Engineering in Time: The Systematics of Engineering History by A A Harms

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By A A Harms

Creation to Engineering; background of Engineering; modern Context of Engineering

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Egypt is often called the Gift of the Nile and this for good reason. This long and stately river possesses remarkable regularity with an annual silt-laden flood providing natural large-scale irrigation and natural fertilization which, together with a sub-tropical climate, provided for several Chap03 April 7, 2004 16:52 WSPC/Book Trim Size for 9in x 6in Ancient Engineering Chap03 33 crops a year. With such an effortless supply of food available, Egypt came to possess a substantial excess of human labor which its rulers used for the construction of increasingly elaborate temples, laboriously hewn into rock and with large wall surfaces and tall stone columns expertly decorated with hieroglyphics.

Widespread prehistoric tool-making became especially evident with skeletal finds in the 1930s near Beijing, China. This so-called Peking Man, estimated to have lived about 500,000 BP, was short with a sloping forehead and a brain volume of about 1000 cm3 . Chipped stones and ashes from that site suggest that both stone tools and fire making were known to this early cave dweller. A prior find — occurring about 1860 in the NeanderValley of Germany and subsequently confirmed elsewhere in Europe, Middle East, and North Africa — has identified Neanderthal Man.

A closer examination of the evolution of the works of these prehistoric stone-age tool makers also suggests a primitive instance of engineering synthesis: a sharp-edged elongated flaked stone tool could be tied with animal sinew to a sturdy wooden pole thereby forming a lance or a spear. Similarly, a stone chopping tool could be fastened to a short wooden club thereby forming an axe or hammer. Prehistoric humans thus discovered that something new and ingenious could be made by a suitable combination of something old according to the primal progression N(t) wood stone → E(t) sinew selecting fitting → D(t) binding spear lance .

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