The Origin of Cities - "It may seem odd to conduct the rise of cities to ritual, inequality, and debt, and yet they play a very large role in the urban revolution." (via) [more inside]
From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
In the 1920s the US industrialist wanted to found a city based on the values that made his company a success – while, of course, producing cheap rubber. The jungle city that bore his name ended up one of his biggest failuresDrew Reed, Fordlandia – the failure of Henry Ford's utopian city in the Amazon, The Guardian (19 August 2016). [more inside]
Revealed: Cambodia's Vast Medieval Cities Hidden Beneath the Jungle [The Guardian] Archaeologists in Cambodia have found multiple, previously undocumented medieval cities not far from the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat, the Guardian can reveal, in groundbreaking discoveries that promise to upend key assumptions about south-east Asia’s history. The Australian archaeologist Dr Damian Evans, whose findings will be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Monday, will announce that cutting-edge airborne laser scanning technology has revealed multiple cities between 900 and 1,400 years old beneath the tropical forest floor, some of which rival the size of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
Alkebu-lan 1260 AH (higher resolution) is an alternative history map of Africa in AD 1844, taking as its point of departure from our timeline an even deadlier medieval Black Death, killing almost all Europeans. It is made by Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon, who explains some of his sources and thinking in this Prezi presentation. Cyon's thinking about alternative history is partly inspired by playing the computer game Civilization, and he has made a mod where you can play the medieval kingdom of Kongo
On this day one hundred years ago, Imperial German soldiers who had peacefully arrived in the Belgian city of Leuven (Fr: Louvain), having taken hostages and accepted the parole of its mayor on behalf of its citizens, without warning set fire to the city and massacred its inhabitants forever altering the city, its university's library, and the course of the war.
Belgian Judicial Report on the Sacking of Louvain in August 1914 The destruction and rebuilding of the Louvain Library: claim and counterclaim
Travel was always desirable to them / And they visited every continent … They considered travel and homeland synonymous / For them, every valley and desert was home. [more inside]
In a Sydney Morning Herald exclusive, an international team of archeologists have revealed the discovery of a hitherto unknown city in Cambodia.
Dr Evans, director of the University of Sydney's archaeological research centre in Cambodia, said the ''eureka moment'' in the discovery came weeks earlier when the lidar data popped up on a computer screen. ''With this instrument - bang - all of a sudden we saw an immediate picture of an entire city that no one knew existed which is just remarkable,'' he said.Mahendraparvata, as the city is known, is estimated to be 350 years older than the UNESCO Heritage site of Angkor Wat, built on on Phnom Kulen before Jayavarman II descended from the mountain to build another capital. As Dr Evans said ''This is where it all began, giving rise to the Angkor civilisation that everyone associates with Angkor Wat." The news comes on the heels of the recent repatriation of looted archeological treasures back to Cambodia by the New York Metropolitan museum.
State of the Species: Will the unprecedented success of Homo sapiens lead to an unavoidable downfall? [Via]
The ruins of Gede are the remains of a mysterious lost city on the Swahili Coast of Kenya, located deep within the Arabuko Sokoke forest. The mystery of Gede (Gedi) is that it does not appear in any Swahili, Portuguese, or Arab written records and present day research has not yet been able to fully account for what actually happened to the city. The inhabitants were of the Swahili, an ancient trading civilization that emerged along the eastern coasts of Africa ranging from Somalia to Mozambique. Archaeological excavations carried out between 1948 and 1958 have uncovered porcelain from China, an Indian lamp, Venetian beads, Spanish scissors, and other artefacts from all over the world, demonstrating the occupants were engaged in extensive and sophisticated international trade. Questions still remain as to what caused the downfall of Gede, but by the 17th century, the city was completely abandoned to the forest and forgotten until the 1920s. Today, a National Museum, Gede's sister cities from the period are part of the ethnography based archeological work of Dr Chapurukha M. Kusimba of Chicago's Field Museum, whose lifework has thrown light on the precolonial heritage of the Swahili peoples.
The Battle Over Zomia. "Scholars are enchanted by the notion of this anarchistic region in Asia. But how real is it?" [Previously]
National Characters is a long, multi-part essay about how computer games deal with the concept of nations and turns it into a game mechanic. The author, Troy Goodfellow of strategy gaming blog Flash of Steel, focuses on how the fourteen indistinguishable national factions of the original Sid Meier's Civilization have been treated by different games through the years. [more inside]
A new study suggests that humanity's sense of fair play and kindness towards strangers is determined by culture, not genetics. Speculation: the finding may be directly related to the rise of religion in human history, as well as more complex economies. (Via). [more inside]
The first human settlements... before the bronze age, before the iron age and even probably before the stone age, didn’t happen because people liked each other’s company. "As the old saying goes, there's safety in numbers... and fortifications. "If you have any doubt about how wood, stone and later even steel walls helped shape human civilization, all you need to do is take a close look at most of our cities, especially the older ones."
The ancient web is an online resource for students, teachers, and anyone interested in the cultures of the ancient world. With the Olympics fast approaching, here is an opportunity to learn more about the past 4500 years of Chinese civilization. Or how the Celtiberians would get drunk and eat raw meat before going to war. 24 ancient civilizations in all.
The Western Tradition, an outstanding 52-part instructional video series about the history of western civilization, is available as free streaming video.
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? Brought peace? Oh. Peace? Shut up!
City older than Mohenjodaro unearthed. This subject has always fascinated me, what is the world's oldest city/civilization? I remember learning in school the standard-tigris and euphrates river valley in Iraq version. But since I left school there seems to have been an ongoing search with multiple claims, here are a few links to newer claims, hamoukar, mohenjodaro, harappa, details of hamoukar, by the archaeologist. Does anyone have any insights, links are welcome, and what in your opinion is the oldest city/civilization in the world.
The stuff from which Myth is made. A recent discovery of a meteor impact crater in the middle-east, dating around 2300BC, is shedding new light on the decline of many cultures and the rise of many legends.