How far back do we have documented?

Discussion in 'History' started by Crcata, May 17, 2016.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    The technology of written language was invented--in round numbers--around 5000BCE. So the earliest written "records" are only about 7,000 years old.

    However, contrary to what most people assume, the first more-or-less permanent records were NOT written by priests, kings or scholars. They were written by MERCHANTS! As tin and copper ore were discovered, and ovens were invented that could reach their relatively low melting points, making it possible to combine them into an alloy that is stronger than either metal, the Neolithic Era (the "Late Stone Age") gave way to the Bronze Age.

    Imagine what the invention of an entire catalog of metal tools did to civilization. Metal saws, for example, made it possible to build wheels round enough and balanced enough to to support carts full of goods to trade with the people on the other side of the mountain. Merchants had so many suppliers and so many customers, some who pay on delivery and others who only pay after they've sold the goods to someone else. The merchants needed a technology that can be used to RECORD what everybody owed to everybody else.

    The first clay tablets were clearly nothing more than numbers, with symbols identifying who owed what to whom.
    The oldest example of deliberate human work is a pile of stalagmites, broken off and laid down in an orderly array on the floor of Bruniquel Cave in southern France. It has been dated to 176,000 BCE, which means that it was the work of Neanderthals, since our species had not yet migrated from Africa, through Asia, into Europe. (Washington Post, May 27)
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2016
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Or to give a much shorter answer to your question: We only have "documented" history going back to the invention of writing, 7,000 years ago.
     
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  5. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    Do we know for certain that the carvings on the stones at Göbekli Tepe were not a language which we have yet to decipher much like hieroglyphs or the Mayan codexes?
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    No, we don't know that. The Olmecs invented writing about 2000BCE, much later than in the rest of the world. So even though we can't translate those hieroglyphs, we can be sure that they're not older than the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Chinese writing systems.

    The Incas discovered metallurgy very recently--probably around 1000CE. They learned to work in gold and other metals, but they had not invented writing by the time the Christian marauders destroyed their civilization.
     
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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  9. Crcata Registered Senior Member

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    7000 years ago, that's quite a long time ago. Seems incredible to think of how long we have been around and how far we have come.
     
  10. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Most here assume "documentation" can only be by written language. I think, for example, analysed ice cores, are documentation of the atmosphere chemisty (and infered climate) much older. I. e. Nature does her own writting of a record.
     
  11. Crcata Registered Senior Member

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    Very true.

    By documentation, I meant both written and otherwise.
     
  12. Edont Knoff Registered Senior Member

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    It seems that man-made tools have been found up to an age of roughly 3 million years. These tools are a sort of documentation too - at least they say "men were around and worked".

    To some limited extend the tools give insight in what was done and also, how it was done. In some cases tool and a workpiece were found together, which gave further inside in the work done by early humans.

    Interesting side note: The oldest music instruments known are about 20.000 years old. That means, that beyond tools and work, we know that some recreational or cultural activities were established since at least 20.000 years.

    Slightly older, maybe up to 25.000 years there are pottery shards. These are very insightful at times, since some of the shards have stains of what what stored or cooked in the pots, so we know what the people of that time had been storing in those pots.
     
  13. PhysBang Valued Senior Member

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    I am not surprised to find wellwisher spreading racism yet again.

    The racism involved in the slavery of the USA was radical and it definitely changed the tenor of slavery in the USA compared to slavery elsewhere. I am sure that wellwisher would like us all to forget the racism that exists even to day in the USA that undoubtedly stems from the racist rhetoric and reality of the history of the USA and its slavery.

    It is not revisionist to actually look at what people of that time were doing, and the slavers of the USA were more racist than other slavers throughout history.
     
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    That's nothing. Our species came into existence about 200,000 years ago, in round numbers. We don't have any solid evidence of the era when spoken language was invented, but around 70,000 years ago we find a colossal increase in the evidence of complex, coordinated activities that could not possibly have been performed by people who had to use one of their hands for communication.

    It was just about 10,000 years later when the first successful journey to another continent (Asia, and eventually Australia) was completed. Again, it seems just about impossible to plan and execute a journey to a completely different place, if you're talking with your hands.
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    The word "documentation" refers to written material, including material that was "written" by a computer or other device.

    The point is that documents and documentation are the artifacts of human thought, speech and/or writing.

    What you refer to easily qualifies as "evidence," but not "documentation."
     
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Update: in an issue of the Smithsonian magazine last year, it was noted that a flute has been found, made from a bear's femur, that is carbon dated to about 40KYA.
     
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  17. river Valued Senior Member

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    Fragile

    40KYA ; means 40,000 yrs. ago .

    Just to be clear .
     
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Even two new offshoots of Abrahamism: Baha'i and Rastafarianism.

    Many Christians would add the Mormons to that list, insisting that the Mormon scriptures are not consistent with mainstream Christian beliefs and sacraments.

    I don't know if you'd count Scientology as a new religion. It's a combination of a self-help movement with a science-fiction story that was elevated to the level of scripture.
     
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    There are Egyptian heiroglyphic writings dating back to around 3000 BCE - i.e. about 5000 years ago.
     
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    And that is the first writing system of which we have evidence. It was not a phonetic system: each symbol represented a spoken word.

    But over the centuries, visitors (or guest-workers) from other places appreciated the idea of writing, took home simplified versions of the symbols and used them as phonetic symbols. The Phoenicians, in particular, devised an abjad--a writing system with no vowels, which is appropriate for the entire Afroasiatic language family with its Berber, Chadic, Egyptian, Cushitic, Omotic and Semitic branches--because vowels are not phonemic and therefore need not be transcribed.

    The alphabets used for European languages are all derived from Phoenician, although we switched the right-to-left writing style to left-to-right, which is easier and neater for the right-handed majority of humans.

    Other writing systems were eventually developed independently, notably Chinese with its thousands of symbols for individual words (you need to know about 2,000 to be called "literate," and scholars know ten times as many); the Sanskrit writing system and those used in other Indic languages; the much more recently developed Olmec system; and the Cherokee alphabet developed by Chief Sequoia less than 200 years ago (for much of the 19th century, the Native people in Oklahoma had a higher literacy rate than the people of European ancestry).
     
  21. sweetpea Registered Senior Member

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  22. river Valued Senior Member

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    there are clay tablets that go back as far as 450,000 yrs. ago .

    We have a lot to learn about our Human past .

    Ancient history has a lot to teach us .
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
  23. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Citation please. I'd like to read about these clay tablets that predate Homo sapiens.
     

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