December 4, 2010

Lack of fortifications

Regions with lack of fortifications are one of those dogs that didn't bark conundrums that are hard to research. It's obvious that Europeans built fortresses and other defensive structures like crazy, while there are also forts in South Asia, and of course the Great Wall of China. But Africa, outside of Ethiopia, seems to be relatively lacking in defensive structures. Great Zimbabwe is by far the the largest pieces of construction south of Ethiopia, according to John Reader's Africa: Biography of a Continent says (319-320):
The outer wall of the Great Enclosure is certainly the largest single structure of comparable age in sub-Saharan Africa, but in terms of age and architectural significance the most striking feature of Great Zimbabwe is simply the fact that it is Africa. ... In terms of what drystone construction can achieve, Great Zimbabwe is not well built: the stones were not selected and laid with consideration for their relative sizes ... Even the amount of labour required was not excessive. Presented with detailed plans of the site, a modern drystone building contractor estimated that work force of 84 men on a six-day week could build the entire complex in two years.

The walls look in danger of being pushed over by any attackers. So, what was the point? In general, I have a hard time seeing why you wouldn't build defensive structures, but, apparently, large swathes of the Earth didn't see the point.

125 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Regions with lack of fortifications are one of those dogs that didn't bark conundrums that are hard to research."

The dog's not barking made the case simple, not complicated.

DYork said...

Great Zimbabwe, the great pride of post colonial Africa, always seemed to me to be simply a slave detention center/transshipment point on the way to the coast. I suspect slaves, gold, ostrich feathers etc were all kept in there while awaiting the long trek from inland to the Indian ocean.

Africans and their smug, anti-racist White allies no doubt would have a problem with this theory. But what the hell else does this ugly little complex seem to be built for?

Yes, Africans built it but why?

DYork said...

The walls look in danger of being pushed over by any attackers. So, what was the point?

I don't think it was built to keep people out. It was built to keep people in.

Fred said...

How much of building fortifications has to do with the density of population in the region? The less chance you have of being able to move if the going gets tough where you are, maybe the more likely you are to dig in and build forts. It could also be tied to the forms of agriculture people were using. Overall, my impression is that an African hundreds of years ago would have been less likely to starve if driven off of his land than a typical European or Chinese, so building fortifications probably wasn't as crucial for him.

Terry said...

The Benin Empire employed defensive walls.
"To enclose his palace he commanded the building of Benin's inner wall, a seven mile (11 km) long earthen rampart girded by a moat 50 feet (15 m) deep. This was excavated in the early 1960s by Graham Connah. Connah estimated that its construction, if spread out over five dry seasons, would have required a workforce of 1,000 laborers working ten hours a day seven days a week. Ewuare also added great thoroughfares and erected nine fortified gateways. Excavations also uncovered a rural network of earthen walls 4 to 8 thousand miles long that would have taken an estimated 150 million man hours to build and must have taken hundreds of years to build."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benin_Empire

Also, the these two:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walls_of_Benin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sungbo%27s_Eredo

DanJ said...

Defensive positions are built relative to the threat expected.

If an aggressor is coming at you without guns, metal weapons, or means to catapult large rocks, then you are all set standing on top of the Great Zimbabwe.

You can throw larger rocks at them downwards than they can throw at you upwards and they will go home defeated.

Obviously, there were no defense contractors around at the time, to convince the king to needlessly spend more money.

The Western Confucian said...

Wikipedia's Great Zimbabwe makes it clear that it was far superior to anything North American Indians came up with.

Claverhouse said...

I always understood that it was a Slave-Pen.

And that its choice as a name to replace 'Rhodesia' was a magnificent piece of dark irony by the new rulers...

rightsaidfred said...

Maybe the African strategy was "the best defense is a good offense".

Anonymous said...

Come on now Steve...:) Another post insinuating just now primitive those Africans are? Ah, I guess if the readership likes it then what the heck, eh?

Anonymous said...

Defensive structures only make sense if there is an enemy to defend against.
How was warfare conducted in subSaharan Africa? What was looted? I don't know any of this.

Anonymous said...

Apparently saves were being 'looted' from east and central Africa (the west coast *trade* in which Africans were mostly sold by other Africans was stamped out by England around the 1800s)as late as the 1890s by Arab raiders.
David Livingstone is well known for his efforts in publicizing this fact.
As to why the 'victim' tribes never retreated behind stockades, I can't venture an answer.
Perhaps, simply, they were incapable of building in stone - a hypothesis I wouldn't dismiss.Perhaps they 'accepted' a certain loss of tribesmen as a price to be paid.It is reasonably certain however, that the tribes that existed at that time in the African hinterland were no match whatsoever compared to Arabs with firearms and horses.Any resistance would have been futile.

Anonymous said...

I find it really interesting that there are so many apparently unrelated ways in which the people of Sub-Saharan Africa just seem to be, well, kind of different from most of the rest of humanity.

Harmonious Jim said...

In much of Africa, a stockade or fortification is called a "Boma". The wikipedia entry has some old illustrations, showing then made of wooden stakes or thorny branches.

One reason why Africa lacked castles and forts (as found elsewhere) derives from its underpopulation. In Eurasia, a lord used a castle to control a stretch of land, plus the peasants tied to that land. But in Africa, what's the use of controlling a stretch of land if the people can easily run away to some unsettled land nearby?

sabril said...

Perhaps it has something to do with the size of political units. So for example, if a medieval European town, including surround agricultural areas, had a few thousand people, it might make sense to build fortifications to defend it.

On the other hand, if a political unit is a band of 50, it might make a lot less sense to build a fortification.

Indeed, one can ask what existed in pre-colonial Africa which was worth a lot of trouble to defend?

Anonymous said...

OT:

Steve, have you read the WikiLeaks cable about a high-powered wedding in the Caucasus? It's hilarious.

Some representative passages:

"After Ramzan sped off, the dinner and drinking — especially the latter — continued. An Avar FSB colonel sitting next to us, dead drunk, was highly insulted that we would not allow him to add “cognac” to our wine. “It’s practically the same thing,” he insisted, until a Russian FSB general sitting opposite told him to drop it. We were inclined to cut the Colonel some slack, though: he is head of the unit to combat terrorism in Dagestan, and Gadzhi told us that extremists have sooner or later assassinated everyone who has joined that unit. We were more worried when an Afghan war buddy of the Colonel’s, Rector of the Dagestan University Law School and too drunk to sit, let alone stand, pulled out his automatic and asked if we needed any protection. At this point Gadzhi and his people came over, propped the rector between their shoulders, and let us get out of range."

For those who don't know, the FSB is the successor to the KGB.

"After the fireworks, the musicians struck up the lezginka in the courtyard and a group of two girls and three boys — one no more than six years old — performed gymnastic versions of the dance. First Gadzhi joined them and then Ramzan, who danced clumsily with his gold-plated automatic stuck down in the back of his jeans (a houseguest later pointed out that the gold housing eliminated any practical use of the gun, but smirked that Ramzan probably couldn’t fire it anyway). Both Gadzhi and Ramzan showered the dancing children with hundred dollar bills; the dancers probably picked upwards of USD 5000 off the cobblestones. Gadzhi told us later that Ramzan had brought the happy couple “a five kilo lump of gold” as his wedding present. After the dancing and a quick tour of the premises, Ramzan and his army drove off back to Chechnya. We asked why Ramzan did not spend the night in Makhachkala, and were told, “Ramzan never spends the night anywhere.”

"At precisely two p.m. the male guests started filing in. They varied from pols and oligarchs of all sorts — the slick to the Jurassic; wizened brown peasants from Burtunay; and Dagestan’s sports and cultural celebrities XXXXXXX presided over a political table in the smaller of the two halls (the music was in the other) along with Vakha the drunken wrestler, the Ingush parliamentarians, a member of the Federation Council who is also a nanophysicist and has lectured in Silicon Valley, and Gadzhi’s cousin Ismail Alibekov, a submariner first rank naval captain now serving at the General Staff in Moscow. The Dagestani milieu appears to be one in which the highly educated and the gun-toting can mix easily — often in the same person."

And so on and so on, including some musings on democracy at the end. This was all written by a US ambassador to Russia.

Henry Canaday said...

