Monday, January 31, 2011

History Mystery: Birth of Technology Part. I

The first tools-rough hewn stones more than 2 million years old, found at Hadar in Ethiopia- are the earliest evidence of humans. They were round stones dashed against a rock to produce a jagged edge that could be used to cut through tough animal hide or to hack up meat. It took the best part of another million years for early humans to learn to make fire. In doing so, they also won some control of their destiny. Using fire for cooking, heating, light, and defense, they were able to move out of their African birth place. By 300,000 years ago well formed stone tools were being made. Around 10,000 years ago technological discoveries accelerated. Framing developed in many regions, and a more settled way of life gave rise to a stream of inventions including metallurgy, spinning, pottery, and the wheel. Animals began to relieve their human masters of the burden of traction and transport.
                By 20,000 BC hunters were finding ways to propel to projectiles more effectively than by simply throwing them. The harnessing of energy began with fire, probably 1.5 million years ago. Water was used for irrigation from around 5500 BC. Only much later in the 1st millennium AD- were the forces of wind and water harnessed.
                 The first boomerang is made in Europe around 21,000 years ago. By a similar date, the spear thrower is developed to extend the range and power of spears and darts. Known in the Americas as the atlatl, it becomes widespread, used equally in hunting and in warfare. Bows and arrows appear around 16,000 years ago.
In Europe and Asia, asses and cattle are used for traction before 4500BC. First cartwheels are developed in Mesopotamia after 4500BC. They are made of three shaped planks: two semicircles clamped to a solid hub with wood or copper struts. There are considerable advantages: an ox with a cart can transport three times the load it can bear on its back.
Between 4500BC and 4000BC, ploughs come into use in the Middle East and Europe. Wheel making spreads throughout the Middle East and into the steppes. The rims are often reinforced with metal. Horses are domesticated around 4000 BC on the European fringes of the steppe region; as a result people begin to explore the steppes and settle there. From 3000 BC levers are used; they can be seen in Egyptian sculptures. Later, there is evidence in Egypt and Mesopotamia of more sophisticated principles with the shaduff, a bucket on a pole counterbalanced by weights used to raise water from a river.
In the Middle East lighter spoked wheels are developed, followed by swiveling axles, which make four wheeled carts much easier to steer. Spoked wheels make it possible to develop light, manoeurable chariots which become formidable in war, from Africa and Europe to India by 1200BC.

 The Archimedean screw, an efficient device for raising water appears in Mesopotamia around 700 BC. At the start of the Christian era, the Romans refine the application of levers with pulleys, about the same time, Vitruvius, a Roman architect and engineer, describes the first devices using natural energy, water and wind.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

History Mystery:Written in Stone

The mysterious Mayan writing used pictographs and phonetic symbols. The first sign to be understood were mathematical, and usually appear in the form of dates. The Maya used what is known as the Long Count system, in which each date was recorded as the number of days since an earlier, fixed date. Many archaeologists believe that this fixed date corresponds to August 13, 3114 BC- a day which precedes the earliest settlements of the Maya tribes by about 1000 years.
The date may relate to Maya legends about the origin of the world. The Maya believed that three worlds had been made and destroyed by the gods before their own world came into being. The first world contained men made from earth; the gods destroyed them because they were mindless. The men of the second world were made of wood; but they were soulless and unintelligent, and were drowned or devoured by demons. In the third world, the gods made the Maya ancestors from gruel of the scared plant, Maize. They were destroyed to make way for the present world- for men of flesh and blood.
Using 3114BC as a starting point simplifies the dating of the events of Maya history. At Tikal, all the engraved dates that have been found fall between AD292 and 869.
Maya mathematicians mainly counted in multiples of 20. Each Maya year, or tun, contained 18 months of 20 days each, and another five ’unlucky days’. Years were grouped into katun, or 20-years period; baktun, or 400 year periods; and so on up to the alautun, a period of more than 63 million modern years.
Until the deciphering of the stelae, the names and deeds of Tikal’s rulers were surrounded by uncertainty. A puzzling gap of more than a century in the erection of stelae at Tikal, falling between 557 and 682, has not been explained. In 562, Caracol a city subordinate to Tikal’s arch enemy, Calakmul- inflicted a defeat on Tikal. It was not until 672 that Tikal began to regain its former importance, and under the leadership of Hasaw Chan K’wail, Calakmul was eventually defeated in 695. Hasaw guided Tikal to the peak of its power.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Preserved through time Part.II

