The Lost Knowledge of the Ancients: Were Humans the First? Part 2

The Lost Knowledge of the Ancients: Were Humans the First? Part 2

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Until documents of bygone ages are unearthed, located and recovered we are stuck with sacred texts, classical writings and myths of the past. Can these documents we know of now be considered as reliable material for reconstructing the picture of the past?

[Read Part I ]

Lost Places

One hundred and fifty years ago, no scholar took the Iliad or the Odyssey of Homer as history. But Heinrich Schliemann put faith in it and discovered the legendary city of Troy. Then, like a sleepwalker, he followed the homeward route of Odysseus and discovered golden Mycenae.

Gold artifacts from Grave Circle A at Mycenae, Greece ( CC BY NC-SA 2.0 )

The city of Ur, referred to in the Bible, as the town from which Abraham had come, was not afforded any geographical or historical significance by the sages of the 19 th century. Actually, until recent times, few historians have taken the Bible seriously as a source of historical data. But after Sir Leonard Woolley had discovered the ancient city of Ur in Mesoptamia, the situation began to change.

Legends can therefore be interpreted as fanciful records of actual happenings. The myth of the birth of Zeus in Crete points to the Cretan origin of the Ancient Greek culture. Until 1952 when Michael Ventris decoded Linear B script of Crete and ascertained it was early Greek, no one in ancient or modern times had taken this Zeus myth seriously. So as we can see, folklore preserves history in the guise of colorful tales.

Clay tablet (PY Ub 1318) inscribed with Linear B script, from the Mycenaean palace of Pylos ( CC BY 2.0 )

Lost Language

In his Dialouges, Plato made a reference to an archaic form of Greek language. Naturally, his contemporaries had never heard of this lost dialect. But late in the 19 th century an old script was found which, when deciphered in the fifties, turned out to be pre-classical Greek.

In the Critias, Plato tells the story of Solon to whom the priests of Sais in Egypt confided in 550 BC that 9,000 years before their time, Greece had been covered with fertile soil. Now that information is scientifically correct because the soil of Greece was rich a few thousand years ago. In the remote period the Sahara was a steppe where abundant vegetation grew. This is but one example of the climate change which has taken place in the Mediterranean basin. But how could Plato, Solon or the priests of Sais have known about soil erosion in Greece for so long a period unless accurate records had been kept for 10,000 years by the Egyptian priesthood?

Solon and Croesus by Gerard van Honthorst

Lost Art

But even further back in time there were other ebbs and flows of cultural progress. The rock paintings of aurochs, horses, stags and other beasts in the caves of Altamira, Lascaux, Ribadasella and others, are masterpieces not only of prehistoric art but of art in any period.

Ancient Egyptians, Babylonians and Greeks painted stylized bulls. But the bisons or horses of Altamira or Lascaux look like they might have been painted by Leonardo or Picasso. The realism and beauty of these cave paintings make them immensely superior to the paintings of animals in Egypt, Babylon or Greece.

Altamira Bison. Reproductions at the Museo del Mamut, Barcelona 2011 ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Sketches and trial-pieces have been discovered in the caves, suggesting the existence of art schools over 15,000 years ago. This is another example of the way a wave reaches a peak in the curve of civilization and then goes down.

Lost Astronomy

In recent centuries, we have been rediscovering forgotten ancient science. Almost four hundreds years ago the great German astronomer Johann Kepler correctly attributed the cause of tides to the influence of the moon. He immediately became a target for persecution. Yet, as early as the second century BC, the Babylonian astronomer Seleucus spoke about the attraction which the moon exercises on our oceans. Posidonius (135-51 BC) made a study of the tides and rightly concluded that they were connected with the revolution of the moon around the earth.

Kepler was a German mathematician and optician.

During the course of fourteen centuries-from Ptolemy to Copernicus, not a single contribution to astronomy was made. Even in Ptolemy´s time thinkers looked back to former centuries for knowledge as if there had been a Golden Age of Science in the past.

The ancient Indian astronomical text Surya Siddhanta recorded that the earth is “a globe in space”. In the book Huang Ti-Ping King Su Wen the learned Chi-Po tells the Yellow Emperor (2697-2597 BC) that “the earth floats in space”. Only four hundred and fifty years ago Galileo was condemned by the ecclesiastical authorities for teaching this very concept.

Diogenes of Apollonia (5 th century BC) affirmed that meteors move in space and frequently fall to earth. Yet the 18 th century pillar of science Lavoisier thought otherwise: “It is impossible for stones to fall from the sky because there are no stones in the sky.” We know now who was right.

Democritus, gave an accurate description of the Milky Way (by Hendrick ter Brugghen)( Public Domain )

Two thousand five hundred years ago the great philosopher Democritus said the Milky Way “consists of very small stars, closely huddled together”. In the 18 th century the English astronomer Ferguson wrote that the Milky Way “was formerly thought to be owing to a vast number of very small stars therin’; but the telescope shows it to be quite otherwise”. Without a telescope Democritus was certainly a better astronomer than Ferguson. It was a case of a large telescope but a small mind against a great mind without a telescope.

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in the Chilean Atacama Desert ( CC BY 3.0 )

Seeking the Source

From this collection of examples, we can see a pattern of knowledge existing in the distant past that has been lost, only to re-emerge as ‘new’. It seems likely that other, valid knowledge existed in the past that we currently do not know of or is not considered reliable according to reasonable modern criteria. The loss of documentation means we cannot always be sure of the ancient source or have the evidence to prove its validity and so it is believed to be folklore, myth and storytelling. But the above instances are evidence of there often being some truth within the lines. Perhaps we should give some ancient sources more credit and seek to investigate the ideas further.

For ancient sources that have turned out to agree with modern truth, the question remains, who provided these insights and on what are they based? Ancient science? Ancient reason? Some other source?

Part 3 will present a number of curiosities from the history of science – tangible evidence of a distant source of science.


The Lost Knowledge of the Ancients: Were Humans the First? Part 2 - History

Millions of years ago, humanoid creatures descended from the trees in Africa. These first men stood erect, their eyes peering into the beyond, their hands grasping rudimentary weapons and tools, ready to bend nature to their will.

The descendants of these first men wandered into almost every corner of the earth and evolved into four main racial groups: the Negroids, Australoids, Mongoloids, and Caucasoids. Each race, living under different climatic conditions and in virtual isolation from one another, developed special physical characteristics to enable them to survive in their particular part of the world. Along with these physical traits there emerged rudimentary cultures as distinct as the colors of their skins. Some communities relied primarily on hunting for survival, refining their skills and weapons through the ages to capture prey and eventually to conquer and enslave rival communities. Others subsequently discovered that the seeds and leaves of certain plants would appease hunger and sustain life. Once they became farmers, men gave up their spears and knives for plowshares and permanent settlements came into being.

The earliest civilizations sprouted along the banks of great rivers - the Hwang-Ho in China, the Indus in India, the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia (where biblical scholars have sought in vain for traces of the Garden of Eden), and the Nile in Egypt. The soil along these riverbanks was particularly suited for agriculture, being rich and deep and invigorated annually by new deposits of silt.

Whether they remained hunters or became farmers, the people who lived long before the written word was invented, discovered through trial and error the best materials for shaping, molding, bending, twisting, and sharpening objects into tools. In each civilization these discoveries were much the same the only differences were the materials at hand.

On the basis of artefacts and the history of China in its later years, archaeologists now assure us that hemp has been a familiar agricultural crop in China from the remote beginnings of settlement in that part of the world down to our own time. When the Chinese went about testing materials in their environment for suitability as tools, they most certainly would have looked into the possibility of using hemp whenever they required some kind of fiber.

The earliest record of man's use of cannabis comes from the island of Taiwan located off the coast of mainland China. In this densely populated part of the world, archaeologists have unearthed an ancient village site dating back over 10,000 years to the Stone Age.

Scattered among the trash and debris from this prehistoric community were some broken pieces of pottery the sides of which had been decorated by pressing strips of cord into the wet clay before it hardened. Also dispersed among the pottery fragments were some elongated rod-shaped tools, very similar in appearance to those later used to loosen cannabis fibers from their stems.[1] These simple pots, with their patterns of twisted fiber embedded in their sides, suggest that men have been using the marijuana plant in some manner since the dawn of history.

The discovery that twisted strands of fiber were much stronger than individual strands was followed by developments in the arts of spinning and weaving fibers into fabric - innovations that ended man's reliance on animal skins for clothing. Here, too, it was hemp fiber that the Chinese chose for their first homespun garments. So important a place did hemp fiber occupy in ancient Chinese culture that the Book of Rites (second century B.C.) ordained that out of respect for the dead, mourners should wear clothes made from hemp fabric, a custom followed down to modern times.[2]

While traces of early Chinese fabrics have all but disappeared, in 1972 an ancient burial site dating back to the Chou dynasty (1122-249 B.C.) was discovered. In it were fragments of cloth, some bronze containers, weapons, and pieces of jade. Inspection of the cloth showed it to be made of hemp, making this the oldest preserved specimen of hemp in existence.[3]

The ancient Chinese not only wove their clothes from hemp, they also used the sturdy fiber to manufacture shoes. In fact, hemp was so highly regarded by the Chinese that they called their country the "land of mulberry and hemp".

The mulberry plant was venerated because it was the food upon which silkworms fed, and silk was one of China's most important products. But silk was very expensive and only the very wealthy could afford silken fabric. For the vast millions of less fortunate, cheaper material had to be found. Such material was typically hemp.

Ancient Chinese manuscripts are filled with passages urging the people to plant hemp so that they will have clothes.[4] A book of ancient poetry mentions the spinning of hempen threads by a young girl.[5] The Shu King, a book which dates back to about 2350 B.C., says that in the province of Shantung the soil was "whitish and rich. with silk, hemp, lead, pine trees and strange stones. " and that hemp was among the articles of tribute extorted from inhabitants of the valley of the Honan.[6]

During the ninth century B.C., "female man-barbarians," an Amazon-like dynasty of female warriors from Indochina, offered the Chinese emperor a "luminous sunset-clouds brocade" fashioned from hemp, as tribute. According to the court transcriber, it was "shining and radiant, infecting men with its sweet smelling aroma. With this, and the intermingling of the five colors in it, it was more ravishingly beautiful than the brocades of our central states."[7]

Ma, the Chinese word for hemp, is composed of two symbols which are meant to depict hemp. The part beneath and to the right of the straight lines represent hemp fibers dangling from a rack. The horizontal and vertical lines represent the home in which they were drying.

As they became more familiar with the plant, the Chinese discovered it was dioecious. Male plants were then clearly distinguished from females by name (hsi for the male, chu for the female). The Chinese also recognised that the male plants produced a better fiber than the female, whereas the female produced the better seeds.[8] (Although hemp seed was a major grain crop in ancient China until the sixth century A.D.,[9] it was not as important a food grain as rice or mullet.[10])

Hemp fiber was also once a factor in the wars waged by Chinese land barons. Initially, Chinese archers fashioned their bowstrings from bamboo fibers. When hemp's greater strength and durability were discovered, bamboo strings were replaced with those made from hemp. Equipped with these superior bowstrings, archers could send their arrows further and with greater force. Enemy archers, whose weapons were made from inferior bamboo, were at a considerable disadvantage. With ineffectual archers, armies were vulnerable to attack at distances from which they could not effectively return the hail of deadly missiles that rained upon them. So important was the hemp bowstring that Chinese monarchs of old set aside large portions of land exclusively for hemp, the first agricultural war crop.[11]

In fact, every canton in ancient China grew hemp. Typically, each canton tried to be self-sufficient and grow everything it needed to support its own needs. When it couldn't raise something itself, it grew crops or manufactured materials that it could trade for essential goods. Accordingly, crops were planted around homes not only because of the suitability of the land, but also because of their commercial value. The closer to the home, the greater a crop's value.

Because food was essential, millet and rice were grown wherever land and water were available. Next came vegetable gardens and orchards, and beyond them the textile plants, chiefly hemp.[12] Next came the cereals and vegetables.

After the hemp was harvested by the men, the women, who were the weavers, manufactured clothes from the fibers for the family. After the family's needs were satisfied, other garments were produced for sale. To support their families, weaving began in autumn and lasted all winter.[13]

The Invention of Paper

Among the many important inventions credited to the Chinese, paper must surely rank at the very top. Without paper, the progress of civilization would have advanced at a snail's pace. Mass production of newspapers, magazines, books, notepaper, etc, would all be impossible. Business and industry would come to a standstill without paper to record transactions, keep track of inventories, and make payments of large sums of money. Nearly every activity we now take for granted would be a monumental undertaking were it not for paper.

According to Chinese legend, the paper-making process was invented by a minor court official, Ts'ai Lun, in A.D. 105. Prior to that time, the Chinese carved their writings onto bamboo slips and wooden tablets. Before the invention of paper, Chinese scholars had to be physically fit if they wished to devote their lives to learning. When philosopher Me Ti moved around the country, for example, he took a minimum of three cartloads of books with him. Emperor Ts'in Shih Huagn, a particularly conscientious ruler, waded through 120 pounds of state documents a day in looking after his administrative duties![14] Without some less weighty writing medium, Chinese scholars and statesmen could look forward to at least one hernia if they were any good at their jobs.

As a first alternative to these cumbersome tablets, the Chinese painted their words on silk fabric with brushes. But silk was very expensive. A thousand silkworms working day in and day out were needed to produce the silk for a simple "thank you" note.

Ts'ai Lun had a better idea. Why not make a table out of fiber? But how? Producing writing tablets the way clothes were manufactured, by patiently intermingling individual fibers was not practical. There had to be some other way to get the fibers to mix with one another in a lattice structure that would be sturdy enough not to fall apart.

