Monday 28 December 2015

Mysteries of Indus

A fertile cradle of river-fed land, crossing parts of modern India,Pakistan and Afghanistan, gave birth to the Indus valley culture. People in it's impressive, well planned cities lived a refined life, but unlocking more about them is tantalizingly out of reach, as their script remains mostly undeciphered.

The "Early Harappan" period of the Indus valley culture(c.3300 - 2800 BC) saw the first examples of the Indus script, more sophisticated agriculture, and growing trade links.

Indus Valley script

The Indus Valley civilization peaked between about 2600 - 1900 BC, in what often is called its "Mature Harappan" Period.It depended heavily on farmland nourished by major rivers and people developed expert knowledge about how to harness and control the annual flooding patterns of rivers.

Maritime trading connections with Mesopotamia were especially important to the Indus Valley civilization. Indus influenced artifacts have been excavated in Mesopotamia - notably a set of etched carnelian beads.

This civilization went into an unexpected decline, with most of its main cities deserted by c.1700 BC. Mohenjo-Daro suffered severe flooding in the 1700s BC, and was laid waste by unknown attackers.

The city's grid pattern is visible here. Archaeologists have guessed at its
structure by giving certain excavated areas names such as "Citadel Mound",
"Lower town", "the Great Bath", but these remain contentious issues.

Monday 14 December 2015

Pharaohs of The Old Egyptian Kingdom

The Old kingdom of Egypt is best known for the large number of pyramids which were constructed at this time as pharaonic  burial places. for this reason this kingdom is also known as "the Age of the Pyramids". It lasted from 3rd to 6th dynasty(2686 - 2181 BC).

Third Dynasty(2686 - 2613 BC) 

  • Djoser was the first pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty. He commissioned the first pyramid in Egypt The Step Pyramid constructed by his chief scribe and architect Imhotep.
  • Sekhemkhet(2649 - 2643 BC)  was the second pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty. Imhotep participated in the construction of his unfinished step pyramid. 
  • Sanakhte(c.2650) was the third pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty.
  • Khaba(2643 - 2637 BC) was the fourth pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty. He built an unfinished step pyramid.
  • Huni(2637 - 2613 BC) was the fifth and last pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty.  He may have started the meidum pyramid.

Fourth Dynasty(2613 - 2498 BC) 

  • Sneferu(2613 – 2589 BC) was the first pharaoh of the 4th dynasty. Built the Meidum Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid, which is a pyramid built at a normal angle at the bottom but drastically changes at the top.
  • Khufu(2589 – 2566 BC) was the second pharaoh of 4th dynasty. He built the great pyramid of Giza.
  • Djedefra(2566 – 2558 BC) was the third pharaoh of 4th dynasty. He is Believed to have created the Great Sphinx of Giza as a monument for his deceased father. He also created a pyramid at Abu Rawash. However, this pyramid is no longer intact. 
  • Khafre(2558 – 2532 BC) was the fourth pharaoh of 4th dynasty.  His pyramid is the second largest in Giza. 
  • Menkaura(2532 – 2503 BC) was the fifth pharaoh of 4th dynasty.  His pyramid is the third and smallest in Giza.
  • Shepseskaf(2503 – 2498 BC) was the sixth and last pharaoh of 4th dynasty. Broke with the tradition of pyramid building and instead had the Mastabat el-Fara'un made for himself.
    Mastabat el-Fara'un 
Fifth Dynasty(2498 - 2345 BC

  • Userkaf(2498 – 2491 BC) was the first pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. He is Buried in a pyramid in Saqqara and built the first solar temple at Abusir.
  • Sahure(2490 – 2477 BC) was the second pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. He moved the royal necropolis to Abusir, where he built his pyramid.
  • Neferirkare Kakai(2477 – 2467 BC) was the third pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. He was Son of Sahure, born with the name Ranefer.
  • Neferefre(2460 – 2458 BC) was the fourth pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. He was Son of Neferirkare.
  • Nyuserre Ini(2445 – 2422 BC) was the fifth pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. He was Brother to Neferefre.
  • Menkauhor Kaiu(2422 – 2414 BC) was the sixth pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. Last pharaoh to build a sun temple.
Menkauhor Kaiu
  • Djedkare Isesi(2414 – 2375 BC) was the seventh pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. 
  • Unas(2375 – 2345 BC) was the eighth and last pharaoh of the 5th dynasty. The Pyramid of Unas is inscribed with the earliest instance of the pyramid texts .

