Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WWII - A Bringer of Great Change

History has been drastically transformed by both long-term and short-term phenomena. The Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution easily describe the former while the French Revolution, the Great War and WWII fall under the rubric of the latter.
Having been born less than twenty five years after WWII therefore come of age in the milieu of the Cold War (essentially the spawn of WWII) I have somewhat of an emotional attachment to this historical turning point. Both my grandfather and granduncle fought in the war and its events (certainly its impact on World Jewry) continue to influence my personal way of thinking.
What follows is a list that I have compiled of important changes and transformations that were either galvanized or transformed both indirectly or directly by World War Two (not in any order)

1. The Cold War – In a sense this was the leftover fallout of the uneasy alliances that made possible the defeat of the Axis Powers. It was defined by the emergence of an ideological struggle (East v West or Communism v Capitalism).
2. Consolidation of the position of the US as a world power – Before WWII the US was viewed as more of an economic power than a military giant after the war it was clear that the US was both.
3. Decline of Britain as a World Power – Britain was already on the decline following the turmoil of the Great War but World War Two confirmed and augmented this deterioration. What would follow in the years to come was a retreat from Empire (The crown Jewel of India would gain self determination in 1947) and the abdication of Britain as the primary defender of Western Democracy.
4. Weakening of France – The French decline while paralleling that of Britain was in many ways even more severe in that it was motivated by that nation’s inglorious performance in WWII. Humbling defeats in French Indochina were to follow.
5. Growth of Socialism in Western Europe – Socialism would grow unfettered on the free side of the continent with policies of industrial nationalization and extension of big government being adopted to placate a war weary populace. Some have argued that the decline of Western Europe as a key player and a believer in its own sense of exceptionality is a consequence of the socialist mind frame.
6. Germany and Japan were successfully pegged back and weakened so that they could be rebuilt into democratic (and economic) powerhouses in the image of the allies.
7. Extension of the Iron Curtain – Eastern Europe and a vast Soviet Union would for sometime fall under the Totalitarian control of the Marxist-Leninist dogma.
8. Transition of China to Maoism – The Japanese invasion of China debilitated the central nationalist government (who fought bravely against the outsiders) leaving them devoid of the wherewithal to defeat Mao and his Communist insurgents.
9. Independence drive for global colonial regions – The Mother countries lost their will to govern their colonial empires inspiring the success through peaceful and violent means of grassroots liberation movements Within the next thirty to forty years the vast European controlled territories would assume their new status as self governing nation states (Winds of Change).
10. The Birth of the Nuclear Age – The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki signalled this beginning of this Age but the development beforehand (such as the Manhattan Project and the competing Axis initiatives) that had their impetus with the war effort.
11. Improvement in Medicine – Vast strides in medical triage, use of antibiotics and surgical techniques were greatly accelerated by the war.
12. Development of Weapons Technology – As expected this was ubiquitous across all fields from gun manufacturing/munitions, to tank production, to armed vehicle and naval warfare (Sonar, depth charges, sea mines etc.) - In the fields of aviation great strides were made with respect to jet technology, plane manoeuvrability and payload transportation and release.
13. Espionage enhancement – Not only was the effectiveness of cloak and dagger spying, sabotage and other types of covert action improved over the course of the war many of the modern intelligence gathering services were born and grew to maturity in this volatile environment.
14. The End of the Great Depression – There is some debate as to whether World War II actually ended the Great Depression but it certainly impacted the production and employment profiles of the nations involved in a positive sense.
15. The Women’s Movement receives a big boost – With many of the men at war women provided an important role on the production line at the Home Front. The symbol of Rosie the Riveter and the boost that she gave First Wave Feminism in the work environment would forever change the traditional structure of western society.
16. Formation of the United Nations – Although it has not lived up to its original intention and certainly sports a history of both success and failure the genesis of the UN (Dumbarton Oaks Conference – October 1944) has its origins in World War Two.
17. Global Economics – Both the IMF and the World Bank were organizations that were set up to stabilize and mend international economics after the horrors of WWII (and to some extent the Great Depression). They continue to play a key role in global financer today.
18. Space Race – While its history is marred in the Cold War the prototypes of the Rockets developed by both the US and the Soviets trace their background to Germany’s World War II V1 and V2 Programs (Wunderwaffen). These developments also pre-staged the missile delivery era associated with the Nuclear Arms Race.
19. The Holocaust and an enhanced sensitivity towards genocide – While the message has been somewhat mixed and not always consistent our awareness of issues of human rights abuse (so often flatly ignored before WWII – look at the Armenian Genocide of 1915) has been highlighted by the Shoah.
20. Formation of the State of Israel – Its possible that the Jewish state may have come into fruition without the occurrence of WWII (the Balfour Declaration was signed in 1917) but the war and the ramifications of the Holocaust certainly sped up the process.
21. Oil Politics – The inability of the both the Third Reich and Japan to secure stable oil supplies for their respective war machines contributed to the failure of each of these military forces. Consequently oil politics as a driver for both political economy and industrial production would be highlighted by this truism.
22. The Computer Age – The Code breaking machine driven initiatives at Bletchley Park together with the early computer ENIAC saw their light in World War II. Alan Turing and the Bletchley crowd greatly shortened the war and set in motion the embryonic Information Age.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

