The Inventive Genius of Ham
IT MAY COME as a surprise to find how many, how varied, and how fundamental have been the inventions of Hamitic people, and how great a service they have thus rendered to mankind in the field of technology. Although some of these achievements may be considered slight by those who have never actually invented anything or contributed anything new to the sum total of human achievement, one should not be deceived by simplicity. Hamitic peoples have been peculiarly ingenious in finding simple solutions that are very effective. The curious thing is that they neither know nor care in many cases why their solutions are so completely successful.
The following developments may be added to the above list (details in Part IV “The Technology of Hamitic People” in vol.1, Noah’s Three Sons), set forth more or less under similar headings. They are described very briefly, the purpose being merely to show sometling of the range of devices and techniques which are commonly assumed to be of Indo-European origin but which, as the lists show, are not.
In recent years much has been learned about the earliest clocks. It was thought that the mechanical clock was an invention of 14th century craftsmen. However, descriptions and corroded fragments of complicated astronomical “pre-clocks,” such as water clocks, planetary models, and mechanical star maps have survived from Greek and Arabic times, which have raised more questions than they answered since their principle of operation was quite different from European clocks of a later period. Moreover, they were designed for computing the motion of heavenly bodies rather than for timekeeping. (195)
195. On these, see Derek J. de Solla Price, “An Ancient Greek Computer,” Scientific American, June, 1959, p.60.
Recently a manuscript has been translated entitled, “New Design for an Astronomical Clock,” written in 1092 by Su Sung, a scholar of the Sung dynasty. It is a description of a clock actually constructed in 1088 and housed in a pagoda-like tower, £rom thirty to forty feet high. The details of it show that it was very complicated, with many revolving parts and successions of geared trains. It was also fitted with an escapement mechanism, a mechanism hitherto regarded as an exclusively European invention. Some details of this highly sophisticated mechanism appeared in the English journal, Nature, reporting the making of a working model. (106) The clock was driven by water power with an extremely ingenious arrangement for tripping the scoops into which the water flowed and for ensuring a uniform pressure in the water system itself. Joseph Needham has published a work dealing specifically with this subject and notes that Su Sung’s clockwork was anticipated in China by many previous similar clocks so that refined mechanisms of this kind were well known in China long before knowledge of them was brought into Europe. Escapement clocks are a Hamitic invention.
Under tlle general heading of Materials, we may note another claim to priority due to Chinese technologists, in iron and steel production. Again we may refer to Joseplr Needham for details. (197) China had an ancient and advanced metallurgical industry, and although in Europe it was the end of the 15th century before molten cast iron was produced (except by accident), Needham gives cogent evidence that this was being done in China on a significant scale at least 2000 years before. From the second century B.C., if not earlier, cast iron was used to produce
106. Escapement Clock: Nature, Mar. 31, 1956, p.601 gave a diagram of such a clock with an cscapement, designed or at least described by Su Sung. Further details and descriptive information was given by Aubrey F. Burstall, et al., in an article entitled “A Working Model of the Mechanical Escapement in Su Sung’s Astronomical Clock ‘I’ower,” Nature, Sept. 28, 1963, pp. 1242-1244. This was further discussed under “The Chinese Water-balance Escapement,” Nature, Dec. 19, 1964, pp.1175f. I think it is significant that in reviewing Joseph Neerlham’s Vol. 4, part 2, Science ancl Civilization in China, E. H. Hutton underscores the fact that the technology of China, though in advance of European technology until the time of the Renaissance was nevertheless “prescientific technology,” to use his words. See his “Ancient Chinese Technology'” Nature, April 2 (Supplement), 1966, p.46. An article of interest on these clocks also appeared in Endeavour, Oct., 1960, pp.234f.
197. Needham, Joseph, The Development of Iron and Steel Technology in China, Dickinson Memorial Lecture to the Newcomen Society for 1956, reported in Nature, Dec. 12, 1959, p.1830.
steel by carefully controlled decarburization in an air blast, a method known as the “hundred refinings.” Later on much Chinese steel was made by a co-fusion technique in which wrought and cast iron were heated together in crucibles, the pasty lumps of the former bathed in the high carbon liquid. By a gradual diffusion of carbon, a steel of approximately eutectoid composition was produced. The basic correspondence of these processes with those of Huntsman, Bessemer, and Siemens and Martin is to be noted. Indeed, as Needham observes, immediately before the work of William Kelly in the United States in setting up the Bessemer process, four Chinese workers were imported as experts at his furnaces at Kuttawa!
The Chinese have always been great metalworkers and their bronzes are superb examples of technological virtuosity. Around 1400 B.C. they were producing what Coon has referred to as “the finest examples of bronze casting in the world, from any place or period.” (198) This is a judgment held by other experts in the field. The editors of Life’s The Epic of Man observed that the Chinese Shang bronzes were “the finest objects of metal ever created by the mind and hand of man.” (199) In Part IV, already referred to, a number of observations regarding the metalwork of the Sumerians and Egyptians will be found, including the extraordinary range of techniques they had mastered. The Sumerians had also mastered the technique of soldering. (200)
As perhaps another rather surprising example of a “modern invention” anticipated centuries ago, Marco Polo at the end of the 13th century observed the extensive use of asbestos in Ghenghis Khan’s domain, in the province of Chingintalas: (201)
The asbestos fibres are treated to divide and separate them and they look like wool. They are then spun into not very white fibres which are afterwards burned to come out as white as snow. This is how they are then “washed” after becoming soiled.
