Burying the best here, it will grow again.
In the previous chapters we have walked with Hominins, while they were extracting the spirit from the stones and inventing the foundations of human thought and language. I have been inclined to assume that they came to experience the sense of transcendence; and without a doubt the pragnanz, the rational thought and other human characteristics.
But after two million years of existence and having laid the foundations of our human condition, they died out. They had survived many borderline situations, but they did not resist coexisting with their own descendants:: we, the most dangerous species that has populated this planet. But how could we become such dangerous animals? I will try to answer that in this chapter and especially in the next.
In this second part of this essay we follow the traces of our own species: what we did with the inheritance received and what we will leave to our successors.
Our species – modern humans – was biologically as we are now – about 100,000 years ago. And 10,000 years ago it had already spread to all regions of the world.
The end of the last glaciation was a great fertility in several areas of the world. In about 8 zones independently, agriculture and grazing began. This resulted in the first human numerous settlements.
The first area of human settlement was in the Middle East, in the “fertile crescent” (it is called crescent because of its crescent shape with the tips down). Where the mouths of three rivers (the left tip on the Nile and the right at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates) were flooded every year, leaving behind a flood a fertile land of great fertility (1).
That was the origin, 8,500 years ago, of the greatest cultural revolution since the Hominins discovered the carving of stones. Today we know it as the Neolithic revolution (the new age of polished stone). But it was much more than an improvement in stone technology. It was the beginning of the domestication of the planet by our species. And of many other cultural, technological and social changes.
The human groups of hunters and gatherers had responsibilities divided by sex: the men dedicated to hunting, moving great distances behind their prey. The women remained in the base camp, collecting plant food and eggs and caring for the young for several years. It was a consequence of very premature births: a compromise between the female birth canal and the body structure necessary to walk upright.
Women had the necessary skills to start agriculture and livestock
For more than two million years, women acquired a great practical experience in edible plants, as well as in pregnancy, childbirth and parenting and in transmitting this knowledge to their daughters, nieces and granddaughters. When the great fertility of the Neolithic arrived, the women were prepared to understand the mystery of agriculture. And also to understand and empathize with a pregnant sheep or goat, and with the birth and care of the offspring (much simpler and faster than that of their own human children). Women accumulated all the knowledge of the human species necessary to start agriculture and livestock.
In fact, those skills were so important for the survival of human groups, that women and their daughters became the greatest asset of the community. This figure sculpted 25,000 years ago, previous in thousands of years to the Neolithic, is a sign of the importance recognized by pre-Neolithic society to female fertility and, possibly, to women’s competences in life-related issues.
In the Neolithic, modern humans had a more developed brain than previous hominin species. With 2 million years of experience in the construction and use of tools; with articulated language and ability to think rationally. They were in a position to get involved in something more complex: the reproduction and use of other living things: plants and animals. And those who were specially prepared for it were women again. Decisions such as sowing and cultivating the land; protect, feed and cross domesticated animals, sheep, goats and chickens; and how to feed on their “products”: meat, milk, eggs, wool and skin. All these were women’s competitions.
It is very possible that it was women who understood the mysterious natural cycle of the birth and growth of plants, the ripening of the fruit in summer, the seed, its fall to the ground, its permanence during the winter inside the earth and its rebirth in spring. And that in the same way, they understood in practice that a sheep, a goat or a dog fed and treated with love (2).from birth, could become part of the family and give their adoptive parents their milk and wool.
Thus the feminine empathy towards other creatures, could influence the discovery of planting, cultivation and collection of plant foods and the breeding and reproduction of domestic animals.
Change the surrounding world, it came from far away
It was not the first time that living things changed the world. It had happened before, since four billion years ago. Although not in the human way. The dialectic of life is a continuous dialogue – of collaboration, confrontation and mutual adaptation – between living beings and their habitat.
Unicellular living beings – bacteria – created the planet’s atmosphere. Plants and animals, including humans, would not have come into existence without air.
The plants – subject by their roots to remain in the same land throughout their existence – developed flowers that attracted insects with their striking colors, giving them food in exchange for help to combine the sexual cells themselves and spread them to places where the plants do not could come by themselves. Thus the insects, in dialogue with the plants, created the landscapes of bright colors. And as well our eyes evolved to perceive the red color of ripe fruits, differentiating it from the green that is still early to eat.
That continuous dialogue between biological organisms of different species and of each one with the physical phenomena of their environment, is the oldest language on planet Earth, and even today we know very little about it.
The end is the beginning
The hominins had unraveled in practice (not in theory, at the moment) the doctrine of being (3) and laid the foundations of human thought, language and culture. Modern Neolithic humans, 9,000 years ago, achieved something similar with the cycles of life reproduction. But exactly what did they learn?
