Selected Works | Man’s Initial Journey to the Sea

2020-07-12 | By Historian | Filed in: Character.

Jacques Atali

There are three kinds of people in the world: the living, the dead and those who go to sea.——Aristotle

MaleIn the 60,000 years before Yuan Dynasty, there were many races on the earth, but the total population was less than 1 million. Human beings still live a life of migration. They never live in one place for a long time, only for a few months at the longest. Sometimes, they will sail at sea, but only along the coastline.

For these early humans, the ocean was not only a rich source of food, but also a place of crisis. The anger of the gods is always manifested through the sea. The warm sea as spring is the cradle of life, while the cold sea as ice is the omen of death. At that time, some people thought that the sea had no end and was as flat as the land. Others think that the end of the sea is a cliff. However, they threw themselves into the waves more and more frequently with courage beyond the reach of any latecomers.

They have accumulated knowledge of navigation and astronomy, which is intrinsically related to meteorology, astrology and divination. The sea and the sky are closely intertwined. People who go to sea must have a deep understanding of stars, wind and cloud, ocean currents, fish schools and birds. We can see from the nautical charts they drew that the human beings in this period passed on the complicated knowledge they gained from generation to generation. Before going to sea, people will hold atonement ceremonies, pray, simulate sailing on the sea beside the labyrinth of woods, offer sacrifices with animals or people, and divine good or bad. These activities are all indispensable. The situation when people board ships will also reflect the class differences between sailors and captains, crew members and passengers. The same is true of nomadic tribes operating on vast land, and there are also social class differences.

At that time, most of the early humans sailed along the coast on calm seas such as the China Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. They seldom braved the wind and waves on the Atlantic Ocean, where tides were surging and storms were frequent. If so, they were limited to short-distance coastal voyages.

In the Pacific Ocean

Primates’ earliest journey to the Atlantic began about 30 million years ago. The first voyage of modern people in the Pacific Ocean dates back about 800,000 years. The first voyage of late Homo sapiens may have started 60,000 years ago in the Indian Ocean and Pacific coast.

Late Homo sapiens crossed the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, India and China on foot and arrived in Sunda Islands on an offshore ship 60,000 years ago. At that time, the sea level was still very low.

Soon after, they traveled to Oceania again. The world’s earliest ship hand-drawn case was found in Oceania, dating back to the arrival of Homo sapiens in Oceania in the late period. Those are 2 ~ 8 meters long boats, which were made by late Homo sapiens with stone tools after hollowing out tree trunks. Later, they left Oceania and arrived in the Philippines, Indonesia and today Thailand and Malaysia.

We found that during this period, there were also some late Homo sapiens who went to Australia from the Indonesian part of Sunda Islands and southern China. Their descendants are the aborigines of today’s Australia and Papuans of New Guinea. This kind of migration is not impossible. Recently, some people have even restored the relevant historical scenes: late Homo sapiens used flint tools and wood and vines as raw materials to make wide rafts. Starting from Timor Island, they successfully landed in Darwin Port in Australia after sailing along the river for two weeks after three attempts.

About 40,000 years ago, the Earth entered the Yumu Ice Age and the sea level dropped by nearly 60 meters. Humans walked to the Japanese Islands from what is now China and Siberia. In Japanese mythology, the Dragon God (Daimianjin See God) is a sea dragon that can be transformed into human form. The Japanese royal family also calls itself the descendant of the Dragon God.

We found 40,000-year-old ship carvings on rocks in the Caspian Sea. That is, during that period, almost all hominids except late Homo sapiens were extinct. During the ice age, some people set out from Africa and walked 2,000 kilometers to South America, then headed north to North America. This is the scene shown on the rock murals.

15,000 years ago, they met people who arrived in Alaska on foot from Kamchatka Peninsula in North America. They then headed south along the coast, reaching California around 10000 BC, and probably walked along the west coast of South America to Patagonia. This speculation is confirmed by archaeological discoveries at the Pedra Verde site in southern Chile.

Around 6000 BC, the total population of the earth was about 5 million. Human society experienced an epoch-making technological innovation: the earliest sailing boats appeared in the residential areas of the South Island people and southeast China. As a result, the South Island people were able to travel between the islands, and the Chinese began to sail on the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. They may then settle down in some small villages and begin their initial settlement life.

In China, in 3000 BC, on the eve of the legendary first imperial rule, southeastern settlers crossed the sea again, settled in Taiwan and extended their activities to Oceania. They fish, do business, and the main commodity they sell is salt. Because the use of salt was already very common at that time, people mostly used salt to preserve seafood.