No one knows how Ts'ai Lun finally discovered the secret of manufacturing paper from fiber. Perhaps it was a case of trial and error. However, the method he finally devised involved crushing hemp fibers and mulberry tree bark into a pulp and placing the mixture in a tank of water. Eventually, the fibers rose to the top all tangled together. Portions of this flotsam were then removed and placed in a mold. When dried in such molds, the fibers formed into sheets which could then be written on.

When Ts'ai Lun first presented his invention to China's arm-weary bureaucrats, he thought they would react to it with great enthusiasm. Instead, he was jeered out of court. Since no one at court was willing to recognize the importance of paper, Ts'ai Lun decided that the only way to convince people of its value was through trickery. He would use paper, he told all who would listen, to bring back the dead!

With the help of some friends, Ts'ai Lun feigned death and had himself buried alive in a coffin. Unknown to most of those who witnessed the internment, the coffin contained a small hole through it, a hollow bamboo shoot had been inserted, to provide the trickster an air supply.

While his family and friends mourned his death, Ts'ai Lun patiently rested in his coffin below the earth. Then, some time later, his conspirators announced that if some of the paper invented by the dead man were burned, he would rise from the dead and once again take his place among the living. Although highly sceptical, the mourners wished to give the departed every chance, so they set a sizable quantity of paper ablaze. When the conspirators felt that they had generated enough suspense, they exhumed the coffin and ripped of the cover. To the shock and amazement of all present, Ts'ai Lun sat up and thanked them for their devotion to him and their faith in his invention.

The resurrection was regarded as a miracle, the power of which was attributed to the magic of paper. So great an impression did the Houdini-like escape create that shortly thereafter the Chinese adopted the custom, which they still follow to this day, of burning paper over graves of the dead.

Ts'ai Lun himself became an overnight celebrity. His invention was accorded the recognition it deserved and the inventor was appointed to an important position at court. But his fame was his undoing. As the new darling at court, rival factions sought to win him over to their side in the never-ending squabbles of life among the rich and powerful. Without meaning to, Ts'ai Lun became embroiled in a power battle between the empress and the emperor's grandmother. Court intrigue was simply too much for the inventor, and when he was subsequently summoned to give an account of himself, instead of appearing before his inquisitors, his biography states that he went home, took a bath, combed his hair, put on his best robes, and drank poison.[15]

Although entertaining, the story of Ts'ai Lun's invention is apocryphal. The discovery of fragments of paper containing hemp fiber in a grave in China dating back to the first century B.C., puts the invention long before the time of Ts'ai Lun. Why Ts'ai Lun was given credit for the invention, however, is still a mystery.

The Chinese kept the secret of paper hidden for many centuries, but eventually it became known to the Japanese. In a small book entitled A Handy Guide to Papermaking, dating back to the fifth century A.D., the author states that "hemp and mulberry. have long been used in worshipping the gods. The business of paper making therefore, is no ignoble calling."[16]

It was not until the ninth century A.D. that the Arabs, and through them the rest of the world, learned how to manufacture paper. The events that led to the disclosure of the paper-making process are somewhat uncertain, but apparently the secret was pried from some Chinese prisoners captured by the Arabs during the Battle of Samarkand (in present-day Russia).

Once the Arabs learned the secret, they began producing their own paper. By the twelfth century A.D., paper mills were operating in the Moorish cities of Valencia, Toledo, and Xativa, in Spain. After the ousting of the Arabs from Spain, the art became known to the rest of Europe, and it was not long before paper mills were flourishing not only in Spain, but in France, Italy, Germany, and England, all of them using the ancient Chinese system "invented" by Ts'ai Lun.

During the course of its long history in China, hemp found its way into almost every nook and cranny of Chinese life. It clothed the Chinese from their heads to their feet, it gave them material to write on, and it became a symbol of power over evil.

Like the practice of medicine around the world, early Chinese doctoring was based on the concept of demons. If a person were ill, it was because some demon had invaded his body. The only way to cure him was to drive the demon out. The early priest-doctors resorted to all kinds of tricks, some of which were rather sophisticated, like drug therapy, which we will examine shortly. Other methods involved outright magic. By means of charms, amulets, spells, incantations, exhortations, sacrifices, etc., the priest-doctor did his utmost to find some way of getting the upper hand over the malevolent demon believed responsible for an illness.

Among the weapons to come out of the magical kit bag of the ancient Chinese conjurers were cannabis stalks into which snake-like figures were carved. Armed with these war hammers, they went to do battle with the unseen enemy on his home ground - the sickbed. Standing over the body of the stricken patient, his cannabis stalk poised to strike, the priest pounded the bed and commanded the demon to be gone. If the illness were psychosomatic and the patient had faith in the conjurer, he occasionally recovered. If his problem were organic, he rarely improved.

Whatever the outcome, the rite itself is intriguing. Although there is no way of knowing for sure how it came about, the Chinese tell a story about one of their emperors named Liu Chi-nu that may explain the connection between cannabis, snakes, and illness. One day Liu was out in the fields cutting down some hemp, when he saw a snake. Taking no chances that it might bite him, he shot the serpent with an arrow. The next day he returned to the place and heard the sound of a mortar and pestle. Tracking down the noise, he found two boys grinding marijuana leaves. When he asked them what they were doing, the boys told him they were preparing a medicine to give to their master who had been wounded by an arrow shot by Liu Chi-nu. Liu Chi-nu then asked what the boys would do to Liu Chi-nu if they ever found him. Suprisingly, the boys answered that they could not take revenge on him because Liu Chi-nu was destined to become emperor of China. Liu berated the boys for their foolishness and they ran away, leaving behind the medicine. Some time later Liu himself was injured and he applied the crushed marijuana leaves to his wound. The medicine healed him and Liu subsequently announced his discovery to the people of China and they began using it for their injuries.

Another story tells of a farmer who saw a snake carrying some marijuana leaves to place on the wound of another snake. The next day the wounded snake was healed. Intrigued, the farmer tested the plant on his own wound and was cured.[17]

Whether these stories had anything to do with the idea that marijuana had magical power or not, the fact is that despite the progress of Chinese medicine far beyond the age of superstition, the practice of striking beds with stalks made from marijuana stems continued to be followed until the Middle Ages.[18]

Although the Chinese continued to rely on magic in the fight against disease, they also gradually developed an appreciation and knowledge of the curative powers of medicines. The person who is generally credited with teaching the Chinese about medicines and their actions is a legendary emperor, Shen-Nung, who lived around the twenty-eighth century B.C.

Concerned that his priests were suffering from illness despite the magical rites of the priests, Shen-Nung determined to find an alternate means of relieving the sick. Since he was also an expert farmer and had a thorough familiarity with plants, he decided to explore the curative powers of China's plant life first. In this search for compounds that might help his people, Shen-Nung used himself as a guinea-pig. The emperor could not have chosen a better subject since he was said to possess the remarkable ability of being able to see through his abdominal wall into his stomach! Such transparency enabled him to observe at firsthand the workings of a particular drug on that part of the body.

According to the stories told about him, Shen-Nung ingested as many as seventy different poisons in a single day and discovered the antidotes for each of them. After he finished these experiments, he wrote the Pen Ts'ao, a kind of herbal or Materia Medica as it later became known, which listed hundreds of drugs derived from vegetable, animal, and mineral sources.

Although there may originally have been an ancient Pen Ts'ao attributed to the emperor, no original text exists. The oldest Pen Ts'ao dates back to the first century A.D. and was compiled by an unknown author who claimed he had incorporated the original herbal into his own compendium. Regardless of whether such an earlier compendium did or did not exist, the important fact about this first-century herbal is that it contains a reference to ma, the Chinese word for cannabis.

Ma was a very popular drug, the text notes, since it possessed both yin and yang. The concepts of yin and yang that pervade early Chinese medicine are attributed to another legendary emperor, Fu Hsi (ca, 2900 B.C.) whom the Chinese credit with bringing civilization to the "land of mulberry and hemp". Before Fu Hsi, so the legends say, the Chinese lived like animals. They had no laws, no customs, and no traditions. There was no family life. Men and women came together instinctively, like salmon seeking their breeding ground they mated, and then went off on their separate ways.

The first thing Fu Hsi did to produce order out of chaos was to establish matrimony on a permanent basis. The second thing was to separate all living things into the male and female principle - the male incorporating all that was positive, the female embodying all that was negative. From this dualistic principle arose the concept of two opposing forces, the yin and the yang.

Yin symbolized the weal, passive, and negative feminine influence in nature, whereas yang represented the strong, active, and positive masculine force. When these forces were in balance, the body was healthy. When one force dominated the other, the body was in an unhealthy condition. Marijuana was thus a very difficult drug to contend with because it contained both the feminine yin and the masculine yang.

Shen-Nung's solution to the problem was to advise that yin, the female plant, be the only sex cultivated in China since it produced much more of the medicinal principle than yang, the male plant. Marijuana containing yin was then to be given in cases involving a loss of yin from the body such as occurred in female weakness (menstrual fatigue), gout, rheumatism, malaria, beri-beri, constipation, and absentmindedness.

The Pen Ts'au eventually became the standard manual on drugs in China, and so highly regarded was its author that Shen-Nung was accorded the singular honour of deification and the title of Father of Chinese Medicine. Not too long ago China's drug guilds still paid homage to the memory of Shen-Nung. On the first and fifteenth of each month, many drugstores offered a 10 percent discount on medicines in honor of the legendary patron of the healing arts.

As physicians became more and more familiar with the properties of drugs, ma continued to increase in importance as a therapeutic agent. In the second century A.D., a new use was found for the drug. This discovery was credited to the famous Chinese surgeon Hua T'o, who is said to have performed extremely complicated surgical procedures without causing pain. Among the amazing operations he performed are organ grafts, resectioning of intestines, laparotomies (incisions into the loin), and thoracotomies (incisions into the chest). All these difficult surgical procedures were said to have been rendered painless by means of ma-yo, an anaesthetic made from cannabis resin and wine. The following passage, taken from his biography, describes his use of cannabis in these operations:

But if the malady resided in the parts on which the needle [acupuncture], cautery, or medicinal liquids were incapable of acting, for example, in the bones, in the stomach or in the intestine, he administered a preparation of hemp [ma-yo] and, in the course of several minutes, an insensibility developed as if one had been plunged into drunkenness or deprived of life. Then, according to the case, he performed the opening, the incision or the amputation and relieved the cause of the malady then he apposed the tissues by sutures and applied linaments. After a certain number of days the patient finds he has recovered without having experienced the slightest pain during the operation.[19]

Although modern research has borne out marijuana's anaesthetic properties and has shown that alcohol does indeed augment many of marijuana's actions, it is unlikely that Hua T'o could have produced total insensibility to pain by the combination of these drugs unless he administered so much of them that his patients lost consciousness.

While ma's stature as a medicinal agent began to decline around the fifth century A.D., it still had its advocates long into the Middle Ages. In the tenth century A.D., for example, some Chinese physicians claimed the drug was useful in the treatment of "waste diseases and injuries", adding that it "clears blood and cools temperature, it relieves fluxes it undoes rheumatism it discharges pus".[20]

Since the Chinese are the first people on record to use the marijuana plant for their clothes, their writing materials, their confrontation with evil spirits, and in their treatment of pain and disease, it is not surprising that they are also the first people on record to experience marijuana's peculiar psychedelic effects.

As so many other testimonials to marijuana's multifaceted past have been found interred deep within the bowels of the earth, so too was the proof of China's early flirtation with marijuana's intoxicating chemistry found buried away in an ancient tomb. Rather than any piece of cloth or handful of seeds, however, the evidence takes the form of an inscription containing the symbol for marijuana, along with the adjective or connotation meaning "negative".[21]

Unfortunately, we will never know what the gravediggers had in mind when they were chiselling these words in granite. Was it just a mindless piece of graffiti? Even if it were, it indicates that the Chinese were well aware of marijuana's unusual properties from very ancient times, whether they approved of them or not.

Many did not approve. Due to the growing spirit of Taoism which began to permeate China around 600 B.C., marijuana intoxication was viewed with special disdain. Taoism was essentially a "back to nature" philosophy which sought ways of extending life. Anything that contained yin, such as marijuana, was therefore regarded with contempt since it enfeebled the body when eaten. Only substances filled with yang, the invigorating principle in nature, were looked upon favorably.

Some Chinese denounced marijuana as the "liberator of sin".[22] A late edition of the Pen Ts'au asserted that if too many marijuana seeds were eaten, they would cause one to "see demons". But if taken over a long time, "one can communicate with the spirits".[23]

However, by the first century A.D., Taoists became interested in magic and alchemy,[24] and were recommending addition of cannabis seeds to their incense burners. The hallucinations thus produced were highly valued as a means of achieving immortality.[25]

For some people, seeing spirits was the main reason for using cannabis. Meng Shen, a seventh-century physician, adds, however, that if anyone wanted to see spirits in this way, he would have to eat cannabis seeds for at least a hundred days.[26]

The Chinese have always been a highly reserved people, a nation rarely given to excesses. Temperance and restraint are cherished virtues of their society. But these are ideal traits, not always easy to live up to. And on more than one occasion, the waywardness of segments of the Chinese population was denounced by the authorities.

In a book attributed to Shen-Nung's successor, the "yellow emperor", for example, the author felt that alcoholism had truly gotten out of hand:

Nowadays people use wine as a beverage and they adopt recklessness as usual behaviour. They enter the chamber of love in an intoxicated condition their passions exhaust their vital forces their cravings dissipate their essence they do not know how to find contentment with themselves they are not skilled in the control of their spirits. They devote all their attention to the amusement of their minds, thus cutting themselves off from the joys of long life. Their rising and retiring is without regularity. For these reasons they reach only one half of the hundred years and then they degenerate.[27]

Alcohol, in fact, was a much more serious problem in China than marijuana, and opium overshadowed both in the attention it later received. The Chinese experiment with marijuana as a psychoactive agent was really more of a flirtation than an orgy. Those among the Chinese who hailed it as the "giver of delight" never amounted to more than a small segment of the population.

