Alphabet and Writing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 23rd, 2011

Technology 101

The Necessary Information to Survive in Prehistory was Minimal and did not Require a Written Language

Hunters and gatherers had little need for language.  For they did little in life but hunt, gather, eat, sleep and propagate the species.  Much like wildlife today.  Such as feral cats.  Abandoned house cats.  Who mate and produce more feral cats.  And these animals are survivors.  They hunt.  Gather food from human garbage.  Eat.  Sleep.  And reproduce.  If you ever had any in your neighborhood you know that they can be very loud, too.  Making a variety of sounds.  Meows, cries, growls and hisses.  Not an advanced language.  But sufficient to survive.  And enough to keep you from trying to pick one up.

Early man was similar to feral cats.  They had a limited language.  That allowed them to survive.  And make modest advances.  They made tools out of stone.  Used fire.  Made clothes from animal hides.  Even left art on the walls of caves.  Far more than any wild animal ever did.  But they didn’t do much more.  If they did it was probably nothing to write about.  Because they didn’t.  Write about it.  Either because they had no written language.  Or because they were a modest people.

History starts with written language.  Before that we have only archaeology.  And best guesses.  But based on the archaeology they weren’t doing much.  Other than surviving.  And in these prehistory times life was pretty simple.  See above.  The necessary information to survive was minimal.  Eat.  And don’t die.  It wasn’t necessary to write that down.  So they didn’t.  Memory was more than sufficient.  And it was like that for millions of years.

The Phoenician Alphabet was the Basis for the Greek and Latin Alphabets

But then the simple became complex.  There were food surpluses that allowed a division of labor that led to trade.  And a burgeoning economy.  Which required a more sophisticated way of communicating.  And a system of maintaining records of economic exchanges.  For memory and talking just wasn’t good enough anymore.

In the 4th millennium BC, in Mesopotamia, this began with clay tokens to represent an economic commodity.  And the first system of accounting was simply counting and storing these tokens.  But as the division of labor produced an ever more complex economy, the number of tokens used became too great.  So they represented the economic commodity with a symbol scratched in a clay tablet.  Instead of counting tokens they read these tablets.  We call this writing cuneiform.   Which was later used to write down the spoken Sumerian language.

Over time we developed alphabets.  We represented the sounds of the words we spoke with letters.  The Phoenician alphabet being one of the first alphabets.  Used by one of the greatest traders and merchants of all time.  The Phoenicians.  Which spread this language around.  Giving rise to Canaanite and Aramaic.  Aramaic giving rise to Arabic and Hebrew.  Incidentally, all languages without vowels.  But the granddaddy of all alphabets was Greek.  Which added vowels.  And formed the basis for Latin.  As well as all other western languages.

We Know about the Glory of Greece and the Grandeur of Rome because they Wrote about It

Athens was the cradle of modern civilization.  The Athenian empire grew because it was based on a complex trade economy.  Ditto for the Roman Empire.  At the height of their power the civilized world spoke their languages.  Conducted their trade in Latin or Greek.  Wrote their laws in Latin or Greek.  Conducted their diplomacy in Latin or Greek.  Why?  Because they could.  Their alphabets and their written language allowed them to manage the complex.

And they wrote.  A lot.  We know so much about Greece and Rome because we can read what they wrote.  And we can build on the glory that was Greece.  And the grandeur that was Rome.  Because we, too, have complex trade economies.  Giving us comforts in life that not even the Greeks or Romans could have dreamt about.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Code of Hammurabi and the Magna Carta

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 22nd, 2011

History 101

The Code of Hammurabi was a Precursor to a Modern Criminal Justice System

The first civilization was Sumer.  Along the fertile river valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.  In modern day Iraq.  Prime real estate in the early civilized world.  Good for growing food.  With established city-states throughout.  This land was attractive.  So attractive that many have conquered it.

