'Kanal Istanbul' would create a second Bosporus – and immortalize its creator.
- The Bosporus is three times busier than the Suez Canal, and getting worse.
- To resolve marine congestion, Turkey wants to build a 'second Bosporus'.
- The controversial project would alter local geography – and may have unintended consequences.
Special status<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3MzUzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDQxMzYwMn0.PD8GhSuczGaHXtbeYVu2fflJVb-GEumD2zVp85uxKdM/img.jpg?width=980" id="edc93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3e0bab0158a3913187365993758813fc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="freighter ship" />
The freighter Ismael Mehieddine sailing through the Bosporus in 2014, with the Hagia Sophia (left) and the Galata Tower (right) in the background. Heavy traffic and dangerous cargo create the permanent threat of serious accidents in the middle of one the biggest cities on earth – as have happened in the past.
Image: Julian Nyča, CC BY-SA 4.0<p>"It does not befit Turkey to think small or to act small," Recep Teyyip Erdogan said last December, countering critics of his Istanbul Canal project. On this much at least those critics agree with the Turkish president: 'Kanal Istanbul' will have a huge impact on the megacity. For starters, it will unmoor the historical core of Istanbul from Europe, turning it into an island. </p><p>Whether as Byzantium or Constantinople in previous ages or as Istanbul today, the city on the Bosporus (1) derives its importance from that narrow waterway. The Bosporus separates Europe from Asia and connects the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Istanbul is the only city in the world that links two continents and two seas. It doesn't get more strategic than that. </p><p>That's reflected by the strait's special status. Signed in 1936, the <a href="http://www.mfa.gov.tr/implementation-of-the-montreux-convention.en.mfa" target="_blank">Montreux Convention</a> gave merchant vessels from any country free passage through the Bosporus. Navy vessels can also pass through, with some very specific restrictions (2). Only in wartime may Turkey pro-actively clamp down on maritime traffic through the strait. </p><p>That makes the Bosporus - at a certain point only 2,300 ft (700 m) wide - the world's narrowest international waterway. Over the decades since Montreux was signed, it's also turned into the busiest. In 1934, about 4,500 vessels crossed the strait. By 2017, that number had increased almost twelve-fold, to 53,000. That's more than three times the number of ships that sailed through the Suez Canal that year (17,000), and more than four times the figure for the Panama Canal (12,000). </p><p>Plus, about one in five ships passing through the Bosporus each year is a tanker carrying hazardous materials. In 2018, that added up to 150 million tons of dangerous cargo.</p>
Currents and curves<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3Mzc2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODY1NDY5MH0.O0XLlytr3Cw875lyNohqCygTpcB1HAsJN5pCfQpwHsE/img.jpg?width=980" id="7b6c4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="324f5304036ab8830bbb98376a7ac759" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Bosphorus" />
The Bosporus as seen from the International Space Station, showing coastal waters from the Black Sea carried into the Sea of Marmara.
Image: NASA, Public Domain<p>Considering that average ship size has more than doubled since Montreux, and that the Bosporus is a natural waterway with 13 sharp curves, strong bidirectional currents and heavy traffic, there is always a risk of serious accidents – as shown by past incidents.</p><ul><li>In 1960, a collision of the oil tankers Peter Verovitz (Yugoslavia) and World Harmony (Greece) killed 20 and created a large oil spill.</li><li>In 1966, a collision of two Soviet oil tankers, the Lutsk and the Kransky, led to a huge oil spill and a fire on the Kadiköy Pier, the main ferry pier on the Asiatic side.</li><li>In 1970, the Italian oil tanker Ancona collided with a building on shore, killing five.</li><li>In 1979, an accident with the Romanian oil tanker Independenta killed 51 and its cargo of 95,000 tons of oil caught fire. The blaze burned for a whole month. The wreckage hindered traffic for years afterwards. </li><li>In 2018, the freigther Vitaspirit collided with the historical wooden villa of Hekimbasi Salih Efendi, causing massive damage.</li></ul><p>And the international shipping isn't even half the story, for it doesn't include <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO6XzfKbdM0&ab_channel=MSMarineDiesel" target="_blank">local traffic</a>: almost 2,000 ferry rides carry about 500,000 commuters across the Bosporus every day. </p><p>Smaller accidents happen regularly; to prevent the larger ones, the Turkish government has banned the night passage of tankers longer than 200 meters, among other measures. That doesn't improve the waiting times for ships on either side of the strait, which sometimes have to queue for days before they can cross over.<br></p>
A second Bosporus<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDE3NDAyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTM0OTcxMn0.If0Dd-iFiMSShIfkBtoFJBeBGDie_pKr_MkwHnN46jc/img.jpg?width=980" id="c0f01" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="25dda4d8a5b55b7bf55e3ce43351ca28" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Overview of Kanal Istanbul" />
Overview of Kanal Istanbul and some of the surrounding projects, including the already inaugurated new airport (northeast) and the yet to be developed city around the canal (center).