70th Anniversary of V-J Day

V-J Day is traditionally celebrateed in the UK on the 15th of August although the Japanese only officially surrendered to the US on the 2nd of September (document was signed aboard the USS Missouri). The 15th of August is also known as the 'memorial day for the end of the war'.
From London - Great to see some of the Veterans coming out to celebrate.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bruneval Raid

The Bruneval Raid is a little known but important event of World War Two. Known also as Operation Biting the Raid occurred on the 27th-28th February 1942 and involved the attack and neutralization of German radar installation at Bruneval (Northern France).
A company of airborne troops led by Major John Frost parachuted into France at a distance of several miles from the site with the intention of dismantling the W├╝rzburg radar set, seizing the technology intact and returning home safely to the UK.
While there were several casualties on the Allied side (two killed, six wounded and six caprtured) the raid is regarded as a success. The equipment was brought back to the UK along with a German radar technician and the intelligence gained in understanding Germany’s early warning radar system would prove invaluable in future assault missions such as that of Operation Overlord.
In addition it showed the effectiveness of elite parachute airborne strategy in inflicting direct harm on the enemy.

See Bruneval Raid

Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

This ia brilliant series that is well worth watching. It is divided into 13 Parts.

For the Full Playlist go to: Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire

Part 1 - Marius and the Northern Barbarians
Part 2 - The Servile Wars
Part 3 - Conquests of Julius Caesar
Part 4 - Setback at Teutoburg Forest
Part 5 - Conquest of Britain
Part 6 - Dacian Wars (Trajan)
Part 7 - Wars of Marcus Arurelius
Part 8 - Religious Wars
Part 9 - Aurelian (Soldier Emperor)
Part 10 - Constantine
Part 11 - The Barbarian General Stilicho and Alaric
Part 12 - Ricimer the Puppet Master
Part 13 - Fall of the Empire in the West

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 15 - The Mycenean Civilization

The Mycenaeans dominated the last phase of the Greek Bronze Age. They were a land based people who followed on (and partly overlapped) with the Minoans. The period from 1600-1100 BC book ends the Mycenaean era. This was the time of the Trojan Epic Cycle mythologized in the writing of Homer (Iliad and Odyssey). Key Mycenaean towns include Mycenae, Athens, Thebes, Pylos and Midea. Their influence extended to both the Greek mainland and the Peloponnesian peninsular and included some of the colonies in and around Asia Minor.

The first phase of the Mycenaean era was noted for its Shaft Graves for the burial of the elite. It was also characterized by palace hall complexes known as Megarons. Following on from the Shaft Grave Era was the Koine era that was characterized by its fresco art and extensive use of the Linear B writing style. Scribes played an important role in Mycenaean society that was hierarchically structured with palace officials at the top, merchants and farmers lower down and slaves at the bottom. The military played a key role and commerce was very important as well. Mycenaean artefacts have been found in Bavaria and England.