Here are some who possessed this land.  The Akkadians.  Guitans.  Elamites.  Amorites.  And, of course, the Sumerians.  Who took it back a time or two.  It wasn’t a neat linear transition.  There were many bumps along the way.  And by bumps I mean power changes.  I.e., wars.  But eventually the Amorite Empire founded the city-state of Babylon.  Which brings us to the sixth king of Babylon.  Hammurabi.  And when he expanded his kingdom by conquering other city-states he became the first king of the Babylonian Empire.  And he did something spectacular in 1780 BC.  He gave us the Code of Hammurabi.  One of the first written codes of law in history.   Providing a giant leap forward for the civilized world.

Everyone has heard of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  That goes back to the Code of Hammurabi.  A precursor to a modern criminal justice system.  Including trials and the presumption of innocence.  It delved into civil law.  And contract law.  Clearly setting the rules of the game for marriage, divorce, inheritance and economic exchange.  It also included rules for the government.  Sort of like a constitution.  And this was all happening in the second millennium BC.

The Magna Carta exploded the Rule of Law, Personal Liberty and Economic Development

Establishing rules for government is rarely easy.  For few welcome restraints on their power.  But there is a problem all despots have who enjoy wielding absolute power.  They are only one person.  They need others.  For food.  And for money.  Because despots like to fight wars.  Which takes a lot of soldiers.  A lot of food.  And a lot of taxes.  All of which the despot has to depend on others to provide.

King John in 13th century England was one such despot.  He fought a lot of costly wars.  Requiring a lot of taxes.  And the people supplying the soldiers and taxes for these wars were the nobility.  His Barons.    And they were getting tired of the King’s behavior as it was proving very costly.  Not to mention that he was pissing off the French who were planning to invade England.  And there were a whole host of oppressive acts against his subjects.   As well as a feud with the Pope.  Suffice it to say something had to be done.  Without having a suitable candidate ready to replace the king, the Barons instead tried to limit the king’s arbitrary power.  In writing.  What history calls the Magna Carta.

The Magna Carta did not make sweeping change at the time.  But it had a profound impact in the English speaking world.  And the development of constitutional law.  It exploded the Rule of Law.  Personal liberty.  And economic development.  It is what allowed the British Empire.  And the Industrial Revolution.  It influenced the United States Constitution.  Under which America became the leader of the free world.  Because the law ruled supreme.  Allowing no man above the law.  Even a king.  Like on the fields of Runnymede.  When King John affixed his Great Seal to the Magna Carta.

The Rule of Law gave us Property Rights and Contract Law which provided Incentive and Security

The British Empire dominated the world in the 18th century.  Her greatness was only surpassed by the United States.  Thanks to the Rule of Law.  Which unleashed human capital.  Allowing people to create great things.  Because there were property rights.  And contract law.  Giving them both incentive.  And security.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rule of Law

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 21st, 2011

Economics 101

To take Civilization to the Next Level required the Rule of Law

Agriculture advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us a division of labor.  The division of labor gave us trade.  Money made that trade more efficient.  And religion allowed great gatherings of people to live together in urban settings.  Which was a start.  But it didn’t solve all the ills of packing a lot of people together in a crowded urban setting.

Religion did bring people together.  But organized civilization needs leadership.  And having a leadership position over the masses gives one great powers.  For good.  As well as bad.  And all too often leaders have become intoxicated on that power.  Especially if that leader was also the god that the people worshipped.  Who felt they could do anything they wanted.  To anyone they wanted.  And often did.

But it’s just not leaders who failed to choose good.  A lot of the people did, too.  Some people cheated each other.  Stole from each other.  Didn’t honor their agreements.  Fights broke out.  Some harmed others.  Even killed people.  Clearly, religion alone wasn’t enough to get everyone to live in peace and harmony.  They needed something more.  Some basic ground rules.  Rules of the game.  The game being living together in a crowded urban setting.  Working together.  And entering into economic transactions.  What they needed to take civilization to the next level was the Rule of Law.

We use the Rule of Law to Clearly Identify and Protect our Private Property

The key for economic development rested on the principle of private property.  Economic activity is based on trade.  To trade you need first to create things to trade.  Often requiring costs and great personal effort to create these things.  Which people will gladly undertake.  As long as if they own what they create.  And are free to do whatever they wish with it.  Keep it.  Use it.  Or trade it.

