The development of mankind is more than simply a history for the modern society. These are the lessons that people have learned, the successes that they have achieved, the failures that they have suffered and the progress that we have made from Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens Sapiens – the level of development that cannot be compared to any existing forms of life.
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Thus, it is very important to remember the stages that the mankind has passed on its way to perfection. Each of those stages is marked somehow in the archeologists’ and scientists’ mind, and each of those stages can be represented by a certain artifact that can demonstrate the inventions that our ancestors made and the progress that they achieved.
The treasure that the museum beholds is worth more than a gold mine, for this is the knowledge that people have been collecting for centuries and thousands of years. Within these walls one can see the rise and fall of different civilizations, trace people learning to make weapons and creating the basis for the modern understanding of society.
Here, the most significant artifacts have been selected to show the way that people have been going to achieve the present stage of development. The numerous artifacts will tell how important it is not to forget the old knowledge that the people of the past possessed.
The artifacts have been arranged in a specific order for people to get the grip on the subject better and to have the possibility to see the numerous artifacts interconnected as they are, floating from one epoch into another.
The artifacts have been placed in separate small cases for the visitors to have a better view on all of the elements grouped according to the sphere that they represent.
The first case beholds the artifacts of people’s weapons, the second has scripts, and the third represents the sculptures that have been created in the ancient times. Hoping that the visitors will find the exhibition most interesting and cognitive, I would like top pass to the exhibits themselves.
One of the most impressive historic discoveries was the one of the Olduwan culture. The development of these people who were living in the times old as the hills was truly incredible.
In the epoch of the Stone Age, the industry was developing at a very slack pace. The people who speeded it up somehow were the Oldowans. The ancient tribe managed to create the tools that helped them in their routine work and was used from 2.6 to 1.7 million years ago!
However, that did have a negative effect of its own, with the people who used the invention of the previous centuries did not need to improve anything and thus did not feel the urge to develop their skills in creating instruments for their work.
That is what lies on the one hand, but on the other the historians see the Oldowan as the people that overran the epoch, leaving their heirs far behind. One could easily guess that the Oldowan civilization was born in Tanzania, the heart of Africa – since Africa is considered by a number of scientists as the cradle of the mankind.
Of course, the connection between the Oldowan tools and the modern technology is rather vague, yet there is no doubt that the invention of the first weapon can be considered a starting point in human’s development.
However, some scientists tend to argue against the importance of the Oldowan tools invention:
How sure can we be that the Oldowan tools are in fact manufactured tools? This is not a very easy judgment to make, since the artifacts identified as tools consist simply of small pieces of rocks that are sharpened on one side. Could they not have been “found tools”? (Donald 111)
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The instruments that they created were used for the prior goal, which was hunting. Although the Oldowan tools are considered the most primitive form of instruments that have ever appeared in the course of history, their importance stands beyond any doubts.
If people had not started making steps towards the creation of the simplest tools and instruments, the modern civilization would have never achieved the present stage of development. After all, the great things begin with very small steps.
The next issue in discussion will be the exhibit named Achaeulian Hand Axe.
This invention is also considered to belong to the epoch of the Stone Age. Discovered in the region of Hoxne (Suffolk), the tools that the scientists found and considered the evidence of the people development in the Stone Age, these instruments signify the ancient people moving to Europe from the plentiful hot Africa.
They created the tools that might help them to accommodate to the new environment and that was more suitable for the needs that they had in the age when they were changing the habitat.
Chronologically, this event belongs to the times of the Lower Paleolithic era and signify that the ancient people have finally began to improve the tools, adjusting them so that they could be sharper, and that they could be easier to carry. The handle that the axe has shows clearly that this was a step forward in comparison to the sharp stone that was carried in hand and could not be a serious weapon in the fight with an animal.
Found in India (Chandra 46), these weapons made the archaeologists understand that the Stone Age had been far more developed than it was supposed before. Like the previous exhibit, it has very distant relations with the modern weapons, yet it is a specimen of the ancient weapons and martial arts that has to be preserved.
The impact that this invention has had on the modern technology and human behavior is huge, yet rather distant in time.
The next exhibit that is going to be of a great interest to those interested in the secrets of the ancient times is the drawing found in the Lascaux Cave in France.
It is a well-known fact that the ancient people were trying to depict the events of their everyday life, as well as the most significant occasions, or what was considered significant in the prehistoric era.
