Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dwelling, on the subject

Just like Batman and Green Arrow, we start out with our base in a cave. We practice early forms of graffiti that inform generations what life was like in our (pre)time.

Do we pitch a tent the first time we're out in the open - or are some of us sleeping in trees like our primate cousins?
What was the first residence that could properly be called a hut? Where did our ancestors shack down for the first time?

When is a house a home, okay, fair question. Here's another: when is a house a house?

The oldest building is variously the Neolithic temple of Hagar Qim or  the Pantheon.

The earliest bed where we lay our head? The figure was only revised in 2011 to 77,000 years ago, 50,000 years earlier than previously thought. And we've also found a 'kitchen' dating back a million years - this predates our accepted knowledge of human's use of fire by 300,000 years.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wear and when

If it's true that clothes maketh (the) man then know that this is a tradition going back eons.
Shoes, first worn forty thousand years ago, were a more recent sartorial edition. Maybe the earlier Neantherdals had tough feet.

The earliest hat is under a little dispute since there are some sources claiming that the earliest human would have instinctively sought to cover their head. In the nineteenth century they didn't even bother to guess; they didn't know at that stage. Now we know Persians had headgear six thousand years ago and there's evidence of the wearing of a straw hat on a tomb painting in Thebes

The oldest garment  is an inside-out dress worn by a teenager.

Men have been wearing pants for six thousand years. Women have been wearing skirts for twenty two thousand years and lay claim to them being the oldest article of clothing (though it depends how you measure these things).

Sunday, January 06, 2013

OlDEST iny

The beauty of science is that we have people whose job it is to make discoveries that change and challenge our knowledge of antiquity. In October, when I was marking off the halfway point, a 520 million year old arthropod fossil was discovered.

The earliest bird (availability of prehistoric worms notwithstanding) was believed for some while to be Archeopteryx but this claim has been brought into dispute by the existence of Xiaotingia zhengi not because of a greater claim but because they are both more properly dinosaurs called Deinonychosaurs, rather than birds.

The Hylonomus Iyelli puts our reptile mind at 312 million years old. It's considered to be the first lizard-like creature to come out of the sea and live on land.

The core date for Chordates is 525 million years. Vertebrates come in at the late Silurian, 425 million years ago

(Invertebrates were around in the first time period of the Palaeozoic Era, the Cambrian)

Who knew our predecessor would bear such an unLatin appelation as the skinny 'shrew'? 125 million years is a long time to have us mammals around

Even therian mammals have now been on this planet for that long. And, not be repetitive, the oldest eutherian mammal.

The first primates did not appear until 50-55 million years ago. Anthropoids 35 million years ago. Hominids date to 4.4 million years and that's only recently revised. Confusingly the next level up, a hominoid fossil. But younger, a mere 1.97 to 1.96 million years ago, the earliest Homo Australopithecus sediba

Skipping past the other humanoid species we've been uncovering in recent years, the earliest appearance of Homo sapiens is 195,000 years ago. This means we had 189,000 years to evolve to a point we could document our beginning. And, may it be said, in the most egocentric fashion, placing ourselves so highly - deciding whether there would be good and evil in the world, naming the animals - when other members of our genus had got the drop on us ten times over.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

It's Been Ages

Many of us muse at some point about our longevity. Eighty or ninety years is common, but the preceding decades are no picnic when it comes to death.

We wonder what immortality would be like and we prick up our ears any time there's a mention of cryogenics or cyborg technology; of nanobots storing our conscience. That's our conception of what the future might bring; just as once people must have imagined what it would be like to contact anyone anywhere in the world and hear their voice, or what it would be like to have those motion pictures screening on a large screen in our living room. It is in our nature to think about what the future brings. It has worked in our favour so far as our every thought is transmuted into some physical object that bears at least the large imprint of that initial notion.

The oldest man ever was born in 1897 and is 115 years and 259 days old.

A recent oldest woman alive was 116 year old Besse Cooper; she died in December. Dinah Manfredini had a brief reign at being incredibly fucking old, dying at 115. There is some claim made for another December death; this time a purportedly 124 year old Arab-Israeli woman. If this is verified she will be the oldest person to have lived.  But there have been previous claims of great age. And let's not forget Varvara Semennikova. At this advanced age, it's a record that keeps changing. The current verified oldest woman to have lived is Jeanne Calment.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

'11/'12 dig and delve

So another year of disasters at the global level and another year in which personally things were pretty chipper. New York City being flooded made it even harder for denialist cretins to maintain that there's nothing going on climate-wise, and the effects of the Arab Spring continued, even if Syria couldn't divest itself of its despot.

My best friend turned 50 in May and married a Spanish girl in a big Catholic cathedral on the outskirts of Valencia. I was there and so were many of the old gang, it was a brief gathering in exotic surrounds of people who, in some cases, barely see each other from one decade to the next.

My old filmwatching buddy also turned 50, though liking a shared link of Stan Lee turning 90 at the end of the year summed up our current level of interaction.

And I turned 50 in October. Didn't have as many stalwarts as were at my mate's wedding, but you get that. His fiftieth passed in preparation for the wedding.

And the Mayan calendar was a portend for nothing - apart from the aforementioned countries collapsing into debt and monster hurricanes.