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Thread: Concrete Hypothesis on Origin of Civilization

  1. #1 Concrete Hypothesis on Origin of Civilization 
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    In brief, hypothesis is that primitive man, or possibly woman, witnessed lightning strike on rocky outcrop, creating white powder with unusual properties, evidence of divinity granting power to make stone (primitive concrete). This was used to construct temple complex, area for large numbers of people to congregate, providing stimulus for agriculture and civilization.

    Amazon.com: Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World's Most Common Man-made Material (9781616144814): Robert Courland: Books


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    Imo that sounds both unlikely and conjecture.


    The origin of civilization perspective I have is that: language, primitive domestication of animal(capture instead of kill) and plants(protect from animals) and specialization, are factors that combined to make primitive agriculture possible, and as agriculture progressed more food made further specialization possible (eventually non-farmers) and agglomeration of more people in one place possible.


    With these factors civilization can blossom even if zero concrete is used (you can build villages and towns out of wood, etc).


    Last edited by icewendigo; November 18th, 2011 at 03:27 PM.
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    Did anyone have concrete before the Romans?
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    No proof yet.

    Roman concrete included volcanic ash and crushed pottery. I think it likely that in excavating disaster sites like Pompeii the Romans found this ash & rubble mix hardened after rain; so began to blend their own based on the observation. If volcanoes catalyze the discovery of concrete, then civilizations lacking those (in time or region) cannot have concrete.
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo View Post
    Imo that sounds both unlikely and conjecture.


    The origin of civilization perspective I have is that: language, primitive domestication of animal(capture instead of kill) and plants(protect from animals) and specialization, are factors that combined to make primitive agriculture possible, and as agriculture progressed more food made further specialization possible (eventually non-farmers) and agglomeration of more people in one place possible.


    With these factors civilization can blossom even if zero concrete is used (you can build villages and towns out of wood, etc).
    Yes, but in the book are real archaeological digs. And primitive hunter gatherer living was pretty idyllic in some places, persisting for quite some time before recorded settlements. What happened to encourage them to stay in one place, making agriculture necessary?

    Anyway, first cultivated plants were probably gourds for transporting water, not food per se.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathman View Post
    Did anyone have concrete before the Romans?
    700 BCE, Greek island of Rhodes. Also maybe Egyptians- there is a minority opinion that stone of Pyramids is actually synthetic in nature. More from book. Plus Edison, Frank Lloyd Wright, Emperor Hadrian, and lesser known but equally fascinating personalities. Prince is not one of them.
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    Chemically, concrete is a blend of calcium oxide and mineral silicates, which sets with water addition by forming a complex of calcium, aluminium, and silicate. The old time Romans blended crushed limestone (calcium carbonate) with a specific volcanic ash, and then roasted them together. It pre-dated Pompeii.

    The Romans did not have, though, the secret of reinforcing concrete. This limited the amount of use they could put it to. Unreinforced concrete has a lot of compressive strength, but it is very brittle, and cannot flex without breaking.

    However, you do not need to make cement. Calcium oxide plus water can be used to make mortar, which sets to form a kind of weaker 'cement', which is used in stone buildings to hold the stones together. There is no evidence of concrete before the Romans, but mortar almost certainly has been in use for a long time before that.
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    Does anyone know much about astec/mayan civilizations how they came about and how they collapsed? With comparisons with native americans from north america who had villages but not, afaik, large cities. Is it possible that astec/mayan relied to a greater degree on agriculture and that north american tribes relied to a greater extent on hunting and travelling a little bit to gather food items(fruits, fish, hunted prey) ?
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    The problem with determining causes of collapse for pre-European American peoples is that they did not leave written records. Thus causes of collapse are speculative, and often strongly influenced by whatever theories are fashionable at the time.