Like lakes and rivers, bogs and marshes preserve organic remains by excluding oxygen. Wetlands are often acidic, which prevents the growth of bacteria. They dissolve bone and preserve skin. A number of wooden track ways survive in waterlogged sites in Europe, such as the Sweet track in Somerset levels in England- the oldest road in the world, built in about 4000BC. Wooden tools, basketry, and foods such as nuts have been found near these tracks. But the best known wetland finds are bog bodies- mainly Iron Age victims of human sacrifice. Often, they would that caused their death is still visible.
In the cold regions of Central Asia and the Arctic temperatures are often too low for organic decay to take place. Spectacular finds have included whole woolly mammoths, frozen corpses clad in garments made of fur, feathers, and skins, and many artifacts made of wood and leather.
In the icy Taklimakan desert in Central Asia, abandoned wooden towns from the 1st millennium BC are still standing. The personal possessions of their inhabitants survive- felt garments, wooden musical instruments, mousetraps, and documents written on wooden slips and paper. They are evidence of the harsh life lived by the Chinese officials sent to man the desert out posts on the ancient silk road.
Granary in side  a tomb about 1800BC
The micro organisms which cause decay operate on most effectively in hot, most environments, making humid rainforests a poor place to seek organic remains of the past. But when heat is combined with a lack of moisture, the resulting conditions are just right for preservation. Desert caves n the Mexican highlands have provided abundant archaeological material, such as desiccated plant remains, which shed light on the early history of agriculture in the region. More direct evidence of early food stuffs has been discovered in coprolites- dried faces.
Sweet Track-  Prehistoric track way in Somerset, England

Hot deserts have also preserved objects made of wood, rope reeds, and many other plants and animal materials.  In south west America, desert finds have included rope sandals and decoy ducks beautifully constructed out of reeds, duck skin, and feathers, used for catching wildfowl in about 1500 BC. Even human bodies can survive in these conditions. The corpses of Egyptians buried in desert sands before 3000BC were perfectly preserved by desiccation – an effect that may have inspired the later practice of mummification.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Preserved through time

Stone, metal and pottery are almost indestructible, and are often found at ancient sites. But organic materials such as wood and clothing are subject to biological decay- a process which requires oxygen, moisture, and warmth. If one of these three conditions is removed, the material has a chance of survival.

In exceptional circumstances, Organic remains have been preserved by chemicals. In the salt mines of early Celtic Europe, leather rucksacks and clothing used by miners survived intact- the salt drew any moisture out of the objects. Tannic acid, which occurs naturally in plants help to preserve human bodies in environments such as bogs. It destroys bone but preserves the soft tissues by pushing water out of the skin and cementing its protein fibers together. The ancient Egyptians mummified bodies using Natron, a dehydrating mineral gathered from the beds and shores of lakes.

Pockets of oxygen free soil combined with chemicals were responsible for the survival of a series of wooden writing tablets bearing letter to roman soldiers serving on Hadrian’s Wall; these included one – perhaps from an anxious mother- about a parcel of warm underwear she had sent.