Some of these fabrics were sent by the Khan to the Pope.
In connection with building techniques, an article appeared in the Scientific American dealing with primitive architecture, in which the authors, Fitch and Branch, describe some of the
198. Coon, Carleton S., The Story of Man, Knopf, New York, 1962, pp.329, 330.
199. Editors of Life, The Epic of Man, Time-Life Incorporated, 1961, p.199.
200. Kramer, Samuel, The Sumerians, University. of Chicago Press, 1964, p.101.
201. Asbestos: see Travels of Marco Polo, Library Publications, New York, no date, pp.67, 68. It is probable that this entry was made about A.D. 1298.
buildings erected by “primitive” people of the world, among whom are included the Eskimo, Sudanese, Siberian herdsmen, and Melanesians. (202) The main thrust of the article is to the effect that these people have shown great ingenuity not merely in the way in which they have employed local materials, with maximum effect from the structural point of view, but also that they have with great effectiveness designed their buildings with an eye to providing shelter against the elements (snow load, wind pressure, earthquake shock, heat stress, cold stress, and glare). They say, “Thus Western man, for all his impressive knowledge and technological apparatus, often builds conparably less well.” They speak of these people as showing “a precise and detailed knowledge of local climate conditions on the one hand, and on the other, a remarkable understanding of the performance characteristics of the building materials locally available.” They say, “These simple shelters often out-perform the structures of present day architects.” As means of shelter against temperature and precipitation, they note that “in culture after culture the solutions found show a surprising delicacy and precision.” And subsequently, “Limited to what for us would be a pitifully meager choice of materials, the primitive architect often employs them so skillfully as to make them seem ideal.” This last observation is about as profound a compliment as they could have offered, and it does in fact sum up a great deal of the technology of non-Indo-European people. It is nearly always characterized by simplicity, economy of materials, and almost complete suitability. Tley seem to be able to hit at once upon the proper solution. The only trouble is that having done so, they never have thought it necessary to try to improve upon it in any basic way. The authors conclude:
One could extend this catalogue of human ingenuity indefinitely. But the examples cited are surely adequate to establish the basic point: that primitive man, for all his scanty resources, often builds more wisely than we do, and that in his architecture he establishes principles of design that we often ignore at great cost. . . . Contemporary United States architecture would be greatly enriched, esthetically as well as operationally by a sober analysis of its primitive traditions.
While we are on the subject of architecture, I feel I must include a quotation dealing with the stone work of the Great
202. Fitch, J. M. and D. P. Branch, “Primitive Architecture and Climate,” Scientific American, Dec., 1960, pp.134ff.
Pyramid, even though several similar quotations appear in the previous Doorway Paper. In his Hibbert Lecture (1879), P. LePage Renouf quotes an architect who examined this structure with a critical eye as follows: (203)
No one can possibly examine the interior of the Great Pyramid without being struck with astonishment at the wonderful mechanical skill displayed in its construction. The immense blocks of granite brought from Syene ï¿½ a distance of 500 miles ï¿½ polished like glass, are so fitted that the joints can hardly be detected.
One might continue this quotation at some length, for it is a eulogy indeed not merely of the masons who fashioned the building blocks themselves but of the extraordinary precision in their laying and in the arrangements whch were made for the ceilings of the various chambers and ventilating shafts. The same architect is quoted by Renouf as having said in connection with their other buildings, both temples and houses:
In all the conveniences and elegances of building they seem to have anticipated all that has been . . . to the present day. Indeed, in all probability the ancient Egyptians surpassed the modern in those respects. . . .
In weaving and in the development of textile fibres and dyes much has already been said in Part IV. But I have recently come across a statement to the effect that the Incas were able to weave pieces of cloth of extraordinary dimensions, 13 feet wide x 84 feet long, with as high as 500 threads per inch! (204) Very few fabrics of modern times come anywhere near this, and when they do they are usually limited to comparatively small pieces. In prehistoric times in the southwestern part of the United States all kinds of techniques were known at one time,
203. Renouf, P LePage, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, Hibbert Lectures for 1897, Williams and Norgate, London, pp.63, 65. In the same connection, Andrew White in his Warfare of Science With Theology (Braziller, New York, 1955, p.265), has the following: “For the perfection of Egyptian engineering, I rely not merely upon my own observation but on what is far more important, the testimony of my friend the Hon. J. G. Batterson, probably the largest and most experienced of workers in granite in the United States, who acknowledges from personal observation that the early Egyprian work is, in boldness and perfection, far beyond anything known since, and a source of perpetual wonder to him.”