As in China, hemp fiber was highly regarded among the Japanese and figured prominently in their everyday lives and legends.

Hemp (asa) was the primary material in Japanese clothes, bedding, mats and nets. Clothes made of hemp fiber were especially worn during formal and religious ceremonies because of hemp's traditional association with purity in Japan.[28] So fundamental was hemp in Japanese life that it was often mentioned in legends explaining the origins of everyday things, such as how the Japanese earthworm came to have white rings around its neck.

According to Japanese legend, there were once two women who were both fine weavers of hemp fiber. One woman made fine hemp fabric but was a very slow worker. Her neighbor was just the opposite - she made coarse fabric but worked quickly. During market days, which were held only periodically, it was customary for Japanese women to dress in their best clothes, and as the day approached, the two women began to weave new dresses for the occasion. The woman who worked quickly had her dress ready on time, but it was not very fashionable. Her neighbor, who worked slowly, only managed to get the unbleached white strands ready, and when market day came, she didn't have her dress ready. Since she had to go to market, she persuaded her husband to carry her in a large jar on his back so that only her neck, with the white undyed hemp strands around it would be visible. In this way, everyone would think she was clothed instead of being naked inside the jar. On the way to the market, the woman in the jar saw her neighbor and started making fun of her coarse dress. The neighbor shot back that at least she was clothed. "Break the jar", she told everyone who could hear, "and you will find a naked woman". The husband became so mortified that he dropped the jar, which broke, revealing his naked wife, clothed only in hemp strands around her neck. The woman was so ashamed as she stood naked before everyone that she buried herself in the earth so that she would not be seen and she turned into an earthworm. And that, according to the Japanese, is why the earthworm has white rings around its neck.[29]

Hemp fiber also played a part in love and marital life in Japan. Another ancient Japanese legend tells of a soldier who had been romancing a young girl and was about to bid her farewell without giving her as much as his name, rank, or regiment. But the girl was not about to be jilted by this handsome and charming paramour. Unbeknownst to her mysterious lover, she fastened the end of a huge ball of hemp rope to his clothing as he kissed her farewell. By following the thread, she eventually came to the temple of the god Miva, and discovered that her suitor had been none other than the god himself.[30]

Besides its roles in such legends, hemp strands were an integral part of Japanese love and marriage. Hemp strands were often hung on trees as charms to bind lovers[31] (as in the legend), gifts of hemp were sent as wedding gifts by the man's family to the prospective bride's family as a sign that they were accepting the girl,[32] and hemp strands were prominently displayed during wedding ceremonies to symbolize the traditional obedience of Japanese wives to their husbands.[33] The basis of the latter tradition was the ease with which hemp could be dyed. Just as hemp could be dyed to any color, so too, according to an ancient Japanese saying, must wives be willing to be "dyed in any color their husbands may choose".[34]

Yet another use of hemp in Japan was in ceremonial purification rites for driving away evil spirits. As already mentioned, in China evil spirits were banished from the bodies of the sick by banging rods made from hemp against the head of the sickbed. In Japan, Shinto priests performed a similar rite with a gohei, a short stick with undyed hemp fibers (for purity) attached to one end. According to Shinto beliefs, evil and impurity cannot exist alongside one another, and so, by waving the gohei (purity) above someone's head the evil spirit inside him would be driven away.[35]

India: The First Marijuana-Oriented Culture

India has known little peace. Invaded from both land and sea, it has seen many conquerors and has witnessed many empires come and go. Cyrus and Darius of Persia sent their armies there. On the heels of the Persians came Alexander the Great. After Alexander came more Greeks, then Parthians from Iran, Kushans from beyond the mountains in the north, then Arabs, followed by Europeans. Unlike China, which remained remote and isolated from the rest of the world for much of its history. India was known to all the great nations of the ancient world.

Although the inhabitants of India are descended from a people known as the Aryans or "noble ones", the Aryans were not the original natives of the Indian subcontinent but instead invaded it from north of the Himalayas around 2000 B.C. Before the Aryans, who were light-skinned and blue-eyed, a dark-skinned and dark-eyed people, Australoid in origin, inhabited India. When the Aryans entered the country, they found a complex civilization, including well-designed housing, adjoining toilet facilities, and advanced drainage systems. The early inhabitants worked with gold and silver, and they also knew how to fashion tools and ornaments from copper and iron.

When the Aryans first settled in India they were predominantly a nomadic people. During the centuries that followed their invasion, they intermarried with the original inhabitants, became farmers, and invented Sanskrit, one of man's earliest written languages.

A collection of four holy books, called the Vedas, tells of daring exploits, their chariot battles, conquests, subjugation of enemy armies, eventual settlement in the land of the Indus, and even how their god Siva brought the marijuana plant down from the Himalayas for their use and enjoyment.

According to one of their legends, Siva became enraged over some family squabble and went off by himself in the fields. There, the cool shade of a tall marijuana plant brought him a comforting refuge from the torrid rays of the blazing sun. Curious about this plant that sheltered him from the heat of the day, he ate some of its leaves and felt so refreshed that he adopted it as his favorite food, hence his title, the Lord of Bhang.

Bhang does not always refer to the plant itself but rather to a mild liquid refreshment made with its leaves, and somewhat similar in potency to the marijuana used in America.

Among the ingredients and proportions of them that went into a formula for bhang around the turn of the century were:

Cannabis 220 grains
Poppy seed 120 grains
Pepper 120 grains
Ginger 40 grains
Caraway seed 10 grains
Cloves 10 grains
Cardamon 10 grains
Cinnamon 10 grains
Cucumber seed 120 grains
Almonds 120 grains
Nutmeg 10 grains
Rosebuds 60 grains
Sugar 4 ounces
Milk 20 ounces

Two other concoctions made from cannabis in India are ganja and charas. Ganja is prepared from the flowers and upper leaves and is more potent than bhang. Charas, the most potent of the three preparations, is made from flowers in the height of their bloom. Charas contains a relatively large amount of resin and is roughly similar in strength to hashish.

Bhang was and still is to India what alcohol is to the West. Many social and religious gatherings in ancient times, as well as present, were simply incomplete unless bhang was part of the occasion. It is said that those who spoke derisively of bhang are doomed to suffer the torments of hell as long as the sun shines in the heavens.

Without bhang at special festivities like a wedding, evil spirits were believed to hover over the bride and groom, waiting for an opportune moment to wreak havoc on the newlyweds. Any father who failed to send or bring bhang to the ceremonies would be reviled and cursed as if he had deliberately invoked the evil eye on his son and daughter.

Bhang was also a symbol of hospitality. A host would offer a cup of bhang to a guest as casually as we would offer someone in our home a glass of beer. A host who failed to make such a gesture was despised as being miserly and misanthropic.

War was another occasion in which bhang and more potent preparations like ganja were often resorted to. Indian folksongs dating back to the twelfth century A.D. mention ganja as a drink of warriors. Just as soldiers sometimes take a swig of whiskey before going into battle in modern warfare, during the Middle Ages in India, warriors routinely drank a small amount of bhang or ganja to assuage any feelings of panic, a custom that earned bhang the cognomen of vijaya, "victorious" or "unconquerable".[37]

A story is told of a guru named Gobind Singh, the founder of the Sikh religion, which alludes to bhang's usage in battle. During a critical skirmish in which he was leading the troops, Gobind Singh's soldiers were suddenly thrown into a panic at the sight of an elephant bearing down on them with a sword in its trunk. As the beast slashed its way through Gobind Singh's lines, his men appeared on the verge of breaking rank. Something had to be done to prevent a disastrous rout. A volunteer was needed, a man willing to risk certain death to accomplish the impossible task of slaying an elephant. There was no shortage of men to step forward. Gobind Singh did not take time to pick and choose. To the man closest to him he gave some bhang and a little opium, and then watched as the man went out to kill the elephant. Fortified by the drug the loyal soldier rushed headlong into the thick of battle and charged the sword-wielding elephant. Deftly evading the slashing blows that could easily have severed his body in two, he managed to slip under the elephant and with all his strength he plunged his own weapon into the unprotected belly of the beast. When Gobind Singh's men saw the elephant lying dead in the field, they rallied and soon overpowered the enemy. From that time forth, the Sikhs commemorated the anniversary of that great battle by drinking bhang.

"To the Hindu the Hemp Plant Is Holy"

The earliest allusion to bhang's mind-altering influence is contained in the fourth book of the Vedas, the Atharvaveda ("Science of Charms"). Written some time between 2000 and 1400 B.C., the Atharvaveda (12:6.15) calls bhang one of the "five kingdoms of herbs. which release us from anxiety." But it is not until much later in India's history that bhang became a part of everyday life. By the tenth century A.D., for example, it was just beginning to be extolled as a indracanna, the "food of the gods". A fifteenth-century document refers to it as "light-hearted", "joyful", and "rejoices", and claims that among its virtues are "astringency", "heat", "speech-giving", "inspiration of mental powers", "excitability", and the capacity to "remove wind and phlegm".[38]

By the sixteenth century A.D., it found its way into India's popular literature. The Dhurtasamagama, or "Rogue's Congress", a light farce written to amuse audiences, has two beggars come before an unscrupulous judge asking for a decision on a quarrel concerning a maiden at the bazaar. Before he will render his decision, however, the judge demands payment for his arbitration, In response to this demand, one of the beggars offers some bhang. The judge readily accepts and, tasting it, declares that "it produces a healthy appetite, sharpens the wits, and acts as an aphrodisiac".[39]

In the Rajvallabha, a seventeenth-century text dealing with drugs used in India, bhang is described as follows:

India's food is acid, produces infatuation, and destroys leprosy. It creates vital energy, increases mental powers and internal heat, corrects irregularities of the phlegmatic humor, and is an elixir vitae. It was originally produced like nectar from the ocean by churning it with Mount Mandara. Inasmuch as it is believed to give victory in the three worlds and to bring delight to the king of the gods (Siva), it was called vijaya (victorious). This desire-filling drug was believed to have been obtained by men on earth for the welfare of all people. To those who use it regularly, it begets joy and diminishes anxiety.[40]

Yet it was not as a medicinal aid or as a social lubricant that bhang was preeminent among the people of India. Rather, it was and still is because of its association with the religious life of the country that bhang is so extolled and glorified. The stupefaction produced by the plant's resin is greatly valued by the fakirs and ascetics, the holy men of India, because they believe that communication with their deities is greatly facilitated during intoxication with bhang. (According to one legend, the Buddha subsisted on a daily ration of one cannabis seed, and nothing else, during his six years of asceticism.[41]) Taken in early morning, the drug is believed to cleanse the body of sin. Like the communion of Christianity, the devotee who partakes of bhang partakes of the god Siva.

Cannabis also held a preeminent place in the Tantric religion which evolved in Tibet in the seventh century A.D. out of an amalgam of Buddhism and local religion.[42] The priests of this religion were wizards known as lamas ("superiors"). The high priest was called the Dalai Lama ("mighty superior").

Tantrism, a word that means "that which is woven together", was a religion based on fear of demons. To combat the demonic threat to the world, the people sought protection in the spells, incantations, formulas (mantras), and exorcisms of their lamas, and in plants such as cannabis which were set afire to overcome evil forces.

Cannabis was also an important part of the Tantric religious yoga sex acts consecrated to the goddess Kali. During the ritual, about an hour and a half prior to intercourse the devotee placed a bowl of bhang before him and uttered the mantra: "Om hrim, O ambrosia-formed goddess [Kali] who has arisen from ambrosia, who showers ambrosia, bring me ambrosia again and again, bestow occult power [siddhi] and bring my chosen deity to my power."[43] Then, after uttering several other mantras, he drank the potion. The delay between drinking the bhang and the sex act was to allow the drug time to act so that it would heighten the senses and thereby increase the feeling of oneness with the goddess.[44]

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, which had been summoned in the 1890s to investigate the use of cannabis in India, concluded that the plant was so much an integral part of the culture and religion of that country that to curtail its usage would certainly lead to unhappiness, resentment, and suffering. Their conclusions:

To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang leaf. To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky. No good thing can come to the man who treads underfoot the holy bhang leaf. A longing for bhang foretells happiness.

. Besides as a cure for fever, bhang has many medicinal virtues. It cures dysentry and sunstroke, clears phlegm, quickens digestion, sharpens appetite, makes the tongue of the lisper plain, freshens the intellect, and gives alertness to the body and gaiety to the mind. Such are the useful and needful ends for which in his goodness the Almighty made bhang. It is inevitable that temperaments should be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light the murkiness of matter. Bhang is the Joygiver, the Skyflier, the Heavenly-guide, the Poor Man's Heaven, the Soother of Grief. No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang. The supporting power of bhang has brought many has brought many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine. To forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so holy and gracious an herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to large bands of worshipped ascetics, deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences. So grand a result, so tiny a sin![45]

India was not the only country to be invaded by the Aryans. By 1500 B.C., Persia, Asia Minor, and Greece had been overrun and the Aryans were establishing permanent settlements as far west as France and Germany. Although the people who settled in these countries eventually developed into different nationalities, with different customs and traditions, their common Aryan ancestry can still be traced in their languages which collectively are called Indo-European. For example, the linguistic root an, which is found in various cannabis-related words, can be found in French in the word chanvre and in the German hanf. Our own word cannabis is taken directly from the Greek, which in turn is taken from canna, an early Sanskrit term.

When the Aryans first settled in Persia (modern-day Iran, "the land of the Aryans"), they separated into two kingdoms - Medea and Parsa (Persia). Four centuries later, Cyrus the Great, the ruler of Parsa, unified the country, and with the combined forces of the Medes and Parsa behind him, he led his armies eastward and westward. By 546 B.C., the Persian or Achaemenid Empire as it was called (from Achaemenes, Cyrus' ancestor), reached from Palestine to India. Twenty years later, the Persians defeated Egypt and extended their control over that great kingdom as well.