For the other extreme, did you ever notice that the houses of the rich and well-off -- the palaces, the mansions, the chateaus, the museums, the townhouses -- of much of continental Europe, especially in Italy, look like prisons or fortresses, with the lower floors built of huge and ugly stones facing the street, interrupted, if at all, by tiny and barred windows and generally giving the impression that the primary purpose of these structures was to keep everyone, from raiding armies to urban mobs to random thieves and even beggars, from getting in?

Trust is apparently a recent development in Europe, supplemented for many centuries by defensive architecture.

Big bill said...

In Southern Africa the historic defensing enclosure was the "kraal" which was typically a wooden stockade or a thornbush enclosure.

The thornbush enclosure is see-through like concertina wire: it permits people inside the kraal to see their tribal enemies approaching and gives no place to hide.

The City of Johannesburg has published a wonderful guidebook for white folks on the proper use of kraals and palisades in their neighborhoods to protect them from their tribal enemies.

It is well worth a read for anyone who must protect their families and homes from their historic enemies.

Gio said...

Nothing to defend.

Anonymous said...

Europes multitude of fortresses may also be a prime reason why gunpowder became widely used. Cannons are the ideal weapon to take down a castle.

Castles in England and Europe were a sign of a lack of "federal" control or lack of central power in a king. They were a real political liability for the reigning king because he had a harder time lording over his underlings.

Anonymous said...

Lack of enough population density. As any player of Sid Meier's Civilization or any of its successors can tell you, City Walls cost labor and resources. They only make sense if you have
1. A large labor pool
2. A continuing problem with raiders
3. Wealth of some kind which can be contained in the city walls.

Mesopotamian granaries justified city walls. Cattle in bronze age England justified palisades and earthworks. Sub-Saharan Africa, not so much. I would wager that Great Zimbabwe had large, raidable granaries.

--Anonymous Coward

whiskey said...

Do it keep out da PO-lice?

Kylie said...

So there's a persistent fortification gap between Africans and the rest of the world.

I don't think this is the dog that didn't bark, I think this is the purloined letter.

Anonymous said...

Read "God's Fury, England's Fire" or any book on the Thirty Years' War and you would understand why Europeans were skilled at building fortifications -- they had to be to protect themselves from crazy white people.

neil craig said...

More support for the idea that disease (or something else which selectively wipes out denser populations & I can't think of anything) has been the dominant African limit factor. You only defend something which is in limited supply. In Europe & even more in China you defend turf & that means building dominating fortifications. If there is more land than people & somebody wants your land it is easier to move. All in all, apart from an early death from hideous diseases, that looks like a much better life than being a medieval peasant, but you don't build libraries.

Evil Sandmich said...

Sub-Saharan Africa largely never 'advanced' to feudalism. No feudal lords, no castles.

Anyway, there's that bit that's somewhat attributed to General Patton: "Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man"

Mac said...

"In general, I have a hard time seeing why you wouldn't build defensive structures, but, apparently, large swathes of the Earth didn't see the point."

Maybe they didn't see a need? I'm not a student of Sub-Saharan African history but if your enemies never invented trebuchets, catapults, cannon etc. to rain down large rocky death on your villages then maybe it didn't occur to you or wasn't worth the effort to build huge stone walls or wooden fortifications.

Also, from what little I know of African history fighting was done by infantry (Shaka Zulu's spearmen, the King of Dahomey's bodyguards etc.) Was there an African tradition of large scale cavalry use? Maybe in sub-Saharan Africa therewas no equivalent of the Mongol hordes to wall yourself off from.

Anonymous said...

I just wrote a comment on the Zimbabwe structures - quite modern and probably Arab - so I won't repeat myself here. I'd like to comment now of the Great Wall of China.

Almost everything most people think they know about the Great Wall is wrong. It is not ancient or unique.

Ripley's "Believe it or Not" once published a article that claimed that the Great Wall was the only artifact by man that could be seen from space. Today with Google Earth on our browsers we can check that out. Unsurprisingly, it isn't true. I can see my house from space, and my car.

In fact almost the exact opposite is true. You can't see the Great Wall from the ground.

The problem is that Westerners think that the Great Wall is that thing on which Nixon was photographed is the ancient Great Wall. Hardly. The tourist attraction wall is a very short section built very late in the Ming Dynasty, roughly at the time of Charles II of England. That's after Elizabeth, Shakespeare, and Cromwell. Europeans had stopped building high flat walls like The Great Wall more than 150 years earlier with The Gunpowder Revolution. People who still think that the Chinese invented gunpowder are at pains to explain why The Great Wall looks the way it does. Certainly no other Western nation built such defensive structures in the seventeenth century. They built bastions. The answer of course is simply that the Manchus were archers.

The First Emperor Chin Szuandi is often said to have built the Great Wall. Actually there were plenty of walls before Chin. He consolidated the wall system as he consolidated the nation. It was a very big effort and it was very early - roughly about the time of Hannibal and Scipio in the West.

But he didn't build those tourist attraction high stone walls. He built forced earth walls just as the Romans did in there "limes". The first permanent dressed stone defensive wall system in the world was Hadrian's Wall - about a century before the events depicted in the movie Gladiator.

Like the Limes and other such earth walls built more than a millennium ago, most of The Great Wall is hard to see on the ground. It's been rained on and overgrown with weeds. There are thousands of miles of The Great Wall and almost all of it was packed earth which has been reclaimed by nature.

Also The Great Wall was a barrier between cultivatable land and desert. The desert retreats and advances over the centuries. So in some places several "Great Walls" were built.

The seventeenth century high stone wall near Peking was said to be wide enough for two chariots side by side. Actually the street in front of my house is also wide enough for two chariots - that's why it can be seen from space just like 99% of all roads.

The Chinese were and are a great people but there is a lot of nonsense written about them. This is not an accident. In the fifties the Soviets had a state supported program to "enhance" their history by claiming that Russians had actually invented a lot of things conventionally attributed to Westerners. At the time the claims were seen as silly and they soon faded but the very similar Chinese communist claims have been taken more seriously, probably because the Chinese had in fact invented many things in their long history but also because of western credulity and Joseph Needham (the great historian of Chinese technology who was a communist agent).

Readers should practice the same sort of scepticism they use when confronted with claims from government sponsored "Black History" when they are confronted with much of Chinese history.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

My initial guess is that it has something to do with nomadism. If you're constantly moving from one grazing land to another, there's not much point in using resources to build any sort of permanent defense. (Temporary defenses might have been used, and we just don't know about them.)

The Israelites were a herding people but nevertheless had fortified towns in ancient Palestine. But maybe that's a practice they simply adopted from farming peoples they displaced.
- JP98

Anonymous said...

See your previous post - if land is not at a premium, what´s the point in fighting over fixed position?

In Africa, exit was an option, unlike in more heavily populated Europe.

Anonymous said...

I think Razib @ Gene Expression had a recent post that indirectly deals with this. Europe and Asia quickly hit the Malthusian margin where most arable land was cultivated. Sub-saharan africa didn't.

The lack of density and the availability of decent land means that, if a strong attacker shows up .. it's probably cheaper to just leave and move to some unoccupied area that still had decent food potential.

In Eurasia the unoccupied areas really sucked -- it meant being moved into the mountains or something similar -- which made fighting and defending what you had more worthwhile.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Jared Diamond might have an answer to this lying in the continent being oriented north to south along different latitudes, and different lengths of day, agricultural practices, and disease environments. It may be that invaders mostly moved east-west.

sdfasdfasdfas said...

You gotta have something worth defending in order to go through the arduous task of building walls. Chinese built rich cities and developed fertile farmland and obviously wanted to defend them. Mongols owned little of any value, so they built no walls and decided to attack the rich peoples who built walls. In the US, patriotic white American want to build a wall--we have something to protect--while Mexicans want open borders so they can come over here and enjoy the goodies.
In Detroit, Arab businessmen guard their businesses with iron gates. Blacks tear them down with crowbars.
Since most black Africans didn't have enough brains to build rich civilization worth defending, there was no use for walls. African economics then, as now, was invade and loot others than build our own economy and defend it. Same with North American Indians. They were into stealing other tribes' horses and womenfolk.
Of course, wall builders may not only defend what they have but invade and take from others. Aztecs built walled cities but also invaded and looted other clans and tribes. Romans built walled cities but also invaded much of the known world. So, wallites can be both defensive and offensive. But anti-wallites tend to be far more offensive than defensive. They wanna keep looting others.

