Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ancient Alcoholic Drink (c. 10,000 B.C.E.)

egypt wine imgA pleasurable beverage appears.

The accidental fermentation of a mixture of water and fruit in sunlight is thought to have led to the first discovery of an alcoholic drink by a prehistoric people. Evidence of intentionally fermented beverages exists in the form of Stone Age beer jugs dated as
early as the Neolithic Period ( 10,000 B.C.E ). Other jugs have been excavated in Southwest Asia and North Africa.

Alcoholic beverages have been integral part of many cultures, used as a source of nutrition, in meals, for celebrations, and also in religious ceremonies. Alcohol can give a sense of wellbeing, but also acts as a depressant, lowering behavioral inhibition.

Alcohol consumption became a status symbol for the wealthy, During the Middle Ages, concoctions were distilled to produce
spirits. Alcohol has also served as a thirst quencher when water was polluted. In the 1700s, home-brewing processes were replaced
by commercially made beer and wine, which became important for the economies of Europe.

Beer was the first known alcoholic beverage, but many others have been produced since then. The Chinese are thought to have
produced yellow wine 4,000 years ago. In Europe the monasteries owned the best vineyards; French monks produced a sparkling
wine, which was named after the Champagne region of France. Brandy is supposed to have been accidentally discovered when a
Dutch trader tried boiling wine "to remove the water and save cargo space." ( Brandewijn means "burnt wine" in Dutch.)

Attitude to alcohol consumption have varied over time and different countries have limited the hours when drinking establishments are  open, or even banned the sale of alcohol altogether, as Americans did in the Prohibition, between 1920 and 1933. MF
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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Lunar Calender (c. 15,000 B.C.E.)

Early humans record the passing of time.

The earliest known lunar calendar is in the caves at Lascaux, southwest France, and dates from around 15,000 B.C.E. Various series of spots represent half of the moon's near-monthly cycle, followed by a large empty square, which perhaps indicate a clear sky.

A lunar calendar counts months (a period of 29.5350588 days) and is based on the phases of the moon. Months ahve twenty-nine  and thirty days alternately, and additional days are added ever now and then to keep step with the actual moon phase.

The lunar calendar was widely used in parts of the ancient world for religious observations. Agriculturally the lunar calendar is confusing as it takes no account of annual seasonal variations in temperature, daylight length, plant growth, animal migration, and mating. The lunar month divides into the solar year twelve times but with 10.88 days remaining.

Meton of Athens (circa 440 B.C.E.) noticed that nineteen solar years were equal to 234.997 lunar months. This led to the nineteen-year Metonic cycle where years three, five, eight, eleven, thirteen, sixteen, and nineteen had thirteen lunar months each, and all the other years had twelve months.
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ancient Braide Rope (c. 17,000 B.C.E)

Fibers are twisted into a valuable tool.

One of the oldest artifacts in the world, rope is still extensively used in many environments. It seems unlikely that it will be replaced for many years. Traditionally made from the natural fibers such as hemp, jute, or coir, rope is now also made from synthetic materials such as nylon and even steel.

Rope is a braided fiber, twisted to form a supple, strong medium. Its strenght is tensile, so its main use is to link objects, one of which acts as a stable anchor for the others to hang from or pull against. The oldest evidence of man-made rope was found in the caves of Lascaux, southwest France, and date from 17,000 B.C.E. Rope has always been used to tie and carry prey, making it an essential hunting tool.

Before machinery made it possible to create long lengths of rope, essential in sailing ships, weaving fibers was done by hand - an arduous process. The ancient Egyptians developed the first tool for weaving rope, which they used to move huge stones. Machines for spinning long lengths of rope were later housed in buildings called cake-walks, or roperies, which could be upto 300 yards long. A prime example of such a ropery exists in the farmer naval dockyard in Chatham, England, where rope is still produced on the premises after nearly 300 years. This ropery, 440 yards(400m) long, was built in 1720 and at that time was the longest building in England.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ancient Boomerang (c. 18,000 B.C.E.)

The advent of an easily retrievable weapon.

The oldest boomerang so far found was discovered in a cave in the Carpathian Mountains in southern Poland and is believed to be date form 18,000 B.C.E. The practice of throwing wood has also been illustrated in North African rock paintings tha date from the Neolithic Age (approximately 6000 B.C.E) The wood thrown consists variously of a "throwing club," where the effect is concentrated at one end, or a "throwing stick," a sharpened, straight rod of hard wood that rotates, or a boomerang, which developed from these into a specialized from and has a return throw.

Ancient tribes in Europe are said to have used a throwing axe; in Egypt a special type of curved stick was used by the Pharaohs for hunting birds. The use of throwing woods is thought to have spread throughout North Africa from Egypt to the Atlantic.