It was not until 331 B.C. that the Persian empire finally collapsed its nemesis - the Greeks and their brilliant leader - Alexander the Great.

The Aryans who settled in Persia came from the same area in central Russia as their cousins who invaded India, so it is hardly surprising that the Persian word bhanga is almost identical to the Indian term bhang.

The Zend-Avesta is the Persian counterpart to the Vedas. However, unlike the Vedas, many of the books that were once a part of the Zend-Avesta have disappeared. The book itself was said to have been written by the Persian prophet Zoroaster, around the seventh century B.C., and reputedly was transcribed on no fewer than 1200 cowhides containing approximately two million verses!

Professor Mirceau Eliade, perhaps the world's foremost authority on the history of religions, has suggested that Zoroaster himself may have been a user of bhanga and may have relied on its intoxication to bridge the metaphysical gap between heaven and earth.[46] One of the few surviving books of the Zend-Avesta, called the Vendidad, "The Law Against Demons", in fact calls bhanga Zoroaster's "good narcotic",[47] and tells of two mortals who were transported in soul to the heavens where, upon drinking from a cup of bhanga, they had the highest mysteries revealed to them.

The Vendidad also contains a cryptic reference to bhanga's being used to induce abortions, but this seems not to have been an accepted usage of the drug in ancient Persia since the abortionist is called an old hag, not a doctor.[48]

Around the seventh century B.C., yet another swarm of Aryan warriors came out of central Siberia looking for new lands upon which to graze their animals. This time they claimed a vast territory stretching from northern Greece and beyond the Black Sea to the Altai Mountains in central Siberia as their new homeland.

Known as the Scythians, these conquerors, like their Aryan ancestors before them, were skilled in warfare and renowned for their horsemanship. And also like their ancestors who settled in India and Persia, the Scythians were no strangers to the intoxicating effects of marijuana. According to Herodotus, a Greek historian who lived in the fifth century B.C., marijuana was an integral part of the Scythian cult of the dead wherin homage was paid to the memory of their departed leaders.

Herodotus' passion for detail and devotion to fact has often provided scholars with their only contact with long-forgotten people and their customs. Nowhere was this more true than in the case of the Scythians. Were it not for Herodotus' description of the funerary customs of the Scythians, for example, one of the best known instances of the use of marijuana in the ancient world would never have been recorded.

The funereal practice alluded to by Herodotus took place among the Scythians living northeast of Macedonia on the first anniversary of the death of one of their chiefs. The ceremony that commemorated that passing was a rather grisly affair, not one for the faint of heart, but of course the Scythians could hardly have been accused of being faint-hearted. First, it called for the death of fifty of the chief's former bodyguards, along with their horses. The bodies of these men were then opened, their intestines and inner organs were removed, various herbs were placed in the open cavities, and the bodies were then stitched back together. Meanwhile, their horses, each fully bridled, were killed and impaled on stakes arranged in a circle around the chief's tomb. The dead bodies of the chief's erstwhile protectors were then lifted onto the horses and were left to rot as they stood their last watch over the tomb of their former leader.

Following this sobering rite, all those who had assisted in the burial cleansed themselves in a unique purification ritual. First, they washed their bodies thoroughly with cleansing oil. Then they erected small tents, into which they placed metal censors containing red-hot stones. Next, the men crawled into the tents and dumped marijuana seeds onto the hot stones. The seeds soon began to smolder and throw off vapors, which in the words of Herodotus, caused the Scythians to "howl with joy".[49] Seemingly, the purification was the Scythian counterpart to the hard-drinking frazzled Irish wake, with marijuana instead of alcohol as the ceremonial intoxicant.

Even though Herodotus' accuracy in recording history has often been borne out by other historical documents, scholars found this bizarre burial custom including the marijuana-induced intoxication too incredible to be true.

But in 1929 a Russian archaeologist, Professor S.I. Rudenko, made a fantastic discovery in the Pazyryk Valley of central Siberia. Digging into some ancient ruins near the Altai Mountains on the border between Siberia and Outer Mongolia, Rudenko found a trench about 160 feet square and about 20 feet deep. On the perimeter of the trench were the skeletons of a number of horses. Inside the trench was the embalmed body of a man and a bronze cauldron filled with burnt marijuana seeds![50] Clearing the site further, Rudenko also found some shirts woven from hemp fiber and some metal censors designed for inhaling marijuana smoke which did not appear to be connected with any religious rite. To Rudenko, the evidence suggested that inhalation of smoldering marijuana seeds occurred not only in a religious context, but also as an everyday activity, one in which Scythian women participated alongside the men.

Although he does not identify them, Herodotus had also heard of another tribe of nomads who used marijuana for recreational purposes. Speaking of these people, Herodutus states that when they "have parties and sit around a fire, they throw some of it into the flames. As it burns, it smokes like incense, and the smell of it makes them drunk, just as wine does. As more fruit is thrown on, they get more and more intoxicated until finally they jump up and start dancing and singing."[51]

The Scythians eventually disappeared as a distinct national entity, but their descendants spread through Eastern Europe. While remembrances of their ancestors were lost, memories of ancestral customs were still retained, although, of course, these were modified down through the centuries. It is in this regard that anthropologist Sula Benet's comment that "hemp never lost its connection with the cult of the dead"[52] takes on added significance since she has traced the influence of the Scythians and their hemp funerary customs down to the modern era in Eastern Europe and Russia.

On Christmas Eve, for instance, Benet notes that the people of Poland and Lithuania serve semieniatka, a soup made from hemp seeds. The Poles and Lithuanians believe that on the night before Christmas the spirits of the dead visit their families and the soup is for the souls of the dead. A similar ritual takes place in Latvia and in the Ukraine on Three Kings Day. Yet another custom carried out in deference to the dead in Western Europe was the throwing of hemp seeds onto a blazing fire during harvest time as an offering to the dead - a custom that originated with the Scythians and has seemingly been passed on from generation to generation for over 2500 years.

Babylonia, Palestine, and Egypt

The farthest west marijuana fibers have ever been found in the ancient world is Turkey. Sifting through artefacts dating back to the time of the Phrygians, a tribe of Aryans who invaded that country around 1000 B.C., archaeologists unearthed pieces of fabric containing hemp fibers in the debris around Gordion, an ancient city located near present-day Ankara.[53]

Although the Scythians had contacts with the people of Babylonia, who lived to the west of the Phrygians, no hemp fiber or definite mention of hemp (Cannabis sativa) to the west of Turkey can be found until the time of the Greeks.[54] There are some vague references, however, which may or may not be cannabis. In a letter written around 680 B.C. by an unknown woman to the mother of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon, for example, mention is made of a substance called qu-nu-bu[55] which could be cannabis.

There is also very little evidence that the Egyptians ever cultivated the plant during the time of the Pharaohs. Papyrus documents from ancient Egypt list the names of hundreds of drugs and their plant sources, but there is no unequivocal mention of marijuana in any of its forms.[56] While some scholars have contended that the drug smsm t, mentioned in the Berlin and Ebers papyri, is cannabis,[57] this opinion is conjecture. No mummy has ever been discovered wrapped in fabric made from cannabis. In the ruins of El Amarna, the city of Akhenaton (the Pharaoh who tried to introduce monotheism to ancient Egypt), archaeologists found a "three ply hemp cord" in the hole of a stone and a large mat bound with "hemp cords",[58] but unfortunately they did not specify the type of hemp. Many different bast fibers were called hemp and no one can be certain that the fibers at El Amarna are cannabis, especially since Deccan hemp (Hibiscus cannabinus) grows in Egypt.[59]

The earliest unmistakable reference to cannabis in Egypt does not occur until the third century A.D., when the Roman emperor Aurelian imposed a tax on Egyptian cannabis.[60] Even then, however, there was very little of the fiber in Egypt.

There is no evidence that the ancient Israelites ever knew of the plant, although several attempts have been made to prove that they did. Because the Arabs sometimes referred to hashish as grass, some writers have argued that the "grass" eaten by Nebuchadnezzar was actually hashish. Another contention is that the phantasmagoria of composite creatures and brilliant colors seen by Ezekiel are unintelligible except from the standpoint of hashish intoxication.

In the most recent attempt to infuse marijuana with biblical antiquity, the Old Testament has been tickled, teased, and twisted into surrendering secret references to marijuana that it never contained. From the fact that the Scythians had made contact with the people of Palestine during the seventh century B.C., it has been suggested that knowledge and usage of the plant was passed on to the Israelites through some kind of cultural exchange. Linguistic arguments are then advanced to prove that the Israelites were users of marijuana.

For example, because the Hebrew adjective bosm (Aramaic busma), meaning "aromatic" or "sweet-smelling", is found in connection with the word qeneh (which can also be written as kaneh or kaneb) and because of the similarity between kaneh and bosm, and the Scythian word kannabis, it is argued that they are one and the same.[61]

However the word kaneh or qeneh is a very vague term[62] that has disconcerted more than a few biblical scholars. A reference to qeneh in Isaiah 43:24 refers not to a "sweet-smelling" but a "sweet-tasting" plant. Few people would ever say that marijuana leaves taste sweet. Because of this reference to a sweet-tasting plant, some biblical scholars and botanists believe that qeneh is probably sugarcane.

Although the Bible states that qeneh came from a "far country" (Jeremiah 6:20), sugar grew in India, which is in keeping with the passage from Jeremiah. The reference to qeneh as a spice in Exodus 30:23 also suggests sugar rather than cannabis.[63]

The earliest reference to cannabis among the Jews actually does not occur until the early Middle Ages when the first unmistakable mention of it is found in the Talmud.

The Jews of Talmudic times were particularly concerned about certain precepts which prohibited the mingling of heterogeneous substances, and on at least one occasion the sages argued over whether hemp seeds could be sown in a vineyard. The majority opinion was that such intermingling was permissible, indicating that they recognized a certain similarity between cannabis and the grape. This similarity could not have been due to the appearance of the two plants and must have centered around the intoxication produced by each.

A similar question likewise arose concerning the purification of wicker mats which were placed over grapes during wine pressing to keep them from scattering. The decision rendered by the rabbis was that if the baskets were made of hemp they could be used, provided they were thoroughly cleaned.[64] However, if they were made of some other material, the rabbis ruled that they could not be employed in wine pressing until twelve months had elapsed since the time they were last used.

The Birthplace of Democracy

Greece: land of myth and beauty, home to some of the greatest minds the world has ever known - Socrates, Plato, Aristotle - birthplace of democracy Greece was all of these and more. It gave the world its first great art, literature, theater, political institutions, sporting events, scientific and medical discoveries - the list is endless.

Yet despite these monumental achievements, Greece was a turbulent country and war was no stranger to its inhabitants. When they were not fighting among themselves, the Greeks faced the threat of invasion from empires like that of Darius and Xerxes. When Alexander the Great came to power, the Greeks in turn became world conquerors.

Alexander's was not the first campaign outside the Greek mainland. The Trojan war (ca. 1200 B.C.) saw Greek armies encamped on the shores of the Dardanelles in Asia Minor almost ten centuries before Alexander.

According to the Greek poet Homer (ca. 850 B.C.), who described the events of that war in the Iliad, the war was fought over a woman, the most beautiful mortal in the world - Helen, daughter of the great god Zeus and his human paramour. The Iliad tells of the great battles that took place before the walls of Troy, and the great heroes who fought them. It ends, however, not with the fall of Troy, but with the death of Hector, the Trojan prince, at the hands of the great Achilles. The actual conquest of Troy and the homeward journey of the Greeks is chronicled in Homer's other great epic, the Odyssey. Although it is primarily the story of the events that befell the great hero Odysseus as he tries to return to his island-home of Ithica, the story contains a brief scene in which some readers believe they have come across one of the earliest references to cannabis in Greek literature.

The Mysterious Nepenthe

On their way back from Troy, Helen, who had been reunited with her husband, Menelaus, stopped off in Egypt for a brief layover. While Menelaus took on new supplies, his wife went about exploring what was even in those times an ancient civilization. During this brief visit to the land of the Pharaohs, Helen paid a visit to a woman by the name of Polydamna. Polydamna was a dealer in drugs.

Many years later, during a magnificent party thrown by Menelaus in his palace in Sparta, the conversation naturally turned to the recent war in Troy. Someone remarked how sad it was that Odysseus, who had been a great friend of Menelaus' as well as many of the guests at the party, had not been heard of since his departure from Troy. The mention of Odysseus cast a shadow over the festivities and everyone started to become morose. The more the guests spoke of the lost hero, the sadder they became. The party was turning into a wake.

As spirits plummeted, Helen herself started feeling remorseful, not because of any grief she felt over the missing Odysseus, but because all this sadness and melancholy were spoiling her party. If she did not do something quickly, the party would die, the guests would go home, and, sooner than she cared for, she would have to return to the boring life of being a woman in an age when women were seen, made love to, but rarely heard or spoken to.

The situation called for emergency measures and Helen met the situation head on. Reaching into her bag of tricks, she came up with a drug given her by Polydamna. Secretly, she placed the compound into the wine of her guests. The drug, which Homer only identifies as nepenthe ("against sorrow"), was a compound with the power to suppress despair. Whoever drank this mixture, Homer wrote, would be incapable of sadness, even if his mother and father lay dead, or his son were slain before his very eyes.[65]

The drug was an instant success. The guests forgot their sorrow and regained their spirits. Although the conversation still revolved around Odysseus, it no longer evoked any grief. Helen even told the guests how she and Odysseus had once spent some compromising moments together. All the while her husband listened to the news that he had been cuckolded by his best friend, he remained calm and indifferent, so great was the power of Polydamna's drug.

What was this soporific, this stupefying drug that restrained even the deepest sense of grief and sorrow? No one really knows. There is no reason for Homer not to have identified it if he had some specific drug in mind.

