For thousands of years, storytelling has always been part and parcel of human life, for a significant proportion of human beginning folklore has been passed down from one generation to another by word of mouth. Every evening just after sunset, elders would gather the children around the fireplace to tell them stories of their ancestors. Storytelling was used as a pas time as well as an educational tool, some cultural values and norms were skillfully woven into the stories so that they can become important lessons for the children, learning them while still young molded them into the types of adults the elders want to see run their communities someday.
Folklore in Oral traditions has shaped religious beliefs in many parts of the world for millennia, the stories taught children the deities that their ancestors worshipped as well as the spirits that they paid tribute to. They prayed to these deities for provision and for protection, just before the growing season, the people would pray to their deities asking them to make their crops grow well so that there would be a bumper harvest and people would have plenty of food to eat. And after harvest some portions of the early harvest were offered as an offering to the deities as appeasement so that they can continue to provide abundance to the local community. These deities were usually a family of gods, so we would gladly say that they were mostly polytheists. Most ancient religions were polytheists. For example, the ancient Greeks adored a family of gods, like a modern world families, thee is the father, the mother, the children, brothers and sisters, cousins and other members of the extended family, there were also alliances and rivalries among those family members just as we have here on earth. A good example is when Zeus, the Ancient Greek god of thunder and Lightning banished his brother Poseidon into the underworld because of a sibling rivalry.
Oral traditions provided a way of Record Keeping that was unprecedented at the time. The ancient People had very good memories and had to recite very long stories word by word and each child was therefore expected to do the same, folklore was the community’s unrecorded treasure. It was everything the community needed to stay alive. Other than religious purposes it served the purpose of recording incidences of heroism and legends, very often a community will portray itself on the heroic side while conversely portraying the rival group as nothing but a bunch of cowards. The elders always made sure that the great battles were remembered for all time, even when there were only small victory against the enemy tribe, the narrators would always exaggerate incidences of their own victories and therefore it served as a tool of spreading the community’s propaganda in the minds of the youth. The Greek mythology is a good example in this scenario. The Greek tales of the Iliad and the odyssey are a perfect example of oral traditional folk tales that later became written literature.
Oral tradition also helped in the preservation of other useful society skills such as preparation of certain foods, ingredients and specific uses, young people also learnt about may medicinal plants such as herbs and certain weeds. Through storytelling youngsters get to learn about the health benefits of a certain plant such that should anyone fall ill in the community then they will be in a position to provide a cure for their family members.
For all forms of ancient ways of ancient stories, rock art remains the most enduring of them all, on some continents such as Europe and Africa, some rock art has been discovered that is tens of thousands years old. That’s much longer than our recorded history goes. In the caves of the mountains on some open rocks paintings of animals and humans have been found that tells many stories of the people long gone, people recorded their exploits of hunting wild animals, fishing in the rivers and lakes, gathering wild grain and some aspects of domestic life such as housekeeping. The ancient peoples used a mixture of plants residues to produce a variety of colors such as red and black which they smear onto the walls of the caves. But there is little humidity and little erosion due to exposure to the outside then the artwork can be preserved for many countless generations. In Australia Aboriginal art has been found on the rocks of the Australian outback depicting peoples and wild animals some of which are now extinct. They tell the stories of the average aboriginal way of life, how he went about his daily routine over ten thousand years ago. Aborigine peoples of Australia have lived on that continent for tens of thousands of years, and finding those pieces of that that are millennia old is an archeological treasure. Because of the unfortunate history of the past few centuries, the aborigine people of Australia have gone through a lot of hardship, the mass migration of European settlers into the continent a few centuries ago almost completely destroyed this ancient community. They brought with them deadly diseases that almost wiped out the natives because the indigenous peoples had not developed immunity to those diseases, there were also cruel white rulers that ordered extermination campaigns against the aborigines, they didn’t like their dark skin and therefore tried to wipe them out from the continent so that more land could be open for white farmers and settlers. So, rock art and some carvings are invaluable treasures to the aborigine peoples. Because through them, they get to tell the story of Australia in their own words.
