Table of Contents
Part IV: The Technology of Hamitic
Achievements of Ancient High Civilizations
There is little
doubt that the basic cultures in Sumeria (and later on, in Babylonia
and Assyria), in Egypt, and in the Indus Valley, were all non-Indo-European.
The root elements of Mesopotamian civilization in later times
when the Babylonians and Assyrians (both Semitic in origin) had
achieved ascendancy, were still essentially Sumerian. It is pretty
well agreed that these Sumerians were not Semites, being clean
shaven and comparatively hairless like the Egyptians. And from
their language it is quite clear that they were not Indo-European.
Their civilization developed very rapidly and achieved a remarkable
level of technical competence. In the earliest stages of their
history, they seem to have shared many features with the Indus
Valley peop]e who were later overwhelmed by the Aryans, (78) and also with the first
settlers in Northern Syria, and even with the earliest Egyptians.
As further development took place in each of these areas, cultural
similarities became obscured. All these cultures seem to spring
into being already remarkably well organized, with skills in
weaving and pottery making, in the erection of defensive structures
and temple buildings, and with some use of metals from the very
first. It is assumed that the Sumerians were organized into city-states
before the Egyptians were, although it was once held that the
oldest centre of civilization was along the Valley of the Nile.
Although there is, as yet, no evidence of the Sumerians without
basic elements of civilization, it is believed that they came
from the North and East, and it is expected that the origins
of these people (and of the Egyptians and Indus Valley people
also) will in due time be discovered in the general direction
of Jarmo, Sialk, etc. What is now fairly clearly established
is that civilization, the arts and trades, and organized city
life, with the division of labour, social stratification, a leisure
class, written records, and so forth, began, in so far as the
Middle East is concerned, with these Sumerians.
The Sumerians knew what percentages
of metals to use to
78 Childe, Vere Gordon, "India and the
West Before Darius," Antiquity, Mar., 1939, p.15.
1 of 29
achieve the best alloys,
casting a bronze with 9 to 10C% of tin exactly as we find best
today; their pottery was often paper-thin, tastefully shaped
and decorated, and with a ring like true china evidently having
been fired in controlled-atmosphere ovens at quite high temperatures.
Their methods of production led very early to a measure of automation
including powered agricutural equipment that was in the strictest
sense "mechanical"; the control of quality production
was early established by systems of inspection; their factories
were highly organized, and price and wage controls were established
by law. They developed loan and banking companies with outlandish
interest rates, yet still legally controlled; their record keeping
and postal systems were evidently efflcient, mail even being
carried in envelopes.
In addition, the upper classes
lived quite sumptuously, well supplied in many cases with home
comforts and "modern conveniences" � including
running water in some instances, tiled baths, proper disposal
of sewage, extensive medical care, etc. Even libraries existed
and well-organized schools. By comparison their descendants did
not sustain their inheritance, but came to live in that filthy
squalor, precarious poverty, and constant threat of disease,
which misled earlier generations of Europeans to suppose mistakenly
that they themselves were the creators of this superior civilzation.
The greatness of Egypt was more
monumental: Sumerians did not build with stone, for they did
not have it in sufficient quantity, but they left another kind
of monument � imperishable written records. Once these began
to be deciphered, something of their achievements became apparent.
It is by such means that we know, for example, of their mathematics.
Dr. T. J. Meek has told us: (79)
Like the Egyptians the early
Sumerians used the additive method to multiply and divide, but
before 2000 B.C., they had evolved multiplication tables and
tables of reciprocals and of squares and cubes, and other powers,
and of square and cube roots and the like. They had attained
a complete mastery of fractional quantities and had developed
a very exact terminology in mathematics. The correct value of
Pi, and the correct gcometrical formula for calculating the area
of rectangles were known before 3000 B.C., and in the years that
followcd came the knowledge of how to find the area of triangles
and circles and irregular quadrangles, polygons, and truncated
79. Meek, T. J., "Magic Spades in Mesopotamia,"
University of Toronto Quarterly, vol.7, 1938, pp.243,
also cones and the like. By 2000 B.C.,
the theorem attributed to Pythagoras was familiar and they could
solve problems involving equations with two, three, and four
one of the best authorities in this area, they even had developed
an equivalent to our logarithm tables. (80) George Sarton, (81) writing some 20 years later than Meek, could add
to this accomplishment, their knowledge that the angle in a semicircle
is a right-angle, that they could measure the volume of a rectangular
paralleliped, of a circular cylinder, of the frustrum of a cone,
and of a square pyramid. He has summed up this achievement thus:
The Sumerians and their Babylonian
successors left three legacies, the importance of which cannot
(1) The position concept in numeration.
This was imperfect because of the absence of zero; (2) the extension
of the numerical scale to submultiples of the unit as well as
to the multiples. This was lost and was not revived until A.D.
1585, with reference to decimal numbers; and, (3) the use of
the same base for numbers and metrology. This too was lost, and
not revived till the foundations of the metric system in 1795.
Later, he wrote
of what we borrowed indirectly from this source:
Many other traces can be detected
in other cultures, even that of our own today � sexagesimal
fractions, sexagesimal divisions of the hours, degrees, and minutes,
division of the whole day into equal hours, metrical system,
position concept in writing of numbers, astronomic tables. We
owe to them the beginnings of algebra, of cartography, and of
greatest surprise of all is to find that the Greeks did not do
so very well in transmitting this heritage usefully. Thus Sarton
The Greeks inherited the sexagesimal
system from the Sumerians but mixed it up with the decimal system,
using the former only for submultiples of the unit, and the latter
for multiples, and thus they spoiled both systems and started
a disgraceful confusion of which we are still the victims. They
abandoned the principle of position, which had to be reintroduced
from India a thousand years later. In short, their understanding
of Babylonian arithmetic must have been very poor, since they
managed to keep the worst features of it, and to overlook the
best. . . .
80. Neugebauer, O. and A. Sachs, Mathematical
Cuneiform Texts, American Oriental Society, Yale University
Press, 1946, p.35.
81. Sarton, George, A History of Scierce, Harvard, 1952,
pp.73, 74, 99, 118.
used their intelligence in a different way and did not see simple
[i.e., practical] things that were as clear as day to their distant
Sumerian and Balylonian predecessors.
It might be
thought that if the Sumerians were really practical people they
would have adopted a decimal systern from the first, and quickly
abandoned the sexagesimal system.But there is much to be said
for the use of 12 instead of 10 as a base number. Ten has only
two factors, 2 and 5. But 12 has 9, 3, 4 and 6, or twice as many:
and in the higher multiples such as 60, the number of factors
is, of course, greater than the corresponding 20 of the decimal
system. Learning to think in terms of such a system would be
difficult for us now that we are so accustomed to the decimal
system, but there are some highly competent mathematicians who
hold that the change could be made and would be advantageous.
This is a matter of opinion, of course, but since we have 10
fingers the choice of 10 as a base seems more natural. And one
must suppose therefore that these practical people saw a real
advantage in using 12 instead. Yet it was purely a practical
matter, and not a theoretical one.
The Greeks were more interested
in theory than practice. The contrast between the Sumerian and
the Greek attitude is seen in their treatment of problems of
Astronomy. In this connection, O. Neugebauer has said:
A careful analysis of the assumptions,
which must be made in order to compute our texts, shows nowhere
the need for specific mechanical concepts such as are faniliar
to us from the Greek theory of eccentrics or epicycles, or from
the corresponding planetary models of Tycho Brahe or Kepler .
