The Oldest Artwork in Human History

Chauvet-Cave-artwork

Near the Ardeche River (pronounced “arr-desh”) in southern France, less than 0.5 kilometers away, 3 explorers set out a few days before Christmas in 1994. While seeking drafts of air emanating from the ground which would point to the presence of caves, these explorers found a subtle airflow which was blockaded by rocks. The explorers found a narrow shaft which was cut into the cliffside, so narrow in fact that their bodies could just barely squeeze through it. Deep inside the cave the explorers stumbled upon the oldest known cave paintings in human history, twice as old as any other artistic depiction made by human hands. The cave itself had been perfectly sealed for tens of thousands of years which is why this 32,000 year old artwork was found in pristine condition. In honor of the lead discover Jean-Marie Chauvet (pronounced “zhan mah-ree sho-vee”), the cave was named “Chauvet Cave”. The French Ministry of Culture controls all access to the cave, an intervention which was rapidly implemented as this discovery was immediately understood as an enormous scientific find, perhaps one of the greatest anthropological and artistic discoveries ever made. Scientists and art historians are typically the only members of the public permitted access to Chauvet Cave, with archeologists, paleontologists, and geologists being the most common interdisciplinary teams provided entry

The Ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt

Lighthouse-of-AlexandriaThe Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Standing more than 350’ tall, the Lighthouse of Alexandria and was clearly observable to passing ships sailing up to 50 kilometers away. Originally built in 280 B.C., after guiding ships into the port and city of Alexandria for 15 centuries, the Lighthouse of Alexandria collapsed in 1323 due to a series of earthquakes which leveled the structure and caused it to tumble into the Mediterranean Sea. The Citadel of Qaitbay (pronounced “kate-bay”), a 500 year old fortress, now sits at the site of the once standing lighthouse with many of the stones within this structure, pieces of the original Lighthouse of Alexandria, installed after being dredged up from the ocean floor. Although the Lighthouse of Alexandria was originally designed to safely bring ships into the port of Alexandria, the Citadel of Qaitbay acted in opposition as a repellent centuries later, designed to keep enemies (e.g. Ottoman Turks) out of Egypt. No ship was permitted the privilege of docking in the Alexandria harbor without forfeiting all books on board for a short period of time until they could be translated and/or copied outright by scribes

The Discovery of the Sunken S.S. Titanic

sunken-TitanicThe S.S. Titanic’s shipwreck site was found by the U.S. Navy whilst embarking upon a clandestine military submarine sea voyage operation in 1982. The intent of the mission was to surpass the Russians on every front, including land, sea, air, and space. Geologist and Navy Captain Robert Ballard was the person who developed the mission idea by suggesting that the U.S. Navy scour the seafloor to gather intelligence and search for evidence of Soviet placed hardware. The original intention of the mission was to locate and recover 2 U.S. Navy submarines which were classified as top secret nuclear attack vessels and lost during the 1960’s. The first submarine was the U.S.S. Scorpion, lost in 1968 with 99 onboard, and the second was the U.S.S. Thresher, lost in 1963 with 129 onboard. Recovery of these vessels during the 1960’s was limited to the Sound Navigation and Ranging technology of the era, commonly abbreviated as “SONAR”. Ballard only had 12 days to locate the S.S. Titanic during the mission without exposing his cover story, a feat which was unable to be completed by the French and the Americans, despite having much longer time spans and multiple expeditions to achieve this goal. Ballard narrowed down the search area to 80 square kilometers and focused towards the south as he believed that ocean currents would have carried sunken debris in that direction. Ballard continued searching for a trail of scattered debris from the S.S. Titanic and on the 9th day of the expedition, with time quickly running out, the operators of the remotely operated vehicle ARGO, found wreckage from a modern iron ship which appeared to be from the early 20th century. It was confirmed shortly after on September 1, 1985 at 12:48 AM that these remains were 1 of the 29 boilers belonging to the S.S. Titanic. It had been 73 years since the S.S. Titanic was last seen, resting nearly 4 kilometers below sea level, with it’s 1500 onboard passengers and crew