Another factor is brainpower. Blacks probably don't make good engineers. And due to their funky and unruly nature, it's probably more difficult to make a lot of blacks build something grand than it is with other peoples. Chinese and South American Indians are short and 'geeky', but they built mighty walls and temples. Blacks would probably prefer to dance.

Also, some peoples were probably aided by natural walls. I heard Stalin didn't invade Tito's Yugoslavia--like it later did with Hungary and Czechoslovakia--because he feared the mountains. Russians have a lot of problem with the rugged terrain of Chechnya, and Afghanistan wouldn't be such a headache if not for the terrain.

As for Africa, it was traditionally a HUGE continent with relatively small population, so maybe there were fewer inter-tribal threats than in Western Europe and Ancient Middle East where lots of tribes bumped into one another in limited territory.

dsadfasdfs said...

Lack of fortifications maybe but not lack of fornifications.

SFG said...

You have to have something immobile to defend. If you're a hunter-gatherer, you take everything of value with you, so it's pointless. If you're a herder, you have to move your cattle around to graze, so it's not that useful. If you have heaps and heaps of grain you've saved...

Anonymous said...

That structure in Zimbabwe looks more like an attempt to imitate something that locals saw somewhere else than anything. It's actually pretty pathetic and has no obvious function.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if the population was more nomadic, there'd be less of a reason to build a fortificaton.

Anonymous said...

The history of early 19th century New Zealand might be instructive here. Fortifications became very popular among the natives for a period of a few decades starting when a trickling of European adventurers started stopping by and trading them military technology (and ending when the Europeans took over the place). Previously they had not really existed there.

Alat said...

"The walls look in danger of being pushed over by any attackers".

I've been there, and the buildings are very solid, particularly the inner enclosure. I was quite impressed, and so were the early British colonists, who surmised only foreigners (Phoenicians, Jews, or Arabs) could have built them. They were wrong, but there's always the Lemba [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemba_people] to be explained...

Anonymous said...

Ethiopia is the single biggest argument in favor of Jared Diamond's whole geography is destiny thing. You put black Africans on a high plateau with a big swath of basically Eurasian climate in the middle of the tropics, and they develop a high civilization, complete with state formation, big armies, monumental architecture, a literate elite and so forth. It's no coincidence that Ethiopia was the one black African nation that actually beat a large scale European army in battle-- okay, it was the Italians, but still.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks.

I'd add that likelihood of an epidemic wiping out the defenders within a besieged fortress was always high in Europe and would probably have been much higher in Africa. In general, disease discouraged urbanization in Africa.

ATBOTL said...

Ethiopians are racially mixed. They have substantial Caucasian ancestry.

Matt said...

If it's easier to run away and you're mobile anyway, why build fortifications? Shifting cultivators are naturally mobile, which is not necessarily to say that they aren't territorial, but I'd guess their territory is always in flux in a way that makes long term building investments unattractive. Same things true of the Mongols or any steppe people (which is why they tended to outsource their siegecraft to Chinese and Iranian auxiliaries).

I guess as an proud American, Steve, your counterargument to this would be that frontier Americans still built strongholds and fortifications even though they were on a wave of advance and were on the move and it was easier to move to unsettled land, but they did settle down and wanted to, more or less, and in any case were coming from a cultural context where these things made sense.

Plus, how much of a fortification do you even need when your enemies don't operate in particularly large groups (small scale social groupings being more the rule) and don't have any technology that would amp up a fortifications vs siegecraft arms race?

Anonymous said...

Ethiopia is the single biggest argument in favor of Jared Diamond's whole geography is destiny thing.

No it isn't. Check out what traditional Ethiopian aristocracy looked like. Then think of a smart fraction theory. Think of the fact that the root of Ethiopian civil war is essentially an ethnic conflict. When Blacks from the South completely took over, Ethiopia became your typical Black African country - even though it is the only Black African country that that was never a colony of any European power.

Difference Maker said...

The meme about the Great Wall seen from space appears to be distorted and originating from jules verne's idea that it would be the last man made structure to recede from view when going up into space

Anonymous said...

Low population density. A lack of cavalry or horsed troops. Higher propensity to disease. Little urbanization or vital fixed points worth defending. Conversely attacking Africans didn't develop a siege train since they didn't need one. Warfare in Africa never moved beyond a tribal level.

FF said...

"The history of early 19th century New Zealand might be instructive here. Fortifications became very popular among the natives for a period of a few decades starting when a trickling of European adventurers started stopping by and trading them military technology (and ending when the Europeans took over the place). Previously they had not really existed there."

Incorrect.

Pa building was well under way by the 16th century, as the Maori population expanded and tensions between tribes grew.
Their estimated arrival in NZ was 1200-1400 AD. The Europeans did not arrive in New Zealand in numbers until the early 19th century.

Most large Pa sites were on high points overlooking coastal canoe routes or portages , and generally near a seafood supply and good growing areas for kumara (sweet potato).

This vital crop needed protecting and careful storage over the winter period.
NZ does have a reasonably cold winter with a dormant period,so the Maori did have to plan their food storage. Also they were the only Polynesians without the coconut tree, NZ is too cold.
Strategic High points sites were built primarily against raiding war parties from other tribes. There were loose alliances between tribes through marriage, but often warfare was the result of Utu , the settling of age old scores and perceived insults.

Later during the musket wars 1810-1830 the old scores became a lot deadlier as those tribes with guns were able to inflict serious damage on weaker tribes.
Later still during the Land wars with the Crown, 1850-1860's, the Maori cleverly modified Pas to look like they were a permanent fortified settlement, whereas they were in fact a deadly killing ground, with planned lines of fire and enticing enough for the British to commit large numbers to attack. Eventually the Maoris would slip away at night into the bush leaving earthworks with no military significance.

Anonymous said...

The Red Indians of North and South America were likewise lacking in the fortification department. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle is not conducive to the construction of large settlements and fortifications.

dsfasdfasdfasdf said...

The Great Wall of China must be a testament to both Chinese greatness and stupidity. All that work and sacrifice--much of it horrendously bloody--and ultimately not much to show for. It was about as effective against the Mongols and Manchus as French fortifications were against the Germans in WWII.

I wonder if that says something about modern China. Chinese are capable of big things and huge projects, but they seem to prefer scale and quantity over skill and quality. Instead of using brains to find the easier solution to difficult problems, Chinese settle for the most difficult solutions and pour everything into it. Even Russians under Stalin didn't come up with something titanically dumb as Great Leap Forward.

In the West, we believe in No Pain, No Gain. We believe in hard work BUT in order reap its rewards to make life easier. Much of the 'pain' and struggle comes through our attempt to be original and brilliant so we can simplify and solve complex problems and make life easier.
But, Chinese are more into More Pain, More Pain. They seem to value Pain as a virtue in and of itself. They don't even mind the pain they cause to animals like cats and dogs. Pain is an essential part of life, and so there's a kind of crazy attitude to spread misery for the sake of spreading misery. (Take the training scenes in Farewell My Concubine.)

And that is also the main difference Jews and Chinese, and why Jews will win. The Jewish way is to formulate complexity into simplicity, like when Einstein came up with E = MC2.
The Chinese way is to complex-ify and magnify even the simplest ideas. Some guy came up with the idea of the Wall, and so the Chinese decided to build the bigassest wall in the world though it was of dubious value.

And now they want to build the biggest dam and tallest skycraper.
Maybe Jews learned a lesson about the impermanence of physical things and learned to use their brains more. They are the Wailing Wall people(and also the Wall Street finance people). Chinese are still stuck in the Great Wall mentality. They think they can attain permanent greatness with the biggest and grandest of everything.

Whiskey said...

Fortifications are useful if you don't plan to simply move around a lot. You don't see them too much in the Steppes of Central Asia. There simply is no point.

Africans without fortifications are a giant arrow pointing that they simply moved around a lot, and did not defend strong points and resources.

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

My guess is water. I would suspect European fortifications had wells, or could rely on enough rain, to wait out a siege. I am guessing that the perimeter of Africa doesn't get enough rain, have the technology for digging a well or the right ground water table.

I am Lugash.

adsfadfadsf said...

Maybe Africa had too many workers like Omar Thorton.