    If you look at societies with written records that have collapsed, the causes are almost inevitably war, famine or disease.
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    almost inevitably war, famine or disease.
    Sometimes as a symptom of climate and other environmental changes.
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    Many of the earliest cities and other major structures were built using mud bricks. Before that wood, stone and other materials. No concrete required.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Chemically, concrete is a blend of calcium oxide and mineral silicates, which sets with water addition by forming a complex of calcium, aluminium, and silicate. The old time Romans blended crushed limestone (calcium carbonate) with a specific volcanic ash, and then roasted them together. It pre-dated Pompeii.

    The Romans did not have, though, the secret of reinforcing concrete. This limited the amount of use they could put it to. Unreinforced concrete has a lot of compressive strength, but it is very brittle, and cannot flex without breaking.

    However, you do not need to make cement. Calcium oxide plus water can be used to make mortar, which sets to form a kind of weaker 'cement', which is used in stone buildings to hold the stones together. There is no evidence of concrete before the Romans, but mortar almost certainly has been in use for a long time before that.
    Book has rather lyrical description of dome of Pantheon in Rome, still intact after many centuries. By contrast, not much of modern reinforced concrete will be intact after a few decades, due to corrosion of metal within. Iron oxide takes up to fourfold volume than unoxidized metal and is weaker. Goodbye, freeway off ramp, hello Pantheon dome, old friend.

    Is good book, really.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    almost inevitably war, famine or disease.
    Sometimes as a symptom of climate and other environmental changes.
    And sometimes as a symptom of arrival of English-speaking and other bastards.
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo View Post
    Does anyone know much about astec/mayan civilizations how they came about and how they collapsed? With comparisons with native americans from north america who had villages but not, afaik, large cities. Is it possible that astec/mayan relied to a greater degree on agriculture and that north american tribes relied to a greater extent on hunting and travelling a little bit to gather food items(fruits, fish, hunted prey) ?
    Off topic but irresistible:

    WashingtonPost.com: Ancient Cahokia

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/20...ia/hodges-text
    Last edited by The Finger Prince; November 30th, 2011 at 07:02 PM.
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    How would this concrete relate to pottery? Pottery is probably a lot more important to civilization, because it's so useful in storage. Growing food is all well and good but if you can't store it then a central authority can't accumulate it and use it to keep order. (Giving out food during famines, etc, or supplying soldiers in the field during a military campaign.)

    As far as concrete, we know of a few cultures that built marvelous edifices without using any concrete at all don't we?
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    Neither concrete or pottery are essential, since there are lots of alternatives, ranging from adobe to timber buildings, to leather bags, gourd flasks, shaped stone blocks etc.

    The origins of civilisation are tied up with agriculture, growing easily stored food, freeing people from hunting and gathering 365 days a year.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Neither concrete or pottery are essential, since there are lots of alternatives, ranging from adobe to timber buildings, to leather bags, gourd flasks, shaped stone blocks etc.
    Yes, but are they good alternatives? Gourd flasks are a good way to carry water. Probably cant' fit a lot of grain into one, though. Adobe buildings haven't been seen to work in any large civilized societies, like the kind that would create big cities.

    For a big city, you need the prospect of commerce, and for functional commerce you need efficient storage.

    The origins of civilisation are tied up with agriculture, growing easily stored food, freeing people from hunting and gathering 365 days a year.
    Probably every invention along the way helped.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Probably every invention along the way helped.
    Certainly.

    One of the things I wonder about, though, is how much selective breeding played a role. The earliest agriculture resulting in fixed settlements, towns etc., appears to have been 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in the Middle East, and appears to have been from growing wheat.

    Wild wheat, however, is a scrawny plant that produces very little food per acre. While our ancestors probably harvested wild wheat for umpteen thousands of years, what was it that led to actually farming it? The original wild wheat appears not to have the potential to support communities, even intensively cultivated. Is it possible that nomadic peoples harvesting wild wheat actually replanted the best seeds, thereby both providing food for their next visit and breeding a better strain? And is it possible that forming settlements and settling down to grow wheat did not happen till the wild wheat had been bred into a suitably productive form?

    The availability of a superior wheat might explain the 'sudden' appearance of farming communities.
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    Quote Originally Posted by icewendigo View Post
    Imo that sounds both unlikely and conjecture.