. . . At no point can we detect the introduction of an
hypothesis of a general character.
makes frequent reference to the fact that the Sumerians were
an entirely practical people, with no urge to search for truth
for its own sake, among whom there was not the slightest tendency
either to theorize or generalize, who sought for no underlying
principles, and undertook no experiments for verification. (83)
Sarton gives some illustrations
to show how their mathematics arose out of a practical need,
i.e., business records and
82. Ncugebauer, O., "Ancient Marhematics
and Astronomy" in History of Technology, vol.1, edited
by C. Singer et al., Oxford, 1951, p.799.
83. Kramer, Samuel N., From the Tablets of Sumer, Falcon's
Wing Press, Indian Hills, 1956, pp. xviii, 6, 39, 58 and 59.
transactions. In the
same way geometry reached the Greeks, after being developed to
satisfy entirely practical needs by the Egyptians. This is why
Thales termed it Geometry, for it was required originally to
measure the land in order to re-establish property boundaries
obscured each year by the flooding Nile. (84)
Among the Sumerians and Babylonians,
banking houses sprang up and became the forerunners of world
economics as represented by our international banking institutions.
Two such banks were known from cuneiform records by the names
of Engibi and Sons, established about 1000 B.C., and lasting
some 500 years, and Murasha Sons, founded about 1464 B.C., and
dissolved finally in 405 B.C. The latter established a system
of mortgaging. (85)
Glass was known to the Sumerians
by 2700 B.C., and both they and the Egyptians were experts in
the working of it. (86)
For drilling such substances they used diamond drills, or some
soft material coated with emery or corundum. (87)
A tablet found a few years ago
is inscribed by a certain Dr. Lugal-Edina, dated about 2300 B.C.,
and in it we are told how surgeons of the day had already learned
to set broken bones, make minor and major incisions, and even
attempt operations on the eyes. Sicknesses are given names, and
symptoms carefully noted. Waldo H. Dubberstein of the Oriental
Institute of the University of Chicago, in reporting on this,
has written: (88)
One hundred years of exploration
and research in the field of ancient Near Eastern history have
yielded such astounding results that today it is unwise to speculate
on the further capacities and resources of these early people
along any line of human endeavor.
a carefully regulated profession with legally established fees
for various operations and very stiff penalties for failure or
carelessness, evidently intended to protect the customer
84. Jourdain, Philip E. B., "The Nature
of Mathematics," in The World of Mathematics, vol.1,
edited by James R. Newman, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1965,
85. Reavely, S. D., "The Story of Accounting," Office
Management, Apr., 1938, pp.8f.
86. Wiseman, P. J., New Discoveries in Babylonia about Genesis,
Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, 2nd edition, revised, no
87. Boscawen, St. Chad, in discussing a paper by Sir William
Dawson, "On Useful and Ornamental Stones of Ancient Egypt,"
in the Transactions of the Victoria Institute, vol.26,
London, 1892, p.284.
88. Dubberstein, Waldo H., "Babylonians Merit Honour as
Original Fathers of Science," Science News Letter,
Sept. 4, 1937, pp.148, 149.
and prevent charlatanisrn.
This certainly suggests that the profession was not simply a
"School of Magicians."
Although their buildings have largely
disappeared, they were noteworthy examples of the use of local
materials, rnud-dried brick and reeds. The former are easily
visualized as promising materials; the latter are not. But as
a matter of fact, "reed huts" (mentioned in sorne of
the very earliest tablets) are capable of a surprising beauty
and spaciousness. There is every reason to believe that the design
has not greatly changed through the centuries that intervened.
Floor plans as revealed by excavation seem to indicate similar
structures. See Fig. 7.
By the time the Sumerians arrived
in Mesopotamia, they had domesticated as many animals as were
ever domesticated in that area, with the exception of the horse
which was tamed by the Hittites � although they did have
a draft animal, a mountain ass. And the same may be said of grains.
N. I. Vavilov always considered that the Highland Zone to the
north and east whence they had come, was for this reason the
most likely home with few exceptions, of all such domesticated
plants and animal species as are cornmonly in use today. He called
it the "Source of Species."
Written records appear at the very
earliest levels, and even at Sialk there seems to have been no
period when they were without the use of metals.(90) The same story is foumd
to be true of Egypt. Here again there is no true "beginning."
The Egyptians, like the Sumerians and the founders of Tell Halaf
in Northern Syria, appear to have been culturally creative from
the very beginning, and to have developed their technology exceedingly
rapidly. Pastoral societies are slower to develop, and the Semites,
who were largely pastoral, contributed little and borrowed much.
Indo-Europeans, meanwlile, did not even have a word of their
own for "city"; the organization of urban community
life with all that this entails in terrns of civilization did
not originate with them. It has been shown that all of their
words for city, town, etc., are loan-words. (91)
Samuel N. Kramer has recently published
a volurne resulting from a lifetime of cuneiform studies which
he titles, From the
89. Vavilov, N. I., "Asia the Source
of Species," Asia, Feb. 1937, p.113.
90. Childe, V. G., What Happcned in History, Penguin,
Harmondsworth, 1942, p.64.
91. Eisler, Robert, "Loan Words in Semitic Languages Meaning
'Town'," Artiquity, Dec., 1939, pp.449ff.
Tablets of Sumer, and his subtitle takes the following form: "Twenty-five
Firsts of Man's Recorded History." (92) It is an impressive collection of "firsts."
One will feel at times that he has introduced a few cases which
are only rightly termed so, by a kind of special pleading. However,
on the whole his collection shows that their inventiveness was
by no means limited to mechanical things, but applies equally
well to forms of literature and indeed to the very idea of collecting
libraries, writing histories, and cataloguing books for reference.
The speed with which Egyptian civilization
developed was equally astonishing. P. J. Wisernan, who has spent
a lifetime in the area studying its past history closely in touch
with the work of archaeologists, has said in this regard: (93)
No more surprising fact has
been discovered by recent excavation than the suddenness with
which civilization appeared. . . . Instead of the infinitely
slow development anticipated, it has become obvious that art,
and we may say "science", suddenly burst upon the world.
For instance, H. G. Wells acknowledges
that the oldest stone building known is the Sakkara Pyramid.
Yet as Dr. Breasted points out, "From the Pyramid at Sakkara
to the construction of the Great Pyramid less than a century
and a half elapsed."
Writing of the latter, Sir Flinders
Petrie stated that, "The accuracy of construction is evidence
of highpurpose and great capability and training. In the earliest
pyramid, the precision of the whole mass is such that the error
would be exceeded by that of a metal measure on a mild or a cold
day; the error of levelling is less than can be seen with the
The same famous
Egyptologist stated that the stone work of the Great Pyramid
is equal to optician's work of the present day. (94) The joints of the masonry
are so fine as to be scarcely visible where they are not weathered,
and it is difficult to insert even a knife edge between them.
Vere Gordon Childe, speaking of
their earliest earthenware, has remarked: (95)
The pottery vessels, especially
those designed for funerary use exhibit a perfection of technique
never excelled in the Nile
92. Kramer, Samuel N., From the Tablets
of Sumer, Falcon's Wing Press, Indians Hills, 1956.
93. Wiseman, J. P., New Discoveries in Babylon About Genesis,
Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, 2nd edition, revised, no
date, pp.28, 31 and 33.
94. Petrie, Sir Flinders, The Wisdom of the Eyptians,
British School of Archaeology, Publication No.63, 1940, p.89.
