The Knowledge of the Ancient World

One of the amazing things about the colonization of America is how it reflected the Renaissance. During that incredible cultural revolution, countless expressions of humanity blossomed in the fields of science, poetry, music, art, theater, literature, philosophy, and politics – not to mention transportation.

Some of us tend to forget that it was a rebirth of those ideas. The seeds were planted millennia earlier by ancient civilizations. Man has been walking on earth for millions of years.

But, historians do not know when we became civilized.

The ‘Cave of Swimmers’ at Gilf Kebir made famous by the movie the English Patient. (1)

Carbon-14 dating indicates that the city of Caral in Peru was built some 4,700 years ago.(2)

Studies of the sphinx in Giza, Egypt, reveal that the lion-like figure was carved before the Great Pyramid was built. Some scholars pinpoint 10,500 BCE. One scholar insists she was carved during the Age of Leo around 36,000 BCE.(3)

Ancient Egyptian writing on the Turin Papyrus above, dated c1160 BCE(4) and the Palermo Stone below state that civilization goes back to between 34,000 and 37,000 BCE.

Photo by Jon Bodsworth.(5)

Studying the Stars

Whether for religious purposes or scientific, for at least 7000 years, mankind has been studying and measuring the placement and movement of the celestial bodies. We have built very sophisticated structures to help us do this: megalithic [massive stone] circles and pyramids that line up to the movement of the sun, to the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, and to the Milky Way, among hundreds of other functions.

One of the oldest astronomical devices found in Egypt is a cluster of megalithic structures called Nabta Playa. The stones were erected on arable land when it was constructed some 7000 years ago. But due to climate change, it is now isolated in the desert and difficult, if not dangerous, to visit. This photo was taken by the film crew for The Pyramid Code, produced by Dr. Carmen Boulter of the University of Calgary.

Nabta Playa, southern  Egypt.

Most people have heard about the ring of stones called Stonehenge in England, and there is another significant site near Évora, Portugal, which we will discuss later.

The Mayans of Central America studied the celestial bodies with amazing precision. They developed a calendar that predicted eclipses, weather patterns, and the position of stars many years in the future. Like the Vedic Calendar created at the same time on the other side of the world in Ancient India, the Mayans understood that the earth changed places in relation to the stars in cycles. Each cycle, according to their calendar, took 3116 years. The latest cycle ended in our lifetime, in 2012 on December 21 [the winter solstice and shortest day of the year]. We are now on the ascent to another Golden Age. According to Dr. Boulter, during a Golden Age, a culture is enlightened. They express that enlightenment in amazing “architecture, deep spiritual awareness, and benevolence.”(6)


A page from one of the rare existing copies of the Mayan Calender. When the Spanish took over Central America, they burned most of the ancient books as heretical.(7)

Perhaps the Mayans did not know that this phenomenon was caused by the earth rotating on its own axis like a wobbling top. Scientists today understand that the earth’s position “drifts” about one degree every thirty-two years. One precessional cycle takes 26,000 years, after which the earth is back in the same place in relation to the other bodies as it was at the beginning. Plato called this cycle a Great Year.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) wrote a book in which he tried to match the changes in the evolution and downfall of civilizations with precessional cycles. But when Charles Darwin claimed that previous generations could not have known more than current generations, people stopped listening to cosmologists who stated that the Egyptians knew things we no longer know. Perhaps this was the same dynamic when religious scholars in the Middle Ages stopped listening to the advice of the Ancients.

We will focus on how scientists in Medieval Europe finally capitalized on that ancient knowledge and used it to navigate across the Atlantic. The technology Christopher Columbus and his pilot Juan de la Cosa needed to navigate the flagship Santa Maria to America existed as early as 1800 BCE, when the Phoenicians sailed the Mediterranean. Many ancient mariners knew the earth was a sphere. Some even suspected it rotated around the sun.

