Asteroid Exploration

Asteroids originated in the early inner system jostle for planetary control and the migrated their orbits out towards Jupiter’s influence while most comets come from families of remote objects in the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt.


There was a discovery in October 2017 of an extra-terrestrial asteroid named ‘Oumuamua, which whipped into our Solar System at 87 km/second from above the system plane, and rushed back out before anyone had much chance to study it. In 3 months it came to the inner system, flew inside the orbit of Mercury, had its trajectory altered and picked up speed and spewed dust and ice as it left.


This object is not well understood, but its hyperbolic trajectory and speed indicated it originated outside the Solar System, and would only visit the one time.  It is thought to be an oblong, 50×500 metre, part asteroid, part comet tumbling body.  It certainly confirmed that travel between star systems occurs.

This object has likely been travelling for hundreds of millions of years or more from its origin.  From its home system, it may have visited other star systems, as it has our own, passing quickly around central star and again heading out into interstellar space.  An epic interstellar voyage speaks to the enduring patience of an old rock.

Astronomers noted that it appeared to have a high density (indicative of a rocky and metallic composition) and that it was spinning rapidly and picking up speed as it left the solar system.  Its arrival trajectory indicate that it did not come from Earth’s nearest star system, and that it may in fact have been travelling for a very long time.

Asteroids (planetismals)

Historically, the terms asteroidminor planet, and planetoid have been more or less synonymous. An asteroid is an astronomical object in direct orbit around the Sun (or more broadly, any star with a planetary system) that is neither a planet nor exclusively classified as a comet. Some moons do exhibit signs of being captured asteroids.  Minor planets can be dwarf planets, asteroids, trojans, centaurs, Kuiper belt objects, and other trans-Neptunian objects.

Our system currently has five identified dwarf planets, but may there are likely many hundreds or more dwarf planets still to be identified out to the edge of the Oort Cloud, the boundary of our Solar System.

Trojans are astronomical objects that share the same orbit as a larger planet, such as Jupiter, Mars and Neptune at 60° ahead or behind the main body. Centaur asteroids are those that roam between the gas giants planets; Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus.  Kuiper Belt is the region beyond the gas giant planets.

The designation asteroid is kind of a bucket for the large number of small and not well understood astronomical objects in our solar system.  As remnants of our varied solar system, they are believed to be quite diverse. More subtle definitions will come with our expanding knowledge of these objects.   A good source for astronomical, solar system knowledge is Worldbuilding by the Numbers.  This provides a nice introduction to asteroid.

Hollywood has given many of us the unfortunate idea that asteroid belts (often called “asteroid fields” in movies like Star Wars™), are densely packed regions into which it is suicide to venture.  This is probably true of ring systems such as Saturn’s (except that the particles are much smaller on average), but it is far from the case for asteroid belts (at least in the Solar System).

In the Solar System’s asteroid belt, fully half of the mass (about 4% of the mass of the Moon, in total) is contained in just four bodies (Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea), and fully a third is contained in Ceres, alone.  The rest of the mass is divided between about 200 bodies of about 100km in size, 1-to-2 million bodies around 1km or larger in diameter, and many millions of smaller bodies, down to the size of dust particles, created by the rare collisions between asteroids.

There are literally thousands and tens-of-thousands of kilometers between bodies in the asteroid belt.  Though collisions do happen, they are comparatively rare.  “Collisions between main-belt bodies with a mean radius of 10 km are expected to occur about once every 10 million years.”

Asteroids’ first discovery

The first asteroid, Ceres was discovered on January 1, 1801, by the astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi at Palermo, Italy, correctly believing it to lie in the orbital region between Mars and Jupiter where Kepler registered a gap in his harmonic scheme.

By the end of the 19th century, 464 objects had been found, and that number grew to 108,066 by the end of the 20th century. As of 2018, the orbits of 757,626 minor planets were archived at the Minor Planet Center, 516,386 of which had received permanent numbers.

Part of the challenge of acknowledging asteroids is knowing their orbit, which takes adequate observation.  Asteroids can disappear before this information is captured, making it difficult to know whether the body was new, or had possibly been observed before.  This is why knowledge of an asteroid’s orbit is needed before it is named.

Asteroid taxonomy

In 1975, an asteroid taxonomic system based on coloralbedo, and spectral shape was developed.  Asteroids fall into three broad spectral/compositional categories, commonly classified according to two criteria: the characteristics of their orbits, and features of their reflectance spectrum.  As scientists expand their direct understanding of asteroid composition, these categories will continue to break in many sub-categories.

C-type (carbonaceous) asteroids are the most common variety, forming around 75% of known asteroidsS-type asteroids are asteroids with a spectral type that is indicative of a siliceous (i.e. stony) mineralogical composition, hence the name. Approximately 17% of asteroids are of this type.  M-type or X-type asteroids are asteroids of partially known composition, although some are thought to have high metal content.

Metallic M-type asteroids, are made of nickel–iron, either pure or mixed with small amounts of stone. These are thought to be pieces of the metallic core of differentiated asteroids that were fragmented by impacts, and are thought to be the source of iron meteorites. M-type asteroids are the third most common asteroid type.

Asteroid density

Another feature that distinguishes asteroids is their density, ranging in structure from solid monolithic to semi-fused monolithic fragments with differing depths of settled regolith top layer to loose rubble pile.

Recent thinking is that many asteroids are to varying degrees ruble piles, collections of fragments that gently come together.  Touchdowns on these distant objects have yet to find much dust, but rather look like landing on old rock slide.

An asteroid’s low mass, compared to planets  means very little gravity holds it together.  A high impact, or a gravitational flyby between two asteroids may cause an explosive dustball of fragments.  This cloud would settle back into a newly mixed, loosely density surface. The tiniest fragments are most likely to escape, and with time, dissipate.

Solar events striking asteroids can also energize surface material and rotation, further blasting the body with radiation, further challenging the smallest grains more so than larger fragments.

Asteroid Moons

One way to determine the density of an asteroid is to find an orbiting moon.  Variations in body’s orbit are influenced by a moon, and thereby give astronomers an indication of density.

An example is 216 Kleopatra (217 km × 94 km), resembling the shape of a ham-bone.  In September 2008, Franck Marchis and his collaborators discovered two moons orbiting Kleopatra, later named Alexhelios (outer – 9 km – 2.5 day orbit) and Cleoselene (inner – 7 km – 1.25 day orbit).


These moons indicate Kleopatra to be a rubble pile, a loose amalgam of metal, rock, and 30–50% empty space by volume, likely due to a disruptive impact prior to the impact that created its moons.  It is assumed that the moons and the main asteroid have nearly identical compositions, although the moons’ density may be higher.  The larger, fractured Kleopatra would represent the majority of re-clustered asteroid fragments ejected by the large collision event that created its two moons.

Asteroid Rotation: Fast vs Slow 

Another method to be able to test for monolith vs rubble pile is to check the rotational period.  Bodies below a period of 2.2 hours – also known as the “cohesion-less spin-barrier” – can not be merely held together by self-gravity, but must be formed of a contiguous solid, as they would fly apart otherwise.

As of 2019, a group of approximately 800 bodies – most of them are stony near-Earth asteroids with small diameters of barely 1 kilometer– have an estimated period of less than 2.2 hours. (See fast rotators). The encounter with Bennu shows how an asteroid’s rotation can be sped up by solar forces causing them eject material.


Robotic visits in the Asteroid Belt

Human missions to small bodies in the solar system have been some of the most exciting astro-scientific moments.  My touchpoints are a short review of asteroid bodies Earth’s spacecraft have visited to 2019. Each visit in has its own scientific discovery and achievement, feeding a growing, dynamic field.


The largest asteroid body is Ceres, which is said to hold 30% of the total asteroid belt mass.  1 Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, slightly closer to Mars’ orbit. With a diameter of 945 km. Ceres is the largest of the minor planets, and the only dwarf planet inside Neptune’s orbit. It is the 33rd-largest known body in the Solar System and is estimated to comprise approximately one-third of the mass of the entire asteroid belt.

It was visited by the Dawn mission in 2015.

1 Ceres


4 Vesta is the second-most-massive and second-largest body in the asteroid belt, after the dwarf planet Ceres at approximately 550 km in diameter.  It contributes an estimated 9% of the mass of the asteroid belt.

It was also visited by the Dawn mission in 2011, before it went on to Ceres.

Visited larger asteroids


21 Lutetia is a large asteroid in the asteroid belt of an unusual spectral type. It measures about 100 kilometers in diameter (120 km along its major axis). It has an irregular shape and is heavily cratered, with the largest impact crater reaching 45 km in diameter.

ESA’s Rosetta mission has returned the first close-up images of the asteroid in 2010.  It has a minor planet designation, a relatively complex composition, and up to 3 kilometres depth of regolith covering the surface.

21 Lutetia

Comet exploration

It is appropriate to review visits to comets in this collection of robotic exploration of asteroids.  Comets are distinguished from asteroids by the presence of an extended, gravitationally unbound, out-gassed atmosphere surrounding their central nucleus. Yet certainly there are bodies that have expended their gases, and some asteroids are now also known to outgas.

Known comets originate in the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt where the vast majority of objects have never been in the inner solar system and hold more ice and frozen gases. Asteroids are believed to have originated in the early inner system jostle for planetary control and the migrated their orbits out towards Jupiter’s influence and are more rocky.

Robotic space missions now include a Kuiper Belt object, Ultima Thule.  This object blurs the line between asteroid rock and stone with stellar particles causing it to out-gas like a comet.  Comet missions are an important and fascinating facet of small body exploration.

Hailey’s Comet

Halley’s Comet was visited by the Giotto spacecraft.  In March 1986, the spacecraft succeeded in approaching Halley’s nucleus at a distance of 596 kilometers. Images showed Halley’s nucleus to be a dark peanut-shaped body, 15 km long, 7 km to 10 km wide.

Only 10% of the surface was active, with at least three outgassing jets seen on the sunlit side, material analyzed to be 80% water, 10% carbon monoxide, 2.5% a mix of methane and ammonia, as well as trace amounts of other hydrocarbons, iron, and sodium.  Halley’s nucleus was dark, which suggested a thick covering of dust



comet Grigg–Skjellerup

The Giotto spacecraft later had a rendez-vous with comet Grigg–Skjellerup, coming within 200 km of the 2.6 km wide body.  Unfortunately the space craft had its camera destroyed during its encounter with Hailey’s comet, so no photos of the object were taken. Its orbit is being influenced by Jupiter iteratively pushing its perihelion orbital point from 0.77 AU in 1725 to 1.12 AU in 1999.

comet Harley 2

Hartley 2 was the target of a flyby of the Deep Impact spacecraft, as part of the EPOXI mission in November 2010, which was able to approach within 700 kilometers.  It is believed to be 1.2 to 1.6 km wide.


Comet Borrelly

This object is a periodic comet (solar orbits of 200 years or less), which was visited by the spacecraft Deep Space 1 in 2001. The comet’s nucleus is particularly notable for being shaped like a bowling pin. Its dimensions are 8×4×4 km


Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was the primary target for the Rosetta mission which arrived in 2014 for a two year study. The mission included a semi-successful landing the Phillea lander on the comet.

The comet consists of two lobes connected by a narrower neck, with the larger lobe measuring about 4.1 × 3.3 × 1.8 km and the smaller one about 2.6 × 2.3 × 1.8 km, and loses 10 – 25 cm of material per year, most when closer to the sun.


Tempel 1

Deep Impact was a NASA space probe was designed to study the interior composition of the comet Tempel 1, by releasing an impactor into the comet. The shape of this object is somewhat pyramidal, with a mean radius of 2.8 km. On July 4, 2005, the Impactor successfully collided with the comet’s nucleus.

The impact excavated debris from the interior of the nucleus, forming an impact crater. Photographs taken by the spacecraft showed the comet to be more dusty and less icy than had been expected. The impact generated an unexpectedly large and bright dust cloud, obscuring the view of the impact crater.

A follow-up mission was the Stardust NExT in 2011 was able to review the site, as well as further map and study the body..

converted PNM file


Wild 2

The presence of iron in samples from Comet 81P/Wild (5.5 × 4.0 × 3.3 km) by the Stardust mission and returned to Earth in 2006 have been interpreted as evidence for space weathering, giving the comet its rust-red hue.


