Sunday, July 8, 2012

2,000 B.C.: The dangers of travel

Today when we think of traveling we hop into our car, or book a flight, and think not much of it.  We might complain due to sitting too long, we may have a sore but, or we may get bored.  But these problems are nothing compared to traveling over 100 years ago.

If we travel back to 30,000 B.C. man had to walk wherever he wanted to travel to.  Traveling was done for the purpose of finding food only.  They had to walk through brush, as there were no trails.  They lived like wild animals.

Eventually they invented knives, swords and axes to cut shrubs to make it a little easier to travel.  They made trails. As civilizations formed along the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile man learned to domesticate animals, such as oxen, asses and horses.  This made travel easier.  At first man walked an had the animals carry essential equipment, but ultimately man learned to ride.

Still, even into the middle of the 19th century it took about a day to travel as little as 20 miles.  What I consider an easy ride between my home town and the one next to me would have been a major ordeal the first time it was done.

At about 2,000 B.C. and prior traveling was such a risk that finding food wasn't always easy.  Sometimes man resorted to some hasty means to stay alive.  Sometimes as one man died they feasted on their fellow man.  I know this sounds bad, but to stay alive they may have decided they had no choice.

Another method of staying alive, and very desperate, must have been to eat human feces.  The Egyptian Book of the Dead, mentions some incantations that are to be said prior to going on a long journey.  They were spells, warnings:
...I detest what is detestable, I will not eat faeces, I will not drink urine, I will not walk head downward.  
I am the owner of bread... (1)

What I doubly detest, I will not eat; what I detest is faeces, and I will not eat it; excrement, I will not consume it.  It shall not fall from my belly, it shall not come near my fingers, and I will not touch it with my toes 
"What will you live on," say the gods and spirits to me, "In this place to which you have been brought?"
"I will live on seven loaves which have been brought to me; four loaves are with Horus and three loaves with Thoth." 
What I detest, I will not eat; what I detest is faeces, and I will not eat it..."  (2)

  1. Prioreschi, Plinio, "A History of Medicine," volume I, 1991, page 327, reference refers to Book of the Dead, translated by Raymond O. Faulkneer, London, British Museum Publications, 1985, Spell  53, page 65
  2. Prioreschi, ibid, reference refers to Book of the Dead, same translation as noted above, Spell 189, page 185

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