Perhaps a fitting subtitle for this article is, ‘Why mankind needs to believe in God’. The object of every religion has been to raise man out of barbarism and teach ethics that honor the virtues of equality, compassion, truthfulness and material minimalism. It seems man might have a learning disability and as the ecological clock ticks toward a time when the planet shuts down again, man may find himself suspended from school, out in the cold and without a passing grade on how to coexist peacefully on Planet Earth.
The earliest anatomically modern humans appeared about 195,000 years ago. Mitochondrial Eve has been dated to c. 150,000 BC and Y-chromosomal Adam to c. 90,000 BC. Behavioral modernity for Homo Sapiens arose c. 50,000 years ago in the midst of the last ice age, which extended from 110,000 to 12,500 BC. In Europe, the ice sheets reached as far south as northern Germany. At the Brickworks north quarry wall in Toronto evidence of at least 7 glacial periods can be observed. On the Eurasian continent, what ground remained open above the 39th parallel was cool, damp steppe tundra or polar/alpine/temperate desert. To the south and east, Africa and Asia were climatically similar to the way these areas are today. The epicenter of glaciation rested upon Canada, Greenland and Russia. Beginning around 12,500 BC these territories started to open up for discovery and settlement. However, the earth was soon plunged back into a freeze that resulted in the mass extinction of megafauna, like the Woolly Mammoth. This brief, but catastrophic event is marked by the Younger Dryas Boundary, which is a black mat geological layer containing high levels of radioactive iridium and microdiamonds. Earth’s recent geological history has been volatile.
“Natural selection was not always a matter of ‘survival of the fittest’ but also survival of those most adaptable to changing surroundings.” ~ Smithsonian Institute
Once the environment stabilized, humans soon expanded their influence and industry:
- The earliest evidence of industry dates to c. 45,000 BC within the Loiyangalani river valley, Tanzania. The site contains relics of the manufacture of stone tools, beads and ocher pencils.
- The earliest evidence of grain milling dates to c. 20,000 BC in Israel. The earliest evidence of farming date to c. 13,000 BC in Aswan, Egypt and c. 10,000 BC in the eastern Mediterranean region. The first signs of animal and plant domestication are dated to c. 9000 BC in the Fertile Crescent and the Indus Valley Civilization, which also used irrigation methods by c. 4500 BC.
- The oldest known religious center is located at Göbekli Tepe, Turkey, dated to c. 10,000 BC. The first known urban center is Jericho, Palestine, dated to c. 9000 BC.
- The first known incised counting system was in use c. 9000 BC in the Fertile Crescent. The first clay impression symbol system is dated to c. 4100 BC in Uruk, Mesopotamia. The first true writing of a languages dates to c. 3200 BC in Sumer, where arithmetic also was invented. Indus Script followed in c. 2600 BC and Vedic Sanskrit in c 1500 BC. Accurate measurement of length, mass and time was in use by the Indus Valley Civilizations, c. 3300 BC.
- The first signs of metal working, including electroplating, and craftsmanship date to between c. 8500 and 5500 BC in Jericho, Catul Huyuk, Turkey, Sabi-Abyad, Syria and Gaza. India was working iron by c. 1800 BC and the Hittites of Anatolia where using iron as early as c. 1200 BC. Meteoric iron was being worked by the Chaldeans and Assyrians as early as c. 4000 BC.
- Earliest signs of regular trade of manufactured goods, processed metals and other merchandise between Mesopotamia, Mediterranean and Arab peninsular populations has been dated to c. 4500 BC. During the Early Harappan period, c. 3200 to 2600 BC, the Indus Valley Civilizations had an extensive trade networks, including Afghanistan, Persia, northern and western India, Mesopotamia, as well as Egypt and Crete.
- First use of fossil fuels from the carboniferous period date to c. 5000 BC, when bitumen was used by the Indus Valley Civilization to waterproof baskets and by 3300 BC, to parge water pipes. By 3000 BC, bitumen was used for waterproofing in Ur, Mesopotamia.
- The Indus Valley Civilizations had water reservoirs, public baths, flush toilets and private wells as early as c. 3300 BC. At the palace of Knossos, Greece, hot and cold running water and flush toilets are dated to c. 2000 BC.
At the very latest, humans possessed many of the resources and technologies of modernity by c. 2000 BC. But then something happen that set civilization in southeastern Europe back centuries.
“The Phoenician arrived then at this land of Argos, and began to dispose of their ship’s cargo: and on the fifth or sixth day after they had arrived, when their goods had been almost all sold, there came down to the sea a great company of women, and among them the daughter of the king; and her name, as the Hellenes also agree, was Io the daughter of Inachos. These standing near to the stern of the ship were buying of the wares such as pleased them most, when of a sudden the Phoenician, passing the word from one to another, made a rush upon them; and the greater part of the women escaped by flight, but Io and certain others were carried off. So they put them on board their ship, and forthwith departed, sailing away to Egypt. “ ~ Herodotus (c.484 – 425 BC), The Histories, 1.1
The most ancient residents of Argos were indigenous Pelasgians. The first settlers were Phoenician traders followed by Egyptians, led by Inachos in c. 1986 B.C. The Pelasgians and Phoenicians are identified with the “Peoples of the Sea”. The Egyptians originally coined the name “Peoples of the Sea” for the foreign contingents that the Libyans brought in to support their attack on Egypt in c. 1220 BC during the reign of Pharaoh Merneptah. Egyptians record a second wave of Sea People attacks in c. 1186 BC, during the reign of Pharaoh Rameses III.
