The Africans dispersed in directions further south and east, and presumably north into Egypt, Persia, Greece and India. China, Iberia and Rome emerged. Tribal communities extended to Mongolia, Korea, Japan and Scandinavia. Most of these civilizations evolved with little outside contact.
The Chinese made gunpowder, paper and spaghetti. They also gave us the compass. We had no idea where we were going until that directional moment.
The Persians were popular as tradesmen who interacted with the Chinese, Indians and East Africans. They invented bricks, wine, tar and the windmill. They also invented cookies, ice cream and, ahem, taxes. Republicans insist they must have been Democrats.
The people of India were inventive as well. They must have noticed seasonal clothing needs. They brought civilization cashmere wool (Kashmir), cotton clothing and the buttons to keep dungarees up (from the port town of Dhunga). They refined sugar, developed cataract surgery, and unfortunately advanced a frustrating game called Pachisi (Parcheesi). My fiancée once hit me over the head with a game board when I rolled the perfect numbers to block her entrance. The Chinese, we’re told, invented formal marriage. They abhor Pachisi.
In the event that all of this is Greek to anyone, then let’s proceed to that Hellenistic culture to find democracy, important architectural advancements and the idea of ‘trial by jury.’ The philosophers came along like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The Greeks built outdoor theaters for their comedies and tragedies – never to be confused as the quietness that follows a misunderstood punch line. There were myths everywhere before the Greeks claimed them as their own. The Greeks were myth-understood.
The Babylonians, the Chinese, and the Romans lay claim to the invention of the umbrella. It’s simple to resolve. We just have to calculate where rain was first discovered. But give the Romans credit. They depended upon the gravity of water to keep their aqueducts from looking like pointless archways. Archways are never pointed. Romans made paved roads to Roman coliseums and Roman baths. And Romans were the first to wear socks. They were rarely color-coordinated with their togas.
The Scandinavians were fierce fighters, energetic travelers and tradesmen. They brought both the common safety match and dynamite to the world. The fuse came from elsewhere. They made zippers and paper clips, too. One wonders what prompted the invention of the thermometer? Just how cold was it? Ask Anders Celsius.
The Egyptians fascinate us. Those large toothy grins came from their use of toothbrushes and toothpaste. They also came up with high heels, ladies. So, blame the society of the pyramids. It was brilliant that they invented locks and keys at the same time. Otherwise, we would be left with millions of keys that go to nothing. They also came up with wigs. Come to think of it, I have never met a bald Egyptian.
The French invented braille, the bicycle, the pencil, and the electric iron. The Spanish invented the mop. Well, they also founded the beret, the cigarette and the Molotov cocktail. That paints an interesting mental picture.
The Mongols, the Jews, and the Germanic tribes all had a hand in bringing civilization forward with invention. Try barbecue, bagels and beer.
We should toast the Mesopotamians. They invented the wheel and then the chariot. They built the first plow and knew when to plant because they were the first astronomers and planned around the seasons. They were the first to write stuff down, to irrigate fields and to utilize sanitation. They invented glassware. They were the first to attach a sail to a boat. They came up with support columns and the dome. Yet we cannot thank them. The Hittites conquered the last of the Mesopotamians. That’s an appropriate name for those in hand-to-hand combat. But the Hittites had metal weapons. The Mesopotamians, in their zeal to make the world a better place, had no knives, swords, spears or arrows. It was a fatal oversight.
The favorite cultural invention of our generation may well be the way in which we understand other cultures faster than one can read the tales of Marco Polo. It is the favorite tool of the uninformed that wants to be the ultra-informed. We call it the Internet. It’s better than tar, toothpaste and Pachisi combined. And so far, it’s free. And with it, this information deserves a giant footnote!
All information above is derived from cruising the Internet. If the information therein is factual, then this essay is thusly inured with truth.
W. Thomas McQueeney is a graduate of The Citadel, a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto and the author of two books, The Rise of Charleston & Sunsets Over Charleston.