95. Childe, V. G., New Light on the Most Ancient East,
Kegan Paul, London, 1935, p.67.
Valley. The finer ware is extremely thin,
and is decorated all over by burnishing be£ore firing,
perhaps with a blunt toothed comb, to produce an exquisite rippled
effect that must be seen to be appreciated.
J. Eliot Howard
has stated that the hieroglyphics of the earliest periods indicate
that pottery, metallurgy, rope making, and other arts and techniques
were already well developed, (96) and W. J. Perry � quoting de Morgan � has
What appears at a very early
date in Egypt is perfection of technique. The Egyptian appears
from the time of the earliest Plaraohs as a patient, careful
vorkman, his mind like his hand possessing an incomparable precision
. . . a mastery hat has never been surpassed in any country.
A carved (or
ground?) diorite head from Egypt was sold in London some years
ago for the sum of $50,000, and it was considered by the experts
at the time "never to have been surpassed in the entire
history of sculpture." (98)
It is hard to decide which of these
two civilizations produced the most remarkable metal wares. The
jewelled weapons of their noble dead are simply beautiful. There
are no essential metallurgical techniques which they had not
mastered very early in their history. These include filigree,
mold and hollow casting, intaglio, wire-drawing, beading, granulation
(in water?), welding, inlaying of one metal with another, sheeting
hammered so thin as to be almost translucent, repoussee, gilding
on wood and other materials, possibly spinning of metal -- and
later, even electroplating using a form of galvanic cell catalyzed
with fruit juices and housed in a small earthenware jar. (99) One of these is illustrated
in Fig. 10.
Sir Arthur Evan's researches in
Crete have revealed the same pattern of history. (100) The magnificent Palace
of Minos with its system of hot and cold running water, its rooms
96. Howard, J. Eliot, "Egypt and the
Bible," Transactions of the Victoria Institute, vol.10,
London, 1876, p.345.
97. Perry, W. J., The Growth of Civilization, Penguin,
Harmondsworth, 1937, p.54.
98. Macoffin, Ralph N., "Archaeology Today," The
Mentor, Apr., 1924, p.6
99. Reported in "Batteries B.C." The Laboratory,
vol.25, no.4, 1956, Fisher Scientific Co., Pittsburgh, quoting
Willard F. M. Gray of the General Electric Company. Gray reconstructed
these batteries on the basis of archaeological materials.
100. Evans, Sir Arthur, The Palace of Minos, Macmillan,
London, in 4 vols., plus Index vol., beginning publication in
with a kind of wall-paper
effect done (as it is done today) with a sponge, (101) its extraordinary architecture,
its beautiful pottery � in many cases patterned upon metal
prototypes � its highly organized court life, and its evidence
of extensive trade and commerce overseas � all these achievements
demonstrate clearly that the craftsmen of the ancient Minoan
Empire vere in no whit behind the Egyptian and Sumerian in technical
competence. Two sections of their water piping are illustrated
in Fig.11. Like the drainage and sewage systems of the Indus
Valley cities of Mohenjo Daru and Changu Daru, they are equal
in effectiveness to anything we can install today. The underground
sewage disposal system with its perforated street drain above
from Syria is likewise evidence of a highly organized city life
that indicates the same kind of technical achievement and recognition
of community responsibility. Indeed, according to T. J. Meek,
the people of Tell Halaf in Syria were never without metals,
and their finely fired pottery "no thicker than two playing
cards" and beautifully designed, is equal to the best that
the Sumerians produced. (102) It is closely parallelled by some of the earliest
pottery found at Susa by de Morgan, (103) a city which was closely tied in with the Sumero-Egyptian-Indus
Valley "Archaic Civilization," as W. J. Perry aptly
Here, in these areas, lie the roots
of all Western Civilization in its earlier stages of development.
From these centres, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly
(as via the Etruscans), Europe derived the inspiration of its
The indebtedness of the Greeks
to the Minoans is now ful]y appreciated. (104) The Minoans had in turn derived much of their
101. See Bulletin of the Royal Ontario
Museum of Archaeology, No.11, March, 1932, p.7.
102. Meek, T. J., "The Present State of Mesopotamian Studies,"
in the Haverford Symposium of Archaeology and the Bible, American
Schools of Oriental Research, New Haven, 1938, p.161.
103. Spearing, H. G., "Susa, the Eternal City of the East,"
in Wonders of the Past, vol.3, edited by by Sir J. Hammerton,
Putnam's, 1924, p.582.
104. Bibliography on Aegean pre-history:
W., Zygouries: a Prehistoric Settlement in the Valley of Cleonae,
C., Excavations at Phylakopi in Melos, Macmillan, 1904.
B., The Architecture of Ancient Greece, Batsford, 1950.
Evans, Sir Arthur,
The Palace of Minos, Macmillan, 4 vols., 1921-1935.
A., Prehistoric Macedonia, Cambridge, 1939.
J., The Swedish Excavations at Asea in Arcadia, Leipzig,
culture from the Egyptians.
Some influences reached Greece directly from Asia Minor. Between
these three sources can be divided almost everything in Greek
culture that has a technical connotation: mathematics, architecture,
metallurgy, medicine, games, and even the inspiration of much
of their art � all was borrowed from such non-Indo-European
sources. Even their script was borrowed. In fact, one might say
their very literacy, for influential figures like Socrates, far
from contributing anything to the art of writing, actually strongly
opposed it as a threat to the powers of memory.
The same is true of Rome. The part
played by the Etruscans in the foundation of Roman Civilization
is immense. Sir Gavin de Beer, in a recent broadcast in England
seem remote to us (to ask who the Etruscans were), and yet it
affects us closely for the following reason. We regard the Romans
as our civilizers, and we look up to them as the inventors of
all sorts of things they taught us. But it is now clear that,
in their turn, the Romans learned many of these things from the
De Beer holds
that whatever else might be said about these interesting people,
their language at least was non-Indo-European, and they were
not related either to tle Romans or the Greeks. With this agrees
M. Pallottino, an authority on the Etruscans. (106) George Rawlinson, the great Orientalist and classical
scholar, says in this respect: (107)
themselves notwithstanding their intense national vanity acknowledged
this debt to some extent and admitted that they derived from
the Etruscans their augury, their religious ritual, their robes
and other insignia of office, their
104. Mylonas, George, Prehistoric
Macedonia, Studies in honour of E. W. Shipley, Washington
University Series, Language and Literature, no.11, 1949, pp.55f.
Pendlebury, J. D. S., The Archneology
of Crete, Methuen, London, 1939.
Seager, Richard B., Explorations
in the Island of Mochlos, American School of Classical Studies,
at Athens, published in Boston, 1912.
Valmin, M. Natan, The
Swedish Messenia Expedition, Oxford, 1938.
Wace, A. J. B., Prehistoric
Thessaly, Cambridge, 1912.
Weinberg, Saul, "Neolithic
Figurines and Aegean lnterrelations," American Journal of
Archaeology., Apr., 1951, pp.121.
The Vaulted Tombs of Mesara, Liverpool University Press,
and Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1924.
105. De Beer, Sir Gavin, "Who Were the Etruscans,"
The Listener, CBC, London, Dec. 8,1955, p.989.
106. Pallottino, M., The Etruscans, Penguin, Harmondsworth,
107. Rawlinson, George, The Origin of Nations, Scribner,
New York, 1878, p.111.
games and shows, their earliest architecture,
their calendar, their weights and measures, their land surveying
systems, and various other elements of their civilization. But
there is reason to believe that their acknowledgment fell short
of their actual obligations and that Etruria was really the source
of their whole early civilization.