Boomerangs are most commonly associated with Australian Aborigines. They have been made in various  shapes and sizes depending on their geographic origins and intended function. In the past they have been used as hunting weapons, musical instruments, battle clubs, and recreational toys. The most recognizable type is the returning boomerang. Some have "turbulators" (bumps or pits on the top surface) to make the flight more predictable. A returning boomerang is an airfoil and its rapid spin make it fly in a curve rather than a straight line.

Other types of boomerang are of the non-returning sort, and some were not thrown at all but were used in hand to hand combat by Aboriginal people. The throwing wood, however, was mainly used for hunting rather than as a battle weapon.

"A boomerang in Aboriginal art on the main gorge wall at Carnarvon George, Australia"
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ancient Bow and Arrow (c. 20,000 B.C.E)

Distant target come within deadly reach for the first time.

Evidence of the early use of bows and arrows has been found in cave paintings in Western Europe and North Africa. Its development probably arose in the Upper Paleolithic (old stone age) around 20,000 B.C.E., when people realized that the weapon would enable hunters to kill outside their throwing range.
Bows and arrows were portable, easy to make, and the materials to make them were relatively easy to obtain. The bow consisted of a thin flexible shaft of wood; this was bent, and a length of sinew, deer gut, plant fiber, or rawhide was strung tightly between its ends.
Sometimes the bowstring was twisted to make is stronger. Ash, mahogany, and yew were all used for bows. Sometimes the wood was backed with sinew to make the bow stronger and stop it breaking.

The arrow was a thin shaft of wood, sharpened at one end, with feathers attached to the other to give it aerodynamic stability. Arrowheads were made from flint of other rocks, antler, or bone.

The bow was the first machine that stored energy. Energy from the archer's muscles gradually transferred to the bow as it was drawn back; when the bow was released, it gave the projected arrow a far greater velocity than that produced by a spear-thrower. In about 1500 B.C.E., a shorter and lighter bow was developed, the composite bow. Short and curved, it was built up from layers of materials that reacted differently under tension or compression. It was an accurate weapon to use from horseback.

Modern bows are made from fiberglass, carbon, and aluminium as well as wood, while the arrows are usually made of composite materials.
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Ancient Atlatl (c. 23,000 B.C.E.)

Early humans extended spear-throwing range.

When Spaniards first met the Aztecs in around 1500, the explorers were horrified when their armor was easily penetrated by the Aztec throwing darts. The Aztecs achieved this feat with the atlatl, a simple device used by many ancient peoples for long-range hunting, It probably dated from around 23,000 B.C.E.
 The atlatl consists of a throwing board and a dart about 6 feet long. The board, typically about 2 feet long, has a spur at its end, THe dart's rear is cut down the middle so that it fits onto the spur like two fingers around a card.

Gripping a handle at the front end of the throwing board, the atlatl thrower an hurl the dart with considerably more force than he could by hand.
During the thrower's tennis swing-like motion, the flexible dart flexes and energy builds up. The dart is weighted with a stone tip and often another counterweight to azimize the buildup of energy.

When the atlatl dart is released, the spring energy in the flexible  dart is added to the forward force, accelerating the dart to speeds that can exceed 100 miles per hour. The atlatl was so effective at bringing down prey that some scholars speculate it may have played a significant role in the extinction of the North American wooly mammoth. Now, at least 25,000 years after its invention, the atlatl is still used by enthusiastic hobbyists.
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ancient Sewing (c. 25,000 B.C.E)

Clothing is fitted using needle and thread.

The history of sewing is closely allied to the history of tools, The earliest needles ever discovered date from the paleolithic era ( the earliest stone age) around 25,000 B.C.E., key finds from that period include needles in south west France and near Moscow in Russia. These
were made of ivory or bone, with an eyelet gouged out. Some have been found along side the remains of foxes and hares that were used for their fur.

Sewing gave our early ancestors the opportunity to make clothing more closely tailored to the human body, improving its insulation and comfort,
as well as inviting decoration. Early scarps of clothes found in france and switzerland have included decorative seeds or animal teeth sewn on by thread, applied perhaps with the add of fish bones or thorns. Native Americans sewed with the tips of agave leaves.

Metal needles were developed in the bronze age and initially were made of several strands of wire melted together. Needles from this era steel was introduced. The first known stitched buttonholes dates from 4200 B.C.E

Embroidery - complex, decorative needlework - appeared in Bronze Age Egypt and India, In China, silk was being sewn and embroidered in the same era. Protective thimbles have been used since Roman times. The famous Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the Norman invasion of England, is an example of crewelwork, a form of embroidery with loosely twisted yarn. At least four types of stitch have been identified in the tapestry. Later, the mechanization of textile production began in the sixteenth century with the stocking frame, which led automated looms. Hand-stitching was transformed from the 1830s onward by the arrival of the sewing machine.
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