Smaller Asteroid visits

The following is a scale composite of some of the objects visited by space craft.  It gives an indication of the range of objects.

Visited smaller asteroids


253 Mathilde is an asteroid in the intermediate asteroid belt, approximately 50 kilometers in diameter. The asteroid has a number of extremely large craters, with the individual craters being named for coal fields and basins around the world.  Measurements by the spacecraft NEAR Shoemaker suggest that the asteroid is very loosely packed rubble pile.

253 Mathilde


243 Ida is a 60 km by 25 km asteroid in the Koronis family of the asteroid belt and has a 1.5 km wide natural satellite, named Dactyl. The Koronis family is a large family of stony asteroids, which are thought to have been formed in a catastrophic collision 2 billion years ago. The Koronis family travels in a cluster along the same orbit and has 5949 known members. It was visited by the Galileo spacecraft in 1993.

243 Ida – Dactyl


433 Eros is a stony and peanut-shaped asteroid 34 km x 11 km in the Amor family.  The Amor asteroids is a group of 7217 near-Earth asteroids which do not cross the orbit of Earth, but most do cross the orbit of Mars.

The NEAR Shoemaker probe visited Eros twice, first with a 1998 flyby, and then by orbiting it in 2000 when it extensively photographed its surface. On February 12, 2001, at the end of its mission, it landed on the asteroid’s surface using its maneuvering jets.  It showed the surface to be covered in a regolith layer, although it is not clear how deep it may be.

433 Eros


NASA’s Deep Space 1 experimental spacecraft successfully flew closely above the surface of asteroid 9969 Braille (2.1 × 1 × 1 km.) in July 1999. It was the first interplanetary spacecraft to use an ion engine and tested a number of navigational, communications and science data technologies.

The following year, Engineers develop a new way to operate the Deep Space 1 spacecraft after the potentially mission-ending failure of its star tracker. Software is radioed to the probe using the camera on board to serve as a replacement navigational tool. The operation marks one of the most successful robotic space rescues in the history of space exploration.

The probe came within 26 km of Braille, but the images and spectra were taken from an approximate distance of 14 000 km, due to problems with the tracking system.

9969 Braille


951 Gaspra is an stony asteroid that orbits very close to the inner edge of the asteroid belt, It was the first asteroid ever to be closely approached when it was visited by the Galileo spacecraft, which flew by on its way to Jupiter October 1991, where it made the first, and so far only, direct observation of a comet colliding with a planet’s atmosphere (Shoemaker-Levy 9).

Gaspra is approximately 18 km x 10 km. Grooves about 100–300 m wide, up to 2.5 km long, and tens of meters deep are seen on Gaspra’s surface, which may be related to Gaspra’s formation in an asteroid collision that shattered the underlying rock.

It was suggested in 2007 that the fresh, steep craters on Gaspra were formed by the Baptistina family-forming event that happened near it.  The Baptistina family is an asteroid family of more than 2500 members that was probably produced by the breakup of an asteroid 200 km across 80 million years ago following an impact with a smaller body.

951 Gaspra


2867 Šteins, is an irregular, diamond-shaped asteroid from the inner regions of the asteroid belt, approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) in diameter. It was visited in 2008 by the Rosetta probe.

2867 Šteins


25143 Itokawa is a stony sub-kilometer contact binary asteroid, classified as near-Earth object of the Apollo group and potentially hazardous asteroid, that measures approximately 350 meters in diameter.

It was the first asteroid to be the target of a sample return mission, the Japanese space probe Hayabusa, and currently is the smallest asteroid photographed and visited by a spacecraft. The sample capsule was returned to Earth in 2010. Its small asteroid lander MINERVA failed at deployment.

25143 Itokawa


In February 2018, a second spacecraft sent by the Japanese space agency JAXA, Hayabusa2  neared Ryubu (C-type) asteroid.  This mission is more of a robotic team.  It has 4 surface robots to deploy, as well as 3 sample collections planned.  So far this mission has been very robust and gives us a glimspe of the dynamic swarm that could be used on future missions to asteroid.

162173 Ryugu



This object, provisional designation 1942 EM, is a stony Florian asteroid and suspected contact binary from the inner asteroid belt, 6.6 × 5.0 × 3.4 km. In November 2002, the Stardust space probe flew past Annefrank at a distance of 3079 a target to practice the flyby technique that the space craft would later use on the comet Wild 2.

5535 Annefrank


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at the 500 metre asteroid Bennu.  Researchers hope to bounce its surface and return a sample to Earth for detailed analysis in 2023.


The team found that the asteroid has an accelerating spin, enough to have periods where it jettisons material off its surface.


Ultima Thule

On January 1, 2019 NASA spaceship New Horizons blasted by the Kuiper Belt body Ultima Thule, (2014 MU69), a 33 kilometre bi-lobed object. The first news of the fly-by shows that it is a contact-binary object.

This is not the first time explorers have found two bodies that have come together slowly enough to adhere, rather than break each other. An interesting feature in this mission was that the object was discovered after takeoff of New Horizon, and the redirected to it.


Future Missions

The flyby and direct missions continue to promise exciting science, as it begins a more in-depth study of the asteroids and planetary fragments that populate the outer edges of our Solar System, on the far side of the gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus.  The Kuiper Belt, and the Oort Cloud out beyond it likely hold many millions of objects and surprises.

In 2021, the feat of navigation that is the Lucy mission will launch. To steer Lucy towards its targets doesn’t simply involve programming a map into a spacecraft and giving it gas money – it will fly by six asteroid targets, each in different orbits, over the course of 12 years. In 2022, another mission takeoff will be the Psyche probe to that 200  large metal, core-remnant asteroid. “It has been proposed that the rocket may be shared with a separate mission named Athena, that would perform a single flyby of asteroid 2 Pallas, the third largest asteroid in the Solar System.”

We are learning more about asteroid bodies with these close-encounter missions, in addition to advanced astronomical systems. These science missions will help expand our knowledge of the origins of our star system, as well as the composition and variety of multitudes of solar objects. Projects such as NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) and mission plans such as Planetary Resources’ Arkyd programme extend our familiarity with asteroids.

Asteroids and Humans

The expanding science of asteroids comes at a time when humans are actively working to visit and set themselves up off Earth.  The science to accomplish this is well underway on places like the International Space Station, and other missions such as the Chinese lander mission to the far side of the moon.  In the news are many teams working towards going to Mars, and ‘settle’ there.

Away from the Earth and Moon system, there are few planets to host humans. Asteroids fill in the detail of our system as our enhanced abilities reveal the details.  Recent refinement of space exploration capabilities have allowed scientists to study many small and dim targets including exo-planets in other star systems. They continually map the millions of unidentified asteroids in our solar system. Asteroids are a vast complex field in space sciences. Advanced study of small bodies in the solar system will guide our understanding of their mysteries, their dangers and possibilities.

Direct exploration of most of our eight large planet systems will likely remain the domain of robotic missions.  In addition to the rigors of space, these large system bodies and their moons host a number of extremely exotic environments and varying gravity wells.  The complexity of preparing for and achieving escape velocity from distant bodies is hardly only possible on the smaller moons. Otherwise it’s better to do the science in situ and transmit results.

Asteroids, by contrast, are almost free of atmosphere and gravity, and offer extractable resource opportunity.  Increasingly able-bodied space craft have started to bring back pieces of asteroid for closer examination. In addition to core elements, many are also distinct, carrying minerals never seen. Their secrets will inform humanity’s future away from Earth. Asteroids will certainly play a role as humans and robots settle in space.


Aroh Wendelin

Caria – Iron Age crossroads culture

Western Anatolia played a rhythmic role at the fringes of great civilizations, settler waves and horde invasions for thousands of years. 


Caria was a kingdom in the sixth century BCE in southwest present day Turkey that grew from an age-old regional Luwian identity.  Western Anatolia played a rhythmic role at the fringes of great civilizations, settler waves and horde invasions for thousands of years.

The region was never fully swallowed into any of the many social tsunami that washed around the mountainous region.  It kept apart by its remoteness, its decentralized city-state power structure, and its openness to newcomers.

Over centuries and millennia of cultural tides, the land drew in and kept memory of the passing eons without being completely war-ravaged.  A library of  influence on the passing civilizations allowed southern Anatolia to be viewed as ancestral family relation to all regional powers.

To know Caria is to understand the ancient tapestry from which it came, and the rich legacy in which it participated.

Pre-historic (aka Mythical) Anatolia (10,000 – 6000 BCE)

Anatolia was home to some of humanity’s earliest known cultures, as evidenced by the spiritual acropolis, Göbekli Tepe (10,000 BCE) and pre-agricultural city, Çatalhöyük (7500 – 5600 BCE) among other sites sprinkled through the Taurus mountains. (discussed in blog entry Chalcolithic Age – Dawn of cultures)  

These sites on the high plateau coincide in time to an dramatic event in the Black Sea basin, the Flood.  Studies show up to the eighth millennium BCE, a smaller, fresh water Black Sea had a long standing geological barrier to the sea waters of the Mediterranean.


The earliest wheat species, the Einkorn originates from eastern Anatolia around this time, and directly links Anatolia with the earliest grain cultivation cultures. Its believed that early agriculture and settlements would have spread around the Black Sea’s shores during this period before the innundation.

Some date the flood to be around 5600 BCE.  A major earthquake was likely responsible for opening the Bosphorus chasm between the two bodies of water, allowing salty sea water to gush into the Black Sea basin at a rate of 200 Niagara Falls flooding 140,000 square kilometers, raising the water levels 90-200 meters, in as little as a year.

This huge inundation permanently changed life and human habitation around the Black Sea basin.  Rising water over such a large fertile area forced neolithic communities and families to abandon farmsteads and settlements.  To the North and West, the shoreline will move hundreds of kilometres.

The lost land could include mythical Atlantis.  It certainly caused a diaspora of different peoples migrating away.The flood and waves of escaping tribes were responsible for bringing farmers and agriculture to northern and western Europe.

The rising water did give warning.  News of the Bosphorus torrent surely travelled to residents all over the Black Sea basin.  Some may have prepared for the coming flood by building barges to load family, farm animals, tools and provisions, family arks that could ride the water, until it found its new higher shoreline.  This early cataclysm certainly survived in the memory of many cultures as the Flood story.

Cultural Waves – Cultural Ark

The last two millennia BCE were pivotal in establishing enduring civilizations from the Altantic to the Caspian sea. The mountainous coastal regions of southern Anatolia gives the geography an unusual position of being both central to the great early Western civilizations and yet remain moderately remote and largely left to itself.

Each wave of conquest and settler was slowed by the rough terrain and ancient cultural tapastry. None was ever able to fully erase the native flavour of the region.  In time, passing cultures left behind cultural sediment.  In doing so, the region retained older culture and continuity.

An ancient pan-Antolian culture known as the Luwian culture (2800 – 600 BCE) spread westward from south central Asia Minor.  They spread northward toward the Troad, to the shores of the ancient Hellespont, aka the Dardanelles.  This movement also pushed towards the Dodecanese islands off the southwest coast, ultimately Crete. 

From these Anatolian migrations, the earliest Minoans became a seafaring culture.  They spread from Asia Minor and set up in Crete, Thera, Rhodos.  Here they meshed with the  Cycladic culture (c.3200–c.1050).  

But the earliest Minoan roots on the mainland are represented by the importance of Miletus and the fertile Meader river basin to the Minoans by 1900 BCE, an area also significant to Mycenaeans from 1450 to 1100 BCE, and later it was the most important city for the Ionians from 1000 – 500 BCE.

It is said the area had previously belonged to the Leleges, an Anatolian people a cousin people to Carians, both descendants of Luwian culture.  The populations had usually friendly relations with one another which significantly boosted them in trade, riches, and culture for millenia.

The northern Anatolian region was largely taken into Hittite empire (1600 BCE) but mostly as an administrative region.  The empire extended a brethren association to culturally refined Luwian regions to the south and west and were largely left to rule as allies.

Southwest Anatolia is thought of as one point of origin for the mysterious ‘sea-faring peoples’, one named tribe being the Lukka, a fierce, wild Luwian people.  These ancient pirates raided weakened near-east civilizations including Egypt,  Hittite, Mycenaean Greek, Phoenicia, leading to the late Bronze Age collapse (1280 BCE) and the subsequent dark ages.