The cave of Laxcaus beholds the treasures far more valuable than the Flint’s cave. The artists were called the Magdalenians, who lived about 17,000 years from now. This was the epoch of the ice age, and the drawings that are depicted on the walls of the cave are called correspondingly the Ice Art. (Burnham 6).
The pictures that the ancient people drew on the walls of their dwellings were showing various scenes, starting from hunting to the pictures of animals or people alone, or the signs that the people were using at that times.
Of course, this cannot be posed as art from the modern point of view, and it was hardly the art for the sake of art – it could be more reasonable to suggest that the drawings were supposed to express the ideas that were prior to the people of the Stone Age era.
These drawings can be subdivided into three groups, which are the images of animals, the images of people and the images of uncertain character that were supposed to signify something for the dwellers of the cave. Among the images of the animals, the most numerous are the drawings of equine. Since it was the main object for the hunt of the ancient people, they drew it as one of the most important elements of their existence.
It is rather doubtful that the drawings found in the Lascaux cave could be considered as the beginning of the art era, but they still mean that the mankind started to use visual images to point at a certain subject or express an idea. This is a very important step in the development of the mankind.
As people went on in their cultural progress and started searching for the new methods of finding food and hunting, they discovered fast that one of the ways to sustain their lives was to resort to eating the goods that they could grow themselves.
Basically, it meant the beginning of the agricultural era and mean that people have achieved another stage of development. The weapons that they created were not aimed only at hunting, or killing anymore. People started to make the weapons that helped them to create an agricultural society.
Of course, the process went long and with big pauses. But the first thing that showed the ancient people’s potential for the further mental growth was the fact that they began creating such instruments as sickles and microliths.
Although nowadays sickle is rather a symbol of the bygone times and the lack of progress, in the Mesolithic culture, it was a major breakthrough. With all the reasons for the further progress, people started making the weapons that could help them grow the seeds and somehow gather the harvest. It is a clear-cut case of the fats development that leads from one invention to another.
Since people realized that they needed to control the growth of the plants that they use as food, they necessarily had to come to the agricultural way of living. It must be also born in mind that a sickle was used even in the modern times, though it has been modified greatly.
“The Natufian sites and Zawi Chemi had sickles (or at least sickle blades) and microliths; these were not found at Ganj-Dareh,” Ucko (363) says. Well, that only proves the fact that people cannot develop at the same pace. Some of them need more time than the others. The same goes for the cultures, perhaps. The invention has modified the modern human behavior, switching it to the agricultural society.
The Natufian civilization is also known for its burial traditions. The proto-Neolithic cemetery that was found in Shanidar cave is a sufficient proof for this.
It must be well remembered that the discovery of the cemetery not only helped to restore the gaps in the information about the culture that left almost no traces in the history of the world, but also to obtain the missing information about the environment that the se people lived in, their traditions, customs and most known ceremonies:
A variety of cultural materials were recovered from the cemetery fill. These items were found in all excavated portions of the cemetery, in squares both with and without stone features, but not equally distributed around the cemetery. (Solecki 64)
The objects of the everyday life that were discovered there could be subdivided into two groups, the bone items and the stone ones. This is the evidence of the fact that the new age was coming up and that people were starting to use another materials in creating the weapons and tools for their use.
Although the discovery was dating back to 12000 BC, it still meant for the modern art and the modern human behavior a lot, because the objects of everyday life showed that the basis for home as a shelter was created. The ancient people must have been too tired of the nomadic life and decided to settle.
One could claim that these weapons show that the new generation left the previous ones far behind. Indeed, the tools that the scientists found on the burial site were completely different from what they used to observe before.
The variety of the stone tools that people had by that time was amazing. The ancient people already had smaller instruments, and they differed in form and sphere of their use.
Thus, there were small pecked tools and ground stone tools. It is also important that they were used as decoration as well – among those were beads, pendants and small shaped stones which were the figures of people and people’s faces.
The artfully done work made it quite clear that the new tools were created not only for the sake of hunting and working, but also because it bore a certain sense and some ideas that the people had. This was close to the pictures on the walls of the Lascaux cave, with their entertaining and magical element.
The most important discovery in the cemetery was the plain and decorated slate objects. The clue about the significance of these objects was that they were manufactured in a very specific way:
The items described were made of specifically selected raw material, a metamorphic slatelike stone. At least two distinct types of objects were made from this raw material:
- small decorated pieces
- elongated shaped tools. (Solecki 68)
This discovery could lead to some more clues about the habits and the customs of the bygone civilization.
