4: A Transition between Eras
For a very long time, these two societies did not come into conflict with each other.
One society was built on the principle of territorial sovereignty: A group came to an area and ‘claimed’ it for the group. They acted as if it belonged to them. They had exclusive rights to that part of the world; this is another way of saying they had ‘sovereignty’ over that part of the world. The people in these societies lived behind borders. They protected the borders. They lived in much the same way that their evolutionary ancestors, the chimpanzees lived. These societies had evolved under conditions that favored fanatical violence and possessive territoriality.
Groups that were more tolerant and generous (meaning ‘less fanatical and possessive’) would not fight as hard as more fanatical and territorial groups and would be at a disadvantage in wars. They would tend to lose while the more fanatical win. There would be a slow evolutionary process that would make the average group with these societies more fanatical.
The other society had evolved in areas that were simply not productive enough to support territorial sovereignty societies. To have these societies, the land must produce enough to support the people who work in production plus enough of a surplus to support the military, the people who build and maintain border defenses, the industrial complex that built weapons, and the ‘government’ that ran everything. These societies couldn’t exist in areas where land wasn’t productive enough to support all of this. In less productive areas, the people had to organize differently. If they spent all their time fighting, they wouldn’t have enough time to get enough food to maintain their populations. They had to find ways to get along with others, to share resources in some way (mostly by trade), and to cooperate with other groups to do things that the individuals and small traveling groups couldn’t do by themselves. These societies, the ‘denisovan societies,’ were in place in the areas outside of the walled cities.
Prior to the innovations and changes that happened about 6,000 years ago in Afro Eurasia (discussed below), these societies didn’t come into any real conflict for the same reason that the societies of the chimps and bonobos didn’t come into any real conflict for millions of years: they existed in different ‘habitats.’ The territorial sovereignty societies existed only in areas that had rich patches of land that were ‘colonizable.’ The people in these areas wouldn’t fight over land that was not in this category and wouldn’t want to live in these areas even if they could live there without conflict. They had ‘ways of life’ that came, in part, from their genetic heritage and in part from their cultural heritage.
To them, the idea of ‘home’ was very important.
You can see the incredible emotional attraction of ‘home’ in popular literature. Many books and movies show people who wind up, for some reason, in someplace far from their homes. (In many ‘science fiction’ stories they travel through time or onto other planets.) But the stories all seem to revolve around attempts that they are making to ‘get back home.’ In many cases, this seems to be rather silly to me because the place where the story has taken them can give them a far better quality of life than ‘home.’ But the authors know their readers can relate to the need for home because the readers (people who were raised in territorial sovereignty societies and generally have neanderthal/homo-habilis/chimp heritage) have the same instinctual impulses that push them to feel uncomfortable and unsatisfied whenever they are away from the place and time they think of as ‘home.’
The people in the territorial sovereignty societies had weapons and advanced military tactics, so they could ‘take’ this land from people with denisovan societies if they wanted it. They didn’t do this because they didn’t want anywhere they couldn’t build ‘homes’ and keep them secure. They let the people who lived outside the walls ‘have’ the great bulk of the planet’s land. Not because they are generous, but because this land didn’t produce the surpluses that were needed to support their preferred ways of life.
The people who lived outside the walls were used to freedom. They could travel wherever they wanted, as long as they didn’t try to go into the city states without getting the proper permissions. The city states required everyone to pay for the right to simply be alive in some way. (At the very least, everyone had to make contributions to the defense of their ‘country.’ In territorial sovereignty societies that had money, this meant paying taxes. In societies without money, it meant turning over a share of whatever they made to use for common defense and agreeing to be part of the military themselves for some period of time.)
The people with the denisovan societies didn’t have to pay anyone just to stay alive. They could sleep in their tents along the rivers. They could eat the fish, eggs, birds, venison, berries, roots, nuts, seeds, and other things nature provided. If they didn’t like the weather where they were they didn’t have to put up with it: they could pack up and head somewhere nicer. (Many people in our 21st century world want this, but they can’t afford all the things they have to bring with them to bring their way of life in their travels; a fully-equipped recreational vehicle can cost more than many people in the 21st century make in ten years.)
