Friday, January 28, 2022

Eemian Civilization

The Eemian, the last interglacial, taken from the river Eem in the Netherlands. Eeemian also known as the Ipswichian, the Sangamonian, Valdiva, Riss-W├╝rm, all referencing European digs. Unfortunately, none of those digs are important save to give insight into Neandertal lifestyles. Homo sapiens - anatomically modern Homo sapiens, is still mostly in Africa and perhaps some parts of the Middle East. This is, of course, based upon current dug up evidence, mostly in Morocco. As you can see from the map, still plenty of places to dig up. 

Let's be clear here though, skeletons anatomically modern go to back to 230,000 years. That doesn't mean they were us. But there were at least 10 other hominid contemporary (I hesitate to use the term Archaic not having met them), people wandering around as well. People today look nothing like back then. We couldn't because we are a mix of them, now. Going from folklore, you'd guess it was all fairy tale land, JRR Tolkein stuff, Middle Earth with trolls and goblins and elves. And why not? All fucking and fighting my friend. People don't get that they were still and all, people. Hell, for all we know it was Conan the Barbarian back then, with a leather and wood version of sword and sorcery.

Northern Africa with USA as size reference

Was there a civilization anything like what we call our modern predicament? The answer is probably no. From the previous essay:

The Eeemian shows up in the ice cores mentioned above and there is no evidence of nuclear atmospheric tests, plastics, petroleum or metallurgy. So, no modern things. Corresponding artifacts in stone and bone tell the same story of stone age glory. Homo sapiens is confined to Africa, perhaps some forays, but otherwise, not in Eurasia, and more important, not in the Western Hemisphere. 

The Eemian is almost smack dab in the middle of  the Middle Stone Age (300,000-30,000BCE) and the artifacts are flaked stone tools from factory cores, bone tools as well. Around 150,000 years ago there appears a bone tool for sewing. If there is sewing there is tanning, tent making, ropes, salt collecting, a large number of fiber industries, all supplemented by trade networks throughout Africa, and thus social networks, cultural bases and offsets (customs) in some cases universal. ( ex: Shells, drilled, uniform, everywhere far from the source. The same thing happened in the Holocene).

There are faitly accurate climate and terrain descriptions (based on ice and dust and pollen counts taken from drilled lakebed cores). For a few kiloyears in the middle of the interglacial, it is a hotter, mositer world than we experience.The Sahara and Arabian peninsula are green. A Green Hell, if there are hippos in Engand. Mostly savanna but also forests and swampland, with extensive north-south river systems in modern day Libya and Algeria and megalakes in Chad. It was much the same as it was some 5-6000 years ago when the Sahara was last green, but 2-3C warmer. There is today a vast fresh water aquifer underneath much of Libya and Algeria (fortunately untapped), from this green period.

There was a trans-Saharan corridor running from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf (Green Sahara and Arabia), and corridors leading to Southern Africa. In terms of animals, we know hippos and elephants were lviing in England some 130,000 years ago, so think heat tolerant tropical and subtropical fauna, incredibly rich, diverse and dense in varitety and population. Paradise.

Sea level is 20-30 feet higher than today, notably due to melting of large parts of Greenland and the complete collapse of the West Antrarctic ice sheet. 

The isthmus, where the Suez canal runs today, was mostly inundated but not impossible to traverse. Migration routes were open to the Saudi peninsula and north along the Mediterranean coast.

Which means migration into Eurasia was possible both ways, although no Nearnderthal remains are found in Africa, so far. Again the question of if "we" made it to Australia or the Western Hemisphere. So far, no.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Pushback on TDOE & further thoughts

Thinking more on The Dawn of Everything. I'd intentionally not read reviews of the book to color my own observations. Do a google search . Most reviews are glowing. Others vehemently against. It's pretty much a  left/right split on like/dislike. The liberal bastions the Atlantic and New York Times, were glowing. Wall Street Journal, various scholars, not so glowing. Those were the criticisms I was interested in. I should note that when Graeber first published Debt: The First 5000 Years, he discussed the book on Crooked Timber. Some criticisms were vehement, almost violent, and those tended to peck at the eyes, the obvious errors in fact or opinion, rather than knocking down the general logic of the book. Graeber held his own, but admitted there were errors. There are always errors .They should not be constured as straw man or cherry picking or argument from ignorance.. Having taught a class in logic and criticism, I gave him 8 for 2. Not bad. Crroked Timber also discussed TDOE and it was a funeral.