Climate change, earthquakes, famine (a recurring theme in the demise of the old orders) and an invasion from the Dorian or Sea People are believed to have contributed to the demise of the Mycenaean civilization.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 14 - Development of Writing

Most of the Great Civilizations that provided the springboard for the early development of the West had sophisticated writing systems. The Mesopotamians used a wedge shaped writing known as Cuneiform, the Egyptians preferred Hieroglyphics, the Minoans made use of the Linear A script (the later Myceneans opted for the Linear B form).

Hieroglyphics, a pictograph type writing system would morph over time into hieratic (used by the priests) and demotic (popular script). Hieroglyph, demotic and Greek are all found on the famous Rosetta Stone that was discovered in 1799.
Writing conveyed ideas, laws and immortalized the knowledge of a civilization. It also provided an important framework for the implementation of trade deals.

The Phoenician alphabet probably had the biggest impact on the early development of writing in the west. It is the oldest verified consonantal alphabet (or abajd) and is derived from Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Both the Paleo-Hebrew and Greek Alphabets developed from the Phoenician script.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 13 - The Minoan Power

Historian Will Durant has called the Minoans the ‘first link in the chain of European history’. The Minoan civilization developed on the Aegean Island of Crete and was dominant between 2000 and 1450 BC. Much of what we know about the Minoans goes back to the work of British archaeologist Arthur Evans who rediscovered this civilization in the early 20th century. The Minoans were a trader people with an advanced maritime apparatus who were also noteworthy for the building. The elaborate palace at Knossos that provides the centre stage for the legendary King Minos (from which the name Minoan is derived) showcases this building impetus. As do the palaces at Phaistos, Malia and Kato Zakros.

Minoan civilization was essentially Bronze Age and had a dramatic influence over the surrounding islands and mainland Greek Peninsula (where they set up smaller colonies such as Akrotiri on Santorini). They also traded with Egypt, the Canaanite world (in Israel) and the Asia Minor City States. Minoan handiwork was very advanced and the culture showed a higher degree of equity amongst the sexes than was typical of other civilizations of the time. While much of what we know about the Minoans is still shrouded in mythology its demise seems to have occurred in dramatic fashion either through an Earthquake, a volcano (the infamous Thera Eruption) or the invasion of outsiders from Anatolia. By 1600 BC it was well into decline and was replaced by the land based Mycenean civilization as the predominant power in the region.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 12 - Civilizations of Asia Minor

Anatolia (or Asia Minor) roughly corresponds to the Asian part of Modern day Turkey.
The region was originally known as the Land of the Hatti and was dominated by various civilizations during the Bronze Age. The Hatti and the Hurrians were the original powers in the region but there was substantial influence by the Akkadians and their later descendants the Assyrians. In and around 2000BC the powerful Hittite Empire emerged and grew to become a rival of the Egyptian, Assyrian and Mittani Empires.

The Hittities played a major role in driving the Iron Age, had a sophisticated language and a well organized military that were noted for their use of chariots. By 1180 BC the Hittites were in decline and various tribes – most notably the Lydians, Lycians, Phyrigians, Galatians and Cilicians would exert their authority in this territory. In the latter part of the Millennium before the Common Era both the Persians and the Greeks would play an important role in both the demographics and politics of the region which would continue to feature in the evolving dynamic of the West.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 11 - The Bronze Age

Historians characterize the Bronze Age as the time period between 3300 and 1200 BC. It was preceded by the Neolithic Stone (and transitory Copper Age) and succeeded by the Iron Age. Bronze, an alloy formed from the smelting copper and its combination with tin. Metal work and the emergence of writing were key features of this period that characterized Anatolia (Turkey), the Caucasus, Elam/Sistan (Pre-Iran), Egypt, the Levant and Mesopotamia in the Middle East. In Europe proper Bronze Age culture was expressed in the Aegean, Beaker, Srubna and Urnfield Cultures amongst others. The Chinese Longshan and Shang Dynasty were essentially Bronze Age cultures as well.
Trade was key to the proper functioning of these societies with Bronze playing a vital role in such a regards.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 10 - The Egyptian Middle Kingdom