Image: Property Turkey<p>With traffic predicted to hit 86,000 ships by 2070, the evident solution is a new waterway, a second Bosporus: 'Kanal Istanbul'. It must be said that Erdogan's idea is hardly original. The first to float it was Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-22). The idea was subsequently adopted and abandoned by succeeding sultans at the regular rate of once per century: Murad III (16th c.), Mehmed IV (17th c.), Mustafa III (18th c.) and Mahmoud II (19th c.) </p><p><span></span>As if not to break the chain, four-time Turkish prime minister Bülent Ecevit revived the idea for an electoral campaign in the 1990s. Ideas of such historical persistence have a way of coming back until they are fulfilled (3), and indeed: Ecevit's successor Erdogan, then still prime minister, reanimated the plan in 2011, for yet another electoral campaign.</p><p><span></span>In fact, the canal was one of three 'crazy projects' – Erdogan's own words – designed to raise Turkey's GDP to $2 trillion by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic. The other two were the world's biggest airport, and a superhighway linking it to the city and beyond. The new Istanbul Airport opened last year. However, work on Kanal Istanbul has hit some delays. </p><p><span></span>The canal's final route was announced only in 2018. It will run about 19 miles (30 km) west of the Bosporus, from Lake Küçükçekmece in the south, through the districts of Avcilar and Basaksehir inland, with most of the route carving through Arnavutköy in the north. When finished, the canal will be 28 miles (45 km) long, 69 ft (20.75 m) deep and 1,180 ft (360 m) wide at the surface; 900 ft (275 m) at the bottom. It will be able to accommodate ships of up to 1,150 ft (350 m) long and 160 ft (49 m) wide, with a draft of 58 ft (17 m).</p><p>The cost of the project, estimated initially to be $8-10 billion, has already been revised upward to $16.5 billion. A project this size creates its own weather, so to speak, even before it's under way. Visions of a new city housing half a million people rising up along the canal have sent local real estate prices soaring. But Kanal Istanbul has also run into some tough headwinds: the project has a vocal and powerful opponent in <a href="https://twitter.com/imamoglu_int" target="_blank">Ekrem Imamoglu</a>, who was elected mayor of Istanbul in 2019. <br></p>
But who will pay?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d4b8ac8853629c8284ce80371ea0017b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lq93qFLcv6k?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Imamoglu is on record as calling the project a disaster, treason, even "murder" – figuratively, of Istanbul; because the canal threatens between a fifth and a third of the city's fresh water supply (4), places a physical limit on the city's westward expansion, and increases the risk of flooding. In case of a catastrophic earthquake, the canal may make it harder to get help in and evacuees out of the city, which will effectively be an island. Not to mention that building the canal involves the destruction of vast tracts of agriculturally and ecologically valuable land. </p><p><span></span>The mayor seems to have most of his citizens on side, as a poll earlier this indicated 80 percent of Istanbulites are against the canal, with only 8 percent in favor. For Erdogan, that must sound like Gezi Park all over again. In 2013, plans to develop that Istanbul park, one of the relatively few green spaces left in the city, sparked demonstrations that morphed into a nationwide wave of civil unrest, directed against the policies of Erdogan's government. The Kanal Istanbul project contains much of the same socially combustible material. </p><p><span></span>But since Turkey is a highly centralised state, there is very little even the mayor of Istanbul can do against a canal that will radically alter the geography of his city. Work on the canal, which was greenlighted at the start of 2020, will involve up to 800 people at any given time, and up to 10,000 people over the project's entire lifetime. Erdogan has pledged use the national budget and if necessary, the national army to finish the canal. </p><p><span></span>The new canal would have a capacity of about 160 vessels a day, comparable to the Bosporus itself. Interesting for Turkey is that the canal will not be subject to the Montreux Convention, meaning that it will have full control over traffic on the canal – and will also be able to charge a fee. But who will want to pay when free passage via the Bosporus remains an option guaranteed by international treaty? Turkey may bet on shipping companies wanting to minimise delays (5). And if that doesn't work, then perhaps those delays could miraculously start getting longer.</p><p>First, however, the canal needs to be built. As of now, no major excavation work seems to have been undertaken yet. And even when the project gets going, economic problems and/or social unrest may still throw a spanner in the works. But if the canal gets dug, then Erdogan will have succeeded where five sultans have not. And his name will be attached to an accomplishment pharaonic in scale, which may remain relevant when much else that animates this century has faded into history. </p><p>But perhaps Erdogan's name will also be associated with a less flattering consequence of the mega-canal. Among the many objections to the canal that are summarily brushed aside by the proponents of the project, is the warning by marine scientists that Kanal Istanbul would upset the complex correspondence of water flows between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. It could leave the former body of water <em>anoxic</em> – deprived of oxygen. That could mean that large parts of the city will be smelling of hydrogen sulfide – an aroma commonly identified with rotten eggs, and in future perhaps with past presidents. </p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1047</strong><br></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p><p><br></p><ol><li>The literal translation of Bosporus from the ancient Greek is 'cattle strait', or 'oxford'. In Turkish, the preferred term is Istanbul Boğazı, or simply Boğazı, 'the Strait'.</li><li>For some time after WWII, the Soviets tried to pressure Turkey into granting its navy unrestricted access to the Mediterranean. However, the so-called Turkish Straits Crisis backfired on the Soviets: Turkey eventually abandoned its neutrality and joined NATO.</li><li>See for example the idea for the establishment of a brand-new inland capital for Brazil, which predates Brasilia by well over a century – and which led to a map mystery that is explained in #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/brasilia-mystery-map" target="_blank">989</a> and solved in #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/brasilia-mystery-solved" target="_blank">990</a>.</li><li>In 2019, the city of Istanbul consumed about 2.8 million m3 of fresh water per day. That's roughly an Olympic swimming pool per second.</li><li>For a large merchant vessel, 'waiting mode' can cost up to $120,000 a day. </li></ol>
The major temples seem much more interesting than what also appears on the landscape: apparently random mounds of earth.
The Bayon temple at the famous temple area of Angkor Archeological Park.
