For 2 million years man wandered the face of the earth. With fire and stone tools he had some control over the physical world. With the agricultural revolution he learns to control the biological world: how to plant grain, like wheat and maize, and to keep animals, like goats and sheep. With that came a social revolution: villages, towns and cities sprang up.
Civilization can never grow up on the move. A good example is the Bakhtiari in Iran. Every year they must cross six mountain ranges with their sheep and goats to get to the summer grasslands and then come all the way back to get to the autumn ones. The worst part is not the mountains but the Bazuft, a wild and deadly river they must cross. Those who are too old to cross starve to death at the river’s edge.
Because the Bakhtiari are always on the move they have little: they must be able to pack and carry everything they own every day. So everything they have is simple and lightweight. Their life is so hard there is little time for invention, even for a new song. Every son becomes like his father, every daughter like her mother. every day is like the day before.
With planting man could grow more food than he needs. He could live in one place and build a house and have a home. His wanderings were over. He could own way more things. He had time for new songs, for creating new things. Even the simplest village has all sorts of little inventions that we do not even think about: needles, pots, nails, screws, string, knots, hooks, buttons, shoes, etc.
One of the oldest cities in the world is Jericho of the Bible. By -6ooo it had 3,000 people. Joshua would not arrive for another 4,600 years. It was made possible by two things: wheat and water.
The wheat that we know, the wheat we make bread out of, did not grow anywhere in the world in -80oo. It came about by a true fairy tale of genetics: first Emmer wheat came from crossing two wild grasses. That crossed again with yet another wild grass and then mutated to give us bread wheat. Like maize, it needs man to plant and care for it.
- -8000: Emmer wheat, sheep, goats
- -6000: towns: Jericho has 3,000 people
- -5000: pots
- -3000: wheel, horse
- -2000: men riding horses
- -1000: the time of King David
The horse was faster and stronger than any animal man knew how to control. The best horsemen were herdsmen, like the Scythians and the Mongols. They did not respect civilization. From time to time they would come out of the grasslands in the middle of Eurasia, destroying all before them. They were an empty whirlwind: they had nothing of their own to give. The future of man did not lay with them.
– Abagond, 2009.