Friday, June 27, 2008

Civilization Turns a Corner

Somewhere around 9000 BC (or BCE if you prefer), the people of Mureybet, in what's now Syria, began making rectangular buildings. That's according to archaeologist Jacques Cauvin, as cited by Peter Watson in Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, From Fire to Freud. Mureybet is also one of the oldest villages to be based around agriculture, and they may have been among the first to use tokens as symbols for communicating, but we'll get to all that later.

I don't know if the Mureybetians were the very first to make rectangular buildings, but they're on the list. I guess what seems like a breakthrough here is that they didn't simply build shelters and storage sheds in the easiest way they could think of ... they had a vision of what a building could be, and they followed it. It was designed!

There's a lot of speculation about the reason for making square or rectangular buildings. Once you have farms, you have food storage, and that's something of interest to invaders. Rectangular buildings could be built closer together, and would thus be easier to defend. It's also possible that moving goods around suggested streets, and that suggested rectangular blocks, etc. Who knows?

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