Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29, 2016 - A Twelve-Thousand-Year Partnership

How wise must primitive man have been to domesticate the sheep.  About 12,000 years ago, “primitive” man was a bit smarter than we are today.  He knew that sheepskin was warm in the winter, stayed warm even when wet, and protected against blazing sun.  It was the perfect answer to the fur that his own body could not produce.

But taking the skin from the sheep necessarily killed the animal.  While not bogged down with morals or thoughts of wildlife protection, primitive man was clever and practical.  He knew he needed more wool than he could get by just killing the animal.  He noticed that the ancient breeds of sheep often shed their soft fleece fibers while keeping the longer coarse fibers on their body.  (Some ancient breeds still do, while modern breeds must be shorn.)  He found that in addition to gathering the shed fleece, he could easily pluck it right out of the sheep without disturbing the longer fibers.  More importantly, this didn’t hurt the animal at all, and it grew back more and more fleece that could then be plucked again and again.

Working together.
How did it happen?  Where did he get struck with the inspiration to twist the soft fleece into threads with his fingers?  Perhaps he just absent-mindedly twirled it back and forth, pleased with its softness, and then noticed a nice strong thread being formed.  Yet inspiration struck again and he decided to create a very primitive spindle by attaching a stone ring to the end of a stick--most likely held in place by tension, shaving the stick just enough to wedge it firmly into the ring.  Now the thread could be wound continuously in one long thread on to the stick.

From there?  Probably hand weaving--criss cross, criss cross.  Then came suspending weighted thick threads from a beam and weaving a long thread back and forth, over and under, in between the hanging threads.  These two things--the primitive spindle and primitive weaving--were in use for thousands of years.  Eventually, a more modern loom was invented, and after that came the spinning wheel.  Both of these inventions dramatically decreased the time it took to make a nice cloth.

But the point is that 12,000 years ago, primitive man was already thinking of all of this.  Twelve thousand years ago, he was a thinker, an inventor, a dreamer.  What his own body could not naturally produce, his mind could form an idea of and his hands could follow through with the instructions.  Twelve thousand years ago, that mysterious and spiritual force we call “inspiration” was in full effect, not yet dulled by electronic distractions.

Primitive man was already thinking long term 12 millennia ago.  He was planning.  He domesticated the sheep for its milk, its meat, its hide, and its wool.  In return, he made sure it was fed well and protected.  By doing this he ensured milk, food, and hides for himself, but he also found a sustainable, renewable source of fibers for warmth and protection.  In so doing, he greatly increased his chances of surviving the elements.  An industry was born that would propel mankind into the distant future we now occupy.

And we think the internet is a big deal?  I’m a little embarrassed.

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