Uncovering the Surprising Cultural History of Our Everyday Habits
Do you ever wonder why humans have always had the same basic daily habits? From getting up in the morning and brushing your teeth at night, to eating certain foods for breakfast and preparing meals with family and friends throughout the day.
Most of us assume that these are just things that we do, without questioning where they come from.
In A Million Years In A Day by Greg Jenner, readers can learn more about the cultural history behind everyday routines.
Discover how the seemingly insignificant actions we take today can be traced back through human history and rooted in ancient civilizations.
For example, you will see how there is reason to believe that dogs may always have been man’s best friend, or even why refusing a dinner could have had grave consequences back in Babylonian Bronze Age!
And did you know that Kellogg’s can be considered a lucky mistake…? With this incredible insight into past traditions, you’ll discover how your current daily habits are part of a much older story.
The Human Need for Timekeeping is as Ancient as the World Itself – and Breakfast is No Exception
Timekeeping and using the toilet have been around since the Stone Age.
Evidence dates back thousands of years, with some findings going as far back as 30,000 years ago.
The world’s oldest calendar was found in Le Placard in the Dordogne region and is made out of eagle bone, featuring scatch marks that charted the waxing of the moon from new to full.
Then there were ancient Egyptians who used sundials to tell time and track stars for a day-of-the-week indication.
Even toilets date back this far – Stone Age sanitation had people just piling waste in a courtyard.
Then around 4,500 years ago came advanced systems from Harappan societies in modern-day Pakistan, featuring sewers and even a seat!
Though things may have changed over time, it’s amazing to see how many human history staples still exist today.
A Look at the Long History of Breakfast, Hygiene, and Human Companionship
When you think about it, each of the ingredients in your morning breakfast have a deep, rich history.
Cereal was born in 1894 when Will Kellogg tried to create a substitute for bread.
He was successful and created corn flakes!
Bread has been around since 10,000 BC during the Neolithic era.
Fried eggs were popularized by ancient Egyptians at 1400 BC – many centuries before our time!
But recently we recognize how important hygiene is and the necessary need for us to include washing routines into our lives.
Ancient Greeks and Romans understood this concept well and adopted public baths for everyone to use as early as antiquity.
Unfortunately for Europe, some French thinkers foolishly claimed that wearing a linen cloth could be used as an adequate replacement for baths when bathing actually protects against dirt getting into our bodies through pores with secretions or sweat.
Luckily this false approach did not persist and now taking baths is back in style – thank goodness!
So while you take your dog out on its morning walk – enjoy the knowledge that your breakfast staples have been around generations upon generations and that modern hygiene is here today thanks to those who saw fit to preserve it’s importance.
A Long History: How We Came to Cherish Our Pets and Read Newspapers
Keeping pets and sharing news is not a new concept for humans.
For instance, archaeologists have found evidence of humans and dogs having a relationship going all the way back to 32,000 years ago in Goyet’s Cave in Belgium.
Young wolf cubs were likely caught very young in order to be domesticated.
Humans also had a close relationship with cats starting millennia ago, the ancient Egyptians even worshipped them as they believed they were living symbols of their goddess of warfare, Bastet.
Not only this but humans also used a messaging system powered by human couriers using wax tablets to inform others about events from one place to another over the centuries.
It wasn’t until 1605 when Johann Carolus published his collection of handwritten reports from far reaches of the Holy Roman Empire with the huge title of “Account of All Distinguished and Commemorable News” that real printed newspapers came around and with it began impacting society in an entirely new way.
How Trousers and T-Shirts Went from Functional Clothes to Fashion Statements
Clothing has always been a part of human culture, but the start of our species wearing clothes began in the Stone Age.
Evidence of sewing needles dating back as far as 60,000 years were discovered, showing that clothing was being constructed in the prehistoric period.
One of the best-preserved samples is cloths that were found on Otzi the Iceman, who lived 5,250 years ago and was found in the Ötztal Alps.
These early pieces of clothing took different forms than what we wear today.
Tunics were popular during ancient Greece and Rome – trousers only became common apparel at the beginning of the 19th Century.
T-shirts too weren’t popular until much later; sailors during that time wore white flannel undershirts but it wasn’t until Marlon Brando flaunted them in his movie A Streetcar Named Desire when T-shirts finally gained attention and became an iconic wardrobe piece.
So it goes to show that even though our ancestors have been wearing clothes for centuries now, trousers and T-shirts are still relatively modern inventions!
Celebrating History Through Eating and Drinking Together
The practice of gathering together to enjoy a meal has been around since the Stone Age, when people would come together near the fireplace to share food.
The Babylonians during the Bronze Age even made dinner into an important ritual, with business partners breaking bread and swapping wine and salt to signify their new partnership.
Likewise, drinking alcohol has been widely observed for centuries as well.
Archaeological discoveries suggest that Stone-Age humans consumed fermented fruits containing alcoholic sugars, and that people have been producing their own alcohol ever since 9,000 years ago.
Wine was part of common culture for Ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans alike.
Clearly, eating together and drinking alcohol have been widespread customs throughout history for many different reasons—not just because it’s fun but also because it can create strong social bonds between people.
Although we don’t always realize it today (particularly when we stay up too late!), these rituals still remain deeply rooted in our lives.
Ancient Inventions Give Us a Glimpse of Our Ironic History of Modern Conveniences
It’s amazing to think that some of the most modern conveniences have been around for centuries, if not longer.
As it turns out, dental care began in the Stone Age and alarm clocks may also have been an ancient invention.
Evidence from Mehrgarh in Pakistan indicate that Stone-Age dentistry existed, with tiny 0.5 mm to 3.5 mm holes found in teeth that were likely drilled with a flint-tipped bow-drill.
Furthermore, a 6,500-year-old jawbone discovered in Slovenia hints at what may have been the world’s first filling – one made from beeswax resin.
The Chinese are also thought to be responsible for inventing the first toothbrush – using pig bristles tied into bone handles during the Tang Dynasty (7th & 8th Century CE).
The conclusion of the book A Million Years In a Day is that, although it may seem like modern life has greatly advanced from our early ancestors’ lives, many of our habits and everyday objects still hold on to their roots that date back thousands of years.
This could range from our affinity for alcohol and pets to the simple toothbrush.
The purpose of this book is to remind us where we came from and how little things have changed over the millennia.
This can help us to gain perspective on how far we have come, while also appreciating the wisdom of those before us.