What neat things are younger than 3,200 years old?
June 9, 2020 7:03 PM   Subscribe

What neat inventions and very important ancient historical events are younger than 3,200 years old?

I have a game where a character is approximately 3,200 years old. From the Trojan War, to be specific. (1100 BC approximately) She frequently likes to put her age in perspective by naming things that she is older than. For example, "I'm older than Rome. All of it."

Also, gunpowder, saddles, catapults, and technically, the Iron Age. She's also over 4,000,000 hours old, so fun facts like that are quite good as well.

What other things are younger than her? I know the obvious things like cars and airplanes, but I'm curious about what unexpected things she's older than.

Thank you!
posted by Jacen to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Broccoli was bred more recently.

The first grammatical system (it was in India).

I lived in Ethiopia and the site Lalibela (rolls off the tongue nicely) is younger than that.

Some fun ones here!
posted by maya at 7:18 PM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


According to Wikipedia Polynesia, New Zealand, and Madagascar had no human inhabitants 3200 years ago.
posted by XMLicious at 7:29 PM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Older than lemons.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:41 PM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Not quite in the form you're after, but she's probably seen Halley's Comet over forty times.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:42 PM on June 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Older than coins.
posted by firechicago at 7:49 PM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


Well, she's older than Jesus, Muhammad, Confucius, and Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama). She's not older than Judaism, but she is older than the writing of the oral Torah.

From maya's excellent link, she's older than toilet paper, zero, paper money, buttons, soda water, baking powder, and canned food.

She's older than tea.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:55 PM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Older than the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (older than all of the Seven Wonders except the pyramids, actually).

She's older than the Parthenon. No, not that one. The old one.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:01 PM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


She's significantly older than the toothbrush.
posted by pdb at 8:15 PM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


She's older than Mälaren, one of the largest lakes in Sweden. It used to be a bay of the Baltic Sea, but post-glacial rebound has raised its surface above sea level and now it's a freshwater lake.
posted by theory at 8:17 PM on June 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


She's older than the codex which what we now typically call a book, a bound collection of pages. Writing in her time would have existed as scrolls, tablets, or a variety of other methods depending on where she's actually from.
posted by acidnova at 8:29 PM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


She's about the same age as the alphabet.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 8:37 PM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


She's older than the Sea Peoples and therefor might have insight into who the heck they were.
posted by Mitheral at 8:55 PM on June 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


The Mesoamerican pyramids.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:08 PM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]




She’s older than taxes.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:28 PM on June 9, 2020


Whups, scratch that. I was looking at 3200 BC.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:29 PM on June 9, 2020


The Shang dynasty collapsed and was succeeded by the Zhou dynasty in 1046 BCE.
posted by thebots at 10:39 PM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


Older than Lasagne. Older than dry Martinis...
posted by Namlit at 11:12 PM on June 9, 2020


Same age as Zarathustra, and Aeneas. Older than Buddhism; older than some of the Vedas.

Older than Carthage (although there are some date issues there; Dido founded Carthage not that long before Aeneas, fleeing the Troy, happened by). Older than Elijah so even though Moses has already wandered the desert, no Passover Seder would have yet saved a seat for Elijah.

Older than the Olympics, than the Sphinx, than woodblock printing. Than grammar, if you take the first Sanskrit written grammar as the beginning of grammar.

If we trust Wikipedia , then older than the saddle, coins, and the crossbow. Than gears, the water wheel, and (crystallized) sugar.

There’s also some fun to be had with looking further back in history— for events that were closer to her birth than today is. She was born closer to the founding of Ur than to today. Closer to when the pyramids were built than to when the Empire State Building was; same with Stonehenge. Closer to the start date of the Mayan long count calendar than to now (speaking of, she somewhat recently achieved the age of 8 bʼakʼtuns. Regular humans never get to 1, so that’s nice). She has lived through more than half of recorded history, since the invention of writing wasn’t until c 3400BCE. And she actually is older than the invention of writing in the Western Hemisphere. She was born closer to when the world first had 100 million people (c 1600 BCE) than to when it had 1 billion (Around 1800). (Interesting that only one digit has been added over her life so far.. but since we are now at 7.5 billion another may be coming soon; if you want to go back in time to when the population was 10million you might need to be pre agriculture. So adding digits is rare!)

She isn’t a tree, but trees as old as her (she is only about half as old as the oldest tree) have an interesting carbon dating problem. Since the half life of C14 is only about 5700 years, and only the outer layer of a tree gets new input of C14 from exchange with the environment, a tree of her age will have about two thirds as much C14 in its core as it does at its edge. I don’t know how humans exchange C14 with environment but maybe her bones or some other static body part would have an interesting carbon dating signature?

As far as astronomy goes, she predates the first European prediction of a solar eclipse (Herodotus says that was Thales in 585 BC). And although she has seen Haley’s comet many times, no one *recorded* that they had seen it until 240 BC (in China). She’s seen several supernovae, as per this list, including the one that formed the Crab Nebula (SN1054); she isn’t really older than the nebula though because its light took some time to get to the earth. (I would say a long time, but it’s only a couple times longer than her current lifespan). She saw SN1006 too, which is the brightest recorded stellar event.

In medical history, she’s seen smallpox both arise and be eradicated per the CDC; well, depends on her exact age I suppose, as there’s a mummy from here era with pockmarks that are the earliest evidence of smallpox; National Geographic gives a different date than Wikipedia (specifically the mummy of Ramses V from 1157 BC).

She isn’t older than cancer, or even medical recognition of cancer, since the
Ebers papyrus Is from 1550 BCE. Her head may be older than the idea of ideas in your head, as the first Greek text to discuss the brain as where thoughts happened wasn’t until 6th century BC. But Greeks aren’t a great source so perhaps others knew were knowing happens. She may not have known, though.