Sixth Dynasty(2345 - 2181 BC

  • Teti(2345 – 2333 BC) was the first pharaoh of the 6th dynasty. He was was possibly murdered by his successor.
  • Userkare(2333–2332 BC)  was the second pharaoh of the 6th dynasty. He reigned 1 to 5 years, may have usurped the throne at the expense of Teti
  • Meryre Pepi I(2332–2283 BC)  was the third pharaoh of the 6th dynasty. 
  • Merenre Nemtyemsaf I(2283 – 2278 BC)  was the fourth pharaoh of the 6th dynasty. 
Merenre Nemtyemsaf I

  • Neferkare Pepi II(2278 – 2184 BC) was the fifth pharaoh of the 6th dynasty. He was possibly the longest reigning monarch of human history with 94 years on the throne.
  • Neferka2200 – 2199 BC)  was the sixth pharaoh of the 6th dynasty. He reigned during Pepi II; was possibly his son or co-ruler.
  • Merenre Nemtyemsaf II(1 year and 1 month c. 2184 BC) was the seventh pharaoh of the 6th dynasty. He was a short lived pharaoh, possibly an aged son of Pepi II.
  • Neitiqerty Siptah(c. 2184–2181 BC) was the eighth and last pharaoh of 6th dynasty. He is sometimes classified as the first king of the combined 7th/8th Dynasties.

Monday 30 November 2015

The Divine Pharaohs

Egypt's old kingdom(c.2686 - 2181 BC) flourished on the flood-enriched banks of the River Nile. It was an era of prosperity, relative stability, and strong centralized rule, during which the great pyramids were built and Egyptian society worshiped their mighty kings, or pharaohs, as "gods on Earth".

The period between early Neolithic settlement and 3100 BC is known as Egypt's pre-dynastic era.

Egypt's old kingdom existed in two parts - Northern(Upper) Egypt and Southern(Lower) Egypt. the old kingdom lasted from 3rd dynasty to 6th dynasty. The capital city of old Egyptian kingdom was Memphis.

Djoser was the second pharaoh of the third dynasty(2686 - 2613 BC) and Imhotep was his chief adviser and physician. Imhotep is credited as the main architect of Djoser's step pyramid in Memphis and was worshiped as god in later ancient Egypt and Greece.

Djoser's step Pyramid

The early pharaohs were representations of mythical figure Horus, son of god Osiris and Isis. He was often depicted as dressed in kind of a kilt(skirt type garment) and false beard, bearing a crook and scepter and with the double crown of Lower and Upper Egypt on his head.

Pharaoh Tutankhamen  

The great pyramid at Giza - the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and the only one to survive till date.Two million blocks each weighing 15,000 Kg were used in building this pyramid. The great sphinx is also thought to have Khufu's features.

The middle or the second largest pyramid at Giza belong to Pharaoh Khafre and the smallest one to Pharaoh Menkaure. 

The Giza pyramid complex

At the end of sixth Dynasty after the reign of Pepe II, the old kingdom started to fade and nobles gained more power then Pharaohs.

Thursday 5 November 2015

The Cradle of Civilization

Mesopotamia, a fertile land embraced by rivers, was the site of the first complex societies. By 3,000 BC, competing city states of great wealth an sophistication were flourishing here, with advanced irrigation and agricultural schemes, established trade, the first known writing, and great palaces and temples.

The civilization of Mesopotamia included Iraq, southwest Iran, east Syria and south east Turkey.

Mesopotamia had no native metal or ore so both Copper and Gold had to be imported from Anatolia.

Trade came to involve Tigris and Euphrates rivers where rafts made of wood and inflated goat skins came into use by 3,000 BC. They had trade ties with modern Afghanistan, Persian gulf and Indus valley.

Sargon (Ruled 2340 BC - 2284 BC) was a great warrior king who established the Akkadian dynasty and ruled from his capital Akkad. Unlike Egyptian civilization there was no centralized rule and kings were rarely thought to be divine.

Bronze cast head of Sargon
In one grave 74 bodies were found that let us know that slaves must do god's bidding to such an extent that palace staff would entomb themselves with the king.

In science their numerical system was based on number 60 that lives in division of circle in 360 degrees and splitting of hours and minutes in 60 parts.