Btw, maybe Steve should have a list at the end of 2010 of the 10 biggest politically correct BS news of the year.

"Omar Thorton's victims were racists who deserve to die" has to be #1.

There was also the Harvard female student hounded for a private email.

Severn said...

John Keegan has a great deal to say about fortifications in his History of Warfare.

In brief, there are three distinct types: the refuge, the stronghold, and the "strategic defense" - chains of strongholds built so as to defend a very large area.

A refuge is simply built and is common in most parts of the world. Just find a hilltop and build a wooden or stone enclosure around it. A refuge is always a place of short-term safety.

At the next step up in civilization strongholds appear. Think medieval castles. They are designed to dominate a small area and also for long term habitation. It takes a fair degree of wealth and technological sophistication to build something like this.

A strategic defense can be a chain of forts (the Atlantic Wall, the Maginot Line) or even a continuous wall (the Great Wall of China).

Africa and most of the Americas never advanced beyond the "refuge" stage before the Europeans arrived, presumably because the general state of their civilizations did not allow it.

Whiskey said...

The Whiskey above with the police comment is obviously not me.

Fortifications in Europe offer a clue. Much of it during the late Neolithic and early bronze age were simple: raised earth mounds with (long gone) wooden palisades. The Hill Forts in the UK and Western Europe being typical.

Why were they built? Not just to protect belongings/property/land, but also people. There is numerous archeological evidence that show battle, massacres, and the like in over-run hill forts. They clearly did not work all the time, but were better than nothing.

North West Europe is not Africa. Terrain dominates. It is hard to move around in muck, mud, bad weather, rain, boggy terrain. Whereas in much of Africa, it is simpler to run away than fight. Running away in North West Europe has because of terrain been a losing proposition -- you simply cannot outrun enemies because everything is slowed down by mud.

The whole idea of fortifications is slowing an attacker down. It won't bring victory, by itself, but allows the fortifier to channel attacks and make up for manpower mismatches. The Romans great power was in counter-fortifications, ala Caesar against the Gauls, or against Masada.

Steve is also probably right about disease mitigating against urbanization. Though the counter there is that in Central America, no less disease prone, there were a number of great urban centers built by the Maya and Olmecs. Relatively unfortified though.

Shaka Zulu's innovation was use of massed infantry. Reportedly, most African conflicts before him featured various "face" battles that were inconclusive and low-manpower affairs.

dearieme said...

I wonder how often a fortification has been a place for cavalry to retreat to and defend itself? Or charioteers. So if there' was no cavalry in southern Africa, there' was no particular need for fortification.

Severn said...

Running away in North West Europe has because of terrain been a losing proposition -- you simply cannot outrun enemies because everything is slowed down by mud.


Your enemies have the same mud to contend with. Actually, worse mud, since they are following in your tracks. So your theory doesn't work.

James Kabala said...

It's humorous to see the competing factions of those who declare Great Zimbabwe unimpressive vs. those who admit it is impressive and therefore believe it is Arab. Is anyone willing to go for umimpressive AND Arab?

Silver said...

In general, I have a hard time seeing why you wouldn't build defensive structures, but, apparently, large swathes of the Earth didn't see the point.

I think it's just another way in which those happy-go-lucky sun people were ahead of their time. Building defenses is evil. Borders are evil. All Africans ever wanted to do was share themselves with the world.

These days, we all, heh, shine on.

Severn said...

North West Europe is not Africa. Terrain dominates.


Who are you, Jared Diamond? People dominate. Even today I doubt that the people of Africa could construct something like Carcassonne Castle without outside assistance.

It takes an advanced civilization to build these structures. In North-West Europe the same people building those castles were also building things like Wells and Charte Cathedrals.

No sophisticated fortifications were built in Africa (or most of the Americas) for the same reason that no sophisticated buildings of any sort were constructed - there was no sophisticated civilization present to build them.

People have been brainwashed to think of Europe a few hundred years before the Renaissance as "The Dark Ages". In reality it was a vastly more advanced place than most of the world at the time.

Mencius Moldbug said...

It's very unclear that Great Zimbabwe was built by the Bantu. Richard Nicklin Hall seems more plausible to me, especially considering the documented connection of the Lemba to the Sabeans.

The 20C archeologists who "debunked" the Rhodesian story all had very large political axes to grind. Also, because of the looting of the site in the late 19C, there was very little of interest to excavate by the time the pros arrived. The attribution to medieval Bantu rests on very fragile, easily ganked carbon-dating evidence - "we found a piece of wood in the rock that dates to 1200 AD" and the like.

Also, large quantities of Hall's evidence seems to have just been ignored, because he was an amateur or whatever. But certainly, if you look at the artifacts in his plates, Bantu craftsmanship isn't exactly what comes to mind. Hall's interpretation is that GZ was a defensive fortification made by pre-Islamic Arabs/Semites from the general Yemen area, who carried out extensive gold-mining operations. Traces of ancient gold mining are everywhere in the area, and very uncharacteristic of Bantu.

David Davenport said...

… if spread out over five dry seasons, would have required a workforce of 1,000 laborers working ten hours a day seven days a week. Ewuare also added great thoroughfares and erected nine fortified gateways. Excavations also uncovered a rural network of earthen walls 4 to 8 thousand miles long that would have taken an estimated 150 million man hours to build and must have taken hundreds of years to build."

That sounds wildly eggs-aggerated to me,

Maybe the African strategy was "the best defense is a good offense".

Didn't work too well against Europeans or invading Muslims.

The Roman or Medieval European concept of war was never merely defensive. Instead, the idea was that a strong offensive is anchored by a strong base of operations, and that a thoroughly successful defense culminates in a successful counterattack.

The Maginot Line was supposed to operate more or less that way. The Maginot Line was supposed to slow and channel attacking Germans while the French army mustered for a counterattack.

The Maginot Line worked to the extent that the Germans mostly avoided the actual Maginot Line and narrowed their attack on 10 May 1940 through parts of Belgium where the Line did not extend.

The French army failed to mount much of a counterattack, however.

Anonymous said...

Albertosaurus said:

The First Emperor Chin Szuandi is often said to have built the Great Wall.


It's Qin shihuang. Huangdi is actually a title meaning emperor ...

However, you are correct about Needham and the bullshit that China invented gunpowder.

They were playing around with mixtures of saltpetre, sulphur, charcoal and other stuff and managed to create some incendiaries but they did not discover gunpowder nor did they have cannon until well after they were created in northern Europe.

David Davenport said...

nyway, there's that bit that's somewhat attributed to General Patton: "Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man"

Compare to:


When a Dash Becomes a Siege
By ROBERT PATTON

Published: April 5, 2003 - New York Times


Gen. George S. Patton, my grandfather ...,.

Yet in September 1944, Patton deviated from his preference for maneuvering and received what he called ''my first bloody nose'' as a result. The fortified city of Metz, in the Lorraine in northeastern France, blocked the Third Army's route to the Rhine. And while no one should compare that city of 83,000 with Baghdad and its 5 million inhabitants living in an area larger than New York City, the perils and pitfalls of Patton's siege are worth contemplating as General Franks readies his troops for the last phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Simply put, Metz -- with its formidable network of 35 outlying concrete forts -- got Patton ''off plan,'' to use a current Central Command phrase. Frustrated by bad weather, poor air support and above all, ''too little gas and too many Germans,'' he probed the city's defenses with small units and was repulsed; the casualties soon mounted. With Third Army supplies and manpower diverted to the British-led Market Garden campaign to the north, Patton's ammunition allotment was limited to seven rounds per gun per day, completely precluding any continued drive toward Germany.



The delay tormented him. ''Once people stop, they get cautious and the enemy gets set,'' he said. The 65 reporters attached to Third Army pestered him for positive news and action, and his ego, accustomed to headlines, was rankled. Patton wrote his wife: ''I fear I am off the first page for the moment as we are not going so fast. Metz is hard to take.''
He continued to strike the city with inadequate company- and battalion-sized units with the excuse that he was trying to maintain his army's attitude of aggressive initiative. Gen. Omar Bradley, his superior, urged him to quit ''this pecking campaign'' and accept the so-called October Pause imposed in the aftermath of Market Garden's 12,000 Allied casualties. ...