We use the Rule of Law to clearly identify and protect our private property.  We define what is ours.  And forbid others to take what is ours without our consent.  If they do they will be punished under the law.  Which will deter some.  And those undeterred will face the consequences.  Thus producing a safer environment to live in.  Where we are safe in our persons and property.  Especially in crowded urban settings.

This encouraged greater economic activity.  With more opportunity to trade.  Sometimes we didn’t exchange things after concluding our negotiations.  Instead entering into a contract for an economic exchange.  Such as summarizing the terms for the exchange of a piece of land.  Or for a future farm crop.  Agreements we freely and consensually enter into.  Because we trust the Rule of Law to protect and enforce these agreements.

Private Property Rights and Contracts are the Indispensible Requirements of any Free Market Economy

The Rule of Law picked up where religion left off.  For those who did not wish to choose good behavior.  Whether it be people in the masses.  Or the leaders.  The Rule of Law became supreme.  Everyone was answerable to the laws of the land.  Today, government leaders often swear an oath to support and defend these laws.

And by clearly setting the ground rules for economic exchange, the Rule of Law unleashed economic activity.  Perhaps more so than any other thing.  By establishing private property rights.  And creating contracts.  The indispensible requirements of any free market economy.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Religion allowed Sumer, Egypt and Europe to be Great

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 15th, 2011

History 101

Religion Allowed Sumerians and Egyptians to Work Together and Live in Crowded Urban Cities

The world’s first civilization was Sumer.  Which included a series of city-states in Mesopotamia.  That land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  Modern day Iraq.  And at the center of each city was a temple.  A ziggurat.  A multilevel structure that was broad at the base.  Narrow at the top.  Kind of like a pyramid.  But it wasn’t for entombing the dead.  Its height made it a ‘bridge’ to their gods.  It was at the top of these ziggurats where the priests performed their sacred rituals.  Ruled over the people.  Organized their large-scale farming.  Irrigation.  And their civilization.  Their food surpluses, the key to an advanced civilization, were stored at or near the ziggurat.  And the priest-king distributed the food to the people.

The world’s second civilization was Egypt.  Home of the pyramids.  That entombed their dead in elaborate rituals.  To help them enter the afterlife.  During the Old Kingdom one man ruled all of Egypt.  The pharaoh.  But he wasn’t just a king.  He was a god.  The people worshipped the pharaoh.  And worked at his direction.  The pharaoh directed the massive irrigation works.  The farming.  Managed the food surpluses.  And the people served their gods.  Possibly built the pyramids for them.  Out of love.  For some evidence suggests that slaves may not have built the pyramids as once thought.  But that they willingly joined together to build these tombs out of love and/or respect for their beloved pharaohs.

The first two great civilizations were theocracies.  Religion was the basis of their governments.  And the religious authority ruled.  Whether it be a priest-king.  Or a pharaoh.  A god to the people.  They organized and directed the people to do the things that made these civilizations great.  And the people did great things.  For their cities.  And their god(s).  For their religion was the great unifying factor that allowed a great number of people to live in crowded urban settings.  And work towards a common goal.

During the Dark Ages Charlemagne used Christianity to Unite Europe

Civilization advanced from these humble but great beginnings.  Religious thinking led to other thinking.  And everything great that followed.  Math.  Science.  History.  Physics.  And metaphysics.  We were thinking about our present.  And remembering our past.  The Greeks took thinking to great heights.  Figured out much of what we know today.  Alexander the Great took the glory that was Greece and spread it to the known world.  Then the Romans spread it to the parts of the world Alexander did not conquer.  The grandeur that was Rome was, in fact, Greek.

But the greatness peaked during the Roman Empire.  And then the Germanic tribes to the north sacked Rome.  And plunged Europe into the Dark Ages.  A world devoid of glory.  Where the hands of time were turned back a millennium or two.  Or three.  But all was not lost for Europe.  Because there was Christianity.  For the Roman Empire was a Christian empire.  And that’s something the people of Europe did not lose.  Their religion.  Which was the unifying force of the kingdoms that followed.  Including the great Charlemagne.  The unifier of Europe during the Dark Ages.  For Charlemagne was a devout Christian.  And even ascended to the throne as Holy Roman Emperor.