    The origin of civilization perspective I have is that: language, primitive domestication of animal(capture instead of kill) and plants(protect from animals) and specialization, are factors that combined to make primitive agriculture possible, and as agriculture progressed more food made further specialization possible (eventually non-farmers) and agglomeration of more people in one place possible.


    With these factors civilization can blossom even if zero concrete is used (you can build villages and towns out of wood, etc).
    Agreed entirely. I hold the theory that a very large number, maybe even a majority, of world civilizations have cultural and religious traits that stem from the three main linguistic groups (and their proto forms) of Africa prior to 15 000 BC: Afro-Asiatic, Khoisan, and Niger-Congo. Each group is believed to have had distinct classes of religious, and cultural, beliefs which can be compared with modern representations of a variety of peoples with similar cultural/religious beliefs within the linguist groups. Later on, came the neolithic revolution, which I believe, most hold as having the biggest contribution to how societies' "evolved". For one interesting note, Abrahamic religions have their origins in the Afro-Asiatic linguistic group: and therefore the Semetic Languages, and Arabic.

    Afroasiatic languages - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Khoisan languages - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Niger

    Christopher Ehret - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    pages 26 - 55 in Christopher Ehret's The Civilizations of Africa.
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    I thought this guy was nuts, I thought, "What about the Americas?"

    Then I found this:
    International Concrete Research & Information Portal

    I still think this guy is nuts.
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    Towns along coasts, very old ones, seem to have supported themselves by fishing rather than agriculture - as fishing predates agriculture, is seems likely that towns predate agriculture as well.

    A lot of the technology of fishing and waterfaring generally requires a fairly settled population - boatbuilding, for example, takes a long time in the absence of modern tools, and an accumulation of resources in an occupied location. Likewise the construction of large weirs, nets, processing facilities, etc. Furthermore, detailed knowledge of a locale si critical - fish migrate at certain times, school in certain places, and knwoing all that requires (and rewards) extended dwelling time by groups of people in one place.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Towns along coasts, very old ones, seem to have supported themselves by fishing rather than agriculture - as fishing predates agriculture, is seems likely that towns predate agriculture as well.
    Towns, maybe. But I am not aware of any large cities that developed that way. I'm not sure you can create a sufficient surplus to support a city without agriculture.
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    I'm not sure you can create a sufficient surplus to support a city without agriculture.
    I'd say that pretty well hits the mark. And most of those required armies to take over additional land to import food because productivity was pretty low by modern standards. There were very few regions like the Nile delta with high, predictable productivity.

    There's a lot of evidence accumulating about food cultivation on a smallish village scale, much less than agriculture-as-we-know-it. Many nomadic hunter gatherers had the good sense to replant some roots of tuberous plants and scatter seed of food plants and collect the result during the next season. And there were certainly stone built fish farms / traps in a few Australian rivers long, long ago.

    Gourd flasks are a good way to carry water.
    Maybe so. But I would have thought the first, best candidates would be animal skins. Much more flexible, portable, stackable when empty, much less brittle in use.

    freeing people from hunting and gathering 365 days a year.
    I remember being startled by reading some time ago that hunter-gathering was actually a reasonable life. (In good seasons, obviously.) The writer pointed out that gathering enough roots, reptiles, small mammals, fish or shellfish, eggs, nuts, berries, fruit or vegetables, or insects to feed a family would have taken about 4 hours a day. Lots of time left over for weaving, dyeing, processing leather or pottery, story-telling and the like. With the occasional bonus of a big animal for a feast.
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    As for the concrete hypothesis. Not overly thrilled.

    I was much more taken with the documentary series by Professor Iain Stewart. BBC Knowledge - How Earth Made Us - Summary

    Like most people, I've often been amazed at people who live on the flanks of volcanoes. Go somewhere safer!! But he goes through volcanoes, earthquake regions as well as rivers or groundwater resources and other areas to show that people settle there - because the land is so productive. First people settle, then gather as villages, which can become towns and some of them become cities. And they tend to use whatever material is in the area for building. Just look at all those wooden churches in Russia and northern Europe. And the Teak Palace in Thailand.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    I was much more taken with the documentary series by Professor Iain Stewart.
    He is very good.