Ian Walton/Getty Images<p><span style="background-color: initial;">T</span>he generated maps reveal both areas of dense occupation with city blocks and streets, and lower-density areas with scattered community temples, sometimes marked by little more than a scatter of bricks or just a faint impression of a mound with a moat around it. These community temples probably served a somewhat similar function as churches in the agricultural communities of modern America do: not just to promote religion but also to facilitate social networking and help neighbors coordinate their activities. When growing rice, it's important to coordinate and manage water collaboratively with your neighbors. If one farm hoards all the water, neighboring farms may have to let their fields go fallow. When that happens, pests take over and devastate everyone's crops.</p><p>Our team realized that the key to cracking the code of Angkorian agriculture was to understand these community temples. The new maps showed <em>where</em> the temples were on the landscape, but we needed to figure out <em>when</em> they were built.</p>
The Himalayan Kingdom best known for its concept of "Gross National Happiness."
Maps show the oldest company in (nearly) every country – and a few interesting corporate trends.
- A Japanese company has been building Buddhist temples for almost a millennium and a half.
- It's the oldest continuously operating company in the world, but quite atypical.
- If you want to build a business that lasts, banks, breweries, and postal services are a good bet – but there are intriguing exceptions.
Longest surviving companies<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU1MTkzMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MzQzODI4MX0.-FimiGSWckNVM1aFmNqh953V-e0qCj50KmqMZX02t_A/img.jpg?width=980" id="f9344" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="84616d96de31d93792cb5f286d420ab1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bOsaka Castle, built by Kongo Gumi, the world's oldest company." />
Osaka Castle, built by Kongo Gumi, the world's oldest company.
Image: Suicasmo, CC BY-SA 4.0<p>'The oldest profession in the world': thanks to a popular short story by Kipling (1), that label is now firmly attached to the sex trade. Yet up until the First World War, by which time it was irreparably sullied by its association with prostitution, that mantle had been claimed by other, more reputable trades as well.</p><p><span></span>No one had a better argument than tailors; for did Adam and Eve, suddenly ashamed of their nakedness after tasting the forbidden fruit, not immediately set about making garments for themselves? Others claiming 'firstness' at one time or other include farmers, gardeners, barbers, doctors, teachers, priests, and… murderers. </p><p><span></span>However, none of these vocations is referenced on these maps, which show not the oldest <em>professions</em>, but the oldest companies for almost each country in the world. It must be that gardening and/or murdering are more of a freelance kind of gig. </p><p><span></span>If we go by longest surviving company, the oldest profession in the world is that of builder. No business is older than the Japanese construction company Kongō Gumi, founded in 578 AD and still in business today. If we look at each continent separately, the oldest companies per country reveal some interesting characteristics of corporate longevity. </p>
Europe: the oldest restaurant in the world<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU1MjA4Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjE1ODY3N30.s7mcdvnVHFFP525vbmbkbRJsDSxYt66W8v2iSlhbTuQ/img.png?width=980" id="a7e3b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f23c4b11150b21fbda6d38051e086da2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe oldest company in Europe: St Peter Stifts Kulinarium in Austria." />
The oldest company in Europe: St Peter Stifts Kulinarium in Austria.
Image: Business Finance, CC BY-SA 4.0<p>Money and alcohol are the mainstays of the oldest companies in nearly half of Europe's countries. So if you want to found a long-lasting company, get into banking. Or brewing. Other professions with staying power: communications, hospitality, manufacturing. Oh, and salt mines. Europe's oldest business – and quite possibly the world's oldest restaurant – is tucked away in an abbey in Salzburg.<br></p><ul><li>Most popular category: wineries, breweries, and distilleries: 21 countries (listed youngest to oldest). </li></ul><strong>Romania: Ursus (1878)</strong><p><strong></strong>Ursus Breweries is a conglomerate of several Romanian breweries, the oldest of which (Cluj-Napoca Brewery) goes back to 1878. Ursus is also the name of the most popular beer in Romania. The company is owned by Asahi Breweries Europe. </p><strong>Armenia: Yerevan Ararat Brandy-Wine-Vodka Factory (1877)</strong><p>Started producing wine in 1877 and brandy in 1887. It is most famous for Noy, Armenia's leading brand of brandy, popular throughout the former Soviet Union.</p><strong>Belarus: Olivaria (1864)</strong><p><strong></strong>Current share of the country's beer market: about 29 percent. Since 2015, Carlsberg owns two thirds of the shares, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development a further 21 percent.</p><strong>Bosnia: Sarajevska Pivara (1864)</strong><p><strong></strong>One of the main beer producers and drinks distributors of the former Yugoslavia. </p><strong>Hungary: Zwack (1790)</strong><p><strong></strong>The Zwack distillery in Budapest makes liqueurs and spirits. Its signature beverage is Unicum, a drink with 40 percent alcohol, made with a secret recipe of more than 40 different herbs and spices. It is one of Hungary's national drinks.</p><strong>Serbia: Apatin (1756)</strong><p><strong></strong>Founded as an Imperial brewery by the Austrian Imperial Chamber, Apatin Brewery was privatised at the end of the 19th century, collectivised by Yugoslavia's communists, and re-privatised in 1991. The leading brewery in Serbia, it is now owned by America's Molson Coors. </p><strong>Lithuania: Gubernija (1665)</strong><p><strong></strong>The pagan Lithuanians had a beer god called <em>Ragutis</em>, and modern Lithuania still has a distinct and thriving beer industry. Gubernija, founded in 1665 and privatised in 1999, produces beer and kvass, a fermented drink made from rye bread.