The people with the denisovan societies wouldn’t have any real conflict with the people with the territorial sovereignty societies because they wouldn’t want to live the way these people lived, even if they could do this without fighting. The following is a quote is from an ‘Indian’ in America who gives a pretty fair impression of what he thinks life is like in the cities, but it can give you some idea what the people living in the denisovan societies would have thought about life in the city-states in Afro Eurasia prior tens of thousands of years ago:
The air is precious to the red man for all things share the same breath, the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days he is numb to the stench.
When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires, that is the end of living and the beginning of survival.
Life in the cities would not be ‘living’ to this author (Chief Seattle of the Duwamish.) It would simply be surviving. (As we will see, a very large percentage of the people the conquering governments called ‘Indians’ committed suicide when they realized they couldn’t maintain their ways of life anymore. The lives that the conquerors wanted to impose on them weren’t what they considered to be ‘living.’)
Two entirely different cultures existed on earth during the early era of modern humans . But these two cultures weren’t in any real conflict for most of this time because of the above factors.
Then something changed.
The people in the societies built on territorial sovereignty could now keep their way of life in areas that were not nearly as productive as the areas where they lived before these technologies.
An Amazing New Tehcnology (in 4,000 BC): Horses that could be Ridden
The important changes started with a complicated set of breeding experiments that turned what had been a very large number of what we may call ‘horse-like animals’ into the animals that we now call ‘horses.’
All horse-like animals are in the zoological taxonomy of Perissodactyla and the zoological family of Equidae. This family has thousands of different individual members, all of which are unique genetically.
America had a great many members of the family Equidae until the pleistocene extinction events. They had ‘horse like animals.’ But all members of this genus that existed when humans first arrived disappeared soon after the first humans arrived, in the extinction events.
Most members of this animal family also perished in Afro Eurasia when modern humans arrived in different areas. But a few of them continued to exist into the era of modern humans. We don’t know the exact reason that these animals were spared, but it probably has something to do with milk. All mammals produce milk to feed their young (this is how the species is defined). Milk is an extremely important food for migratory people. There are still migratory people in Tibet, Mongolia, Siberia, and Northern Canada that rely on dairy products for a large part of their nutritional needs. In many of these areas, horses or horse-like animals provide the milk. (You can buy horse-based diary products in stores in these areas; if you really want to see what it is like, you can order them on line. I have tried them and can tell you that they aren’t much different from cow-based dairy products.)
Migratory people can bring milk, cream, and butter with them, in endless quantities, by bringing horses or horse-like animals. If you have horses that you can milk, you don’t need a refrigerator: you can go directly from the horse into your mouth and have food that is germ-free and totally healthy.
This may not have been the exact reason early modern humans spared the horse-like animals, but it seems like a reasonable explanation for what we see, so we might accept it as a kind of working theory to help us understand the past, at least until we have some information that shows it is not true. Whatever the reason, we know that a significant number of species of this animal family not go extinct on the Afro-Eurasian landmass.
These horse-like animals were not really suitable for pulling plows, wagons, or for riding. However, over long periods of time, the people who kept the horse-like animals cross bred them to create new varieties, with various different uses. Scientists have identified 273 different precursor horse-like animals in the genetic mix of modern horses. Breeders worked with different animals to create animals capable of doing the things they wanted done. You might imagine they would want animals that could carry a pack and pull a travois. Little kids climb on everything and some parents would put their children on docile horse-like animals for them to ride. The herders of these animals would selectively breed them to make them bigger and stronger.
About 6,000 years ago, they succeeded in creating breeds that were capable of carrying adults on their backs and of pulling wagons, plows, and other equipment.
Where did these innovations take place?
There is a lot of controversy about this.
The people of three areas (Spain, the Ukraine, and Arabia) all claim these changes took place in their area and their people are the ones who figured out how to make this happen. This is a dangerous topic to bring up in areas where people have great affection to horses, because many people who tend to drink a lot of alcohol have very strong opinions about it and get violent when people dispute their claims.
Ridable horses must have seemed like marvels to the first people who saw them.
As soon as people saw them, they wanted them. They could change the life of the person who got it. they are fantastically useful in war, so military leaders wanted them very badly. They could carry troops at 10 times the former speed and they could haul wagons with hundreds of times more cargo than humans could carry on their backs. Migratory people wanted them too: they didn’t want to have to carry their things when they traveled.
A healthy mare (female horse) can produce a foal (a baby horse) every year. She can therefore produce two new horses, enough to replace herself and her stud (the male) every two years, and produce four new horses (enough to replace herself and her stud two times over) each four years. it is therefore possible for the population of horses to more than double every 4 years.
