hubeyh at MONTCLAIR.EDU
Wed Dec 2 04:23:42 UTC 1998
Vidhyanath Rao wrote:
> Note 1: Due to upcoming trips, I cannot really take part in this
> thread apart from this message.
> Note 2: I consider myself a sceptic in this matter, that is I
> find myself much less sure than those who believe that they
> know the past inside out.
> "H.M.Hubey" <hubeyh at MONTCLAIR.EDU> wrote:
> > 1. The lower numerals (like 3,4,5) were apparently being developed in
> > the Middle East/Sumeria around 3,000 BC.
> Are these numerals (notation for numbers) or number words (names
> for ordinals)?
Linguists deal with number-words.
> Mathematically speaking, the decimal system has no special status.
> There are actually a ``duodecimal society'' dedicated to the
> theory that the decimal system is a mistake and the base should be
> 12. They have a few very smart people among them. Of course, some
> of us are becoming quite good at base 16, the possible base of
> the future :-)
The significance of the decimal system is its naturalness; we have
10 fingers. That makes it easy for computation learning. For the
same reason, the use of base 20 in early societies is just as
natural. For primitive societies in which the illiterates were the
99%, base 20 is easy because you can go to your toes after you
are finished with your fingers. For two people the maximum is 40,
and that is why in Middle-East stories the number 40 is used in
many stories/legends as a kind of "maximum number". It would have
taken some sophistication to standardize on 10, and it did.
> "Yaroslav V. Vassilkov" <yavass at YV1041.SPB.EDU> wrote:
> > Vedic chariots were made without any metal, there was no single nail
> > in them.
> Egyptian chariots had very little metal in them (to Mark: The
> tyres were made with skin, put on wet and then dried to shrink
> and tighten). But it would be confusing to say that they were
> made without metal: The tools were metal, presumably bronze.
> [ Spruytte's reconstruction used bronze tools and the chariot
> functioned perfectly and was quite durable.]
It was probably so because metal was stil expensive. Drilling
for spokes requires metal and so does the axle. Without those
you'd have serious problem. Leather would wear out quickly and
was probably a cheap-grade substitution.
> There have been attempts to make wheels without metal tools.
> While the attempt was not a complete success (they made it with
> rotating axles, leading to premature failure), determined
> persons can probably make it work. The problem is that this
> invloved ``training'' branches to grow in circles. It is
> extremely unlikely that people without knowledge of wheels in
> the first place will do that. And solid or cross bar wheels
> clearly depended on metal.
The biggest problem is in getting planks from trees. How does
one cut along the tree to make planks? It would have been a major
undertaking for a society to make those things. It is not the
kind of thing that can be made by roving bands of herdsmen. IT is
too ridiculous to consider. It is possible that meteoric iron might
have been discovered (accidentally) and used for a short while and
maybe the knowledge spread, but mining is a serious business. Making
fires hot enought for baking bread is too much for nomads. How are
they supposed to smelt metal?
> Lack of metal in chariots probably had to do with attempts to
> make them as light as possible. Remember, the early horses were
> really ponies, not Clysdales (sp?) [so much for horse drawn
> chariots frightening 3rd m. BCE Near Easterners].
The metal rim on wheels and metal axles would not make it
worse, but better. After all friction and unevenness is
probably worse than having a few pounds to roll.
> Finally, there is clear evidence of trade between Kopet Dagh
> and Caspian-Aral steppes. I remember that there is some
> evidence of trade across the Caucases as well. I suspect that
Yes, there is.
> people in metal poor areas recyled their metal. So the lack
> of raw materials is not a big problem.
Yes, but it would have to be discovered and then created and then
spread. It is not impossible for axes, drills and hammers to be
bought by nomads for repairs after the technology has spread
everywhere. They might have been able to find wood during some
of their travels, or cannibalize old carts but to actually propose
that the nomads were importing wood, running mines, smelting
operations, etc is too much to believe, especially when none of
this was being done in civilized, sedentary societies in which
one might expect this kind of organization to exist.
> I don't know about fuel. How did Andronovans manage? They lived
> in steppes, but are `famous' for metal working. [Of couse, the
> Andonovo sites are said to contain evidence for irrigation
> agriculture and grain milling, making them suspect fit for
> Indo-iranians who are supposed by some to be ignorant of
> agricultural work.]
Horse-dung and Cattle-dung is used for cooking and heating
probably even now. Nomads probably always lived on the fringe
of settled societies or were partially agriculturalists.
Probably in some desperate times or special circumstances they
started picking wars on settled peoples and that is what we
notice, not when they are dragging their cows around not
> BTW, were the pins really of wood too, or of metal?
YOu have to drill wood for spokes. YOu also need to probably
cut planks to make the round part of the wheel itself that
the spokes go into. It could be from a sapling but then it
would have to be choopped and made into something like a flat
piece and that would require tools also.
YOu can probably make arrows from saplings. You break it off,
strip the bark and then heat treat it slowly and patiently
until it is as straight as you can make it. YOu can't break off
a branch; it would be too crooked, but some tree saplings shoot
up straight for relatively long heights. I can't recall the name
but these trees grow really tall with relatively little growth
and branching sideways.
hubeyh at montclair.edu =-=-=-= http://www.csam.montclair.edu/~hubey
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