Boat-shaped Rock Paintings in Baojing Bay, Zhuhai
The southern and southeast coastal areas of China also have residential areas of the Nandao language group. The residents here are closely related to the ethnic groups on the Pacific islands and have rich marine cultural connotations. The Baojingwan rock paintings found in Zhuhai area reflect the early navigation history of the residents of the Nandao language group in this area.

At that time, the Chinese believed that the sky was round and the land of China was surrounded by four oceans in the southeast, northwest and northwest. The Dragon Kings of the Four Seas (Aoshun, Aoguang, Aorun and Aoqin) each defend one sea area and jointly protect national security. At the same time, Indians regarded the earth as a flat disk. Four continents were distributed around Mount Sumeru, surrounded by endless oceans. Varuna, the sea god, dominated the universe and was later replaced by Indra.

Since 2000 BC, the South Island people have once again set off a wave of great innovations in navigation technology. In order to be able to sail as far as the Philippines, southern Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, they began to use catamaran canoes with balance bars, which can accommodate 60 people and also carry a large number of animals and plants. South Islanders have discovered aborigines in Australia who have lived there for 50,000 years.

Since 1000 BC, Fiji Island seems to have been the starting point for their voyage. They set out from Fiji on a ship that seemed unable to withstand the wind and waves at all, boarded Samoa, Futuna and Solomon Islands, and finally arrived in today’s French Polynesia. They may even travel to the west coast of South America, which explains why the languages of these places are interlinked, while Peruvians write about Polynesians in their travel notes.

In 1000 BC, there were frequent merchant ships between China and India, which passed through the Strait of Malacca. In this way, cloves from the Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia were transported to China and then to Egypt.

In this way, some kingdoms with natural spices as their main resources were born. They have many merchant ships. Sri Lanka’s deceased country on Sumatra Island has become a necessary transit point for merchant ships from China to other countries in the world. The important position of this transportation hub has not changed in 15 centuries. Funan is located in the southern part of Indochina Peninsula centered on Mekong Delta and has benefited greatly from the spice trade.

At that time, Chinese businessmen were used to packaging goods into different ships, and their own ships could also carry goods from other ships, thus realizing risk sharing, which was the embryonic form of the insurance industry. In order to ensure that pirates will not attack them during the transportation, businessmen also employ armed bodyguards to accompany the ship.

In 221 BC, the total population of the earth was about 30 million. That year, Qin Shihuang, the first emperor in Chinese history, completed the great cause of reunification and established the Qin Dynasty. Around 220 BC, Qin Shihuang ordered the construction of the Great Wall on the western border and decided to give up the expansion of the sea. Maritime trade and maritime military were also ignored. This short-lived dynasty perished in 206 BC and was replaced by the Han Dynasty established by Liu Bang, which lasted for more than 400 years.

Chang’an, the capital of the Western Han Dynasty, is located in today’s western China. In the 2nd century BC, the Han people opened the “Silk Road” and had some commercial contacts with the Persian Parthians at that time. The Parthians later started trade activities with Europeans.

In China in the 1st century BC, businessmen sailed on the sea. They transport rare goods by sea, sometimes because sea is the only way to transport them, but sometimes, even if they can transport by land, they will still choose sea because people gradually realize that sea is safer than land and ships can carry far more goods than horses and chariots.

As a result, around the first year of AD, lapis lazuli, rhinoceros horn, ivory, precious wood, gold, silver, copper, iron and other rare objects from Africa crossed the Indian Ocean to China.

Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea

What is the situation in other parts of the world? About 60,000 years ago, modern humans came to Europe and met Neanderthals, who lived on the same land with them. There have been conflicts and possibly integration between them. From about 50,000 years ago, modern humans went to Northern Europe, Corsica and Sicily by land or sea.

In the following thousands of years, they fished, hunted and picked food, but still did not settle down somewhere. They may have tools such as boats or rafts that can sail in rivers or shallow seas.

About 9,500 years ago, there was a great change in human history: human beings in the Middle East began to settle down before human beings in other parts of the world. However, contrary to popular belief, their settlement is closer to the sea. Middle Eastern people came to the Jordan Valley and settled in Jericho on the Dead Sea, forming the earliest city in the region. This is a port city. After Middle Eastern people settle here, it is very likely to sail by boat, at least they will go to sea to fish. Perhaps, people can make full use of marine resources only after they live a settled life. Here, they built the first fortress, and now we can still see its remains. They started agricultural cultivation and animal husbandry, and then started the copper industry here. This is how they gradually settled down and developed agriculture by relying on the sea.