To this list,
D. Randall MacIver adds their martial organization � and
even in all probability the very name of the city itself. (108)
Out of Africa has come to us far
more than just the Egyptian contribution, even were this not
a sufficient one. One does not think of Africa as particularly
inventive. As a matter of fact, however, so many new things came
from that great continent during Roman times that they had a
proverb, "Ex Africa semper aliquid," which freely
translated means, "There is always something new coming
out of Africa." (109) Among other things out of Africa came "Animal
Tales" � the Fables � from Ethiopia. Edwin W. Smith
and Andrew M. Dale have pointed out: (110)
It might indeed be claimed that
Africa was the home of animal tales. Was not the greatest "literary
inventor" of all, an African, the famous Lokman, whom the
Greeks not knowing his real name called Aethiops (i.e., Aesop)
Even in medicine
Africans have some remarkable achievements to their credit. To
mention but two: the pygmies of the Ituri Forest had invented
an enema quite independently of its South American Indian counterpart,
(111) and it is
known that Caesarean operations were successfully undertaken
in childbirh emergencies before the White Man had succeeded in
doing it. (112)
Out of Ethiopia came also coffee. (113) And quite recently African art has been the "inspiration"
(for good or ill) of new forms of art. Very recently a kind of
rocking stool inspired by an ingenious African prototype came
Their engineering skill is often
revealed in very simple things. A sedan chair is so designed
that the rider receives a
108. MacIvor, D. Randall, "The Etruscans,"
Antiquity, vol.1 , June, 1927, p.171.
109. Editorial in Endeavour, April, 1945, p.41.
110. Smith, Edwin W., and Andrew M. Dale, The Ila Speaking
Peoples of Northern Rhodesia, vol.2, Macmillan, London, 1920,
111. Coon, C. S., A Reader in General Anthropology, Holt,
New York, 1948, p.340.
112. Ackerknecht, Erwin, "Primitive Surgery," American
Anthropologist, New Series, vol.49, Jan.-Mar., 1947, p.32.
113. Anonymous, "The Story of Coffee," The Plibrico
Firebox, Plibrico Firebrick, Toronto, vol.22, July-Aug.,
1948, p.4, 5.
minimunn of jolts and
rockings due to the unevenness of the ground. It is a kind of
super-whiffle-tree sling that equalizes the load and guarantees
As a further witness to the sarne
kind of genius for simplified construction an African loom is
shown in Fig.12. It makes the most effective use of locally available
raw materials, and in fact uses their actual form to the best
Almost every African comrmunity
of any size has its own smelting furnace and smithy. No part
of this iron working art has been borrowed from Europe. The whole
process (and the refinernents found in some cases) is a native
invention. The bellows used to increase the oxygen supply and
thereby the heat at the hearth, are of native design and manufacture,
and are very varied in form. The pipes which convey the air into
the furnace are also homemade. Suitable clay is plastered around
pieces of wood of the proper size and shape (curved, straight,
or even forked) and then the whole is burned in a fairly hot
fire. This reduces the wooden insert to ashes and leaves the
desired pipe form, shaped and baked, ready for use. When the
ore has been reduced and the metal is removed from the dismantled
furnaces, it is worked by hand. The rnetal may be hammered into
sheets, drawn into wire, or forged into other forms, such as
vessels and blades, as desired. It is not surprising that we,
having largely learned from Africa the basic techniques of iron-working,
should refer to our iron metal-workers as Blacksmiths. R. J.
Forbes says that although today African srniths often obtain
their raw nraterials from European sources, the Negro smitlrs
"are very ingenious craftsmen in inventing and using new
tools and types of bellows." (114)
Among the literary achievements
of the Egyptians must be listed what was surely the first "moving-picture"
and the first Walt Disney Cartoon. (116) Gloves and camp-stools are found first in Crete,
(117) soap in Egypt,
114. Forbes, R. J., Metallur,gy in Antiquity,
Leiden, 1950, p.64. 1
115. "A Cinematograph Touch in Ancient Egyptian Art:
Wall-paintings that Suggest Moving Pictures," reproduced
from P. E. Newberry, Beni Hasan, in The Illustrated
London News, Jan. 12, 1929, Plate 50, 51.
116. Hambly, Wilfrid D., "A Walt Disney In Ancient Egypt,"
in a letter to the editor, Scientific Monthly, Oct., 1954,
pp 267, 268; has illustrations of "animated animal figures"
behaving like people!
117. Gloves and campstools: see Axel Persson, The Religion
of Greece in Prehistoric Times, University of California,
118 Soap: see a paper on this by Rendel Harris, Soap,
Sunset Papers, published privately in England, in 1931.
tools (saws, squares,
bucksaws, brace and bit, etc.) from the Etruscans (119) � with a novel brace
and bit (120)
� and the "level" from Egypt. (121) The Etruscans invented lathes. (122) The Egyptians built a pipe-organ using water apparently
to obtain a uniform air pressure. (123) Folding umbrellas and sunshades were first designed
in China (124)
and were not introduced into England till centuries later, where
the introducer apparently almost lost his life. The Sumerians
used straws for drinking (125) (see Fig.14) and bequeathed to their successors chariot
wheels which were made of plywood using the same technique for
the manufacture as we use today. (126) Africans were using vaccines long before the White
Man adopted them. (127)
And there is a record of the invention of a malleable glass,
the secret of which was destroyed by the ruling monarch, along
with the originator, for fear of upsetting the economy. (128) Every form of building
technique now commonly used (including concrete) is found among
non-Indo-Europeans, and in many cases long antedating the Romans,
especially the arch, barrel vault, dome, and cantilever principle
of construction. The barrel vault was achieved in Babylonia without
the need of a supporting scaffold under it, by starting against
an upright wall which was later removed. The cantilever principle
was used by the Egyptians, among others, in strengthening their
larger sea-going vessels, to prevent them from "breaking
their backs," as marine engineers term it.
119. Tools: see George M. A. Hanfmann, "Daidalos
in Etruria," American Journal of Archaeology, Apr.-June,
120. Brace and bit: an illustration of this is given in The
Illustrated London News, April 12, 1930, p.623, in a series
of articles by G. H. Davis and S. R. K. Glanville entitled, "Life
in Ancient Egypt: Astonishing Skill in Arts and Crafts."
121. Levels: see George Sarton, A History of Science,
Harvard, 1952, p.124, note 94.
122. Lathes: see Charles Singer, et al., A History
of Technology, vol.1, Oxford, 1954, pp.192, 518.
123. Apel, Willi, "Early History of the Organ," Speculum,
vol.23, 1948, p.191-216.
124. A number of bronze castings used in the construction of
these large umbrellas are to be seen in the Royal Ontario Museum,
125. Well known from the monuments and from seals. The line drawing
in the illustration is probably from a seal (Fig.14).
126. Linton, Ralph, The Tree of Culture, Knopf,
New York, 1956, p.114.
127. Vaccines: see Melville Herskovits, Man and His Works,
Knopf, New York, 1950, p.246.
128. Malleable glass: the details of this are given by Stanko
Miholic, "Art Chemistry," Scientific Monthly,
Dec., 1946, p.460.