The rise of Islam in the holy Christian lands led to the Christian Crusades.  While in the ancient cities around the Mediterranean the Christians found a lot of lost Greek texts.  Brought them back to Europe.  To Christian monasteries.  And started that thinking all over again.  Leading to the Renaissance.  And the Enlightenment.  Picking up basically where the Greeks and Romans left off.  Making Europe the dominant region for centuries to come.

A lack of Religion and Spiritual Understanding Empowered Dictators to Kill their own People

Throughout history religion has made life better.  From its earliest days that simply allowed people to live and work together.  To developing a love for our fellow man.  Which restrained our most base instincts.  And calmed the savage breast.  Don’t believe this?  Just look at the worst genocides.

In sheer numbers it’s a tossup who killed more of their own people.  Joseph Stalin (the Soviet Union).  Or Mao Tse-Tung (the Peoples Republic of China).  In terms of a percentage of their population it’s no contest.  Pol Pot (Cambodia) wins that honor.  He killed some 20% of his own people.  And what do these three have in common?  They were all communists.  And their official religion?  None.  They were atheists.

Which is probably what let these dictators commit these cruel acts of barbarism against their own people.  Because they had no spiritual understanding of this life.  Or the afterlife.  So they had little to lose in their eyes.  Nothing to give them pause in unleashing all that repressed cruelty that advanced civilizations worked so hard to suppress.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Religion

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 14th, 2011

Economics 101

Living Together in Large Cities goes against a Million Years or so of Evolution

Agriculture advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us a division of labor.  The division of labor gave us trade.  Money made that trade more efficient.  By reducing high search costs inherent in the barter system.  And this efficient trade gave us advanced civilizations.  For these developments allowed great gatherings of people to live together in urban settings.  Well, these things, and something else.

For a million years or so man was a hunting and gathering species.  Which meant they traveled in small groups.  And followed food.  Why small groups?  Fewer mouths to feed.  Remember, hunters and gatherers need a lot of land to survive.  Because food wasn’t so plentiful in any one area.  And the last thing they wanted when they found food was to share it.  So when they weren’t killing their food they were killing those trying to take their food.  Which was the key to survival.  For he who eats today shall live to see tomorrow.  When the Europeans settled North America the Native Americans were still hunters and gatherers.  And they were a martial people.  Fierce warriors populated their tribes.  Why?  To protect tribal hunting grounds.  By killing any interlopers.  And they were doing this long before the Europeans set foot onto the continent.

So living together in large cities goes against a million years or so of evolution.  Which is why it didn’t happen overnight.  The transition from hunting and gathering to farming.  Before we could work together we had to learn to live together first.  And it all started with thinking.

Religion allowed People to Live Together like Family who were not Family

As we thought and developed better tools and better ways to farm we started thinking about something else, too.  Why are we here?  Who created ‘here’?  Why did the creator create ‘here’?  And what happens when we leave ‘here’?  After we die?  To answer these questions we developed religion.  And it brought us together as a people.

This is truly what separated us from the animals.  Because animals can use tools.  A bird can hold a stick in its beak to probe a hole for food.  But birds don’t worship.  They don’t have faith.  Only man does.  Because we started thinking about other things.  To see the bigger picture.  To understand this life.  And the next life.  Spiritually.  And this was the key to allowing great gatherings of people to live together in urban settings.  Religion allowed people to live together like family.  Who were not family.  Because we shared a common faith.  A religion.

Man was still cruel, though.  We spent a million years or so being cruel.  And that capacity to be cruel just didn’t go away.  But religion softened us.  It began a process to soothe the savage breast.  It allowed us to see something in people that wasn’t threatening.  And it allowed civilization to flourish.  Despite our cruelties.  Which were now reserved for those outside our own civilization.  Our enemies.  Heretics.  Especially those who attacked us.  And it was on these people, those who did not share our common faith, that we unleashed that repressed cruelty.