To add even more mystery to this enigma, the Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily, who visited Egypt in the first century B.C., also refers to a "nepenthic" drug from that country which brought forgetfulness of all sorrows.[66] Like Homer, he too never gives this drug a name.

Conjecture always lurks in the shadow of uncertainty, and throughout the ages many have tried to identify Homer's elusive nepenthe. One of the more interesting guesses is that the drug was cannabis.

For example, when poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge invited a friend to come for a visit, he coaxed him to bring along some drugs "and I will give a fair trial to opium, henbane, and nepenthe. By the bye," he added, "I have always considered Homer's account of nepenthe as a banging lie."[67] At the time he wrote this letter in 1803, Coleridge was one of the few Europeans who were acquainted with the Indian beverage bhang. His pun indicates that, as far as he is concerned, nepenthe and bhang were one and the same.

E.W. Lane, editor of The Thousand and One Nights, was similarly convinced: "'Benj', the plural of which in Coptic is 'nibendji', is without doubt the same plant as the 'nepenth', which has so much perplexed the commentators of Homer. Helen evidently brought the nepenthe from Egypt, and benj is there still reported to possess all the wonderful qualities which Homer attributes to it."[68]

Not everyone agreed. Thomas De Quincey, author of Confessions of an Opium Eater, rejected cannabis as the sorrow-killing agent mentioned by Homer preferring his own favorite, opium, which he regarded as a "panacea, a pharmakon nepenthes" for all woes.[69]

While no one will ever know what drug Homer had in mind, it is certain that it was not cannabis since cannabis was not known in Egypt until more than a thousand years after Homer wrote his stirring epics. On the other hand, opium is mentioned in ancient Egyptian writings, and of all the possibilities that have been suggested it still remains the most likely.

While the ancient Greeks remained ignorant of the intoxicating properties of the cannabis plant, they were not slow to appreciate the durability and strength of its fiber. As early as the sixth century B.C., Greek merchants whose Milesian colonies served as a middle station between mainland Greece and the eastern coast of Asia Minor, had been carrying on a lucrative business transporting cannabis fiber to the ports along the Aegean.[70]

The Thracians, a Greek-speaking people living in the Balkans who were probably more closely related to the Scythians than to the Greeks, were especially adept at working hemp. Writing around 450 B.C., Herodotus says of their clothes that they "were so like linen that none but a very experienced could tell whether they were of hemp or flax one who had never seen hemp would certainly suppose them to be linen.[71]

Herodotus does not say whether the Thracians used any of the other parts of the plant, but Plutarch (46-127 B.C.), writing some 400 years later, mentions that after their meals, it was not uncommon for the Thracians to throw the tops of a plant which looked like oregano into the fire. Inhaling the fumes of this plant, the people became drunk and then so tired they finally fell asleep.[72]

However, Thrace was far from the center of Greek culture and most Greeks remained ignorant of cannabis's intoxicating properties. Theophrastus, the famous Greek botanist (372-287 B.C.), does not list cannabis among the native plants of Greece and nowhere is there any reference to it in the Greek myths, although various drugs such as datura (Jimson weed), mandragora (mandrake), and hyoscyanus (henbane) are described as consciousness-modifying drugs in use at ancient Greek shrines and oracles.[73]

In the third century B.C., Hiero II (270-15 B.C.), ruler of the Greek city-state of Syracuse, did not send his envoys to the Black Sea city of Colchis which supplied many Greek cities with hemp, but to the far-off Rhone Valley in France.[74] So sophisticated about the various characteristics of hemp fiber was he that only the most superior varieties were to be used to make ropes for his proposed armada. (This incident is the earliest reference to cannabis in Western Europe known to historians.)

Since the Greeks had become so knowledgeable about the kinds of fibers produced by cannabis growing in different geographical regions, they would no doubt also have mentioned the intoxicating properties of the plant had these been known. Although there are references to cannabis both as a delicacy and a remedy for backache in Greek literature dating back tot he fourth century B.C.,[75] no notice of the plant as an intoxicant occurs until the nineteenth century.[76]

The Roman Empire was the last and greatest colossus of the ancient world. At the summit of its glory, it extended from England in the west to Russia in the east. No fewer than 100 million people lived within its frontiers.

It was an empire primarily governed by a small elite aristocracy in Rome whose commands were dutifully administered by a well-oiled bureaucracy which could call upon a highly trained and devoted army whenever force was necessary.

Most of the everyday chores in the city were performed by slaves. About one-half million lived in Rome. A middle-class businessman might own about 10 the emperor owned about 25,000.

Wealthy Romans spent most of their time eating, bathing, gambling, and whoring. But some also had a taste for the arts. Since the Romans did not excel very greatly in the latter, prominent men would bring Greek writers, painters, philosophers, and scientists to Rome to work for them and to converse with whenever the feeling moved them. Of this Graecophilia, the Roman poet Horace observed: "Captive Greece has taken captive her rude conqueror."

Among the eminent Greek scientists who found employment among the Romans was Pedacius Dioscorides. Born in Asia Minor in the early part of the first century A.D., he became a physician and spent much of his early career in the Roman army tending the needs of the soldiers as they travelled the world conquering new lands to add to the empire. During these campaigns, Dioscorides collected and studied the various plants he encountered in different parts of the world and eventually he put what he had learned into a herbal.

The first copy of this book was published in A.D. 70. Dioscorides called it a materia medica and it became to the Western world what the Pen Ts'ao was to the Chinese. It identified each of the plants listed according to its native habitat and the names by which it was known. Peculiar features were then noted, and finally, symptoms and conditions for which the plant had proven beneficial were described.

The book became an instant success and was subsequently translated into nearly all of the languages of the ancient and medieval world. For the next fifteen centuries it remained an important reference for physicians, and no medical library was considered complete unless it housed at least one copy of this herbal.

Among the more than 600 entries appearing in the book was cannabis. This plant, Dioscorides wrote, was not only very useful for manufacturing strong ropes, but the juice of its seeds was also very beneficial in treating earaches and in diminishing sexual desires.[77]

Although this is all Dioscorides had to say on the subject, it was the first time cannabis had been described as a medical remedy in a Western medical text. And since Dioscorides' herbal continued to be one of the most important books in medicine for the next 1500 years, cannabis became a common household remedy for treating earaches throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.

Another prominent physician whose work was to influence the course of medical science for the next fifteen centuries was Claudius Galen (A.D. 130-200). Born in Pergamum, a country located in modern-day Turkey, Galen was the son of a wealthy and ambitious landowner who dreamed one night that his son would become the most famous physician in the world. The lavish praise and attention bestowed upon him by his father made Galen an insufferable egotist. "Whoever seeks fame need only become familiar with all that I have achieved," he once told his pupils.[78]

Such a statement may seem conceited, but it was true. Galen was to become the most famous physician of the ancient and Middle Ages, and a thorough study of his writings was mandatory for any doctor.

To prepare his son for the future, Galen was recognized as the leading authority on anatomy and physiology. He was a prolific writer, his medical pronouncements were never challenged, and his writings became the standard references of the medical profession. These writings, along with Dioscorides' herbal, were the most influential books in Western medicine for centuries.

Like Dioscorides, Galen had little to say about cannabis, but he does state that the Romans, at least those with money, used to top off their banquets with a marijuana-seed dessert, a confectionery treat which left guests with a warm and pleasurable sensation. To be avoided, however, was an overindulgence in this confection, for among the adverse after-effects of too many seeds were dehydration and impotence. Other properties Galen mentions are antiflatulence and analgesia. "If consumed in large amounts," he says, it "affects the head by sending to it a warm and toxic vapor."[79]

Following Galen, Oribasius, court physician to the emperor Julian (fourth century A.D.), wrote that cannabis seeds "harms the head", had antiflatulent effects, produced a "warm feeling", and caused weight-reduction.[80]

Most Romans, however, had little familiarity with cannabis seed. Very little hemp was raised in Italy.[81] If anything, the Romans were interested in the plant because of its fiber, for with good strong fiber Rome could outfit its expanding navy and keep it at sea longer.

Most of Rome's hemp came from Babylonia.[82] The city of Sura was particularly renowned for its hempen ropes.[83] Other cities such as Colchis, Cyzicus, Alabanda, Mylasa, and Ephesus, which had been leading producers during the Greek empire, continued to produce and export hemp as their chief product under the Romans.

The only other Roman author to give cannabis more than just a passing reference was the indefatigable encyclopedist of the ancient world, Caius Plinius Secundus (A.D. 23-79), otherwise known as Pliny the Elder. One of the best known members of the Roman establishment, Pliny preferred reading and writing to the more usual pastimes of the aristocracy. At the time of his death in A.D. 79, he left behind 160 manuscripts, many of which unfortunately have long since disappeared.

His most famous work, copies of which have been preserved down through the ages, was called the Natural History. These volumes are a collection of fact and fantasy which Pliny copied from other books or which he transcribed from conversations with various people throughout the empire. Most of the factual material was taken from Aristotle's books. The fantasy included anything and everything. Nothing was too incredible to be recorded. Pliny records that there are some men without mouths who inhale the fragrance of flowers instead of eating food, that horses will commit suicide if they discover that they have engaged in an incestual relationship with a close relative, etc. Exotic animals such as the unicorn and the winged horses are also given their due.

But like his contemporaries, Pliny had very little to record about cannabis. The fibers of the plant, he noted, made superb rope. The juice of the cannabis seed was also useful for extracting "worms from the ears, or any insect which may have entered them." While the seeds could also render men impotent, they were beneficial in alleviating gout and similar maladies.[84]

Wherever the people of the ancient world roamed, they carried with them the seeds of the precious cannabis plant. From China in the east to the Rhone Valley in the west, the seeds were spread. Cold weather, hot weather, wet or dry, fertile soil or barren, the seeds were not to be denied.

Except in India and China, most of the ancient world was completely ignorant of the intoxicating properties of the plant. Ancient European legends and herbals had little to say regarding its peculiar psychological effects.

If Europeans saw any magic in cannabis, it was its fibers, not its intoxicating power, that aroused their awe and admiration. Farther to the south, however, cannabis eventually inspired sentiments of a different kind in a people who challenged Europe for world domination.

Ancient times: the first historical records

It has been hypothesized that the genus Mycobacterium originated more than 150 million years ago. Mycobacterium ulcerans, causing infections since ancient times, requires specific environmental conditions as reflected nowadays in its distribution worldwide [6].

Three million years ago, an early progenitor of MT might have infected early hominids in East Africa [7] and 20.000-15.000 years ago, for the first time, the common ancestor of modern strains of MT might have appeared [8, 9].

Egyptian mummies, dating back to 2400 BC, reveal skeletal deformities typical of tuberculosis characteristic Pott's lesions are reported and similar abnormalities are clearly illustrated in early Egyptian art [10, 11].

Nevertheless, no evidence about TB lesions is reported in Egyptian papyri. The first written documents describing TB, dating back to 3300 and 2300 years ago, were found in India and in China respectively [12, 13].

Other written documents connected to TB are related to the Hebraism. The ancient Hebrew word schachepheth is used in the Biblical books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus in order to describe TB [14] in the same period, in the Andean region, archeological evidence of early TB, including Pott's deformities, was provided by Peruvian mummies, suggesting that the disease was present even before the colonization of the first European pioneers in South America [15-18].

In the Ancient Greece TB was well known and called Phtisis. Hippocrates described Phtisis as a fatal disease especially for young adults, accurately defining its symptoms and the characteristic tubercular lung lesions.

Excellent discoveries of the early scientists who studied TB were made in the same period: in Greece, Isocrates was the first author supposing that TB was an infectious disease, while Aristotle suggested the contagious nature of "king's evil" in pigs and oxes [19].

In Roman times, TB is mentioned by Celso, Aretaeus of Cappadocia and Caelius Aurelianus, but it is not recognized as sharing the same etiology of extrapulmonary manifestations such as scrofula, Pott's disease and TB lupus.

According to the Greek Clarissimus Galen, who became personal physician of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 174 AD, the symptoms of TB include fever, sweating, coughing and blood stained sputum he recommended fresh air, milk and sea voyages as successful treatments for the disease [20-22].

After the decline of the Roman Empire, TB was widespread in Europe in the VIII and XIX centuries, as witnessed by several archaeological findings [23].

The Byzantine doctors Aetius of Amida, Alexander of Tralles and Paul of Aegina described the pulmonary and glandular forms of TB [24], while in the Arabic Empire, Avicenna supposed the contagious nature of TB.

'Sistine Chapel of the ancients' rock art discovered in remote Amazon forest

One of the world’s largest collections of prehistoric rock art has been discovered in the Amazonian rainforest.

Hailed as “the Sistine Chapel of the ancients”, archaeologists have found tens of thousands of paintings of animals and humans created up to 12,500 years ago across cliff faces that stretch across nearly eight miles in Colombia.

Their date is based partly on their depictions of now-extinct ice age animals, such as the mastodon, a prehistoric relative of the elephant that hasn’t roamed South America for at least 12,000 years. There are also images of the palaeolama, an extinct camelid, as well as giant sloths and ice age horses.

These animals were all seen and painted by some of the very first humans ever to reach the Amazon. Their pictures give a glimpse into a lost, ancient civilisation. Such is the sheer scale of paintings that they will take generations to study.

The discovery was made last year, but has been kept secret until now as it was filmed for a major Channel 4 series to be screened in December: Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon.

The site is in the Serranía de la Lindosa where, along with the Chiribiquete national park, other rock art had been found. The documentary’s presenter, Ella Al-Shamahi, an archaeologist and explorer, told the Observer: “The new site is so new, they haven’t even given it a name yet.”

There are numerous hand prints among the images on the cliff face, similar to these at the nearby site of Cerro Azul. Photograph: Marie-Claire Thomas/Wild Blue Media

She spoke of the excitement of seeing “breathtaking” images that were created thousands of years ago.