Hornell, an authority on watercraft as developed by primitive
and ancient people, opened a paper on the subject with these
can be no doubt that to Asiatic ingenuity we owe the beginnings
of the world's principle types of Water Transport. Early man
in Asia invented means of extraordinary diversity to enable him
to cross rivers, etc.
illustrated or referred to include every type of small craft
from mere floats to coracles and large outrigger sailing vessels,
etc. If we bear in mind that China gave us the stern-post rudder,
the watertight compartment construction, as well as canal locks
for inland waterways, (130) and that the Koreans built the first true battleship,
with iron cladding -- notwithstanding the claims made for "Old
Ironsides" in Boston Harbour -- it will be seen that we
have not contributed a great deal basically to marine engineering.
Isabella L. Bishops has said of this Korean warship, that it
was named Tortoise Boat, and was "invented by Yi Soon Sin
in the 16th century, enabling the Koreans to conquer the great
Japanese General Hideyoshi in Chinhai Bay." (13l)
Naphtha gas was first used by the
eyesalves in multiple tubes probably by the same people, (133) but spray-painting by
paleolithic man! (134)
Cigarettes were known to the North American Indians long before
Europeans had ever heard of tobacco; (135)
129. Hornell, James, "Primitive Types
of Water Transport in Asia: Distribution and Origins," in
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1946, Parts 3 and
130. Needham, J., Science and Civilization in China, 1954,
131. Article "Koreans" in the Encyclopedia Britannica,
14th Edition, 1937, vol.13, p.489, with illustraton.
132. Naphtha: as we have already mentioned, the Chinese piped
this gas as early as 450 B.C. But it was also used by the Babylonians
for divination purposes according to R. J. Forbes in A History
of Technology (edited by Charles Singer, et al, Oxford,
1954, vol.1, p.251). By the same author, it is said to have been
used by the Sumerians, probably, in furnaces for heating metals,
Metallurgy in Antiquity, Brill, Leiden, 1950 p.111.
133. Forbes, R. J., in A History of Technology,
(edited by Charles Singer, et al, Oxford, 1954),
134. Leakey, L. S. B., in A History of Technology, (see
above), vol.1, p.149. This is possibly begging the point a little!
It is assumed from the nature of certain paintings that they
were done by blowing (or splattering) the paint from the mouth
(!) using baffles to limit it as required. Certainly it does
seem to have been sprayed, somehow.
135. Cigarettes: see an editorial note, in "The Sacred Cigarette,"
Discovery, June. 1958, p.262. Found by the thousands.
. . . We have already mentioned cigar-holders: and, of course,
the Indians were originators of the pipe for tobacco smoking.
spectacles are probably
a Chinese invention; (136) and safety pins came from the Etruscans. (137) The Chinese did many
things with glass, for, according to Bruno Schweig, (138) there is evidence of
glass mirrors as early as 2000 B.C., and although the source
of my information here is not the best, there is a reference
to the first "windows" of glass in a collection of
Chinese Stories. It is said that in the reign of Emperor Ming,
a man named Wing Dow invented a "device" which he called
Looking-through-the-Walls, whence it is claimed we now derive
our word Window, a corruption of the inventor's name. (139)
Although the abacus seems a very
slow and primitive way of making calculations, recent experiments
undertaken by experts in both the ancient instrument and the
modern electrically operated comptometer, have shown that in
the hands of a skilled operator it can hold its own against all
mechanical devices (excluding computers) except in one particular
type of calculation. (140)
LeComte du Nouy, after a backward
look at the "rostrum of ingenuity" which meets the
eye from antiquity, expresses the conviction: (141)
Intellience does not seem to
have increased radically in depth during the last 10,000 years.
As much intelligence was needed to invent the bow and arrow,
when starting from nothing, as to invent the machine gun, with
the help of all anterior inventions.
of the wisdom of this observation is that the experts find it
quite impossible to determine now how the first bow ever came
to be invented. Their reconstructions are as varied as can be:
which tends to show that such a weapon would certainly not occur
easily to its originator, since we cannot even imagine how it
originated with one right in front of us.
136. Spectacles: see Ethel J. Alpenfels, anthropologist
with the Bureau for Intercultural Education, in an article entitled,
"Our Racial Superiority," abstracted in The Reader's
Digest, Sept., 1946, p.81, from Catholic World, July,
137. Safety pins: illustrated in an article by D. Randall MacIvor,
"The Etruscans," Antiquity, vol.1, Jurne, 1927,
138 . Schweig, Bruno, "Mirrors," Antiquity,
Sept., 1941, p 259.
139. Windows: see Phyllis R. Feuner, Giants, Witches, and
a Dragon or Two, Knopf, New York, 1913, p.185.
140. Abacus: these experiments were reported as a note under
"Misplaced Conceit," in His (Inter-Varsity Christian
Fellowship, Chicago), Oct., 1957.
141. Du Nouy, Le Comte, Human Destiny, Longnans Green,
New York, 1917, p.139.
Finally, we come to the great contribution made by
China. (142) If
we should ask today whlat three things above all have contributed
to or are contributing to our present conquest of the earth,
we might possibly agree that printed matter, a convenient medium
of exchange of some kind (i.e., currency), and powered propulsion
are fundamental. All of these � and of course hundreds besides
� we have derived from China, though often indirectly, via
the Arab world.
For our wheeled vehicles we initially
used draft animals domesticated in the Middle East, but because
of the inefficiency of harnessing methods, these draft anirnals
could not pull nearly as much as they do now, due to the lack
of an effective harness which was meanwhile being developed in
China. But we have, of course, long since passed out of the draft
horse age into the jet-propulsion era. The motive power for such
high-speed engines was likely inspired by the Chinese. In the
air, China and the Far East anticipated us in virtually every
form of airborne vehicle or device, including rockets, but also
kites, gliders, balloons, parachutes, weather forecasting, and
even the helicopter in the form of a toy.
The fact that we have obtained
from China silk, porcelain, explosives, paper, printing with
movable type, paper money, the magnetic compass, and mechanical
water clocks, is so well known that it needs little or no elaboration.
That the Chinese anticipated us in the use of gas for cooking
and heating, cast iron, flame weapons in warfare, and, as has
been stated above, the initial conquest of the air, is possibly
less well known. But in addition to this, they initiated the
use of fingerprinting for identification purposes, chain pumps,
thc crossbow and a repeating bow with 19 shots per load, gimbal
suspension systems, the draw loom, the rotary fan and a winnowing
machine, piston bellows, wheel-barrows, stirrups, a greatly improved
harness for draft animals that enabled them to pull almost twice
as heavy a load, deep drilling methods, and much more.
Marco Polo gives us quite an extensive
account of the use of paper money. (143) He says it was issued in various denominations, stamped
authoritatively by the Governor of the Mint, and circulated as
the only form of valid currency over a very wide
142. Under "Science and Civilization
in China," in the section "The Progress of Science,"
Discovery, Nov., 1957, p.458.
143. Polo, Marco, The Travels of Marco Polo, Library Publications,
New York, no date, Chap.24, pp.137-140.
geographical area. The
bills, he says, were quite remarkably strong and did not tear
easily; any which had been torn, however, or had suffered defacement,
were recalled to the Mint and replaced. Strikingly reflecting
our own bills of a few years ago, they contained a promise that
they would be redeemed for certain fixed quantities of either
precious stones or metals upon request. Foreign merchants could
not sell their jewels or precious metals on the open market,
but were required to turn them in at the Mint, where they received
recompense in paper money.