Known also as the Period of Reunification the Middle Kingdom encompasses the XIth and XIIth dynasties and was dominant in Egypt between 2000-1700BC (contemporary to Hammurabi). Its two greatest monarch were the Pharaohs Menuhotep II and Senusret III (also known as Sesostris). The former was the founder of the kingdom who reigned for 51 years and consolidated the power of the city of Thebes that would serve as his capital. Senusret III was a military pharaoh who waged war with the Nubian territories south of Egypt and set up a strong administrative system that centralized control of the outlying regions as well as the military.

Block art was popular during the Middle Kingdom and the deity Osiris (god of the Nile) grew to prominence as an added indication of the importance of the annual flooding so critical to the civilization.

Like the Old Kingdom the Middle Kingdom gave way to a period of decline, most likely caused by internal strife and revolt by the noble families. Historians have called this the Second Intermediate Period.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What makes Western Civilization successful?

1. Rule of Law
2. Charity
3. High Standards of Education
4. Rationalism
5. Individual Freedoms
6. Private Ownership of Property
7. Checks and Balances
8. Cultural Ethos and Shared History
9. Democracy
10. Flexible Labour Markets
11. Scientific Innovation
12. Medicine

Ten Greatest Roman Emperors

1. Augustus
2. Trajan
3. Constantine
4. Marcus Aurelius
5. Vespasian (wasn't great for the Jews though)
6. Aurelian
7. Hadrian
8. Antonius Pius
9. Septimus Severus
10. Diocletian (although some would debate this)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

50 Milestones in the History of Science - In chronological order (more-or-less)

In chronological order (more-or-less)

1. Science of Agriculture (Irrigation, Plant and Animal Domestication).
2. Greek's develop the concept of the Atom.
3. Euclidean Geometry and the Mathematics of Conics.
4. Aristotle formalize logic.
5. Greeks conceptualize the concepts of change and motion.
6. Birth of Diagnostic Medicine - Hippocrates
7. Determination of the circumference of the Earth, distance to the moon and the distance to the sun.
8. Law of the Lever
9. Archimedes and the concept of buoyancy
10. Arabs expand work on Optics.
11. Madgeburg Experiment - Concept of the vacuum.
12. Copernicus and the Heliocentric revolution
13. Brahe and the changing heavens
14. Invention of the Telescope (First Refracting then Reflecting)
15. Galileo and the Birth of the Experimental Method - Inertia + Free Fall + Simple Harmonic Motion + Projectile Motion
16. Mineral Science develops under Agricola.
17. Vesalius and Modern Anatomy/Physiology
18. Kepler's Three Laws
19. Newton's Law of Universal Gravitiation
20. Newton and the Dispersion of White Light
21. Paracelsus and the Field of Toxicology
22. Newtonian Synthesis of Terrestrial and Cosmological Science
23. Newton's Three Laws of Motion - concepts of Impulse, Momentum, Action + Force.
24. Invention of the Calculus (Differential/Integral)
25. Invention of the Microscope
26. Birth of Cartesian Geometry. Synthesis of Trigonometry and Algebra.
27. Pascal's work on Pressure.
28. Mathematics of Probability
29. Fermat's Principle
30. Vector Algenra (and Calculus)
31. Foucault's Pendulum (Rotation of the Earth)
32. Comet Periodicity
33. William Harvey and the Circulatory System
34. Linneaus and the Taxonomic Classification system
35. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and oxygen as the driver for combustion (extension on the work of Priestly).
36. Huygens Wave Theory
37. Cell Theory
38. Mathematics of Differential Equations (Laplace, Euler etc)
39. Benjamin Franklin's work on distinct charge
40. Dalton and the Early Periodic Table
41. Bernoulli and Fluid Mechanics
42. Buffon and advances in Natural Science
43. Hutton - Modern Geology and Gradualism
44. Cuvier and Catastrophism
45. Jenner and the rise of Immunization Theory
46. Volta and the first electric battery
47. Charles Coulomb and the Electrostatic Force.
48. Sadi Carnot and the Ideal Heat Engine
49. Oersted discovers magnetic fields around current carrying conductors
50. Weather Patterns - Coriolis Effect.

