References – Part 8: On Bread Loaf Mountain


92: The Spanish-Speaking Americas

The numbers for the economic and demographic comparisons of Costa Rica and Ecuador are from the CIA World Factbook, 2006.

On Bread Loaf Mountain


93: Welcome to South America

Quito’s elevation above sea level can be found in this Best of Ecuador travel guide.

See this emergency appeal from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies regarding the eruption of Pichincha in 2006. By 2011 there had been no further eruption, but Pichincha is still an active volcano.


95: The Eyrie

When I first pulled the data for the populations of the four cities, it was from a unified source. When fact-checking the book, I couldn’t locate that source. The four numbers I use are therefore sourced separately for the purposes of the book. None of the numbers is controversial. The only question of note is whether London or Istanbul has a higher population. The numbers I found suggest London, while those I knew in Istanbul, who’d lived in both cities, anecdotally felt that Istanbul was bigger. Numbers for both are variable across sources.

I suspect the question really comes down to the definition of where one stops counting (i.e. does ‘London’ include it’s various outer suburbs? Everything within the M25 motorway? The London halo?).

For the numbers used in The Jolly Pilgrim:

  • The stats for London are from the UK Office of National Statistics.
  • The stats for Istanbul are from this school fact sheet.
  • The stats for Sydney are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics: Sydney (Statistical Division), 2006 Census QuickStats.
  • The stats for Quito are quoted on this Travel Muse site.


Nella and Henry

96: The Latin Family

The numbers for the proportion of the world’s population living on US$1 per day or less are from the World Bank.


97: Guinea Pigs and Peanut Sauce

The numbers for the value of assets you need to be in the category of the 50 percent, 20 percent, 5 percent and 1 percent richest people on Earth (in 2006) come from The World Distribution of Household Wealth, a paper by economists at the University of Western Ontario.


98: Man on Hill

The figure for the proportion of people who have ever lived, who are currently alive, is based on one number we know very well and one number we have to estimate. I used 6.5 billion for the first and 106 billion for the second (6.5/106 x 100 = 6.21 = approx 6%). The source for the 106 billion (and a brilliant and insightful treatment of this fascinating topic) is Massimo Livi-Bacci’s A Concise History of World Population.


99: Paleozoogeography

The number for the difference between sea levels at the height of the last ice age and today (130 metres), is quoted in this set of lecture notes from Columbia University’s School of Earth and Environmental Science. The context to this – as any high school geology student will know – is that the twenty-first century falls during an interglacial period, slap bang in the middle of an ice age.


A Day in the Life

The book referred to in this musing is John Hemming’s The Conquest of the Incas.


100: Native American State Formation to 103: The Black Legend

The Eyrie

My original contextual understanding of the pre-Columbian high civilizations of the Western Hemisphere came from a visit to Mexico in 2001, where I read a book discussing the archaeological record of its ancient civilisations.

My later, more detailed, understanding of the Andes region’s pre- and post-Columbian history, as discussed in subchapters 100 through 103, comes mainly from the following three books:

  • J Lockart and S B Schwartz’s Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil
  • John Hemming’s The Conquest of the Incas (aforementioned)
  • Clive Ponting’s World History A New Perspective

Lockart and Schwartz’s book contained the real meat for the region’s history either side of 1492. I paraphrase it extensively in Part 8.

Readers familiar with this area of history may also recognize the influence of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. I actually hadn’t read that book when I wrote the diary in Part 8 and was only introduced to it in Quito (by Mark, mentioned in subchapter 97). However, Professor Diamond’s work had clearly influenced other thinkers who I’d read (critically Clive Ponting). I did read Guns, Germs and Steel later in the pilgrimage, as I travelled around South America. Reader’s familiar with Professor Diamond’s work will recognize its influence in Part 9.

Regarding pottery: I’m afraid I may have underestimated the Amerindians. My apologies, as I don’t have the original source I used when I was in South America. Clive Ponting’s World History: A New Perspective quotes 3500 BCE as the earliest pottery in the Western Hemisphere (on the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast, which means the Valdiva) and 2500 BCE for the valley of Mexico. The oldest of all ceramics in the Western Hemisphere date to 5630 BCE, at the Caverna da Pedra Pintada (the Cave of the Painted Rock) in Brazil.