The siege had become personal, and he exhorted his friend in the Air Corps, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, ''to blow up this damn fort so that it becomes nothing but a hole.'' But even a severe bombing campaign couldn't dislodge the defenders behindits 15-foot-thick walls. The steadfast resistance forced Patton to mount a bloody siege that he described as ''a mutual crucifixion.''

The last of Metz's defenders surrendered out of thirst and starvation in mid-December 1944, three months after Patton predicted the city would fall in 10 days. The Battle of the Bulge was around the corner, and he and his army would find redemption in their pivotal northward thrust into the southern flank of the German attack.


http://www.lorraine-cafe.fr/showthread.php?t=1047

Anonymous said...

Maybe Africa had too many Air Jordans who could leap over walls.

asdfasdf said...

Is this like the grasshopper and ant story? Ants build complex tunnels and hills(and save up foodstuff for the future)while grasshoppers hop around and enjoy stuff when times are good.
I guess bees are like ants with wings.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Chinese are good at taking pain. In China, there's an old saying that if you want to succeed, you must "eat bitter", ie endure pain.

Working grueling hours, sacrificing, saving up resources/money, submitting to familial authority/norms, and taking crap from the boss are apart of life in China. It makes sense when you consider the arduous nature of the rice paddy or wheat farmer's life.

Chinese Southeasterners also have a tradition of studying for the exams and joining merchant clans, so the academic and business orientation among the southeastern diaspora is nothing new either. This is not true, however, for those outside the southeastern coast of China.

Contrast the toughness of the farmer's life with the lethargy of the nomad's life, and it might not be surprising that the historically nomadic north Asian populations (ie Mongols, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, etc.) are culturally pretty different from the Chinese. Interestingly, in today's Central Asia, the Dungan (Chinese Muslims) are economically successful farmers and relatively affluent by the region's standards. Though they're nothing like the mercantile Cantonese or Fujianese, which makes sense when you consider that the Dungan were historically common farmers (like most Chinese).

It makes a difference who your ancestors were and what they did.

Anonymous said...

Lugash,

What's with the "I am Lugash" lines? I've been intrigued by it for a while now.

Anonymous said...

"Ethiopians are racially mixed. They have substantial Caucasian ancestry."

"substantial"

support?

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Major fortifications take time, cooperation, organization, urbanization, technology, and something generally immobile but worth defending. To what degree did sub-Saharan Africa have any of these? Certainly a lot less of each (except for time) than the world's greater civilizations.

But perhaps they would have kept the elephants out.

David Davenport said...

The Jewish way is to formulate complexity into simplicity, like when Einstein came up with E = MC2.

Nope, 20th century physics, which is in great part the physics of Ashkenazi physicists, is complicated and abstruse.

"E = mc^2" is sort of a physics
marketing slogan aimed at the masses --- The masses of people who like to think that they know something smart.

David Davenport said...

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (German, Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott) is the best known of Martin Luther's hymns. Luther wrote the words and composed the melody sometime between 1527 and 1529.[1] It has been translated into English at least seventy times and also into many other languages.[1][2] The words are a paraphrase of Psalm 46.[3]

...

A Mighty Fortress" is one of the best loved hymns of the Lutheran and Protestant traditions. It has been called the "Battle Hymn of the Reformation" for the effect it had in increasing the support for the Reformers' cause. John Julian records four theories of its origin:[1]

...

English translations

The most popular English version is A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing and was translated by Frederick H. Hedge in 1853.

Another popular English translation is by Thomas Carlyle and begins A safe stronghold our God is still.

...

In Medieval II: Total War, the building description for a fortress begins with the words "A mighty fortress is our God... but strong walls and towers help". However, a different description is seen when the player does not choose a Catholic Faction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Mighty_Fortress_Is_Our_God

Anonymous said...

The first permanent dressed stone defensive wall system in the world was Hadrian's Wall -

- to keep out those pesky Scots.

PS: If Lynn & Vanhanen are correct in guesstimating that, even today, many African nations have average IQs in the 60s, then [even today] they wouldn't be [anywere nearly] intelligent enough to mix lime and other additives with sand & aggregate to form concrete - it would be many standard devations of IQ beyond their innate ability.

Mencius Moldbug said...

Also, I think Gayre of Gayre and Nigg wrote some pieces on Zimbabwe, maybe in _Mankind Quarterly_. I have no joke - I just like saying "Gayre of Gayre and Nigg."

Anonymous said...

Yep, someone else up thread stole my thunder. To build walls you need something to protect. No need to build a wall when you can just retreat into the jungle and return later to rebuild your wooden hut and replant a few a Yams.

Anonymous said...

The Maya had the wheel, but didn't use it for anything other than children's toys. The North American Indian froze and starved every winter for thousands of years but never came up with the idea of constructing substantial houses or large residential buildings. It took hundreds of years for military leaders to realize that soldiers could ride horses into battle instead of using them to pull chariots and wagons.
So maybe sub-Saharan Africans failed to build fortresses and other large fortifications for the simple reason that they didn't think of it.

asdfasdfaf said...

OT.

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101202/NEWS02/101202052/&template=fullarticle

Hot Damn!!! This woman has balls!!!

nick said...

As usual it can be explained by Mancur Olson. Fortifications are favored by stationary bandits who need to defend their stationary tax base. Where roving bandits or roving resource gathering (nomads, foragers, mobile horticulture) dominate -- the two usually go together -- there is little fixed tax base to defend or at least not much point in defending it.

Steve Sailer said...

For a really big fortress built by blacks, look up "Citadelle Laferrière" built on a Haitian mountaintop in 1805-1820 under the command of Henri Cristophe.

europeasant said...

our houses in north america are fortifications. however we still need gunpowder type weapons because bats and knives just won't do. the writers of the constitution realized this and that is why we need gun type weapons to defend our way of life.

Truth said...

""Ethiopians are racially mixed. They have substantial Caucasian ancestry."

Also a much lower IQ than anyone in Bantu Africa (according to 'your' scientists.)

Anonymous said...

Gondar, the medieval capital of Ethiopia, is filled with pretty damned impressive looking castles.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_pCDgOQhnadA/Salv7APC0qI/AAAAAAAAEJY/fsDauF3yNtQ/DSC02299.JPG

http://tab2010.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Gondar-Royal-Enclosure.jpg

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_pCDgOQhnadA/Salv-GSSmHI/AAAAAAAAEJk/FYRc0V3Yb1g/DSC02300.JPG

Anyone want to explain how the supposedly 60 IQ Ethiopians did this obviously impressive work?

Anonymous said...

I would have thought they would be building fortifications right and left to protect against the wild animals.

Perhaps the people in sub-Sahara Africa, as a group, did not have the organizationsl and engineering abilities to build such structures.

- Rudy

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the old 'Planet of the Apes' TV series from the 1970s?
Remember how the Ape raiders were always on horseback, and every episode seemed to comtain a scene of horse-riding apes rounding-up fleeing humans with nets - always the same ubiquitous nets.

Anonymous said...

The key word in this discussion is 'civilization'.The word civilization comes from the Latin 'civites' and implies settlement and citizenship.
To build fortifications such as the Romans built requires a great effort of organisation and government - the roman standing army of paid professionals included a great many stonemasons, carpenters and smiths among its ranks (soldiers were required to have a trade apart from soldiering), not to mention surveyors and engineers.All this was paid for by an elaborate taxation system - which depended on a civil government and enforcement across Rome's wide empire, together with a functioning cash economy.
As an aside in the 1960s an abandoned 1st century roman fort at Inchtuthil Scotland was excavated.The sheer quantity of iron nails found, several tons, was staggerring, the Romans deliberately deeply buried the nails to stop the Picts getting any iron, the nails were all big buggers, 9" jobbies to hold a wooden fort together.Most of the nails were sold as scrap by the archaeologists.
The castles of mediaeval Europe were built by the barons, in a time of general lawlessness, to defend against any possibly usurpation by rival barons.What is generally unknown is that the castles were mostly built by the local peasantry.As a duty to their lord they had to give a certain numbr of days of free labor service, much of which went on castle building.The key to both examples is of civilized polities or communities enforcing rules for a strategic objective.If this ever existed in Africa I do not know.

Jay said...

"They were playing around with mixtures of saltpetre, sulphur, charcoal and other stuff and managed to create some incendiaries but they did not discover gunpowder nor did they have cannon until well after they were created in northern Europe."

