Monday, September 12, 2011

11. King Den’s Sandal Label (Egypt, about 2985 BC)

With agriculture comes the explosion of human population, along the great river valleys, and numbers of people far exceeding what we can deal with. I love this statistic about our brains having evolved, to the Stone Age, to deal with about 150 relationships, the average size of a Stone Age human’s social circle. Starting 5000 years back with the river valleys and modern cities, you get anonymity and huge numbers of people—even though, today, most people still maintain about 150 average real life (not Facebook) friendships. The question then follows, how to organize and control the huge numbers of people involved in a city? The illustration here shows the easy answer used by an early Egyptian pharoah: might makes right. The picture is political propaganda of the simplest, most powerful kind: the strong, good-looking king smiting his loser foe. It was found in King Den’s tomb, a label on his sandal, an etching/scrimshaw on ivory from the tooth of a hippo from the Nile. Thus from the river comes the city, with its human organization into strong and weak.

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