Thursday, May 28, 2009

History of the World, Condensed Version, Part I, Clearly Hampered By My Having Studied Mostly Just Western Civ.

About 15 billion years ago, something very small and heavy, containing everything in the universe of which we know, exploded and became very big and hot and gassy. Gravity occurred somehow, or had already been there, or is an aspect or manifestion of the universe being curved, I don't know. Anyhow, hot gas eventually settled into balls, and one of these hot gas balls is our sun, and the Earth was a gas ball orbiting the Sun, and it cooled to the point where it became partly solid, and the Moon started orbiting the earth by mistake, it seems, because generally moons are much smaller proportion to their planets. See Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, and Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, or better yet, ask an actual scientist for tips for further reading.

Water appeared, then single-celled organisms. These eventually became more complex and differentiated into plants and animals. Richard Dawkins in The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life tells us when certain species appeared, all of which are ancestors of us humans, hence the book's title. Did you know we're descended from lungfish? They were around 417 million years ago!

Yeah, I'm pretty clueless about such things. I refer you to Dawkins and Darwin, The Origin Of Species.

Darwin referred to the "struggle for existence. The geologist McCandles in William Gaddis' novel Carpenter's Gothic, presumably speaking for the author, complained about people having to struggle against the stupidity of other people, and speculated that it had been thus for quite a while: he imagined the brightest of out hominid ancestors two million years ago in Africa, banging away with rudimentary stone tools and trying to get something done despite the interference of idiots.

Art seems to have pre-dated urban life. Human life so far seems to have included at least 30,000 Years of Art; whether there actually were, by 10,000 B.C., huge stone temples and substantial towns such as those depicted in Roland Emmerich's film, I don't know. I'm picturing nothing much more than huts and cabins at that point, but what do I know?

I know that by 7,000 or 6,000 BC there were cities in Mesopotamia like Ur. (I don't know whether the name of the Mesopotamian city is only coincidentally the same as the German prefix or whether there's more to it than that.) Within a couple of thousand years after that, there were fairly complex civilizations with big towns in Mesopotamia and also in Egypt.

After 3,100 BC the record becomes much more detailed, because by then people had started writing. Probably in Mesopotamia first, in Sumeria, followed closely by Egypt. In both areas writing began as hieroglyphics, picture-writing, but in Mesopotamia it quickly became more abstract. Egypt became a very monolithic single state, Mesopotamia was filled with competing political entities, rising and falling over and over: among these were the Babylonians in the early second millenium BC, the Assyrians in the late second and early first millenia, and in the mid-first millenium, the neo-Babylonians and, pushing into Mesopotamia from the east where they held much more territory still, the Persians.

End of Part I of the Condensed Version

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