Later, they established other cities in the neighboring Mesopotamian region-the two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates) connecting the Persian Gulf. There, people found paintings 6,000 years ago, depicting paddled sailing boats sailing in the two river basins and transporting building materials and food. Strange coincidence is that sailing boats also appeared in the Pacific Ocean at the same time.

As a result, human beings have settled down in the coastal and riverside areas. At this time, the nomadic life on land has completely changed into what the author calls the life style of settling at sea.

About 5,000 years ago, Sumerian civilization still regarded the sea as a threat to mankind in Mesopotamia. This view originated from Uruk culture.

“Gilgamesh Epic” shows us the ferocity and heartlessness of the legendary first great flood, and the sea is the place of death. At that time, two new kinds of ships appeared: fur ships (round hulls reinforced with canvas and fur) and sheepskin rafts (large square rafts with a certain number of inflatable sheepskin bags at the bottom). These two kinds of ships can transport a large number of human and animal goods. They can go down the river but not up the river. When people arrive at their destination, they will dismantle the hull.

Authorized to publish, selected from “A Brief History of Marine Civilization”, [France] by Jacques Attali, translated by Wang Cunmiao, CITIC Publishing Group, April 2020.

During the same period, others settled on the banks of the Nile, usually in river ports or seaports. At that time, there were many kingdoms in Egypt that were still in their embryonic form, but we did not know the names of these kingdoms. People found an urn of that period in archaeological activities, with traces of sail remnants on the surface. It is speculated that the ship equipped with this sail may be transporting livestock or stones on the Nile. In 4000 BC, the sails became slender and Egyptian sailors gradually learned how to use the wind. At this point, they are many years later than the South Islanders.

In ancient Egyptian mythology, Noun, the original chaotic water, was the birthplace of gods and human beings. The Nile is the water left after Noon completed his mission.
The sun god Ra sailed on the Nile, thus developing civilization.

More than 4,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians established the original capital, Memphis. The power center of this ancient empire was also a port city.

Around 3500 BC, the ports of Egyptian city-states became larger and larger in scale and safer. Egyptian ships were made with sails or oars. The Egyptians sailed by boat along the Mediterranean Sea (called the “White Sea” by the Egyptians) to the shores of today’s Israel and Lebanon in search of timber, or through the Red Sea to what they called the “Bridge Country” at that time, which may be located in today’s Horn of Africa.The Horn of Africa, located in northeastern Africa, is a peninsula in East Africa. As a larger regional concept, the Horn of Africa includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. -Translator’s Note]. At that time, the three ports along the Red Sea coast were very influential. They were located in today’s Asaga Vasis, Ain Suhna and Wadi Ilgarv.

With the establishment of the first dynasty in ancient Egypt around 3150 BC, shipbuilding has been greatly improved: before building the ship frame, people will combine the hull plates one by one, which can not only increase the size of the hull, but also increase the sealing performance of the ship. In addition, a large oar will be fixed at the rear of the hull to be used as a rudder.

Soon after, around 3000 BC, many city-states appeared in Sumerian Kingdom: Uruk, Kish, Nipur, Ellito, Rahash, Uma and Ur. They all surrendered to the king under a hierarchical social system. They all believe in the goddess who is in charge of the harvest. The rise of these city-states is not unrelated to the development of canal economy in the two river basins. Due to the gradual depletion of local resources, Mesopotamian sailors walked out of the canal and went to the Persian Gulf, then to ports in the Arabian Sea, looking for wood, ivory, gold, copper and other metals, selling wool, grain, date palms and pots and utensils. Their ships are made of wood and reeds and can carry 20 tons of cargo.

Asians have long come to the conclusion that compared with land fleets, ships at sea can carry more goods, transport faster and have less risks. Mesopotamians and Egyptians also knew this.

At that time, the Egyptians traded papyrus for Lebanese wine and cedar wood (the main wood needed for shipbuilding). They also use salt to preserve transported food, tann leather and make mummies.

According to the latest archaeological discoveries in the area near Pyramid of Giza Khufu, about 2500 BC, a huge cedar wooden boat was built in Egypt, 43.5 meters long, capable of carrying 20 people and sailing to the far sea.