The region saw the invasion of Thracian Phyrgians (1160 BCE) to northwestern Anatolia. It became part of the Phoenician Trade Network (1200 – 600 BCE), which included the Greek derivation of the Phoenician alphabet. They suffered the Cimmerian invasion as part of their destruction of Phyrgia (710 BCE) and multiple Ionian cites. They saw the Persian conquests of Xerces (546 BCE), later, Alexander the Great (334 BCE), Ptolemies rule (300 BCE), Roman  conquest of the region in 192 BCE.

Caria was an early Hellenistic hybrid kingdom of newer Greek colonies and the older Luwian city-state culture.  Caria and the Carians are first mentioned in the cuneiform texts of the Old Assyrian and Hittite Empires, i.e., between c.1800 and 1200 BCE. The country was called Karkissa.

Caria was incorporated in c.545 BCE into the ancient Achaemenid empire (Cyrus’ Persia) as the satrapy (province) Karkâ. Its capital was Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum), which had been originally been founded by Ionian Greeks.

During the 6th century BCE, Ionia became the focus of the intellectual life of Greece, a period known as the “Ionian awakening”, a name for the initial phase of classical Greek civilization.

Aspects of southwestern Anatolia’s ancient, independent nature carry forward into the Iron Age culture. Local Bronze Age cultures helped keep the region of Caria and its neighbours distinct from the larger civilizations that bordered it.


Luwian (2500 BCE – 300 BCE)

Luwians are first found in the 3rd millenium BCE in the region between the Hatti and the Mediterranean Sea, in southeastern Anatolia. It is thought to have religious and language connections to Indo-European culture.  The proto-Indo-Europeans were in existence by the sixth millennium BCE, in a homeland located on the steppe above the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.   This age-old lineage links them in time with survivors of the great Black Sea flood.

Luwian arrival in Anatolia – c.2300 BCE

Over the centuries, Luwians spread to western Anatolia. (Luwian Studies). For thousands of years, different Luwian kingdoms rose in this geography grew, such as Arzawa, Wilusa, Teucria, Lukka, Tarhuntassa, Mysia, Lydia, Lycia, and Caria.

Luwian is now understood as an important pan-empire culture blending the crossroads of Minoan, Ionian, Mycenaean Greek and Hittite empires and geographies. By remaining a loose diaspora of smaller states, clans and fiefdoms, spanning a large geographical area, Luwians were able to retain distinct cultural identity for the entire Bronze Age, nearly two thousand years.


Anatolia c.1450 BC – Arzawa controlled lands in green, disputed in hatched


Arzawa, a kingdom (1440 – 1250 BCE) in Southwest Anatolia and the kingdom of Kizzuwatna in the highlands of southeastern Anatolia are the largest groups in the Luwian hegemony in the second millenia BCE. Tarhuntassa (Kode) was calved from Arzawa about 1350 BCE. Arzawa is thought to be the origin of the name Asia. After Arzawa, the region became Lydia (1200 – 546 BCE), a contemporary neighbour to Caria.

On the western coast was the sea-faring nation of Ahhiyawa (1380 – 1220 BCE).  This notably large and fierce kingdom usually got along well with the Hittites, until the reign of Tudhaliyas IV (c. 1250–20 BC) Attarissiyas led attacks on Hittite vassals and cities, a name which some associate with Atreus, the father of Agamemnon.  These Luwian people were associated to the Achaeans, the Homeric term for the Greeks of this period.

This coastal region later became known as Caria, inhabited by Carians, Greeks and Leleges.  By the time of the Ionian Awakening and the Carian golden era, these groups became synonymous.  The father of history Herodetus (484–425 BCE) considered himself Carian, although his contribution is considered Greek.

Further south was the Lukka lands, a region that was a confederation of fierce tribes or minor states, that never were totally dominated by the Hittite or Mycenaean.  This region became Lycia around 500 BCE.

Luwians were a familial buffer between Hittite and Greek cultures, a role that culturally links Anatolia, the Aegean islands and mainland Greece. This opens the way for later empires to borrow and from the proto-Hellenistic cultural legacy of the Luwians. The impact of late-Luwian Caria and its neighbours would extend from Alexander the Great (336–323 BCE) and the Diadochi , which describes the immediate successors of Alexander (305 – 30 BCE) to Romans (27 BCE – 395 AD) and the Byzantine Empire (330–1450 AD).

Early Anatolian Writing System

inscription from Chamber 2 in Hattuša

The consensus among scholars is that the Luwian language was spoken – to varying degrees – across a large portion of western Anatolia in the 2nd and 1st millennium BCE, across multiple, often adversarial kingdoms and regions.

Luwian hieroglyphic script appears to be an independently developed writing system.  It can be tracked back to at least 2000 BCE when its symbols appeared on a seal found at the archaeological site of Beycesultan and used up to 600 BCE. The spread of their language and its writing system was key to the long standing, independent Luwian culture.


Ancient Greek Influence in Asia Minor (2500 – 190 BCE)

The western Aegean region of Anatolia was central to many of the major Minoan, archaic and classic Greek cultures with which indigenous Anatolian populations were, usually, on close terms.  Hellenization in Asia Minor was a key feature in the far-reaching success of Greek culture.

The indigenous, proto-Carian people, the Leleges as well as other Luwian descendant groups interacted with Greek influence for tens of centuries, from early Minoan colonies around Miletus in the late 3rd millennium BCE, the change-over from Minoan to Mycenaean in the Greek colonies around 1450 BCE, the Bronze Age collapse (1280 BCE).  This was followed by the First Greek colonization (1000 BCE), with Aeolic Greek on the northern Aegean, the Ionian migrations to the middle Aegean coast, and the Doric Greeks to the south Aegean coast of Asia Minor and the Ioning Awaking (550 BCE), conquest by Alexander the Great and Roman rule (192 BCE).



Greek interests were focused on coastal regions where trade was a central interest.  The inland communities were open to the influence and wealth such neighbours brought with them.

Caria had an early golden age around the time of the Ionian Awakening (c. 600-500 BCE), a burst of intellect and achievement in Asia Minor.  Together they created, bringing many elements into hellenization of the ancient world. Stone decorative structures, irrigation system, waste disposal, roads, harbours, markets, workshops, supply chains, mosaics.

Luwian & Minoan (2600 – 1400 BCE)

Early Luwian culture coincides in time and geography with the southern Anatolian start point of early (and later) Minoan colonization of Crete, the south Aegean islands and coastal Asia Minor.  The Minoan and Greek city-state structure and diaspora is similar and compatible to Luwian extended influence across a large geography stretching across Anatolia to the eastern Mediterranean.

Luwian culture spanned western Anatolia and the region is the origin of settlers arriving on Crete, the Dodecanese islands and southern Cyclades during the Early Minoan Period (c.2600 – 2000 BCE). This link between Luwians and early Minoan suggests that they shared some cultural traits.

The Early Minoan period was defined by its priests, rather than military might. There were no grand statues depicting powerful kings, and women in society seemed to be highly prominent and liberal, even taking the role of powerful priestesses who organised a faith that saw one or more mother goddesses in command of the island’s elemental forces.

Minoan cities didn’t have defensive walls and wealth tended to be evenly distributed in their trade-based economy. Minoan palaces may not even have been palaces, but perhaps business structures for the leading figures of the day to use as ‘office space’, or venues dedicated to the island’s fertility, to be packed with offerings after a successful harvest.

A common heritage may have bound the Luwians with the Minoans, in language, trade, culture, religion and war. There is evidence of Anatolian invasion around 1700 BCE. when palaces in half a dozen cities are destroyed. In about 1470 BCE, the Minoan trading island of Thera (modern Santorini) is destroyed by intense volcanic activity and Crete is devastated by the resulting tidal wave and ash cloud. From that point forward until 1200 BCE, Mycenaean Greece dominates and finally takes over Crete, southern islands and the Asia Minor coastal areas.

It is acknowledge that Mycenaean culture grew under Minoan influence, and leveraged this legacy as it grew in influence. The Luwian regions and culture of western Asia Minor would continue to have contact with the Mycenaeans, although they would already have been quite distinct societies.

Luwian & Hittite (1700 – 1200 BCE)

At about the same time in north central Anatolia, the fortified city of Hattusa, in northcentral Anatolia is considered to have been founded by the Hatti (an aboriginal tribe of Anatolia) in 2500 BCE, on a settlement from as far back as the 6th millenia BC. The Hatti fended off attacks until the sacking of Hattusa by the Hittite King Anitta of the eastern bordering kingdom of Kussara in 1700 BCE.

The Hittite empire pushed west into Luwian lands, but never entirely, nor for very long. Because Luwians were not unified into a single, dominated kingdom, their cultural identity and influence in the region continued for most of the Bronze Age (3000 – 1200 BCE), while the Hittite empire lasted 400 years to 1200 BCE.

It is possible that the Hittite empire was a dynastic, aristocratic structure that administered an empire of treaties, assimilation, and war over cultures such the Hatti, the Pala to the North, and the extensive Luwian culture to the south and west.

The Hittite borrowed from the Luwian culture, to the point where the Luwian language become the langua franca in the Empire by 1400 BCE. It is noted that Hittite royalty included powerful queens, reflecting a matrilineal system that once prevailed in western Anatolia, and Hittite gods were often absorbed from the other cultures.

Luwians and the Seafaring People (1280 – 1150 BCE)

The western Luwians of the 13th century BCE became know collectively as the Seafaring People, written into texts by the Egyptians. The groups included the Ekwesh (from Ahhiyawa), the Danya, the Lukka, and the Tjekker (Teucria / Wilusa).


In mythology, this is the time of the war of Troy.  Agamemnon united the early Greek Acheans from many Greek city-states to siege Troy on Anatolia’s Troad and its allies various Luwian kingdoms, including Caria, with a thousand ships and tens of thousand of warriors and equipment. A lengthy ten-year siege was a resource-heavy burden for all regional and Greeks city states involved to sustain.

The fractious end to a long and costly war was the demise of both civilizations.  Hardened Trojan and Greek solders having escaped the end destruction would no longer have had the command structure they’d served previously.  The Greek and Luwian city-states would suddenly be left in isolation, or have war-veterans returning from a decade-long absence.  Soldiers would easily turn to piracy and pillage in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean, war-taxed regions that no longer had ability to defend themselves.

Homer spoke about how both victor and vanquished were cursed with misfortune and never to settle back to their previous lives.  The victor king, Agamemnon was said to be murdered by his wife upon his return home, while Homer’s Odyssey recounts Odysseus’ 10 year sea journey home with his men. Such a lengthy war would have changed the power dynamics in many of the Greek states as leaderships were contested and civic strife would lead to conflict.

Archaeological evidence suggests the Mycenaean world disintegrated through “feuding clans of the great royal families, as the great palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or abandoned. Mycenaean Greek culture and power declined as part of the late Bronze Age collapse.

Marauders, both Greek and Luwian, also organized attacks east into the last of the Hittite Empire, and south into rich Egypt, which destabilized them, and caused them to decline.

The Seafaring People are credited for a significant role in the fall of the major late Bronze Age empires (Hittite, Egyptian, Mycenaean Greek, Kassite – lower Babylonia, Palaic – Black Sea Anatolia) known as Late Bronze Age collapse (1208 – 1150 BC).  The battle for Troy is seen by some historians as the flashpoint for this decline of empires, and is sometimes referred to as the first World War (WW0).

The Dorian Invasions / Migrations during the Greek Dark Ages that follow the Bronze Age collapse are also thought to move new populations into southern Greece, the Aegean islands and coastal Asia Minor.  At the beginning in the 6th century BC., came the Ionian Enlightenment, wherein the Greek city of Miletus was the birthplace of Greek philosophy and Western scientific thought.  This golden age was shared with the Carian, who had become inter-meshed with the Greek.   Herodotus, the “Father of History” was born in 5th century Halicarnassus, considered himself to be both Greek and Carian.

Cimmerian and Scythian pressure (720 – 515 BCE)

Herodotus wrote that the wandering Scythians once dwelt in Asia, to the East of the Caspian Sea, and there warred with the Massagetae tribal confederation, but with ill success.  They therefore crossed to the regions above the Crimea and entered the land of Cimmeria.