</p><strong>Latvia: Cēsu Alus (1590)</strong><p><strong></strong>An audit from 1590 refers to a brewery in Cēsis Castle, the earliest mention of what was to become Cēsu Alus – considered to be the oldest brewery in the Baltics and the Nordics, as well as the largest brewery in Latvia, producing 64 percent of its beer.</p><strong>Luxembourg: Mousel (1511)</strong><p><strong></strong>The Mousel company has been brewing beer continuously since 1511, originally in Luxembourg city, now in Diekirch. It is now owned by AB InBev, the world's largest brewer. </p><strong>Czech Republic: Pivovar Broumov (1348)</strong><p><strong></strong>Originally attached to the Benedictine monastery in the eastern Bohemian town of Broumov. Produces light, semi-dark and dark beers, as well as flavored ones.</p><strong>Netherlands: Brand (1340)</strong><p><strong></strong>Heineken-owned Brand's claim to be the oldest brewery in the Netherlands is contested. Historical documents confirm that beer was brewed in its home village since at least 1340, but not whether this has continued uninterruptedly in the centuries since.</p><strong>Belgium: Affligem (1074)</strong><p><strong></strong>Although Heineken now owns the brand and the beer is no longer brewed on its premises, Affligem abbey retains final control over the recipes.</p><strong>Germany: Staffelter Hof (862)</strong><p><strong></strong>Winery in the Moselle region, established by a grant from Lothair II, the king of Lotharingia. Its name derives from the abbey of Stavelot, from which it depended. In the 18th century, Staffelter Hof played a crucial part in the spread of Riesling grapes throughout the area.</p><ul><li>Banks or mints are the oldest institutions in eight European countries.</li></ul><strong>Andorra: Andbank (1930)</strong><p><strong></strong>Despite the country's own venerable age – dating back to Charlemagne – Andorra's oldest company is less than a century old.</p><strong>Cyprus: Bank of Cyprus (1899)</strong><p><strong></strong>The largest bank in Cyprus by market penetration: 83 percent of Cypriots have an account.</p><strong>Malta: HSBC Bank Malta (1882)</strong><p><strong></strong>Now a subsidiary of HSBC, the UK-based multinational bank, it traces back its origins to the late 19th century, when the Anglo-Egyptian Bank started trading on the island.</p><strong>Liechtenstein: National Bank of Liechtenstein (1861)</strong><p><strong></strong>Since Liechtenstein is in a customs and monetary union with Switzerland, the job of its National Bank is mainly one of oversight and administration.</p><strong>Scotland: Bank of Scotland (1695)</strong><p><strong></strong>Created by the Parliament of Scotland, the Bank of Scotland retains the authority to print sterling notes – legal tender, but difficult to pay with in England. In 1999, the bank's attempt to enter the retail banking market in the US in a joint venture with evangelist Pat Robertson was cancelled when the latter called Scotland "a dark land overrun by homosexuals."</p><strong>Kremnica Mint (1328)</strong><p><strong></strong>A state-owned mint that has been in continuous production since its establishment by the kingdom of Hungary. In the Middle Ages, its ducats were considered the hardest currency in Central Europe. Today, the Mint produces euro coins for Slovakia and money for a range of other countries (including recently a large order of Sri Lankan rupees). </p><strong>England: Royal Mint (886)</strong><p><strong></strong>Wholly owned by Her Majesty's Treasury, the Royal Mint produces all coinage for the United Kingdom. The company has its origins in Alfred the Great's issuing of silver pennies after his recapture of London from the Danes in 886. For the first 800 years of its existence, the Royal Mint operated out of the Tower of London. It is now based in Wales.</p><strong>France: Monnaie de Paris (864)</strong><p><strong></strong>The Paris Mint is the world's oldest continuously-running minting institution. It was established by Charles II, a.k.a. 'the Bald', king of West Francia and grandson of Charlemagne. Owned by the French government, it is currently tasked with producing the country's share of euro coins.</p><ul><li>In six European countries, the oldest company is involved in hospitality of some sort or other.</li></ul><strong>Greece: Kafeneio of Emmanouil Forlidas (1785)</strong><p><strong></strong>This traditional <em>kafenio</em> has been in the Forlidas family for seven generations, although it has served other functions than that of coffee shop. There are still hooks in the ceiling from its time as a butcher's, and it's also served as a time as a barber's.</p><strong>Turkey: Çemberlitas Hamami (1584)</strong><p><strong></strong>A Turkish bath constructed by Mimar Sinan, the chief architect of Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. It is located on Divan Yolu, an old Byzantine processional road that once led to Rome. In 1730, an Albanian attendant at the hammam led a rebellion that managed to replace sultan Ahmed III with Mahmud I, who reigned until 1754. The rebellion itself was short-lived, and Patrona Halil was executed later that same year. The bath house has survived fires, earthquakes, and partial demolition. Tourists now make up most of its clientele.</p><p><span></span><strong>Slovenia: Gostilna Gastuz (1467)</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Formerly associated with the Zice Charterhouse, this inn survived the monastery's dissolution and is still serving guests today.</p><strong>Switzerland: Gasthof Sternen (1230)</strong><p><strong></strong>Located in Wettingen Abbey, this inn started as a 'Weiberhaus', a guest house for the visiting mothers and sisters of the monks, located outside the walls of the monastery, which was founded in 1227. The name ('Star') refers to an epithet of the Virgin Mary, 'Stella Maris' ('Star of the Sea'). It was also the name of the monastery, which was dissolved in 1841.</p><strong>Ireland: Sean's Bar (900)</strong><p><strong></strong>Lore has it that this bar was established as a trading post by an innkeeper named Luain, who gave his name to the town that sprang up around it: Athlone in Irish is <em>Baile atha Luain</em>. He built the floor at a slight angle, so the rainwater running in from the street drains into the River Shannon. The angled floor is still there, another reason for drinkers to mind their step on the way out. Sean's Bar not only claims to be the oldest drinking establishment in Ireland, but also in Europe.