A Few Olympic Games Facts and Figures

First Ancient Olympic Games: 776 BC Olympia, Greece.

Last Ancient Olympic Games: 393 AD Olympia, Greece - banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius from then on - Games were seen as a Pagan relic.

First head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC): Frenchman Pierre Baron de Coubertin was its first head and a key figure in the revival of the modern games.

Olympic motto: Citius Altius Fortius - Faster, Higher, Stronger.

Sports at the First Modern Olympic Games (Athens 1896): Athletics, Cycling, Fencing, Gymnastics, Shooting, Swimming, Tennis, Weightlifting, and Wrestling

First Modern Olympic Games with female competitors: Paris (1900)

Number of Countries at Beijing Olympics (2008): 203

Newest Country at the Olympic Games: Marshall Islands

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 9 - Code of Hammurabi

Dating back to 1754 BC the Code of Hammurabi is one of the oldest deciphered law codes that exist. The code was produced during the reign of Babylonian king Hammurabi and consists of 282 Laws dealing with contracts, liability, property damage, divorce, sexual behaviour and paternity. Punishments are scaled and more importantly standardized but are nevertheless severe by today’s barometer with a strong emphasis on an eye-for-an-eye philosophy. This appears to have influenced later Mosaic Law.

The code was discovered by archaeologists in 1901 and is written in the Akkadian cuneiform writing. It is currently on display in the Louvre in Paris and appears on a diorite stele (slab) that resembles an index finger. There are several replicas of the code that exist elsewhere.

Like most ancient codes the Hammuabi stele is given credence on a celestial level as evidenced by a depiction of the god Shamash (god of Justice) giving authority to Hammurabi - an early deference to the divine right of kings.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 8 - The Egyptian Old Kingdom

The Old Kingdom existed between the 27th and 22nd century BC. It was centred on the Nile River and extended southward from the Mediterranean Sea to the town of Elephantine in Upper Egypt. Dynasties three to sixth are included in the Old Kingdom that had at its capital the city of Memphis. Egyptologists believe that the era was defined by prosperity and relative freedom from outside invasion. It is also the period in Egyptian history when independent states fell under the control of the pharaoh who ruled over these administrative territories termed Nomes through the instrument of the Nomarchs (semi-feudal governors).

The pharaoh Djoser was the first king of the Old Kingdom and his reign was characterized by the workings of his influential vizier Imhotep. Egyptian views regarding the cycle of time developed during the third dynasty and the architecture is noted for itsStep Pyamids such as the one located in Saqqara.

However it was the fourth dynasty that is associated with the brilliant feats of civil engineering. The Great Pyramid at Giza (dedicated to the pharaoh Khufu), the Khafre Pyramid, the Sphinx, the Bent and Red Pyramids and the Pyramid of Menakaure were all built during this dynasty.

The Fifth and Sixth dynasties had their fair share of building projects as well but there seems to have been a greater shift toward the construction of temples associated with the god Ra.

Despite its focus on trade (particularly in ebony, myrrh, frankincense, gold and copper) the Old kingdom went into decline at the end of the long reign of Pepi II. Civil war ravaged the countryside and this was compounded by a severe drought. The period that followed the Old Kingdom was known as the First Intermediate Period that spanned the seventh to eleventh dynasties.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 7 - The Unification of Ancient Egypt – The Rise of the Left arm of Western Civilization

Together with Mesopotamia and the Minoan civilization Ancient Egypt looms high as an early progenitor for the West. Centred on the Nile, Ancient Egypt like the Indian Harappan civilizations and the Chinese Xia dynasty was a river-based culture (the former was founded on the Indus River, the latter on the Yellow River.