Religion Allowed us to Live in Crowded, Urban Cities Creating Commerce and Trade

A lot of atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.  This is true.  But sharing a common faith united us like nothing else could.  For our faith was bigger than us.  We learned to live by moral codes.  We worked together.  Voluntarily.  For the betterment of the cities we lived in.  And to serve our god(s).  In cities that priest-kings typically ruled over.  Guided by our religious beliefs.

Everything we did was for that spiritual journey.  Working hard in this life.  All the while preparing for the afterlife.  Bringing the people of a common faith together.  We became so close to each other that for the first time in history we could live in crowded, urban cities.  Creating commerce and trade.  In an advanced civilization.  None of which would have been possible if religion hadn’t softened up that cruelty within.  Instilled in us for the past million or so years.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weights and Measures

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 9th, 2011

Technology 101

Flying Airplanes Require Careful Calculations and Exacting Measurements

How do you buy your gasoline?  Well, if you’re in the U.S., you buy it by the gallon.  And you choose your gas station by the price per gallon.  Typically choosing the cheapest price per gallon you can find.  Even if it means 20 minutes of additional drive time.  Because you want to get as much value as you can when you spend your money.  But have you ever wondered how much gas you’re really getting?

Actually the chances are pretty good that you’re getting what you’re paying for.  The next time you pump gas take a look at the pump.  You should see a tag from the Department of Weights and Measures.  This tag says an inspector filled up a 5-gallon test can and verified the pump metering.  If you see this tag you should be getting what you paid for.  And you should see this tag.  Because they test every gas pump.

Have you ever flown in an airplane?  If you’re a regular flier you probably notice that ticket prices go up when oil prices do.  Why?  Because jet fuel is the greatest expense of flying.  For it takes a lot of jet fuel to make those heavy planes fly.  And one of the heaviest things on a plane is that fuel.  So they try to carry as little fuel as possible.  Which requires some careful calculations.  And some exacting measurements.  Because a jet plane running out fuel while flying can’t continue to fly for much longer.

Egypt, Sumer and Harappa Developed a System of Weights and Measures to Build and Trade

Life as we know it would be pretty difficult without a reliable system of weights and measures.  Something we take for granted these days.  I’m sure you don’t give it a second thought when you pump your gas.  Or sit in an airplane accelerating down a runway.  But none of this would be possible without weights and measures.

There would be no economic activity, either.  Without being able to measure lengths, areas or volumes there would be no building.  And one thing we’ve learned from the Subprime Mortgage Crisis is that building houses IS the U.S. economy.  But it would be hard to build a house if different suppliers sold 2X4s in different lengths.  Or if there were no standard sizes of hot water tanks.  Or if there was no standard size of drywall.  Or no way to measure how much water to mix with gypsum to make wet plaster.

Of course, we would never have gotten to the building process.  Because we couldn’t trade without weights and measures.  We have to measure raw materials before we can trade them.  And assign a unit price.  Calculating prices per unit goes back to the beginning of civilization.  All the way back to Egypt.  Sumer.  And Harappa.  Who all developed systems of weights and measures to build.  And to trade.

Setting Unit Prices for Raw Materials and Finished Goods made Trade Possible and Efficient

Money made trade easier.  But without a system of weights and measures trade would not have been possible.  Even with money.  Because you can’t count everything.  You don’t count grain.  You weigh it in bulk.  You don’t count olive oil.  You measure it by volume.  And you don’t count seed-holes.  You calculate how much seed by weight is required to sow a field based on the calculated area of that field.

Setting unit prices for these goods made trade possible.  And efficient.  It allowed traders to find the best value.  By comparing unit prices.  Much like we do today when choosing a gas station.  All thanks to those reliable weights and measures.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Money

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 7th, 2011

Economics 101

The High Search Costs of the Barter System Hindered Trade

Agriculture advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us a division of labor.  The division of labor gave us trade.  And trade gave us an advanced civilization.  By allowing more specialists to live together in crowded urban settings.  Creating a rich surplus of goods for trade.  That people traded.  With other people.  Near.  And far.