A very unusual artifact, the next exhibit represents the culture that existed in the place where now Turkey resides. One of the most significant and beautiful elements of the ancient art, the frescoes that have been created in the place of Chatal Hoyuk, are the evidence of the fact that the civilization of the 6,500 BC era was no less progressive than the modern world.
The beauty of the frescoes captures the visitors’ attention at once. It seems impossible that this could have been created by the people who did not have the tools, the instruments and the whole wide range of equipment that the modern people have.
The modern technology must have been inspired by the tools and equipment of Chatal Hoyuk. The people of the ancient Turkey must have decided to create something that the descendants would worship and appreciate.
Unfortunately, the area has been subjected to the multiple forgeries, and even now one can trace the remaining of the frescoes that were viewed as the real ones. (Muscarella 141).
However, the modern scientists have made it possible for the visitors to enjoy the unique objects of the ancient culture without fearing that they would be fooled – the newest technologies have made it possible to verify each object’s authenticity and genuineness.
The beauty of the ancient art will not leave a single visitor disappointed, so the gallery is really worth their while.
The time has come to talk about the artifacts that represent the written evidence of the ancient cultures’ existence. Indeed, the Stone Age and the age of people mastering the art of hunting and searching for provision is of utter importance, but lots of people are still getting more curious as the conversation is getting closer to the issues of cultural life.
What is being talked now is the first written evidence of the civilization existed. The gift of the written word is one of those that can draw the line between a man and a human. This is where the animal part of a man borders with the spiritual qualities, and where one can see the difference between living a wild and a cultural life.
In spite of the fact that the first people to introduce the written evidence of their existence were far from being called the ones of highly developed cultural life, they still were more civilized than the previous culture. This could be explained by the fact that people were flocking into what would be later on called society and make the stem fro the mankind to cling to.
The Cuneiform Tablet was the first written evidence of a man’s existence. Homo Sapience came to reign on the pre-historic Earth.
That happened around 30th Century BC, which was not that far from the beginning of our times. The people were much more intellectual than it could be anticipated – and, it fact, they had already established their own culture that was getting closer to the modern concept of a cultural life. The modern art owes much ot this artifact, for it was the script with which the era of writing began.
The people of the past must have been willing to leave a written evidence of their existence for the descendants of theirs. The progress was impressive, since there was not so much time that has passed. It could have taken several epochs more, but the Providence decided that this was the right time for people to introduce their own written culture.
Of course, that could happen only in the most developed state that existed in those times in the entire world, which was Sumer.
The people of Sumer had very promising culture and were practically the first ones to make the culture saturated with literature and with the art that resembled the ideas of the modern art.
They were overrunning the epoch just like their prehistoric ancestors had been once, and this was the evidence that the pace of the progress was constantly growing. The new civilization added to the magnificence of the mankind. It was the first to establish the new stage in its history.
It is curious that the Cuneiform Tablets appeared as the first script to introduce the alphabet and the ways to out the speech into a written form, but later on it was developed into cursive (Van de Mieroop 10), which signifies that writing was perceived by the people with gratitude and was used as the means to express their own ideas and concepts with great pleasure, quite intensively and eagerly.
Of course, that was not the first attempt to exercise the writing genre in the history of the mankind, but that was one of the most successful tries, and the scale that it was growing at was impressive.
However fast the civilization might develop, if it does not have a written art of its own, or at least a written document – a few words, in fact, would be enough – to prove its existence, it would be nothing – a naught – for the historians of the modern world.
Sumer people introduced their Cuneiform Tablets, and it was more than sufficient to prove that they achieved the level of development that the other civilizations failed to. The results of the researches were held by archeologists showed that the Sumers were more than advanced for the time that they were living in.
The shape that the first cuneiform signs took were mostly “straight lines, with a broader head where the, now blunt, stylus was pressed into the clay, which led to the wedge-shaped look. In later period when instructions were carved on stone, these wedges were imitated by the stone-cutters, and they have become characteristic of the writing system. (Mieroop 10)
The fact that the Sumers pioneered in the numerous areas that were further on developed into numerous branches of science and arts by the modern civilization proves that they had much more developed culture than the rest of the civilizations veer existed before.
The so-called Warka Vase, or the Uruk Vase, that was created by the ancient craftsmen. The time that the creators showed the result of their fruitful work to the rest of the work cannot be defined precisely, but it is known now that the vase was created around 3,200 – 3000 BC.