</p><strong>Austria: St Peter's Stiftskulinarium (803)</strong><p><strong></strong>Supposedly mentioned in Alcuin of York's <em>Carmina</em>, this restaurant within the walls of St Peter's Abbey in Salzburg has a good claim to being the oldest company in Austria, as well as the oldest restaurant in the world. Among its clientele were Christopher Columbus, Johann Faust and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.</p><ul><li>Five countries can boast longevity in manufacturing.</li></ul><strong>Bulgaria: Arsenal AD (1878)</strong><p><strong></strong>Arsenal AD started in 1878 as independent Bulgaria's first armory, then known as the Ruse Artillery Arsenal. From ammunition and artillery gun components, the company diversified into gas masks, nitroglycerin, optic sights and assault rifles. Until the Fall of Communism, the company was called 'Friedrich Engels Machinery Works', to conceal its military activities. </p><strong>Croatia: Kraljevica Shipyard (1729)</strong><p><strong></strong>Founded on the orders of Austrian emperor Charles VI, it was the first shipyard on the eastern shore of the Adriatic and an engine for the industrialisation of Croatia. </p><strong>Finland: Fiskars (1649)</strong><p><strong></strong>Metalworking company named after the town west of Helsinki in which it was founded. Its original charter, granted by queen Christina of Sweden, forbade it to produce cannons. In the early 20th century, Fiskars produced over a million plows. In recent decades, it has become famous for its iconic, orange-handled scissors, of which it has sold more than one billion units. </p><strong>Sweden: Skyllbergs Bruk (1346)</strong><p><strong></strong>Established when King Magnus IV of Sweden donated some iron manufacturing workshops in Skyllberg and elsewhere to Riseberga Abbey. Expropriated during the Reformation, the works have subsequently been owned by the Fineman, De Geer, Burenstam and Svensson families. </p><strong>Marinelli Bell Foundry (1080)</strong><p><strong></strong>Taken over by the Marinelli family in the 14th century, the <em>Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli</em> is one of the world's oldest family-run businesses. It produces about 50 bells a year. Unsurprisingly, 90 percent of its orders are for the Catholic church. Bells produced by the company hang in the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the UN building in New York.</p><ul><li>Five more have a history with postal services and other telecommunications.</li></ul><p><strong>Albania: ALBtelecom (1912)</strong></p><p>Founded at Albania's independence, ALBtelecom is the country's largest fixed-line telephone operator. It is also licensed to provide mobile telephony and internet. It is majority-owned by CETEL of Turkey. The Albanian state retains a minority stake.</p><p><strong>Montenegro: Posta Crne Gore (1841)</strong></p><p>Montenegro has been independent since 2006, but its national postal service is much older. </p><p><strong>Iceland: Íslandspóstur (1776)</strong></p><p>Established by Christian VII of Denmark, which then also ruled over Iceland. Today, <em>Íslandspóstur</em> is one of the country's largest companies, with 1,200 employees. </p><p><strong>Norway: Posten Norge (1647)</strong></p><p>Founded as a private company called <em>Postvesenet</em>, it later received the blessing of Christian IV, king of Denmark (and also Norway at that time). The state took over in 1719. In 1996, it was renamed Posten Norge.</p><p><strong>Portugal: CTT-Correios de Portugal (1511)</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Portugal's king Manuel I created the <em>Correio Público</em>, which in 1911 became Correios, Telégraphos e Telefones (CTT), making the current name – CTT-Correios de Portugal – somewhat redundant.</p><ul><li>Three oldest companies come from the food industry.</li></ul><strong>Kosovo: Meridian Corporation (1999)</strong><p><strong></strong>Kosovo's Meridian Corporation is one of the young country's main food and beverage distributors – address: Bill Clinton Boulevard, Pristina. </p><strong>Spain: Casa de Ganaderos (1218)</strong><p><strong></strong>Based on a privilege granted by James I of Aragon, nicknamed 'the Conqueror', the Casa de Ganaderos de Zaragoza ('House of the Cattlemen of Zaragoza') defends the rights of Aragonese livestock owners. </p><strong>Denmark: Munke Mølle (1135)</strong><p><strong></strong>Founded as a water mill on the Odense River, 'Monk's Mill' is still thriving today as a producer of bread and cake mixes. In its long history, it has been the purveyor to the court of no less than 38 kings and two queens of Denmark. These days, the company is owned by Lantmännen, a Swedish agricultural cooperative.</p> <ul><li>And finally… two salt mines and a pharmacy.</li></ul><strong>Estonia: Raeapteek (1422)</strong><p><strong></strong>In previous centuries, the pharmacy's range of healing products included mummy juice, bat power, and swallow's nests. It also sold cognac and gunpowder and was the first in Estonia to sell tobacco. The business was run by the Burchard family for most of its history. From 1582, each generation's first-born son was called Johann and was expected to continue the business. The last of the line, Johann the Tenth, died in 1890. </p><strong>Ukraine: Drohobych Salt Plant (1250)</strong><p><strong></strong>Drohobych, near Lviv, once was one of the richest and most important cities of the Carpathian region, thanks to the local factories manufacturing salt, supplying customers as far away as Italy.</p><strong>Poland: Bochnia Salt Mine (1248)</strong><p><strong></strong>Although it ceased mining salt in 1990, the company continues as a tourist attraction. Its various chambers form an underground town, with a functioning chapel and sanatorium. The Wazyn Chamber is large enough to accommodate sports fields, a restaurant, a dormitory and conference facilities. </p>
Africa: a young continent<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU1MjA5MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA0Mzg4OH0.9GonQDVy5gzHbXKVQCmA1pz5EIvOnS16VW5tG-J-3rw/img.png?width=980" id="3c087" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fb2e9011719cf8857021722d6dc41c22" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bMauritius Post is the oldest company in Africa." />
Mauritius Post is the oldest company in Africa.