Oh, please. And I am pretty sure you have reliable sources to back up your "Northern Europeans created gunpowder" theory. So what makes you more credible than Needham? Just because you are a brainless and ignorant white supremacist?

Le Mur said...

John Hawks on modern humans vs Neandertals:
http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/neandertals/symbolism/mckie-neandertal-story-2010.html

"There is no "suite of behaviours that we evolved in Africa 150,000 years ago." There just aren't any. There's no good evidence of symbolic expression, no projectile points, no subsistence innovations, no evidence of long-distance raw material procurement or trade. That's the big problem we have substantiating a modern human advantage -- the "modern" humans didn't seem to get many behavioral innovations in Africa that the Neandertals didn't get, and the Neandertals got them almost as early."

Edward said...

Okay, what about all those Pashtun fortifications? Instead of a mega fort for the chief to hide in and to project his power*, everyone has got their own one.

Example of a Pashtun house-fortress
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bertrandlinet/4206111714/

If you don't believe me take a look at a Pashtun urban area in Google maps e.g. Lashkar Gah, Helmand province. All houses are walled.

*At least until the Europeans and Americans came and set up army bases, like Camp Bastion.


Surely the logic of defending women and resources, trade routes, in a lawless environment which also contains roving nomads applies to parts of Africa. Perhaps Africans are more sociable than Pashtuns.

lesley said...

Baker is his book "Race" mentions artistic achievements by west African black peoples who had learned goldsmithing from the Portuguese in the 1400s. In fact, Encyclopedia Britannica, circa 1911, had an article on the highly complex art works that were done. But as the whites withdrew from that part of Africa, the blacks did not keep up the art form.
Doing skilled handwork and crafts -- which is what building is -- is not confined to high iq populations. What does take high iq is the foresight, planning, conceptualization, distribution, maintenance, improvements and innovations on already invented procedures. That sort of thing. And that's the sort of thing they can't keep up in Africa. Or Detroit. Or anyplace where the population is majority black. The average percentage of individuals with high enough intelligence for that -- it would take a substantial percentage -- is just not present in a sub-Saharan African population. The Haiti example of "Emperor Jones" does show the blacks can do it, physically. But the French had only just recently left, and many of the people who planned the building had been educated by the French. The whole "meme" of building such a fortification was still fresh in their experience. I'll wager it would not have been built 100 years after the departure of the French, were Haiti to have been invade. Haiti, like Africa, has jungles where the people can retreat. And like Africa, did not have much of an urban "civilization" to protect. In 1810, the French colony was still a sort of "civilization" that at least the mulattos wanted to maintain.

Kylie said...

"'Ethiopians are racially mixed. They have substantial Caucasian ancestry.'

Also a much lower IQ than anyone in Bantu Africa (according to 'your' scientists.)"


Really? Then maybe 'your' scholar didn't get the memo.

IQ Not The Only Measure For[sic]Intelligence

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

But he didn't build those tourist attraction high stone walls. He built forced earth walls just as the Romans did in there "limes". The first permanent dressed stone defensive wall system in the world was Hadrian's Wall - about a century before the events depicted in the movie Gladiator."

This is simply not true. Walled cities were quite common in the ancient world. Rome had city walls made of stone, predating the 2nd century AD. Many other cities had quite elaborate fortifications - Tyre for example, which Alexander conquered with great difficulty.

And by the way, only about 40 years separated the reigns of Hadrian and Commodus, not a century, as you claim.

Anonymous said...

But, Chinese are more into More Pain, More Pain. They seem to value Pain as a virtue in and of itself.

That sounds more like early Christianity, and its Puritan descendants, than any Chinese philosophy.

Anonymous said...

The Arabs have slaved into that area for centuries, and apparently the ancient Phoenicians even made it all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope, in present day South Africa, and may even have circumnavigated the continent.

I don't think they were looking for a particularly good deal on the World Cup.

Wiki is quite sure the Africans built it and in a literal, physical sense that is almost certainly true. However, I think there is a fair chance it was constructed at the behest of, designed by, supervised by, and in the interests of, Arab and perhaps other slavers.

No mortar was used in its construction, and whether or not this helps work out the builders I don't know.

When the British Navy patrolled the coast of Mozambique in the late 1890's to stamp out the slave trade, the dhows carrying the slaves, upon seeing the Navy bearing down , would simply dump them overboard, shackled and weighted, to destroy the evidence.

To me this is a metaphor of the hypocrisy of modern multiculturalism; we know where slaving is still going on, and who does it to whom.

Anon.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Ethiopians' Y chromosomes show a male lineage significantly different from those of Western and Southern Africans, and more similar to Moroccans. Their mtDNA (from the maternal lineage; see map further down on the same link) is fairly similar to the rest of black Africa. This suggests a large inflow of men into the region through conquest mating with the native women.

Laban said...

In the right climate and without cannon, mud seems to be useful stuff for fortifications. Churchill describes how :

"Every large house is a real feudal fortress made, it is true, only of sunbaked clay, but with battlements, turrets, loopholes, flanking towers, drawbridges, etc., complete. Every village has its defence."

Kano in Nigeria had some pretty impressive walls :

"The upper parapet was manned by archers and riflemen using loopholes in the wall; whilst cavalry moved rapidly around inside the walls to ensure protection at the weakest spots. The walls were built entirely of tubali - pear-shaped, sun-dried mud blocks to create a 24 km long, 20m high perimeter."

jack strocchi said...

Anonymous said...
Ethiopia was the one black African nation that actually beat a large scale European army in battle-- okay, it was the Italians, but still.

Ahem...I believe that the British got trounced by the Zulus at Indalwana. At least the Ethiopians had guns!

Okay, I am half-Italian, but its still true.

Svigor said...

North West Europe is not Africa. Terrain dominates. It is hard to move around in muck, mud, bad weather, rain, boggy terrain. Whereas in much of Africa, it is simpler to run away than fight. Running away in North West Europe has because of terrain been a losing proposition -- you simply cannot outrun enemies because everything is slowed down by mud.

When terrain's bad, it's bad for everyone. Likewise, when it's good, it's good for everyone. So how can fight/flight be dictated by territory?

I think Europeans and others built more extensive fortifications because they could.

Your enemies have the same mud to contend with. Actually, worse mud, since they are following in your tracks. So your theory doesn't work.

What he said.

Yes, the Chinese are good at taking pain. In China, there's an old saying that if you want to succeed, you must "eat bitter", ie endure pain.

Working grueling hours, sacrificing, saving up resources/money, submitting to familial authority/norms, and taking crap from the boss are apart of life in China. It makes sense when you consider the arduous nature of the rice paddy or wheat farmer's life.


It also makes sense when you consider the east Asian tendency towards Agreeableness and low Extraversion.

But perhaps they would have kept the elephants out.

:)

beowulf said...

If you have a strong enough Navy (or allied with a strong naval power), there's no need for fortifications, its not like invaders can swim ashore.

Its like that Admiral told Parliament during the Napoleonic Wars... "I cannot say they are not coming, I can only say they are not coming by Sea".

Anonymous said...

"Chinese Southeasterners also have a tradition of studying for the exams and joining merchant clans, so the academic and business orientation among the southeastern diaspora is nothing new either. This is not true, however, for those outside the southeastern coast of China."

Not entirely true - although southern Chinese typically outperformed the rest of the population in the civil service examination, sending a disproportionate number of top-scoring candidates to the imperial capital, prior to the modern era is was Chinese from the northern/central regions of the country who were renowned for their mercantile acumen - during the Qing dynasty at least the merchants of Shanxi province, in the northernmost part of China's core area, and the merchants of Anhui province in the center. I saw a CCTV documentary once which claimed Russians made the observation that the only places in the world where Jews found themselves outcompeted in commercial dealings were certain central Asian cities in Tsarist Russia, where Shanxi merchants predominated.

dasdfdasdfdasdf, your comments and observations with regard to China are so fatuous they're risible. But at least you are consistent in the overall quality of your insights.

- Barry Wong.

Joseph said...

As with India, Ethiopia as a whole may have low IQ scores, but the picture would come into focus better if you consider the various ethnic groups separately. I cannot find an IQ breakdown among the main Ethiopian ethnicities online, but I strongly suspect that the Amhara -- the historic dominant group that has Semitic roots -- have much higher levels of intelligence than the other groups over whom they ruled . . . who likely bring down the national average.

