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.
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” ï¿½ 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 ï¿½ 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 pyramids;
79. Meek, T. J., “Magic Spades in Mesopotamia,” University of Toronto Quarterly, vol.7, 1938, pp.243, 244.
According to 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 be exaggerated:
(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 ï¿½ 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 chemistry.
Perhaps the greatest surprise of all is to find that the Greeks did not do so very well in transmitting this heritage usefully. Thus Sarton concluded:
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.
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: (82)
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.
Samuel Kramer 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.
Medicine was 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, pp.1013.
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 date, p.30.
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 ï¿½ 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.” (89)
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 naked eye.”
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 ï¿½ quoting de Morgan ï¿½ has written: (97)
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 often decorated
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 1921.
with a kind of wall-paper effect done (as it is done today) with a sponge, (101) its extraordinary architecture, its beautiful pottery ï¿½ in many cases patterned upon metal prototypes ï¿½ its highly organized court life, and its evidence of extensive trade and commerce overseas ï¿½ 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 called it.
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 culture.
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:
Blegen, Carl W., Zygouries: a Prehistoric Settlement in the Valley of Cleonae, Harvard, 1928.
Bosanquet, R. C., Excavations at Phylakopi in Melos, Macmillan, 1904.
Dinsmoor, W. B., The Architecture of Ancient Greece, Batsford, 1950.
Evans, Sir Arthur, The Palace of Minos, Macmillan, 4 vols., 1921-1935.
Heurtley, W. A., Prehistoric Macedonia, Cambridge, 1939.
Holmberg, Erik J., The Swedish Excavations at Asea in Arcadia, Leipzig, 1944. (continued)
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 ï¿½ 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 said: (105)
It may 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 Etruscans.
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)
The Romans 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.
Xanthoudidcs, Stephanos, 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, 1955.
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 ï¿½ 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” ï¿½ the Fables ï¿½ 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 into popularity.
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, p. 342.
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 smooth passage.
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 advantage.
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” sequence, (115) and the first Walt Disney Cartoon. (116) Gloves and camp-stools are found first in Crete, (117) soap in Egypt, (118) virtually all carpenter’s
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, 1942, p.77.
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) ï¿½ with a novel brace and bit (120)
ï¿½ 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, 1935, pp.192ff.
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, Toronto.
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.
There 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.
The vessels 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 Sumerians, (132) 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 4, pp.124-141.
130. Needham, J., Science and Civilization in China, 1954, vol.1, pp.240-243.
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), vol.1, p.293.
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.
One demonstration 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, 1946, p.328ff.
137. Safety pins: illustrated in an article by D. Randall MacIvor, “The Etruscans,” Antiquity, vol.1, Jurne, 1927, p.170.
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 ï¿½ and of course hundreds besides ï¿½ 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 from Egypt.
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 employed this
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.
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 ï¿½ the domestication of an insect, the “education” of silkworms, the cultivation of the white mulberry, the whole of sericulture!
It involved 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)
.A search 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 that flies.”
It seems, then, that the Arabs borrowed much from the Far East ï¿½ paint brushes (but with the original pig bristles replaced by camel hair ï¿½ 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 history.
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.
Even “irritating” 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. (152)
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 ï¿½ 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 them. (153)
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 an advertisement.
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 in Fig.16.
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, 1950, p.442.
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 Hittites.
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 ï¿½ 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: (159)
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.
Miller also 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 over Europe.
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. (167)
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 practical nature.
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., 1956, p.430.
168. Needham, J., and Wang Ling, and Derek J. Price, “Chinese Astronomical Clockwork,” in Nature, Mar. 31, 1956, pp.600, 601.
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 ï¿½ 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 South America.
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.
Needllam says 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 ï¿½ a reason to be suggested in the Paper, “A Christian WorldView: The Framework of History”, Part V of this volume.
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 ï¿½ 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 indeed!