Monday, May 02, 2022

The mystery of the Greeks

We read in our history books that the ancient Greeks were largely the foundation of our civilization. Athens and Jerusalem were the twin fountainheads of how we think to this day. Athens provided the science and Jerusalem provided the ethics. As historian of the Greek world Sean Gabb puts it:

The first lecture in the course makes a case for the Greeks as the exceptional people of the Ancient World. They were not saints: they were at least as willing as anyone else to engage in aggressive wars, enslavement, and sometimes human sacrifice. At the same time, working without any strong outside inspiration, they provided at least the foundations for the science, mathematics, philosophy, art and secular literature of later peoples

So there is a mystery there. If the Greeks of today are exceptional for anything it is indolence. Where did their ancestors get their novel ideas from?

People so far have mainly been content to see ancient Greek genius as a sort of bolt from the blue. The ancient Greeks were amazingly modern and very inspiring and that is just the way it is. There is very little enquiry about how the ancient Greeks got to be that way. It seems unlikely that some sort of genetic accident produced the ancient Greeks so so there is no obvious line of enquiry into what produced them.

But I think at least a skeleton of an explanation for their emergence has opened up. And I think the key lies in what archaeologists call the Vinca culture. I think the Greeks did have precursors in wisdom and that the precursors were nearby in Europe, in what is now often called "old Europe".

Vinca is a well documented excavation site around the modern-day Serbian village of Vinca, which is in turn close to Belgrade, the capital of modern Serbia. And the culture that is revealed there was actually widespread in South central Europe. Vinca may well not have been its focus or original source, which is why the basic culture concerned is often more generally called "old Europe". There is a considerable range of sites in which similar artifacts to those at Vinca have been found, mostly northward from Greece.

We read:

As early as the 6th millennium BC, three millennia before Dynastic Egypt, the Vinca culture was already a fully fledged civilisation. A typical town consisted of houses with complex architectural layouts and several rooms, built of wood that was covered in mud. The houses sat along streets, thus making Vinca the first urban settlement in Europe, but being far older than the cities of Mesopotamia and Egypt. And the town of Vinca itself was just one of several metropolises, with others at Divostin, Potporanj, Selevac, Plocnik and Predionica.

Archaeologists concluded that in the 5th and early 4th millennia BC, just before its demise in east-central Europe, 'Old Europeans' had towns with a considerable concentration of population, temples several stories high, a sacred script, spacious houses of four or five rooms, professional ceramicists, weavers, copper and gold metallurgists, and other artisans producing a range of sophisticated goods. A flourishing network of trade routes existed that circulated items such as obsidian, shells, marble, copper, and salt over hundreds of kilometres.

The central issue in evaluating "Old Europe" is chronology. The source above places "Old Europe" as a very early phenomenon. It was for a time said to be much later but radiocarbon dating has pushed back its origins to a time at least as early as the Mesopotamian civilizations. It could even be earlier. Concerning the dating of some Vinca tablets found in Romania, we read:

Radiocarbon dating on the Tărtăria finds pushed the date of the tablets (and therefore of the whole Vinča culture) much further back, to as long ago as 5,500 BC, the time of the early Eridu phase of the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia. This finding has reversed our concept of the origin of writing, and it is now believed that the Sumerians inherited a Vinca tradition of 'magical' or 'meaningful' scripture, probably following the collapse of the Vinca homeland c. 3,500 BC.

That the Vinca culture was long thought to be much later than the Mesopotamian civilizations explains why virtually nothing about it appears in our history books. Depending on your chronological conclusions, it is just a minor archaeological footnote or the very origin of civilization itself.

I am taking what I think is a middling position: that "Old Europe" existed in Serbia and places North of it over a long period, with knowledge from it first being revealed to history as what we now know as ancient Greece.

I am submitting that we know so little of "Old Europe" primarily because we have no stories from it, even though some of their writings do exist. There ARE writings that have been recovered from "Old Europe" sites but we have no key to interpreting them. The writings that we have from sites in "Old Europe" do in fact resemble rather strongly the famed Cretan "Linear A" writing but we have no key to that either.