As trade grew civilizations got better.  The division of labor grew larger.  And more complex.  Producing more things.  Soon there was a rich variety of goods to trade with for other goods.  From civilizations in distant lands.  Which made life more interesting.  And enjoyable.  During that brief time when you weren’t working.  Or trading.  Which was taking more and more time.  To find someone to trade with.  That had something you wanted.  And who wanted something you had.

This is the barter system.  Trading goods for goods.  Producers took their goods to other producers.  And asked, “What will you take in trade for that?”  Often the response was, “Nothing that you have.”  To which the trader replied, “Very well.  I shall keep looking.”  And sometimes would spend days, weeks and even months looking.  And that was time spent not making anything new.  This was the high search cost of the barter system.  And it hindered trade.  We needed something better.

Money made Trade more Efficient and Unleashed the Human Capital of the Middle Class

For civilization to advance further we had to make trade more efficient.  We had to reduce these search costs.  What we needed was a temporary storage of value.  Something we could trade our valuable goods for.  And then trade the value of our goods, held temporarily in this temporary storage of value, for something else of value later.  And we call this temporary storage of value money.

Money greatly simplified things.  Allowed a more complex economy.  A greater division of labor.  And it allowed wages.  Allowing more people to work on more narrow specialties.  These producers could then take their wages to market.  And buy what they needed.  Instead of spending days, weeks or even months traveling to find people to barter with.

Money made trade more efficient.  It allowed cities to grow in size.  And become even more advanced.  It unleashed the human capital of the middle class.  For they could spend more time creating and building new and better things to trade.  And this economic activity allowed more people to live together peacefully.  As producers produced.  And traded with other producers.  All made easier by money.  A temporary storage of value.

Money doesn’t Create or Produce, it just Temporarily Stores the Value of what we Create and Produce

Please note what came first here.  First there was trade.  Then there was money to make that trade more efficient.

At the heart of all economic activity is our human capital.  What we use to create and produce.  Money doesn’t create or produce.  It just stores the value of what we create and produce.  Which is why Keynesian economic stimulus doesn’t work.  Making money to give to people to spend simply does not create new economic activity.

Our skills create economic activity.  That ability to create things other people value.  And wish to trade for.  Because we are traders.  Not spenders.  We trade things of value.  And to trade things of value someone has to create them first.  If you just take things of value without offering something of value in trade it is not trade.  It’s plunder.  And little different from the uncivilized barbarians on the frontier of the civilized world.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Advanced Civilization takes a Huge Step Forward with the Bronze Age

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 2nd, 2011

Technology 101

Bronze gave the Artisans the Tools to Unleash their Human Capital and Increase the Quality of Life

Two things put man at the top of the food chain.  The ability to think.  And hands that could build the things we thought of.  In particular, tools.  First it was sharpened sticks and antlers.  Stone and flint.  These were steps forward.  But the quality of these tools was poor.  They weren’t ideal.  They were the best we could chip out from what we could find.  And they didn’t hold a sharp edge very long.  But that all changed with metallurgy.

Enter the Bronze Age.  Where man could cast pretty much any tool he thought of.  By pouring molten metal into a mold.  This was a huge step forward.  Because we could make tools to fit the job.  Any job.  They were strong, too.  And could hold a sharp edge for a longer time.  This exploded the growth of cities.  Farms.  And urban life.  Artisans now had the tools to unleash their human capital.  Cities became rich in finished goods.  Things that increased the quality of life.  And attracted the attention of envious neighbors.  And the uncivilized barbarians beyond the civilized frontier.

With bronze they could make better weapons to defend themselves.  And they did.  The Sumerians used bronze to create one of the most formidable defensive units of the time.  The phalanx.  A formation of soldiers armed with bronze-tipped spears.  This spear could reach further than a sword.  So swordsmen attacking a phalanx were at a disadvantage.  The phalanx could stab with the spear before the swordsman could stab with his sword.  The same principle of the defensive mechanism of the porcupine.  The phalanx was such a formidable defensive unit that it saw service for many centuries.  Letting civilizations grow because they could defend themselves from their envious neighbors.