Yersinia pestis may be older than her (says Wikipedia but she has outlived at least three plague epidemics caused by it.

In short, your character is old. But you knew that.
posted by nat at 4:02 AM on June 10, 2020 [4 favorites]


She is about 10^11 seconds old, or about 100 gigaseconds.
Also around 12.9 Pluto years.
posted by nat at 4:29 AM on June 10, 2020 [4 favorites]


My favorite Dr. Who line is when he looks at Clara and says "I'm old enough to be your messiah."
posted by gideonfrog at 5:19 AM on June 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


Another angle: She's not quite old enough to have seen mammoths (the last of the mammoths died out about 3,800 years ago), but she's certainly old enough to have seen aurochs, Aepyornis, dodos, and not only moas but also the gigantic eagle that preyed on them. She's old enough to have eaten (or used) silphium.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:19 AM on June 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


This is amazing and every single one of these ideas and facts are amazing. I will be handing out best answers like candy in a few days. Yall are truly the best.
posted by Jacen at 5:31 AM on June 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


I thought that she was older than zero, but this wikipedia entry says otherwise so maybe that whole thing about zero being invented in the middle ages is an urban legend.

A recent NYTimes Magazine article has this quote:
What about the species that still exist, but as a shadow of what they once were? In “The Once and Future World,” the journalist J.B. MacKinnon cites records from recent centuries that hint at what has only just been lost: “In the North Atlantic, a school of cod stalls a tall ship in midocean; off Sydney, Australia, a ship’s captain sails from noon until sunset through pods of sperm whales as far as the eye can see. ... Pacific pioneers complain to the authorities that splashing salmon threaten to swamp their canoes.” There were reports of lions in the south of France, walruses at the mouth of the Thames, flocks of birds that took three days to fly overhead, as many as 100 blue whales in the Southern Ocean for every one that’s there now. “These are not sights from some ancient age of fire and ice,” MacKinnon writes. “We are talking about things seen by human eyes, recalled in human memory.”
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:10 AM on June 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


She's old enough to have changed the diapers of The 2000 Year Old Man.

(If you're not familiar with this classic Carl Reiner / Mel Brooks routine, you should track down a complete copy and listen to it. Archive.org has some excerpts, as does youtube.)
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:14 AM on June 10, 2020


Depending on whether you want historical fact versus mythology, your character is only slightly younger than the hand saw, according to Greek mythology. The hand saw was (mythologically) invented by Talos (also called Perdix), the nephew of Daedalus. Daedalus was so jealous of his nephew's genius that he killed him, and for this crime was exiled to Crete, where he eventually built the Labyrinth for the Minotaur. The Minotaur was of course slain by Theseus, whose son Acamas was one of the Greeks who hid inside the Trojan Horse. So when your character was a young woman, the hand saw may have been a newfangled idea that conservative carpenters looked at with distrust.

In actual history, the hand saw is probably a couple thousand years older than her, but the mythology is fun.
posted by biogeo at 11:18 AM on June 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


the pole star was different when she was born. she's seen at least one other star besides polaris be used as the navigational "north star".
posted by poffin boffin at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2020 [7 favorites]


Also notable: She has been *old* for 3100 years. When Confucius was born, she was old. She was old at the start of the Roman empire, and still old when it fell.
posted by ManInSuit at 5:02 PM on June 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


She's older than geometry... or, more specifically, the formalization of geometry under a logical/axiomatic system by Euclid.

Similarly, she's older than democracy, if we take Athenian democracy to be the starting point.

Despite not being older than Judaism itself, she would be older than David, The First Temple, and the Kingdom of Israel. Obliquely, she may also be older than the 7-day week, depending on whether you trace it back to Judaism or further back to the Babylonians.

As for other religions and belief systems, she's older than Buddhism, most parts of what we recognize today as Hinduism (including elements like the Bhagavad Gita and the practice of yoga), Shinto, Taoism (at least as synthesized and developed by Laozi), and (Western) astrology.

She was around for both the construction and destruction of six of the Seven Wonders of the World, all but the Great Pyramid of Giza (and assuming the Hanging Gardens of Babylon actually existed).

While she might be about as old as an alphabet (maybe Phoenician?), she is definitely older than the Greek and Latin alphabets we recognize today. In fact, I suspect she would be older than every writing system in current use. Certainly older than Arabic, Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana, Devanagari, Coptic, Hangul, Khmer, (post-Seal script) Chinese, and (post-Biblical) Hebrew. She's also older than punctuation.

While she's not older than cheese in general, I suspect she's older than pretty much any variety of cheese we might commonly encounter today, except for maybe stuff like paneer, ricotta, and cottage cheese. For example, she's older than cheddar, blue cheese, parmesan, buffalo mozzarella, halloumi, emmentaler, and camembert.

In addition to the aforementioned broccoli, she's also older than Brussels sprouts, orange-colored carrots, bananas (at least the commonly available Cavendish ones), and grapefruits. If we get into specific varieties of fruits & vegetables, she's way, way older than Russet and Yukon Gold potatoes as well as pretty much every currently available variety of apple. She's also older than mayo and ketchup.

She's older than chess, mancala, and probably go (depending on whether you go by the legends or the earliest known artefacts & written references).

She's older than table forks, definitely in Europe although there might be some uncertainty about the use of table forks in ancient China.
posted by mhum at 9:13 PM on June 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


She's dramatically older than any language in use today. In fact, even if she never left her hometown she has probably become fluent in a remarkable number of mutually-unintelligible languages.
posted by Tehhund at 1:41 PM on June 14, 2020


Yeah, she's intimately familiar with how languages come into existence. As the thousand-year-old Thor said in Infinity War, "All words are made up."
posted by straight at 2:37 PM on June 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


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