204. Editors of Life, in The Epic of Man, Time-Life Publication, 1961, pp.227, 233. Also, Jonathan N. Leonard, Ancient America
in The Great Ages of Man, Time-Life Publication, New York, 1967, pp.82, 83.
and all kinds of ingenious ways to accomplish edge-finishes and cloth closures. (205)
The present Paper has already referred to block printing as an invention originating with the Koreans. In Joseph Needham’s great work on Chinese technology, he mentions that while the Chinese used wooden or earthenware type blocks, the Koreans were the first to use cast type blocks made of bronze. (206)
Under the general heading of Foods, we may note that powdered milk was used by Ghengis Khan, every one of his soldiers being provided with a vessel containing 10 pounds of it. (207) Each morning he would take
half a pound and put it in his leather bottle with as much water as suited his taste so that the bottle would then be thoroughly churned by the motion of the horse into a kind of porridge which then formed his dinner. I believe that in a pinch, and provided they had water, his whole army could move for three weeks without any further supplies, if they had to.
While we are on the subject of dairy products, a most remarkable practice was reported recently whereby African natives force or trick cows who are withholding their milk into releasing it. The report notes, “It is remarkable how their methods have been confirmed by recent scientific research.” They use a dummy calf, a boy suitably dressed, and then when the cow sees the
205. Edge-finishes, etc. See Kate Peck Kent, The Cultivation and Weaving of Cotton in the Prehistoric Southwestern United States, reviewed in the Journal of the American Anthropopologist, vol. 60, 1958, p. 951. The reviewer, A. H. Gayton, remarks: “lt is impossible to mention here all the techniques known in the prehistoric South-West or the ingenious tricks for accomplishing edge-finishes and cloth enclosures.” And again he states that some fabrics are braided, and one twine-plaited shirt is as elaborate in design as the best specimens of similar techniques from ancient Egypt or Peru. He mentions looping, netting, braiding, twine plaiting, and twills.
206. Needham, Joseph, Science and Civilization in China, Cambridge, 1954, vol.1, p.231, note d.
207. Powdered Milk: Travels of Marco Polo, p.81. Polo’s report reads: “They have dried milk into a kind of paste to carry with them: and when they need food they put this in water and beat it up till it dissolves and then drink it. It is prepared thus: they boil the milk, and when the rich part floats to the top they skim it into another vessel, and of that they make butter: for the milk will not become solid till this is removed. Then they put the milk in the sun to dry. And when they go on an expedition, every man takes some ten pounds of the dried milk with him. And of a morning, he will take a half pound of it and put it in his leather bottie, with as much water as he pleases. So, as he rides along, the milk paste and the water in the bottle get well churned together into a kind of pap, and that makes his dinner.”
“model” they blow up the vagina with air by mouth. A reflex is initiated and the milk flows. (208)
And on the subject of dehydrated foods, it should be noted that the Aymara Indians of Bolivia taught the Americans how to prepare dehydrated potatoes. Claude Levi-Strauss wrote recently: (209)
The Aymara Indians of the Bolivian plateau are able experimenters in the preservation of food stuffs. It was by direct imitation of their technique of dehydration that the American Army was able during the last World War to reduce rations of powdered potatoes sufficient for a hundred meals to the volume of a shoe box.
On travel, taking the word in its broadest sense, we have already listed many items such as plywood wheels, domesticated draft animals, efficient harnesses, aircraft, ships of all kinds, canal systems, etc. Recently in reading The Travels of Marco Polo, I came across this statement of his which must have been written about A.D. 1298, speaking of Far Eastern ships: (210)
Moreover, the larger of their vessels have some thirteen compartments or “divisions” in the interior, made with planking strongly framed in case perhaps the ship should spring a leak either by running on a rock or by the blow of a hungry whale. . . . The planking is so well fitted that the water will not pass from one compartment to another. They can then remove the cargo to another compartment and stop the leak.
No European vessel was ever built in this compartmentalized way until comparatively recent times, a form of construction hailed by our own shipbuilders as one of the latest examples of progress in shipbuilding, making them “unsinkahle.”
The Chinese, of course, had a highly organized canal system and developed locks to extend their canals through hill country. The Sumerians also had canal systems, which, according to Coon, (211) were absolutely superb. Although it is not strictly a matter of transport or travel, the drainage systems of some of these most ancient cities were highly developed and Coon spoke of those existing in the Indus Valley cities as being “the most advanced in the world.” (212) When we bear in mind the picture
208. Milk-letting: on this see a report by Johln Hammond, “Man and Cattle,” Nature, Jan. 11, 1964, p.121.
209. Levi-Strauss, Claude, The Savage Mind, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1966, p.43.
210. Compartmentalized ships: Travels of Marco Polo, Library Publication, New York, no date, p.237.
211. Coon, Carleton S., The Story of Man, Knopf, New York, 1962, p.242.
212. Ibid., p.324.
that we have of Middle Eastern cities under Indo-European, Jewish, or Arab domination with their virtual absence of provision for keeping them clean, it is clear that the Hamitic people were far more conscious of the importance of these things. The Cretan civilization which was a derivative of the basic Hamitic culture, bears equally striking testimony to their engineering skill in this regard as seen in such cities as Knossos.