If you started with 10 horses and went through 10 doublings (this would take about 40 years), you would have 10,240 horses. In another 40 years it will double 10 more times and you would have more than 10 million animals.
Once people had bred useable animals in enough numbers to create a viable gene pool, horse populations would explode. Within a few centuries, horses would be common everywhere in the Afro-Eurasian continent.
We don’t know the details in Afro Eurasia, but we do know what happened in the Americas. The first horses were brought to the Americas by Spaniards about the year 1500. We don’t know the exact numbers, but it would not have been very large: horses are very hard to transport. By the year 1900, there were more than 100 million horses in the part of America now called the United States alone; about ¾ of them were ‘feral’ or wild horses.)
The Advantages Of The Horse
This quote is from Britannica:
When Cortés sailed for the coast of Yucatán on February 18, 1519, he had 11 ships, 508 soldiers, about 100 sailors, and—most important—16 horses
The writers on Britannica think the most important cargo on the ships were the horses. If you read books about the conquest you will understand the importance. (I recommend the wonderful and extremely well researched book ‘The Conquest of Mexico’ by William Prescott, which is available in the references section of the PossibleSocieties.com website.) The horses were the key to Cortez and his small contingent of solders conquering what many scholars today think was the most populous valley in the world, the great valley of Mexico, with more than 30 million people with a dozen different cultures, all in a period of less than two years.
This is from another Britannica article:
In 1531 Francisco Pizarro’s expedition of 180 men and 37 horses sailed to the Inca empire in Peru. A Spanish priest met with the Inca emperor Atahuallpa, exhorting him to accept Christianity and Charles V. After Atahuallpa refused, Pizarro’s forces attacked, captured, and later executed Atahuallpa, enabling Pizarro to occupy Cuzco, effectively conquering the empire.
Again, if you read accounts of the conquest by people who were there, you will see that this conquest (this time of about 12 million people, also according to Britannica) would not have been possible without horses.
Horse made enormous difference in war.
The horse changed the dynamics of Afro-Eurasia in many ways. Of course, it made it possible for a well-organized military to conquer and hold vast amounts of territory. But it also made it possible for the sedentary and stationary lifestyle that was common in the city-states to expand into large new areas.
With a few horses and some equipment, a family could plant and harvest hundreds of acres of land. They could go out to work in the morning (after having eaten a hearty breakfast of eggs from their henhouses and pancakes made of flour from stored grains, and bacon from their pigs) and come home and sleep in the same bed each night. They could live just like they lived in the city
A lot of people lived in cramped quarters in city-states.
They would have liked to have had more space. But they couldn’t move outside the walls because they couldn’t live the same way there. They couldn’t be defended. They couldn’t keep homes and sleep in the same beds. They couldn’t go to stores. Horses changed all this. Mounted soldiers could protect farmers living outside the gates, at least most of the time. (Watch TV westerns and you will be able to get at least some idea how this happened. The farmers are threatened by either ‘Indians’ or bad whites. The sheriff can usually find a solution. If not, they call in the cavalry.)
With horses to haul in supplies, they could have their luxuries: Glass for their windows, pot-belly stoves to keep them warm, jars and pots to put up fruits in the summer; clothes made in mills that may be hundreds of miles away
If a town with stores is 10 miles away, people without horses can’t go there more than once every few months. With horses, they can ride to town every day if they want. They can enjoy almost all of the benefits of living in town, but still have plenty of space to move.
The Conquest of Afro-Eurasia by States
The areas between the states weren’t vacant. People lived there. In many cases, these people were migratory and only lived in these areas part of the year. But they didn’t migrate at random. They followed the weather, the rains, the grass, the fruits, the fish, and the animals. They had places where they went. Until the time of the horse, these areas were unowned and didn’t belong to anyone. They didn’t have to pay to use them. They didn’t have people who claimed to own them.
These people didn’t pay taxes. They didn’t have governments. They didn’t want to pay taxes and have governments. They didn’t want to have to have borders that kept them from living as they had lived before. If the people from the city-states wanted to move their lifestyle and society to these areas, they would either have to assimilate these people into their culture or bring in armies to prevent them from interfering in the settlements, by force if necessary. They would have to ‘conquer’ these lands.
