The submission, I agree is the best of HN; the comments, however, are the worst.
Tons of 'bikeshedding' comments offering flippant uninformed analyses that belittle established and well-researched theories. By offering 'back of a cocktail napkin' comments like 'I think such and such theory doesn't get enough attention because of my random opinion', or 'I think such and such likely happened, based on me just ruminating about this for a few minutes, versus doing years of research on'; the comments are tacitly disrespecting the work researchers whose specialty this is put into formulating theories.
We HN users need to learn to just say 'we don't know', instead of playing internet experts in every single discipline a given submission is about.
People enjoy talking about the stuff they read. Discussion is part of how one learns.
If you don't find value in reading non-expert commentary, then don't read it.
> When something makes little sense it's probably based in religion.
> Maybe nobody thought of it so far.
Plus a good handful of comments that don't acknowledge the countervailing evidence in the Wikipedia article much less evidencing any familiarity with the broader literature. Not gonna quibble about whether "belittling" is the right word, but there's certainly some casual hubris in some of these threads.
Bigger picture: it isn't about enjoying amateur commentary or not. There's arguably been a rise, with the democratization of information access, of poorly-grounded self-confidence about understanding every topic one encounters. This attitude, for example, rejects mask-wearing on the grounds that the virus is too small to be caught by the mask (ignoring that the virus is carried in larger droplets/particles). An intelligent person armed with a factoid sometimes needs a reminder like the comment you replied to.
deliciously ironic, considering your continued focus on exactly the wrong thing when it comes to mask effectiveness and policy. you're looking at the base of a tree and trying to draw conclusions about the forest by assuming frictionless cylindrical planes.
What is the right focus? Is this a running discussion between you two?
Cloth masks are spit shields, nothing more. As spit shields, there's good evidence for their effectiveness. I've seen no convincing evidence that they're good for anything else.
> they've become a totem for cargo-culting all sorts of inane rituals and behaviors
I was just in the hospital for a week for an unrelated illness. Every person I encountered there said they had been vaccinated, yet they still insisted on masking everyone, even when it made communication difficult.
I'm a little terrified that this madness won't ever end-- that the bureaucratic fervor for masks, distancing, and various degrees of lockdowns will emerge again in response to bad flu seasons, for example.
but with corona, while it's not undeniably confirmed yet, it's quite likely that vaccines dramatically shorten the window of infectiousness, allowing most of the vaccinated to stop wearing masks after a short window (~couple days, iirc). yet, the general recommendation remains that they be worn by the vaccinated public indefinitely. the cdc apparently is now literally doubling-down by recommending two masks be worn by everyone, completely ignoring the human social dynamics that overwhelm the assumed threat model implicit with masks.
if masks--or lockdowns for that matter--were dramatically effective, we'd see it in all the data we've fervently collected and analyzed over the past year. at best, we've found weak correlations all around (i.e., marginal effects), that suffer from unspecificity, because it's hard to unambiguously isolate independent variables from confounding ones in real world epidemiological data.
On the other side there are people who associate masks with the political left, and would be so humiliated to appear cowed by "liberal" authority figures, that they'd refuse to wear a mask even if they were convinced of the medical risk.
I think I'm coming to the conclusion that the majority of mask adherence and refusal isn't rational, but rather religious, in the sense that it's shaped by beliefs that are immune to evidence.
The majority have nothing of value to say, so will post nothing. The only ones who can realistically offer comments on this article are experts and those who will offer "back of a cocktail napkin" comments (as you put it), and the latter group is so much larger than the former.
But it's beside the point because HN isn't there to add anything to actual research, nor is it going to. It's for people to discuss random interesting Internet things, it's for entertainment. But there does seem to be a nerd contingent that can't accept that it's entertainment and have to believe its some kind of intellectual pursuit.
So? Besides flippant comments (who don't matter anyway), this can also produce valuable new developments.