Rivers and lakes inhibit the decay of organic materials because the lack oxygen- which is vital to the micro organisms that cause decay. Europeans of the Iron Age and later regarded watery places as scared and left offerings in them or metal work and even wooden boats. Many European lakes contain the remains of wooden villages once built on their margins. Submerged costal settlements and shipwrecks are damaged by ocean movements and the micro organisms and corrosive salts in sea water, but once settled in silt, the chances of survival are high. The oldest surviving wreck is a Canaanite ship sunk at Kas, off Anatolia, in about 1350BC.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

History Mystery: The First Written Word Part. II

Around 1700 BC, the Canaanites of the Levant took a revolutionary step. A number of single consonant Egyptian hieroglyphs were assigned the sound of the beginning of a Canaanite word- for example, the hieroglyph for ‘house’ betu in Canaanite, gave the sound ‘b’. These signs formed the first alphabet, from which many other writing systems developed, including Hebrew, Aramaic, and Brahmi. The ancient Greeks introduced symbols for vowels, creating the basis of most of the later European scripts.

Chinese script was invented by the Shang dynasty in about 1700BC. By 1200BC, it was being used to inscribe bones for divination. Its pictographic signs, which signify whole words and syllables, were not developed into an alphabet. As a result, modern Chinese script, still based around the same system, uses thousands of characters.

The Indus civilization invented a script which has not been deciphered- partly because it died out when the civilization declined, and partly because the inscriptions, mostly on seals, are very short. Many symbols probably represent names or official titles. Patient detective work and computer analysis have revealed the direction of writing (writing right to left), the probable type of script combining syllables and words, rather than alphabetic, and the fact that it probably belonged to the Dravidian language family still spoken in parts of India. It may prove impossible to go much further in cracking the Indus code.

Around 500BC, Central American cultures began using signs to record dates. Later civilizations such as the Aztecs developed scripts that could record information such as names, but only the Maya developed a script that fully recorded spoken language. Maya script is still being deciphered, in the process revealing the history of Kings and cities. The script uses devices such as puns, but is largely syllabic, formed by highly ornate glyphs and pictograms

Friday, January 14, 2011

History Mystery: The First Written Word Part.I

Clay tokens used by the traders of Susa

 Since the dawn of the human existence, our earliest ancestors used visual signs, from cave paintings to symbols etched on the landscape, to convey information. The first pictorial writing system was developed around 3300 BC. It marked an evolutionary milestone allowing knowledge to be shared and recorded for future generations.
From 8000BC, Near Eastern communities used clay tokens in trading transactions. Geometric shapes represented commodities such as measures of grain and individual animals. When towns emerged in the 4th millennium BC, tokens were shaped to resemble the commodities they represented. Tokens for single transaction were kept together in a clay envelope marked to indicate its contents. Gradually traders realized that the marks alone recorded all the necessary information
A tablet from Jemdet Nasr

Around 3300BC, the first writing appeared in Sumer. Pictorial signs were pressed into flat clay tablets. Many different signs were invented to depict a large range of commodities and to express new meanings, such as the verb ‘to eat’ – made by combining a person’s head and a bowl. Several transactions were recorded on a single tablet in separate boxes or columns.

Sumerian writing was executed with a wedge shaped reed on a clay tablet, so curved shapes were difficult. By 3000 BC, signs were being modified into a series of straight lines- cuneiform (Wedge shaped writing). The signs quickly assumed conventional forms bearing little resemblance to the original pictograms. By 2600 BC, Sumerian script could be used to write any word in the Sumerian language. Writing was used for many purposes- economic transactions, royal inscriptions, labels, seals, and literature. The script - was modified to write another language spoken by the ancient Mesopotamians- Akkadian.  Other Near Eastern communities adopted cuneiform as they began to write.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Army On Parade For 2000 Years Part.V