By around 3,000 BC Mesopotamia was entering an era known as Early dynastic period which lasted for 700 years.

After the Akkadian era, the third dynasty of Ur(2100 - 2000 BC) fought off competing city states to found a short lived empire and after the Ur dynasty faded, the Assyrian city state of Assur(2000 - 18000 BC) emerged as the center of vast trade network in north.

By 1900 BC, the city of Babylon had been emerging as a dominant power.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Sickness and Health

The desire to stay alive and healthy is a basic human instinct. It is no wonder, then, that people in early civilizations attempted to explain the origins of disease - and intervened to soothe pain, encourage healing, and effect cures.Some of these traditional approaches are still in use today.

The earliest known surgery is dated back to 40,000 BC was trepanning, drilling the hole in the skull to reveal disease causing spirits.

Some tools in Neolithic period were used in preemptive attempts at surgery. Flint tipped dental drills that were found in modern day Pakistan dates as back as 7,000 BC were used to remove rotten dental issues.

In Mesopotamia a willow bark extract was used to relieve headaches and reduce fever. That extract is salicyclic acid, the main ingredient in aspirin.
Medicinal herbs

Sushruta, was the man behind Ayurveda whose 6th century BC work Sushruta Samhita describe 100 surgical instruments and 300 procedures. He is often referred to as father of surgery.

The Olmec in Central America had areas of their gardens set aside for growing medicinal herbs.

Acupuncture - It aims to restore health and well being and to relive pain. Still one of the mainstays of Traditional Chinese Medicine, It was probably developed in Han China around 200 CE. it involves insertion of thin needles into the body at acupuncture points.

Theory Of Humors -  According to this theory human body was composed of four humors : Blood, Phlegm, Black bile and Yellow bile and illness was the result of an imbalance between them.

The Ebers Papyrus written in Egypt in 2nd Century BC contains long list of incantations designed to turn away evil spirits.

Ancient Rome is celebrated for it's initiative for public health. Their water supplies, heating systems , sewage and public baths were well ahead of their time.

During the 1st millennium BC  medicine became more systematic, but supernatural explanations and non-scientific folk remedies prevailed until after the scientific revolution of the 18th century.

Monday 12 October 2015

Precious Metal

Humans had made tools out of stone, bone and wood for thousands of years. The advent of copper working around 8,000 years ago was the beginning of the long association with metals, and a significant watershed in human history, which led to even further innovation.

Metal working started in Anatolia and Mesopotamia(modern day Turkey and Iran) in around 5000 BC and spread westward and northward reaching Northern Europe by 2000 BC.

Copper Smelting discovery is believed to have been made at some point before 5000 BC when by accident copper ore was being dropped into hearth and reacted with hot embers.

Model of copper smelting installation

Copper metallurgy developed in Italy and Spain by 3,5000 BC and in Britain in 2000 BC.

The first Copper Tin alloy - Bronze, was produced around 2,000 BC.

Bronze Age - A period defined by the use of bronze as most important material for making tools and weapons. It was from 3,000 BC to 1,200 BC in Middle East.

Iron Age - A period defined by the use of Iron as most important material for making tools and weapons. It was introduced from 1,200 BC and eventually became more useful than Bronze.

Steel an alloy of Aluminium and Carbon came into limited use as early as 500 BC.

At the beginning of the Bronze Age around 3,000 BC civilizations such as Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt and Indus valley were well established.

Friday 2 October 2015

First Harvest

Everyone in the world lived by hunting and gathering 12,000 years ago. But only 6,000 years later every human society with the ability to farm and herd animals produced its own food.

Neolithic Period -  The last part of the stone age period beginning from 10,000 BC in Middle East, 5,500 BC in Central America and 4,500 BC in North America. The key characteristic of this period is the introduction of farming.

Neolithic Farming

As they were constantly on the move, not living in large groups, hunters and gatherers suffered rarely from infectious disease. Life expectancy was low due to physical danger.

There was a change in diet, with less variety and a single crop often wheat. Repetitive task such as grinding wheat for flour caused excessive wear to some people's joints causing Arthritis.

More food cooking for babies meant less dependent on their mother's milk caused new conditions such as amnesia and scurvy.