We will show how between 410 CE, when the Visigoths began destroying Rome, and the 1300s, when activities caused the Renaissance, European scientists lost and forgot key technological information learned by ancient cultures. Fortunately, that knowledge was not hidden from the whole world. Eastern civilizations, especially the Arabs, Persians, and Chinese, retained the technology throughout that period. They advanced it as time went on. We will learn why during the Middle Ages many Europeans claimed the earth was flat, and that if they sailed west from Spain they would drop off the face of the world or get devoured by sea serpents.

First, let us go back in time to see what those ancient people knew that needed to be re-discovered.

Mesopotamia (Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, and Acadia)

Even though we see illustrations of Jesus walking around the desert 2000 years ago wearing nothing but togas, loin cloths, and leather sandals, the city of Jerusalem where he lived was at the center of a very sophisticated, ancient civilization. Over the river and through the mountains to the northeast of Jerusalem lay the Parthian Empire between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, previously known as Mesopotamia. Today, that area corresponds with Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and southwestern Iran.

Mesopotamia is sometimes called the cradle of civilization because some historians think it was the place where civilization was born, though not where the first homo sapiens were born. Mesopotamia included the ancient cultures of Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, and Acadia [also spelled Akkadia]. The written history for those cultures dates back to at least 3100 BCE [5100 years ago].

The people of Mesopotamia used a writing system of wedge marks in various formations called cuneiforms. Each mark was made by pressing the end of a stick, or stylus, in a clay tablet. There were over 550 cuneiforms. That was a lot of symbols to learn. Educated people held a lot of power in those days.


Cuneiforms

The accumulation of knowledge was very important to the Mesopotamians. Women as well as men learned to read and write. Clay tablets did not perish as easily as papyrus [invented c3100 BCE(8)] and paper [invented c110 CE(9)]. Today there are more surviving documents from Mesopotamia than from the Middle Ages [unless they were destroyed during the looting of the wars in Iraq and Syria].

During mankind’s evolution, we needed to figure out systems for counting. The Sumerians employed a counting device called an abacus as early as 2300 BCE. [At about the same time, the Mayans across the Atlantic developed a counting device that used strings and knots called a quipo.]

Christopher Columbus’ voyage on the Santa Maria would not have been possible without the system of mathematics developed in Mesopotamia. It was the basis for our sixty-minute hour, twenty-four-hour day, 360-degree circle and seven-day week; measurements that were instrumental in early map-making. The Mesopotamians developed theorems on how to measure the circumference of a circle and a way to measure the distance the sun traveled – measurements needed to tell time.

Mesopotamian astronomers studied the stars so carefully that they could predict eclipses and solstices. They worked out a twelve-month calendar based on the cycles of the moon, and divided the year into summer and winter.

These people between the Tigres and Euphrates Rivers believed the world was a flat disc surrounded by a huge space covered by the heavens. They thought the universe was born from an enormous sea, and that there was water everywhere – above us in the heavens, below us in the sea, and to the far sides of us.

The earliest map that has survived is of Babylon in Mesopotamia during the ninth century BCE. It was carved in stone.
Map of Assyria, Babylon, and Armenia, Courtesy of the British Museum, c500 BCE.(10)

Babylon is the large rectangle in the center. The Euphrates is represented by the two lines underneath. The known inhabited world [as they knew it] was surrounded by a huge stream of water called Oceanus. Oceanus meant bitter river or unfriendly waters(11). The Greek name for the known inhabited world was oikouménē [also spelled oikumene or ecumene]. We are going to use the simple spelling, ecumene. It literally means inhabited. . The ecumene included the landmasses of Europe, Asia and Africa – all the places the ancients could reach by walking.

Other maps from that period show islands in Oceanus, which explains why later cartographers will draw so many unnamed islands in charts of the Atlantic. The search for the islands mentioned by the ancients will help cause medieval mariners to run across America.