Consider how great such an innovation
really was. Marco Polo says, a man who wished to move could turn
in hundreds of pounds (by weight) of valuable goods in personal
property, walk away with a pocketful of money so light as to
be hardly noticeable, with which in some other part of the Empire
he could recover his hundreds of pounds of goods. Everywhere
else in the world men were loaded down with the weight of their
possessions, which often took such a form as to be almost worthless
once the owner left his own locality. What such a scheme did
for trade and commerce is incalculable. What paper money does
for us today is virtually to keep our civilization running. Maybe
we would have come to it anyway in time, but certainly we did
not originate the idea. It originated in the 13th century with
the Great Khan.
Needham has pointed out,
it was often many centuries before such inventions reached the
West from China. And he also notes that China received from the
West very little in return: actually, only four items -- the
screw principle, a force pump for liquids, the crankshaft, and
clockwork powered by a spring. (144) Of these, only the screw principle and an alternative
form of it (the windmill) seem actually to be to the credit of
Indo-Europeans, possibly the Greeks for the screw and the Persians
for the windmill. There is evidence that even the screw was obtained
Needham has pointed out that the
art of drilling deep wells or boreholes as used today in exploiting
oil reserves is specifically of Chinese origin. (145) He mentions that the
use of graticules on maps to simplify the specifying and location
of places, is probably of Chinese origin, although Ptolemy also
144 Needham, J., Science and Civiliation in
China, Oxford,1954, vol.1, p.241. But there is some question
about the Screw Principle. Archimedes may have "borrowed"
it from Egypt.
145. Ibid., p.244.
method. (146) For almost all Needham's
illustrations, one thing can be said, to use his own words: (147)
Firm evidence for their use
in China antedates, and sometimes long antedates, the best evidence
for their appearance in any other part of the world. . . .
Then he has
quoted Toynbee as having said --
How ever far it may or may not
be possible to trace back our Western mechanical trend toward
the origins of our Western history, there is no doubt that a
mechanical penchant is as characteristic of the Western civilization
as an esthetic penchant was of the Hellenic.
Of this observation,
Needham has said, "It is to be feared that all such valuations
. . . are built on insecure foundations." The fact is, we
simply do not have any such penchant if we judge our "racial"
character by looking at our achievements prior to the time we
began to borrow from non-Indo-Europeans. Since that time, racial
mixture has taken place on such a scale, and with it, of course,
"cultural" mixture also, that it is difficult to say
for certain who is and who is not Indo-European in many cases.
About all we can do is attempt to gain a certain measure of objectivity
in this regard by looking more carefully at the actual achievement
involved in many borrowed elements of our civilization which
we now think simple and obvious.
Take as an example the preparation
of silk. Sarton wrote: (148)
Consider what the invention
implied � the domestication of an insect, the "education"
of silkworms, the cultivation of the white mulberry, the whole
the recognition of the possibilities of the material in the first
place. Spider web is one of the strongest known natural filaments,
but it does not seem that anyone ever thought of cultivating
spider web for this purpose. The idea of such a possibility is
not enough. It requires considerable energy to turn it into a
working industry, and although it seems highly improbable that
it was done in a single step, somebody must have been alive to
the practical advantages of making the effort and have demonstrated
it could be done. But, having developed the "industry"
until it was producing results, there it was left, with virtually
no effort to extend it or improve the technique or seek for substitute
insects or even attempt to make a synthetic material using the
same kind of substance produced by other means.
146. Ibid., p.245.
147. Ibid., p.241.
148. Sarton, George, A History of Science, Harvard, 1952,
p.5, note 4.
This is the kind of
thing that Indo-Europeans are good at; but the initial stimulation
always seems to have come from somewhere else.
Needham has drawn attention to
the fact that the Chinese have excelled in the arts of war, inventing
many new weapons and new methods of attack or defense. The repeating,
or "magazine" cross-bow, of which an example is to
be found in the Royal Ontario Museum, is surely the world's first
machine gun. (149) Credit
(?) must also be given to them for the invention of flame weapons
and smoke bombs. .Athough the former appeared in the Mediterranean
area first in North Africa, being used against the Rornans, there
is no doubt that the Arabs derived them from the Chinese, for
they called them "Darts of China." In a paper on chemical
warfare published some years ago in the United States, Harold
Lamb had this to say: (150)
through Oriental annals reveals other ancestors of present European
weapons. But it is a little surprising to find thle modern hand-grenade,
flame-thrower, and cannon in use in Asia centuries ago.
In Roman days vases filled witll
a fire compound were employed by the Persians at the Siege of
Petra. 'I'his compound was sulfur, asphalt, and naphtha, and
the vases were cast by mangonels (a kind of giant catapult).
The flames which sprang up when the vessel broke could not be
extinguished. This was the origin of the much talked about Greek
fire, which they, having borrowed it from the Arabs . . . were
surprised to find would continue to burn on water, a fact which
mystified the early Crusaders.
Haram al-Raschid used sulfur-naphtha
compound at the siege of Heraclea. . . . At the siege of
Acre, a Damascus engineer destroyed the wooden towers of the
Crusaders by casting against them light clay vessels of the fluid
until everything was well saturated. Then a flaming ball was
thrown out and, as we reaf in one old Chronicle, "all was
destroyed by flame, man, weapons, and all."
During the 13th century, flame
weapons were highly developed by the Arabs. They had hand-grenades
-- small glass or clay jars that ignited when they broke; and
a curious fire-mace, that was to be broken over the head of a
foe, its owner keeping well to windward!
Flame throwers appeared in the
form of portable tubes that could burn a man to ash at 30 feet.
[We still cannot do much better - -or worse - -with modern weapons!]
Some of the
149. Repeating bow: this is described in "Crossbow,"
Bulletin of the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, no.10,
May, 1931, p.11.
150, Lamb, Harold, "Flame Weapons," ChemicaI Warfare
Magazine, Dec., 1927, p.237.
names of these flame weapons, such as
the Chinese Flower, and so on, indicate that they had their origin
in that country. In fact we find the Chinese of the 13th century
very familiar with destructive fire. They had the pao that belched
flaming power, and and fie-ho-tsing, the "spear of fire
It seems, then,
that the Arabs borrowed much from the Far East � paint brushes
(but with the original pig bristles replaced by camel hair �
for religious reasons), paper manufacture, block printing, silk,
alchemy, and such weapons of war as the above in addition to
explosives. They were great carriers but apparently somewhat
uninventive except possibly during one short period of their
Another document prepared by the
Office of the Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service (Washington,
1939) opens with these words: (15l)
Ghengis Khan, famous ruler of
the Mongols and of China, used chemicals in the form of huge
balls of pitch and sulfur shot over the walls of besieged towns
to produce combinations of screening smoke, choking sulfur fumes,
and incendiary effects as a standard routine of attack.
gases were used by the Arabs against the Roman Legions in North
Africa as early as A.D. 220. According to Capt. A. Maude, the
secret of this weapon was finally learned by the Romans by Julius
Caesar, through the capture of a Prince of Mauritania named Juba
II, sulsequently married to Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra.
The Chinese, curiously enough,
did not make much use of their explosives in warfare by developing
cannon until the idea was suggested to them by Europeans. But
they did make rocket arrows, and their launching devices were
certainly the predecessors of modern multiple rocket launchers.
An illustration of these, from a Chinese manuscript, is given
in Fig.13. Psychological weapons were developed � large arrows
with whistling or screaming heads on them, guaranteed to stampede
horses. Some of their bows were so beautifully designed that,
as Klopsteg has shown, they could shoot up to half a mile with
Their gunpowder burned rather slowy
and unevenly. Hence it was not too effective in cannon. But this
did not deter them.