Farming spread to

  •    Middle East - By 10,000 BC
  •    South East Asia - By 8,500 BC
  •    India - By 6,000 BC
  •    Central America - By 5,000 BC
  •    Europe - By 5,300 BC
  •    Asia - By 4,500 BC
  •    North America - By 2,500 BC
  •    Central Africa - By 2,000 BC

The diets of people were low in fiber and higher in fat and salt than their hunter predecessor. There is evidence that this lead to an increase in conditions such as high blood pressure and cancer - a trend that continues even today. 

Sunday 20 September 2015

Out Of Africa

Every human today is the descendant of a small group of modern humans who left Africa around 60,000 years ago to explore the planet. We can see the legacy of these journeys today in the diversity of races and cultures around the world.

Earth's population was one million 50,000 years ago.

Humans left Africa to enter

  • South Africa - 1,20,000 years ago
  • Europe - 60,000 years ago
  • Asia - 50,000 years ago
  • Australia - 45,000 years ago
  • Russia - 25,000 years ago
  • North America - 15,000 years ago
  • South America - 12,000 years ago                            

The last glacial period lasted from 100,000 years to 50,000 years ago. Siberia and Alaska were linked by 1,000 km of Ice. This was known as Bering Land Bridge. It is because of this bridge Homo Sapiens were able to travel from Russia to the Alaska. This was followed by a slightly warm period before the temperatures dropped again till 10,000 years ago.

Evidence has been found that Neanderthals buried their dead starting from at least 60,000 years ago.

Needle to sew cloths was invented 30,000 years ago.

23,000 - 30,000 year old needle found in China

Hunting and foraging was the only way of life up till 12,000 years ago.

By 10,000 years ago humans had spread through every continent. Later explorers from medieval Europe found their New World already Inhabited.

 Bows and arrows appeared in the late Ice age and came into widespread use about 10,000 BC. The two types of arrows included Flint arrows Mesolithic arrows.
Flint arrow heads

Shamans were the doctors, priests and medical men of that time.

Human population increased and stretched as areas that had been glacial became temperate.


Monday 14 September 2015

The Ice Age

There were four major Ice Ages in Earth's history. The earliest of these is believed to have occurred around 2.7 - 2.3 billion years ago during the Proterozonic period*.

The Big Chill - The abrupt cooling about 1.5 million years ago led to the last ice age known as Pleistocene Epoch, probably resulted from small shifts in the Earth's tilt towards the Sun.

The climate was divided into two periods :

  • Glacial Period(Cold)
  • Inter Glacial Period(Warm)
Glacial Period

The current Inter Glacial period began around 10,000 years ago.

After 5,000 years of irregular warming and cooling the world shifted from Glacial period to the current Inter Glacial period.

El NiNo Phenomenon - It is the reversal in the flow of water in the Pacific ocean that causes change in weather in every 2 to 7 years time. It is one of the most powerful factor that affects climate after seasons. It is the warm phase and its counterpart cool phase is known as La Nina Phenomenon. 

*Proterozonic Period - The period extending between 2.5 Billion years and 541 million years ago.

Thursday 10 September 2015

Our Remote Ancestors

Evolution of Humans 

  •  Homo Habilis - Between 2.8 and 1.5 Million years ago(communication through Signs andGrunts).
  • Homo Erectus -  Between 1,5 Million and 70,000  years ago.
  • Homo Heidelbergensis - Between 600 and 200 thousand years ago(First to develop Hyoid bone*).
  • Homo Neanderthalensis- Between 300,000 and 50,000 years ago(Lifespan was 30-40 years).
  • Homo Sapiens- From 150,000 onwards.

Homo Erectus

Around 8,000 BC Jericho, Palestine( the oldest continuously inhabited town) is founded.

Homonin - It is the term used for all early humans.

Paleolithic Period -   Period between 2.5 million years ago(first use of stone tools) till 10,000BC (beginning of agriculture).

Stone Tools - Homo Habilis used the simplest stone technology, which was refined by Homo Erectus into stone axes. The Neanderthals were the first to mount stones on spear heads.

Paleolithic Stone Tools

Around 24,000 years ago Neanderthals died at the hands of Homo Sapiens who were successful in adapting to every corner of the globe.

Human language may have evolved because of the need to handle complex social information around 40,000 years ago. 

Brain Development - The earliest signs of development of Broca's area, the part of brain which controls speech, occur in Homo Habilis 2 million years ago. It is located on left hemisphere of the frontal lobe in our brain.    

Evolution of Homonin Skull

*Hyoid Bone - A bone that is present in neck of humans which is necessary for co-articulation and speech.                     
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