    Like most people, I've often been amazed at people who live on the flanks of volcanoes. Go somewhere safer!!
    And the same could be said of areas like the Nile and Mesopotamia; regular inundations which could destroy life and homes. But then, when they were sufficiently understood to be predicted and used (which drove astronomy, calendar making and mathematics) they became invaluable resources.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Towns along coasts, very old ones, seem to have supported themselves by fishing rather than agriculture - as fishing predates agriculture, is seems likely that towns predate agriculture as well.
    Towns, maybe. But I am not aware of any large cities that developed that way. I'm not sure you can create a sufficient surplus to support a city without agriculture.
    The trouble for fish is long term storage. You can smoke it, but that's a lot of work for limited results. You can keep the fish alive in water, but that's got it's own issues too.

    Grain, on the other hand, lasts however long you need it to as long as you can keep it dry.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Towns along coasts, very old ones, seem to have supported themselves by fishing rather than agriculture - as fishing predates agriculture, is seems likely that towns predate agriculture as well.
    Towns, maybe. But I am not aware of any large cities that developed that way. I'm not sure you can create a sufficient surplus to support a city without agriculture.
    But why would people gather together to begin with making such a surplus necessary? Ceremonial reasons, perhaps? Was the temple built before the town, and of what?
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Towns along coasts, very old ones, seem to have supported themselves by fishing rather than agriculture - as fishing predates agriculture, is seems likely that towns predate agriculture as well.
    Towns, maybe. But I am not aware of any large cities that developed that way. I'm not sure you can create a sufficient surplus to support a city without agriculture.
    The trouble for fish is long term storage. You can smoke it, but that's a lot of work for limited results. You can keep the fish alive in water, but that's got it's own issues too.

    Grain, on the other hand, lasts however long you need it to as long as you can keep it dry.
    Smoke fish? How do you keep it lit?

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    Preserving fish isn't that hard, salting works pretty well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Angler View Post
    But why would people gather together to begin with making such a surplus necessary? Ceremonial reasons, perhaps? Was the temple built before the town, and of what?
    Well it is a gradual process. Imagine scattered communities in an area where agriculture has developed. There will already be some sort of political/socal system (village/family heads, networks of cooperation and trade, building irrigation systems, etc).

    If the land is reasonably fertile then agriculture almost inevitably creates a surplus. The political leaders will take (or be given) the task of managing this surplus - initially to ensure storage and management of supplies to be available year round. Then for years with a bad harvest and ultimately trade. This makes the community as a whole wealthier (and, probably, human nature being what it is, the ruling classes especially so) which means there is more scope for artisans and artists to be employed in a wider range of jobs. Population increases, housing density rises, ... hey presto ... a city state is formed. (OK, it is a little more complex than that in reality.)

    As for temples, it is common for the ruling class and priestly class to be either the same or closely aligned (separation of church and state is a very modern and rare idea). So among the first big constructions would be The Palace and The Temple (as well as the corn exchange, the defensive walls, etc.)
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    But why would people gather together to begin with making such a surplus necessary?
    The process needn't start with "surplus". Just with different resources in different areas. In Australia, "nomadic" groups had regular routes they travelled from the centre to more congenial areas near the coasts. (Coastal groups tended to be more settled.) But what did they have to offer the groups that would be 'hosting' them for a few months each year?

    They tended to bring along ochres for body and face decoration. Maybe some spear tips or other goods we might not even recognise that were assigned high value just because they were a bit 'exotic'. Probably useful since these assemblies were sensible occasions for a few marriages and other ceremonies when everybody got together. The hosts provide the feasts and probably dowries, the visitors bring their dowries, ceremonial items and other gifts as well as valuable trading items.

    So even without 'surplus' the exchange of what we've got plenty of that you've got none of can begin a whole trading system. The nomads might move on, but the more settled folks can accumulate items that are valuable in other exchanges with other groups.
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