The discovery was made by a British-Colombian team, funded by the European Research Council. Its leader is José Iriarte, professor of archaeology at Exeter University and a leading expert on the Amazon and pre-Columbian history.

He said: “When you’re there, your emotions flow … We’re talking about several tens of thousands of paintings. It’s going to take generations to record them … Every turn you do, it’s a new wall of paintings.

“We started seeing animals that are now extinct. The pictures are so natural and so well made that we have few doubts that you’re looking at a horse, for example. The ice-age horse had a wild, heavy face. It’s so detailed, we can even see the horse hair. It’s fascinating.”

The images include fish, turtles, lizards and birds, as well as people dancing and holding hands, among other scenes. One figure wears a mask resembling a bird with a beak.

Palaeo-anthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi, the presenter of the Channel 4 series. Photograph: Marie-Claire Thomas/Wild Blue Media

The site is so remote that, after a two-hour drive from San José del Guaviare, a team of archaeologists and film-makers trekked on foot for around four hours.

They somehow avoided the region’s most dangerous inhabitants. “Caimans are everywhere, and we did keep our wits about us with snakes,” Al-Shamahi said, recalling an enormous bushmaster – “the deadliest snake in the Americas with an 80% mortality rate” – that blocked their jungle path. They had been delayed getting back, and it was already pitch black.

They had no choice but to walk past it, knowing that, if they were attacked, there was little chance of getting to a hospital. “You’re in the middle of nowhere,” she said. But it was “100%” worth it to see the paintings, she added.

As the documentary notes, Colombia is a land torn apart after 50 years of civil war that raged between Farc guerrillas and the Colombian government, now with an uneasy truce in place. The territory where the paintings have been discovered was completely off limits until recently and still involves careful negotiation to enter safely.

Al-Shamahi said: “When we entered Farc territory, it was exactly as a few of us have been screaming about for a long time. Exploration is not over. Scientific discovery is not over but the big discoveries now are going to be found in places that are disputed or hostile.”

The paintings vary in size. There are numerous handprints and many of the images are on that scale, be they geometric shapes, animals or humans. Others are much larger.

Many of the paintings are very high up, similar to these at the nearby site of Cerro Azul, some so high they can only be reached by drones. Photograph: Marie-Claire Thomas/Wild Blue Media

Al-Shamahi was struck by how high up many of them are: “I’m 5ft 10in and I would be breaking my neck looking up. How were they scaling those walls?”

Some of the paintings are so high they can only be viewed with drones.

Iriarte believes that the answer lies in depictions of wooden towers among the paintings, including figures appearing to bungee jump from them.

He added: “These paintings have a reddish terracotta colour. We also found pieces of ochre that they scraped to make them.”

Speculating on whether the paintings had a sacred or other purpose, he said: “It’s interesting to see that many of these large animals appear surrounded by small men with their arms raised, almost worshipping these animals.”

Observing that the imagery includes trees and hallucinogenic plants, he added: “For Amazonian people, non-humans like animals and plants have souls, and they communicate and engage with people in cooperative or hostile ways through the rituals and shamanic practices that we see depicted in the rock art.”

Al-Shamahi added: “One of the most fascinating things was seeing ice age megafauna because that’s a marker of time. I don’t think people realise that the Amazon has shifted in the way it looks. It hasn’t always been this rainforest. When you look at a horse or mastodon in these paintings, of course they weren’t going to live in a forest. They’re too big. Not only are they giving clues about when they were painted by some of the earliest people – that in itself is just mind-boggling – but they are also giving clues about what this very spot might have looked like: more savannah-like.”

Iriarte suspects that there are many more paintings to be found: “We’re just scratching the surface.” The team will be back as soon as Covid-19 allows.

Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon starts at 6.30pm on Channel 4 on 5 December. The rock art discovery is in episode 2, on 12 December

Human evolution

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Human evolution, the process by which human beings developed on Earth from now-extinct primates. Viewed zoologically, we humans are Homo sapiens, a culture-bearing upright-walking species that lives on the ground and very likely first evolved in Africa about 315,000 years ago. We are now the only living members of what many zoologists refer to as the human tribe, Hominini, but there is abundant fossil evidence to indicate that we were preceded for millions of years by other hominins, such as Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, and other species of Homo, and that our species also lived for a time contemporaneously with at least one other member of our genus, H. neanderthalensis (the Neanderthals). In addition, we and our predecessors have always shared Earth with other apelike primates, from the modern-day gorilla to the long-extinct Dryopithecus. That we and the extinct hominins are somehow related and that we and the apes, both living and extinct, are also somehow related is accepted by anthropologists and biologists everywhere. Yet the exact nature of our evolutionary relationships has been the subject of debate and investigation since the great British naturalist Charles Darwin published his monumental books On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871). Darwin never claimed, as some of his Victorian contemporaries insisted he had, that “man was descended from the apes,” and modern scientists would view such a statement as a useless simplification—just as they would dismiss any popular notions that a certain extinct species is the “ missing link” between humans and the apes. There is theoretically, however, a common ancestor that existed millions of years ago. This ancestral species does not constitute a “missing link” along a lineage but rather a node for divergence into separate lineages. This ancient primate has not been identified and may never be known with certainty, because fossil relationships are unclear even within the human lineage, which is more recent. In fact, the human “family tree” may be better described as a “family bush,” within which it is impossible to connect a full chronological series of species, leading to Homo sapiens, that experts can agree upon.

What is a human being?

Humans are culture-bearing primates classified in the genus Homo, especially the species Homo sapiens. They are anatomically similar and related to the great apes (orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas) but are distinguished by a more highly developed brain that allows for the capacity for articulate speech and abstract reasoning. Humans display a marked erectness of body carriage that frees the hands for use as manipulative members.

When did humans evolve?

The answer to this question is challenging, since paleontologists have only partial information on what happened when. So far, scientists have been unable to detect the sudden “moment” of evolution for any species, but they are able to infer evolutionary signposts that help to frame our understanding of the emergence of humans. Strong evidence supports the branching of the human lineage from the one that produced great apes (orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas) in Africa sometime between 6 and 7 million years ago. Evidence of toolmaking dates to about 3.3 million years ago in Kenya. However, the age of the oldest remains of the genus Homo is younger than this technological milestone, dating to some 2.8–2.75 million years ago in Ethiopia. The oldest known remains of Homo sapiens—a collection of skull fragments, a complete jawbone, and stone tools—date to about 315,000 years ago.

Did humans evolve from apes?

No. Humans are one type of several living species of great apes. Humans evolved alongside orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas. All of these share a common ancestor before about 7 million years ago.

Are Neanderthals classified as humans?

Yes. Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) were archaic humans who emerged at least 200,000 years ago and died out perhaps between 35,000 and 24,000 years ago. They manufactured and used tools (including blades, awls, and sharpening instruments), developed a spoken language, and developed a rich culture that involved hearth construction, traditional medicine, and the burial of their dead. Neanderthals also created art evidence shows that some painted with naturally occurring pigments. In the end, Neanderthals were likely replaced by modern humans (H. sapiens), but not before some members of these species bred with one another where their ranges overlapped.

The primary resource for detailing the path of human evolution will always be fossil specimens. Certainly, the trove of fossils from Africa and Eurasia indicates that, unlike today, more than one species of our family has lived at the same time for most of human history. The nature of specific fossil specimens and species can be accurately described, as can the location where they were found and the period of time when they lived but questions of how species lived and why they might have either died out or evolved into other species can only be addressed by formulating scenarios, albeit scientifically informed ones. These scenarios are based on contextual information gleaned from localities where the fossils were collected. In devising such scenarios and filling in the human family bush, researchers must consult a large and diverse array of fossils, and they must also employ refined excavation methods and records, geochemical dating techniques, and data from other specialized fields such as genetics, ecology and paleoecology, and ethology (animal behaviour)—in short, all the tools of the multidisciplinary science of paleoanthropology.

This article is a discussion of the broad career of the human tribe from its probable beginnings millions of years ago in the Miocene Epoch (23 million to 5.3 million years ago [mya]) to the development of tool-based and symbolically structured modern human culture only tens of thousands of years ago, during the geologically recent Pleistocene Epoch (about 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). Particular attention is paid to the fossil evidence for this history and to the principal models of evolution that have gained the most credence in the scientific community.See the article evolution for a full explanation of evolutionary theory, including its main proponents both before and after Darwin, its arousal of both resistance and acceptance in society, and the scientific tools used to investigate the theory and prove its validity.

The Lost Knowledge of the Ancients: Were Humans the First? Part 2 - History

The RH Negative Factor Key is in

The idea that the Egyptians and Celts were connect in antiquity and that they spread around the world is not a new idea it has been noticed by many scholars over the years.

Due to the declassification of ground penetrating radar, data has come forth to show us that huge underground tunnel systems and complexes underground cities existed thousands of years ago right under our feet. Places such as Guatemala in South Americas, tunnels have been mapped under the Mayan pyramid complex at Tikal , which extend a full 800 kilometers to the opposite side of the country. This tunnel system now sheds light on how half a million Mayan Indians escaped the decimation of their culture.

SIRA radar was used in 1978 to map a subterranean complex beneath the Egyptian Pyramids as early as 1978. At a recent meeting in Australia, one of the key scientists on the Giza project, Dr. Jim Hurtak, showed film footage of work in progress called, CHAMBERS OF THE DEEP, due to be released at the end of the century. As of yet, this footage has never come to light.

The film reveals the discovery of a vast megalithic metropolis, 15,000 years old, reaching several levels below the Giza plateau. While the rest of the New-Age speculates about a hidden chamber under the left paw of the Sphinx, the legendary "City Of The Gods", lays sprawled beneath. Complete with hydraulic underground waterways, the film shows massive chambers, the proportions of our largest cathedrals, with enormous statues, the size of the Valley of the Nile, carved in-situ.

Researchers, risking their lives with lights and cameras, carefully negotiated rubber dinghies across subterranean rivers and kilometer-wide lakes, to penetrate sealed chambers beyond. Already, remarkable caches of records and artifacts have been found.

From these records, as well as the Sumerian, we know there was an era the Egyptians called Zep Tepi, "The First Times". During this time a mysterious group of 'gods' appeared , bringing with them their sciences, traditions and laws. We can find evidence of this time and these gods throughout the world. From Thoth and Osiris in Egypt to Quetzacoatl and Viracocha in the Americas.

Evidence now show us that prior to the deluges great and high tech civilizations existed. One of the key scientists on the Giza project, Dr. Jim Hurtak, said this was a culture who cracked the genetic code and possessed the keys of the physical spectrum, the "Higher Light Physics" of the ancients.

After the departure of the Anunnaki , much of the information was lost. What wasn't has been secretly and selfishly guarded by the 'keepers of knowledge' which is of course the shepherd kings of the Anunnaki.

The knowledge that has been preserved has been used by the 'elite' to create illusions, fulfill prophesy and manipulate the masses. In essence the 'elite bloodlines of today' are the self proclaimed 'gods' of the ancient times. The basic rule of thumb. knowledge is power. and the 'elite bloodlines' have this knowledge thus the power.

They will not share it with us because by doing so it will take away their 'god-like' status. After all what would the world come to if we all were given the knowledge and power of a god. Well. what has the world come to allowing the 'elite' i.e. as the Bush's and other members of One World Government to have and use all this power? Our moral structure, our social structure and our economic structure is all based on a house of cards, a foundation built on lies to the public.

As was promised, all things shall be revealed in the end days. Many discoveries today are now coming to light. What we have found out is that the discoveries in Egypt and other parts of the world not only evidence an advance technology, but an evolutionary path beyond our present state. Careful scientific examination of the world's key pyramid sites, reveal them to be sophisticated harmonic structures, not only mirroring positions of the planets and stellar systems but, designed to mimic the chakras and harmonic cavities of the human body.

Even each stone within the Great Pyramid is harmonically tuned to a specific frequency or musical tone. The sarcophagus in the centre of the Great Pyramid is tuned to the frequency of the human heart beat.

Astonishing experiments, conducted by Dr. Hurtak and colleagues at the Great Pyramid and other sites in the South Americas, demonstrate the pyramids to be voice-activated "geophysical computers." Intoning specific ancient sounds, the scientific team produced visible standing waves of light, above and within the pyramids and were even able to penetrate, hitherto, inaccessible chambers. Subsequent discoveries indicate the ancient priest-scientists employed some sort of harmonic sound technology within the temple structures.

The lost Enochian knowledge reveals the mother tongue as a "language of Light". Known to the ancients as HIBURU. It is the primal seed language, introduced at the beginning of this time cycle. Modern research confirms, the most ancient form Hebrew to be a natural language, the alphabetic forms emerging from the phosphene flare patterns of the brain. The same shapes, in fact, born of a spinning vortex. It is a true language of light, coursing through our very nervous system.

Encoding the natural waveform geometries of the physical world, Hiburu is a harmonic language, mimicking the waveform properties of light.

The "keys" Enoch speaks of, turn out to be sound keys, keys to be vibratory matrix of reality itself, the mythic "Power of the World". The Enochian knowledge describes sonic equations, encoded within the ancient mantras and god names, capable of directly affect the nervous system and producing profound effect of healing and higher consciousness states.

As the ancient texts declare,

"If you would speak with the gods you must first learn the language of the gods."

DNA, the ancient cabalistic "Tree Of Life" portrayed in the Biblical Torah, is now coming to be viewed as a live vibrating structure, rather than a fixed tape recording.

Many modern scientists, regard DNA as a shimmering, waveform configuration, able to be modified by light, radiation, magnetic fields or sonic pulses. The legacy of Thoth/Enoch suggests this "language of Light", the harmonic science of the ancients, could actually affect DNA.

The knowledge of Thoth/Enoch implies humans are meant to evolve beyond our present terrestrial form, as the Bible tells us, "we may become greater than angels". The Egyptians record stories of the "Star Walkers", occasional individuals who, like Enoch, traveled "beyond the Great Eye of Orion" and returned, to walk like gods amongst men.