On the subject of time, they learned that the end is the beginning. In nature, in everything that surrounds us and in humans themselves, everything that works is repeated, in the same or similar way, over and over again. Living beings mate and have young; they die and their descendants succeed them. The sun travels at night to the bowels of the earth, but comes out again every morning. Barley serves to feed us, but if we bury a part (the best selection) it will sprout again in spring and give us one hundred and one.
This endless loop ∞ is the mathematical symbol of infinity, which we imagine as a space without limits. But it also represent a loop in perpetual motion: as in a Scalextric game.
This new way of understanding life gave rise to a conception of the universe in harmony, unitary and at the same time dual. A perpetual struggle between opposites, but also a cycle of oscillations until a balance is found. The new way of thinking did not break with the principles learned from the experience by hominins, but rather extended and enriched them. The being displayed new characteristics to humans.
Where that thought developed more, it was in the Far East, a few centuries later. Lao-Tse is credited with the doctrine of the path to unity through the duality of two opposite and complementary principles: Yin and Yang.
Also in Greece, with Heraclitus a similar thought arose, which a long time later would be known as dialectic: He taught that everything flows and everything changes, like a river in which no one can bathe twice, because it is no longer the same river . Everything is in permanent conflict and, nevertheless, regulated by a logos: the meaning.
The division of labor
However, the great change produced by these transformations was not going to take place in philosophical thinking but in social organization. Paradoxically, humans began to understand the movement, when they stopped moving after hunting in their seasonal migrations. By domesticating plants and animals they domesticated themselves, settling in the same territory. When producing large amounts of food, they grouped into towns, built cities that came to house thousands of individuals. For example, the city of Uruk had 80,000 inhabitants. These cities disappeared, although today a megalopolis contains more than ten million inhabitants.
Everything happened very fast, perhaps too much, thanks to the extraordinary fertility of the margins of those three great rivers of the Middle East, after each annual flood that flooded its banks. Food production increased so much that it allowed feeding not only humans dedicated to agricultural and livestock production, but others who could thus devote themselves to various auxiliary trades.
The men specialized in building livable houses, barns and defensive walls. Others reconverted their hunting skills to the fight, to defend themselves against those who wanted to conquer the now increasingly coveted farmland.
Others specialized in keeping accounts of the annual distribution of land after each flood. Thus they invented writing: human working memory, which first materialized in bricks; like these ceramic pieces found in Sumeria.
Later, pottery emerged in the kitchen ovens managed by women to cook their food. Pottery had a strong development in Japan, which remained isolated and in the Middle East, exchanged for other goods that started a growing trade.
The geometric shapes are born
The annual flooding of fertile lands forced the redistribution of the land once a year, after the water was withdrawn. For that, the earth had to be measured, which led to inventing the geometry with the three geometric shapes: the triangle, the circle and the square.
The distances began to be measured with ropes. And so the first units of measurement were born based on body dimensions: thumb, foot, yard, breaststroke, span and elbow.
In addition to measuring, it was necessary to learn to count and, for that, they used their fingers. Arithmetic was born. And so, they soon discovered magical relationships in heaven and on earth.
If you take a rope 12 cubits long and mark it at 3, 4 and 5 cubits; three stakes are tied in those marks and they are nailed to the ground, a triangle is obtained that is more than a triangle: it is a “sacred” triangle.
In reality, every wooden triangle has some “sacred” because its shape remains undeformed as a quadrilateral would. It has stability, to build walls and wooden roofs. A valuable quality, in addition to gridding the fields to distribute the land.
And the “sacred” triangle also has a special relationship between three natural numbers: 3, 4 and 5 that can be remembered and communicated with the fingers of one hand.
The circle and the wheel are born
A rope and a stake in the ground created another wonder: the circle. And from it, 6,000 years ago, the wheel was born: the first machine in history, after the lever.
Transport was born with the wheel to facilitate trade. And the chariots were also born to facilitate the movement of warriors. The humans settled in towns that became cities, began to move again. But now, not so much to emigrate, but to trade and, above all, to conquer new territories.
Thus the circle created the wheel. The wheel created the armies. The armies technified war. Wars created the slaves.
Now, to set up armies, it would be necessary -in addition to physical wheels- a good story.
The next chapter Building the Enemy, is about the birth of that story. From now on, social inequality would be business of men.
See Chapter index
Current chapter NOTES
Migration maps of modern man and the growing fertil are based on Wikipedia:
(1) The Neolithic revolution occurred independently from at least six regions of the planet, without contact with each other, known as the cradles of civilization: Western Asia, East China, New Guinea, Mesoamerica, Andes Mountains, Eastern North America, and possibly also sub-Saharan Africa and Amazonia. (See Neolithic)
(2) In Adopting the daughters of the sun, I wanted to pay homage to this feminine attitude of caring for pups in danger, imagining that it was a woman who tamed the fire, by pitying a small flame about to become extinct.
(3) About the doctrine of being, see: Determination on the right
...– And see also: Looking for the Lost Being