It is believed that the Cimmerians were living on the northern and eastern shore regions of the Black Sea from the 12th – 7th centuries BCE.  The pressure by the Scythians caused Cimmerians to displace to the south around the Black Sea.  Some Cimmerian tribes went to the west and settled in Thrace, while others followed the eastern Black Sea coast southward.  The Thracian incursion to the West is to a pre-literate culture so there is little knowledge of how this front unfolded, while eastern Cimmerians encountered and jostles with multiple kingdoms and empires, including the Assyrians.

An interesting account from Herodotus is that the Cimmerians, when they fled into Asia to escape the Scyths, made a settlement in the peninsula where the Greek city of Sinope was afterwards built. The Scyths pursued them, but Cimmerians took the Darial Pass through the centre of the Caucus Mountains.  The Scythians instead took the coastal route near the Caspian Sea, and poured south into the region of Media, 300 kilometres to the East of where the Cimmerians crossed. The Cimmerians turned west, which led back along the south Black Seas shore, the  and into Anatolia, while the Scyths held the Caucasus upon their right, came upon Medes (Old Persia), and the Assyrians.

Historically Greeks appreciated that Scythians fought against Persians, a common enemy, which left Greeks and Scythians on friendly terms.  The Scythian culture (8th – 4th century BCE) was prosperous on the Black Sea, especially around the Crimean penninsula where the Greek traders set up many outposts and towns for trade.

The first historical record of the Cimmerians appears in Assyrian annals in the year 714 BCE. in a letter sent from Nabu le’i, Sargon’s daughter in Tabal to her brother, the crown prince Sennacherib.    It describe how a people termed the Gimirri repulsed an attack by Rusa of Uratu which helped the forces of Sargon II to defeat the kingdom of Urartu.

The Assyrians recorded the migrations of the Cimmerians into the Pontus and Cappadocia regions south of the Black Sea, pushing into an area inhabited by a post-Hittite culture known as the Mushki.   The great Assyrian king Sargon II is thought to have been killed in battle against them in 705 BCE in a campaign against Tabal, a southeastern Luwian, neo-Hittite kingdom.


The Cimmerians were subsequently recorded as having conquered Phrygia in 696-695 BCE, prompting the Phrygian king Midas to take poison rather than face capture.

In 679 BCE during the reign of Esarhaddon of Assyria (681 – 669 BCE), Cimmerians attacked Cilicia and Tabal under their new ruler Teushpa. The grandson of Sargon and youngest son of Sennacherib and the West Semitic queen Naqi’a (Zakitu), Esarhaddon  defeated them near Hubushna.

Cimmerians seems to have moved to Cappadocia in the west, from where they attacked the new kingdom Lydia (c.665 BCE). They were repelled by king Gyges, but twenty years later, they were back and in 644 BCE, they defeated the Lydians during the reign of Gyges’ son Ardys II and looted their capital Sardis.  Some say Gyges was killed by the Cimmerian leader Lygdamis (Dugdammê).

The fall of Sardis was a major shock to the powers of the region; the Greek poets Callinus and Archilochus recorded the fear that it inspired in the Greek colonies of Ionia, some of which were attacked by Cimmerian and Treres raiders.

Battle scene from a sarcophagus from the Ionian city of Clazomenae

The Cimmerian occupation of Lydia was brief, however, possibly due to an outbreak of plague. Between 637 and 626 BC, they were beaten back by Alyattes II of Lydia. This defeat marked the effective end of Cimmerian power.

The term Gimirri was used about a century later in the Behistun inscription (ca. 515 BC) as a Babylonian equivalent of Persian Saka (Scythians). Otherwise Cimmerians disappeared from western Asian historical accounts, and their fate was unknown. It has been speculated that they settled in Cappadocia.

Cimmerian Timeline

  • 721-715 BC – Sargon II mentions a land of Gamirr near to Urartu.
  • 714 – suicide of Rusas I of Urartu, after defeat by both the Assyrians and Cimmerians.
  • 705 – Sargon II of Assyria dies on an expedition against the Kulummu.
  • 679/678 – Gimirri under a ruler called Teushpa invade Assyria from Hubuschna(Cappadocia?). Esarhaddon of Assyria defeats them in battle.
  • 676-674 – Cimmerians invade and destroy Phrygia, and reach Paphlagonia.
  • 654 or 652 – Gyges of Lydia dies in battle against the Cimmerians. Sack of Sardis; Cimmerians and Treres plunder Ionian colonies.
  • 644 – Cimmerians occupy Sardis, but withdraw soon afterwards, possibly due to the outbreak of plague.
  • 637-626 – Cimmerians defeated by Alyattes II, father of Croesus, a famed Lydian ruler.
  • ca. 515 – Last historical record of Cimmerians, in the Behistun inscription of Darius.

Caria as the Luwian legacy (1800 – 300 BCE)

Caria and the Carians are first mentioned in the cuneiform texts of the Old Assyrian and Hittite Empires, i.e., between c.1800 and 1200 BCE. The country was called Karkissa.

After a gap of some four centuries Carians are next mentioned by Homer. In the Catalogue of ships, he tells that they lived in Miletus, on the Mycale peninsula, and along the river Meander.


Model of the Roman port of Miletus (

In the Trojan War, they had, according to the poet, sided with the Trojans (Homer, Iliad, 2.867ff). This is a remarkable piece of information, because in Homer’s days, Miletus was considered a Greek town; the fact that it is called Carian indicates that the catalogue of ships contains some very old information.

In the fifth century, the Greeks thought that the Carians had arrived in Caria from the islands of the Ionian Sea, whereas the Carians claimed to be indigenous. Homer confirms their story.

It is also confirmed by modern linguistics: the Carian language belongs to the Hittite-Luwian subfamily of the Indo-European languages. It is related to Lycian and Lydian, the languages spoken to the southeast and north of Caria. Had the Carians arrived in their country from the west, their language would have been closer to Greek.

Various Greek tribes settled on the coast in the dark ages between c.1200 BCE and c.800 BCE, where they and the Carians mixed (cf. Vitruvius, On architecture, 4.1.4-5). According to the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus (fifth century BCE), the inhabitants of Miletus spoke Greek with a Carian accent (Histories 1.142).

Herodotus himself is also a good example of the close ties between the Carians and Greeks: his father is called Lyxes, which is the Greek rendering of a good Carian name, Lukhsu. Because of his descent and birth place, Herodotus is one of our most important sources.

Caria is a mountainous country with isolated verdant valleys and pockets of resources, as is Greece. Villages, cities and regions were distanced from one another, making a fragmented cultural geography. This is in contrast to Egypt and Babylonia, where the landscape is a fertile alluvial plain , easily connected by merchants and armies. Caria was viewed a backward country by the empires of the East.

Hilltops were fortified and there were several villages in the valleys, but there were few cities. Because of their disparate country, the Carians were divided; every valley had its dialect and leadership.

Carian gods

Carian Zeus

What united the Carians, however, was their religion. One of their ritual centers was Mylasa, where they venerated a male supreme god, called ‘the Carian Zeus’ by Herodotus. Unlike his Greek colleague, this Zeus was an army god.

Image result                  Image result for ephesus sculpture greek


One of the Carian goddesses was Hecate, who was responsible for road crossings and became notorious in Greece as the source of witchcraft. Herodotus calls her Athena and tells that her priestess got a beard when a disaster was appending (Histories 8.104).


On mount Latmos near Miletus, the Carians venerated Endymion, who had been the lover of the Moon and had procreated as many children as there are days in the year. Endymion was sleeping eternally, a story that the Greeks told about Zeus’ father Kronos.

Marble figure of Endymion sleeping on Mount Latmos

Leleges – companion culture of Western Anatolia

Following the Bronze Age collapse in about 1280 BCE, Homer discusses semi-mythical people, the Leleges as a distinct Anatolian culture from the Carians, in the early and middle 1st millennium BCE. This suggests a geographical link between Bronze Age ( to 1280 BCE) Luwian culture, and the early Iron Age (1100 – 300 BCE) Leleges, inhabiting nearly all of western Anatolia. There are different historical reports of Lelegeans coming from and going to live in many areas of Greece.

In his work Politics Aristotle mentions Lelegeans led a wandering life, not only in Carian cities. Lelegeans are believed to have lived near the coast in villages built on coastal high hills which they surrounded with walls. This craggy strategy speaks to the loose connection between villages, and the danger of sea mauraders and pirates.  This is distinct from the more settled, Hellenization that comes to the region later, under the protection of kings or vassals of empires and their armies.

Strabo writes that in the territory of Miletus, certain settlements are called settlements of the Leleges, and why, in many places in Caria, tombs of the Leleges and deserted forts, known as “Lelegean forts.”

It is widely held that the Leleges were largely absorbed into the Carian culture before the rise of King Mausolus (c. 350 BCE). His treatment of the Leleges in Myndos was noteworthy, as he did not incorporate this settlement into the new capital city Halicarnasus, only 20 km distant.

Mausolus built Mydnos into a Hellenic western port. He either moved or combined an existing Lelege village from a local hilltop named Kocadağ a few kilometers distant with the fresh coastal Myndos. This combines a knowledge of the geographical strategical position with a semi-autonomous nod to what may have been the ancestral home and role Leleges play in Carian culture.


Myndos Legegian wall

Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484-425 B.C.), wrote about mixed Carian and Leleges, giving them a historical definition :’’The Carians crossed to the mainland from the islands, and while they still lived in part on the islands they were called Lelegans and were ruled by King Minos’’, who ruled Phrygia in the late 8th century BC.

Pherecydes of Leros (ca 480 BCE) attributed to the Leleges the coast land of Caria, from Ephesus to Phocaea, with the islands of Samos and Chios, placing the true Carians farther south from Ephesus to Miletus.

Philippus of Theangela (a 4th century BCE historian) referred to Leleges still surviving as serfs of the “true Carians“, and even later Strabo attributes to the Leleges a distinctive group of deserted forts and tombs in Caria that were still known in his day as “Lelegean forts”.

Although little archeological evidence remains, the Leleges are spoken of in history as being associated with cities in the Troad region, in the northwest of Anatolia. Homer speak of a king, Altes, and a city Pedasus which was sacked by Achilles. Gargara in the Troad was counted as Lelegian. Alcaeus (7th or 6th century BCE) calls the city Antandrus in the Troad “Lelegian”.

Other writers from the 4th century CE onwards claimed to discover them in Boeotia, west Acarnania (Leucas), and later again in different parts of mainland Greece; Thessaly, Euboea, Megara, Lacedaemon and Messenia. In Messenia, they were reputed to have been immigrant founders of Pylos, and were connected with the seafaring Taphians and Teleboans, and distinguished from the Pelasgians. However, in Lacedaemon and in Leucas they were believed to be aboriginal and Dionysius of Halicarnassus mentions that Leleges is the old name for the later Locrians.

These European Leleges must be interpreted in connection with the recurrence of place names like Pedasus, Physcus, Larymna and Abae, both in Caria, and in these “Lelegian” parts of Greece. Perhaps this is the result of some early migration; perhaps it is also the cause of these Lelegian theories; perhaps there was a widespread pre-Indo-European culture that loosely linked these regions, a possibility on which much modern hypothesis has been constructed.

K. W. Deimling. Die Leleger (Leipzig, 1862), places their origins in southwest Asia Minor, and brings them thence to Greece, essentially repeating the classical Greek view.

Pythagoras was born in Samos a Greek island, between 580-570 BC . His father Mnesarchos was a successful and wealthy merchant was descended from one of the aristocratic families which formed the court of the famous tyrrant of Samos Polycrates. Pythagoras was accompanying his father in his mercantile trips having thus the opportunity to meet and learn about new cultures like the Phoenician and the Egyptian. In Tyrinth he attended astronomy lessons by Babylonian priests. Later he was taught Geometry and Astrology by Thales and Anaximader. However the biggest influence in Pythagoras’ education was Pherecydes. Pherecydes was the first Greek to adopt the eastern views of immortality of soul and second life which he conveyed to his student Pythagoras.Although some historians claim that Pythagoras’ views on the immortality of soul were influenced by Egyptian priests.