Despite the bleaching of semi-divine beings from modern consciousness, could it be possible, as the ancient texts insist, we are destined to "become as gods"?, are the Mayan "Lords of Light" and the Egyptian/Tibetan "Shining Ones" really a higher form of human or a hybrid (alien god/man)?

According to many earth legends, such beings, sometimes called Avatars, are supposed to return regularly, at the beginning and end of each time cycle, the 13,000 year half-point of our solar system's 26,000 year zodiacal orbit around galaxy centre. Because of conditions on our galactic orbit, these 13,000 year intervals or "worlds", seem to be separated by cataclysmic upheaval.

According to the "calendar in stone" of the Great Pyramid , which describes the so-called "Phoenix Cycle" of our galactic orbit, the present time period ends (converted to our present calendar) in the year 2012 AD. The Greek word PHOENIX, derived from the Egyptian word, PA-HANOK, actually means, "The House of Enoch". This does NOT mean the world will end. but the Age. We should then be entering the Age of Aquarius. an Age which promises to be filled with Hope and Love. We have now entered this Age.

The Enochian knowledge suggests, these regular cataclysmic changes act as an evolutionary agent provocateur, to quicken the resident life forms to the next evolutionary phase, prior to exodus from the womb planet. The evidence now appearing, records civilizations before us, who mastered the physical continuum and progressed beyond this world.

The discoveries emerging from Egypt, describe the existence of a world wide pyramid temple system in prehistory, mounted like antennae on the key energy meridians, which were employed by ancient priest-scientists as a musical system to stabilize the tectonic plates of the planet. cataclysmic geology at it's finest.

From the mother tongue word JEDAIAH, meaning "the way of the Word" or "the power of the Word", the ancient JEDAI priests used the language of Light to tune the planet like a giant harmonic bell.

The Anunnaki Birth Goddess holding up the First Adam

This cylinder seal shows the presentation of the 'plough' as described in left column

Babylonian tablet in the British Museum (No 74329), circa 2000 B.C. of a missing Sumerian record of the Line of Cain!

"As copied by A.R. Millard and translated by W.G. Lambert (Kadmos, vol. VI), it speaks of the beginnings of a group of people who were ploughmen, which corresponds to the biblical "tiller of the land." They are called AMAKANDU - And, the Mesopotamian chief of these called KA'IN ! (It is believed that the people of Cain were sent to the Americas to spread their seed.)

He built in Dunnu a city with twin towers. Ka'in dedicated to himself the lordship over the city.


". After the death (or murder) of Ka'in, "he was laid to rest in the city of Dunnu, which he loved."

". We also find among traditional Assyrian eponyms of royal names the combination Ashur-bel-Ka'ini ("Ashur, lord of the Ka'inites") and the Assyrian scribes paralleled this with the Sumerian ASHUR-EN.DUNI ("Ashur is lord of Duni"), implying that the Ka'ini ("The people of Kain") and the Duni ("The people of Dun") were one and the same and thus reaffirming the biblical Cain and Land of Nun or Dun.

The Creation of the Shepherd Kings

The Anunnaki , self proclaimed gods, came to earth for colonization and mining.

Through advanced knowledge of genetics, they were able to genetically engineer a slave race . Not only were the people of earth genetically altered for slave status but were used as sex toys and breeders by the 'bored' gods. to fight their battles and be a food and energy source for the gods of old.

The gods produced a hybrid god race to 'care' for their creations as shepherds would their flock. These 'hybrids' were given the 'secrets' and protection of the gods in exchange for their services, loyalty and reverence. This Kingship line was made by breeding Anunnaki into earthlings producing a high concentration of Anunnaki blood within the line.

Cain for example, the first to start the Kingship line (Cainship) was at least 75 per cent Anunnaki. Another name for them that the Christians may be more familiar with is the 'Shepherd' Kings. This line then went on to produce what we know today as the 'blue blood' lineage, always interbreeding within the Anunnaki families to maintain the purity of blood status.

There are many ancient stories that indicate the existence of underground cloning and genetic laboratories. And more stories of extraterrestrial races interbreeding with the women of earth.

Following is an excerpt from T.W. Samsel's 'The Atlantis Connection'.

"The human race has been influenced and controlled since approximately 70,000 BCE or midway through the Lemurian/Atlantean Age. This involved several extraterrestrial groups and should not be attributed to a single group in and of itself.

There were the three main participants in the direct contact program who initiated this type of manipulation and others. That the " reptilians " performed a similar research, for their own purposes and even infiltrated the federations project security, most likely did take place."

The Book of Dzyan tells of the Sarpa or Great dragons that came from the skies to bring civilization to the world.

The deluge that ended the Golden Age wiped out a race of 'giants' but the serpent gods survived and returned to rule. They were described as having the face of a human, but the tail of a dragon.

The Indian-Hindu name for Anunnaki Hybrids was Nagas .

Jame Churchward also described a reptilian type race such as what is described by the Dzyan and Indian Hindu. Churchward said the Nagas came from Lemuria.

Like the Nommo from Sirius and the Annedoti of Babylonia legend, the Nagas were said to have a close connection to water and entered their underground centers through wells, lakes and rivers. The Nagas were said to be the offspring from the interbreeding of humans with the serpent gods.

According to Indian Epics the reptilian Nagas intermingled with the white people and although their relationship was often one of conflict and distrust, the two interbred to produce a reptilian-mammal hybrid that became the 'Aryan kings!'. These are the 'divine' royal bloodlines or demi-gods and are the same bloodlines that ruled ancient Sumer.

In Media, now Turkey, the Iranians knew the kings as Mar, which means snake in Persian (Mars=Snakes). They were called the 'dragon dynasty of Media' or 'descendents of the dragon'.

In the late 19th Century Churchard was shown ancient tablets in the secret vault of a monastery in northern India. They told the story of how the Naacals or Nag Mayas (serpents) from the continent of Lemuria (MU) had traveled to India via Burma to establish a colony there. These tablets described the destruction of MU, the motherland, and how the Naga Mayas or Nagas had traveled to India.

The Vedic scholar David Frawley explains how the Vedas, reveal that the earliest royal bloodlines of India, the priest kings descend from the Bhrigus who arrived from a place across the sea. The Bhrigus were an order of adepts initiated into the ancient knowledge ( Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilizations ) that the monarchs of these bloodlines included the 'serpent king' Nahusha.

They expanded into five tribes that populated a large part of the Indian population. Churchward says that the Nagas also populated China, Tibet and parts of Asia which is very likely. and that their goddess religions were also the origin of the Maya people of Mexico.

"The Nagas are described as a very advanced race of species with a highly developed technology. They harbor a disdain for human beings, who they are said to abduct, torture, interbreed with and even to eat. The interbreeding has supposedly left a wide variety of forms, ranging from completely reptilian to nearly human in appearance."

The Priest kings of the Peruvian Incas were symbolized by the snake and wore bracelets and anklets in the image of a snake.

Cecrops, the first Mycenaen king of Athens, was depicted as a human with a serpent tail.

In Arab poet Firdowsi's Book of Kings, the history of Iran completed in AD1010, tells the story of the birth of Zal, the 'Demon' or 'Watcher' offspring, whose appearance horrified his father, King Sam. This Watcher hybrid called Zal married a foreign princess named Rudabeh, a descendant of the 'serpent king', Zahhak, who was said to have ruled Iran for a thousand years.

As you see the serpent or reptilian lineage can be found on every continent. many times interbreeding with humans that have been interbred with Nordics, which carries the blonde hair and blue eyed traits. These Nordic features are for some reason very desirable to the Serpent cultures and as legend goes 'to be descended from Noah' is a code for the illuminati bloodlines.

Through the study of the works of James Churchward and Mark Pinkham (The Return of the Serpents of Wisdom) we can further trace the lineage of Dann back to Lemuria and Atlantis .

A branch of the Atlanteans and Lemurians, called the Carians (Carian = "Serpent Sea People of the Atlantean Fire God"), the Eus-Cara (same meaning as Carians) and the Tuaraks ("Serpent People of the All Glorious Fire God") colonized the planet.

The Tuarkes became the Tuaraks who settled in North Africa with the Atlantean knowledge the Eus-Cara became the Basques of Spain and the Carians became known as the 'Phoenicians'. (Churchward also documents the Carians in the Americas.)

The Taureg people of North Africa today, descendents of the Tuarkes, have allowed some visitors to see their ancient cavern systems in the Ahaggar Mountains where they have murals of their Atlantean ancestors holding snakes and swords with tridents on the blades. People invited into the underground temples of the Tuaregs claim to have seen green reptile 'monsters' called 'Ourans' , which the Tuaregs worship as the physical representation of their serpent goddess or 'grandmother'. The Tuaregs also perform a dance in honour of the Atlantean fire god, Voltan or Votan.

According to Tibetan holy Book of Dzyan verifies this tunnel system stating that "there were fighting between builders and destroyers and fighting for space". Forces of light were forced to leave many territories which they inhabited before.

The system of underground tunnels was encircling the whole planet. The western tunnel network had its beginning under Atacama desert in Chile and went in direction of Tiahuanaco - Cuzco - Mount Shasta - Grand Tetons, under American mainland and under Atlantic ocean towards Atlas mountain range in western Africa and then under Ahaggar/Tibesti mountain ranges towards their final station - the Giza pyramids.

One important center was under Mato Grosso region in Brazil, where Agartha had strong connection with Atlantean cities on the surface. The Himalayan network was of extraordinary importance. Here underground civilization developed as a mirror of Atlantean colony which existed on the surface in the area of contemporary Gobi desert.

Of course it was no desert then, it was a subtropical paradise. Himalayan network had its source under the Gobi desert and it expanded under Takla Makan desert and then onwards under Pamirs, Altai, Karakorum, Baltistan, under Kunluns and under Chang Tang plateau towards Himalayas. The Atlanteans and Lemurians established established colonies in Egypt, then known as Khem or 'Land of the Fire Serpent'.

Khem was the name of the deity symbolized as a black goat and later called 'Pan'.

The goat is still a symbol of worship for the Illuminati and Satanists today under the name Baphomet. There are many surviving records that claim a lineage of Egyptian kings going back tens of thousands of years before the formation of the Egyptian civilization described by official hisotians. This supports the stories of an Atlantean/Lemurian colony in Egypt long before the cataclysm . ( David Icke , Children of the Matrix ).

The colonization of Greece is far older than officially claimed as well. The Atlantean colonists of Greece worshipped a serpent goddess called Athene or Neith. This deity was symbolized as a serpent, snake, sphinx or goddess covered by snakes. You will see that wherever the reptilian bloodlines have located, the worship of a serpent goddess has always been the center of their rituals under names i.e. Athene, Barati, Isis, Semiramis, El, Artemis, Diana and Hecate.

Other Atlantean/Lemurian colonists were known as the Pelasgians (People of the Sea) the Danaans and the female Amazons. The Pelasgians worshipped the serpent Moon goddess Dana, later Diana (Artemis), and then later Atlantean goat god called Pan. They first landed on the Peloponnesus in Greece and settled in Arcadia, according to ancient Greek records. Arcadia has always been a sacred place to the Illuminati bloodlines and was apparently a name for Atlantis. This colony (called Athenians) went to war with Atlanteans before the deluge.

The Dananns left Atlantis to settle in Asia Minor (now Turkey), Greece and the islands of Aegean.

The name Danaans derived from their serpent Moon goddess, Dana or Diana. The Danaans made the headquarters of their serpent worshipping culture on the island of Rhodes, a name that originates from a Syrian word for serpent.

Rhodes was the home of the Danaan brotherhood of initiates and magicians known as the Telchines.

The Greek historian, Diodorus, said these initiates had the ability to heal, change the weather, and 'shape-shift' into any form. The name Rhodes, which is connect to the German "Rot", meaning red, as with Rothschild (Red-Shield) became a code name for the bloodlines.

Malta, too, was was an important center in 3500 B.C. and the home of a major Mystery School.

Under Malta is a vast network of tunnels and megalithic temples where secret rituals took place and still do today. Malta's original name was Lato, named after Mother Lato, the serpent goddess. The Knights Templar secret society was formed in the late 11th century to protect the reptilian bloodline or 'Le Serpent rouge ' the red serpent or serpent blood, together with their associated order, the highly secretive Priory of Sion .

The Danaans also settled on Cyprus and in ancient times it was known as Ia-Dan or the "Isle of Dan". The name of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, a place so important to the Druids, has the same origin, no doubt. The Tauras Mountains in Turkey, the Balearic Islands and Syria were other Danaan settlements and they traveled from Atlantis to Britain where they became known as Tuatha de Danaan or the "People of the Sea" .

The female Amazons were another branch of the Hesperides or Hespera, a name for Atlantis. They, too, followed the goddess Athene or Nieth and venerated her symbol, the double-headed axe. They founded shrines to the goddess in many places, including the famous centre for Diana worship at Ephesus and other locations along the Turkish coast. The 'Canaanites' also descended from Atlantis/Lemuria.

Mark Amaru Pinkham describes the migration of Atlanteans to 'Canaan' in the Return of the Serpents of Wisdom:

"One branch of these Atlantides were the Tyrrhenian, the people after whom the present Tyrrhenian Sea is named.

The Tyrrhenian eventually split in half to become the Etruscans, the Carians or Phoenicians, a tribe which eventually migrated to Canaan, a territory of the Asia Minor Coast, which can be translated as the 'Land of the Fire Serpent'"

(Taken from Children of the Matrix , David Icke)

Jealousy between the Gods erupted and a great war took place.

Laws of Nature were abused and nuclear and high tech wars took place on planet Earth, bringing about great earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, plate shifts, and other great disasters. including radioactive fallout. Many people of earth fell victim to this war of the gods.

To avoid the nuclear warfare and fallout, many went underground, others fled the war area , moving to the Americas, Europe, etc. After the earth had become unfit for the Anunnaki to live, they left. leaving the 'Shepherds' to watch over the flock of earthlings until their return.