So what I think happened is that it was the wisdom preserved from "Old Europe" that suddenly popped into view in ancient Greece -- and it popped into view when the Greeks started to use an alphabet, an alphabet that is an adaptation of the Hebrew/Phoenician alphabet, an alphabet that arrived in Greece by way of Phoenician traders. Phoenicia is of course only a short sailing journey from Greece and Phoenecians were for a very long time known as dedicated marine traders.

So it is to me rather wonderful that we do now appear to know something of what our most ancient European ancestors thought. It was Greek thought.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

A chronology for John Joseph Ray

My bio is rather unsystematic so I give hereunder the actual dates (in order) of some things in my life. Some dates are approximated

The beach at Etty Bay outside Innisfail where I experienced many school and church picnics during my childfhood

1943 Born in Innisfail hospital by the Johnstone river

1944 Baptised into the Presbyterian church

1947 Aged 4 with sister Jacqueline Margaret Ray

Her mother dressed Jackie is an impeccably feminine way

1953 Completed grade 4 at Innisfail State Rural School

1956 Enrolled at Sheridan st primary school in Cairns (part of the High School)

1957 Passed the "Scholarship" (Final primary school) exam with overall mark of 79.7% -- December

1959 Passed the Junior exam with As in English, German and geography

1960 Became a junior clerk at the Dept. of Public Works, Cairns -- 26 Feb.

1961 Resigned from the PWD -- 28 Nov

1962 Got a job as a shop assistant at Gearco in George St Brisbane

1963 Passed the Senior exam with As in English & German

1963 Became a communicant at Ann St church

1963 Met my first girlfriend -- Janet

1964 Enrolled in B.A. at U.Q. (part time initially)

1964 Joined Dept. of Customs & Excise -- 25 May

1964 13th Dec. Obtained a reference from Rev. Percy Pearson of the Ann St. church. The text of the reference is here

1966 Resigned from Customs -- 22 March

1966 Enlisted in the CMF in Bris. -- 6 May

1967 December. Wrote my first computer program in FORTRAN. Instructor Gail Sonnkila.

Gail and the computer we used

1968 Lived with Joyce Hooper at Rozelle

1968 Granted B.A.

Holding the selected works of Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

1968 Discharged from the Army as Sergeant in Sydney 31 August

1969 Met Nola Holland nee Boyle

1969 Rented a terrace house in Wentworth Pk. Rd., Glebe, in Sydney. Joined by John Henningham and Alfred Croucher

1969 Granted M.A. by Uni Syd. -- 23 Sept.

1969 Enrolled in Ph.D. at Macquarie Uni -- March

1970 Teaching at Cerdon college

1971 Became a lecturer in Sociology at Uni NSW

1973 Married Dawn Nola Baker, nee Jones -- 9 Feb

1974 Awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy by Macquarie Uni -- 16 May. My age 31

1974 My book "Conservatism as heresy" published

1975 Accepted as a member of the American Psychological association -- Jan. 30

1976 Decree nisi for marriage to Dawn -- 29 Apr.

1976 Marriage to Joyce Lipp (aka Joy Petrie) --15 May. My age 33

At Peregian beach on honeymoon with Joy. She had a remrkable waist for a lady in her 40s

1977 Sabbatical in Britain. Joined the British Conservative party in March. Visited Glyndebourne with Susan Brooks

1978 Did a survey in South Africa

1980. A brief clean shaven interlude -- with a lovely lady, 2nd wife Joy. I was aged 37

1983 Resigned from Uni NSW -- Feb

1983 Met Jenny Lucas 5 Mar. My age 39

1984 Joined the National party, Qld. -- 12 March

1985 Decree nisi for marriage to Joyce Lipp

1985 Bought a Jade Green Ford Laser for $7,000 from Jubilee Motors, Fivedock in Sydney -- 25 Feb.

1985 Married Jenny Lucas -- 30 Nov.

1987 Son Joseph born. My age 44

1990 I buy an Amiga computer

1992 Jenny left me. Moved to Deshon st.

1993 on 21st May I met Carol Averil Ward (nee Lowry) for a relationship that lasted 2 years, but with lots of ups and downs