The ahmes papyrus
After the death of Pherecydes Pythagoras was impelled by Thales to turn towards the mystical Egyptian priests.Carrying with him a written recommendation by Polycrates to Pharaoh Amasis, Pythagoras achieved to be accepted as a student of the priests in Thebes. There he was initiated in all the Egyptian rituals and learned the Egyptian views about life and death. The Egyptians believed that many animals were sacred and their diet was as we would call it nowadays a vegeterian’s diet.According to some historians Pythagoras had the chance to study the Achmes papyrus which dated back to the second millenium BC. This papyrus revealed through a mystical language some complex and perfectly developed mathematical theories which were unknown for the rest of the world.
After finishing his studies in Egypt he wandered all around the known world.At some point he became a student of Chaldean priests of Babylon who were masters of mysticism and astronomy.
Carrying knowledge from all around the known world Pythagoras returned to Samos and became the teacher of Polycrates’ son. However very soon their relations were worsened and Pythagoras left for Italy.

also read The Carians

Pharaoh’s mercenaries

Like the Swiss, the Gurkha’s, and other mountain people, the Carians were forced to become mercenaries. Their country was too poor to maintain a large population, and younger sons went overseas to build a new future. They were military specialists and it is no coincidence that Herodotus writes that the Greeks had been indebted to the Carians for three military inventions: making shields with handles, putting devices on shields, and fitting crests on helmets (Histories 1.175). Because of this last invention, the Persians called the Carians ‘cocks’.

The first reference to Carian mercenaries can be found in the Bible: in 2 Kings 11.4, we read about Carians in Judah. (This may look strange, but it fits the picture: according to 2 Samuel 8.18, king David had a guard of Cretans.) The books of Kings were probably composed in the sixth century, but the information stems from older sources; this is the only mentioning of the Carians in the dark ages.

The Carians, however, were especially famous because they served the Egyptian pharaoh. Our main source is, again, Herodotus. He tells us that the first to employ these men was pharaoh Psammetichus I (664-610; Histories 2.152), probably at the beginning of his reign. Some circumstantial evidence supports Herodotus’ words, because archaeologists have discovered several settlements in the western part of the delta of the Nile that were founded by people from the Aegean. These settlements can be dated in the seventh century.

The Carians remained active in Egyptian service. They are known to have fought against the Nubians (in modern Sudan) in c.593 BCE; on their return, they visited Assuan and left inscriptions. According to an Egyptian stela now in Cairo, they played an important role during the coup d’etat of Amasis (570 BCE), who gave the Carians a new base near the Egyptian capital Memphis.

When the Persian king Cambyses invaded Egypt in 525 BCE, the Carian contingents were still there, serving king Psammetichus III. According to Herodotus (Histories 3.11), they sacrificed children before they offered battle against the invaders.

They managed to switch sides, however. (They were not the only ones: even the commander of Egyptian navy, Wedjahor-Resne, deserted his king.) In Egyptian sources from the Persian age, we still find Carians, now serving a new lord. One of the latest examples is an Aramaic papyrus dated to 411 BCE. Seven years later, the Egyptians became independent again; this time, the Carians were unable to switch sides. The collaborators must have been dismissed.

Caria and the Persian period

The Carians, like the Lycians and Lydians, are considered indigenous peoples of Anatolia. The Carian script has not yet been deciphered, and it has not been possible to determine to which group of languages it belongs. They were neighbors of the Lydians and are also thought to have been seafaring people. The Greeks captured the Carian cities of Halicarnassus, Cnidus, and Barygylia. Halicarnassus, today’s Bodrum located on a peninsula jutting into the Aegean on the southwestern coast of Anatolia, was the principle center of Caria.

The most famous of the Carian leaders was King Mausolus (377-353 BCE). Under the Persian rule, Mausolus first held the office of Satrap (Persian governor). He soon was able to break Caria away from the Persian influence by aligning himself with the Greek islands lying off the western coasts of Anatolia.

He organised the cities of Caria, following the Greek model, into what came to be known as the Carian Empire. King Mausolus took the populations of six of the eight early cities into his capital at Halicarnassus. These were Termera, Side, not to be confused with the town of Side located further east of Bodrum on the Mediterranean Sea, Madnasa, Pedasa, Uranium and Telmissus.

The remaining two cities were Syangela, east of the capital, and Myndos. The others were grouped to the north and northwest of Halicarnassus. The residents of the six cities were brought to the capitai, abandoning their homes, while the sites of Myndos and Syarrgela were moved from their original locations and rebuilt in the fourth century BCE according to the plan of King Mausolus for a more impressive Caria.

The Mausoleum, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was built in his honor at Halicarnassus in 353 BCE. Today in many languages the word “mausoleum” is frequently used to mean “monumental tomb”. Herodotus, one of the most well-known historians of antiquity, lived in Caria during the 5th century BCE. He finished his famous work “History” in 430 BCE.

It was destroyed by successive earthquakes from the 12th to the 15th century AD.  Little remains from the magnificent tomb of Mausolus today, as stones were taken from the site to build, among other things, the crusader castle. an impressive and extremely well-preserved castle, built in 1402 by the famous Knights of Rhodes. Today it houses the Underwater Archeological museum with its fine collection of antiquities lifted from the sea floor around the coast of Caria.


Coins were minted very early in Caria, and a common type was the Carian Family design. Zeus was represented holding the Carian double-bladed axe or labrys on one side of the coin and a lion on the other side.

Caria after Alexander the Great

Caria was taken by Alexander the Great during his sweeping campaign to conquer the world.  Queen Ada of Caria, sister of Mausolus, had married her brother Idrieus, who succeeded their sister Artemisia in 351 BCE and died in 344 BCE.  At that point she became the satrap/governor of Caria.

Although popular with the population, she was deposed by her younger brother,  Pixodarus of Caria in 340 BCE.  She escaped to a fortress named Alinda.  In 344 BCE she surrendered the fort city to Alexander the Great.  In turn he let her lead Alexander’s campaign against Hallicarnasus and Memnon of Rhodes, who served the Achaemenid Persian Empire.

Following the siege, Alexander made Ada ruler of Caria, and she in turn adopted Alexander, ensuring Caria would pass to him and his lineage.  Freed from the Persians, the Carians and Greeks were strong supporters of Ada and Alexander, and were allowed to live with a great deal of freedom and independence.

With the death of Alexander, one of his generals, “one eyed” Antigonous Monophthalmus became the ruler of the area in 313 BCE.

In 301 BCE Caria became part of the Lysimachus Empire, then a province of the Ptolemaic Empire, and later it is annexed by the Seleucid Empire.

In 188 BC Pergamum6 Kingdom in alliance with the Romans defeated the Seleucids and Caria became part of the Pergamum Kingdom.

Finally Caria became part of the Asian province of the Roman Empire with the rest of the Pergamum Kingdom in 133 BCE when Attalus III (170-133 BCE) bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans.

Caria became part of the Roman administrative region of Asia.  In the forth century CE, Caria became a province under the Diocese of Asia, until it was abolished by Justinian I two hundred years later, in 435 CE.  The region corresponding to ancient Caria was captured by the Turks under the Menteşe Dynasty in the early 13th century.  With this, the region passed to the Turkish era, with only 1-10% of the population listed as Greek, with a smattering of Jewish in area around Milas.  There was no designation for Carian, Lelegian or Luwians.  They had primarily become synonymous with cultural Greeks.

Caria had played its role, and people had become a legacy.  Only recently, with less politicized study and more modern archaeological methods is the role of this western Anatolian culture coming to light.

Aroh Wendelin



Cult of the Grotesque

There has always been something attractive in other cultures and people. It is surprising how few people enjoy such company, to the point that I feel like an anomaly. They seek mirrors of themselves, and close themselves in fear, ridicule and hate of others.

What was this fascination with different peoples, and why don’t more have it?

To see the value of other cultures and people challenges our understanding of ourselves. Everyone should know the humility of being the outsider, of not speak the language around you. It is in being an outsider that we know ourselves, when one is seen as a grotesque to others.

I went to a canadian holiday party in the village with my three year old son. A large group of people came rushing at us as we arrived. Everyone wanted to say hello.

In this group was a young man from Ghana, an exchange student and the only African there. My son walked forward through a crowd twice his height, smiling past familiar faces and friendly greetings, and went directly to this happy, smiling stranger. The man bent on a knee to be eye-level with this small child. They smiled large at one another and fell into a hug.

The moment passed and people faded back into the rooms, but these two were still captivated by each other. The music picked up and the dance floor swelled. I saw my little son in the crowd, in the arms of this smiling guy, his arms and voice high. It was a happy site.

We spoke later after the dancing, and he told me that he was a long way from home, at a festive time of year, and was missing his family and friends. Seeing this small child spot him in a crowd and have him come straight to him, give him hugs, laughs and dance was a touching moment for him, one that would help define his time and experience in Canada.

I later asked my son why he so easily befriended this stranger. He said his smile reminded him of the many ceremonial masks we hung in our home. I call the collection my cult of the grotesque, with masks from Africa, New Zealand, South America, Korea. They were the purposely hideous faces made familiar by.

My first awareness as a kid was being one of the only white-hairs in my Venezuelan neighbourhood. In Germany I sought out other nationalities for friendship. As a teen I was the foreign national living in the US. As an adult I implanted myself in to the singular french Quebec metropolis Montreal. For retirement, I am eyeing Turkey. Even my wife speaks a mother tongue I do not (not Turkish).

That keeps me active as a stranger in my life, and is the touchstone of my individuality. It drives me to be the adventurer in my life. My goal is to seek the beauty in others and try to be the magic in others’ lives, including animals and plants. Even rocks and water get special attention.

Life is a mystery, play your part.

Aroh Wendelin

Threads in the Bio-rhythm

a view of the tangle mesh that life develops

bubbles in the stream of consciousness

In pursuit of a view of the tangle mesh that life develops, we can see how it exploits and creates resources. At a primal level, life is a chemical process, like rust on iron. What distinguishes it is awareness. It actively seeks out resources to create growth circumstances. Sensory interaction with its environment is key for life as it develops features that better situate and sustain it. Sensory systems register input and cause the organism to react. Successful reactive capability grows into species specific instinct memory.

From the animal perspective, most resources are a byproduct of our biosphere. Food, danger and peer are at the heart of our existence, we creatures are looking at each other. Plants and micro-organisms are not given much attention, and yet they underpin the existence of animal life. All lifeforms share their existence in communities.

The symbiosis starts with the cellular and microbial colony of each complex lifeform and extends to all individuals and cellular clusters in our biosphere. Billions of years and species have given rise to countless conversations.

The rich diversity of inter-species conversation continues to reveal itself, adding new languages to the tapestry. These discoveries reveal vocabulary which extends known methods, such as understanding how pheromones intoxicate, adding fullness to a mating performance of colour, movement and vitality.

A new family of languages is being revealed in plant life. Plants are the power generators of our biosphere, capturing light for energy and growth. The process began with cyanobacteria some 3 billion years ago, and led to the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). This was the changeover in life from smaller anaerobic (non-oxygen) lifeforms to multi-cellular aerobic organisms (aerobe) that survive and grow in the high-energy, corrosive power of a highly oxygenated environment.

Minerals created by the oxygen are also key to building the wealth of resources around the planet. We could say life produced compounds and crystals, the earliest flowers.

quartz – crystalline mineral made of silica, or silicon dioxide (SiO2)

Archaeological study in the past 200 years has largely focused on the rise of fauna over the ages. It should be recognized that flora has, all along evolved. There are certainly many features about the complexity of plant life that are still not understood.

This is a review at some lesser or more recently understood aspects about life’s variety, its drive and communication. Ultimately each bio-rhythmic community furthers our understanding of what is required for humans, as the apex creature, to survives away from the diverse songbed from which we have sprung. A more complete comprehension of the bio-harmony and features of each instrument is key.

fish anamnesis

The memory of goldfish was upgraded to months by scientists and amateurs. Studies show temporal discrimination learning has a residual legacy, which will inform the action of the fish for months afterwards.

Testing fish was done with food, showing positive actions rewarded and a memory built on this. Fear is another motivator that shows learned behaviour. The third great motivator for nearly all lifeforms is reproductive, although this is best understood as biological or physiological, not as external stimulus altering / developing behaviour.