There was a division at the Aegean Sea with Greece, and to the west, identified as Europeans and Anatolia, and to the east, identified as Asians. While the Europeans and Asians were friendly trading partners on the whole, they also considered each other as foreign and potential enemies. All they needed was an instigator. The Sea People seem to have served that role. Herodotus wrote that they migrated from the Erythraean Sea, entered the Mediterranean Sea for trading purposes, but didn’t respect the local rules about women and slave trading and didn’t seem to be concerned about forming long-term, friendly relationships with trading partners either. Historical figures labelled the Sea People as ‘mercenaries for hire’ and ‘pirates’.
During the Mycenaean Years, from c. 1600 to 1100 BC, there was general unity of the Mycenaean Greeks throughout the Aegean Sea region and across the Mediterranean. Yet, this incident, reported by Herodotus, started a chain of hostilities related to the abduction of women, the most famous of which is the story of Helen of Troy. Not even the eruption of Thera in c. 1646 BC destabilized the Mycenaeans, Hittites, Mesopotamians or Egyptians as thoroughly as the Sea People’s incursions.
The region of the Aegean Sea was destabilized by a series of invasions and attacks by the Sea People, as well as other people descending from northern regions of the Balkans and beyond the Balkan Mountain range. The Sea People reportedly took, by force, important trade and industrial centers throughout the eastern Mediterranean. It appears that all this jostling for territorial control led to the Bronze Age Collapse. All cities in Greece, except Athens, were razed to the ground. Troy on the western shore of Anatolia was burnt and destroyed also. Simultaneously, the Hittite Empire in central Anatolia collapsed c. 1200 BC, with major strongholds like Hattusa abandoned completely. It is recorded that the Hittite Empire was invaded by the Sea People in c. 1180 BC. The period known as the Greek Dark Ages extended from c. 1200 to 750 BC. It coincides with the Bronze Age Collapse dated to between c. 1206 and 1150 BC. Due to the collapse, the Mycenaean Greeks lost their writing and were illiterate between c. 1100 and 750 BC, when they borrowed the Phoenician alphabet. The Syrian seaport of Ugarit, founded in c. 6000 BC, under the rule of Ammurapi was attacked by the Sea People, burnt to the ground and finally abandoned in c. 1190 BC. Ugarit had a 30 letter alphabet by 1400 BC. The Phoenician alphabet didn’t arise until 1050 BC.
With the exception of the Roman aqueduct and waste water systems in use by c. 312 BC urban sanitation didn’t improve substantially until 1800 AD. Electricity also wasn’t developed until c. 1800 AD, despite the use of the Baghdad Battery as early as c. 250 BC. Metallurgy didn’t make any great strides until c. 1500 AD. The toilet, redesigned in 1596 AD, by John Harington and installed for Prince Edward in 1880 AD, wasn’t introduced to the Maritime provinces of Canada until 1965 AD. Although democracy was invented in Athens in 507 BC, it didn’t catch on elsewhere until the first elected parliament of England in 1265 AD.
Not until the Industrial Revolution c. 1750 AD was technology used to improve health and living conditions for the general populace. Despite the many patents filed by Nikola Tesla, the technology he brought to the world as early as 1886 AD, including microwave, wireless, x-ray, and radio, weren’t utilized until decades later.
So, what was man busy inventing over the millennia? Weapons. Archimedes (c. 287 – 212 BC) of Syracuse is well known for inventing numerous weapons. Gunpowder was invented in China in 1232 AD and the first firearm in 1364 AD. Since the beginning of recorded history man has expended an enormous amount of time, resources and human lives lost in war. In the brief time that man has had to develop, he has designed more ways to kill than he has to live in peace and survive against the unfavorable odds in the Game of Life on Planet Earth. Perhaps it is only fair that the earth takes cover of snow and ice to protect itself from the destructive life forms it births.
We really ought to examine our priorities in light of the ‘big picture’. The Earth has been in an interglacial period for about 13,000 years. This warm climate is a reprieve, rather than a reliable, permanent state. Previously, experts estimated the average interglacial period to last between 10,000 and 20,000 years with periods of 90,000 years of glaciation being the dominant climate condition. Due to modern man’s CO2 footprint, experts estimate the current interglacial period could last 50,000 years. We might do well to explore how to maintain the extension without damaging the environment beyond the point of habitability on the planet. We might do that, but we might choose again what has been our custom since the dawn of the brief history of civilized man. Perhaps ‘civilized’ is a word better reserved until man ceases all acts of barbarism and channels more effort and ingenuity into social, cultural, and moral development.