This link to Archaeology magazine discusses that cave. The 5630 BCE date comes from the Handbook of South American Archaeology, edited by Silverman & Isbell.

By contrast, the earliest ceramic objects in Eurasia date to before 25,000 BCE (in the Czech Republic), full pottery dates to 16,000 BCE (in China) and the potters’ wheel was invented around 3,500 BCE (in the Near East).

Work space

The potters’ wheel was never invented in the pre-Columbian America.

My number for gold also appears to be 500 years late. Once again, I don’t recall the source I used when I was on the road. My understanding of the current thinking is that gold was used in South America around 2000 BCE. See Four-thousand-year-old gold artifacts from the Lake Titicaca basin, southern Peru from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(13), pp. 5002–5.

I don’t recall where I obtained the number for the planet’s population passing the various multi-billion milestones, but here is a (slightly hysterical) presentation on the subject quoting the same numbers.

The peak population projection for the year 2075 is quoted in many places, including However, this is a dynamic area. The most recent big update in the data (at the time of writing) was the UN Population Fund report 2011.

The broad picture remains the same, with most countries looking to have a stable or declining populations by the mid twenty-first century. The places where that does not hold continue to be sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of Central Asia (critically Pakistan). In China and India, the problem is with the sex ratio, due to sex-selective abortions. This is likely to leave both countries with too many boys and not enough girls in the coming decades, which is likely to be a severe cause of instability.


104: Macrohistory

There are deep problems with putting numbers on the pre-Columbian population of the Americas, as there is very little hard data. The most useful study I’m aware of (and the one from which I quote 54 million I use in The Jolly Pilgrim) is William Denevan’s The Native Populations in the Americas in 1492.

In discussing macrohistory, and in describing history as a fundamentally linear progression (within which the rise and fall of traditions of sub-civilisations is an intrinsic part), I’d like to say something about the Sumerians.

This extraordinary people built the very first civilization, which grew up in the fourth millennium BCE, it’s rise formally marking the end of prehistory and the beginning of history. The Sumerian legacy to humanity includes: writing, the city, the concept of dividing time into hours, minutes and seconds, the concept of a calendar divided into 12 months, the first codified legal and administrative systems, the first courts, the first schools, the first intensively irrigated large-scale agriculture, mathematics and the wheel.

Reading matter

Tragically, the legacy of this watershed epoch in humanity’s story (the study of which is fundamental to our understanding of ourselves, and how we got here) is currently being ripped apart in their once-homeland of Iraq – a tragedy posterity may well have much reason to curse.

I sometimes wonder if, when the politics of the twenty-first century is reduced to a few footnotes in history, the destruction of that heritage, and the resultant irrevocable loss of knowledge about our collective journey, will be regarded as one of our generation’s biggest and most damning failures. Who now remembers – or cares a jot about – the contemporary justification for burning down the Library of Alexandria?

Regarding Sargon – his significance is that he stands at the very beginning of the historical tradition of famous/infamous alpha male warlords (which includes Alexander, Cyrus, Napoleon, Tamerlain, Genghis Khan, Cao Cao, An Lushan, Charlemagne and Julius Caesar) who have shaped politics through war down the ages. No doubt thousands of such alpha males have played that role back to when our ancestors were pre-human hominids, wreaking havoc on neighbouring tribes, but Sargon is the most ancient member of that tradition we can make out through the lens of history.


105: Quito’s Women’s Prison

Despite several attempts, I was not able to get hold of anyone at Oprah Winfrey’s organization, Harpo, to fact-check what Zoe told me about her visit. Nevertheless, the story is straight reportage from our conversation at the time, so I’ve left it in it’s raw form.

The numbers for illegal trade in drugs, firearms and humans are from Transnational Crime In The Developing World, published by Global Financial Integrity.

The 2011 report can be found here.


Slowly going mental


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