It took Regional and Long Distant Trade to get the Copper and Tin to Smelt into Bronze

The Stone Age lasted a long time.  And the change to the Bronze Age didn’t happen overnight.  Because you don’t mine bronze.  You make it.  When you melt two or more metals together.  And the two most popular metals of the time were copper.  And tin.

The Sumerians used bronze tools and weapons.  But the Fertile Crescent didn’t have any ore deposits.  So the metals necessary to make bronze were not indigenous to the Fertile Crescent.  That land between the Euphrates and the Tigris.  So how did a people with no ore deposits smelt copper and tin into bronze?  Trade.

You have to dig copper out of the ground.  You have to dig tin out of the ground.  And you typically don’t dig copper and tin out of the same mine.  Worse, tin wasn’t as close to the Sumerians as copper was.  So it took regional trade.  And long distant trade.  To get the ore to smelt into bronze.

Trade gave us the Bronze Age and Advanced Civilizations

The Bronze Age created advanced civilizations.  But it took an advanced civilization to make bronze.  So what came first?  The Bronze Age?  Or advanced civilization?  That’s an easy answer.  Trade.

An advanced civilization could create great things.  As long as they had the ingredients to make those things.  Some of these things were indigenous to their civilization.  A lot of them were not.  So you traded.  To get the things you needed but didn’t have.  With the things you had.  And the things you built.  From both.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of the most Basic Comforts of Life, the Flush Toilet, goes back to Trade with the Indus Valley Civilization

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 1st, 2011

History 101

The Earliest Discovery of an Indoor Flush Toilet goes all the way Back to India

The first First Lady to live at the White House was Abigail Adams.  Wife of the second U.S. president.  The great John Adams.  They moved into the White House while it was still under construction.  And long before it had indoor plumbing.  So when the First Lady had to do her business she did so like most everyone at that time did.  She visited the outhouse.  Which was in full view of the general public.  So everyone knew what she was doing when she was doing her business.  Not a dignified moment for America’s First Lady.

Today when a lady has to poop we spare her this indignity.  For we have indoor flush toilets.  And when they go into the bathroom they always emerged with fresh makeup and coifed hair.  So we have no idea what they’re doing in the powder room.  Pooping.  Or just making themselves beautiful.  Which makes a trip to the toilet never an embarrassing moment these days.  Like it was for poor Abigail Adams.  If only we had indoor flush toilets during Mrs. Adams time.

The funny thing is, we did.  Not in America.  But in ancient Rome.  For the Romans had flush toilets.  Some 2000 years before they had them in America.  But the Romans didn’t invent this luxury.  No.  They were great engineers.  Great builders.  But they weren’t great mathematicians and scientists.  The Greeks were.  The Romans took the great learning of the Greeks and built great things.  But the indoor flush toilet even predates the Greeks.  The earliest discovery of an indoor flush toilet goes all the way back to India.  To the Indus Valley Civilization.  And the ancient city of Harappa.

The Greeks may have Learned about Sanitary Sewers and Flush Toilets from the Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was one of the four first big civilizations.  Along with Egypt in the Nile Valley.  Sumer in the Fertile Crescent.  And the Chinese in the Hwang-Ho valley.  They started out independently.  Then their trade routes eventually crossed.  And they learned from each other.  Through their trade.

We don’t know a lot about the IVC.  For we haven’t been able to decipher their early writing.  Yet.  But what we do know is that they had a remarkably advanced city infrastructure.  And that they traded.  They had the wheel.  And boats.  They traded overland into Central Asia and the Iranian Plateau.  And over water to Mesopotamia.  Where they traded with the Sumerians.  And the people who followed the Sumerians traded with the Greeks.

The Sumerians were probably the first to map the stars and planets.  The Greeks may have used this work as the foundation for their astronomy.  And it may not be the only thing they learned from the Sumerians.  For it is likely they learned about the IVC from their friends in Mesopotamia.  And took what they learned about sanitary sewers and flush toilets back to Greece.  Where the Romans eventually learned about it.

