Technology = Out-of-the-box thinking in any culture
QHow did the Aztecs grow food in the swamps around the city of Tenochtitlan (known today as Mexico City)?
A They built chinampas, or artificial islands, by digging canals into the muddy swampland, piling up the muck into islands and reinforcing them with stakes and vines.
QWhy do traditional Chinese coins have a square hole in the middle?
AThe hole was put there by the first emperor of China, Shihuangdi (259-210 BCE), as an everyday reminder to people of his imperial authority. Shihuangdi also had his tomb guarded by an army made up of thousands of terra cotta soldiers.
QWhat agricultural method did the ancient Maya use that their descendants continue to use today?
ASlash-and-burn agriculture, or “swidden,” which involves rotating fields in and out of production. The fields are left fallow for 8-10 years and replanted after burning the vegetation that has grown on them in the meantime. Ash from the burned vegetation returns nutrients to the soil and helps tropical soils, typically low in nutrients, recover their fertility.
QWhy did the Aborigines invent the boomerang?
ASo they wouldn’t have to chase after their “hunting stick” when they went hunting.
QWhen did people first use biotechnology in the food industry?
AEgyptian brewers, 2,000 years ago, used the yeast microorganism to ferment barley to produce beer.
QWhy did Africans domesticate cattle and donkeys, but not zebras?
AZebras are vicious and hard to lasso because they have good peripheral vision.
QWhat modern piece of office equipment helped foil a coup attempt in the Soviet Union in 1991?
AThe fax (facsimile) machine. People found out about the coup attempt through faxed information and activists filled the streets of Moscow until the takeover attempt collapsed.
QWhat change in agricultural organization in the early 20th century resulted in widespread hunger and starvation in the Soviet Union?
A Collectivization – forcing peasants to combine their land holdings into giant farms and farm as a group.
QHow did Henry Ford reduce the time needed to build a car from 12 hours and 8 minutes in 1908 to 1 hour and 33 minutes in 1914?
ABy creating the moving assembly line.
QWhere were tattoos first seen?
ATattooing was practiced throughout the Pacific and first written about by Captain Cook in the 1700s. Master craftsmen and their assistants in Polynesia tattooed men and women, using fine bone chisels with teeth, which they dipped into pigment and tapped into the skin with a light mallet. It was probably connected with initiation to adulthood, a sign that the individual could withstand pain.
SOURCE for Q and As: “Technology in World History,” W. Bernard Carlson, ed., Oxford University Press, 2005
Listen to Bernie Carlson discuss “Technology in World History” at http://www.virginia.edu/topnews/releases2006/20060321CarlsonBook.html.