Hello, and welcome to This Old House. I’m Norm Abram and this is Tom Silva. *hi* Shut up Tom.... Kevin O’Connor couldn’t be with us today because Tom and I killed him and buried him under the foundation of our latest project. *that’s right Norm* I said SHUT UP TOM! Do you want to join Kevin? No? Then keep your pie hole shut! This is my show now! Mine! You got that you hack? MINE!

At least, that how I imagine it going in real life. I’m sure I’m wrong. But you know, there’s a reason Norm never has people on The New Yankee Workshop more than once. It’s because he’s a serial killer who uses the dried skin of his victims for the leather in his projects.

Oh wait....I thought this was a Thursday. Sorry....my bad.

But you know what? If I would have had an oddities post on Saturday, it would have been the two year anniversary of Otters Oddities. But since I don’t post on the weekends, (well, not to oddities at least), I guess that means today is the two year anniversary of Otter Oddities.


If anyone told you there would be punch and pie, they lied. There will be no celebration because, well, you all have had to suffer through two years of my mindless, pointless and sometimes confusing posts. And sometimes they were even good. And by sometimes, I mean, like....once. But who cares. Two years! Yay!


Anyway, today is Made Up Monday. I’m going to tell you some stuff, and then you get to decide if I was lying or telling the truth. And away I go.

People. People have been around for like, forever, right? Well, no. Not even close. What we would consider to be modern humans only arrived on the scene about 200,000 years ago. And in the scale of the planet, that’s like....no time at all. Really. No time at all.

To demonstrate how little time modern humans have been here, hod your arm out to the sides. From the tip of your left hand to your right wrist is all precambrian time. That is, the time before complex life. Sure, there was life, but it was all single cellular, or very simple. (mostly single cellular). From your right wrist to the tip of your right hand represents all of complex life. Now, take an emery board and make one swipe of the nail on your middle finger. You just wiped out all of modern human history.


So, humans haven’t been around for very long. The genus Homo has been around for about 4 million years, though. And before Homo came the Australopithecines. They date back a lot further. Exactly how far is unknown because we don’t know if we’ve found the earliest examples yet.

But what I want to talk about is human settlements. For the majority of Homo sapiens existence, we were hunter/gatherers. That is, we were nomads who followed our food wherever it went. We relied on whatever was growing in the area to supplement our diets. But, as the world changed, the climate changed with it. The change in climate and the effects of humans caused the species of large animals to dwindle and eventually, mostly die off.

And with the recession of the last glaciation, people started to change. (Ok....let’s just get this over with. I said recession of the last glaciation. Because, believe it or not, we’re still in the middle of an ice age. The planet just went through a glacial recession cause by a warm up of the climate. And even with the effects of global warming, we are still, technically, in an ice age. The glaciers will return someday.)

One of the changes they went through was to settle down. At some time in the distant past, some smart and observant woman noticed that if she put the seeds from a plant back in the ground, more plants grew from them. Yep. I said women. Med were too busy trying to kill meat. It was the women who collected the grains and fruits. And they were almost certainly the ones who discovered that planted seeds grew the plants they wanted.

At the same time, men discovered that if they collected the herds of wild animals and kept them fenced in, they didn’t have to work so hard at hunting them. And the first ones they killed were the ones who caused the most problems. ie. the mean and aggressive ones. As a result, the wild delta cattle and wild sheep they captured became docile.

With domesticated animals, and the knowledge to grow selected crops, people decided it would be easier to just stop walking and to settle down. And so they did. And by doing so, they doomed humanity. Because, these people that settled down started the first civilizations. And while civilization advanced many things, it will end up being the downfall of us all. Because, while humans are a social animal, we aren’t that social. For proof, look at all the wars that have happened. City A wanted to expand, so they attacked City B. Lot’s of people died and were enslaved. Until City C did the same to City A.


The land of Sumer is considered the birthplace of human civilization. The cities of Uruk and Ur, (which you can still visit in Iraq), sprang up. And from there, civilization spread.

Now, The area surrounding the Euphrates that became known as Sumer, Mesopotamia and Babylon, were first settled about 5,500 BCE. But we know they aren’t the first places where people settled down.

At roughly the same time as the city of Ur was being built, a settlement on the Orkney Islands off Scotland called Skara Brae was being settled. Sometime around 3,200 BCE neolithic man built a village on the Orkneys. And this was strange, because it really isn’t a very hospitable place. Yet, the fishing must have been good enough to make them stay. Because Skara Brae was occupied for at least 2,000 years.


But, where did people first settle down? Sumer, and even Skara Brae predate both Stonehenge and the Pyramids. And then there’s the Tumulus of Bougon. A tumulus is a mound built over a grave. And the Tumulus of Bougon contains no fewer than 6 graves. And it’s one of the few standing structures that would have been considered ancient when the Egyptians started building their pyramids. Bougon dates back to about 4,7000 BCE.

You want older? Ok. Who here has heard of a little town called Jericho? Well, about 65 years ago, archeologists were excavating Jericho and they found a tower. An old tower. A very old tower. It was buried beneath about 40 feet of desert and it predated the parts of Jericho that were thought to be the biblical parts. It stands about 30 feet tall. And it could very well be the worlds first skyscraper. It has been dated back to 9,000 BCE. Why would someone 11,000 years ago build a three story tower? Why, to get closer to God, of course. But this tower predated Abraham by several thousand years.

And it’s not even the oldest.

Pay attention now, here’s where you have to start thinking.

The oldest settlement known is also one of the most important ever found. Not because of it’s age, but because of other things found. The place is called Abu Hureyra, and it was found in Syria. It shows evidence of being inhabited for 4,000 years beginning in 11,700 BCE. And the reason it’s so important isn’t because of the houses they found. Or because of all the items they found. No, it’s important because found at Abu Hureyra are the oldest cultivated fields ever. These fields are 13,700 years old. It was the fields that allowed for such accurate dating of the settlement. Because found there were primitive grains. That is, grain that we have today, but in an early form, closer to how they evolved in nature before humans began modifying them. And as a bonus, hundreds of seeds the ancients planted were also found allowing scientists the chance to compare them to the modern versions.


So tell me my minions, is the oldest known human settlement almost 14,000 years old and also the location of the first known farm?

Be back tomorrow to tell you the truth.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to save this before I lose power. About 5 minutes ago it started raining really hard. I mean, torrential downpour. And I detect hail. So, just in case, I need to save bef.......