The Ancient Mesopotamian Law Code of Hammurabi

Code-of-Hammurabi

Dating from 1770 B.C., the most complete of ancient Mesopotamian legal texts is the Code of Hammurabi, a compendium of 282 laws which dictated the rules of commercial interactions and set fines and punishments for those found in violation of these laws. Inscribed upon a phallic piece of black obsidian, Hammurabi’s Code is depicted as receiving these laws from Shamash, the god of the sun, justice, and order, with the primary role of protecting the weak from the strong. It is written and recognized within the Hammurabi Code the first appearance of the biblical punishment of an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Considered by many scientists to be one of the foundational stones of world civilization, the Hammurabi Code is a mixed blessing for women, both protecting women and lowering their social rank as second class citizens. Upon the positive end, the Hammurabi Code recognized women’s basic right to own property, fundamental in its importance as it provided women legal protection in regard to the control of their dowries and inheritance. The Hammurabi Code also forbade arbitrary poor treatment and/or neglect, which meant wives who were ill or barren couldn’t be simply discarded. In divorce, women were permitted to keep their dowries, and in widowhood, women were permitted the opportunity to utilize their husbands estates as their own for the duration of their lives. The Hammurabi Code essentially recognizes Mesopotamian women as distinct persons in a legal sense, rather than property which is how most of the ancient world recognized women. Upon the negative side however, women’s economic and sexual freedoms became severely restricted, forbidden from performing any commercial activity outside of their home and supporting and legalizing the concept of the patriarchy by providing men immense autonomy over the bodies of women, meaning husbands and fathers now owned the sexual reproduction of their wives and daughters which lead to women being executed for adultery, virginity becoming a condition of marriage, and rape not viewed as a violent sexual offense against the female victim, but rather an economic offense against her father as it would cause the father to suffer a severe loss in respect to a daughters bride price as the daughter would be considered a damaged commodity. It’s unclear how these legal mandates and statutes worked at the local level as they are ideals of Mesopotamian culture, but the driving force of these laws and how they are setup and constituted is abundantly clear, allowing male authority and patriarchal notions of male honor, to become sacrosanct

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

Prince Albert’s Philanthropic Project of the South Kensington Museum

South-Kensington-Museum

Prince Albert owned the worlds largest collection of Raphael reproductions with over 50 unique portraits. Albert commissioned a photographer to go into the Vatican Museum in Rome, Italy and take photographs of all Raphael works. These photographs of course lacked color being a product of their time and technology, so hand painted versions were made using chromolithography technology. The intention of the collection was not simply to collect but rather to draw people into Windsor Castle to teach them about art history, which is actually the format in which modern day art historians teach artwork to students; in a photo library. Unlike most monarchs, Albert and Victoria wanted to feed the public with knowledge, art, and science. Albert believed that industry could place great works of art into the hands of the masses using manufacturing techniques which would cut costs dramatically. Albert was especially interested in batteries and their connection to various metals in different solutions. This borderline obsession was sparked when Albert seen a real rose turned to gold by dipping it into a chemical solution of chemicals which coated the rose, permanently changing its outer layer. This process is referred to as “electroforming” and involves dropping a dried rose into an electrically conductive material and attached to a battery. A solution of precious metal is prepared, typically gold, after which the rose is left to sit within the solution for a few moments. The rose attracts metal particulate within the solution because of its coating. Albert put on a great exhibition entitled the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851 which cost £335,742 which equates to £46,482,000 as of 2019 when accounting for inflation. The revenue from this project was £522,000 which equates to £72,269,000 as of 2019. Over 6,000,000 (6 million) people attended and exhibits from 25 countries were featured. Albert took the profits from this endeavor and purchased South Kensington Museum, a building which would be used solely for art, science, and industry to be displayed for the public. Because of Alberts involvement and enormous success, South Kensington Museum started to become referred to as “Albertopolis” meaning “City of Albert” in Greek. South Kensington Museum is the embodiment of Alberts enlightened belief that culture and learning should be at the very heart of any successful nation. South Kensington Museum opened on 1857 and is referred to during the modern day as the “Victoria and Albert Museum” or the abbreviation “V&A”. South Kensington Museum is the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design and sculpture and houses a permanent collection of over 2,270,000 (2.27 million) pieces. Alberts favorite place to get away in Buckingham Palace is the Print Room where his collection of Raphael’s are stored. Victoria could not bear to even enter the room for months after Alberts untimely death at age 42 in 1861