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The Slow Journey Of Wheel

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.


Natalie Wolchover (2012). Why it took so long to invent the wheel. Scientific American.

Wheel History.

The Evolution of the Wheel.



The Ocean as Our Planet

One of the first things our lecturer said to the class at the start of the semester was

“If aliens are observing our planet from far far away, they wouldn’t really call it earth. If you look at the structure, our planet is one that should actually be called The Ocean “

As we go through the pell mell of our daily lives, little attention do we pay to the fact that there lies a colossal body of water, mostly unexplored and that the land on which we are sitting (of which all the continents are made of, but which apparently is still huge by our standards), covers a mere 29.2 % (i.e. less than 1/3rd) of our planet’s surface area.

But the body of water is just the tip of the iceberg; what’s more fascinating than anything else is what lies within and beneath that water. There is more ecosystem and biodiversity flourishing in those waters than you will ever be able to imagine. But let’s put aside the marine biota for the moment and explore what lies underneath the massive body of water.

Have you ever imagined what would happen if you were able dive down to the very bottom of the deepest parts of the sea? Is there even a bottom at all? The answer is a fascinating yes!. It is fascinating because the ocean floor is completely different from what you would imagine it to be. This is because the sea floor is undergoing tremendous amount of tectonic activity (movement), every moment; with the new crust being formed and the old one being subducted.

One important realization is that the continental margin doesn’t end  as you start moving offshore; not until you have reached hundreds of kilometers. The ocean basin, on the other hand is not a flat land like you would imagine. It contains several features such as:

Abyssal plains – These are very flat depositional surfaces formed by slow settling of fine particles.

Volcanic Peaks – These poke through the sediment cover of the abyssal plains and depending on their elevations can be of various types (seamounts, tablemounts/guyots, seaknolls and volcanic Islands ).

Ocean Trenches – These are linear, steep sided scars on the ocean floor and contain some of the deepest parts of the oceans. They form volcanic arcs such as the Island arc (e.g. Japan) and the continental arc (e.g. Andes mountains) due to the rise of the trench on the landward side. The Pacific Ring of Fire is formed from these trenches.

The Mariana Trench, situated at the Western Pacific is the deepest part of the ocean/world (about 11,022 km below sea level). No feature on Earth is as tall as the Mariana Trench is deep.

The Álfagjá Rift Valley in south-west Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and marks the boundary where the Eurasian plate is moving apart from the North-American plate. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Mid-Ocean Ridge – It is the longest global mountain chain entirely volcanic that marks the divergent plate boundary (i.e. where the two lithospheric plates are moving apart from each other). The molten lava from the bottom spews out through the fractures/cracks known as hydrothermal vents, cools down and forms the new sea-floor pushing the old ones toward the continental margins.

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.


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.


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


Why I’m an Agnostic

I’m an agnostic because I haven’t given up wondering. And based on what I know to be true, an agnostic is the only thing I can be.

This is a great video and sums up why I’m straddling the fence when it comes to God,  universe and our existence.  My life as a student and a strong proponent of science is obverse to my background of being born in a religious family and being around people with all kinds of faiths and religions.

I’ve been pursuing this subject for years and it seems the more one tries to comprehend this world, the more incomprehensible it turns out to be.

So, is this an act of futility? To question; to be curious and strive for an answer?

Absolutely not. In the end one comes to realize that it is the JOURNEY that matters and not the DESTINATION.  There are things that are going to completely shake your world view and blow your realm of reality; that moment of epiphany!

I love the way this has been recorded; the sound, the images and the voice. They all match up with its contents.

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.