This wouldn’t be much of a problem for them from a practical perspective. They were used to aggressive and violent conflict. The evolutionary forces discussed above had created both genetic and cultural pressure to make them more and more aggressive and violent over time. They had legacies of war. They raised their children to be warriors. They considered people who did well in war (efficient and brutal mass murderers) to be the greatest of heroes, to be emulated and even worshiped. Their leaders had ways to spin even the most horrible events to make it appear that they were doing the right thing. The people would not be told they were fighting to impose a system on people against their will. They would be told that they were fighting to bring democracy, liberty, justice, freedom and the other things that only states could bring to the otherwise lawless land. The ones they are killing are not really people they would be told; they were vermin that couldn’t be civilized and had to be killed like rats.
We know a lot about the conquest of the Americas by European states. This happened very recently, the conquerors kept good records, and many historians have presented accounts, from many different perspectives, about the events. We will go over this information when we get to that point in history. We don’t know much about the period that started about 6,000 years ago when the entities called ‘states’ expanded from their walled enclosures to take over the land outside.
This probably took place very quickly. The history books were written by the victors. They almost certainly had to use the same brutal methods used to conquer the ‘Indians’ of the Americas in the period between 1500 and 1900. They would not have been proud of their behavior. The conquered people almost certainly would have had the same sad stories that the conquered American native people had 5,500 years later. But, as was the case in the conquest of the Americas, not many would be left alive to tell anything to anyone.
In the Americas, these people were wiped out, put onto reserves, or assimilated in less than four human lifetimes. Afro-Eurasia is larger, so it may have taken longer. But not much longer. Before the domestication of the horse, most of the land of Afro-Eurasian was not in any state at all. It was free land, unowned and no one had any more rights to it than anyone else. But the states grew, probably very quickly. Within a thousand years, the states had conquered much of this land. In some places, all of the unowned land was conquered and, after the conquests, the states were touching each other, with the border of one the border of its neighbor.
The states of Southern Europe appear to have been particularly aggressive about conquering the land. In this area, there was no vacant land that wasn’t claimed by any state. It was all part of one state or another. It was relatively easy to conquer the land that was occupied by the stateless people. After this easy-to-take land was gone, they would have to fight another state to take more. The states all had armies. They all had weapons. They were used to war and had trained their children that it was their responsibility to give everything they have, if necessary, to help the state defeat its enemies.
The people who ran the militaries of the states now had a lot more to fear than they had before, when there was space between them and their enemies. Their enemies were right there, on the other side of their borders. In most cases, the borders were not the high walls that had been borders before. The enemy states could attack at any moment. The leaders had incredible pressure on them to try to work out ways to protect themselves from their enemies. They needed weapons very badly. Until this time, weapons were quite primitive. They used the same basic weapons as Neanderthals had used hundreds of thousands of years earlier: bows and arrows, javelins, and slings. All the states had the same weapons. To gain an advantage, they would need something new.
The Bronze Age
People had had some metals for a long time. Lead, copper, zinc, and tin can all be ‘smelted’ (removed from ore using a combination of smoke and melting) in an ordinary wood fire. But none of these metals was remotely as hard as the rocks they used for their knives and arrowheads. They were all very soft and weak metals, not really useful in war.
But it is possible to make very hard, strong, and useful metals by mixing some of these soft metals and heating to melt them together. These mixtures are called alloys
Modern bronze is a mixture of 88% copper, 7% tin, and 5% lead. You can make bronze yourself if you want, in a fire pit in your yard. You can watch internet videos that show you how to do it. The first to make bronze didn’t hit on this ratio right away. They found mixing two metals made the result stronger and harder. They experimented. Eventually they hit on the ratio above, which is the ratio we still use today.
Bronze is extremely hard. You can find bronze items in many museums. Most of the bronze items I have seen are weapons. Bronze can be cast into any shape desired. If it cast into a sword, the edge can then be sharpened by rubbing it on a stone. You can make it as sharp as a razor. It will cut off enemy’s hand or head with a single stroke.
Armies with bronze daggers, battleaxes, swords, halyards, pikes, and with arrows and spears with bronze tips can easily defeat armies that only had tools made of rocks and sticks. If you run a state and have bronze weapons, while your enemies only have weapons made of rocks and sticks, you are going to be able to defeat them.
Bronze items have been found and dated to as far back as 2775 BCE.