151. "The Story of Chermical Warfare,"
Chemical W'arfare Magazine, Jan., 1939, p.1.
152. Maude, A., "Ancient Chemical Warfare," Journal
of the Royal Army Medical. Corps, vol.62, 1934, p.141.
153. Klopsteg, Paul E., Turkish Archery and the Composite
Bow, privately published in Toronto, 1947.
They made use of this.
They arranged the cannon's barrel so that it was free to move
and then fastened the charge in it so that it stayed with the
weapon. Thus they had a jet propelled rocket. They made the tube
out of tightly wound paper to save weight and put a point on
it for better flight. But they soon found that because of the
uneven burning of the propellant, the rocket's flight was somewhat
erratic. They overcame this by putting a trailing stick on it
to steady it. At first this stick had feathers, but they found
that the feathers were simply burned off. But these feathers
proved unnecessary. However, regardless of the size of the rocket,
they found that it had the best balanced flight when the stock
was seven times as long as the rocket head. This is still found
to be so. (154)
Willey Ley has written that the
Arabs learned of these weapons from Chinese, and thus called
them "Alsichem alkhatai," or Chinese Arrows. (155) The French Sinologist,
Stanislas Julien, has found references to these rockets in China
as early as A.D. 1232.
In metallurgy (and in alchemy)
the Chinese were far ahead of the West. R. J. Forbes, a foremost
authority on metallurgy in antiquity, has told us that they were
making cast iron stoves by at least 150 B.C. (156) A picture of one such stove is given for interest's
sake, though the original source of the illustration is not known
(see Fig. 15). It was used by the Borg-Warner Corporation in
Another metallurgical journal gives
a picture of a huge, single-piece, cast iron statue, which is
believed to have been set up in A.D. 953. This is held to be
one of the largest single iron castings ever made. It is shown
As a matter of interest, it is
sometimes pointed out that the Hittites (possibly a non-Indo-European
people with an Indo-European aristocracy), who vanished from
history so completely that their very existence was once doubted,
are referred to in cuneiform documents as the Khittai, and sometimes
as the Khattai. C. R. Conder suggested that they disappeared
because when their Kingdom came to an end, the people packed
up and travelled East where they left their name associated with
China and the Far East, in the form ''Cathay.'' (157) The Arab call the
154. Coggins, Jack, and Fletcher Pratt, Rockets,
Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships, Random House, New
York, 1951, p.4, with foreword by Willey Ley.
155. Ley, Willey, "Rockets," Scientific American,
Mar., 1949, p.31.
156. Forbes, R. J., Metallurgy in Antiquity, Brill, Leiden,
157. Conder, C. R., "The Canaanites," Transactions
of the Victoria Institute, London, vol.24, 1890, p.51.
Chinese Arrows as "Alkhatai,"
as we have seen. Forbes has held that the Hittites discovered
cast iron even before the Chinese did. If this is true, it is
possible the Chinese obtained their knowledge of it from the
China also led in the conquest
of the air. Francis R. Miller wrote that: (158)
China enters first claim to
the invention of the balloon � centuries before Europe knew
it. The Chinese further claim to have had a system of sigrnals
by which different toned trumpets sounded from the tops of high
hills and gave notice of impending changes of wind and weather,
for use by navigators of dirigible balloons.
Miller has given
an illustration from an official Chinese document of a large
dirigible said to have been used at the coronation of the Emperor
Fo-Kien, in 1306. It is large enough to carry 9 individual gondolas
lowered to the ground with pulley systems.
In another place, Miller has reported:
A contemporary of Confucius
(c. 550 B.C.) named Lu Pan who was known as the ''mechanician
of Lu," is said to have made a glider in the form of a magpie
from wood and bamboo which he caused to fly.
stated that kites, as precursors of airplanes first appeared
in Chinese annals at a very early date. The Chinese who kept
the records frequently refer to them. The earliest kites were
used for military signalling, first recorded in warfare in the
time of Han Sin who died in 196 B.C. He was one of the Three
Heroes who assisted in founding the Han Dynasty. General Han
Sin, plotting to tunnel into Wei-yang palace, flew a kite to
measure the distance to it. (160) Needham wrote: (161)
De la Loubere saw the parachute
used by acrobats in Siam around 1688, and his description was
read a century later by Lenormand, who then made some successful
experiments and introduced the device to Montgolfier. This is
not to deny that the idea of the parachute had been proposed
in Europe at the time of the Renaissance, but there are Asian
references to it much earlier still.
The first suspension
bridges with iron chains were
158. Miller, Francis T., The World in the
Air,Putnam's Sons New York 1930, vol.1, p. 99.
159. Ibid., p.56.
160. Ibid., p.73.
161. Needham, J., Science and Civilization in China, Oxford,
1954, vol.1, p.231.
constructed in China
at least ten centuries or more before they were known and built
in Europe. (162)
The story of printing and of paper
manufacture is so well known as to need little consideration
here. It came to Europe first with the old camel silk trains
as a finished product, its secret of manufacture jealously guarded.
Not until an Arab victory over the Chinese armies near Samarkand
in A.D. 751, did paper settle in the West as an industry, set
up by captured Chinese paper makers. Its use soon spread all
The development of printing depended
upon the manufacture of suitable ink. We have already mentioned
the use of carbon black to strengthen rubber. This material was
first made by the Chinese, who prepared it by burning oil and
allowing the flarne to impinge on a small porcelain cone, from
which the deposited carbon was removed at frequent intervals
with a feather. The famous stick ink resulted from the compounding
of this with a strong glue solution. (163)
R. H. Clapperton has shown that
the recent researches of Sir Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin prove
beyond doubt that the Chinese vere not only the inventors of
rag paper, raw fiber (mulberry bark and bamboo paper), and paper
made of a combination of raw fiber and rags, but also the inventors
of loading and coating paper. (164) We formerly used a china-coated paper to obtain the
best reproduction of photographs with a fine screen, though this
has now been replaced with less expensive and possibly more durable
plastic coatings. But the idea originated with the Chinese.
A recent Chinese author, Li Ch'iao-p'ing,
points out that Chinese inventions opened up new fields of chemical
manufacture in early times, but then remained stationary for
centuries. One of their earlier contributions to medicine was
the extraction of ephedrine from the herb Ephedra, a process
credited to a very famous Emperor Shen Nung, who is supposed
to have lived somewhere between 3000 and 2200 B.C. (165) A two thousand year old
rig for drilling salt wells was recently cited as still a good
163. Stern, H. J., Rubber: Natural and Synthetic, Maclaren,
London, 1954, p.118.
164. Clapperton, R. H., and William Henderson, Modern Paper-Making,
2nd edition, revised, Blackwell, Oxford, 1942.
165. Bender, George A., Pharmacy in Ancient China, A History
of Pharmacy in Pictures, Parke Davis, and Co., no date.
model for the modern
cable rig of today's oil fields. (166) Even in the design of
clothing, they seemed to have a genius for hitting upon the best
end-results, quite apart from the actual materials they developed.
Thus it has been recently shown that the so-called "Chinese
sleeve" which permits each forearm to be inserted into the
opposite sleeve, is more effective for keeping the hands warm
in cold weather than either Arctic mittens or a muff. Europeans
adopted muffs and mittens. But having investigated the Chinese
pattern thoroughly, it now appears they are not as effective.
