May 2013

The last weeks of class consisted of the three most important things in life: shelter, food and entertainment. For shelter, we learned to make bricks out of nothing more than dirt, water and hay that would build our pre-cement home. Though the bricks consisted of only three elements, it was an exhausting job nonetheless. Our class’s most difficult task was to loosen the tough, sunbaked dirt from the ground. Mixing the dirt with the water and hay was the easiest portion for us, but I can imagine it being the most difficult for the people of the past. We had hay in a bag and water from a hose. Instant water access is a relatively new luxury and the hay takes months to grow. People who used this brick making technique would have had to toil over the fields to cut a sufficient amount of grass.

Food and entertainment melded into one in the alcohol making processes. Beer, which was often the only form of potable water in the past, has deviated from its practical use and transitioned into a party beverage. We also made sake out of fermented rice. Alcoholic drinks played such a large role in everyday life from daily meals to ritualistic events, it was only fitting that we’d end on it.

The most valuable lesson I learned from this course was the sheer amount of time that basic subsistence items used to require. People didn’t buy clothes, food or homes in the past, they made them. I imagine that only once civilizations found a way to expedite the production of these necessities that leisure time was available to pursue knowledge and the arts. Basically, I’m glad I live in the modern world.

Braulio Fernandez

 Learning about human survival was the second freshman seminar class that I took during my time at school. It combined practical hands on experiences that allowed for creativity and trial and error with informative segments of lecture that illuminated the ancient worlds of human survival. I thoroughly enjoyed many parts of the class, including making the oil lamps and box, seeing it come to shape, and seeing it breathing life into the room along with many others, learning about the process of fermentation, adding a sort of atomic-blackhole-ish thing with cave paint on the walls, making root beer, bread, sucking the alcohol through the tube to get the flow started and pouring uncarbonated alcohol everywhere.

It was a class that allowed me to be creative while at the same time imparting knowledge about ancient practices. Guest lecturers that told us about how beer was brewed in different parts of the world and how the process was limited to the culture and environment was especially interesting. For me, the class allowed me to see a consistent and strong link between the past and the race we are today as a steady stream of progress and innovation. 


Albert Ho

       In the last phase of the human survival seminar, we brewed beer, sake, made paint out of rocks and created different textures with eggs and oil, made mud bricks, and oil lamps. I never really thought about the “oil” in oil lamps and the more oil the more effective because it slowed the speed at which the fire consumed the piece of string. We made basic lamps out clay, which had a similar shape to a canoe with one end wider than the other for the light to shine through. The middle was a pit in which the oil would be stored and then one would insert the string through one end and as it came out the other, it would be soaked by oil. It also got me thinking about the evolution in the structure of the lamp itself, where it started out as a shell with string and oil, then wax was discovered and behold the candle, which proceeded to the glass lamp, and today, electricity. Brewing beer was much simpler than I had made it out to be. We boiled water and mixed in wheat and hops to extract sugar, then added malt extract and yeast so that it could ingest the sugars and create alcohol, after which we let it sit for some time. We then siphoned the beer into a small keg, and poured some into pottery that we had made before. We began a process of carbonation for the beer, and would have to wait another week for the final product.

-Jerardo Perez

In the previous class of Human Survival- Learning from the Past, we put everything we learned together.  We checked out our brewed beer and as it turns out, we did quite well.  We then looked at our sake and stripped the top layer back and found the liquidy substance that was sake.  After taking the sculptures previously made in a seminar a few weeks back, we went downstairs to where we met for our first seminar.  The groups broke up into painters and fire makers.  The painting group took the sculptures previously made and painted them with colors they had made.  The second group which I was in tried for 2 hours to make fire.  Finally, with about 2 minutes left, we were finally the only group (same with the first time) to make fire.  I never truly learned how hard it was to do such apparently simple tasks such as making fire or creating clothes. 

Patrick Brown

In the last few weeks of the class, I felt like we really did a variety of things, ranging from painting, to house making. Definitely worth mentioning, were the mud bricks  It took us, a group of around 10 people, one hour or so to make some eight usable bricks. However, we calculated that a small house would take at least 3,000 blocks, so to think of how many days it would take us to make that many bricks seems impossible. However, we ned to remember that ancient civilisations depended on this work to survive. Shelter can bring an incredible amount of protection to a family in many different ways.

Also worth mentioning is the beer. It is crazy to think that such a scientific experiment was done in ancient times. With many places to go wrong, and filth to be accumulated in the beer, the ancient civilisations mastered the skill of beer making through trial and error. But if I had trouble tasting the beer, knowing it was safe to drink, how did they get the courage to try something that has mold (well, or yeast) inside of it? IT is also incredible to think that beer used to be medicinal back then. Now it is seen as something that is generally unhealthy, as it contains alcohol, back then it was a privilege to be able to have a sip of what we can see in any bar or pub today. Things have definitely changed majorly for beer.

Gabriel Rocha

In our last class, we were able to put everything we learned to the test.  We were able to try out the beer that had been brewing for several weeks, the sake we had made the class before, and headed down stairs for the last part.  We broke up into two different groups–the painters and the fire makers.  Much like the first class, we struggled trying to make a fire and spend the entirety of class and even time afterwards trying to get an ember.  After much time and effort, we were finally able to make a spark and create a fire.  The other group painted the sculptures made in a previous class and all of our newly-learned skills just seemed to come together. Early Human Survival was an interesting class and expanded my knowledge on things I would have never dreamed of knowing.


Patrick Brown

In this last third of class, we got to experience more food production and creation of the arts. We brewed beer, root beer, sake, and ate a lot of modern snacks (thanks archeology department!) and painted on the walls using paint made out of rock pigment, oil, and eggs.  We also got to light the oil lamps we made a while back.  I really enjoyed seeing the beer making process and surprisingly, our beer came out tasting pretty… normal!! I don’t like beer but I can say that it didn’t taste bad at all! The sake kind of grossed me out because it smelled so strong and was clumpy and looked really moldy.  It amazes me that people somehow discovered how to do this and even thought it had medicinal benefits! Crazy!

I missed the mudbrick making class, but I still got to work with other things that came out of the earth.. like rock paints! In the last day of class it was really awesome putting everything together by lighting fire again (like in our first class) and painting with pigments.  Overall, I am really glad that I took this freshman seminar and had a great experience.  I can’t believe how easy we have it!

Elizabeth Lee

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