As one year ends and another begins, most of us are reflecting on the last year of our lives. Where we've been, how we got there, and where we're going. One can also marvel over the many ingenious inventions that have come from the human mind. We make history, we learn from it and we evolve, and move forward as a society.
I often wonder where things we interact with every day originated, who invented them and what their original intent was.
And, while we don't think about perimeters, and boundaries as structural elements on a daily basis, they are a part of all of our lives on a conscious and subconscious level. Anyone who has lived in the past several hundred years has gone through their entire lives in their presence. From the emotional tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the sheer visual impact of the Great Wall of China to the boundaries of our country's borders perimeter fences have played a major role in implicative communication throughout human history.
So where did the fence come from?
The history of civilization is closely tied with the history of the fence. Human civilization is conceptualized as emerging from agriculture, family and property. All of these evolved with the fence.
On the one hand, fences are tangible objects that have been put to use at all times for definite purposes. On the other, they are artifacts having meanings in the cultural systems they've resided in.
Fencing as a concept gives us a clue into the mentality of past societies and its symbolic usage in their societies The fence can be used to exemplify the role of technologies in culture.
While technologies enable us to act or behave in certain ways, they also make us think about what we do, and create habits of thought. Hence, our practices, built upon the media we use, shape up our conceptualization of the world. With continuous usage technologies highlight what is important to think about in our lives thus establishing cultural values. Culture then perpetuates itself by employing practices as symbols.
From this perspective studying the history of the fence is at the same time studying the culture of the fence. While no more than fragmented evidence from a small number of societies, time periods and locations, we can see how the use of fences in human societies has generated myths we live by and ideologies we now take for realities.
In the early stages of settling, human tribes tended to till the land in a group. Amongst the ancient Germans there were no separate estates or private boundaries. Germans practiced the so-called "shifting cultivation".
The appearance of the perimeter fence in human societies marked the transition from a pattern of looting nature to taking care of it. It was with devoted agriculture that fences came about. While it is impossible to name the inventor of this technology back in Ancient Mesopotamia, the first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "this is mine," and was able to persuade others to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society.” The fence helped institutionalize one of the most important elements of the social contract – the collective recognition of private property.