Plywood wheels were developed by the Sumerians, and it is well known that these wheels were fitted to carts drawn by oxen. (213) However, the Hamitic Hittites domesticated the horse but found that oxcarts were too cumbersome for these more spirited animals. Accordingly they lightened the structure and by a stroke of genius, which we may find it difficult now to appreciate, they invented wheels with spokes.
The invention of hairpins is to be credited to the Chinese. (244) These items were apparently mass-produced, since skeletons have been found in which the head was surrounded by hundreds of them.
Even more surprising, I think, is the finding ï¿½ once more through reading Marco Polo ï¿½ that in the Empire of Kublai Khan beauty contests were held regularly, judging based on a “point system.” Points were given for hair, complexion, eyebrows, lips, mouth, and ï¿½ believe it or not ï¿½ body and limb proportions. According to Marco Polo, these were set down by rule under some 16 to 20 headings. (215)
Although mathematics would seem to involve the most profound forms of abstraction, we know that the study itself may be developed to a high degree of sophistication and designed only to serve practical needs. We have already noted in a previous Paper the use of fractions, square roots and cube roots, squares and cubes, quadratic equations, all kinds of multiplication tables, and even a simple form of logarithms, by the Sumerians and (to a slightly lesser extent) by the Egyptians. The numerous tables have clearly resulted not as an extension of theory but empirically. The Hamitic people as a whole seem to have anticipated the Indo-Europeans in a number of mathematical devices, or if not anticipating them at least developed them quite independently. Thus, the Chinese early developed the place system
213. Ibid., p.248.
214. Hairpins: noted by editors of Life, The Epic of Man, Time-Life Publication, New York 1961, p.200.
215. Beauty Contest: Marco Polo, Library Publication, New York, no date, p.108.
as well as the concept of zero. (216) There is evidence that the Indus Valley people at Mohenjo Daru, somewhere around 2000 B.C., were using the zero symbol. Perhaps we have a case of independent development in Central America, for long before Europe had “discovered” either the concept of zero or the place system for numbers, the Central Americans were already using both of these in the formulation of their most advanced Calendar. (217)
I have also learned recently that the so-called camera obscura, the principle of using a small hole in a baffle between a well-lighted object and a dark screen in order to get a perfect though inverted image, goes back to Alhazen who died in 1039. (218) I suspect that when the whole story is known it will be found that this Arab had gotten the idea from some Chinese trader.
Although the previous Paper has dealt extensively with the medical achievements of non-Indo-European people, it seems that every new History of Medicine brings to light fresh examples of their inventiveness and ingenuity and keen perception in this field of human endeavour. In the first volume of Henry E. Sigerist’s History of Medicine, there is the following quotation from a work by Sumner which is apropos of my thesis: (219)
The savages were too near to the raw struggle for existence to hold in light esteem that which they thought contributed strongly to their insurance against ill; it has been reserved for civilized man, secure behind the bulwarks of which the savage laid the foundations, to play the wanton fool, as no nature-man could or would, with fanciful and perverse floutings of the knowledge he ought to reverence. Only civilized man is secure enough, by virtue of the work and thought and suffering of those who gained knowledge for mankind, and for him, to affect contempt and condescension for their indispensable labours [my emphasis].
This is an important statement, I think, because it is an admission that the basis of so much of our medical knowledge is to be found in the lore of people of non-Indo-European origin,
216. Zero and place value: see J. Needham , Science and Civilization in China, Cambridge, 1959, vol.3, p.146, where 14 Chinese “firsts” in mathematics are listed.
217. Coon, Carleton S. mentions that the early Mexican civilization used the place system as well as zero concepr in their calculations. see The Stoy of Man, Knopf, New York, 1962, p.346.
218. Referred to by Tertius Chandler, “Duplicate Inventions,” American Anthropologist, June, 1960, pp.496, 497.
219. Sigerist, Henry C., Primitive and Archaic Medicine, Oxford University Press, 1967, p.170. Vaccines: see p.150.
whose views in this direction we have habitually considered to be either pure superstition or outright charlatanism. Moreover, Sumner has noted an important point, namely, that the maintenance of healt was not of theoretical interest, but great practical importance, and for this reason was an undertaking for which these Hamitic people as a whole were peculiarly well fitted. At the same time, it is noted quite properly that the margin of survival of such people is just narrow enough that they do not have any excess energy available to do more than merely invent an immediate solution to an immediate problem. It is indeed surprising how little we have actually contributed. We think ot modern operative techniques and the use of wonder drugs and imagine that until recently the sum total of the world’s medical knowledge and skill was almost infantile. But as we have said, every year brings to light further exanples of advanced medical technique that had been practiced by people of non-Western culture almost since the beginning of history.