Image: Business Finance, CC BY-SA 4.0<p>Africa's oldest companies are all relatively young. Many were established by former colonisers, and the preponderance of postal services, railways and banks reflect their attempts to replicate the infrastructure of modern European statehood in Africa. </p><p>Banks are, in fact, the continent's most widespread 'oldest' institutions: in 17 countries across Africa. The oldest one is Standard Chartered Zimbabwe, with roots going back to 1892. The most recent one is Ivory Bank in South Sudan, Africa's youngest nation. </p><p>In nine countries across Africa, the postal service is the country's oldest institution. Mauritius Post (1772) is in fact the oldest company in all of Africa. The youngest postal service that is its country's oldest institution is <em>Correios da Guiné-Bissau </em>(1973).</p><p>Railways are the oldest companies in six African countries. The oldest company is the <em>Société nationale des Chemins de fer du Congo</em> (1889) in the DR Congo, the youngest Swazi Rail (1963) in eSwatini. </p><p>Unlike Europe, there are only a handful of breweries as their country's oldest company. Three, in fact: in Tanzania (1933), Eritrea (1939), and Burundi (1955). </p><p>Fairly recent 'oldest' companies are airlines and broadcasters (four each): from Air Madagascar (1962), to Guinea Equatorial Airlines (1996), and Radio Mogadishu (1943) to the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (1964). </p><p><span></span>Relatively few 'oldest' companies are involved in agriculture or mining, two mainstays of Africa's economy:</p><ul><li>The Cameroon Development Corporation (1947) grows, processes and markets tropical export crops (including rubber and palm oil).</li><li>Established in 1962 by Harvey Aluminium Company, Halco Mining has a 70-year lease on bauxite mining in a 10,000 km2 area of northwestern Guinea that runs out in 2038.</li><li>The Botswana Meat Commission (1965) was set up by newly-independent Botswana to oversee beef production and export.</li><li>Cotontchad (1971) has the state monopoly on the purchasing and export of cotton, which represents 40 percent of the country's exports. </li></ul><p>Three atypical companies complete the African picture:</p><ul><li>Premier FCMG is a South African food manufacturer whose history goes back to 1820, and which produces well-known brands such as Blue Ribbon and Snowflake.</li><li>Hamoud Boualem (1878) is a manufacturer of soft drinks popular in Algeria and with the Algerian diaspora.</li><li>The <em>Communauté Électrique du Bénin</em> (1968) is actually co-owned by the governments of Benin and Togo. It manages the Nangbeto dam in Togo and the import of electricity from Ghana into both countries. <span></span></li></ul>
North America: rum, currency, and the lash<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU1MjA5Mi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjE5ODcyMH0.rZvkQ3DmZoD-iHZRwCFATtiOmKmXeAifmTYDHEghfWQ/img.png?width=980" id="033e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98cb742396725fa29275b1263d398355" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bLa Casa de Moneda de Mexico is the oldest company in North America." />
La Casa de Moneda de Mexico is the oldest company in North America.
Image: Business Finance, CC BY-SA 4.0<p>Alcohol and money are pretty popular in North America, too. Plantations pop up as a particularly American institution. And Mexico's mint fathered a few surprising currencies. </p><ul><li>Breweries and distilleries are the oldest companies in five countries across Central America and the Caribbean.</li></ul><strong>Costa Rica: Florida Ice and Farm Company (1908)</strong><p><strong></strong>Founded by two Jamaican brothers, the company has a catalogue of over 2000 mainly food products, but is best known for its beers, with well-known brands such as Imperial and Bavaria. </p><strong>Nicaragua: Flor de Caña (1890)</strong><p><strong></strong>Founded by an Italian immigrant who moved to Nicaragua in 1875, the company is still led by one of his descendants. Due to the Nicaraguan Revolution in the 1980s, large quantities of the rum were stored – as a result, in the 1990s Flor de Caña had the largest reserve of aged rum in the world. </p><strong>Haiti : Rhum Barbancourt (1862)</strong><p><strong></strong>Founded by Dupré Barbancourt, a French immigrant from the Cognac region, the company is still family-run and its rum is one of Haiti's most famous exports. </p><strong>Trinidad & Tobago: House of Angostura (1830)</strong><p><strong></strong>Founded in Venezuela by the German surgeon-general of Simon Bolivar's army, the company now produces rums and bitters that are some of T&T's most famous exports. </p><strong>Barbados: Mount Gay Rum (1703)</strong><p><strong></strong>The oldest commercial rum distillery in the world, now owned by Cointreau. Named after the manager of the company owned by John Sober (!)</p><ul><li>Five countries across North America have financial as their oldest companies.</li></ul><strong>1st National Bank of St Lucia (1938)</strong><p><strong></strong>Originally established as the St Lucia Cooperative Bank.</p><strong>Panama: National Bank of Panama (1904)<br></strong>Panama uses the U.S. dollar, so it doesn't have a central bank in the traditional sense. The National Bank of Panama is charged with non-monetary aspects of central banking.<br><br><p><strong>Belize: Belize Bank (1902)</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Founded in 1902 by investors from Mobile, Alabama as the Bank of British Honduras, Belize Bank is one of the largest banks in the country today. </p><strong>El Salvador: HSBC El Salvador (1891)</strong><p>Established in 1891 as <em>Banco Salvadoreño</em>, it was nationalised in 1980, privatised in 1993 and acquired by HSBC in 2006. After HSBC sold its Salvadoran operations to Colombian bank Davivienda, the bank is now called Banco Davivienda El Salvador. </p><strong>Mexico: La Casa de Moneda (1534)</strong><p><strong></strong>Mexico's mint was established by a decree from the Spanish Crown and is the oldest in the Americas. Its silver peso became the basis for several modern currencies, including the US dollar, the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan.</p><ul><li>In four countries, the oldest company has to do with living off the land – at least originally. </li></ul><strong>Guatemala: Corporacion Multi Inversiones (1920)</strong><p><strong></strong>A family farming business that grew into a multinational agro-industrial corporation.</p><strong>Jamaica: Rose Hall (1770)</strong><p><strong></strong>A former plantation, now a museum highlighting the estate's slave history, as well as the legend of the White Witch. In 1977, it was acquired by Michele Rollins, Miss District of Columbia 1963 and first runner-up for Miss USA 1963.</p><p><strong>Canada: Hudson's Bay Company (1670</strong><span style="background-color: initial;"><strong>)</strong></span></p><p><span style="background-color: initial;"></span>Starting out as a fur trading business (and for about two centuries the de facto government of large parts of British North America), Hudson's Bay Company now runs retail stores in Canada and the US, including Saks Fifth Avenue.</p><strong>United States: Shirley Plantation (1638)</strong><p><strong></strong>The oldest surviving company in the United States started out as a slave-holding tobacco plantation. The family that ran the Shirley Plantation produced Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, and still owns and lives on the premises. </p><p>The island nation of Dominica's national newspaper, The Chronicle (est. 1909) is also its oldest company. And finally for North America, two countries have transport companies as their oldest firms: Honduras (National Railroad of Honduras, 1870) and Cuba (<em>Cubana de Aviacion</em>, 1929). <span></span><br></p>
South America: weapons factory to coffee shop<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU1MjA5My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzUwODkxMX0.s9JfjKAsUKqi3PIcFIiclCMI8hM0GO-QTpL7vwwfcbA/img.png?width=980" id="3a0c6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a193a167a048a7abb85e76b8339f55ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bPeru's Casa Nacional de Moneda is the oldest company in South America." />
Peru's Casa Nacional de Moneda is the oldest company in South America.
Image: Business Finance, CC BY-SA 4.0<p>Five South American countries have banks and mints as oldest companies. The oldest, the <em>Casa Nacional de Moneda </em>of Peru, was founded in Lima just 30 years after the city's own founding by the conquistador Pizarro. </p><p><span></span>Guyana's oldest company started as rum business, which expanded into a chain of liquor stores and then added a cocoa and chocolate factory and shipping agency. It got its name from the Demerara Ice House it acquired in 1896, which contained bars, a hotel and a soft drink plant. </p><p>Venezuela's oldest company is a cocoa plantation, Chile's an arms manufacturer (FAMAE stands for <em>Fabricas y Maestranzas del Ejercito,</em> or Factories and Workshops of the Army). </p><p>You can go get a coffee at Uruguay's oldest company: the Café Brasilero, frequented by writers and intellectuals. It even has a coffee named after Eduardo Galeano, best remembered for <em><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/187149.Open_Veins_of_Latin_America" target="_blank">Open Veins of Latin America</a></em> (1971). <br></p>
Oceania: ex-con becomes postmaster<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU1MjA5NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzI2MzEzNn0.iDvDfKF5PIOuVU8WZNfP08fXAfW4dzK_eTc4nSgEEug/img.png?width=980" id="f9c91" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b6bb6899dc506500849705174607a7b7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bAustralia Post is the oldest company in Oceania." />
Australia Post is the oldest company in Oceania.
Image: Business Finance, CC BY-SA 4.0<p>Scant information about companies in Oceania – so until further notice, Australia Post may claim the continental title of oldest company. <br></p><p><strong>Vanuatu: European Trust Company (1991)</strong></p><p>The island nation's oldest and highest capitalised trust company, providing incorporation and management services, as well as post-incorporation financial services.</p><p><strong>New Zealand: Bank of New Zealand (1861)</strong></p><p>Its first office opened in Auckland in October 1861, its second the following December in Dunedin. A bit more than a century and a half later, it is one of the four major banks of New Zealand (although in 1992 it was purchased by the National Bank of Australia).</p><p><strong>Australia: Australia Post (1809)</strong></p><p>Regular postal services in Australia started with the appointment in 1809 of Isaac Nichols, an ex-convict, as Postmaster of New South Wales. His main job was to take charge incoming mail. To avoid chaos on board ships arriving at Sydney, he took letters and parcels to his home in George Street and produce a list of recipients which he would post outside his house and advertise in the Sydney Gazette. <br></p>
Asia: home of the conglomerate<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU1MjA5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzkyNDQzMX0.WP_ouPKkrWoP9BlvQ6LzLTgHhdzfTejdjgekeSKJVto/img.png?width=980" id="9e2c2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b0c4924f6c3d4db9564ef34e043ef330" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="The oldest company in Asia is Kongo Gumi, a Japanese construction firm. It is also the oldest company in the word." />
The oldest company in Asia is Kongo Gumi, a Japanese construction firm. It is also the oldest company in the word.