People who establish new theories and findings about X aren't often the same people who have well examined and respect the old theories on X.
To quote Max Planck (and similar to Kuhn's idea of the same process): "a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
The Ise Shrine is a good example:
The shrine buildings at Naikū and Gekū, as well as the Uji Bridge, are rebuilt every 20 years as a part of the Shinto belief of the death and renewal of nature and the impermanence of all things and as a way of passing building techniques from one generation to the next. The twenty-year renewal process is called the Shikinen Sengū. Although the goal of Sengū is to get the shrine built within the 20-year period, there have been some instances, especially because of war, where the shrine building process is postponed or delayed. The original physical purpose of the Sengu process is unknown. However, it is believed that it serves to maintain the longevity of the shrine, or possibly as a gesture to the deity enclosed within the shrine. Historically, this cyclical reconstruction has been practiced for many years in various shrines throughout Japan, meaning that it is not a process exclusive to Ise. The entire reconstruction process takes more or less 17 years, with the initial years focusing on project organization and general planning, and the last 8 years focusing on the physical construction of the shrine.
I can’t find any links on the concept in general but here is a somewhat related one:
On another note, it's funny that this comes up a day after the Wandavision finale.
I guess if it was done as early as 6000 BC then canons are out of the question, but it could still be a quick way to deny an aggressor shelter? That would explain why there are no corpses found in the houses.
Of course, another possibility was disease. They didn't know why the disease was happening, so they burned everything except the people. It may even have worked sometimes, depending on the disease. I'm probably only thinking of this because I'm reading it in the middle of a pandemic, though.
> Fumigation: Another theory posits that the fires were used for sanitary reasons to smoke or fumigate a building, in order to get rid of pests, disease, insects, and/or witches. However, the evidence does not support this viewpoint. All of the structures within these settlements were completely burned and destroyed. Because the damage from the fire was almost total for the entire settlement, it would be illogical if fumigation was the only intent.
This is only a paradox is the burning was meant to rid the structures of something while remaining usable - something specific to fumigation.
Maybe the structures, and some of their contents, needed to be destroyed due to some unknown contaminating negative (black magic/spirits, insects/pests, disease) - maybe even the whole settlement?
This is just angry folks not want their family homes occupied by a national enemy. If we were seeing scorched earth, there'd be widespread destruction of roads, the power grid, any industrial facilities, and probably chemical posioning of any agricultural land
On another note, if these structures are essentially what the guy from the neolithic technology youtube channel gets up to, then maybe they just did it for fun. Guy looks like he's having the time of his life playing in the mud.
This is unconvincing. In most cultures, most of the time, people manage to pass down building skills without destroying everything they've built before.
I'm struggling to see any sense in the 20-year cadence cliff-edge for typical knowledge transfer.
It seems to me like it treats people as lacking the degree of intelligence and foresight needed to figure out that it's a good idea to pass building techniques along. As if back in the day people were only capable of understanding things if they were framed in a religious or supernatural way.
I just don't think people a couple of thousand years ago were so cognitively different from us. Not to mention that there's still overwhelming evidence of knowledge being passed down for non-religious purposes throughout history.
I think this speaks to your own prejudice against religion based on how Christianity is treated in the US. Religion isn't predominantly about supernaturality, it's about what works. Supernatural explanations of why it works almost don't matter, if it works.
Let me give an example. Christian morality seems to be to largely be about stabilising society. "Turn the other cheek" prevents cycles of revenge, for example. Does it matter if that's the case because you understand cycles of revenge and how they lead to more harm than the original offence, or because your priest told you that's the right thing to do? It would be ideal if everyone just understood these precepts from logic, but I don't see any structures for disseminating logical behaviour to the broad masses today either.
People thousands of years ago are the same people as us. I see plenty of truth in religion and I see plenty of falsehood in modern, supposedly "rational" modalities. I don't think the balance of how clear-thinking we are has changed at all.