The Dawn Of Everything Gets Human History Wrong by Chris Knight, Nanacy Lindisfarne, and Jonathon Neale. Maybe it's my lack of reading comprehension but they totally agree with everything they object to. They call the Ds Often Wrong, then proceed to give the same fucking answer they object to. WTF, could be I skimmed the book too fast or I came to the wrong conclusions, the critics were arguing the same page. Are there errors in TDOE? I'm sure but I have to work through the notes.

Big Data has hit archaeology. It's no genie, more of a AI crow to find shiny, but the Big Data approach gave generalist expeditions into specialist data and observations. Couple this software octopus with increasingly intensive (private collections & museums digitally documented) and extensive (dense hi-tech field work) observations, incredible documentation tech, sampling to produce petabytes of insights about our world and us. It is now possible to visualize the world other than our own imagination to AR-include metadata of artifacts, real time referencing to all libraries and collections. AIs hungry for cut marks, ochre, intentional grinding  The Silver Age of Archaeology won't stop at the Golden Age, but further on. (especially if we pursue underwater archaeology to examine Ice Age shores and rivers now 200 feet below sea level. That's the goodies me bucko*)

A good example of technologically enhanced humanity is recent efforts to correlate volcanic eruptions to historic events. From the article:

Less than a decade ago, scientific calculations of the dates of volcanic eruptions used only 16 measurements per ice core to cover 2,000 years of history and included as much as two-century margins of error, too imprecise to be of use to historians. Instruments invented at the Desert Research Center in Reno now take 21,000 measurements per ice core and can detect at least 30 elements down to parts per quadrillion. This data improves on the old estimates by two orders of magnitude, enabling historians to make exact correlations with documented historical events.

History traditionally plays out on a wooden stage when obviously it's the deck of a heaving ship.

Survival of the fittest for that environment. Not a fitness landscape, a ship on a fitness seascape. And as sea monkeys grow into sea apes, the number and weight of the arks and fleets effects the ocean itself.  This is a familiar nonlinear model that descends into infinity fairly quickly. A difficult but not impossible field equation to solve.   That is where move from superorganism to eukaryote to what? A person? A singular monster?. Aren't that scale invariant? And if so, are we, as far as we know, an intelligent species that can do much cooler things than bees and ants? Or can we? The Solar System tamed and named, is that a triumph? I don't know. Intelligence increasingly looks self- destructive.

We could check. We got records. The Eemian, for starters, the last interglacial starting about 123,000 years ago. Lasted about around 14,000 years. Ironically we avoided the next Ice Age with our modern smoke, but Hot House Earth is not good for ice apes baby.

The Eeemian shows up in the ice cores mentioned above and there is no evidence of nuclear atmospheric tests, plastics, petroleum or metallurgy. So, no modern things. Corresponding artifacts in stone and bone tell the same story of stone age glory. Homo sapiens is confined to Africa, perhaps some forays, but otherwise, not in Eurasia, and more important, not in the Western Hemisphere. 

What's going on Eemian-wise? I don't know. I need to find out.

Picture yourself on a boat on a river. 

With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly

The girl with kaleidoscope eyes. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Senate by Sortition

My MRI. That is one sexy brain.

I half expected an octopus, or maybe a facefugger. It's reassuring that everything looks textbook up in the noggin. 

The Senate is a hindrance to democracy. It is the product of snobbery. The best band aid I can think of is selecting senators by lottery. Sortition. That is the most egalitarian method of choice.

Senators are chosen by lottery. Except right now, per the pesky 17th amendment, theys are directly elected by popular vote. A grisly popularity contest of weird magic and charisma. A 1920s high school none of us wanted to go to. I went to school with these assholes, and now look. 

1) get rid of electors, who can be used as man-in-the-middle attacks, otherwise serve no purpose in direct elections, duh. 

2) Form the Lottery Party. You, a paid member in  our Lottery Party, get an equal chance at becoming senator of your state if we win. Or a representative.

People sayd? What you let any idiot become senator? 