The Mesopotamians had theories about super-human powers that controlled life, in other words gods. Their theories formed the basis of later pagan or polytheistic religions. [Poly means many, and theistic means gods.] The Mesopotamians thought there was a god for everything important, such as a god of air, a god of earth, and a god of water. As a result, they were very attuned to nature.

Egypt

To the south of Jerusalem during Jesus’ time lay Egypt. In the year zero, Egypt had just been conquered by the Romans. Cleopatra [who was actually a Greek] was the last pharaoh [Egyptian monarch]. She died in 30 BCE, about 30 years before Jesus was born.

Egypt evolved along the valley of the longest river in the world, the Nile. The mouth of the river delta, where the Egyptians built their largest pyramid, marked the exact geodesic center of the ecumene. Did the Egyptians know that?

GoogleMaps Image.

In many ways the People of the Nile were more sophisticated than the Mesopotamians. The most significant record of their existence are the twenty-two pyramids accompanied by temples they built along the edge of Nile. The structures are clustered on six sites, forming what has been called the Band of Peace. At the time the structures were built, the Nile was some eight miles farther west than it is now. The waterway migrated over the thousands of years. The pyramids would have been closer to the water and their causeways, or entrance-ways, led to docks on the river to receive the priests and pharaohs. Giza, by today’s city of Cairo, is the most well known site with its three great pyramids and giant sphinx.

Pyramids and temples at Giza by Cairo, Egypt. (Photo: Robster 1983)(12)

The Great Pyramid is built of 2.3 million stones weighing up to 200 tons each. 200 tons is the size of a blue whale, the largest animal in the seas. The one pyramid covers thirteen acres.

Besides having the know-how to build the giant pyramids(13) – which we are incapable of doing today – and quarrying the rock with some type of machine – we can’t figure that out either – the Egyptians built the pyramids to manipulate telluric currents, use sound to heal, and read the stars.

The pyramids had a variety of uses. Only a couple of the pyramids were used as tombs. The open structure at Abou Rowash was probably a viewing tube for studying the heavens. Sophisticated harmonic chambers in the pyramids of Saqqara were used for healing the human body.

The Great Pyramid of Giza was never a tomb. No mummies were found in it and the chambers were not decorated in honor of the occupant like tombs were. Instead, it was like a giant battery, built to trap and retain natural energy in a way modern scientist Nicola Tesla (1856-1943) would do in the 1900s.

The energy was generated by the movement of water as it ran through porous rock underneath the pyramid, water from the Nile that ebbed and flowed. The inside of the pyramid was built of a limestone that retained energy. The outer layer of the pyramid was constructed with a different type of limestone that sealed the energy inside, like insulation. The stones of that outer layer were fit so closely together, that today we cannot fit a razor between them. The shiny white pyramid probably glowed like a star. Today it is possible to feel an electric charge if you stand at the very top of the trapezoid. But you can no longer see the glow because the insulation layer of stones has broken off and energy is no longer trapped tightly inside.(14)

Equally amazing is how the placement of the ancient pyramids and temples reflected the position of the celestial bodies. Ancient Egyptians thought that everything on Earth mirrored the movement of those bodies. The star Sirius was particularly important because, like clockwork, every year it disappeared from the horizon for seventy days. On the day it reappeared, the Nile River began to rise and water the fields.

Historians do not know which culture first named the constellations. But the formations were very important to many ancient cultures. The three great pyramids of Giza mirrored the three bright stars in Orion’s Belt. The cluster of seven pyramids and temples in Abusir, reflected the cluster of seven stars that made up the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, near the constellation Taurus.

The temple at Heliopolis, which was the capital of Ancient Egypt for 2,160 years, represented the constellation Leo. The Nile River represented the Milky Way as it ran through the constellations Orion and Leo.