Shi Huang Di knew that his regime was harsh. In 213 BC, to protect himself from unfavorable comparisons with earlier rulers, he ordered the burning of any books that might inspire dissent, including not only political treatises and histories, but also poetry and other fine literature. Only practical manuals on agriculture, medicine, and divination were to be spared.
 In the atmosphere of suspicion and fear that followed, Shi Huang Di came to distrust his scholars, and personally selected 460 of them for execution. They were buried alive. Indirectly, this barbarous act brought about the downfall of his dynasty, for his able eldest son, Prince Fu Sa, ventured to oppose him, and was banished. When the emperor died, he was succeeded by his indolent and self indulgent younger son Er-Shi.
And all this time, work had proceeded on the funerary on the funerary city the emperor was creating for himself, with more than 70000 laborers conscripted to this mammoth task alone. According to Chinese historian Sima Qian, Shi Huang Di’s tomb represented the Qin Empire in miniature. Through it ran shimmering trails of mercury symbolizing the Huang H and Chang Jiang, flowing into a silver ocean. The ceiling mimicked the heavens, recording the constellations of the night sky. When completed, a massive copper sarcophagus containing the emperor’s body lay at its heart, surmounted by a tumulus 115m high. To guard against robbers, Shi Huang Di ordered traps to be set, including cross bows ready to shoot anyone who entered the tomb. Nobody knows how effective these deterrents were, since the immense mound covering the burial chamber has not opened. The treasures described by Sima Qian, which include pine trees carved out of jade and birds crafted in silver and gold, may still be there, waiting to be discovered. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

An Army On Parade For 2000 Years Part.IV

Reliable water supplies were vital, and early in his reign Shi Huang Di commissioned the building of a 150 km canal that would carry water from Jing River, North West of his capital, to the Luo River to the north east. The completed canal irrigated 26680 squares Km of land. A modified version of the watercourse is still in use today. Rice was the main crop grown in ancient China, along with millet.  Peasants also kept chickens, dogs and pigs, which provided them with eggs, meat for special occasions, and leather. Fish and wildfowl could be caught in the rivers and lakes and in the country side.

Under Shi Huang Di, life for peasants was mostly prosperous but a dark undercurrent ran beneath the strict policy of reform. The legal system, while impartial and efficient, was complex and bewildering to its subject peoples. Penalties for violation could be exceedingly harsh. Even minor offences attracted heavy fines or floggings – among these was the crime of dropping litter in the capital city. For more serious transgressions the punishments included the loss of a hand or foot, castration, force labor or execution.

Many of the public works on which the peasants toiled as conscript labors ensured China’s future prosperity, and built strong defenses against foreign invasion. But at the time, removing the peasants from their land imposed an intolerable burden. It restricted food supplies, gradually bringing the country to the brink of economic disaster.

Friday, January 7, 2011

An Army On Parade For 2000 Years Part.VI

The terracotta army, meanwhile, was buried about 1.6 km away, drawn up in full battle order, ready to fight for the emperor in the afterlife as its flesh and blood counterpart had done  during his 40 years reign. Each clay soldier is believed to have been modeled from life- none is the same, their heads and torsos are hollow, but the legs are slid to carry the weight.

An unusual alloy was used to make their swords and spears elements, including copper, tin nickel, magnesium, and cobalt, and was treated with a preservative. This has proved so effective that even after 22 centuries the weapons have not corroded when they were dug up, the blades of some of the surviving weapons were still sharp enough to slice through a hair.
According to many historians, the revolt that destroyed the Qin Empire began when a group of peasants making their way to join the army as conscripts were delayed by heavy rain. Knowing that the penalty for their late arrival would be death, they chose instead to abscond. They became the nucleus of the rebel army that ransacked Shi Huang Di’s tomb in 206 BC.
Shi Huang Di has been both admired and execrated by posterity. His shortcomings are obvious, yet he also worked tirelessly to unify the disparate lands under his control; he claimed that he never went to bed without completing a daily quota of 500 Kg of documents. The imperial lineage he dreamed of founding extended to a mere three rulers- his father, himself, and his son Er- Shi. Nonetheless, it was Shi Huang Di who laid the foundations of the Chinese Empire that was to endure and prosper under the succeeding Han dynasty.

An Army On Parade For 2000 Years Part.III

But in exchange they faced heavy taxation and were forced into hard unpaid labor on large scale public works. Initially, these policies brought wealth and power, and when Zheng took the throne of Qin he continued his predecessors’ polices. By 221 BC he had conquered and absorbed all the warring states.  From his capital at Xianyang, he set about the task of universally imposing the reforms that had made Qin such a success.