Jurgen Thorwald has recently listed among such early developments the following: plastic surgery on the face to correct disfigurements resulting from war or disease, bladder-stone removal, the use of mercury for ulcers, pork liver for anemia, anti-diarrhea remedies, contraceptives, the use of incense as an antiseptic in public places, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial salves, catheters, enemas and suppositories, kidney-stone dissolvents, and diagnostic techniques for hernias and for intestinal tuberculosis. (220-221)
Livingstone refers to vaccines being used quite extensively
220 Thorwald, Jurgen, Science and Secrets of Early Medicine, Harcourt, Brace, & World, New York, 1962, pages as follows: plastic surgery, 206; bladder stone removal, 211; use of mercury for ulcers, 242; pork liver for anemia, 244: anti-diarrhea remedies 293; contraceptives, 100; use of incense as an antiseptic for public buildings, 95; anti-fungal and anti-bacterial skin salves, 85; catheters, 166; enemas and suppositories, 173; kidney stone dissolvents, 172; and diagnostic techniques for hernias, 81, and for intestinal tuberculosis, 141.
221. Contraceptives were known to the American Indians. The Shoshone of Nevada have been using contraceptives for centuries according to an article in Chatelaine Magazine (June, 1964, p.10). They drink an extract of the roots of the lithospermum plant to suppress ovulation. Recent study shows that it contains a previously unknown substance callcd polyphenotic acid. Under study, it effectively inactivated the sex glands of rats and prevented ovulation in laying hens. Continued use apparently causes no side effects among Shoshone women.
in Africa, (222) and Sigerist writes at some length on vaccination techniques used by primitive people both in Africa and other parts of the world, and in China. As early as 1716 Cotton Mather in Boston learned how inoculation of smallpox was practiced in Africa from one of his Negro slaves. These people protected themselves against certain common snake bite venoms by allowing themselves to be bitten for the first time by a baby snake and then progressively by more mature snakes. (223) It is usual to rationalize their procedures for other diseases by assuming that they had noticed that if a man recovered from smallpox, for example, he was not again infected when the disease recurred in the community. This looks reasonable enough, but if it is just a case of observing the obvious, it is strange that nobody in Europe thought of doing it until the middle of the 18th century.
We have already mentioned that the Chinese had discovered the circulation of the blood, according to one work on Internal Medicine traditionally dated 2600 B.C.; and it is worth noting that they had also discovered the importance of feeling the pulse. Having no watches, they had mastered the technique of comparing the patient’s pulse with their own.
In Part IV of this volume we have also referred to that extraordinary operation performed on the skull called trephination, an operation perhaps intended to reduce pressure on the brain due to some head injury. We know that at least some of these operations were entirely successful since the edges of the bone have grown smooth. Several hundred skulls are known from antiquity in which this operation was performed. (224) The operation was exceedingly widespread, found in every part of the world. Even more remarkable in some respects is the fact that Caesarean sections were performed in Africa, long before any European physician had attempted it. One such operation has been described from Uganda in 1879 by a British physician, Robert Felkin. (225)
The Spaniards were amazed at the medical skill and knowledge of the Mexicans. They, too, like the natives of India, performed plastic surgery even to the extent of providing people
222. Livingstone, Travels and Researches in South Africa, Harper Brothers, New York, 1858, p.142.
223. See Elizabeth A. Ferguson, “Primitive Medicine,” Scientific American, Sept., 1948, p.25.
224. Trephination: as reported by Sigerist, Primitive and Archaic Medicine, Oxford University Press, 1967, p.111.
225. Caesarean sections: reported in detail by Sigerist, ibid., p.207.
with artificial noses. (226) They were able to treat gangrene and internal hemorrhage, using for the latter not merely one substance but a choice of several. Similarly, when the French first came into contact with the American Indians, they too were equally astonished that “the savages” successfully used expectorants, emetics, purgatives, astringents, diuretics, and emmenagogues. Jacques Cartier noted in his log (1534) that most of his men had come down with “a deadly pestilence.” This pestilence he described in some detail: (227)
Some lost their very substance and their legs became swollen and puffed up while the sinews contracted and turned coal black, and in some cases, all blotched with dips of purplish blood. Then the disease crept up to the hips, thighs, shoulders, arms and neck. And all the sick had their mouths so tainted and their gums so decayed that the flesh peeled off down to the roots of their teeth while the latter almost fell out in turn.
The Indians told him what to do and provided him with an infusion of the bark and leaves of what they called a “magic tree.” His men drank this and he reports, “In six days the miraculous tree worked more wonders than all the physicians of Louvain and Montpellier using all the drugs of Alexandria could have done in a year.” And yet so bright are we as Japhethites that we never even took the trouble to find out what tree it was!
Some of the early Sumerian Cuneiform tablets reveal a surprising knowledge of the medicinal properties of common herbs. although they can hardly have had any knowledge of why these
226. Plastic surgery: Jurgen Thorwald, Science and Secrets of Early Medicine, Harcourt, Brace, & World, New York, 1962 p.208, with illustration. Also see Irene Nicholson, “Science and Technology in Ancient Mexico,” Discovery, Sept., 1960, p.391.