As the lifeblood of Egypt the Nile was the location of vast agricultural based city states that paralleled those of the Tigris-Euphrates basin. However until the arrival of Menes c.3100 BC they were largely divided into Lower and Upper frames of influence. Who Menes was is still a source of debate? Some historians argue that he was the proto dynastic pharaoh Narmer. Others believe that he was a first dynasty pharaoh Nor-Aha.

The name Menes is attributed to the writings of the Egyptian historian Manetho who lived in the 3rd century BC. In addition there is some disagreement concerning the date of unification of Egypt but the 3100 BC figure seems to be a common figure in use. While the uncertainty may become less nebulous over time what cannot be denied is that the unification of Egypt would lay down the foundation for a civilization that would play a key role in the dissemination of ideas, technology and political capital for the next three millennia to follow.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 6 - The Akkadian Empire

It was the first Empire to emerge within the Mesopotamian civilization and covered an area about the size of modern day Turkey. The founder of the Empire was king Sargon (name means true king) the Great who ruled between 2334 –2279 BCE. The Akkadians were a semitic people and the Empire bought together the Semites and the various Sumerian groups. Sargon imposed the Akkadian language on a number of groups including the rival Elam and although the Empire lasted for two centuries (it collapsed around 2154 BCE) it appears to have been provided the foundation for both the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires that followed. The Akkadian Empire was centred on the city state of Akkad and followed the Sumarian religion with its deities: Anu (heaven), Enlil (air), Enki (freshwater and male fertility) and Ninhursag (goddess of the Earth

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 5 - The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Birth of Literature

Dating back to the 21st century BC the Epic of Gilgamesh is regarded as the first great work of literature. The poem is a product of Ancient Mesopotamia and consists of two halves that span twelve tablets. The first half tells the story of the wild beast Enkidu and his adventures with Gilgamesh. Part two details Gilgamesh’s jouney to find the secret of eternal life following the death of Enkidu. Included in the second part is the tale of Utnapishtim and the Great Flood which is believed to have served as the inspiration for the flood narrative in Genesis. The Gilgamesh epic has made its way into popular fiction and has clearly influenced both biblical and classic literature as well. It tells a similar story to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, has parallel advice similar to that of the Book of Ecclesiastes, eludes to a Nebuchadnezzar-type Babylonian king and has an uncanny similarity to the works of the Greek bard Homer.

Its just my opinion : Ten Greatest Rock Stars of the 1950s

1. Elvis Presley 2. Chuck Berry 3. Buddy Holly 4. Jerry Lee Lewis 5. Little Richard 6. Bo Diddley 7. Frankie Valley 8. Richie Velez 9. Bill Halley 10. Big Bopper

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 4 - Mesopotamian City States

City States evolved to protect the Agricultural domains. Most were controlled by kings or ruling elites but were highly influenced by a priestly class who legitimized their existence by claiming direct (or feigning) contact with the gods. Mesopotamia (the land between the rivers ie. The Tigris and the Euphrates) was the earliest one of these city state civilizations to flourish and together with the Egyptian Nile based culture most impacted the Western World.

The earliest Mesopotamian city was Ur that appeared to have been founded as early as 6500 BC and abandoned about 500 BC. It was located in the flood rich South Mesopotamian. Like the other cities of the time it was surrounded by a wall, had roads and streets and a sewer system. It prospered greatly during a time when all sea traffic entering Mesopotamia had to pass through this port city. Ur’s greatest ruler was the king Ur-Nammu who ruled between 2047 and 2030 BC. He built the famous ziggarut (massive raised structure that resembles a step pyramid with its terrace like form), many temples and improved on the region’s irrigation system.