Looking back to China’s past, he adopted an ancient title, “Huang Di”, or ‘August Lord”, and ordered the prefix ‘Shi”. Shi Huang Di saw himself as China’s first emperor, the founder of a new imperial line.  In a bid to unify the empire, he imposed many forms of standardization. A single axle width was set for wheeled transport, to ensure that ruts worn into the roads matched all vehicles.

The numerous styles of Chinese script were consolidated into a single, standard version, encouraging the exchange of knowledge, and the various coinage system were phased out in favor of a universal currency.  The emperor also created more than 6000 Km of new roads across the empire, branching out from the imperial capital. Internal and foreign trade prospered, and foundations were laid for the flourishing networks that would later carry Chinese silk across Central Asia to the West.

The peasants were the backbone of the Chinese state, and improving agricultural productivity was a major state concern. Shi Huang Di forcibly relocated large numbers of farming families from populous or troublesome regions into areas where he wished to promote agriculture and settlement.


An Army On Parade For 2000 Years Part.II

His army accompanied him in death, molded in terracotta and armed with real bows, spears, and ge- Chinese halberds. They were buried in three in three shallow pits, lined with timbers and floored with tiles. When the rebel army set fire to the pits, the timber chambers collapsed, imprisoning the warriors for more than 2000 years. In March 1974, peasants digging wells in the Linton district came upon fragments of the life size terracotta figures. Archaeologists went on to discover the ancient pits.
The author of this extraordinary city of the dead, Zheng, ruler of Qin, was born in 259 BC into a period of great change. Qin was a feudal state in which a hereditary aristocracy wielded local power. Since the 8th century BC, neighboring powers had been fighting over land and shifting their allegiances. These territories became known as the Warring states.
In the 4th century BC, an outstanding political theorist, Lord Shang, became chief minister of Qin. On his advice, the state was transformed into a bureaucracy in which officials were appointed by, and answerable to, the king. Shang was a leading exponent of Legalism, an ideology based on the belief that man is intrinsically selfish, and cannot be expected to respect his leaders, and live in harmony without firm state coercion. The philosophy was put into practice through a strict code of laws and well defined systems of reward and punishment
Agricultural productivity was rewarded and commerce encourage by state regulation and standardized weights and measures. Peasants were freed of their serf status and their obligation to the now abolished nobility.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

An Army On Parade For 2000 Years Part.I

The ruthless but efficient king of Qin conquered all the rival Warring States to unite China, becoming its first emperor, Shi Huang Di. His empire surrounds him even in death, guarded by an army of nearly 7500 terracotta warriors.
Drunk with success, reveling in their freedom after years of oppression, the peasant soldiers of the rebel army attacked. The emperor’s troops stood fast, their faces impassive as the rabble descended. Still they stood as the enemy soldiers, screaming abuse, stripped them of their weapons and set fire to the ground around them. The emperor’s men had no choice. They were not made of flesh and blood.
As the fires raged, the colorful paint on their terracotta bodies began to disintegrate. The green, purple, blue, and red of their garments – color schemes that identified the individual contingents – gradually took on the same shade of ashen Grey.
Yet, despite the fire that stripped them of their colors each of the pottery warriors remained unique, distinguished from his fellows by the arrangement of his hair and the finer details of his face. The range of different features bore witness to the ethnic diversity of the dominion that stretched from southern China to Mongolia - the empire of the Qin.
The rebels were looters, and the army they disturbed in 206 BC were the silent guardians of a tomb set in the plains around Mount Li 40 Km east of the imperial capital at Xian yang, near present day Xi’an.
Forty years earlier, in 246 BC, the new 13 year –old king of the state of Qin had commanded the construction of a funerary city to house his body after death. By the time he died in 210BC, King Zheng had extended his power over a vast number of territories, and had proclaimed himself the first Emperor of China, Shi Huang Di.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mystery behind the Piri Re'is map