Unfortunately, like most of the exhibits, it has not been preserved untouched, and in present days it looks much like a wreck of a vase to those who know nothing about its amazing story, but for those aware of the great civilization that created it, the vase is the most precious object that can be found in the museum.
With regard to the ancient masters, it can be said that their work is worth being called a masterpiece, with all the refined lines and curves. The pictures on its sides are performed artfully and with great sense for beauty. One cannot help admiring the beautiful artwork.
The tree registers of carving – the tiers – that one can see on the bottom, the sides and the top of the vase, are the pictures of Tigris and Euphrates, animals, among them sheep and oxen. They can be characterized as a continuous pattern and perform a function of a decorative element rather than signify the important events in the Sumerian life.
Meanwhile, the top carving shows the while picture, not the scattered pieces and show the image of a goddess Inanna, who was considered one of the head gods of Mesopotamia (Kleiner 20). The numerous names of her – Ishtar, Astarta and the rest – make it clear that the goddess was supposed a powerful force. Altogether, this makes the vase an important exhibit in the museum collection.
What were the ancient masters inspired by as they created the vase? Hardly anyone can know it. However, this could be the passion for beauty that made the ancient people create this work of art. the modern art owes much to this vase, for its shapes and the décor are wonderful examples of an artwork even to the modern artists.
The last, but definitely not the least is the artifact to represent the stages of the ancient cultures development is the sculpture of the Sumerian “City-Ruler”, or the “Priest-King”.
The Uruk period that took place in 4000 – 3100 BC was marked by the growing theocracy, and the king that was heading the state was reigning rather as a priest-king, coordinating his reign with the “council of elders”.
There is no doubt that during this period the state achieved the success that it had never experienced before. Consequently, people took the ruler as the wisest person that could lead them out of the dark. The image of the priest-ruler that could take his flock the right way was formed in this very period.
It is peculiar that in the later Sumerian period the priest-king makes certain resemblance to Buddha, “with his beard shaven and the right shoulder bare” (Waddell 112). Perhaps, the ancient Sumerians were inspired by something or someone from up above to create this holy image. The image of an ancient god was, probably, the artifact that inspired sculptors of all times to challenge gods and carve images in stone.
The abovementioned altogether make the sculpture more than simply a carving in the stone. This was the idol for the ancient Sumers, and they worshipped their king like a prophet.
Perhaps, one of the main questions that will be raised as people see the artifact exposed in all its beauty is how the objects so distanced from each other in time and space could be gathered in a single exhibition. The reasons for such unexpected choice are to be explained.
Actually, the history of mankind can be compared to a chain where every single link can break the whole construction down. The elements of the chain are interdependent, and each of them is an integral part of the whole object, which makes it complete and glued together.
Thus, the connection between the civilizations that have been mentioned can be easily traced. One cannot leave unnoticed such traces of the interconnection between the civilizations as the common ideas, notions and perception of the world. The world picture may vary, but the clue that it is based upon remains the same. It is not merely a coincidence that the Sumerian idol resembles Buddha so much.
Although such connection is hard to prove from a scientific point of view, there is no doubt that it exists, and that the influence that each civilization has on the next one is undeniable.
There is a successful theory that J. Aruz has suggested:
The roots of out own civilization lie in developments that took place more than six thousand years ago in the distant lands of western Asia.
The region known to ancient authors as Mesopotamia – “the land between the rivers” of the Tigris and Euphrates – was home to one of the world’s great early civilizations, thriving at the eastern end of the so-called Fertile Crescent. (7)
The very idea that the modern civilization takes its roots from such distant times seems incredible. Yet it is true.
Indeed, the basis that the modern culture stands on was not thought up by the people of the new wonderful world – it was taken from the ideas of the Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.
Some of the nations have borrowed the elements of their culture from the Ancient Egypt. But however different the origins of the contemporary art might be, they all have the same feature about them, which is the fact that they are based on the experience of the previous civilizations.
Watching all those magnificent traces left by the bygone civilizations, on might ask why these huge worlds had to go. Was it a war that destroyed them? Maybe, the natural cataclysm wiped them out from the face of the Earth? Or, perhaps, these people faced the attack of a meteorite.
None is right. The thing is that the rise and fall of civilizations depend on nothing and no one else but the very people. The way they were governing their country and building up the society was the road that led them from the top of the world to the decay.