The three make up the core of what defines instinct. Remembering the smell, the sound, the location of such stimulation for long periods is a test for emotional memory, whereby a trigger relives a stressor or attractor, and the response to it.

In Learning strategies during fear conditioning (2009) fish are given the choice to flee or attempt social subordination. They test using socially elevated (read: significantly larger), same trout species to provide the fear. They recognize that only half the small fish population seeks to escape, while the other half ‘submits’ to a more stressful, not necessarily mortal situation.

The ability to choose between action and inaction is interpreted as an evolutionary optimization strategy, since either may or may not succeed. Escape from a previously safe, now dangerous environment to an unknown environment is not a survivable guarantee.

The same study discusses how levels of cortisol response to stress (heightened glucocorticoid and central monoaminergic response) as contributing between proactive and reactive activity in the face of fear, and stress. Showing blunted responses to stressors leads to proactive, escape impulse.

species’ adaptive leadership


When a species fills a well-established, biological niche, it follows known patterns and behaviours. It happens to all species where climatic changes will disrupt normal routine, and demand the population find a way to adapt. This disruption will cause stress to its members, as they search for options, and an atmosphere of fear and alarm will prevail.

As noted, the ‘cool head’ (one not as impacted by fear-induced biochemistry) most often responds to fear with an escape instinct. Success builds the heuristics of decision-making. Frequent successful escape would improve their skills in navigating an escape.

For those less likely to displace themselves in difficult situations ranging from annoying to stressful to dangerous, a frequently escaped individual would be a natural guide to follow if it is finally required to escape to survive.

In this way, the level head is a natural leader as stress levels increase to become intolerable in others. Cool nerve is displayed in the lead animal of a pack, one less traumatized by sudden danger, and ready for the opportunity to show prowess and cunning.

When a certain population had its local water supply dry, escapees may head in all directions to look for relief. Each group has its leaders. Those that find new water sources and survive will remember their lesson, and the individual who brought them there.

A population may have moved towards a polar region for heat, drought relief, the same group and in turn faced a transition to winter, another reason escape. Again an escape in all directions is likely not successful for everyone.

Those that manage to move back to the original local water supply now past drought and refilled will have two escapes which together constitute a migration. Seasonal and eventually generational reinforcement of the cycle would eventually become a behavioural instinct in the clan or species.

Creating such a new cadence or learned instinct into a population or species. It should be acknowledged that to successfully adapt to a calamity is exceedingly difficult. It results from species migration, division and eventual extinction most of the time.

Yet the process does promote adaptive leadership as an advantage, especially in prolonged turbulent periods. When stability renders the need for leadership mute, it may become a force of disruption, knowing itself to be advantaged when fear prevails in the population.

born teachers

Beyond the capability to learn and retain memories is the ability to share memories and experiences with others. Lessons in life are provided by parents, family and clan members. By virtue of age, all become teachers.

Animals use direct experience and elder guidance when learning about food and risk of being prey. The young learn how and what to eat, and how to avoid dangers. Teaching is seen in nearly every type of animal from ants and bees to humans.

There are circumstances whereby animals can transmit a lesson by observation, without direct experience. Social learning is observed in guppies and in blackbirds, where the experience of an individual may direct the response of the group to an unfamiliar stimulus. This allows animals to know a danger or desirable food source by the actions of another.

Following the actions of another is a less emotional, not based on memory, but the act itself reinforces the lesson. Instinct is similar whereby a sense of what to do guides individuals or groups, without knowing why, while experience confirms the validity of the instinct.

Birds, insects, fish and animals all share this trait. They primarily rely on individual and group instinct, the rules embedded in genes to survive.

When instinct fails to safeguard the population and its survival is threatened, a range of survival strategies may be employed, from inaction to various escape actions, all looking for a proper response to stabilize the lifestyle.

Three social features combine for a lasting species wide effect. A novel problem presents itself which in turn draws leadership from the population. Successful adaptation is remembered, and passed along into the surviving population. Repeated success of actions become familiar behaviours, eventually imbedding as new genetic memories and instinct.

Ant / Fungus Mutualism

Ants have always provided an intriguing example of communal life, a complex society second only to humans. Colonies of millions of ants live and work in determined unison for the colony.

Image associée
Leaf cutter ant colony – cement-caste (Brazil)

Another feature about 220 new world ant species is that harvest plants to be used as nutrition to grow a fungus. The fungal agriculture / mutualism is said to have evolved some 60 million years ago, certainly far ahead of humans.

emotional intensity as memory priority

There is a certain link between emotion and memory. Have / Have-Not states are triggers for contentment or stress. Given that animals have the ability to remember the method to obtain food and reduce stress, it is should be understood memories in themselves carry a certain residual emotion.

The emotional memory is one that more vividly remains and is quickly recalled. Requiring a food source, a shelter or means to avoid a large adversarial stressor will kick start those emotional memories into gear more quickly than non-emotive, neutral memories such as seeing landscape.

There is a natural correlation between continually facing challenges and emotional memory. Proper memory management can be an advantage as similar future challenges will more quickly offer previous solution methods.

In facing new challenges, the individual will draw from a combination of instinct (species specific memories), experiencially similar memories, and observation of others, their reactions, their emotions, both in the same species and in others as heuristic input to new situations and decisions.

plant sentience

It may be their lack of movement that relegates plants and flora to a life not driven by the communal and individual. With a bit of quiet and time, we see the movement.

Freedom Grow GIF by ADWEEK-downsized


We observe growth movement directed by awareness of sun, wind and the neighboring plant, fungus or rock. We note that below ground, roots spread and intertwine to become a rich matted network. For fungus, the mushroom is only their flowering expression of the mycelial underground, while plants use the nutrition of the earth to build-up upwards and add to the biomass from above.

The harshness of seasonal change and animal / insect predation requires plants to rush their growth in numbers and work together to optimize their spot in the forest.

drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt

The 1973 book Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird describes experiments done with plants by various scientists and specialists. This book was regarded as making psuedo-scientific claims of plant sentience.

One story was of a former C.I.A. polygraph expert named Cleve Backster, who hooked up a galvanometer to the leaf of a dracaena, a houseplant. He claimed that the thought of a fire caused the plant to signal electrically, mimicking a stress.

Although the tests were sometimes questionable, the conclusion is that plants are receptive to electrical and chemical stimulation and signalling. That plants respond to electrical stimulation was supported by studies such as Electrical signalling and systemic proteinase inhibitor induction in the wounded plant

The book’s perceived thaumaturgy put an unspoken 25 year scientific moratorium on the neorobiology of plants. Only recently scientists have begun to study and accept how plants actively react to each other and environmental stimuli. Researchers are unearthing evidence that, far from being unresponsive and uncommunicative organisms, plants engage in regular conversation. The Intelligent Plant

Volatile Organic Compounds

Plants release both airborn and subterranean communication using volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The communications underground are facilitated by fungal filaments known as common mycelial networks that allow transmission between plants. (Plant Talk)


Plants warn neighbors of herbivore attacks, they alert each other to threatening pathogens and impending droughts. Interestingly VOC-induced defense responses—both intra- and interspecies have been acknowledged in several plant species, including lima bean, broad bean, barley, and corn.


Zdenka Babikova sprinkled vegetation-devouring aphids on eight broad bean plants and sealed each plant’s leaves and stems inside a clear plastic bag. This was no act of malice, though; it was all in the name of science. Babikova, a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, knew that aphid-infested bean plants release odorous chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air to warn their neighbors, which respond by emitting different VOCs that repel aphids and attract aphid-hunting wasps.

It has been noted that the dangers facing a plant and causing it to emit complex organic compounds has been shown to provide no benefit to the endangered plant. Yet a system that is receptive to VOC and other stimuli, and is able to emit them to the benefit of others is a profound biological integration.

“In sagebrush, lima bean, and poplar, VOCs released from damaged parts of a plant induce resistance in intact sections of the same plant, suggesting that each individual plant uses the signals to coordinate its own physiological responses.”

In this manner the volatile organic compounds emitted and received in plants acts as a nervous system, giving it response and awareness. This allows both the individual and the neighboring plants to share and benefit by VOC messaging.

The compounds can also be to repel or attract other species that would help protect them. Beyond avoiding danger, VOC can also be used as part of the plant’s reproductive system. Everyone who has every smelled a flower knows the attractive power of the scent.

One example is a study in Science found that the caffeine produced by many plants may function not only as a defense chemical, as had previously been thought, but in some cases as a psychoactive drug in their nectar. The caffeine encourages bees to remember a particular plant and return to it, making them more faithful and effective pollinators.


It is well known that animals, both prey and predator, use sound to be aware of danger and opportunity. This extends into realms humans barely hear. A study of the bat and moths reveals that while bats use sonar to locate themselves and their prey, moths themselves also emit sound that mimics bat sonar and acts like a counter.

One of the central principles of the Secret Life of Plants was that plants are sensitive to sound. This ranged from classical music and calm voice positively stimulating plants, to yelling and chain-saws that caused defensive reactions in plants. Monica Gagliano has studied VOC-like communication among plants that were isolated from such contact, with the suggestion that sound emmision / reception may be another medium used by plants.

Gagliano and colleagues cited a study showing that the roots of young corn plants grown in water make clicking sounds, and that when sounds in the same frequency range were played back to the roots, they responded by bending toward the source.

In an experiment, Heidi Appel, a chemical ecologist at the University of Missouri, found that, when she played a recording of a caterpillar chomping a leaf for a plant that hadn’t been touched, the sound primed the plant’s genetic machinery to produce defense chemicals.

Another unpublished experiment, done in the lab of Stefano Mancuso, found that plant roots would seek out a buried pipe through which water was flowing even if the exterior of the pipe was dry, which suggested that plants somehow “hear” the sound of flowing water.

Plant Memory

Gagliano goes further to illustrate memory in plants, using wind as a pre-cursor of light. With exposure to a regular regime of wind and light, plants ‘learned’ to grow toward wind, even in the absense of light. Pavlov’s PlantsReconsidering Plant Memory

Pando Stand

Interesting is the noted Pando Stand of quaking aspen trees in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest. The shared root system and cloned trees are a single organism, estimated to weigh some 6,615 metric tons and covering 420,000 square meters. It is the largest known largest plant in the world.

John Zapell/USDA Forest Service, Fishlake National Forest

Scientists have estimated the Pando stand to be anywhere in between 80,000 and one million years old, although cattle and unpredated deer populations have kept it from next generation growth.

Honey fungus – forest symbiosis

Another even larger lifeform is the Blue Mountain honey fungus in Malheur National Forest, Oregon. It is spread underground over 10 square kilometres, and is said to be from 7,567 to 35,000 tons.

The honey fungus spreads across miles in Oregon.

It is said to be from 2000 – 8500 years old, and is the largest of 5 similar individual genets in the same area. Armillaria ostoyae, commonly known as the “shoe-string” fungus, parasitizes, colonizes, kills and decays the root systems of various conifer hosts, resulting in what forest managers know as Armillaria root disease. While being a pathogen and tree-killer, Armillaria ostoyae can also maintain itself in dead woody material for many years as a saprophyte.

armillaria disease center with dead and dying trees on the periphery and dead down trees in the center. Note the young trees filling in the disease-created opening. This root disease center is in Genet E.

It should be noted that trees are able to grow within the bounds of the organism, meaning fresh conifers are able to take root and grow. In this capacity, the fungus acts as a plant farmer.

Boreal forest

The boreal forest, or more accurately the taiga is Earth’s single largest biome. This forest is 14% of the Earth’s land surface (nearly 2 billion hectares, 1/3 of the forest worldwide), nearly ringing the Arctic. The forest floor has root systems that actually cross species, where spruce trees have symbiosis with mosses, keeping out undergrowth in return for the added moisture moss gives the forest floor.

Another feature is being able to control squirrel populations by having all trees suddenly not produce as many seeds, or following up with a bumper seed year. Another claim was that trees could also produce a chemical that promoted rain, and in doing so change weather. Such a large forest is able to hold, release, and receive atmospheric moisture.

The transformation of glacial scrubbed rock into arable land begins with lichens and mosses. This adds a more moist, nutritional layer where hardy grasses and plants can take hold further develop the ground layer ahead of forest cover, as conditions warm. Large complex biospheres are able to adjust and mitigate environmental challenges.

