Timbuktu, Mali and its Cultural and Commercial Traditions

Timbuktu-MaliTimbuktu, Mali is located at the precise point where the Niger River flows northward into the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, which is an incredibly difficult place to reach and is why it is often used in the English language as a representative of a far away place. In Timbuktu, men keep their faces veiled while in the presence of women at all times, not even lowering their veils to eat, instead taking in food from underneath the veil. Women predominantly make familial decisions and hold the position of power within society. Timbuktu is made up of various ethnic tribes including the Kel Tamasheq, Songaï (pronounced “sore-eye”) (sometimes spelled as “Songhai”) and Arabs primarily. Timbuktu was founded by the Tuareg people however their numbers are vastly outweighed by the 3 main tribes of Timbuktu during the modern era. Despite once being a trading hub of both of salt and gold, Timbuktu now primarily trades in salt as the price of gold has made gold inaccessible for the average inhabitant. Timbuktu is slowly being buried in the sands of the Sahara Desert as these sands blow in and slowly but surely bury Timbuktu’s structures a little bit at a time. Fortunately, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has been helping to preserve the city of Timbuktu and its buildings from the elements of sand, wind, and rain which have eroded its structures made from natural materials, mainly adobe and mud brick

The First Mass Produced Items of the Ancient World

Ancient-Egyptian-Aquamarine-Shabti

The first mass produced pieces of artwork were the ancient Egyptians shabtis which were essentially miniature mummies that the ancient Egyptians believed had magical powers and were therefore buried with the dead. Shabtis were comprised of Egyptian faience which is a type of glass ceramic material made from sand. Egyptian faience is referred to as such in order to distinguish it from faience, which is a tin glazed pottery associated with Faenza, Italy. The idea of Egyptian faience was to replicate semiprecious stones like turquoise lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, which at the time was more expensive than gold. The recipe for Egyptian faience is 90% crushed silica, crushed fine natron salt to act as a flux, crushed limestone, and then the coloring with blue being the most popular, a color achieved through the use of pure copper oxide. Water was introduced to turn this composition from a granular mix into a dough like substance. Natron salt which is a type of baking soda, is the key ingredient to this recipe as it rises to the surface when baked and lowers the overall temperature at which sand melts and becomes glass. The statues are left to stand for 24 or more hours as this helps the salt grow on the surface through a chemical reaction process as oxygen within the ambient environment mixes with the ingredients inside the Egyptian faience

The Eurasian Yamnaya People and Their Cultural and Physical Dominance of the European and Asian Continents

Yamnaya-horseback

The Yamnaya people were bands of nomads who roamed territory north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea during the Bronze Age. By 3000 B.C., the Yamnaya became the greatest horse culture of the ancient world, as they were the first culture to adopt both riding upon horseback as well as the pulling of horse wagons. This breakthrough in technology allowed the Yamnaya to transport food and supplies more easily and readily so that the best pasture lands could be acquired. This allowed the Yamnaya to quickly become the most dominant culture within the Central Step region. Horses allowed for larger herds of cattle and sheep, which permitted wealth to be quickly generated and redistributed into local economies. The Yamnaya alongside other cultures which they combined with traversed across the Central Step, moving as far east as Mongolia and as far west as central Europe. The Yamnaya nomads dominated virtually every culture encountered which is understood due to the fact that many regions began speaking the Proto-Indo-European language in the Yamnaya dialect. The rationale for this is that language is connected to power and/or wealth which is a large incentive for a person or group of people to adopt because it provides unique advantages in all aspects of life including everything from economic trade to finding a romantic life partner. The Yamnaya left no written record of a written language but linguists are able to piece together fragments of the Yamnaya dialect due to the fact that many languages in Europe and Asia, including ancient languages like Greek and Latin, modern romantic languages like Italian, French, and Spanish, Germanic languages like various Scandinavian languages and English, and Russian and Sanskrit, all derive from the common Proto-Indo-European language spoken by the Yamnaya (e.g. the English term ”brother” is “frater” in Latin, “bratar” in Sanskrit, and “pratar” (pronounced “pray-tarr” with a rolled “R”) in Greek). The term “wheel” and “wagon” are Yamnaya terms, and only appeared after the Yamnaya people became dominant within the Central Step region where these two technologies were developed. This is important because Proto-Indo-European languages like that of the Yamnaya must have been spoken after the invention of the wheel around 3500 B.C., as the terms invented would have no use prior to the advent of the practical application (e.g. only using the term “hard drive” in English after the advent of computers, as there is no intended use prior). Many linguists believe that all languages stem from a single source language and that this single source may be the Yamnaya dialect. This dialect and Yamnaya culture as a whole spread across Europe and Asia with millions of modern day people in both continents with generic markets tracing their lineage back to the Yamnaya people. Archeologists and anthropologists believe the Yamnaya were so successful because of learned, acquired immunity towards the Bubonic Plague. Evidence of yersinia pestis bacteria exists within the burial sites of Yamnaya people, which means that the Bubonic Plague was already affecting humans as far back as 3000 years before any written record. This evidence further demonstrates that the Bubonic Plague began within Eurasia, possibly in Yamnaya communities and that those who survived, were most likely able to dominate other European and Asian cultures which did not have acquired immunity as they brought the plague with them when invading foreign territory. It is believed by experts that this immunity and transference of the Bubonic Plague allowed the Yamnaya to expand across the known world, conquering and acquiring the people and regions they came across