From works of David Icke we again learn that as these areas were all colonized, the kingship lines were established to rule over the masses. Just before each of the cataclysm , many Atlantean and Lemurian royal bloodlines and initiates fled to other parts of the world, heading mostly for high places to escape the impending flood.

  • Britain, one of their colonies

  • Europe

  • Scandinavia

  • North Africa

  • the mountains of Turkey

  • Iraq

  • the Americas

All along the American continent are the ancient legends and accounts of highly advanced beings, the founders of their culture, arriving with great knowledge from the sunken land in the Atlantic.

On the western seaboard of the Americas and in Asia, they talk of similar advanced 'gods' arriving from a sunken continent in the Pacific.

Polynesians claim that survivors from this lost continent traveled to India before returning to the remnants of their homeland, the Pacific Islands, and becoming the Polynesians.

James Churchward says that these people also settled in Egypt via India. Chinese legend talks of a continent in the area called Maurigosima, which sank amid cataclysm, but its king, Peiru-un, escaped to mainland China and continued his bloodline there. This happened a number of times as Lemuria and Atlantis fell to cataclysmic events.

After the destruction of Atlantis and the Earth once again settled down after the upheavals, the survivors of Atlantis and Lemuria began to re-colonize the planet. And one of their key centers became known as ' Sumer ', the 'cradle of civilization', in the eyes of the official history.

Through the work of Sir Laurence Gardener we discover that Sumaire in the old Irish language means Dragon. He writes:

'It is also reckoned that the subsequent culture of the region, phonetically called Sumerian (pronounced "Shumerian") was actually Sidhemurian (Shee-murian). This case is now considerable since the early Ring Lords of Scythia (the Tuatha De Danaan king tribe) were actually called the 'Sumaire'.

During the days of the Biblical Great Exodus, a group separated from Moses and went to the North.

This group was the Tribe of Dann. Millions went and settled in the European and Scandinavian areas. From there they spread out to other parts of the word. conquering the countries, spreading their Anunnaki seed and replacing the conquered people's traditions with their own serpent culture .

The Khoisan Once Were Kings Of The Planet. What Happened?

In Namibia today, members of the ancient tribe of hunter-gatherers still forage. New genetic research reveals they were once the largest group of humans. Stephan C. Schuster/Penn State University hide caption

In Namibia today, members of the ancient tribe of hunter-gatherers still forage. New genetic research reveals they were once the largest group of humans.

Stephan C. Schuster/Penn State University

Some 22,000 years ago, they were the largest group of humans on earth: the Khoisan, a tribe of hunter-gatherers in southern Africa.

Today, only about 100,000 Khoisan, who are also known as Bushmen, remain. Stephan C. Schuster, professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has published new research about the tribe, many of whom now live in poverty, their cultural traditions endangered. We spoke to Schuster about his study and the lives of the Khoisan.

How did it happen that a group that was once in the majority is now so small?

First of all, the fact that 7 billion people now live on earth makes it almost impossible for us to understand how few people lived in the past. About 10,000 years ago, there were not more than 1 million on the planet. And 100,000 years ago, only a few 10,000s. The whole genome sequences we analyzed show that there was a time when the non-Khoisan peoples were not doing as well as the Khoisans.

What happened to tip the balance?

Changes in the climate. Before 22,000 years ago, the southern part of Africa where the Khoisan lived was wetter, with more precipitation, compared to the dryer western and central parts of the continent where other groups lived. A dryer climate meant fewer wild game and less food, which translates into fewer children. So other populations dropped significantly while the Khosian's population stayed about the same. But after the last ice age ended, the climate changed, and for reasons we don't understand the other African populations expanded, and the exponential growth of humans across the earth began.

The Bushmen know which plants and herbs are good to eat — and which will heal their ailments. Stephan C. Schuster/Penn State University hide caption

How do the Khoisan maintain their way of living today?

The answer is they don't. We are seeing the end of their culture and their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, which is being replaced by herding and agriculture.

In Botswana, there is a law that the hunter-gatherers cannot hunt anymore. There are land disputes and in many cases they are being pushed off the land they used to hunt or consider sacred. They are considered lowlifes in society and have very little political representation. In many ways this replicates what happened to the indigenous people of North America, who by the way were also hunter gatherers.

Can you describe the Bushmen culture and what is being lost?

The most important thing is the language. This is a "click language" in which clicks are like consonants. Linguists believe that the more clicks you have the older the language is, and this one has five, the most of any. There is also beautiful traditional music and singing that will be lost.

What about other skills and types of knowledge particular to the Khoisan?

They have incredible knowledge about animal behavior and about the environment. Where you and I would only see plants and scrub and thorn and dry wood, they see a lot of things you can eat. If you walk with a Bushman in the bush, he is constantly eating because he always finds something to nibble or chew on, and of course this is precious knowledge that we don't have. This is also their pharmacy, the herbs or the natural substances within the plants that will help them when they have ailments. Even the elders have absolutely pristine hearing and clear vision. And I think it is understandable if your life depends on your hunting skills.

Can you talk about how they hunt?

They use a very small bow and very short arrow, which they make, and on the tip of the arrow they place a poison that they produce from caterpillars. They are also amazing masters of trapping. They make the traps not with metal or rope but only with natural materials like branches and grass and leaves. All this knowledge will be lost if the younger generation does not get the chance to live this lifestyle. It might already be too late.

What lesson should we take from the population patterns you've traced?

The most important factor for changes in the population is the climate. The key thing we want people to know is that there were times when there were so few humans, we got close to being wiped out. This is also the pattern we see in endangered species today. We look at ourselves as invulnerable, but we should not take for granted that the climate won't change in the future in ways that will endanger us. We need to take climate seriously.

The Christian Debate

A growing number of Christians and people of other faiths believe modern-day humans were not the first — and possibly are not the last.

The Bible has clear passages about events that have taken place and that will take place at some point, stating human existence operates on a 7,000-year cycle. Based on scripture now, the Earth is only a little over 6,000 years old. However, a great deal of scientific evidence indicates it is much, much older.

The Bible does not specifically state Adam was the first man ever to walk the Earth. There are too many gaps in the information contained in that chapter to get a clear picture.

Consider the account of Noah and the Great Flood . All humans were wiped out, except for Noah and his family. It’s quite possible a new Adam and Eve were born out of this catastrophe, starting the cycle anew. Therefore, it’s not entirely irrational to have doubts over whether or not Adam and Eve were truly the first humans on Earth.

In the book of Genesis, we read the Earth was without form and void — as if it had experienced a great catastrophe. We know from scripture that water already covered the Earth, and scientists are now finding, under the great bodies of water of the world, evidence of entire civilizations. These findings raise more questions than answers. How do we mesh science with scripture? Is it possible?

Many events documented in the biblical texts seem to be supported by science. Can these two seemingly oppositional systems coexist and come together to give us a more complete picture of where we came from?

Consider that the original biblical texts have been translated repeatedly. The version we use today has only been around since the 1600s, and the Catholic church uses a heavy hand in changing the scripture and the structure of the book itself. If you stop and think about it, perhaps we’ve lost something in all the edits and translations. Maybe we don’t have the whole story.

Keep in mind, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

The Moors

White historians, in their bid to make ancient Europeans seem White, have chosen to ignore the "obvious" relationships that must have existed between Berbers and the people of iberia. When Grimaldi crossed the Gibraltar straits to enter Europe, all of his kind did not follow. When Humans move to new territories "Most" stay behind in the old territory, and they "maintain" their relationships there is always back and forth travel for trade and communication. It is against this backdrop that the Berber invasion of Iberia must be viewed. The Berbers did not enter Iberia as destroyers, they entered as builders!

Thus, after Muhammad's Islamic army took Egypt in 640 A.D. and then went on to conquer all of North Africa. The Berbers no-doubt saw this new Black army as an opportunity so rather than fight, the Berbers joined forces with the Islamic army. In 711 A.D. A Berber army led by general Tariq ibn Ziyad, invaded Iberia (Spain) and overthrew the White Visigoths (Western Goths): Who were one of two main branches of the Goths, an east Germanic tribe, who over the period of only one hundred years, had migrated from eastern Europe, thru Greece, thru Italy, and finally down into the Iberian peninsula.

In Iberia (Spain and Portugal), the Berbers, now known as Moors, created a highly advanced civilization and culture, famous for it&rsquos art, architecture, and centers of learning. While having rule over Spain: The Berbers, who themselves fifty years earlier had been forced to accept Islam, now sometimes forced the inhabitants of Iberia to do the same. Though the number of original "Moors" remained small, many native Iberian inhabitants converted to Islam. According to Ronald Segal, some 5.6 million of Iberia's 7 million inhabitants were Muslim by 1200 A.D, virtually all of them native inhabitants. According to historian Richard A. Fletcher, the number of Arabs who settled in Iberia was very small. There were about 900,000 Berbers and about 90,000 Arabs in Iberia. (More history below).

No 'lost tribes' or aliens: what ancient DNA reveals about American prehistory

G enetics research has transformed our understanding of human history, particularly in the Americas. The focus of the majority of high profile ancient DNA papers in recent years has been on addressing early events in the initial peopling of the Americas. This research has provided details of this early history that we couldn’t access though the archeological record.

Collectively, genetics studies have shown us that the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas are descended from a group that diverged from its Siberian ancestors beginning sometime around 23,000 years before present and remained isolated in Beringia (the region of land that once connected Siberia and North America) for an extended period of time. When the glaciers covering North America melted enough to make the Pacific coast navigable, southward travel became possible, and patterned genetic diversity across North and South America reflects these early movements.

Recent ancient DNA studies indicate that approximately 13,000 years ago, two clades (genetic groups) of peoples emerged one exclusively consisting of northern Native Americans, and one consisting of peoples from North, Central, and South America, including the 12,800 year old Anzick child from a Clovis burial site in Montana. All genetics research to date has affirmed the shared ancestry of all ancient and contemporary indigenous peoples of the Americas, and refuted stories about the presence of “lost tribes”, ancient Europeans, and (I can’t believe that I actually have to say this) ancient aliens.

Events that occurred after people first entered the Americas – how they settled in different parts of the continents, adapted to local environments, interacted with each other, and were affected by European colonialism – have received somewhat less attention in the press, but as can be seen in the links above, there have been some very significant research papers published on these topics. One such paper that I’ve recently found very interesting (in fact, I wrote up a short article for Current Biology that discusses its significance), Genetic Discontinuity between the Maritime Archaic and Beothuk Populations in Newfoundland, Canada by Duggen et al. (2017), explores the genetic diversity within three different ancient groups who lived in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One reason this region is of particular interest is that it’s on the furthest northeastern margin of North America and so was one of the last areas in the Americas to be peopled. It appears to have been occupied successively by three culturally distinct groups beginning about 10,000 years before present (YBP) in Labrador and 6,000 YBP in Newfoundland: the Maritime Archaic, the Paleo-Inuit (also referred to as the Paleo-Eskimo), and the indigenous peoples that Europeans called the Beothuk. Today the region is home to several indigenous groups, including the Inuit, the Innu, the Mi’kmaq and the Southern Inuit of NunatuKavut.

Iceberg Alley, Newfoundland, Canada Photograph: Grant Faint/Getty Images

The members of the Maritime Archaic tradition created the oldest known burial mounds in North America (dating to 7,714 YBP) and subsisted upon coastal marine resources. Approximately 3,400 YBP they seem to have abandoned Newfoundland, either in response to the appearance of Paleo-Inuit in the region or because of climate changes. The Paleo-Inuit’s presence on the island overlapped with the peoples referred to as the Beothuk beginning around 2000 YBP. The Beothuk encountered European settlers in 1500 AD, and in response to their presence gradually moved to the interior of the island, where their populations declined.

According to Duggen et al:

The last known Beothuk, Shanawdithit, died of tuberculosis in captivity in 1829. Although it remains possible that Beothuk traces of ancestry persist in contemporary residents of NL, including members of the Innu, Mi’kmaq, and European communities, it is generally accepted that the Beothuk became culturally extinct with the death of Shanawdithit.

Portrait of Demasduit, the aunt of Shanawdithit, by Lady Henrietta Hamilton, 1819 Illustration: Hamilton , Lady Henrietta Martha (ca. 1780 -1857 ) (Artist)/Library and Archives Canada

By analyzing mitochondrial haplogroups (groups of closely related maternal lineages) present within individuals from all three populations, Dugan et al. addressed the question of whether they were genetically similar or whether all three groups were biologically as well as culturally distinct from each other. This happens to be one of the most fundamental questions that arises when studying the past: do cultural changes in the archaeological record of a region represent the arrival of new groups, or did one group of people living in the same region over time adopt new cultural practices and technologies from others?

In the case of Newfoundland, the three groups were genetically distinct they do not share any maternal haplogroups except for haplogroup X2a, lineages of which were found in both the Maritime Archaic and Beothuk. (The presence of haplogroup X2a in North American populations has sometimes been cited as evidence for European ancestry in ancient Americans. If you’re interested in why I and most other geneticists specializing in Native American populations disagree with that, you can read about it here).

Apart from that single exception, the Maritime Archaic, Paleo-Inuit, and Beothuk are clearly genetically distinctive from one another. However, it’s important to note that this study was done on mitochondrial DNA, which is exclusively matrilineally inherited, and so we can only say that the three groups were not maternally related. While they indicate that the groups are genetically different from each other, does that mean that there was no shared ancestry between them at all? It’s unclear without looking at the rest of the genome whether, for example, there might have been any paternal lineages shared between the populations. I hope that the authors of this study will follow up with analyses of complete genomes from these ancient individuals, as there is a great deal more to be learned by looking more deeply at their ancestry.

Watch the video: Ancient Humans Were SMARTER THAN US? Part 2 - The Tao Te Ching