Moreover, when were the Ethiopians tested? The Marxists have destroyed the place, and I would think that famine and war put a damper on cognitive development.

Also, the mixed "race" background of the Amhara is not controversial. It is part of Amhara tradition and history, and their language is Semitic. There is no lack of genetic research, either: http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2005/03/origin-of-ethiopian-genetic.html

Anonymous said...

"Hall's interpretation is that GZ was a defensive fortification made by pre-Islamic Arabs/Semites from the general Yemen area, who carried out extensive gold-mining operations. Traces of ancient gold mining are everywhere in the area, and very uncharacteristic of Bantu."

That makes more sense to me than slave raiding. IIRC there were similarly kingdoms more advanced than the surrounding tribes in Southern Spain because of Silver and Copper.

The Greeks had colonies all along the north of the med down into northern spain and the Pheonicians/Semites had similar all along the southern med up into southern spain so it wouldn't be surprising if the same happened down the east coast of Africa.

But I think it would have to be something like a major gold mine to attract a large colony that far south and inland.

Alternatively maybe you get differential evolution when there's a major prize like a gold mine to be fought over because of the extreme competition. The smartest African warlord gets to be king of the castle and have a hundred kids etc.

Truth said...

"Really? Then maybe 'your' scholar didn't get the memo."

Exactly my argument, IQ is overrated, thank you.

"This suggests a large inflow of men into the region through conquest mating with the native women."

...and it also suggests a lower IQ than that of the full-black maternal population.

"I cannot find an IQ breakdown among the main Ethiopian ethnicities online, but I strongly suspect that the Amhara -- the historic dominant group that has Semitic roots -- have much higher levels of intelligence than the other groups over whom they ruled."

Another "I cannot find a breakdown...but I strongly suspect" argument from an absolute nobody. Great.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

When terrain's bad, it's bad for everyone. Likewise, when it's good, it's good for everyone. So how can fight/flight be dictated by territory?"

Well I don't buy Whiskey's theory, but terrain is not always bad for everyone. That's why the high ground is traditionally the preffered territory in a battle.

And even the same terrain does not always have the same effect on each side. On muddy ground at Agincourt, Henry V's archers, who were lighter and didn't need as much mobility anyway, put a huge dent in the French heavy cavalry, despite being outnumbered 5-1.

A particular terrain can favor or disfavor the tactics used by a particular side.

"Ahem...I believe that the British got trounced by the Zulus at Indalwana"

Heavily outnumbered by the Zulus (22,000 to 1,350) and with incompetent leaders who disregarded standard tactics. A tiny British force of a hundred or so later held off thousands of Zulus at Rorke's Drift.

adfasdfadsfas said...

"But, Chinese are more into More Pain, More Pain. They seem to value Pain as a virtue in and of itself."

"That sounds more like early Christianity, and its Puritan descendants, than any Chinese philosophy."

Not quite. Pain in Early Christianity is deeply moral or moralized. We suffer because we have sinned and are guilty before the eyes of God. Pain can be a form of penance. Also, flesh is sinful, so pleasure is seen as temptation of the devil and all that stuff. One component of Christian view on pain is that one should not cause pain onto others, and indeed we must feel pain as punishment for all the evil we've commited.

Pain in the Chinese context isn't quite so moralized. Pain is seen as the tough stuff of life, and therefore one must AMORALLY accept pain as the source of strength and power.
Compare the Christian and the Chinese view of animals. Christians believe they shouldn't cause undue harm or pain to animals. And indeed much of self-inflicted Chrstian pain--physical or emotional--is about repenting for the wicked things people have done. So, a Christian who has harmed animals could very well feel shame and guilt over his wickedness and feel emotional pain; he would accept this pain as necessary and just. Since he hurt poor creatures, he himself must suffer in the eyes of God--a form of spiritual justice.

But, Chinese view of animals is different. Chinese make animals suffer and then steel themselves to feel no compassion or guilt. They see pain as the essential part of reality, and therefore, animals must suffer just like humans do. In Asia, it's just a matter of GRIN AND BEAR IT. Since humans must accept pain as part of reality, why should it be any different for animals? There is no element of guilt, shame, or redemption in Chinese pain.

There may be an element of virtue in sacrifice, as in suffering for one's kids. But this too is about cold obession with power. Since the world is ruthless and cruel--filled with inescapable pain--, one must suffer constructively in order to make one's children rise up in society to amass power. With power, they get to inflict pain on others than vice versa. Chinese have embraced the notion that pain is forever and everywhere and cannot be avoided. Since all must suffer, it's better to suffer to amass wealth and power so that one will be in a position to hurt others than be hurt by others.
Chinese see Christian morality as dangerously naive in a do-goody way. Compassion may lead to moral reform but it also softens the heart. A soft heart that's incapable of ruthless action is bound to lose. Also, people who seek to avoid pain at every turn may lose the will and instinct to survive. Some might call Chinese view of pain a kind of amoral stocism but it's more like a kind of rationalized sadism. Lloyd Eastman's chapter on the popular religion of China in the classic book "Family, Fields, and Ancestors" spells out the cruel mindset developed by the Chinese. At some point, this survival instinct became hardened and dogmatized into a cultural mindset--and a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Chinese not only 'ate bitter rice' but came to see bitterness as the essential flavor and nutrient of life.

Jack Ketch said...

Some parts of Africa did have large-scale defensive earthworks:

"The Guinness Book of World Records describes the walls of Benin City as the world's second largest man-made structure after China's Great Wall), in terms of length, and the series of earthen ramparts as the most extensive earthwork in the world."

Article with some old engravings of Benin City by European explorers:

http://wysinger.homestead.com/ogiso.html

It seems to have been a pretty big place.

Katana said...

Steve wrote:

------------

In general, I have a hard time seeing why you wouldn't build defensive structures, but, apparently, large swathes of the Earth didn't see the point.

------------

That was a very lazy sentence to add to your post. There are obvious reasons why many peoples didn't see the point (as the comments show).
I suggest you get in contact with Quality Control and give them the drill, or else it's the wall for them.

Otherwise a good one.

lesley said...

If you are going to talk about pain and the Chinese relationship with it, you absolutely cannot leave out the 1,000 year old custom of foot-binding. Mother-love, at least of the mother-daughter variety, was synonomous with causing pain. There was an actual term for it--something like she who gives pain give love. There is no other explanation for the fact that millions of parents were willing to torture their small children in a prolonged and intimate way in oder to have esthetically acceptable feet. Bound feet oozed pus and blood for months during the "breaking process." It was unbelievabley dredful. It is even more insane than circumcision (male or female) for at least circumcision had some connection with (often misunderstood)religious laws, poorly understood biological processes, and hygiene; whereas footbinding just tortured the feet and left them smelly and deformed, unfit to be seen unless covered and eroticized with elaborate, tight shoes.
This was a custom not confined to a few rich. By the time it stopped (mainly due to Japanese in Taiwan and "foreign devil" influence in other areas), 80% of all Chinese females had bound feet, including peasants in non-rice farming areas, and the impoverished. A common expression was "a barrel of tears for each little foot." They didn't really enjoy torturing their children (well, some mother-in-laws did), and there was no imperative religious requirement such as some cultures feel about circumcision. It was all for esthetics and showing that one was willing to suffer in order to please or one-up others, for smaller feet meant you were superior and beautiful. A pretty face you were born with but bound feet were made. They were molded into the desired form. In Chinese fables, a woman might be insulted if you praised her pretty face, for that she had no control over, it being a gift of nature. But the feet were woman-made.

Women interview late in the 20th century would say that people in their mothers' day could not imagine a natural footed woman. Such a creature would have seemed grotesque them.

Anonymous said...

lesley: Baker is his book "Race" mentions artistic achievements by west African black peoples who had learned goldsmithing from the Portuguese in the 1400s. In fact, Encyclopedia Britannica, circa 1911, had an article on the highly complex art works that were done. But as the whites withdrew from that part of Africa, the blacks did not keep up the art form.

A) That is really depressing.

B) It puts me in mind of something that I read the other day about Koi: "Koi have been accidentally or deliberately released into the wild in every continent except Antarctica. They quickly revert to the natural coloration of common carp within a few generations..."