Hey, it's not like recall elections disappear with the lottery.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow

It is a tragedy that there will not be three or four sequels to this book, as planned. Genius is tossed about too casually, but David Graeber definitely was a genius. I'm gonna have to buy this book as the limit of the library loan made me skim a lot (never enjoyable). I like to read and then walk and sleep on it. This is a book worth rereading. The main point of the book is its time to reexamine our data, check our bias, see what is probably correct or absurdly wrong. Much of the prehistoric narrative, and the advancement of civilization, is mostly wrong. We have a prejudice, a bigotry, towards primitive man which has made us mostly wrong about the past. We have a paucity of imagination on purpose, to be scientific. But that makes us objectively wrong.

Picture yourself  15,000 years ago. Or I will. I'll look mighty peculiar. White people have not been invented yet. Oh sure, still another 8000 years and latitude and dietary changes to get the combo of light complected skin, eyes, hair. I am also frail and gracile compared to the short robust people of this time. Any one of these prehistoric people could break me in half. Mostly foragers, some play gardens towards occasional flood zone agriculture. They are incredibly fit and well fed, and also smarter than me, in a generalist way. 

Half a million years of cooking had shrunk their jaws almost as much as mine, but I had been selected for, among other things, vocal production. Language being a big bang for the buck communication;my short face, long neck, and descent of larynx has given my voice an operatic style of timbre, articulation, and perhaps range. This does not mean someone 15,000 years ago couldn't talk. Of course they could. Stuck in the popular mind are grunting and hooting cartoons. 100,000 years ago, yes, humans were not capable of the full range of human speech, but I think it ridiculous to assume they did not talk, or that language itself accelerated our cultural development. 

Articulate people, also playful, creative, imaginative, curious, cautious, and almost always in charge. They are not cowering in caves warding off animals with torches, but out and about in the world.

And what a world! Not the impoverished ecosystems of 21st century Earth, but teeming with an embarassment of overflowing life, lush with plants and animals. Rivers covered in fish. Oceans, plains, forests teaming with game, A landscape already fire shaped by human technology for human desire. Their entire necessary technology, the world's tools, on or about their person, and easy access to more.

How easy? By making, but more often trading. The trades extend throughout Eurasia and Africa going back at least 60,000-75,000 years. Extensive trade based upon so many objects far from their origins. Evidence also of not just making, but industrial mass production. A whole variety of things from arrowheads to mammoth ivory beads, to wood and bone and leather and rope. Beautiful things spectacular in their individual styles, yet still efficiently mass produced. The people back then, the myth goes, were much more free - free to work and play - than we are today. So, what went wrong? The idea is somehow we got stuck society-wise in this heirarchy, kind of like a bunch of bacteria locked in as symbiotes to a larger eukaryotic cell. The state? Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Ds, Davids, Graeber and Wengrow have written a critque of the current narrative we have about prehistoric and near historic peoples,which I will get into, but they base much of their critique on what they call primordial freedoms:

Freedom to leave.

Freedom to disobey.

Freedom to play (at social experiments).

I think there is one more primordial freedom, which is:

Freedom to get fucked up, intoxicated, psychedelic, &c.

The Ds work from archaeological finds - the most recent 30 years - which are just now yielding vast amounts of information about how we past peoples lived. The archaeological evidence suggests the modern interpretation of prehistory, via people like Jared Diamond, Steven Pinker and Francis Fukuyama, are by and large just-so stories. 

This is not a put down of the above authors. Evidence changes, old museum artifacts identified correctly, new digs with contemporary technique, a clearer picture of prehistoric us. There is also recognized cutltural bias - despite cold reasoned deductive techniques - causing Victorian biologists to name a bug a queen bee. Not Egglayer. Not Old Means of Production. Queen. Or depicting Neanderthals as shambling ape men.

Starting with Rousseau and proceeding through the Enlightenment, the Ds say anthropological narrative mimics the stale story of the Bible. Starting in a egalitarian savage state and "racing for our chains" (Rousseau) via the agricultural revolution, property rights, and heirarchy. 

(The Ds make a good case that most of our American ideas about democracy were actually critiques and arguments from Eastern Woodland philosophers, towards Jesuits. There was certainly no tradition of democracy in Europe to compare to the radical ideas of the primordial freedoms).