Although the "clock"
motor principle was taken to the Chinese from the West, their
water clocks long antedated the European systems of keeping accurate
time, and were certainly more dependable, especially when mercury
was used in place of water. The complexity of these water clocks
has only recently been recognized. Some ancient documents describe
them in sufficient detail to enable Needham and others to draw
plans and diagrams of their operation. This was reported recently
in the British journal, Nature. (168) These devices were highly ingenious, involving gear
trains of several kinds, the speed being very exactly regulated
by a very clever use of water or mercury. Knowledge of these
seems to have come into Europe during the Crusades. The clocks
were connected with astronomical observations, in an endeavour
to predict seasons more exactly. The interest was purely of a
As we have previously mentioned,
the Chinese had already discovered the uniqueness of finger prints,
and quickly perceived how useful this could be for identification
purposes. They were using them in the T'ang dynasty as early
at A.D. 618. (169)
According to a special report on
the use of natural gas, it is said that the Chinese were the
first to use it. (170)
The story goes that some villagers near Peiping were trying to
put out a local brush fire, when they found one flame that could
not be extinguished with water. "The practical villagers
then built a bamboo
166. See a review of "The Chemical Arts
of Old China," by Eduard Farber in Scientific Monthly,
June, 1949, p.430.
167. Annual Project Report (U.S. Quartermaster Stores) Jan.-Dec.,
168. Needham, J., and Wang Ling, and Derek J. Price, "Chinese
Astronomical Clockwork," in Nature, Mar. 31, 1956,
169. Haddon, A. C., The History of Anthropology, Watts,
London, 1934, p.33.
170. Reported in The Telegram, Toronto, April 4, 1955,
in a special section devoted to the use of Natural Gas, under
the title, "Gas and Pipeline too: way back in 450 B.C."
pipeline from the outlet
to the village, and used the gas for heating brine to make salt."
This is said to have taken place somewhere about 450 B.C. Whether
they can be said to have invented the use of natural gas or not
is a questionable point, but certainly they were very quick to
see its practical possibilities. This is in exact contrast to
the Romans who produced cast iron in considerable quantities
but threw it all away because they did not recognize it as a
potentially useful product. (171) As we have already remarked, the basic technology
of all metallurgy is entirely non-Indo-European. Even heat-treatment
and case-hardening was known before we "discovered"
it. Some processes of steel production have seemed clearly to
be of our own devising, the Bessemer process, for example, which
is a means of producing particularly pure forms of iron in preparation
for the manufacture of certain types of steel. It has recently
been shown, however, that immediately before William Kelly introduced
the process into the United States, four Chinese workers were
brought in, presumably as experts.(172)
In some instances we not only never
have improved upon the products of our instructors, but actually
have not even been able to improve upon their methods of manufacture,
where we usually shine. Cire Perdu casting is still employed
for small bronze statues of racing horses and such items, and
even the use of cow manure for the mold has been retained from
the most ancient times, to give the best results. This system
is extraordinarily effective for casting hollow articles of intricate
form, where the use of ordinary cores is quite impossible, and
yet it is found in every primitive society that has any knowledge
of metals, in every archaeological site bearing the remains of
cultures who had developed metal casting skills, and virtually
every high civilization with the exception of Indo-Europeans
seems to have had a knowledge of the art � almost exactly
as it is now done in Europe. We therefore use the same basic
methods as non-Indo-Europeans for casting hollow objects in metal,
just as we have adopted exactly the same method of molding objects
in rubber (cored or slush-molded) as the natives of Central and
Although it will be possible to
quote authorities who do not hesitate to say in so many words
that we have invented virtually
171. Forbes, R. J., Metallurgy in Antiquity,
Brill, Leiden, 1950, p.407.
172. Needham, J., The Development of Iron and Steel Technology
in China, reviewed by F. C. Thompson, in Nature (England),
Dec. 12, 1959, p.1830.
nothing, such sweeping
generalizations need qualification. In the first place, racial
mixture has proceeded so extensively in Europe and America that
it is difficult to say who is truly Japhethic and who is a mixture
of Shem and Ham as well. It is no longer always clear who is
truly Indo-European ane who is not. But it is true to say that
whatever inventiveness we have shown in the past three or four
centuries has almost always resulted from stimulation from non-Indo-Europeans.
Our chief glory has been the ability to improve upon and perfect
the invenltions of othlers, often to such an extent that they
appear to be original developments in their own right. We can
also make some claim to have greatly advanced mass production
methods. But it would surely be a great mistake to credit the
improver with greater inventive ability than the originator.
Moreover, the individulal who tells the truth 99% of the time,
but now and then tells lies, would hardly be termed a liar. By
the same token, it does not seem proper to call a people "inventive"who
once in a while do invent something, but who 99% of the time
merely adapt the inventions of others to new ends.
Paul Herrman has written an interpretive
survey of man's conquest of the earth's surface from paleolithic
times to tle present day. It is the work of one man, no small
undertaking, and has therefore not the comprehensivenless one
might desire, but it has the advantage of being a unified treatment.
In his foreword he has this to say: (173)
A further aim in writing this
book was to weaken the very widespread conviction that our progress
in the technological aspects of civilization represents, in any
real sense, a greater achevement than tht of our forebears. The
liberation of atomic energy probably means no more and no less
than did the invention of the firedrill or the wheel in their
day. Both discoveries were of immense importance to early man.
that the only Persian invention of first rank was the windmill,
and apart from the rotary quern whose history is not quite certain,
the only European contribution of value, mechanically speaking,
is tge pot-chain pump. (174) This gives us two claims to originality. Compared
with the originality of other cultures prior, let us say, to
the 15th century A.D., we certainly did not shine in this direction.
Yet we have advanced technology so far ahead of all previous
civilizations that there must be some
173. Herrman, Paul, Conquest by Man.
Harper, New York, 1954, pp.xxi, xxii.
174. Needham, J., Science and Civilization in China, Oxford,
1954, vol.1, p.240.
fundamental reason � a reason to
be suggested in the Paper, "A Christian WorldView: The Framework
of History", Part V of
Meanwhile, in the conquest of land,
sea, and air, in agriculture and animal husbandry, in economics,
trade, and commerce, in the creation of all that lies behind
literature, the keeping of records, and the ordering of knowledge,
in arts and crafts, in architecture, and the textile world, in
metallurgy and medicine, in the planning
of cities and the development of means of communication over
long distances, in the invention of tools and the exploitation
of power sources � in all these areas the foundations were
laid by Hamitic people.
What we have since been able to
do in elaborating this basic heritage is another story. It is
necessary here only to establish something of the measure of
our indebtedness. This catalogue by no means exhausts the list.
In fact, even in the use of electricity and internal combustion
engines of the Diesel type, the initial inspiration seems likewise
to have come from Hamites.
This Paper has
dealt with the contribution of descendants of Ham. The contribution
of Shem was of another very special kind, essentially in the
realm of the spirit. On the other hand, the contribution of Japheth
has been in the realm of the intellect. Japheth took the technology
of Ham and created science. But science unredeemed by a true
spiritual perception is far from beneficial for man in the long
run. Shem, Ham, and Japheth thus were each called to play a unique
and vital part. When any one of them has failed to contribute,
or when one has dominated the other two, civilization (though
seeming to gain at first) has always suffered a decline. But
when each has contributed in the proper measure, enormous strides
forward are made and the development of civilization has been
almost explosive. What, then, will world civilization become
when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to establish a Kingdom of
Righteousness in which not only the three sons contribute in
perfect proportion, but their contribution will be entirely for
peace and not for war? Surely this will be an age of wonders
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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