Sunday, December 14, 2008

James Burke - Connections, ep.1 (clip)

See what your answers would be to these questions. I didn't like the answers I had.


Alan Evil said...

Ground can be turned with a shovel and you don't necessarily need metal to make a plow.

If given a couple of days to pack I could pass all of the questions asked. I know how to slaughter an animal, I know how to plant a garden, and I'm pretty sure I can get access to a farm without killing anyone.

John M. said...

This isn't addressed to people like you, Alan. It's for the 99% of the other people that live in urban areas.

Sure you could garden an forage, but he is ultimately using this as a segue to talk about the plow, the thing that allowed civilization to jumpstart. Foraging and shovels didn't.

Alan Evil said...

I'd have to see the rest of the show but it seems to me that there were some fairly large civilizations that tilled the soil with sharpened sticks wielded by hand. That's much more akin to a shovel than a plow (though the plow and shovel are pretty closely related when you think about it).

Anyway, in my worldwide pandemic fantasy I and all my loved ones escape to the wild and live happily ever after.

John M. said...

I'd say that when agriculture emerged, somewhere over 12,000 years ago, the first tribes used sticks and crude stone and metal implements (Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" goes into this a little.), but true, full-blown civilization used oxen-drawn metal plows.

John M. said...

Mea culpa. I have to admit that I was wrong on that last comment.

Metal plows didn't come into common use until medieval Europe.

Back in the ancient days, they used wooden plows, essentially big digging sticks pulled by oxen.

My bad.

Alan Evil said...

I've been reading the George Orwell Diaries Blog and he describes the common use of a wooden plow, often pulled or pushed by human power, that was in use a century ago.

John M. said...

Right on.

Still, I think the general idea is that civilization never really took off until we could grow more than we needed, en masse. For that we needed a plow.

Surplus leads to trade and around all of this arise cities, record keeping and eventually, money. Viola, civilization.