BCE means ‘before current era.’ It is the replacement term for BC, which meant ‘before Christ.’ It means the same thing, so 2775 BCE is the same year as 2775 BC. To get the date BP, which means before the present, add the year number by the Christian calendar. If it is the year 2025, the year BP is 4800 BP. I am sorry for having to use these confusing terms, but they reflect the standards of the time and reflect dates you will find from other sources.
However, bronze tarnishes over time, in the same way that steel rusts an most analysts I found seem to think that bronze was being made up to 825 years before that, or starting about 3,500 BCE (or about 5,525 BP, see text box above).
Bronze weapons provided great military advantages to those who had them. Other states had to figure out how to make bronze themselves or they would almost certainly be defeated. If they were defeated, the victors would bring the new technology to the area. Either way, the technology spread quickly.
Iron and Steel
Bronze is a very useful military metal. But steel is much, much better. A steel sword will slice right through bronze armor. A steel arrowhead can cut through the thickest leather to kill the solder underneath.
I want to explain the process of making steel, because you really need to understand its incredible difficulty in order to understand the social changes that will take place in systems that produce steel. Steel is an industrial product. It is extremely hard to make (as you will see shortly), requires a great many workers, all of whom have to be very skilled. The next transition will take us to an industrial society, the type that dominates the world now. Industry requires a great many complex structures that are not necessary in non-industrial systems. It needs money, for example; it needs courts and rules to protect private property rights, it needs massive roads and other infrastructures, and it needs an investment system that allows large amounts of ‘capital’ to be raised and dedicated to the project. All industrial societies are necessarily extremely complex. I don’t think you can really appreciate the changes that will happen next, in the historical account, without understanding how difficult it is to make steel.
If you want to make steel, you need to start with iron. Iron is one of the most abundant elements on the earth. But it is not found in metal form. It is found mixed with oxygen, as ‘iron oxide,’ also known as ‘rust.’ To get metal, you need to remove the oxygen. The process of removing the oxygen is called ‘smelting.’
The term smelting is a combination of the word ‘smoke’ and ‘melting.’
It uses smoke to get metal to melt.
The smoke is needed because smoke contains carbon monoxide. This gas has a very strong affinity to oxygen: each molecule of carbon monoxide wants to grab another oxygen atom from somewhere to form carbon dioxide, with is a very stable material with extremely strong bonds. You generate the carbon monoxide by building a fire. You put the ore into the fire (this is described below). As the ore heats, the chemical bond between the oxygen and ore gets weaker and weaker. At some point, the bond is so weak that the carbon monoxides attraction is stronger, and the oxygen flies out of the ore and into the smoke. At this point, the metal instantly melts. It will drip through the fire to the ash below. You can wait until the ash is cool and sift through it to find the bits of metal.
The process is the same for al metals. But the temperature needed for smelting is different for each metal. The softer metals smelt at relatively low temperatures. You can smelt them with a wood fire. This is not true for iron
To smelt iron, you need an extremely hot fire. Wood doesn’t burn hot enough for this. Natural gas doesn’t burn hot enough. Coal doesn’t burn hot enough. Oil doesn’t burn hot enough. The only natural fuel that burns hot enough to smelt iron is pure carbon. The only common source for pure carbon is charcoal.
If you want to smelt iron, you need charcoal. You will need a lot of it, as you will see. (One of the main justifications for the exploration to the new world in the 1400s was a search for wood. The forests in Europe had all been cut down to make charcoal, mainly to use to make steel. The mills had all shut down for a lack of fuel. One of the first things that Columbus did when he began conquest of Haiti was begin cutting down the forests there to make charcoal. This was the ‘black gold’ of his day.) The text box below explains how to make charcoal:
Wood to charcoal:
Wood is made of hydrocarbons, which are molecules with both hydrogen and carbon. To get pure carbon (charcoal) you need to get rid of the hydrogen. You do this by heating the wood to a very high temperature under conditions that prevent it from catching on fire. To prevent this, you need to make sure that no oxygen (from the air) is in contact with the wood
If you want to do this, you need to build a kind of igloo out of clay blocks, large enough for you to sit inside. It needs a chimney on the top at least 6 feet high and an opening at ground level big enough to crawl through with loads of wood for the fire inside. You then pile the wood you will turn into charcoal over the igloo to a depth of about 5 feet. You then cover the entire thing with about a foot of dirt. Then build a fire in the igloo. (The air for the fire will come through the opening you walk through to carry the wood.) Keep it very very hot for about 2 days. You will have to work furiously this entire time to make sure there is enough wood in the igloo to keep the fire inside at the right temperature.
