neanderthals developed tools

Math, science, history… | Day 125

Yesterday I unpacked the first three scientific phenomena from The Big Bang Theory theme song. Today it’s time for the second part!

Neanderthals developed tools

The closest extinct human relative, Neanderthals (Homo neanderthlensis) roamed the Eurasian continent about 200,000 years ago. Short, stocky, with big noses, they were adapted to wintry climates, but modern humans, who arrived from Africa, still replaced Neanderthals roughly 40,000 years ago. The species did indeed use tools made out of stone and wood, although their technology hardly changed over hundreds of thousands of years. The first evidence of stone tool use actually dates back far beyond Neanderthals – to early transitional human species in East Africa about 2.5 million years ago.

We built a wall

There have been many, many, many walls in the history of humankind,  however it’s quite certain that the song refers to the Great Wall of China -particularly because the TV show’s opening features a picture of it. The Great Wall wasn’t one project – it was actually a series of  rammed-earth fortifications started some 2,300 years ago during the reign of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. The construction spanned centuries, as the last contributions to the wall were built out of stone during the Ming Dynasty era in the 16th century. Even though parts of it have been destroyed for various reasons, the estimated length is close to 9,000 kilometres.

By the way, you can’t really see the Great Wall of China form space. Sorry.

We built the pyramids

Ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamia to Peru, were building pyramids all over the place, and for long stretches of time these remained the largest structures on Earth. However, the most famous pyramids are inarguably the Egyptian ones still standing in Giza today. The largest of these, the Pyramid of Khufu, was a tomb for the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Khufu. Today the pyramid stands at 138 metres tall, and it was built roughly 4,500 years ago.  In fact, for over 3,800 years it remained the tallest man-made structure on Earth Which makes it way older than the Great Wall, and therefore it should come first in the lyrics. You know, if you want to nitpick on the chronology.

So, there you go! Six interesting phenomena crammed into one song verse. There are more lyrics to the song, in case someone wants me to continue. Let me know in the comments.

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