C) Everything else in Lesley's post is absolutely spot-on.

Svigor said...

Well I don't buy Whiskey's theory, but terrain is not always bad for everyone. That's why the high ground is traditionally the preffered territory in a battle.

Obviously that's true when you get down into specifics, but that's not what we were discussing. We were discussing population flight and pursuit.

Svigor said...

And even the same terrain does not always have the same effect on each side. On muddy ground at Agincourt, Henry V's archers, who were lighter and didn't need as much mobility anyway, put a huge dent in the French heavy cavalry, despite being outnumbered 5-1.

True again, though there was a hell of a lot more to it than just terrain, as I'm sure you know. The French were a mess, as much mob as army, and the English had their shit very much together. The English had clear, dramatic superiority in discipline, training, tactics, and leadership.

Peter A said...

"Ethiopia is the single biggest argument in favor of Jared Diamond's whole geography is destiny thing."

There's no really no contradiction between this and HBD. You would expect human beings to evolve in response to their natural environment. The tension is only that Diamond doesn't pursue his thought to the obvious conclusion, at least not in public. Of course white supremacists don't either - white people living in tropical climes are probably going to eventually evolve away from the northern European behavior and intelligence standards.

Anonymous said...

"white people living in tropical climes are probably going to eventually evolve away from the northern European behavior and intelligence standards."

Yellow people didn't in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Fortifications can be viewed both as a symbol of strength and of weakness. The fact that they require wealth, technological skill, and organization to construct means that they can be built only by a culture that has advanced to a certain level, but they can also be viewed as a symbol of weakness in that they are necessary in the first place.

In the two and a half centuries after Augustus, for example, fortifications were not built much in the Roman Empire outside of the frontier areas. Most Roman cities were not walled or the walls from earlier times fell into decay, since the Pax Romana made such defenses unnecessary.

This began to change in the second half of the third century, due to the breakdown of central authority and the barbarian invasions. It was during this time that walls began to rise again around the cities of Europe, and when rural villas began the long process of being transformed into medieval castles.

lesley said...

"Ahem...I believe that the British got trounced by the Zulus at Indalwana. At least the Ethiopians had guns! "

"Zulu", 1964 with Irish actor Peter O'Toole in another one of his British sahib roles. He was still sunburnt from being Lawrence of Arabia.

lesley said...

"Is anyone willing to go for umimpressive AND Arab?"

I'll second you on that.
Probably Arab and pretty unimpressive. It's the element of surprise that magnifies it. The wall was mostly put up by a transient (or absorbed into the locals) Arab colony or trade-station that needed protection and whose Arabness didn't last too long. The Arabs were all over that part of Africa, and in Arabia there were tribes dating back a couple centuries who hailed from Ethiopia.
The wall is pretty anomalous in the area, and anyway, if local blacks built it, why did they ever repeat the task anywhere?

I think the Persians, more than the Arabs, were the ones to do the amazing mosaics and designed the "Moorish" architecture that went up in Andalucia, Spain. Or at least so a Persian said.
Still, the Arab Semites have been building walls for a long time. The Walls of Jericho. They build them around their houses, around their courtyards, around their gardens and around their cities. The walled mind is a metaphor for Arab culture.

btw, there is a group of blacks in the south-central Zimbabwe area who are very Arab looking, even more so than the Ethiopian types. Someone from this group was on a discussion forum and insisting that her phenotype, which included straight hair and light skin -- or so she said -- was just as authentically black and African as any other sub-Saharan black. When someone suggested they were mixed with Arab she vociferously denied it.

Truth said...

"was just as authentically black and African as any other sub-Saharan black. When someone suggested they were mixed with Arab she vociferously denied it."

Do you deny that red-haired Scots, blonde nords, and dark skinned, haired and eyed iberians are all "authentically white"?

Severn said...

Fortifications can be viewed both as a symbol of strength and of weakness. The fact that they require wealth, technological skill, and organization to construct means that they can be built only by a culture that has advanced to a certain level, but they can also be viewed as a symbol of weakness in that they are necessary in the first place.


Only if you think that they are always defensive in nature. They're not. In many cases they are part of an aggressive policy of military conquest. The forts built by the US in the "Wild West", for instance. Or the castles built by William the Conqueror and his son in bringing Wales under Anglo-Norman control.

Severn said...

"white people living in tropical climes are probably going to eventually evolve away from the northern European behavior and intelligence standards."

Yellow people didn't in Singapore.



What part of "white people" did you not understand?

James Kabala said...

Lesley: I was actually trying to be sacastic about the knee-jerk reactions of certain commenters, but who knows - you might be right!

David Davenport said...

"Zulu", 1964 with Irish actor Peter O'Toole in another one of his British sahib roles. He was still sunburnt from being Lawrence of Arabia.

Nope, no Toole o'Peter in "Zulu."

Why not do one single Google search before making oneself foolish?

Zulu (1964) - IMDb

Rating: 7.9/10 - from 12,787 users
Directed by Cy Endfield. Starring Michael Caine, Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins. Top News · Movie News · TV News · Celebrity News · Featured News ... Outnumbered British soldiers do battle with Zulu warriors at Rorke's Drift. ...
www.imdb.com/title/tt0058777/ - Cached - Similar


You're proolly confusing Pete O. with Michael Caine. All blond white men look kinda same same, no?


//////////////

It turns out that the Metz forts that stimied George patton were previously part of the Maginot Line.

More on Patton and the Metz forts here:

Patton at bay: the Lorraine campaign, 1944 By John Nelson Rickard

It's a Google book, so you can view parts of it online.

lesley said...

"Do you deny that red-haired Scots, blonde nords, and dark skinned, haired and eyed iberians are all "authentically white"?"

If I saw an Irishman or Basque looking like, oh, B. Obama, I'd say "there's an example of admixture." Surprisingly, I don't know any Irish or Basques who look like Mr. O unless they have known black Africna ancestry.
If I recall, the forum discussion was about black Africans in central, west and southern Africa, most of whom are not "mixed" as far as one can tell. They were focusing on physical features.

Anonymous said...

Why not do one single Google search before making oneself foolish?

Foolish? Moi? for mixing up a couple actors? I'm not too worried.

But truly, I did do a search and I did see O'Toole but it was a site where they were discussing several movies of the same ilk and read too quickly. Never saw the movie myself.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Chinese acceptance of pain, there's a Korean creation myth that is also big on pain.
The story goes like this. An old sage arrived in pre-historic Korea and wanted a wife. So he took a bear and a tiger and put them in a cave and gave them nothing to eat but garlic. The tiger hated the taste of garlic and the darkness of the cave, so it left. The bear wept as it ate the hot garlic but kept it up in the dark of the cave. The sage was impressed by the bear's fortitude in 'eating bitter garlic', and so he turned it into a woman and married her.. and so arose the Korean race.
In other words, life is all about BEARING it. Korean cooking also has a lot of stinky garlic.

Anonymous said...

http://www.natkd.com/korean_creation_myth.htm

David said...

"No boundaries" is a meme pushed (mostly in adverts) about 10-15 years ago in our culture - in reference to such things as rules, standards, manners, morals, nations, borders, and races.

Remember Garth Brooks's album title "No Fences"? A small but telling example.

Haven't seen this meme lately (but don't follow pop culture anymore, and never watch TV). Wonder if it will be revived, and when, and why?

On the fortification mindset generally: notice that a trend in modern architecture starting about a century ago (for example, Wright) was to have open floor plans and plenty of glass - you were supposed to feel that you're living right out in the midst of nature, somewhat like a camper would, i.e. minimal structural protection from predators (from killers to snoopers). In the medieval ages, by contrast, Europe's architectural ideal was "grim," closed castles (with narrow slits for windows) as an architectural ideal. The "live in the open" style - though you may see extreme examples of it filling every issue of Architectural Digest still - may turn out to be a blip, historically speaking: from 1910 to 2020, say.

lesley said...

The "live in the open" style - though you may see extreme examples of it filling every issue of Architectural Digest still - may turn out to be a blip, historically speaking: from 1910 to 2020, say.

One can only hope. Worse than houses though, whole office buildings made of glass make me exceedingly nervous. I don't think we were meant to live in glass houses. Not on this planet anyway.
You'd think they'd be more insecure in D.C.