> Christian morality seems to be to largely be about stabilising society. "Turn the other cheek" prevents cycles of revenge, for example.
Again, I think you might be mistaking the effect for the cause. While it may be true that applying the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount might lead to social stability, I don't think that's what Jesus intended exactly. I don't think he was doing social engineering, rather that he was really trying to convey his ideas of what a right and moral life would be. The fact that leading good lives as individuals leads to better societies is a fortunate corollary, not the main purpose.
Incidentally, if you think about it honestly, it's quite clear that Christianity didn't actually lead to particularly nice societies, once it became the politically dominant religion.
For the record I also need to mention I'm not American and was raised Christian (although I don't consider myself one anymore).
Then what is the purpose of leading a good life? In my mind, morality is precisely in order to stabilise society. I know we don't talk about it in those terms, but then we never really talk about the purpose behind good and evil. It's just "doing this is good, doing this is bad".
> Incidentally, if you think about it honestly, it's quite clear that Christianity didn't actually lead to particularly nice societies, once it became the politically dominant religion.
Compared to what? Today? Possibly not no (though I think we fail to acknowledge how much we lost in our transition to secularity), but compared to what came before Christianity was pretty great, as I understand. To be honest I lay a lot of the historical nastiness of Christianity at the feet of the Church rather than the teachings of Christ too, after all power does corrupt.
> For the record I also need to mention I'm not American and was raised Christian (although I don't consider myself one anymore).
I'm not either. But I do see nerd-culture (or tech-culture or whatever) as being broadly very dismissive of the value of religion, and generally having no understanding of it either. Funnily enough I was raised Atheist but am now a somewhat-practicing Buddhist.
The way I see it morality is an intrinsic human ability. This is not to say that all people are moral, but that all people, if they develop in a normal, stable environment, will naturally develop a certain morality that is actually not that different from one person to another. In this view morality doesn't really need to be taught and enforced by authority. Leading a good life is therefore the natural thing that people do.
> we fail to acknowledge how much we lost in our transition to secularity
I tend to agree, although for me what was lost with secularization is not so much morality, but important social institutions that fostered collaboration, charity, mutual understanding. Even when it's not lost, religion can be deeply perverted by the modern capitalist society - something like prosperity theology is an abomination to me.
> compared to what came before Christianity was pretty great
I recommend The Darkening Age for a sense of just how destructive early Christianity was.
> I do see nerd-culture (or tech-culture or whatever) as being broadly very dismissive of the value of religion, and generally having no understanding of it either
Here I also tend to agree, particularly when the dismissal of religion is tied in with scientism and perhaps even classism.
I actually strongly disagree with this. I think there are some moral values (obvious ones being like "don't murder your family/friends") (but then why would you, they are of practical value to most people) but if you look at, for example the Old Testament there's tons of murdering of other groups being approved by God. So clearly, moral values can change over time. Even across cultures you can see behaviours that one culture finds deeply offensive and the other is the norm. The stoning of women in the Middle East comes to mind. I believe this moral core of right/wrong is extremely cultural, not innately human.
> I tend to agree, although for me what was lost with secularization is not so much morality, but important social institutions that fostered collaboration, charity, mutual understanding. Even when it's not lost, religion can be deeply perverted by the modern capitalist society - something like prosperity theology is an abomination to me.
I think a central morality is something we've lost. So we're getting moral drift where cultural norms splinter into different factions of morality. Clearly, for example, cancel culture is not in line with redemption morality, which is a deeply Christian ideal.
Prosperity theology is messed up though. America's weird in how it seems to have adopted capitalism as a replacement or supplement to culture in some areas, rather than as a separate social concept.
> I recommend The Darkening Age for a sense of just how destructive early Christianity was.
I mean we all know that the Church in the Middle Ages was oppressive, I don't disagree with you there. Establishments seem to swing between good and bad.
> Here I also tend to agree, particularly when the dismissal of religion is tied in with scientism and perhaps even classism.