Another community that has left behind a lot of valuable rock art are the San Peoples of Southern Africa. This includes the modern-day Peoples of Khoisan and the Khoikhoi. These are their actual names, though they are popular around the world as the ”Bushmen.” there is no African tribe called Bushmen, they have their own languages, cultures, customs and traditions. The term ”Bushman” was a derogative word used by the European settlers to refer to the San Peoples of southern Africa. Since they are hunters and gatherers and spend most of their time foraging in the bush for wild animals to kill and fruits to collect, the European explorers thought that the word bushman was the best term that should be referred to them since they didn’t know how to call them at the time. Yet that name has stuck to them to this very day, whenever the San People’s go even within Africa itself, they often find themselves being referred to as the Bushmen.
Their ancient lifestyles as well as their current ones still living in the bush has been made popular by Hollywood films. Movies like ”Animals are beautiful People” and ”The Gods must be crazy” have given the Bushman Global Fame. Shot in the Deserts of Kalahari and Namib where the San Peoples currently call home, the films show the pristine nature of African Wilderness as well as a cohesive relationship between the San Peoples and their surroundings, they have developed complex languages which consist of a click Sound and some little whistling. Despite their subhuman portrayal in Hollywood films, the San people are among the most hospitable in the world, they share everything with one another even with strangers, they share their food and water. They are a kind gentle people that deserve to be treated with respect.
Incredible rock art has been found in the Kalahari and Namib deserts, these are areas that have been inhabited by the San People for millennia, according to the art engraved on the rocks and caves of the area, the Namib and the Kalahari used to be vast grassland savannahs thousands of years ago, there are depictions of the Big Game like the Giraffes, Elephants, buffaloes, antelope and some water animals like the hippos and crocodiles, Rock art found in the Sahara desert proves that the Sahara wasn’t a desert thousands of years ago but a vast green landscape full of wetlands, rivers and lakes, savannahs and some woodland. The presence of millennia old drawings of water animals like hippos and crocodiles proves that the landscape was once covered with rivers and lakes, full of all kinds of birds and land animals.
Same in Europe, some rock art paintings have recently been discovered that are many millennia old. There are drawings of long-lost prehistoric ice age creatures that no longer exist today. They shine there on the walls like creatures frozen in time. They tell very old stories that are full of fun and adventure.
Rock art has served as a notebook to the changing times of the Planet. Creatures and cultures that are long extinct get to have a voice through the art that is now engraved onto the walls of the caves of the mountains and hills of the world. Their remote locations keeps them preserved for such a long time that they always remain hidden until when discovered at the right time, and put into their right places in the history museums.
Pottery is the other thing that had been used as a preservative of stories, legendary tales are written or drawn onto the walls of Cups, plates, Pots, Spoons and almost every other kitchen item in the home. Whenever there is a natural calamity that destroys the family home, these items often survive and get to live longer than their owners, they get to tell their stories to many different generations. A good example is the Greek pottery art that has filled the museums of many modern-day colleges.
Writing evolved independently in many different parts of the world, civilizations evolved independently from one another in the last dozen millennia, most of these civilizations emerged from areas like, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Iraq, Ancient India and Ancient China.
A special type of writing evolved in Ancient Egypt called hieroglyphs. This is the use of pictures to represent thoughts and ideas. Hieroglyphs can also be referred to s pictographic. The Egyptians invented this mode of writing several thousands of years ago, writing was used to serve both religious purposes as well as to record the daily activities of a community. The authors of Egypt were a special class of people whose job was to record everything they are required to; they were called the scribes. A scribe held very high position in the society because many people at the time could not read. They were directly under the command of the Pharaohs, they were used by the pharaohs to record their military exploits and spread their own royal propaganda.
The Chinese also made their own writing techniques that were similar to those of the Egyptians but developed their own style, their alphabet often includes characters of simplified pictographic that translates to words at the end of the sentence. Developed in the Yangze River valley, The Chinese alphabet has more than two thousand characters all of which you have to learn in order to read and write the language correctly.
The ancient Sumer was a precursor to other ancient civilizations like the Assyrians, Babylonians then later Greeks and Romans. It developed in the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys thousands of years ago. The Sumerians developed a system of writing called the cuneiform, which were simplified symbols to represent words and sounds. With the help of their scribes, they wrote on wet clay tablets which were later left out to dry in the sun or burnt in a furnace. The Sumerian royal libraries were always full of clay tablets. Records of all kinds filled the libraries ranging from religious, commercial, legal and entertainment purposes. The most famous surviving Sumerian tablet is the one that tells the Legend of Gilgamesh, it is a legend that has similar elements in other cultures around the world.
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