1995 Decree nisi for marriage to Jenny -- 3 Apr.

1995 Met Kathryn Perry -- 3 September

1995 Married Kathryn Margaret Perry nee Dickinson -- 10 Nov. My age 52

1995 Bought a Daihatsu Charade

1996 First took out Jill Hillman-Marks, nee Tate -- 8 Feb. My age 53

1998 Son Joseph Baptised into RC church by Father Brady of the Little Kings

1998 Decree nisi for marriage to Kathryn Perry

2000 Met Geraldine Trivett. Details in para.rtf

2001 4th.Sept. Started relationship with Judith Burgess nee Middleton.

Judy at Etty Bay wearing my Panama

2001 Concurrent relationship with Judy Power nee Newman. Age 58

2004 Son Joe graduates from Senior at Clairvaux High School (November 20)

2004 Vacation in the Far North with Judy Burgess nee Midleton

2005 Broke up with Judy and met Met Anne Foss nee Rampton next day -- Sept. 1

2006 Acquired a 1963 Humber Super Snipe

2007 Son Joe graduates from UQ with B.Sc. my age 64

2008 My Toyota Echo stolen but recovered after a little while

2009 My sister Jack (Jacqueline Margaret Ray aka Ward) died of the family illness -- breast cancer

2010 Cataract surgery in one eye

2010 Joe goes to ANU on a Ph.D. mathematics scholarship

2011 September 16. I help Renee Eaves financially to prosecute a crooked cop. She wins.


2011 The Brisbane floods. I was only indirectly affected as I live on the side of a hill in a generally relevated asrea

2012 I acquire a 1997 Toyota Starlet for $1,000 from Anne

2012 Admitted to Wesley hospital with kidney stone. On operating table within hours. -- May 2.

2013. I turn 70

As I was

2013 (November) Saved by Vancomycin from nasty Staphylococcus Aureus infection on my face

2014 (early Nov) Joe moves back from ANU and lives with me. My age 71

2014 (November 27) We had the mother and father of a hailstorm with quite a lot of the hail being bigger than golfballs. We lost power after a few minutes. Kate was present.

2015 Joe's GF Kate moved in to our place (July)

2015 (Dec 1) Severe diverticulitis, Fixed with antibiotics

2016 (30/08) Breakup with Anne -- followed by a reunion 3 weeks later. My age 73

2017 (May 28) My mental twin Chris Brand passed away

2018 (November 25) Son Joe marries Kate. My age 75

Anne and I at the wedding

2019 (July) Diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. Inoperable but treatable.

2019 (August) Big cancer surgery to remove sub-maxillary SCC. Emily Perry operating. Post-operative debilitation.

2020 (Feb 1) Joe completes his move to his new house. My age 76

2020 (Mar 2) 2nd ENT procedure. Remove SCC invaded lymph gland in neck. Chris Perry operating.

2020 (late March) Anne acquires a new bloke but remains friendly towards me. My age 76

2020 May. Radiotherapy on my neck. Notable for resultant pain

As I was in August 2020

2021 Feb. 1st. I become part-owner of a Toyota Prado (Half-share with Anne)

2021 March. Anne has a mild stroke and I am disgnosed with advanced stomach cancer. Not a good month

2021 10th June. I begin immunotherapy for my stomach cancer

2021 August 22nd. My oncologist advises me that I am in complete remission from my stomach cancer. The immunotherapy cost me $19,000 but it worked. It took only 9 weeks to wipe out the cancer. The preparation I got was Keytruda.

2021 September 25. Anne as she was

2021 I meet Zora Hughey nee Mikhailovich on the last day of the year. We met over lunch at my favourite coffee lounge on New Year's Eve. She is an intellectual Serb and identifies strongly with Serbia. See her below

2022 March 2. The Brisbane floods. I live with Zora at my place for 4 days

Zora beside the flooded Brisbane river at Kangaroo Point

2022 March 18th. I break my ankle when I fell down my front steps

2022 -- 18 April. I fall off a stool in a cafe and crack a rib, leaving me in a lot of pain