Yeah scientism gets my goat. HN being one of the worst culprits. I hated it before I adopted idealist metaphysics but now it's even worse because I'm more aware of the limits of both the idealised and in-reality scientific process than ever.
Americans don't talk about classism. Which is rather strange as they're very excited to talk about any other kind of -ism, some of which are deeply entwined with classism.
Training doesn't impart skills unless the theoretical knowledge is actually used. What better way to use it than to build a temple?
So comparing to the modern world, I know of one relative in the industry of building homes, but even that person has never "built" their own home, and none of my relatives have bought a newly built home. In other words, in our family the skill of building home is very barely there. We'd likely have to hire out. If, instead, when my parents bought the house I grew up in from my great grandparents, they'd torn it down and built a new one, then the skill would have only skipped one generation, but continue to be exercised within our family.
I like your idea. What do you think would be the first step to getting there?
I have a client in the controls systems space, a systems integrator that helps municipalities update the systems that keep the water running, and one concern that occurred to me while investigating their business requirements is how the systems they work on are becoming less and less able to recover from certain attacks as the components that make them work become purely digital and electronically controlled. Perhaps we should begin engraving the contents of wikipedia on clay tablets, just in case.
Take for example these (short) excerpts from an archaeological paper  from 2018 that discusses the farming strategy of large cities in the area from around 4000BCE. It seems to support the idea (again, my unscientific gut feel) that the spreading of agriculture from what we would today call the "Middle-East" to Europe happened by means of replacing people instead of people adopting new strategies (settling the so-called "pots or people" debate ).
 https://youtu.be/JTY9K1Q_Sbg?t=290 (apart from the specific timestamp, it's a fantastic talk about the origin and genetic makeup of Europeans in general)
AFAIK, it still practiced: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3613126/Travellers-...
It's either that or religion.
- You can ask me anything you want. I will grant it to you but give your neighbour twice as much.
to which the Pole answered:
- Please, God, gouge one of my eyes.
Pretty ambivalent, IMHO, if house burning could be punishment shrugged off as a very humbling tribute. I think it is very very unlikely that stuff like castration or even just flagalation had started out as a voluntary practice.
So, yeah. The way I know a similar joke in German: The two of you get two wishes and a lashing. What will it be? The first said, a pot of gold and please grease my back so it doesn't hurt so much. The other replied: Gimme the other dudes gold and bind him to my back.
Plenty of variation on that one and I probably misremember it as well.
Someone stubbing a toe, dropping something or not winning at a contest after bragging.
I've never seen it used for something serious in germany.
> Because the damage from the fire was almost total for the entire settlement, it would be illogical if fumigation was the only intent
What? If you had pests that were bad enough to warrant burning food stores, why take a risk on the other buildings?
Happy belated internatiinal women's day by the way
Regardless, I agree the logic is incomplete as stated. It's entirely possible if there was an easy way to replenish supplies (e.g. conducting such a burning right before harvest time or ample hunting/gathering grounds nearby) that such an approach would make sense.
Maybe they thought the old houses were C and the new ones would be Rust and this was the migration path :)
Also, if it was JS they wouldn’t have houses. Everything would be stored in matchboxes.
The difficulty required to sustain the caloric needs of a town and rebuild after complete destruction of food stores and shelter is immense, especially with only the help of pre-Bronze Age technology.
Burning down entire villages for fumigation even if you have a ready harvest is an extremely risk endeavor. It's no longer outright suicide, but you're still going to cause no shortage of hardship and potentially at least some lost lives.
This is coupled with the fact that pests and parasites were a pretty constant fact of ancient life and so finding, e.g. bed bugs, was kind of just something people dealt with.
Voluntarily and periodically razing entire towns for what amounts to sterilization is practically unheard of outside of the Burned House Horizon. Consider that even during various plague/Black Death breakouts, when disease was thought to be caused by various miasmas rather than infectious agents spread from person to person, and individual homes and personal property was readily burned, towns still were not being wholesale burned to the ground. That is even something as bad as a pestilence that could potentially kill half or more of your entire town's population still didn't warrant utter destruction of the town.