227. Reported in “Canada and Medicine,” an editorial survey in MD of Canada, vol.8, 1967, p.62ff. An article on Fray Bartolome which appeared in MD of Canada (vol.9, 1968, p.120) as an edirorial item entitled “Apostles of India,” quotes Bartolome on the matter of venereal disease as follows: “On several occasions I asked the Indians of this Island (Hispaniola) if this illness (syphilis) was very ancient among them, and they said, Yes, that it existed among them before the Christians arrived, and they had no memory of its origin, and no one should doubt this: and it seems proper also, because Divine Providence gave them the medicine for this disease, which is the guaguacan tree. It is a well known fact that all the incontinent Spaniards who on this island did not have the virtue of chastity, were contaminated with this disease, and from a hundred hardly one would escape from it. Of the Indians, the men or women who contracted it were afllicted with it to a very small degree, and almost no more than if they had had smallpox but the Spaniards were in great pain and constant torment from it particularly during the period when the buboes had not yet come out.”
One of the curious by-ways of the migraine story is how the research has come full circle. The earliest statements on headache therapy is a Sumerian clay tablet of about 3000 B.C. that suggests: ”Whenever pains attack the head. . . give kibtu and marru.” Now these are substances obtained, respectively, from decayed maize and rye infected with the fungus that is the source of ergot. Today, 5000 years later, ergotic alkaloids are among tde most significant drugs in migraine therapy.
And just as a matter of interest, Samuel Kramer notes that the Sumerians had discovered the art of artificial insemination, at least as applied to plants. (229)
Under the general heading of Household Furnishings, one may note a few items from China to be added to the previous list. But just in passing, it will be noticed that in the Time-Life series, The Great Ages of Man, there is a volume by Schafer on Ancient China in which a whole chapter is devoted to discoveries and inventions in that country. Among those listed are four technological inventions of Han in Medieval Times which as the author notes “laid the whole basis for the European exploration and colonization of the world: the compass became the tool of the pioneering seafarers of Portugal, Holland and England; gunpowder enabled Europeans to subdue the lands they found, and paper andl printing made possible the wide dissemination of their idealogies and decrees.” (230)
The invention of paper is, of course, characteristically, invariably credited in school books to an Indo-European. It is curious how this idea las persisted, but perhaps since we are now so completely dependent upon paper we are unwilling to admit precedence in its developrnent to anyone else. In point of fact, as we have already seen, excellent papers were known centuries before both in China and Central America. (231) It is only very recently that paper has been used tentatively for disposable clothing, but the Aztecs were using paper for clothing as well as
228. Headache treatment: “A headache is a headache is a headache,” lead article (unsigned) in The Laboratory, Fisher Scientific Co., vol.35, Part I, 1967, p. 7.
229. Artificial insemination: reported by Samucl Kramer, The Sumerians, University of Chicago Press, 1964, p,109.
230. Schafer, Edward H., Ancient China in Great Ages of Man, Time-Life Publication, New York, 1967, pp.125ff.
231. Papers used in China and Central America: for details see Part IV, “The Technology of Hamitic People” in this volume.
for other articles besides books before the Spaniards destroyed their civilization. (232) Carleton Coon notes that the Chinese provided their toilets with toilet seats which have a very modern appearance, and these ï¿½ with characteristic practicality ï¿½ they placed over their pig pens. (233) Lewis Mumford, speaking of this subject, remarked: (234)
Before the invention of the trap and ventilatory stack for the toilet, the backing up of sewer gas into the dwelling house almost counterbalanced the advantages of the new improvement. With the water closet came another practice directly derived from the Chinese: the use of toilet paper: more important for domestic hygiene than the wallpaper that came in almost simultaneously.
As a matter of fact, in antiquity much greater concern was expressed over sanitation than was shown in Medieval Europe and England. Lavatory facilities were most elaborate (for example, in Knossos), and some of the installations from the Palace around 1500 B.C. are completely sound from the engineering point of view. From Tel el Amarna in the 14th century B.C. we have wooden toilet seats which in their construction were actually ahead of the toilet seats that were to be found in our own cities fifty years ago, or even twenty-five years ago. It is only in quite recent times that we have learned the advantages of making the toilet seat in the form of a horseshoe with the gap at the front edge. The Egyptians were doing this over 3000 years ahead of us (235)
In the same general area of household furnishings, we may note that the Chinese developed home air conditioning, (236) the Phoenicians invented the wax candle, (237) and in addition to the use of Naphtha gas piped with bamboo to cast iron stoves (already mentioned in Part IV) the Chinese and the Mongols in Marco Polo’s time were using coal for central heating, a material which Marco Polo refers to as being “cheaper than
232. Disposable clothing: in an article by Irene Nicholson, “Science and Technology in Ancient Mexico”, Discovery, Sept., 1960, p.389.
233. Toilets: C. S. Coon, The Story of Man, Knopf, New York, 1962, p.148.
234. Mumford, Lewis, The Culture of Cities, Harcourt, Brace, New York, 1938, p.119.
235. Toilet seats: a photograph of one appears in an article (unsigned) entitled “Sanitation in Antiquity,” Image, Montreal, Mar., 1964, p.12.