The contemporary narrative of progresss is us moving from clans to tribes to chiefdoms to states. Each level an increase in population size, better lifestyle and accumulation of wealth. The evidence suggests otherwise. People did just fine as foragers. People did just fine without bosses. People built cities without bosses. Didn't need agriculture to sustain these cities. Most cities started out as mudpie play and added to over the centuries. They were built, abandoned, refurbished, demolished, like childrens treehouses. Again, a reminder that prehistoric us was just as imaginative, clever, and playful as we are now. Probably more. In any case, these European blinkers on paleontology produced some whoppers of judgements.

Example: The Great Leap, a cultural leap 40,000 years ago, based on increased sophistication of artifacts. Judgement: False positive, with bias. Western archeological research had been mainly digging up stuff in Europe. Unfortunately this priming error has promoted Western chauvinism (white supremacy). More to the point, the European invasion and slaughter of the inhabitants of Turtle Island (as N. America was indigenously known) was inevitable, almost manifest destiny. Diamond, Pinker etc. are quick to point out the external advantages, the guns, germs and steel, as opposed to any inate superiority of the invasive species, nevertheless they treat it as fate. Where instead is coincidence, and a small window of coincidence at that. 

Back to primordial truths. Freedom to leave. Freedom to disobey. Freedom to play. How are these supported in the archaeological record? Well, take prehistoric cities, like in the Anatolian highlands, the Indus valley, the Ukrainian mammoth bone villages, have no palaces, no physical signs of income inequality. More like suburban tracts of similar houses, cells in a beehive, all grown over centuries of playing around at building. Gobeckli Tepe, Kaharantepe, assumed to be temples, feel more like amusement parks, haunted houses. Built on some agreed upon plan with no central planners, or at least no permanent bosses. What you might call nowadays a DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization, but with some seasonality. As if, for a period of mutual improvement and fun, all volunteered for corvee labor, and then went on their merry way to do whatever TF they wanted until the next season or get-together.

So what you generally find, is that people do just fine without bosses. Bosses are nowadays a complex mixture of sovereignty, charismatic politics, and bureaucracy. Mini-states.Mini-mansions.

A big just-so story is once you get too many people together, you need a heirarchy of bosses to run them all. Turns out humans have been capable of mass industrial production with standardization of parts for at least 100,000 years, and with no evidence of heirarchy or dominance. Just the opposite. Often you would find the most elaborate paleolithic grave sights thought to be princes and princesses, were more often bone deformed in some way. Differently abled, cared for, cherished, dying in a society that allowed for charity.

Two questions that are determined to be stupid questions are: "When and how did inequality arise? "When and how did the state evolve?" 

One opinion they demolish is state as a monopoly of violence. Capitalism (for one) is based upon force and fraud. How that can be monopolized is a simplleton's understanding of scales of force and fraud. Better still, a Newtonian understanding of violence versus a Bose-Einstein understanding.

The Ds have tons of examples, but nothing was tied together to see if the question was stupid or poorly framed. They admit that their question is how did we get stuck? That's a better question, and I think that is what the next book would have been about. It's a rushed answer they give, but I've part of the answer. It involves my 4th primordial freedom: freedom to get fucked up. 

In every example of every state they reviewed, all the orgs had control over intoxicants, had a purity code and efficiently mass produced industrial drug system. 

Note to self: every state ever controlled their drugs. Standardized and regulated good drugs to the people. Mesopotamian barley beer, Egypt had wheat beer, Incas corn beer, and along with/before that the pscyhoactive drugs and any shit you can eat, drink or smoke. 15,000 years ago, people went to megalithic sites to party and get fucked up and fool around. Get freely fucked up and see a show. And what better way to get fucked up than with well regulated drugs? Well distributed drugs? Heirarchy is the best supply chain and before you know it, you're stuck.

I would argue that drug use, many other practices, is protected under the 2nd amendment. And that, dearie dears, being necessary to the security of the state, shall not be infringed.

Short version? Read the book. Worth reading. Read 1491 along with it.

Oh yeah, what about agriculture and property rights? The so-called Agricultural Revoltion was a 10,000 year span of opportunistic gardening, only adopted permanently after an impoverishment of the land. We stupid apes are worse than fire ants.

Property rights? Ridiculous at face value, that a tiny lifespan/spaced bug like you can own a piece of 4.5 billion year old Earth. OK firefly. Neverthless, obviously a perversion of sacred body space I guess. A persversion of what you consider sacred.