To their credit, trees and forests are responsible for pulling life from the sea into freshwater and on to land. The ancient tree, Wattieza gave much needed shade and organic litter 385 million years ago, enough to allow species such as Tiktaalik to transition to a semi-land environment only a few million years later.

The Dance of Life

There is an innate quality to life to be aware and manipulate its environment. Cummulative food, reproduction, death cycles build into complex biological systems of populations among other species, both past and present. Our advanced biosphere has a massive life system.

Put us in a closed ark and we know we can’t survive on lettuce, or potato alone. But it is more complicated than just adding a dessert, although that helps. There is value in knowing what is required for multiple timeframes, for a year, ten years, a thousand years.

Certainly new environmental features such as more gravity, less sun, increased solar rays, and smaller habitable and closed systems will add to the complexity of sustaining manmade biospheres. Success in transplanting humans and their companion species also must work without the benefit of millions and billions of years of adjustment.

The longer the duration away from Earth, the more genetic adjustments in the local population will be seen. One feature that genetics and current human spaceflight share is the push for redundancy systems. Genetic experience and cosmonauts know that to better avert catastrophic collapse, an abundance of spare parts is a requirement in the isolation of space. Having a robust genetic pool to draw from for a new bio-system best assures successful rebalance in the face of dramatic, possibly cascading environmental challenge.

Humans, with their ability to manipulate their environment are poised to extend the jurisdiction of Earth’s life to other worlds. To do so successfully, there needs to be a more thorough understanding and sensitivity to ecosystemic accord. We must appreciate that our species must travel as a multi-species cohort, an ark. We are the ark builders and must become better keepers of our support host. Chickens and corn may be on the invite list, but so also nitrogen-fixing bacteria and crickets.

We are at an evolutionary moment equivalent to abiogenesis, 4 billion years ago and the great oxygenation event, the first biological transformation of the Earth. Of note is that trace evidence of life is found only 500 million years after the formation of the planet. If proper conditions are what is required, plenty of star systems have existed in the past 14 billion years of our universe with planets with a variety of life possibilities.

Our continued willingness to locate life elsewhere in our universe will probably lead to it. It is in our core instincts to seek it out and our skills improve changes of finding it. At this point it is an eventuality that other life will be found. It’s probably in our best interest to not find it for centuries, and to cross a biosphere closer to its conception, a less tangled bio-rhythm. This would better ensure survival of our own.

Aroh Wendelin

Can Humans compete with the success of Cyanobacteria

A peak into breathtakingly rich evolutionary tree of life on our planet

Watching the Tree Grow

In larger science, one sees the general picture of our evolutionary path, and the species past and present in our biosphere.  The biological tree continues to grow newer branches, and that new species develop, populate, overtake, disappear to successive species through time.  The legions practicing sciences build knowledge continually and reveal detail about the splendor of the tree of life that is our planet. It is breathtakingly rich.

There have been hundreds of millions of species that have appeared and gone over billions of years, leaving the 8.7 million we share the planet with today.  Together we are the eons-long dance, morphing in and out of species, adaptations, mutations.  Some are fragile and easily lost (dodo, giant panda), while other species are highly adaptive and successful (trees, birds, humans).  Like our own lifetime, species are born and eventually disappear, their residual memories leave varying degrees in the lifeforms that continue.

Most of us accept this conceptual transition between species without much sense of the transformations.  Evolution is presented in a binary way, switching in time from one to the better species in a linear progression.  We envision one species, eventually producing a second, like a generations-long cell division.  It is presented that newer species start with genetic attributes which provide enough advantage that when expressed find favour, become prevalent and, with isolation becomes distinct from their parent.

With the sheer volume of species, genus, family, order, class phylum, it is understandable that the progression of one species into another is less clear.  Yet observation reveals  indications around us that are evidence of such changes.

Biological division and classifications of species is continued into species’ population studies within the species, down into the individuals with the varied feature sets.  All breeds of dogs are a species, all horse breeds belong to a species.  It is the individual differences in any species that are early indicators of evolutionary adaptation. Bigger tusks, shorter ears, nutritional allergies speak to variation.

Eventually distinctions lead to new species in populations that have been isolated from others, such as the seven million years that separate Asian and African elephants, species which can no longer interbreed.  (Motty).  Another example is the genus Equus from which all horses, zebras and donkeys originate some 4 – 5 million years ago, a species group that can still produce hybrid, but sterile offspring, that cannot reproduce.

Pulled to a shorter interval we have in the canine family, Coywolf is a recent, successful canid hybrid, bridging the 100,000 year species bridge between wolves and coyotes.  This indicates that close species can be brought back together and their hybrid is a new species. The isolation and recombination of species, races and breeds is a central factor in evolution.

A recent study it is understood that evolution has happened in a new Galapologos finch species which began breeding endogamously in 3 generations, rather than 100’s of generations, as previously understood.   Such rapid speciation suggests the actual morph events can respond quickly to new environmental conditions, but seen in the backdrop of millions of years, where such conditional changes are infrequent.  \

A tectonic earthquake, or volcanic event may separate populations suddenly, which could trigger a species adaptation.  Add isolated population bottlenecks and one can appreciate that the trigger initiating speciation can be a relatively short burst of activity that may settle into millenia of adjustment and refinement.

It should reason that the evolutionary map of species develops at a similar tempo as the climatic development of the the Earth. This would be long periods of relative stability interspersed with upheavals of varying regional and global magnitudes.


Modern Human Gene pool

For contemporary humans, genetic isolation can no longer happen in our easily-traveled world.  Paleontology is discovering that multiple, eons-long waves of humanoid species out of Africa contribute to today’s human melange, a product of a complex genetic soup of evolving humanoid species.

When Homo Sapiens first appear in Africa up to 300,000 years ago, and later spread out of Africa, they encountered other humanoid species, such Neanderthal and Denisovans, among others hominim subspecies with 40,000 to 1.9 millions years between them. These other types themselves arrived in various geographies to find earlier groups of hominids. It is in these long periods of isolation and interaction that humanity finds its ancestry.

The following are hominids which may have been contemporary and had opportunity to add their genes to today’s humans.


The entire known history of humanity is 7 million years old from Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Australopithecus afarensis (5 million years ago), Homo habilis (2.5 millions years ago),  and homo erectus (1.9 million years ago).   East Africa and possibly other geographies provided sympatric coexistence for H. erectus and H. habilis for several hundred-thousand years, which further supports the more diversified process of evolution.

How much homo sapiens and sympatric humanoid species interbred is unclear, but the opportunity, and likelihood is there.  This image collection above shows how humanoids such as homo erectus and homo habilis developed multiple subspecies in their geographic isolation.  It must be remembered that such development would have been done both inside and outside Africa.

It shows that multiple subspecies can develop and exist in geographical proximity to one another.  It suggests that isolated subspecies and estranged populations of hominids may have split away and been recombined in a number of ways over millions of years.  Such mixing would have led Homo Sapiens to localize according to the subspecies encountered.

The mighty volcanic and its human bottleneck

The apocalyptic Toba super-volcano eruption in Indonesia (c. 70,000 years ago) has some suggesting a bottleneck of the human population.  This proposes a human population of only 10,000–30,000 non-African individuals that survived the extreme environmental change around the Arabian peninsula.

There is evidence pockets of population survived the event in various geographies.  Low numbers and difficulty with frequent glaciation would keep localized groups isolated for possibly long periods of time.  Population bottleneck promotes many more individuated genes from survivors of various localities.  Given the extensive spread and depth of humanoids, this could have brought many distinctions to prominence.

read : Out-of-Africarabia


Expanding the human habitat, again

If we consider the human species on the cusp of visiting and settling off-world, distinct habitat conditions would push towards adaptation, while isolation could eventually keep those changes away from other humans in other corners of the solar system or galaxy.

A smaller world with less mass and gravity would produce taller individuals, whereas a larger world with more gravity would see stronger bodies.  Water worlds, desert worlds, those with intense solar radiation; little or high atmospheric pressures, exposure to different gas, element, molecular, microbial mixtures; any and every place would be unique in its offering.

It may happen quickly that humans and sybiotic species colocated in isolated, environmentally diverse locations would begin to modify, and could quickly go as far as becoming new species.  Think about the person, who was born and lived entirely in the 1/3 Earth-gravity of Mars.  Such a person would probably require serious physio-therapy, or prosthetic aids to be able to withstand their weight being tripled when visiting Earth.

It is unlikely that it will take hundreds of thousands of years for humans to begin to diverge quickly, as the potentially severe new conditions pressed on our physiology.  Plants and animals given new environments will either adapt quickly, or not succeed.  A few hundred years of celestial body separation will likely be enough to see a dramatic differentiation of species that once originated on Earth.


Bottleneck Evolution


One easily understood concept of evolution is the sudden reduction of many species in the biosphere which allows for the rise of new opportunities and adaptations.  Faced with a vaccuum, a smaller, but advanced biosphere blossums after a period of retreat or stasis.  This is similar to the burst of life that follows a forest fire, or more regularly, after winter.

It should also be noted that when populations are small, natural selection actually becomes weaker, and the effects of randomness grow more powerful.  A devastating event may see survival species as ‘superior’ in their traits, but still have a small population stock to grow and evolve from.

Many agree that a cataclismic asteroid strike on the Yukatan pennisula 65 million years ago led to the extinction of most dinsaurs and reptile species.  The rise of mammals and grass plants was to follow.

But it was already the fifth such extinction. The others are well listed by Extinction Events – BBC

  • Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction

    The third largest extinction in Earth’s history, the Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction had two peak dying times separated by hundreds of thousands of years.
    During the Ordovician, most life was in the sea, so it was sea creatures such as trilobites, brachiopods and graptolites that were drastically reduced in number. (443 million years ago – 85% of marine species lost)
    Late Devonian mass extinction
    Three quarters of all species on Earth died out in the Late Devonian mass extinction, though it may have been a series of extinctions over several million years, rather than a single event.
    Life in the shallow seas were the worst affected, and reefs took a hammering, not returning to their former glory until new types of coral evolved over 100 million years later. (375 million years ago, 75% of species lost)
    Permian mass extinction
    The Permian mass extinction has been nicknamed The Great Dying, since a staggering 96% of species died out. All life on Earth today is descended from the 4% of species that survived. (251 million years ago, 96% of species lost.)
    Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction
    During the final 18 million years of the Triassic period, there were two or three phases of extinction whose combined effects created the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event. Climate change, flood basalt eruptions and an asteroid impact have all been blamed for this loss of life. (200 million years ago, 80% of species lost.)
    Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction
    The Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction – also known as the K/T extinction – is famed for the death of the dinosaurs. However, many other organisms perished at the end of the Cretaceous including the ammonites, many flowering plants and the last of the pterosaurs. (66 million years ago, 76% of all species lost.)


Bottlenecked species surviving mass-extinctions is a repeated theme in evolutionary science. Understandably large, complex species are most drastically impacted, while smaller, or more versatile species have a better change to start new species clusters.  The retained variances in a smaller surviving population will become the prevalent features in the new.

Biome pockets of life manage to struggle an existence during and after these extinctions, which leads to a pulse of new species, breaking out into new opportunities. Animal species usually depend on the extent flora has penetrated a region.  Fewer plants means the geography can support less animal life.

Today we are Noah, looking for a path forward from the Holocene extinction of our times.  This time around, a sentient species is challenged to survive it, a species that needs to preserve itself and support species.

Typically, ‘recovery’ from mass extinction events typically occurs over 10 million years or more.  It is to be seen whether humanity survives this current extinction event. If we do, it will be an interesting to know whether the advantages and advances of our species in understanding and manipulating our own environment will spur Earth’s life to other planets and systems.

Either interstellar humans will find ‘life’ commonplace in the many kinds of locations, or they will bring life to the places where they set up.  It will be interesting to find out, but we will not know for centuries, millenia, or more.

 Life-changing conditions for Evolution


Beyond the catastrophic extinction events which kill off most life, and set up opportunities for survivors, a more accessible evolutionary model revolves around adaptation as the main driver of evolution.

One of the greatest changes life brought to Earth was the introduction of high levels of atmospheric oxygen.  The Great Oxygenation Event (GOE) some 2.4 billion years ago introduced oxygen into the oceans and atmosphere.  Cyanobacteria was the original phylum of species to produce this oxygen.

