Several events often cited as the first in the world, based on popular historical narratives or traditional beliefs, are later than the first occurrences indicated in academic research. This discrepancy often arises due to advancements in archaeology, improved dating techniques, and a more comprehensive understanding of ancient civilizations. Tv producers and writers are sometimes 5-10 years behind academic research.
Some examples include:
- Domestication of crops and animals: The traditional view often associates the Neolithic Revolution in the Fertile Crescent (around 10,000 BCE) with the first domestication of crops and animals. However, archaeological evidence suggests that domestication processes might have begun earlier in different regions, such as the domestication of wheat in the Near East 🇹🇷 around 10,000-12,000 BCE, domestication efforts of grains among Qadan culture (in Nubia South Egypt 🇪🇬 /Northern Sudan 🇸🇩) around 9,000-13,000 BCE in Northeast Africa and the domestication of rice in China 🇨🇳 around 9,000-10,000 BCE. (+)
- Writing systems: The invention of writing is often attributed to the Sumerians 🇮🇶 in Mesopotamia around 3,300 BCE and ancient Egyptians 🇪🇬 around 3,300 BCE . However, recent discoveries have revealed earlier writing systems, such as the Vinča script from the Vinča culture in Southeast Europe (covering Bulgaria🇧🇬, Serbia🇷🇸, Bosnia-Herzergovina 🇧🇦 and Romania 🇷🇴), dating back to around 5,500 BCE. In Africa, the Diepkloof Rock Shelter in the Western Cape 🇿🇦 has revealed over 270 fragments of ostrich eggshells engraved with geometric designs, dated to 60,000 years ago potentially representing an early form of written communication by hunter-gatherer groups. (#)
- Urbanization: The first cities are traditionally associated with Mesopotamia and the Sumerians around 3,500 BCE. However, evidence from the ancient city of Çatalhöyük in Anatolia, Turkey, suggests that it was established around 7,000 BCE, making it one of the earliest urban settlements. Jericho, Palestine 🇵🇸 has been dated to 9,000 BCE, Ounjougou Mali 🇲🇱 has been dated to 9000 BCE-10,000 BCE, and Gobekli Tepe, Turkey 🇹🇷 has been dated to 9,500 BCE
- Metalworking: The use of iron is often associated with the Hittites around 1,800 BCE,. However, earlier iron artifacts dating back to the 2,300 BCE have been found in Central African Republic 🇨🇫 .
- Astronomy and calendrical systems: The development of sophisticated astronomical knowledge is often attributed to later civilizations like the Babylonians and Greeks. Still, ancient observatories and lunar calendars, such as the Nabta Playa (around 7,500 BCE) in the Western desert on the border between Chad 🇹🇩, Libya 🇱🇾 and Egypt 🇪🇬and the Goseck Circle in Germany 🇩🇪 (around 4,900 BCE), indicate earlier pursuits of understanding celestial patterns.
- Maritime navigation: While Polynesians are traditionally credited with exceptional navigation skills, the Lapita culture, predating the Polynesians, was known for their seafaring and long-distance voyages across the Pacific around 1,500 BCE. The oldest human boat wreck was found in Crete 🇬🇷 dating to 120,000 years ago.
- Pottery: The first known pottery production is often associated with the Jomon culture in Japan 🇯🇵 around 12,000 BCE, but pottery fragments from China’s Xianrendong Cave date back to around 18,000 BCE 🇨🇳 .
- Clothing and textiles: The earliest evidence of clothing is often linked to the Upper Paleolithic period (around 40,000-10,000 BCE), but the discovery of sewing needles from the Sibudu cave, South Africa 🇿🇦 dates to 59,000 BCE (61,000 years ago) and sewing needles from the Denisova Cave in Siberia, Russia 🇷🇺 dates back to at least 50,000 years ago.
- Stone tools: The Oldowan stone tool industry, dated to around 2.6 million years ago, is often considered the earliest. However, evidence of even earlier stone tools has been found at sites like Lomekwi in Kenya 🇰🇪 , dating back to 3.3 million years ago.
- Figurative art: The oldest known figurative art is often associated with the cave paintings of Chauvet in France 🇫🇷 , dating back to around 30,000 BCE. However, the discovery of a 70,000-year-old figurative artifact in South Africa 🇿🇦 pushes back the timeline.
- Music instruments: The earliest musical instruments are often thought to be bone flutes from the Swabian Jura region in Germany 🇩🇪 , dated to around 42,000-43,000 years ago.
- Dentistry: Evidence of dental drilling using flint tools was discovered in a 9,000-year-old Neolithic graveyard in Pakistan 🇵🇰 .
- Surgery: Trepanation (cranial surgery) has been found in prehistoric skulls dating back thousands of years, such as a 7,000-year-old example found in Ukraine 🇺🇦 and a similar date in Sudan 🇸🇩.
- Complex societies: The first complex societies are often associated with the rise of ancient civilizations like Sumer and Egypt around 3,000 BCE. However, evidence of early complex societies can be traced back to the Ubaid period in Mesopotamia around 6,000 BCE.
- Beer brewing: The first known beer production is often attributed to ancient Sumerians around 4,000 BCE, but evidence of a beer-like beverage dates back to the Natufian culture in the Levant around 13,000 BCE.
- Mathematics: The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians are often credited with early developments in mathematics around 3,000 BCE. However, the Ishango bone, found in Congo Democratic Republic 🇨🇩 , features a tally system that may date back to 20,000 BCE.
- Trade networks: The Silk Road is often considered one of the earliest trade networks, but maritime trade along the Red Sea and Indian Ocean existed during the Bronze Age around 3,000 BCE. Sorghum was traded between Sudan 🇸🇩 and India 🇮🇳 around 2,000 BCE (4,000 years ago).
- Domestication of horses: The domestication of horses is often associated with the Botai culture in Kazakhstan 🇰🇿 around 3,500 BCE, but recent evidence from Ukraine 🇺🇦 suggests it might have occurred even earlier around 4,000 BCE.
- Wheel invention: The wheel is traditionally attributed to the Sumerians around 3,500 BCE, but evidence of pottery wheels in Mesopotamia dates back to around 3,500-3,000 BCE.
- Prosthetics: Ancient Egyptian medical practices included surgical procedures and prosthetics, with evidence of artificial toes found on mummies dating back to around 950-710 BCE.
These examples demonstrate the importance of updated research and evidence in shaping a more accurate understanding of human history. As archaeological methods improve and new discoveries come to light, our perception of ancient events and the earliest occurrences may continually evolve. To learn more about the world, it is important to keep and open mind, and fact-check before indulging in heated arguments using out-of-date “facts”.
+ Darvill, T: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology, Copyright © 2002, 2003 by Oxford University Press.
# Texier, P. J., et al. (2010). A Howiesons Poort tradition of engraving ostrich eggshell containers dated to 60,000 years ago at Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(14), 6180-6185.