The Bulking Agents Used in the Saffron Spice

saffron-bulking-agentBecause saffron is so expensive it’s often mixed with other plants which are not actually saffron but are closely related to saffron to build up the bulk of the weight of a purchase. Turmeric is a primary example of a plant often used to help bulk up supplies. Distributors also use plastic as it helps add weight and eye appeal whilst actually providing nothing more than visual esthetics. Scientists can perform deoxyribonucleic acid examinations to determine if a sample is actually pure saffron or not. High quality saffron should have a humid scent which indicates that it was picked fresh. If the scent of saffron is slightly rancid, it means that it is old or of low quality

The Ancient History of Damascus Steel

Damascus-steel-swordDamascus, Syria, the birthplace of Damascus steel was prized in the ancient world for its durability but unbeknownst to the craftspeople who forged Damascus steel, the region from which the iron ore was taken had naturally occurring nickel which meant that Damascus metalsmiths had composite steel 3000 years before the rest of the world as the idea to mix different kinds of metals had not yet been invented. Damascus steel was shatter resistant and could be sharpened to become sharper than any other type of steel. Having first encountered it during the Crusades of the 11th century, European forgers attempted for centuries to recreate what their Middle Eastern counterparts had already perfected

Ancient Druid Power and Influence Upon Society

Ancient-Druid-divination-spoon

The Ancient Druids had tools used for predicting the future with one example being the divination spoons, a small set of golden leaf shaped items which were concave with a small hole upon one of the leaflets. Blood would be blown into this hole using a small tube and the breath of a Druid so that its final patterns could be used to predict the outcome of certain events. This is important because these interpretations were completely subjective (e.g. if a Druid wanted to go to war, many people could potentially die dependent upon how they read these natural signs as prophecies). Manipulation of these results and their prophetic message would be undetectable by common people as only the Druids knew how to read the signs which they were looking for. This opens the door for corruption and/or the tampering of results and their message. The Druids remained so powerful that even Celtic monarchs revered and respected their authority. Despite this enormous influence, apart from divination spoons, definitive and conclusive evidence of Druid prophetic tools have never been found

The Revolutionary Iron Age Technology of the Rotary Quern

rotary-quern

During the Iron Age, grain was milled by rubbing a smaller rock against a larger rock with the grain in between the discs. This was back breaking labor which is evidenced by the injuries found upon skeletal remains of ancient people. A quantum leap forward however emerged as the rotary quern, a composite tool comprised of a stone base with a wooden pole or dowel in the center, and a movable rotating top donut shaped piece which was also made of stone, but with a handle so that it could be turned. Grain was placed into the middle of the tool and because the tool was slanted upon a 45 degree angle, gravity would pull grain down. This allowed for a single person to mill much more grain than what would have traditionally been possible using antiquated Stone Age technology. This new design freed up both time spent working as well as the amount of people required to meet a specific quota (e.g. 150 – 200 grams per person per day). Because more people could be better fed, with less effort and resources, the population of those with access to the technology in Britain expanded quickly which occurred around 400 B.C.