As oxygen levels increased, cellular specializations known as eukaryote developed, distinct from the single-celled lifeforms dominated up to that time, and even today.  This new cell type leads to animal and plant species.  Eukaryote cells developed plastids (1.5 billion years ago), the cell type found in plants and algae, and contains chlorophyll can carry out photosynthesis.

Scientists conclude:

“oxygen levels in the environment, and the ability of eukaryotes to extract energy from oxygen, as well as produce oxygen, were key factors in the rise of complex multicellular life. Mitochondria and organisms with more than 2–3 cell types appeared soon after the initial increase in oxygen levels at 2300 Ma. The addition of plastids at 1500 Ma, allowing eukaryotes to produce oxygen, preceded the major rise in complexity.”

– from A molecular timescale of eukaryote evolution and the rise of complex multicellular life

Eukaryotes and cellular specialization enabled a single lifeform to have symbiotic, mutually beneficial collections of cell types.  Multi-cellular plant life opened the door to larger and diverse animal life.

Interplanetary – Interstellar Speciation

The idea that lifeforms may be transmitted from planet to planet, or even between star systems is being to settled.  A large meteor or astroid strike on a planet with life can potentially blast a large mass beyond the gravitational pull of the planet.  The Allan Hill meteorite found in 1996 in Antarctica and originating from Mars opened the debate whether it contained life.

More importantly inter-celestial fragments opened the notion that large meteor or asteroid strikes on Earth would carry chunks of the earth with its lifeforms to space.  Studies show that some species could survive interstellar flight, such as the small water-bear (tardigrade), nematode worms, cynobacteria, spores, or seeds.  It has now been discussed that the diversity of life on Earth can be transferred off the planet when high atmospheric dust is knocked from gravitational orbit by charged particles and set on its way to other planetary or even interstellar bodies.  Large volcanic activity can list  participate in getting masses of dust, debris with varying fauna/flora into the upper atmosphere.

We currently believe life to have originated naturally on our own planet.  The process has yet to be duplicated by scientists, so it is certainly a rare event.

The possibility that life could move from one planet to another means than the natural process by which life arises from non-living matter (known as abiogenesis) need not happen in every system that has or has had life.  It could have come from elsewhere and created a new biosphere from a small biological sample that landed on another celestial body with favourable conditions.

The most recent large meteor impact took out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.  The escape velocity of Earth is 11.2 kilometres per second (approximately 40,000 kph).   In the 570 billion hours since that event, material ejected from the Earth at the lowest velocity could have traveled over 2000 light years.  High-speed meteors have been seen going as fast as 72 kilometers per second, extending the range to 15,000 light years.

If a large meteor strike were to have thrown biological material into space during the much earlier Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction some 440 million years ago, when another asteroid strike may have been responsible.  Fast-moving material from such an ancient event could have covered 100,000 light years, and reached every corner and beyond the galaxy.  The Milky Way galaxy has 100 – 400 billion stars.

Number of stars within 250 light years = 260 000.  Within 5000 light years, there are approximately 300 million stars;  the number of stars within 50,000 light years = 200 billion, our Sun is 26 000 light years from the centre of the galaxy.

The Milky Way Galaxy

Between large fragments created occasionally by asteroid strikes, and cosmic particles scraping atmospheric dust on a continual basis, Earth may itself be responsible for a panspermia of the entire galaxy, and could have reached different targets with material from various geological time periods in Earth’s life.  Hundreds of millions of years after any interplanetary specimen successful hosted on other hospitable celestial bodies, the local biosphere could be as profound and radical as Earth.

As the discussion of the ALH84001 meteorite speculated whether life on Earth could have come from Mars, it is also to be considered whether life may have come from outside our solar system.  If abiogenesis happened on Earth, it’s likely to have happened elsewhere.  The make-life conditions may be so rare that it is quite infrequent but our study of life on this planet shows it to be resilient to cataclysm.  A bacteria rich planet blasted in a supernova may, over hundreds of millions of years spread life to thousands of galactic bodies.  Maybe ur-life on Earth came from an event outside our system which is why we can’t quite duplicate it.  Earth and possibly most other life-bearing planets in the galaxy could already share a mother, an extended life family across star systems.

The web of life is vastly more complex than we understand it today.


Sizing Up Species

It could be argued that early cyanobacteria, its addition of oxygen and subsequent yearly glaciation contribute to the development of a global life form, as expressed in seasonal flux.  It is argued that until adequate oxygen was available, the Earth was largely ice-free.


Bringing down atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and raising the oxygen levels led periodic glaciation starting with the 300 million year-long Huronian glaciation.  (see blog entry – Before floods, there were puddles).

The slow change in oxygen levels allowing frozen Earth eras did not impact the planatery biosphere in such a sudden way.  The transition did help mold life into cooler adaptations, and more diverse multi-cellular structure.

Cold oceans allowed nutrients deep in the ocean to more easily circulate to cool sunlit surface waters, unlike a warm water blanket which repels the upswell.

Cold water can also hold more dissolved oxygen than warm water.  More oxygen and food allowed animal life to thrive, a phenomena still seen today in arctic/antarctic water.

Seasonal light variations are also drastic as polar summer days can last weeks, or months, unlike the regular 12 hour daylight at the equator.  The light means continual photosynthesis and growth.

In nutrition-fortified, oxygenated, well-lit seas, plant life explodes. Masses of zooplankton flourish allowing legions of fish and seabird to thrive. On land, cooler, drier climates kept vegetation from growing into a jungle-heap.  Sparse forests, open woodlands, and savannas promotes animal mobility.

Bergmann’s Rule describes how larger animals benefit in colder climates since smaller surface area-to-volume ratio minimize energy requirements. Advantage is given to size, as large fauna more easily keep warm, can go longer periods without food, and have greater protection from predators.

Many are familiar how ice ages since the dinosaur extinction shaped large land and marine mammals into what is known as the Pliestocene Megafauna.


Human punch and dodge (features, adaptions, mutations)

Closer to human history, evolution has both bottleneck and adaptive processes playing a role in the development on our species, our cultures.  Looking at some of these actors, we can begin to see how our own actions play a role.

Homo Sapiens have existed as a species for 200-300K years.  During this time there have only been human civilizations for the last 10-15K years.  It may well be the case that humans had to build themselves and survived conditions that would allow civiilzation to grow from their initial lifestyles. Disease-resistance and social convention are requirements developed as humans begin to live closer together.

It should also be remembered that the human population at the end of the last ice-age and the beginning of civilizations was about five million.  The thousand+fold human population explosion to seven billion means many genetic variables will find their place in the species at a more much quicker rate.

read : Human Evolution Enters an Exciting New Phase

Fire & Smoke

Over the last million years since man first controlled (and fell in love with) fire, there is evidence suggesting humans evolved the ability to better tolerate smoke, as well as the gastro-intestinal ability to eat charred meat and vegetables.

We have long set fires for the hunt, to clear brush areas to promote fresh growth, to heat, transform, protect.  The human eye knows the profound mystery of watching a flame, whether candle or inferno.

Cooked food gave rise to a reduced need for large cutting and grinding teeth, and less of a diverse need for bacterial culture to resist illness caused by rancid food, and food preservation made possible more free time.

Language and Music

Spoken language may coincide with the speciation of modern humans.  Some argue it may have been the fireside leisure.  Entertainment is humanity’s first currency.  Like the notion that beer predates bread as a use for wheat, it’s probable that music came before spoken language.

 “(I)t appears probable that the progenitors of man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language, endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm.” (Darwin, 1871, pp. 880)

Language and music also evolve over time.  What certainly started as body movement and simple sounds has become thousands of languages and musical styles.

Modern music styles such as rock or jazz, as well as modern languages with thousands of words probably could not be appreciated by humans until recently.

The vocabulary of small pockets of people such as craftmen, hunters and healers eventually gets picked up by the general population as part of the lingua franca.

In the Holocene era, regional languages and dialect are set to see large scale extinction as more humans communicate using common languages and families no longer remain in close proximity to one another.

Urban Microbial Tolerance

The rise of settlements and later cities has been made possible because of the heightened tolerance to infectious diseases.  City-dwellers have spent centuries and generations in proximity and variously exposed to diseases brought to them from travelers.

Small pox, cholera, TB, typhus all took their toll on the population.  Over generations these outbreaks would end, and individuals with higher tolerance to some of these diseases would become more prevalent.

The bubonic plague of middle-age Europe reduced the human population by a third, and much more in certain cities and districts.  Recovery from Black Death led to increased optimism, mercantile and artistic, and opened the way to the modern era.


Cultural evolution

Humans did move into many geographies, and in doing so, limited the overall impact of all but the most global events.  More recent, and more geographic, selective cataclysms lead to cultural evolution.

Another more recent volcano was the Thera eruption on the island Santorini approximately 1600 BCE.  Sixty cubic kilometers of rock blasted from the largest eruption in ‘recorded’ history, and certainly led to the destruction of the nearby city of Akrotini (possible source for Atlantis story), and a weakening of the Minoan civilization, which enabled the late bronze age conquest of Mycenaean Greece.

The conquest does lead the Mycenaean to coopt many Minoan cultural artifacts.  This cultural ‘leg-up’ gave rise to Greek

Human War

Human wars have disrupted and destroyed many known human civilizations and countless unknown settlements.  It also acts as a catalyst to potential post-war social renewal.

Developments in warfare capability are similar to genetic experience that provides advantage to a segment of a species population. Cultural development, spread, appropriation, and destruction are impacted by war, a manmade climate-changer.

The move from softer copper to the harder (copper/zinc alloy) bronze 5000 years ago, during the Neolithic – agricultural  revolution, was a move away from hunter gatherer, “the original affluent society” to state warfare, armed policing, social castes, feudal nationhood, agriculture crops, taxation & slavery.

Metal weaponry allows the strongman to push their agenda on to those not otherwise interested, or even actively resisting.  History is full of the strong men with armies.  The charismatic look to impose themselves over others.

The power and changes of advanced weaponry is seen again later in the Bronze Age collapse where the iron and steel change long established power structures, civilizations and dynamics.

Like the only human in the room with a spear, a torch, a blade, a sword, a gun; it gives might to those powerless without it.  What follows such civilization collapses is an unprecedented new age that would not have been possible otherwise, similar to the regrowth following a forest fire.

Features & Cultures as Drivers

Ultimately a species is a collection of individuals that span generations and various genetic expressions that may or may not be a biological advantage.

The mutation of brown eyes to blue represents neither a positive nor a negative mutation. It is one of several mutations such as hair colour, baldness, freckles and beauty spots, which neither increases nor reduces a human’s chance of survival. As Professor Eiberg says, “it simply shows that nature is constantly shuffling the human genome, creating a genetic cocktail of human chromosomes and trying out different changes as it does so.” – University of Copenhagen. “Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor.” ScienceDaily, 31 January 2008.

Given there are blue eyes in dogs and cats, we can assume the blue eyed experiment is somewhat common.

The biological advantage may not always play the central role in the success of expressed genetic features.  It is ultimate sexual selection determines how prevalent a random feature will become.  The first blue-eyed human /dog / cat obviously was accepted and found expanded favour across generation in the local population.

The definition of common beauty and desirability within a cultures is a key driver in societies.  Societies’ selection processes that over centuries molds distinct cultural groups. Trends, not individual choices will determines the prevalence of features.  One example is Japanese integration of facial hair into their culture, while Chinese culture has less overall interest in it.

Trade and warfare bring societies and cultural features into contact with one another, sometimes one dominating and expanding, while others decline and are largely forgotten.


Technology driving our development, our evolution

Our current explosive growth drives innovation and challage in every field and species. In two or three generations, humans live longer, healthier and taller, albeit more stressful lives than societies before.  But our species’ voracious appetite for affluence may cost us and the biosphere more than we can withstand.

We are more technically capable and driven than a century, a generation, a decade ago. We have three times the people, millions of people giving their intelligence to thousands of projects, questions, problems.  It won’t be long before there are many easy solutions to numerous issues.   How to ensure balance in 7 billion?

The Earth will survive humans, so this struggle is only the self-preservation of our species and the species that cohabitate this planet with us.  We must make every effort to ride and tame the extinction tsunami we are now riding.

Aroh Wendelin