Around 2300 BC, in Mesopotamia, Sargon the Great of the Akkad Kingdom started commercial exchanges with the northern coast of the Indian subcontinent (now Pakistan) and the southern Arabian Peninsula, relying on the commercial profits of Tirmon (now Bahrain) and Magan (now Oman). Around 1750 BC, some laws on the management of commercial activities were promulgated one after another. For example, the Hammurabi Code has made detailed provisions on the relationship between ship owners and boatmen.

People found a bas-relief sculpture in 1500 BC in the Temple of Debahari Memorial (also known as the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, opposite the Temple of Luxor on the other side), engraved with the ancient Egyptians sailing on the Red Sea and exchanging goods with other countries with the support of Queen Hatshepsut. Some items are exchanged out of diplomatic etiquette, while others, such as incense used to worship gods, are exchanged for commercial purposes.

Since then, the sea has appeared more and more in mythology. According to Sumerian theory of the origin of the universe (borrowed from Babylonian mythology in 1200 BC), the original world was a chaos, with only the vast sea (salt water) Tiamat and the sweet water deep (fresh water) Absu, who combined to give birth to gods. Human beings angered the powerful Enriel (the god who actually holds the highest power). In his anger, he dumped the sea and flooded the earth. The patron saint of the sea, Iya (known as Enqi), ordered Zusoudra, known in Babylonian mythology as Atrahasis, to build an ark and put every species into it, thus surviving. This is the earliest description of the great flood in history. The reason why the great flood appeared in myth must be due to people’s real experiences: for example, the flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the floods caused by winter rainfall and melting snow in Anatolia.

“Sea Nation”: Phoenicians and Greeks in Asia Minor

During the same period, two new maritime forces emerged along the Mediterranean coast. The Egyptians were afraid and called the two “sea nations”.

At first, tribes of different languages and ancestry settled in easy-to-defend harbors such as Tyre, Biblus and Sidon in northern Egypt, opening ports and conducting commercial activities there. People call them Phoenicians. They set sail from the port and shipped the rare goods of that time, a purplish red natural dye, overseas for trade. This dye has a bright color, and its color comes from the common mussels along the Mediterranean coast. In this way, the Phoenicians soon became the overlord of the Mediterranean and established trade zones in many ports. They also used and promoted the earliest letters in human history, but they were not the creators of these letters.

Phoenician ships
Phoenicians are one of the earliest marine commercial peoples, and the name “Phoenicians” (meaning “purplish red”) comes from the purplish red natural dye they continue to export. This relief, which shows the trade activities of Phoenician merchant ships, was first decorated in the palace of King Sargon II of New Assyria (721-705) and is now in the Louvre.

At the same time, the region further north-that is, the coast of Asia Minor-welcomed the Ahaians. After they were expelled from Peloponnesus, they settled here. The Ahaias are the ancestors of the Greeks. They are a group of especially open sea travelers. In Ahayan mythology, the son of Uranus (God of Sky and Life) and Gaia (Goddess of the Earth), the God of the Sea, Okealos, is a kind God whose residence is far away from all turbulence and disturbance on land. He and Tessis have thousands of children, of whom the daughters are all sea gods and the sons are all river gods. One of his nephews was Zeus (son of Cronus and grandson of Uranus), who later became the Lord of the Gods and gave Poseidon the dominant position of Okealos in the sea. Poseidon took good care of some sailors (such as his son Theseus), while persecuting others (such as Ulysses, who stabbed Poseidon’s son Polyphemus). Poseidon holds several positions. He is the god of the sea, the god of earthquakes, the god of storms and the god of horses. These early Greeks in Asia Minor have begun to eat salt, which Homer called “God’s gift”, and consider themselves higher creatures between man and God.

They built watchtowers in the port and formed the first naval forces in history. Their sailboats could penetrate enemy ships and project projectiles. The sailors are free, because slaves can never be good sailors.

For these “sea nations” different from Mesopotamians and Egyptians, control of the sea is a matter of life and death, because they do not produce the necessities of life, while others only buy things other than necessities.

It was also during this period that the earliest pirates and navies appeared and the earliest naval battles took place. The earliest known sea battle took place in 1194 BC, that is, in the early days of Ramses III’s rule, when the Egyptians and the “sea nation” broke out in Raphia in the Nile Delta. In this battle, the Egyptians won because they used oar boats, which were easier to control than the sailing boats of the “sea nation” and were more suitable for combat operations in the delta.

During that period, as is widely spread, the Hebrews fled Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, while the Greeks came to Asia Minor and destroyed Troy.