The part of this discussion that is very important to Columbus’ navigation across the Ocean Sea is that this system of matching the sky to the earth was the basis for developing the astrolabe. The astrolabe is an incredible computer the Egyptians invented. We will explain how it works later. It was lost to Europeans during the Middle Ages because the Christian Church thought it was used to find demons. As you will see, mariners from Venice, Genoa, and Portugal will bring it back into play in time for explorers to use during the Age of Discovery.

The Egyptians developed a writing system called hieroglyphics with over 4000 characters. Some of the characters were ideograms [pictures that represented a whole word or concept]. Some were like acronyms similar to our “btw”, which means “by the way.” For example, the combination of the sun glyph, the boat glyph, and the moon glyph meant “the moon traveled one orbit around the sun” [a long way of saying “a month”]. Some glyphs were phonetic symbols [images that represented a sound], particularly those used for words that came from other cultures, such as the name of the Macedonian leader Alexander the Great. It was even harder to learn this system than it was for the scribes of Mesopotamia to learn cuneiforms.


Hieroglyphics

During a recent excavation of an Egyptian temple, a block of stone was knocked off a lintel covered with hieroglyphs. The lintel had some images carved on it that have mystified historians and archeologists. Can you see anything that looks like a helicopter, a submarine, or a space ship?(15)

The Egyptians established trade routes throughout the Mediterranean and the Adriatic Sea. They built ships as long as a football field, with four banks [levels] of rowers. They traveled along the eastern border of Africa and possibly south under the continent. They traded with India. Most importantly, they developed navigation tools that Columbus will later use to find his way across the Ocean Sea.

The Pillars of Hercules

Guarding the exit to the Mediterranean were [and are] several monolithic limestone promontories [spiky mountains] that formed a visual gate between the Mediterranean and Oceanus [which, as mentioned, the ancients thought circled the Ecumene]. The large promontory to the north was named by the Romans in Latin, Mons Calpe. After the Muslim Berbers invaded southern Iberia in the 700s CE, they renamed it Gibraltar after their general Tariq ibn Ziyad who led the invasion.

There are two columns to the south that are more narrow. One is in today’s Ceuta, a possession of Spain, and was first named in Latin, Mons Abyla, then Monte Hacho. The other is in modern day Morocco and is know by its Arab name Jebel Musa, after the Arabian feudal lord Musa bin Nusayr. [Jebel or jabal means mountain in Arabic.]

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory [JPL] in Pasadena, California, generated this computer image of the strait.


“Strait of Gibraltar Perspective” by NASA / JPL / NIMA.(16)

During ancient times, those mountains were known as the Pillars of Hercules. Hercules was a half-god, half mortal character from Greek and Roman mythology. [The Greeks called him Heracles.] His father was Zeus [Jupiter in Greek] and his mother was a beautiful mortal named Alcamene. Hercules was stronger than any other god or mortal. One day his father sent him to an island called Erytheria somewhere in the western Ocean Sea beyond the Ecumene.

The trouble was that a huge mountain blocked Hercules’ way out of the Mediterranean Sea. [In real life that was true some 5.9 million years ago]. With his bare hands, he cleaved the mountain in two and created a passage, or strait, through which he could sail. The northern half of the rock was today’s Rock of Gibraltar and the southern half was either Monte Hacho or Jebel Musa or both. Plato, an ancient Greek scholar, spoke of the Pillars of Hercules as the gate to the unknown because no one knew what lay in Oceanus west of that strait.

Phoenicia

Most important to the development of shipping and the construction of the Pinta, the Niña, and the Santa Maria was the slightly later civilization of Ancient Phoenicia known today as Lebanon. The Ancient Egyptians called the people of Phoenicia the Sea People because they were known for their superior navigation skills. The Phoenicians reached the height of their civilization between 1200 BCE and 800 BCE [3200 to 2800 years ago]. Their magnificent galleys rowed and sailed around the Mediterranean from as early as 1800 BCE.

