While puzzling out a new plot, I decided to celebrate the launch of my e-book, The Lake Is on Fire with a cup of tea and a substantial piece of cheesecake. I was about to take my first bite when Mike said, “Cheesecake is nearly three thousand years old.”
I eyed the wedge of cake in front of me. It looked fresh and full of calories.
“I read,” Mike went on, “that cheesecake was served to the athletes at the first Olympic games. That’s in 776 BCE. What’s more,” he added, warming to the theme, “excavated cheese molds were found that probably dated back to 2000 BCE.”
Eating the (very new and fresh) cheesecake in front of me, I began wondering whether there really was anything new under the sun. Silks and pasta, I knew, had come by way of Marco Polo’s trek to China, and tomatoes were offerings from the new world. But what about other things we take for granted?
So I did a little research and, not surprisingly, fabric was first on my list. What did surprise me was that fibers were spun into yarn and then knitted or woven or netted into fabric in the Middle East during the late stone age! Apparently there were fashionistas back then, too. What about the surely modern camera, then? Apparently the camera is an adaptation of the camera oscura which was developed in ancient China! And, speaking of China, I found that rhubarb had its roots—no pun intended— in ancient history and was cultivated also in China as a purgative and was reported to have been given to help the emperor Wu who reigned back in 557. Another interesting thing about rhubarb was that one of the great pharmacologists of ancient Greek, Discorides, spoke of a root called ‘rha’ which grew on the banks of the Volga and which had purgative properties. So Rhubarb did get around some.
I then turned to scissors—something we take so much for granted and something which is necessary to daily living. Apparently this useful tool was invented in ancient Egypt back around 1500 BCE while another simpler version of the scissors turned up in Mesopotamia 3,000 to 4,000 years ago! So much for the scissors– but surely, the computer only arrived with the 20th century? But, no. I learned that the Antikythera mechanism supposedly the earliest mechanical analog computer, goes back to 100 BCE!
As for books, there is the Epic of Gilgamesh—the oldest known literary work—which 3,000 years ago was written in Babylonia and was later buried in the jumbled ruins of a Mesopotamian palace until 1840, when it was unearthed near Mosul by an archeologist.
That says a lot for the power and endurance of the written word. But here is a footnote: it has been said that there is really but one plot in the entire world, and that is the struggle of good against evil. So perhaps the plots that we labor over and write and rewrite with pain and pleasure have been thought of and written in a time much older than we can even imagine.
So much for my plot. Ah, well. There is another slice of cheesecake in the fridge.
All that is written…
Was it thought of long ago
Before we were born?