236. Air Conditioning: see Ancient China in Great Ages of Man, Time-Life Publication, New York, 1967, p.40.
237. Candles: reported in MD of Canada, Dec., 1967, p.5.
wood and burning all night.” He speaks of it as a “capital fuel.” (238)
Marco Polo also speaks of the practice of gold capping faulty teeth, a practice he says was adopted for both lower and upper teeth by the men, but not by the women. (239) And while we are on the subject of dentistry, we may mention that the world’s first toothbrush, looking precisely like a modern one, came from China, and is dated about A.D. 1498. (240)
In addition to the many other games, cards may be mentioned. In an article on this subject which appeared in The Laboratory recently, the following statement was made: (241)
The earliest Chinese playing cards, introduced to Europe via the Holy Land Crusaders, imitated Chinese paper money — “bank notes” that bore pictorial symbols of their value. These pictures furnished the Suit marks of the Chinese pack, and copied in Europe (probably without knowledge of their oriental significance), gave rise to the four Suits of the European game.
It is an interesting reflection of how history cycles upon itself. In the first settlements in French Canada, when money in the form of coinage became scarce, playing cards bearing the governor’s signature came to serve as paper currency.
Now consider the Aztec and Maya technique for getting rain. Here we have a case of what seems to be pure superstition. It has been customary to say that the priests were merely fooling the people, that they had sharp-eyed and experienced meteorologists who, perceiving signs of coming rain which the common people were not supposed to have been able to see, put on a fine display of hocus-pocus at the appropriate moment so that when the rain came everybody automatically credited them with having induced it. Ruth Benedict thinks that this is how the Hopi rain dance originated, though not as hocus-pocus. Rather, detecting the approach of rain, people assembled by mutual consent to perform a dance which was intended “to wake up the earth” by much stamping of the feet so as to make sure that none of the rain which fell would go to waste. This does not seem altogether illogical. But it appears now that the Aztecs and Maya were able not merely to predict rain but actually to bring it. In an article dealing with the technology of these people, Irene Nicholson
238. Coal for central heating: Marco Polo, Travels of Marco Polo, Library Publication, New York, no date, p.147.
239. Gold plating of teeth: Marco Polo, ibid., p.177.
240. Toothbrush: referred by Curt Proskauer, “‘Oral Hygiene in the Medieval Occident,” Ciba Symposia, vol.8, 1946, p.468.
241. Cards: “lt’s in the Cards,” The Laboratory, Fisher Scientific Co., vol.35, 1967, p.35.
points out how the native ceremony involved the burning of copal and rubber. Carbon soot has the property of accumulating radiant heat. When particles of soot are sprinkled unto a cloud, any drops of moisture that happen to capture one or more soot particles will be warmed by the absorption of sunlight and will lose their humidity by evaporation whereas the drops that remain unsullied will maintain their cold temperature and will fall through the cloud until they join other drops and thus grow to a sufficient size to precipitate. The writer says that experiments were conducted in order to test out whether this reconstruction of the ancient practice was valid, and she notes that “in each of the seven experiments, about two pounds of soot were dropped from an airplane unto a cloud. Taking from two and a half to twenty minutes, the cloud precipitated.” She then went on: (242)
If soot is dropped in a humid atmosphere but without cloud, the effect is just the opposite. The black particles capture sunlight and warm the air. The air rises, expands, and cools. One part of the moisture condenses, and a new white cloud appears in the sky.
Let us turn again to the ancient Mexicans, and imagine the priests on mountain peaks, burning magic balls of rubber latex on copal to bring rain to their crops. Tlley used a brazier modelled ï¿½- comically, it seems to us ï¿½ with the head of the god. In the midst of the incense is placed a jade bead to represent the idea of divinity combined with the greenness of the earth. Above the brazier is a clay hood, formed like the inverted bowl of the sky, which captures the soot and disperses it.
How much of the theory of their actions the priests knew, we can only conjecture; but they must have known from experience that the ritual was effective.
A number of small items: the ball-and-socket joint was invented in Crete, (243) the lathe was invented by the Etruscans, (244) bird-banding to identify ownership was used by the Mongols, (245) dactyloscopy ï¿½ i.e., fingerprinting ï¿½ was used 2000 years ago in China to identify important sealed documents. (246) Marco Polo mentions that Kublai Khan had a “Lost and Found Department”
242. Rain making: this interesting discovery is reported in the article by Irene Nicholson, “Science and Technology in Ancient Mexico”, Discovery, Sept., 1960, p.389.
243. Ball-and-socket joint: Ralph Linton, The Tree of Culture, Knopf, New York, 1956, p.328.
244. Lathes: according to “The Origins of the Lathe,” Scientific American, April, 1963, pp.133f.
245. Bird banding: referred to by Marco Polo, Travels of Marco Polo, Library Publication, New York, no date, p.126.
246. Finger printing: referred to by Fritz Kahn, Man in Structure and Function, Knopf, New York, 1947, vol.2, fig.328, p.570.