There is a successful theory that J. Aruz has suggested:
The roots of out own civilization lie in developments that took place more than six thousand years ago in the distant lands of western Asia. The region known to ancient authors as Mesopotamia – “the land between the rivers” of the Tigris and Euphrates – was home to one of the world’s great early civilizations, thriving at the eastern end of the so-called Fertile Crescent. (7)
The very idea that the modern civilization takes its roots from such distant times seems incredible. Yet it is true.
The key to the civilizations slowly coming to their decay is actually the cycles that the life of mankind is divided into. Repeating and spinning around the time line like the Earth spins around the Sun, those cycles mark the rise and fall of great civilizations. The stress leads people to agricultural society, for they are striving for their lives, which means striving for food and harvest.
The abundance of resources, along with the wild resources, results in sedentism, which implies turning to a stable life with permanent home and abandoning the nomadic lifestyle.
From the point of the theory of mind, which emphasizes that each human being is entitled with certain mental states, among them beliefs and desires, intentions and thoughts, the mental progress of the ancient people meant that they were not different form the modern people. In fact, they were entitled with the same gift of mental states, that is, with the ability to have desires, emotions, beliefs and thoughts.
Moreover, Diamond assures that these mental abilities are interconnected with the events that occur in the world, in a very special way. To put it more precisely, it cannot be stated whether the mental abilities trigger the events or vice versa, but there has always been the link between the two. The abovementioned abilities can actually be both the causes and the results of these events.
Speaking of the cyclic development of civilizations, there is a reason to mention the Australian people that Diamond speaks about. Diamond proves that the chain leading from the top to the decay is the same fro all peoples and involves several elements that mark the stages of the mankind progress and regress.
The earliest and the most intensive food production with the decent population was in the highlands of New Guinea between 4,000 and 9,000 feet. Drainage ditches from 9,000 years also have been found. By 6,000 years ago, extensive agriculture with terraces in drier areas and ditch systems to dry wet areas existed. Many are still used. (Diamond 31)
This is the case of the path dependence that Diamond has described so well. He showed that the way from overproduction to the decay is inevitable and will ultimately follow any civilization, however successful its development could be. Then, the new civilization rises from the ashes of the old one to follow the footprints of the latter.
The famous question that Yali asked: “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but the black people had little Cargo of our own?” (Diamond 14) has been actually answered by Diamond. Facing the danger of over-nurture, human nature seeks the way out, and as they do, they turn to sedentism, beginning to lead a settled life.
Resulting in the fertility and the population growth, the mankind development comes to a dead end as the resources are drained and the population is left with nothing. Thus, the competitive evolution emerges, for people to survive through the hard times, and the story starts from the very beginning.
In spite of the fact that the cyclic development seems to leave too little space for progress and doom people to repeat the same mistakes, there is one “but” that is worth attention. One of the abilities of people is to draw conclusions from the previous experience.
Owing to this ability, the new civilizations have an opportunity to achieve a better success in their development. New technologies are built on the ruins of the old ones. Also, the interaction between the civilizations and discovering the artifacts provides innovations in people’s lives.
Finally, the role of language in facilitating the development cannot be denied. The culture of speech, as well as writing, is one of the most important stages of human’s development. After all, only people have their vocal apparatus developed enough so that they can speak, in contrast to animals.
The ideas that will come to people’s minds can be even more valuable and precious than all the artifacts of the exhibition altogether, for sometimes people need to see the small truths that they have always known about and have never succeeded to understand.
These truths can lead to seeing the centuries-old ties that all people and all peoples have been linked to each other with since the world was created. And, maybe, this exhibition will inspire someone to leave a work of art of his or her own to the grateful descendants.
Aruz, Joan. Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003. Print.
Burnham, Brad. Cave of Lascaux: The Cave of Prehistoric Wall Paintings. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing Group, 2003. Print.
Chandra R., Sarat. Man in India. Bajpai: A. K. Bose, 1999. Print.
Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Society. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company. 1999. Print.
Donald, Merlin. Origins of the Modern World: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1991. Print.
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Ucko, Peter J. and Dimbleby G. W. The Domestication and Exploration of Plants and Animals. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2007. Print.
Van de Mieroop, Mark. Cuneiform Texts and the Writing of the History. New York, NY: Routledge, 1999. Print.
Waddel, Austin. Makers of Civilization in Race and History. Whitefish: MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2009. Print.