At the height of its power Ur’s population was estimated to be around 65,000. However this dropped substantially following periods of droughts and sacking by nomad groups. By 500 BC it was abandoned as power in the region shifted to the Northern Mesopotamian city of Babylonia. Nevertheless Ur features prominently in Biblical history. In the Book of Genesis Ur Kadashim is identified as the birthplace of Abraham and it is mentioned in Nehemiah as well. Ur was not the only Mesopotamian city of note. Eridu, Lagash, Nippur, Sippar and Uruk also played key roles in the regional history.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 3 - The Agricultural Revolution

Conventionally the Agricultural Revolution is taken as ground zero in the birth of civilization. By regimenting and increasing food production yields the revolution freed up time for other human endeavours. This included the wholesale development of various artisan pursuits that in turn galvanized a technological revolution that continues today. In one could argue that the revolution was in a sense the fore bringer of our modern world. However the shift toward planned farming (which in the west involved the domestication of wheat, barley, rye and oats and various livestock) was not without its disadvantages. Some feminists see it as the beginning of patriarchy for one. Others argue that it was destructive towards the environment, resource draining and over reliant on a societal hierarchy that at times promoted slavery. It cemented the idea of territory making war an inevitable outcome. While some of these features endured many were more consistent with the early stages of an evolving dynamic. The Agricultural Revolution cemented the success of our species, freed us from the shackles of subsistence living and opened up the potential that is so evident across the landscape of human achievement.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 2- Hunter Gatherer Art

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were more sophisticated than popular culture would have you believe (Yes the ‘me man…. you women’ is somewhat of a stereotype). They trapped animals, developed an arsenal of tools, buried their dead, utilized fire on multiple levels, understood the practicalities of nature, made art and survived in defiance of nature’s many curve balls. They also worshipped their deities who were often related to the supernatural forces that appeared to govern their world.

Female fertility was key (and may be related to a larger belief in an Earth mother goddess). It ensured the survival of the clan and this too was reflected in the art. The Venus figurines, of which the Venus of Willendorf is the most famous, epitomizes this belief. Dating back to a time between 25,000 to 28,000 years (Paleolithic Period – Late Stone Age), this 11-cm tall statuette of a woman was designed as a symbol of fertility and childbearing. However there were others as well.

One piece of art that has not been well publicized is the Lion Man of the Hohlenstein Stadel, Germany that is believed to be the oldest animal-shaped sculpture in the world (dating back 40,000 years) and depicts what is believed to be an anthropomorphic deity. The Art of the Hunt is seen in the cave paintings at Lascaux and are thought to be 17,300 years old. Another examples of hunt art include the Mammoth spear thrower that was found in Tanet-Garonne, France and dates back to a time 18,000 years ago.

It seems as though humanity has an innate desire to create art and that is certainly a wonderful characteristic of our species. While the judgement of art is no doubt subjective the compulsion is universal and in the long run western civilization has been the better for it.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 1 - The Hunter Gatherer Period

Champions of the primitive often see the Hunter-Gatherer Period (HGP) in human history as some type of ideal. A shangri-la where humanity lived in blissful co-existence with their environment, where resources were rarely strained and the fight for territory was at most ephemeral.

More detailed studies of hunter-gatherer societies that exist on the periphery of the great civilizations reveal that this ideal does not agree with observed actualities but there are nevertheless many positives that are associated with this lifestyle. Simplicity, an egalitarian social-ethos, kinship in smaller bands and a focus on the fundamental of human existence are a few that spring to mind.

In a world where persist as the optimum for a substantial span of time. The longevity of the HGP (by some accounts 1.8 million years if you go back to Homo Erectus - but in terms of Homo sapiens sapiens 70,000 years or so) are testament to this reality.

The term HGP is somewhat of a misnomer as many humans survived during this time period by scavenging and foraging. Nor were the hunting methods as clean as mythology would have one believe. In fact persistence hunting, involving long distance running may have been somewhat of a norm and the basic foundations of wild forest gardening may have provided the transition into the agricultural revolution that would supersede the HGP. However what bought this period to an end in the west seems to have been a combination of overexploitation, unsustainable killing as well as the encroaching footprint of the Agricultural communities that started their expansion about 12,000 BCE.

Will it return? (Perhaps in a post-apocalyptic scenario - The Walking Dead Series certainly hints at that). However it did provide the leg up for the Agricultural Revolution to follow and seems for all intent of purpose to be a necessary stage in the collective evolution of the neophyte western civilization.