Tuesday, September 06, 2011

3000 Year Old Humans vs Today's Humans

We know about racial bias, and ethnic bias, but we don't often think about what I call temporal bias - the belief that people today are superior to people who lived in the distant past.  We obviously know (well, some of us anyway) about history and so we know about them, but they didn't know about us.  That seems to give us some superiority.  And we live with cars and dishwashers and computers and telephones and airplanes, so it would seem obvious that we are far superior.

But how much is any one of us individually responsible for any of those things?  How many individuals today would be able to come up with even the simplest advances, say, like tablecloths or buttons or scissors?  If it weren't for a few geniuses amongst us who saw the need and conceived a solution when the right resources were available, would any of those 'great' inventions exist?

To what extent is the average human being walking the earth today intrinsically smarter or more sophisticated than those walking the earth 3,000 years ago?   The Spartans built the Trojan horse and then wrote great plays and poetry about it around 1200 BC.

And at the Freer Gallery yesterday I looked at vessels like this one, created about the same time.

How many of us could conceive of and then execute such an exquisite piece?  The level of sophistication in the craftsmanship and the artistry suggests to me that the person who made this ewer could walk into the modern world, and after a few months of adjustment, be able to understand and appreciate today's world.  And perhaps teach us a thing or two.

Despite the fact that we have 3000 years on the ancient Greeks and Chinese, our progress has occurred mainly in the area of technology through the efforts of a tiny fraction of humanity. In the area of interpersonal and international relations, we don't seem to have advanced much at all.

By the way, it said that this and a few other vessels like it, were for holding grain alcohol.  That surely says something about the importance of alcohol then.


  1. How beautiful. Sorry to say that a generation raised on junk food and watching tv half the day would probably look pretty sorry next to our ancestors, who had to be clever and strong to make it from one day to the next.

  2. I continue being humbled by our human past and find its study essential. As for the vessel, thank goodness for mind-altering substances -- religious history just wouldn't be the same without them.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.