Category Archives: Pre-historic

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 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.