It's not suicide. But only just.
* the average lifespan was much shorter but it includes children mortality and once above the age of five a human had a good chance to reach retirement.
Anyway, that debate (to the extent it existed as a general thing) has been resolved. It's both. Violence, including burnings, is archaeologically well attested at numerous sites. Likewise, ritual destruction is both archeologically and culturally well-supported. There's debate about many particular sites, but even many of the smaller debates like man-corn aren't subjects of serious disagreement anymore.
Most interesting fact that stuck with me was they ground all their grains using rocks that were too soft, so bits of rock would get in all their food, quickly removing all the enamel from their teeth and rotting them away. I can’t imagine how painful that must have been. Surviving meant the children had to chew all the food for the adults and spit it out for them to eat.
E.g., from a quick search:
- Kailasa temple https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-asia/kailasa-... and http://www.indiagk.net/2014/06/kailash-temple-ellora-cave-te...
- Masroor temples https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masrur_Temples
My favorite is Petra city that has multiple large buildings carved right in the face of rock: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra
More for your list, that I visited back in the 1990s, are the Yungang Grottoes in Northern China: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yungang_Grottoes
(The N.I. Māori could grow kumara (sweet potato), but the growing area of kumara in South Island was limited to the east coast from Banks Peninsula northwards).
It is possible that a strong smell accrues over that time period and burning everything down is the only way they knew how to do this. Notice that the Jewish practice of putting lamb blood on your house door frame seems familiar here (albeit practically opposite).
Agriculture exhaust would've been viable theory if the houses weren't built immediately on the same place.
The current mode of "save everything forever" collapses unless you have tools to find the needles in the haystacks.
Neutral language would be to list raised objections, but instead there are direct claims and arguments. It feels very much like it is written with an academic agenda. I feel wikipedia usually is a lot better at requiring a Neutral presentation.
This is an interesting Wikipedia article. I think this area of the world and is history is generally very interesting and unique. We’re lucky today that is no longer behind The Iron Curtain and is worth a visit by and brave adventurers.
And when it comes to traditional architecture in Romania, it should be noted that the homes that are among the most celebrated today for their traditional craftsmanship are those built by the Transylvanian Saxons, i.e. neither Romanians nor Roma. I only mention this because I have seen tourists visit places in Romania and talk about Romanian this and Romanian that, when Romania is a multiethnic country and what they saw many have actually been by one of the other ethnicities.
As a Romanian, I regret to inform you that a lot of Romanians really don't like gipsies. This has always been the case, unfortunately.
Houses in my village and region do not use metal and don't have windows, and windows on the roof is a good idea because you get a lot of light in the attic, it is a lot of effort to go in the attic to spy on someone if you can do it from a window from a regular wall anyway.
The Romanians I've known (personally) are always careful to draw a hard and firm distinction between Romanians and Romany (the so-called "gypsies"). Far from being proud of it, they are quite angry when they get confused.
Just a thought from an armchair-anthropologist here.
Perhaps a chemical reaction transpired over the course of the typical duration of a Neolithic house before it burned?
Unless they built it and waited a few decades before burning it down... it's not the same thing.
Another idea is that perhaps more dung was used than we imagine?
In which case if the building was mostly made of fuel and less clay I could see it building up enough heat to vitrify the clay.
Mud walls often contain grass or other fibrous plants. Dung decomposes and crumbles. I expect that dung in walls will rot the plant fibers.
I can’t recommend his channel enough. His narrative of how normal people lived in the ancient times is really interesting.
Some kind of ritual to ward off something.
Good crop year, bad crop year, etc.
But seriously, I think it's primarily fumigation, war, and probably expanding families. Without large lodges, smaller structures were probably rebuilt or remodeled as families grew.