hand axes and choppers around 700,000 ya and as we already know (from the most important discovery of man part I), the evidence of the first controlled fire dates back around 1 mya. The paintings, sculptors, carvings and other prehistoric all flourished during the Paleolithic.

And yet, it was not until 3500 BC, 6500 years after the agricultural revolution that wheels were developed by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia. This is only 900 years before the Pyramids of Egypt were built. As Natalie Wolchover of Scientific American writes, “The tricky thing about the wheel is not conceiving of a cylinder rolling on its edge. It’s figuring out how to connect a stable, stationary platform to that cylinder.”.

Since being able to use wheels for transportation is one of the greatest achievements man has made, it is interesting to think that we lacked the successful mechanics for a staggeringly long time. Had it co-evolved, for example, with stone tools and art, several hundred thousand years ago it is certain that the world would be vastly different from what it is now, and most likely thousands of years ahead of where we stand today.

Bibliography

Natalie Wolchover (2012). Why it took so long to invent the wheel. Scientific American.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-it-took-so-long-to-inv/

Wheel History.
http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/wheel.htm

The Evolution of the Wheel.
http://visual.ly/evolution-wheel-infographic

 

 

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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. 

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