Most of our theories about the early peoples and their civilizations have no concrete physical evidence. The entire theories are merely given shape by the historians. Most of the history is based on the artifacts.  We are right now using accurate maps with the help of the vast knowledge we acquire in the field of astronomy and science. But very perfect maps of our Globe were drawn long before by Piri Re.  His map appears to be one of the historical artifacts. Earlier to 15th century the people were not aware of the shapes of the continents. The Piri Re’ is world map is the one of the few anomalous maps of the time.

From Ptolomy to Finaeus of 15th century map makers included the southern continents perfectly in their World maps and not the Northern Antarctica. Remember the Antarctica was not discovered during that time and it was explored only in the late 20th century only. Anomalous maps of that period showed that Asia is linking America by The Behring strait and the river deltas too drawn shorter by that time.   Some of the old maps like Piri Re’is have very minute details when compared with the modern maps, which shed more light on the Earth’s geological past most particularly in the Ice ages.

The Piri Re’is map is a great wealth as it is most informative and of of the attribution of the information it have. Piri Re’is map have extraordinary details of the coasts and their outlines. His map was only found in Constantinople in the year 1929. The map was drawn in a parchment and it was dated 1513 AD (919 Ah in Islamic calendar). The map was signed by Piri Ibn Haji Memmed (otherwise called Piri Re’is) an admiral of Turkish navy by that time. According to him the map had been consolidated from a set of about twenty maps drawn during the period of Alexander the Great. Piri Re’is maps show the mapping skills of our ancestors. His map is a patch work of the source map. In the recent past his map shed more light on the unknown Ice age civilization. In his map he drawn the outline of Antarctica without glaciers and the recent studies proved that also. 

Then, what causes the glaciers? In 9500 BC The Earth’s inclination suddenly changed with moved Antarctica to another hundred miles south which turned the climate to the freezing, but there is no evidence to prove that Polar Shift theory. Still the maps have hidden secrets  but without clue.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ice Man, the Mummy in the Glacier Part.II

According to the team of scientists and forensic investigators, the Ice Man certainly had the right equipment to survive in the harsh conditions of the Otztaler Alps. He wore a fur cap, as well as a cape woven from grasses that probably served as a rudimentary raincoat.

Under his cape, he had on a robe made from pieces of fur sewn together. In order to protect his legs from the bitter alpine cold, he wore fur clad leg warmers. He also had on a loincloth and shoes made from solid leather which were stuffed with thick grass. The Ice man carried the equipment necessary for making a fire, as well as a container made from birch bark which was probably used to transport the hot coals which were so laboriously kindled.

The Ice man’s bow and arrow made it possible for him to hunt wild animals, but it is thought that he was not a hunter. Buy the time of his death, human survival depended less upon hunting than upon farming and raising livestock. Scientists today believe that the ice Man was probably a shepherd, who may have hunted wild animals but more likely herded his cattle on the high pastures in summer.

 Why did the Ice Man undertake his last, fatal hike into the high mountains? The researchers speculate that he must have either been involved in a serious fight, or perhaps that his home village had been targeted for attack by outsiders. This view is borne out b the fact that he already had several fractured ribs before he set out on his last journey into the mountains. If he really was a shepherd, then he probably knew the highland terrain well enough to hide from his pursuers.

 Despite his severe injuries, the ice man kept on climbing higher and higher, until he had exhausted his strength. Finally, he reached the bleak, frozen Hauslabjoch area. There he probably encountered a change in weather:  perhaps snow began to fall, and the temperature dropped. The ice Man sought shelter under an overhanging rock, ate some dried meat and desperately tried to keep awake. He knew for certain that he would die if he went to asleep. But he was too exhausted to care any longer; he lay down, fell asleep and never woke up. Several hours later, a thick blanket of snow had covered his cold and lifeless body.