attached to his army. (247) At Mohenjo Daru in the Indus Valley, around 2500 B.C., ingenious traps were invented for catching mice and rats. (248) As early as the 9th century B.C. people in the Middle East were using an artificial breathing apparatus for underwater repairs. (249)
Finally, an even more surprising ï¿½ one might almost say, ironic ï¿½ anticipation of modern engineering developments came to my attention recently through the journal of one research organization. The leading article in this journal begins with a photograph of a concrete and rock structure designed to check wave forces against a breakwater. The caption is: “The World’s First Perforated Breakwater.” (250) This development, known as the Jarlan Breakwater, has a central tunnel running the full length of it with a series of circular openings or orifices leading out to the face exposed to the waves. When a wave comes up against the face of the breakwater, it pours into these orifices flooding the interior. As the wave retreats these floodwaters at once begin to pour out again, and as they do so, they strike the next oncoming wave, thus baffle it, and rob it of much of its destructive energy. The system is most ingenious, and it is believed will enormously extend the useful life of the structure itself besides creating an immediately adjacent area of surface water which by its very baffling will be smoother than the water further out from the face of the dock. Larger vessels tied up may consequently be subjected to less damage. But the chief object of the design is to extend the life of the dock itself. The surprising thing is that this is no new development at all. The early Phoenician and Carthaginian military harbours of North Africa which were first built nearly 3000 years ago anticipated this construction. In speaking of these harbours Deacon, apparently quite unaware of the recent developments along this line, wrote:
247. Lost and found department: Marco Polo, Travels of Marco Polo, Library Publication, New York, no date, p.126. Polo says of this that it was officially supervised by an individual called Bularguchi, “Keeper of lost property,” and he was part of the official army staff.
248. Mouse trap: described under the heading “Man vs Mouse in 2500 B.C.,” in a note in Scientific American, May, 1967, p.60.
249. Underwater breathing apparatus: this device is described by G. E. R. Deacon, Seas, Maps and Men, Doubleday, New York, 1962, p.153. Deacon observes: “As early as the 9th century B.C. men were using artificial breathing apparatus for underwater work. ‘I’his relief (illustrated) shows Assyrian divers with air tanks of inflated skins.”
250. Reported in some detail in NRC Research News, vol.16, no.4, 1963, lead (continued…..)
The breakwater was ingeniously built with rows of holes leading to a central channel or tunnel which ran within the masonry along the entire length of the breakwater. This elaborate system was most likely devised to reduce the shock of breaking waves. The holes at Thapsus an`1 Hadrurmnentum are of the same design.
These brief and rather disconnected notes do not begin to show the range of developments and inventions and techniques that must be credited to non-Indo-European peoples. It happens that my own current research has led me to volumes whicm deal more particularly with Chinese technology or with medical history, and for this reason the above list is a little over-weighted in this direction. But this should not be allowed to mislead the reader into supposing that thc debt is primarily to ancient China or that the field is primarily in terms of medicine. I think it is safe to say that there is no people of Hamitic stock, no part of the world, and no period throughout history which has not witnessed extraordinary examples of ingenuity and technical skill among non-Indo-Europeans. And by contrast, at no period have Indo-Europeans proved themselves inventive in a comparable way, nor technically adept except in so far as they have been stimulated by or built upon a Hamitic foundation
One final observation brings us back to Scripture itself. I suggest that as Noah’s family grew up, the old patriarch noted certain tendencies in his three children which seemed to set them apart from each other. Shem had a devout nature. He tended to be more reverent, more God-conscious, nnore spiritually inclined than either of his brothers. Japheth, on the other hand, was a thinker, a dreamer of dreams, wondering about things and apt to explore his world with a detached interest that set him apart, not in a spiritual but in an intellectual way. Ham was perhaps the “fixer” of the family. There is often such a child. He could repair anything, he constantly mended things that had broken, or invented new and better ways of doing things. He became indispensible to his less practical but rnore reflective brothers. And as Noah reflected upon their natures and saw them grow into families, tribes, and nations he predicted, under inspiration, that their descendants would tend to suare these traits. Not all Shemites would be as religious as Shem, nor all Japhethites as exploratory and curious as Japheth, nor all Hamites as practical and down-to-earth as Ham; but this would be their “bent.”
(250. continued) article. The Phoenician counterpart is referred to and illustrated by G. E. R. Deacon (Seas, Maps, and Men, Doubleday, New York, 1962, p.153.
When it came to passing judgment on Ham’s family because of his disrespect in the case of Noah’s drunkenness, the old man said that they should turn their talents to the service of others rather than themselves, that others would benefit by their service and not they. At any rate, in Genesis 9:24ï¿½27 we do seem to have in cameo form a kind of precis of history as it has turned out, as though in four simple sentences God predicted the form which the framework of human history was to take. (251) For he said: “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. . . . Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.”
251. I think it is of some significance that in Gen. 9:27ï¿½29 the phrase “And Canaan shall serve his brethren” is repeated after the reference not merely to Shem’s descendants but Japheth’s also. The usual interpretation is that the Canaanites in Palestine became “water carriers” to Israel and therefore served them. But in what way have Canaanites served Japheth? If by Canaan is meant the descendants of Ham the situation is clearer. That Canaan may have been cursed instead of Ham who was really the culprit, has been explored in Part III, “Why Noah Cursed Caanan Instead of Ham,” (in Noah’s Three Sons, vol.1 in The Doorway Papers Series) in a way that rather illuminates not merely this passage but a number of others in Scripture.