The Phoenicians never formed an empire. Instead there was a collection of separate city-states with independent(17) governments that worked together as a unit. The Greeks adopted that system later. Two cities to remember are Biblos and Tyre. From the word Biblos, we get such words as bibliography, bible, and the French word for library, bibliothèque. Tyre, built on an island surrounded by a strong wall, was the most southern of the Phoenician city-states and an important gateway to the Far East.

These Middle Easterners developed a ship known as a bireme, typically eighty feet long with a beam [the width from side to side at its widest point] of ten feet. There were two banks [levels] from which men rowed oars to move the ship. A trireme had three banks.

For comparison, historians estimate that the Santa Maria was 98 feet long with a beam of about 18 feet. Today’s cruise ships range from 800 to 1100 feet long with beams from 125 to 213 feet.

The Sea People traveled far and wide. They sailed west from their position at the eastern end of the Mediterranean through today’s Strait of Gibraltar to ports north and south.

The Phoenicians sailed north as far as England, Ireland and maybe Iceland. They knew that in England they would find tin. [England, Ireland and Iceland were known by the Greeks and Romans as the Tin Islands.] In the ninth century BCE, Phoenicians from Tyre established a colony called Gadir on the western shore of Iberia [today’s Spain], where they stopped for shelter on their way to and from England. By Columbus’ time, the port was called Cádiz and headquartered Spain’s developing navy.

Tin was popular because it was a malleable metal and known not to oxidize [rust] easily in air. That made it handy for coating other metals to prevent corrosion. Since before 3000 BCE, people knew how to mix tin with copper to form the alloy bronze. That is why scientists call that period in time the Bronze Age.

Phoenician galleys were not equipped to travel the full length of the Mediterranean in one voyage. The many oarsmen took up a lot of room, leaving little space for extra food and provisions. To provide places to stop along the way, they founded many outposts or colonies around the Mediterranean. An important outpost was Carthage on the southern Mediterranean coast. You can see where it is on the map of the trade routes above below the island of Sardinia.

Besides sailing north after exiting the Mediterranean, Phoenician mariners sailed south along the west African coast to the Canary Islands and maybe as far as the Cape Verde Islands. In about 480 BCE, a navigator named Hanno explored the western coast of Africa, possibly as far south as the Equator. That was 1830 years before the Portuguese set out to accomplish the same feat in the 1350s. We will tell you Hanno’s story later.

Without the Phoenicians, Christopher Columbus could not have drafted his contract with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain when they sponsored his expedition. The Phoenician language and writing system was the basis for Latin, which was the basis for the Spanish, Italian, and English writing systems called phonetics. Each character, or letter, stood for a consonant sound.


Phoenician alphabet.

Today’s vowel sounds were added later by the Greeks, then the Etruscans, then the Romans, who adopted the Phoenician alphabet(18) and improved it. Twenty-two symbols were a lot easier for the common man to learn than the 540 cuneiforms or 4000 hieroglyphs.

One of the riches that Europeans will be looking for when they sail west is textiles for clothing. The Phoenicians were famous for their monopoly of an exotic purple textile dye. They claimed that Hercules discovered the secret while walking his dog along the shores of the Mediterranean one day. The dog bit down on a murex snail and ended up with a purple-stained mouth. [When you see the photo below, you might doubt this story.]

The purple color came from the fluid secreted from the snail’s hypobranchial gland [common to mollusks]. It took thousands of snails to produce just one once of dye, so the dye was extremely expensive. Until synthetic dyes were developed in the nineteenth century, only royalty could afford to purchase the purple dye.


Murex sea shells.

Phoenicia was conquered by the Persians under Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE. Cyrus divided the land into four vassal kingdoms: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Biblos.

Persia

The equally if not more sophisticated Persians lived east of Egypt and northeast of Jerusalem. The Persian culture dates back to at least 2800 BCE [4800 years ago], probably earlier. Persians are the ancestors of many modern-day Iranians.