Then let it cool for a few days and remove the dirt. You have charcoal.
It takes about three tons of wood to make a ton of charcoal this way. You put a ton and a half of wood on the igloo to start. You burn the other ton and a half. After the process is over, the charcoal will be 2/3 as heavy as the wood originally used to create it. It is very unpleasant work and requires a lot of skill. You have to understand a lot of things to do it right, and you have to do them all well. But all this is necessary to make steel.
Once you have charcoal, you need to make the smelting furnace and the bellows. You can make the smelter out of clay. It needs to be a certain shape with a chimney and a hole in the bottom for the bellows. People used to make the bellows out leather that is fastened to two large boards.
Once you have this set up, you can start smelting iron. You start by building a fire in the furnace using charcoal. Then you need several people who will rotate with each other to pump the bellows as rapidly as they can. This bellows blows air (which contains oxygen that the charcoal needs to burn) through the pulverized fuel, causing it to burn more rapidly and making it hotter. If you watch this being done, you will see that even the strongest workers can’t last much longer than 10 minutes on the bellows at the required pace. This means you will need to rotate people onto this task. You will probably need at least 6 people for this; that gives them one 10 minute shift every hour.
You also need a large number of people pouring of pulverized charcoal down the chimney and into the furnace. As you do this, the fire gets hotter and hotter. At a certain point, it is hot enough. (You will need someone who has done this before to tell you when you are at this point.) Now you can start mixing tiny bits of iron ore into charcoal. Keep pouring the ore and fuel mixture into the chimney for about 18 hours. You need massive amounts of fuel for this. All this time, your helpers must be pumping the bellows furiously: if they slow down for even a few seconds, the furnace will become too cool and all effort so far will be wasted: you will have no iron.
If you do this right, after 18 hours there will be iron metal in the furnace. The metal turns into a liquid as soon as it loses its oxygen. It then drips out of the mixture and flows to the bottom. You will want to put a mold on the bottom to catch the iron. It will harden to the shape of the mold. The standard mold looks like a mother pig nursing her piglets. Because of this, the iron in this form is called ‘pig iron.’
If you are very skilled and good at cutting your costs, you will be able to smelt about 2 pounds of pig iron with the three tons of wood you started with
For weapons, nothing beats steel. Because steel is so strong, a thin and light steel sword will be much stronger than a heavy and awkward bronze sword. The person with the lighter and stronger sword will have a great advantage over someone with a heavier but weaker weapon.
You have to do a lot of hard work to turn iron into steel. You can find many descriptions on the internet, but here is a quick one: Take the pig iron and hold it with tongs. Put it into a very hot charcoal fire. Leave it there until it glows white hot. Then take it out and hammer it into a thin sheet. Then fold the sheet in half and hammer the halves into a new thin sheet, heating as necessary. Keep doing this. You will have more and more sheets, each of which will get thinner and thinner.
The difference between iron and steel is carbon. Steel has between 1% and 3% carbon. The carbon comes from the smoke of the charcoal fire. You need to literally beat it into the metal. The more carbon the metal has, the harder the steel. The 1% steel is considered ‘soft’ steel. It is still much harder than iron and has many uses, so a lot is made. The 3% steel is very hard, suitable for tools and swords. There is a television show called ‘forged in fire’ where people compete to make steel knives using this method. They have machines to do the hammering, so they can make good steel in a few days. But if you did the hamming by and, you would take several months to make a good knife or sword. Back when the work was done by hand, officers would often pay more than a full year’s salary to get a high quality sword.
Steel is a fantastic product. It now holds together skyscrapers that are thousands of feet high; it forms the hulls of submarines that travel thousands of feet below the ocean, it is the shell for bombs and rockets, and almost all useful tools are made at least partly of steel.
As of the 21st century, nearly all military weapons are made of steel; for most military uses, nothing superior has been found in spite of 4,000 years of searching
In 2000, archeologists found the oldest steel weapon to be discovered to date at the Kaman-Kalehöyük archeological site in Turkey. Here is an excerpt from the press release:
A piece of ironware excavated from a Turkish archaeological site is
about 4,000 years old, making it the world’s oldest steel, Japanese
archaeologists said on Thursday. Archaeologists
from the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan excavated the 5-centimetre
piece at the Kaman-Kalehoyuk archaeological site in Turkey, about 100
kilometers southeast of Ankara, in 2000.
