Sunday, February 13, 2011


Let's hope we don't run out of raw materials.

I've been reading a little of the 1965 book by Graeme Clark and Stuart Piggott, "Prehistoric Societies".

In this book they mention the Ubaid culture of early Iraq - we are talking about 6000 years ago:

"The newcomers in the delta of the Two Rivers had to contend with many difficulties, not least with a shortage or non-existence of the material resorces to which they had been accustomed in their original homeland. They were especially handicapped by the lack of metal and stone...."

At which point the slightly curious may wonder, what do you make things out of when you don't even have stone? I mean, even stone age people had stone, that's why we call it the stone age.

Well, these people didn't have copper any more, and at some stage had to make axes out of stone instead of copper. Any then:

"Instead of sickles with a curved cutting edge made of serrated flint blades, in what was now an ancient tradition, we find sickels made entirely of hard-fired clay. However neither the shaft-hole axes nor the battle-axes can be regarded as functional , but rather as the reproduction of unobtainable and expensive weapons of prestige in the only locally available material - mud"

So there you have it. Items of prestige made out of mud.

Now , I know this is being disparaging towards pottery, which is an important technology. But I've got this vision of someone giving their husband a clay battleaxe, and him replying (and looking like a Sumerian Baldrick) "Oh darling, you are spoiling me, this is the finest mud."

It makes me smile. But there is something slightly chilling about a people's technology regressing in this way.

I just hope our society doesn't run out of raw materials.


Kim Ayres said...

At some point in the future, our landfill sites will become mines for precious materials to be salvaged

Chris Black said...

I recall that one of the Japanese leaders in WW2 realised they had to surrender when he was told that his people were using the iron from Anerican bombs to make shovels...

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