Germanic Barbarian Tribes brought the Western Roman Empire and the Indoor Flush Toilet to an End

Trade is not just about goods and services.  We trade knowledge, too.  And the knowledge we gain makes our civilization better.  More advanced.  Giving us as higher quality of life.  All through peaceful means.  Of course those on the outside looking in, the uncivilized barbarians beyond the frontiers of civilization, prefer plunder over trade.  And less peaceful means.

It was the Germanic tribes north of the Western Roman Empire that eventually conquered this advanced civilization.  Which turned back the hands of time.  And Introduced the Dark Ages.  Plunging us back into a backward world.  Where we lost much of our knowledge.  And the modern comforts of life.  Including the flush toilet.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Trade

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 31st, 2011

Economics 101

People Traded the Things they Made to have Things they couldn’t Make

Agricultural advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us the division of labor.  And spare time.  For the first time everyone didn’t have to hunt or gather food.  They could do other things.  Think.  Experiment.  Innovate.  Create.  And they did.  Becoming specialists.  A middle class.  Artisans.  People who became very good at doing one thing.  So they kept doing that one thing.  Finding ways to improve that one thing.  And created surpluses of their own.  Potters made excess pottery.  Shoemakers made excess shoes.  Tanners made excess leather goods.  Metalworkers made excess metal goods.

Cities grew in the center of the sprawling farmland.  And it was in the cities where these artisans lived.  Where they honed their specialties.  And met.  With other specialists.  And with farmers.  To trade.  The potter would trade pottery for shoes.  The farmer would trade food for shoes and metal goods.  The tanner would trade leather goods for pottery, shoes and food.  And so on.  People traded the things they made.  To have things they couldn’t make.  Everyone was able to have more things.  Thanks to this trade.

This unleashed the vast human capital of the people.  Their cities.  And their civilization.  Cities on the coast fished.  Cities closer to the forest harvested wood.  Cities closer to the hills mined silver, gold and copper.  And coal.  And the cities traded their surpluses with other cities.  Metal workers and potters traded their goods for fuel for their forges and kilns.  Miners traded their ore and coal for grain and fish.  Either directly.  Or indirectly.  When other people traded their large surpluses with other people in other cities.  With the miners getting a portion of these large-scale trades for all their efforts to make those trades possible.

As Civilizations became more Complex they became more Dependent on Trade

All of this trading made cities grow.  And as a result the civilization they belonged to grew.  And became more advanced.  People ventured further.  Looking for other resources.  And met people from other civilizations.  Who had raw materials that were different and interesting.  As well as finished goods that were different and interesting.  And these civilizations traded with each other.

Civilizations established trade routes with each other.  Which connected civilizations with others in the unknown world.  Beyond the civilizations they knew.  Markets appeared on these trade routes.  Bringing the exotic from the furthest corners of the world to everyone.  As well as new ideas.  And innovation.  The civilized world grew more advanced.  More interdependent.  More peaceful.  And better.  There was more food.  More technology.  More goods and services.  And more leisure.  Giving rise to the arts.  And entertainment.

But it was not all good.  As cities grew they grew attractive to the uncivilized barbarians beyond the frontier.  Roving bands of hunters and gatherers.  Who were more partial to plunder than trade.  So a portion of their surpluses had to be set aside for city defenses.  The building of city walls.  Implements of wars.  And standing armies.  To defend their cities.  Their civilizations.  And their trade routes.  For as civilizations became more complex they became more dependent on trade.

Trade Improved the Quality of Life which is the Hallmark of an Advanced Civilization

Trade unleashed our human capital.  Because it drove innovation.  There was a big world out there.  Creating a lot of fascinating stuff.  And the only way to get it was to trade your fascinating stuff for it.  And when we did everyone won.  Life got better.  We learned new and interesting things.  That we used as building blocks for further innovation.  And further advancement.  Which led to a better quality of life.  The hallmark of an advanced civilization.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

« Previous Entries   Next Entries »