The ironware piece is believed to be a part of a knife from a stratum
about 4,000 years old, or 2100-1950 BC, according to them
An analysis at the Iwate Prefectural Museum in Morioka showed that the ironware piece was about 200 years older than one that was excavated from the same site in 1994 and was believed to be the oldest steel so far made in 20th-18th centuries BC. The ironware is highly likely to have been produced near the Kaman-Kalehoyuk site as a 2-cm-diameter slag and two iron-containing stones have also been excavated, Kyodo news agency quoted the archaeologists as saying.
Before the steel age began, states didn’t have to be very big or well organized. Most of the city states probably looked a lot like Faiyum looks today, as seen in the image above: rich farmlands surrounded by a convoluted collection of paths that go around the mud huts where people live and operate little kiosks that sell the things they can’t make themselves.
This isn’t going to work for a city with heavy industry. To support heavy industry, you absolutely need a highly organized economy. This would not be a simple task for the people who lived in 5,500 BP (before present). They didn’t have any idea how an industrial system worked. They would have to figure it out themselves, basically with trial and error. They would need a lot of things that we take for granted now and think we understand (because we use them every day) but aren’t really intuitive or easy to figure.
Consider the thing we call ‘money.’ The early city states didn’t really need money. In Faiyum, people produced mostly rice. If you aren’t a rice farmer but keep chickens for their eggs, you can trade your eggs for rice, both to feed your chickens and meet your own needs. Others may fish or make hats out of rice straw and trade these items for things that they need. The government can collect taxes in rice, which can then be used to feed the troops. Barter can meet the needs of the pre-industrial system. But it is hard to imagine putting together the resources needed to build and operate an industrial system without money. Even today, no one seems to have attempted it; I can’t imagine anyone trying and succeeding 5,500 years ago.
This seems simple enough at first. If you need money, create it. Governments print it and then tell people ‘this is money’ and they start using it, right? But if you had never seen money and a government told you these little pieces of paper were able to buy anything in the sate, you would probably laugh. Even today, economists argue about what money is, how it works, and why people continue to accept it. There must be some reason. If you wanted to build a steel mill 5,500 years ago, you would have to figure out how to make money and how to get people to accept it.
The industrial state will also need infrastructure. You need a lot of charcoal to make steel. You can’t have people strapping piles of twigs to their horses and then traveling from the forests (which get farther away as the closer trees are removed) to the charcoal plant, and expect to keep a large steel mill operating. You need roads that are big enough for heavy wagons. They have to be good roads: if the wagons can’t make it through, the steel production stops.
You will need a lot of workers. These people will have to devote their lives to dangerous, extremely unpleasant, and very difficult work. This work must be done right so they must be well educated and they must be able to remain motivated and keep working year after year, as many hours as you can get them to work. They need to be motivated as children just to get them to take the time to go to school and learn the skills. The schools must exist and have funding.
At first, these states won’t be very good at these things. Even today, 5,500 years into the industrial period, states seem to be struggling to figure out the next step. But they have to try. They were born into a system where people have fantastically strong genetic and cultural tendencies to identify them with a group of people, in this case a state, and to use the resources of that group to fight other groups to gain territory for their group. This may not make much sense but it is reality: we can all see the fanatical people who operate current states doing everything they can to fan hatred and fear to make their people fight harder. Once people understand how to make steel, they know their enemies can have it and may use it to destroy them. They need more than the enemies. They may not know exactly how to organize an industrial economy to make it happen. But they have to try to figure it out
It may seem that this particular discussion is being presented in
the wrong time period. You may be
thinking: ‘Aren’t industrial
economies very recent things? Didn’t
all important industrial innovations take place in the last 200 years? How could this be relevant to a discussion
of events 5,500 years ago?’
As we will see shortly, this isn’t true.
There are people that think we can never have sound societies if industry exists and want to ‘disappear’ it (to use George Orwell’s term for ‘make it appear it never existed’). We will look at two of these events in the next few chapters. The most notable was started by Emperor Constantine in the year 322 AD. (Note: AD is the same as the politically more correct term CE, for current era. It is the date under the Christian Calendar.) At the time, the European area was well into the industrial age with numerous large plants producing enormous amounts of both steel and cement. (You can read about the steel in works of Homer written in circa 880 BC, in Herodotus "History" circa 446 BC and in Aristotle’s ‘Physics’ circa 350BC. You can see the cement work with your own eyes in Europe where massive edifies built of concrete built 2000-3500 years ago are pretty much everywhere.)