About 700 BC, the Greeks in Asia Minor built the port of Miletus, where they developed a daunting new warship, the three-row oar warship. This is a warship with both sails and oars, with a length of 35 meters and a width of 6 meters. The oars are divided into three layers, with a total of 170 oarsmen, officers and soldiers, so as to carry out close combat on the side. All crew members are free citizens. There is a copper angle at the bow waterline of the warship, which is used to hit the enemy ship. With this kind of ship, the safety of coastal areas and merchant fleets is guaranteed, thus making it possible to transport soldiers. The basic tactics used in naval warfare include: diekplous (one warship breaks through the enemy line first, followed by other warships to attack) and periplous (going around the side or rear wing of the enemy ship and hitting with the bow angle).

Miletus controlled the Mediterranean Sea at that time and established nearly 80 colonies from the Black Sea coast to the Sea of Azov. Many learned people also appeared in this city-state one after another. Thales, the first wise man (about 625-550 years ago), believed that the earth was a disk floating on the endless sea. Anaximander (ca. 610-546) believed that the earth was a cylinder of water covered by land. His student Anaximeni (about 585-525 years ago) believed that the Earth was a disk surrounded by oceans and floating in space. Today’s generally accepted view that the earth is a sphere and mainly consists of water was first put forward by Pythagoras in the 6th century BC. Thales believes that water is the most basic element, matter is mainly composed of water, and life also comes from water. He thinks that the origin of the world is water, while other scholars of the classmate school think that the origin of the world is qi or fire.

At first, the Egyptians employed these “sea nations” as foreign soldiers. Around 600 BC, Pharaoh Nico II sent Phoenician foreign soldiers outside what is now the Strait of Gibraltar (called the “Pillar of Hercules” by the Greeks), ambitiously wanting them to make a detour along the African continent before returning to Egypt. According to Herodotus’s later description, the plan seems to have been successfully completed 20 years later. The real situation is that Nico II did organize a sea expedition, but the voyage did not encircle the African continent, but went to the Red Sea and ended near the Somali coast. During that period, sailors from Miletus probably crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and established a trade area in what is now Senegal. According to Plato’s account later, these sailors already had a full understanding of the Atlantic Ocean, at least the Atlantic Ocean between Sovira and Scandinavia.

At the same time, another nomadic people from Egypt and Canaan settled in Judea. They are adjacent to two “maritime nations” and are geographically closer inland. They were determined not to go to sea for development, but to survive on trade with the Greeks and Phoenicians. They are Jews.

However, the sea is still an important element in Jewish history and world view. The description of the world’s origin in their sacred classic Moses’ Five Classics is strikingly similar to the latest scientific hypothesis mentioned in this book. According to the description of the Five Classics of Moses, water has existed since the birth of the universe, even before the earth. (Genesis begins with this: “At first God created heaven and earth. The earth is empty and chaotic, and the deep face is dark. The spirit of God runs on the water.”) God created the earth on the second day, the sea on the third day, marine life on the fifth day and man on the sixth day. This is exactly the life birth sequence of scientific reasoning today.

For Jews, water is both the source of life and a deadly threat. God always shows his power at sea or through the sea, which is reflected in many stories. For example, the story of the Great Flood (Noah escaped in the ark, similar to the Great Flood in Greek mythology), The story of God dividing the Red Sea into two parts to make a passage (metaphor for human liberation) and the story of Jonah (the prayers of sailors could not quell the fierce storm until Jonah was thrown into the sea and swallowed by the big fish sent by God. Jonah repented devoutly in the fish’s belly, and three days later God told the big fish to spit Jonah out, and he was reborn.) In short, the sea is the place where human beings can be tested by God. Only through the test can they be free. The sea is also a place of crisis, where Leviathan, the most evil devil described in the Bible, lives.

The Hebrews did not know how to water and had no intention of building large ports. To the Hebrews, the sea was the kingdom of other nations. They call the Mediterranean the “West Sea” (Deuteronomy 1:24), the “Sea of the Philistines” (Exodus 23:31), the “Sea” (Numbers 34: 6-7), or simply the “Sea” (1 Kings 5: 9).

During this period, the communication between Jews and Greeks was much more frequent than they claimed. Ships shuttling through the Mediterranean carried a large number of rabbis and philosophers from Miletus to Tyre. These cultural exchanges soon gave birth to theories of universal significance, which were immediately widely circulated in the western world and even among all mankind.

When the Jewish people had to sail in order to survive, trade and maintain their faith, the sea also became an important tool for them.

This article is reprinted from the public number: historian

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