Cyrus the Great – all Persian rulers were referred to as the Great – unified the area in 550 BCE and built the largest empire the world had yet seen. Cyrus kicked off a golden era that lasted until 332 BCE, when Alexander the Great(19) began his invasion and toppled Tyre. During Persia’s Golden Era, she controlled Phoenicia, Canaan, Egypt, and everything east between the Caspian Sea and the Arabian Gulf [sometimes called the Persian Gulf]. Today that area includes Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Besides adopting knowledge from the Mesopotamians and Egyptians, the Persians developed sophisticated literature, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and art that will become major elements of the Muslim religion when it is established a thousand years later in the 600s CE.

China

China is also key to this story. The huge country to the east is famous for The Four Great Inventions:
1) paper-making – invented in 105 CE
2) gunpowder – invented sometime between 1000 and 1200 CE
3) printing with reusable and movable type – invented by 1040 CE
4) the maritime compass – invented by 1117 CE.

Maybe more important to the colonization of America was the discovery of silk, the natural fiber excreted by the silk worm. The Chinese were producing silk as early as 2700 BCE [4700 years ago]. The exotic fabric was such an important product of trade that the roads connecting the markets throughout Asia were referred to as silk roads. The search for a connection to the silk roads was one of the reasons Europe sent her explorers across the Atlantic.

By 100 BCE, China was selling silk outside the country. By 300 CE, the secret for how to produce it – as simple as a worm weaving a cocoon – spread to Japan. By 500 CE, the Byzantine Christians and the Arabs had obtained the silkworm eggs and were manufacturing silk thread and fabrics in the Middle East. In the 1100s, western Christians returning from Jerusalem after the Crusades took the knowledge of silk production to Venice and western Europe.

China’s earliest historical records date back to the 1600s BCE [3600 years ago]. In 201 BCE, Qin Shi Huang unified the Chinese people, forming the Qin Dynasty, and became China’s first Emperor. Qin Shi Huang standardized the Chinese language, measurements, length of cart axles and the currency [money units]. The subsequent Han Dynasty, which was in power when Jesus was born, expanded the empire to include modern day Korea, Vietnam, and parts of Mongolia and Central Asia.

The Chinese knew and used most of the technology that the Mesopotamians knew and used. They did not invent the wheel, as many people think. The Mesopotamians had figured that puzzle out thousands of years earlier.

The Chinese were creating maps as early as the fifth century BCE. The oldest extant [still existing] maps are from the fourth century BCE, but we have yet to find an example for this article.

Chinese ships, known to us as junks and by the Venetians as zonchi, sailed throughout the Indian Ocean and China Seas. But China did not build ships of a significant size until Columbus’ time in the 1400s CE.

The sophisticated Chinese writing system of calligraphic symbols, the ancestor of present day Chinese writing, was a unique writing system among the ancient cultures. They developed 44,000 characters, or ideograms, each representing a complete idea, such as man, box or jump. 44,000 characters may seem like a lot of symbols to learn compared to only twenty-two Phonetic letterforms. But some very smart scribes learned all of them. Fortunately for the less competent scholar in China, only 10,000 characters were [and are] used on a day-to-day basis. [For comparison for those of us who speak English, today’s Oxford English Dictionary lists 171,476 English words in common use.]


Chinese characters

Notes and Extras:

  1. Header Photo: Ring of Brodgar aka Brogar, a neolithic stone circle and henge monument. Loch of Harray in the background. Photo by Stevekeiretsu - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35375808. Image source url. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Brodgar#/media/File:Ring_of_Brodgar,_Orkney.jpg
  2. Screenshot from The Pyramid Code. Magdalena Productions, Directed and Produced by Carmen Boulter, PhD, University of Calgary. A must see.
  3. Caral Pyramids, Peru, author: Håkan Svensson Xauxa, 15 August 2004 Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PeruCaral01.jpg
  4. Great Pyramid and Sphinx in Giza, Egypt ©Samui.co.
  5. “Turin Erotic Papyrus” by Ancient Egyptian scroll photographed by Robert Nieslen - https://sites.google.com/site/nwarce/blog-2/museumreview-museoegizio%E2%80%93turinitaly. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Turin_Erotic_ Papyrus.jpg#/media/File:Turin_Erotic_Papyrus.jpg. . “The Turin Erotic Papyrus (Papyrus 55001, also called the Erotic Papyrus or even Turin Papyrus) is an ancient Egyptian papyrus scroll-painting that was created during the Ramesside Period, approximately in 1150 BCE Discovered in Deir el-Medina in the early 19th century, it has been dubbed the "world's first men's mag." Measuring 8.5 feet (2.6 m) by 10 inches (25 cm), it consists of two parts, one of which contains twelve erotic vignettes depicting various sex positions. It is currently housed by the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy.” Wikipedia source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turin_Erotic_Papyrus
  6. “A fragment of the Royal Annals, on display at the Petrie Museum, London, which is inscribed with part of the Khasekhemwy register and at the bottom with a sign from the Sneferu register.” Photo provided by Jon Bosworth. Image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/PelermoStoneFragment-PetrieMuseum.png
  7. According to Dr. Carmen Boulter’s film, The Pyramid Code, the Mayans and over thirty other cultures around the world perceived mystical and spiritual aspects of this cycle having to do with when societies reached their Golden age. This fascinating subject is too immense for this web site. I was able to view the film on Netflix.
  8. Mayan Calendar. Image source: http://www.sun-nation.org/sun-maya-hunab-ku.html
  9. Papyrus was probably invented by the Egyptians before 3100 BCE. It was produced by pounding together the pith of a papyrus plant, then letting it dry in the sun.
  10. It is believed paper was invented by the Chinese in 110 CE. They made it by soaking cloth and wood fibers, then pressing them flat into sheets. The sheets were allowed to dry in the sun.
  11. Map of Assyria, Babylon, and Armenia, Courtesy of the British Museum, c500 BCE. {{PD-Old}} Map in the Public Domain in the USA and Europe, older than 100 years. Image source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mappa_mundi_babilonese
  12. Bitter meant more than a strong flavor. It referred to the end, as in “to the bitter end.” Bitter was the end of the nautical cable right before the bitts, which were the posts on the deck. Bitter also meant nasty, as in “a wind with a bitter blow,” and angry or hurt as in “I feel bitter.” [Did bitter river mean the angry, nasty, water at the end of the world?]
  13. Giza Pyramids by Cairo. Credit: Robster 1983 at English Wikipedia [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons. Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giza-pyramids.JPG
  14. Carbon-14 dating can only measure the age of organic matter, not stone. A single human touch can contaminate an archeological specimen. Hence, this technique is not helpful when judging when the pyramids were built. If the stone was touched by humans thousands of years after the structure was built, the carbon-14 dating would find the latter date.
  15. For more information on how this worked, watch The Pyramid Code, directed and produced by Carmen Boulter, PhD, of the University of Calgary, Magdalena Productions, 2010.
  16. Ibid. Screenshot from The Pyramid Code.
  17. “Strait of Gibraltar perspective” by NASA / JPL / NIMA - http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA03397. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - Image source url: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Strait_of_Gibraltar_perspective.
    jpg#/media/File:Strait_of_Gibraltar_perspective.jpg
  18. The term polis at the end of a city’s name indicated that the city was an independent city. Polis is the base for today’s term, political.
  19. Alpha was the first Phoenician character “a”. Beta stood for the second Phoenician character “b”. Hence the word alphabet.
  20. According to Paul Cartledge, in his book Alexander the Great [Vintage Books, England, 2005], Alexander wanted the conquered Persians to address him with the same respect they addressed their former leaders. That is why he called himself Alexander the Great.

Next article: How Technology Migrated to Western Europe