Although many such attempts have been made, the most successful was that of Emperor Constantine, which started in the year 322 AD. All books were burned, all schools closed, all corporations shut down with their assets turned over to the church, a new book that Constantine ordered written, called ‘The Bible,’ was composed in Latin and only vetted priests were allowed to learn to read Latin. The result was a ‘dark age’ that lasted more than a thousand years and resulted in a decline estimated to be 50% of the population. (Without technology, only primitive techniques could be used and production collapsed.) We will look at the events that led to this and the reason it happened in later chapters.
Yes, most of what we know now about running an industrial economy is new. But we aren’t learning it the first time, we are relearning this information. If you watch the news, you will see that many people want to try the same thing again. They want to send us back to the dark age (again). We have been here before and we are making the exact same mistakes we made before.
The Principle of Group Augmentation
The purpose of this book is to reconstruct the past events that put the human race onto the path we are now on. This path leads to ever increasing problems that will take us, if we stay on this path long enough, in our extinction. If we want to find a way to get onto a path that leads somewhere else, we have to understand the forces that put us on this path. We also have to understand the forces that are pushing us forward toward the end.
One of these forces is the evolutionary force called ‘group augmentation.’
Evolution works by competition. Animals compete as individuals. The fittest individuals survive these competitions and pass their genes on to future generations.
Groups also compete. The fittest groups (where ‘fittest’ means ‘best at getting the group what it needs’) survive. Group augmentation works by dividing the animals into individual groups and pitting the groups against each other in battles for territory. (‘states’ are different competing groups). Group augmentation works wherever the ability of a large group of individuals to work together matters. It works on bees, ants, and other eusocial species. Our ability to act together as states, and the larger collections we call ‘nations’ matters: the states that are best at conquering and holding territory get the highest quality territory. They can eat when people from states that don’t work as well are defeated and lose the land that once fed them.
Bees and ants and other eusocial animals without the ability to think and plan on a conscious level have no choice but to continue to compete. If they competition gets to a point where it threatens to wipe out their entire species, they can’t stop competing: they don’t have the ability to take this into consideration.
We are different. If we find ourselves under the influence of forces that threaten to wipe us out, we can organize a plan to get out from under that influence. This is possible. Other books in the Possible Societies series explain how to do this.
But before we can take any plan to make changes seriously, we need to recognize that these forces really do exist. We have to understand that we are on a path through time. We have to understand how we lived in the past, going as far back as possible. We need to understand that there is a process that causes animals to change and evolve according to certain rules. We need to understand that this same process works for us. We need to understand that this process is not necessarily benevolent. It may not move us where we want to go. If it is moving somewhere we don’t want to go, we need to understand what we must to do to break away from the path it has put us on and get us onto another path
Until about 570 BC, there is no historical evidence that anyone made any serious attempt to bring the idea of intelligent design into analysis of society. This should not be surprising: we don’t have much real evidence of the thoughts of anyone that goes back more than 2,600 years, because very few written documents remain of the earlier period. The next chapter resumes the history in 570 BC.
Bear in mind that when we get to this period, we are not starting with cave men who hit girls over the head with clubs and drag them into caves for sex. We are starting at a time when people know how to make both steel and concrete (the most important outputs of heavy industry) and have been making these things for centuries. It is very, very hard to find an efficient way to organize industrial states to make them good at war. They don’t have it all figured out as of 570 BC. (We don’t really have it figured out now, as you can tell by watching the news.) But they have been trying various different things for a long time. Evolution has been operating this entire time. States better at organizing themselves for war have advantages in war. States that are not good at this get conquered. They are taken over by better states, who then move their organizational structures (the ones that were better at making them better at war) to the conquered areas. Over long periods of time, society has been evolving in ways that gradually eliminate any features that may make the states weak, passive, concessionary, liberal, or non-confrontational. Evolution reinforces any characteristics that make the states more cohesive (those that promote patriotism and nationalism), more aggressive, more willing to sacrifice.
Many people could see that these things are not working to promote what we might call a ‘sound society’ (one that can advance the interests of the human race as whole over the long term). By the year 570 BC, many people could clearly see that the competitive, territorial, aggressive societies that were in place at the time could not meet the long term needs of the human race as a whole. We needed something else. Many people tried to figure out what else was possible.