A Conversation for The 77 Wonders of the Ancient World

How old is ancient?

Post 1

And Introducing... A Leg

Don't get me wrong: this is an excellent idea. I'm just not sure that Magellan was ancient, even though his voyage was certainly wonderful.

Perhaps he was ancient, I'm just not sure.

While I'm here, I'd like to recommend the African city of Great Zimbabwe for the list. It's conical structures are really quite fantastic.

How old is ancient?

Post 2

Lemon Blossom (aka Athena Albatross)

Great Zimbabwe ought to be on the list.

As for ancient, I'm defining it as follows--no cast metal, electricity, steam (or more advanced) engines, ect. may have been used in construction. For Western Europe, about 1760 is the cutoff. For the rest of the world, whenever the technical means became about equivalent to 1760's Western Europe

How old is ancient?

Post 3


Belated but, historically obviously there isn't really any fixed defintion for any eras, but I expect Magellan slotted in somewhere during the Renaissance. Ancient is generally taken to mean Classical Civillization or earlier, after the fall of the Western Half of the Roman Empire we have the Middle Ages which are usually defined around 500ishCE-1500ishCE.

How old is ancient?

Post 4

Lemon Blossom (aka Athena Albatross)

Point taken, although it may be preferable to change the name rather than the purpose.

How old is ancient?

Post 5


Tycho Brahes observatory would also not be Ancient.

How old is ancient?

Post 6


Actually "Ancient" tend not to be really applied to a proper time line, but to a line of technological/economic advance.

When "Scientific" Historians were really attempting to write proper "National" , "Continental" and "Cultural" Histories within a "Western Civilization that had assumed some kind of world leadership, especially with the French Revolution, they saw a clear distinction between their own "Modern" world and the kind of other cultures, Civilizations etc that had been discovered especially at the beginning of "Modern Times" with the great voyages n.b Columbus and Magellan.

That world leadership was implicit by the time that Magellan was circumnavigating the Globe, for the Pope c1515 had divided the secular sovereignty of the Earth between the great exploring powers- Spain and Portugal, east and west of a line of longitude, because they were credited with the liberation of European territories from Islamic occupation, and could carry on the struggle which had done so much to shape "The Middle Ages".

That period of struggle between two religions in a very real way sprang from attacks upon the kind of world/civilization that had become possible because of the Roman economic system. Jesus' "cleansing of the Temple" at Jerusalem that had become a "Den of thieves" within that Roman economic system, was very similar in essence to the Prophet Mohammed's attacks upon the crass commercialization of Mecca and the cynical exploitation of the Kabba. And the Medieval period was largely based upon a conceptual 'world-order' in which Europe was cut off by Islamic forces to the South and East: a world order dominated by Christianity and Islam, two new wine in old skins religions trying to "get back" to earlier lost Golden Ages. The popular Tales of Marco Polo and his trip to 'Cathay' were recounted and read as popular myths and legends, not fact.

So existing thinking and knowledge tended to be based upon Medieval Christianity and Islam and what was known about the Ancient World, a field of knowledge that expanded rapidly in "The Renaissance", with new access to Ancient books and Ancient knowledge about Civilizations and Barbarians.

The discoverers therefore tended to see newfoundlands as somehow living relics of things that they knew about from the Ancients, who had apparently some knowledge of these places before. Atlantis and the Amazonian women. There have been many works about the pyramid- or possibly ziggurat-like buildings that e.g. Cortes and Pizarro discovered in "Latin America": and, as Great Zimbabwe has come up, when it was "discovered" by Europeans in the late Nineteenth Century the theory was developed that it must have been built by the Phoenicians who according to Egyptian texts were employed by a Pharoah to circumnavigate Africa and find treasure.

This was all very consistent with "dispersal theory", which argued for a linear development throughout Human History from some first "Garden of Eden" along a journey in which "The Torch of Civilization" was carried by successive races and places as far as they were able to go: and then they just stagnated, while those to whom they had passed the torch carried it further along in accordance with "the inevitability of history".

So, if you watch Andrew Marr's new History of the World over the last 70,000 years you will probably find projected back over that time people living the kind of lifestyles that Nineteenth Century explorers encountered as "living relics" of the Past. In "Zoo Quest in Paradise" c1960 David Attenborough described "The Stone Age" people that he visited and filmed in Papua New Guinnea.

As Economics became one of the great shapers of thought in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century, as well as evolutionary Biology, a Marxist-type view of the pattern of economic development could be fitted around evidence that was excavated, as well as the work of anthropologists who saw the basic features of "Primitive" Hunter Gatherer Societies that gradually became Herders, and then Farmers, and then settled Communities finally able to create a space that they could make subject to Human will and management. But science suggested that things were determined by their inherent properties, as John Dalton had worked out with his "Periodic Table" for Atoms, irreducible building blocks of reality. So there arose the theory that , as all these remaining and still living earlier phases of world history involved other races than the White races of North-Western Europe, and by this time even both Islam and most of the Mediterranean places that had been "cutting edge" in the Sixteenth Century, were becoming backward and moribund this was due to the racial inferiority of their populations.[ Shades of attitudes to Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland in the current debt crisis..]

Nevertheless during the Eighteenth Century Europeans who experienced the great Empires of India and China clearly recognised that these were superior places in terms of wealth, culture, learning etc to "back home", though their vastness had created problems that smaller and less-developed European States did not suffer from to the samd degree. Learned Europeans of this period were brought up to venerate the brilliance of Greece and Rome as something that would probably never be equalled.

But here they found still alive and kicking, though changed because of foreign conquest during the European Middle Ages, great Empires that knew and traded {and fought} with the great empires of Greece and Rome. So British policy, for example, towards both India and China was to try to bring about some kind of Renaissance of those former times of greatness that they shared with the Ancient Mediterranean by reconnecting them with their great lost Ancient traditions, Hinduism in India and Confucionism in China.

So where the word Ancient applied to Europe usually means ruined and no longer vital, Ancient in India and China may be used for something that is not anything like as old, but adheres to Ancient traditions. But admixed among those things, the idea that places are living relics of Ancient times can result in the label Ancient being applied quite anomalously.

Hence, for example, when a Hindu nationalist mob destroyed the Mosque at Ayoda (?) about 20 years ago, the British Press referred to the Mosque as "Ancient" though it was built perhaps 40 years before London's St. Paul's Cathedral. And earlier than that Michael Buerk's famous Ethiopia broadcast that triggered BandAid etc quite deliberately showed a tragic scene that he described as being like something out of the Old Testament.

Unfortunately I can not bring to mind the great anthropoligist who died last year who had the temerity to suggest that some of the "Primitive" peoples that he studied and lived amongst were not "Primitive" at all but had created very intelligent ways to live within their means for possibly hundreds of thousands of years. 'Who's a clever boy?'


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