Image: Business Finance, CC BY-SA 4.0<p><br></p><p>A scattered field across Asia – no wonder, it is the world's largest, most populous and (arguably) most varied continent. There does seem to be a typically Asian speciality, when it comes to corporate longevity: the conglomerate – especially popular in Arabia and the Indian subcontinent.<br></p><ul><li>In nine Asian countries, the oldest company is a conglomerate, active across various economic sectors. </li></ul><p><strong>Bhutan: Tashi Group (1959)</strong></p><p>Tashi is actually a conglomerate whose subsidiaries include Tashi Air, T-Bank, Druk School, a chemical plant and a softdrinks bottling plant. </p><p><strong>Qatar: Salam International Investment Limited (1952)</strong></p><p>Headquartered in Doha, this publicly listed company is involved in construction and development, technology and communications, luxury and consumer products, investment and real estate, and energy production. </p><p><strong>Kuwait: M.H. Alshaya (1890)</strong></p><p>Founded as a shipping company between Kuwait and British India, the group today is a multinational franchise operator of around 90 brands (e.g. Topshop in Turkey, H&M in the Middle East, the Cheesecake Factory in the UAE), with additional interests in real estate, construction, hotels, automotive and trading. </p><p><strong>Thailand: B. Grimm (1878)</strong></p><p>Founded as a chemist by a German-Austrian duo, B. Grimm now is a conglomerate with interests in healthcare, construction, real estate, e-commerce and transport, among other sectors. Power generation currently accounts for 80 percent of the revenue of the group, which operates more than 20 power plants in Thailand, four in Laos and one in Vietnam. </p><p><strong>Saudi Arabia: House of Alireza (1845)</strong></p><p>Founded in 1845 as a food importer from India, the House of Alireza specialised as shipping agents and diversified to include real estate, jewelery, construction, travel agency, fuel manufacture, and engineering.</p><p><strong>Pakistan: House of Habib (1841)</strong></p><p>A conglomerate that is involved in banking, schools, the automotive and building industries, and more. </p><p><strong>Sri Lanka: George Steuart Group (1835)</strong></p><p>Originally involved in coffee and tea brokerage, the Group has now diversified into travel, leisure, health, telecoms, shipping, insurance, education, and recruitment.</p><p><strong>Bangladesh: M.M. Ispahani (1820)</strong></p><p>Owners of Bangladesh's largest tea company, the group also owns other major food brands, and has interests in shipping, real estate, textiles, and hotels. </p><p><strong>India: Wadia Group (1736)</strong></p><p>Starting as shipbuilders for the British East India Company, the business has diversified into a conglomerate now including fashion magazines, airlines, engineering, and even a cricket team.</p><p>Banks are the oldest companies in Cambodia (1954), Nepal (1937), Jordan (1930), Georgia (1903), Taiwan (1897) and Lebanon (1830).</p><ul><li>Four oldest companies are involved with communication, three with transportation:</li></ul><p><strong>Yemenia Airways (1962)</strong></p><p><strong>Myanmar National Airlines (1948)</strong></p><p><strong>Mongolian National Broadcaster (1931)</strong></p><p><strong>KT Corporation, formerly Korea Telecom (1885)</strong></p><p><strong>Vietnam Railways (1881)</strong></p><p><strong>Singapore Post (1819)</strong></p><p><strong>Pos Malaysia (1800)</strong></p><ul><li>Two eateries are the oldest company in their countries, on either side of the continent (plus one coffee shop to stay with the f&b theme): </li></ul><p><strong>Israel: Café Abu Salem (1914)</strong></p><p>Located in a 250-year-old building in the old market of Nazareth, Café Abu Salem has been continuously operating since 1914. It is currently run by the third generation of the Abu Salem family.</p><p><strong>Syria: Bakdash (1885)</strong></p><p>A landmark ice cream parlour in the souq of Damascus, famous for a frozen dairy dessert called booza. </p><p><strong>China: Ma Yu Ching's Bucket Chicken House (1153)</strong></p><p><strong></strong>A historic restaurant in Kaifeng, said to be established during the Jin dynasty. <br></p><p>Just one alcohol-producing company: <em>Destileria Limtuaco</em> (1853) in the Philippines, established by Lim Tua Co, a Chinese immigrant, who started distilling Vino de Chino, a bittersweet medicinal wine according to an old family recipe. </p><ul><li>Unsurprisingly, oil and coal extraction are a major sector across the world's largest continent. Some of the oldest companies are significantly older than the countries they operate in. </li></ul><strong>UAE: Liwa Chemicals (1939)</strong><p><strong></strong>Specialised in equipment and services to do with oil, gas and petrochemical sectors. </p><strong>Oman: Petroleum Development Oman (1937)</strong><p><strong></strong>The leading exploration and production company in the Sultanate of Oman, it delivers the majority of the country's crude oil production and natural gas supply.</p><strong>Iraq: North Oil Company (1928)</strong><p>Headquartered in Kirkuk (northern Iraq), its boundaries extend from the country's northern borders to 32.5 °N, just south of Baghdad. It is one of the 16 companies that comprise the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. </p><strong>Kazakhstan: Bogatyr Coal (1913)</strong><p><strong></strong>The largest coal mining company in Kazakhstan, producing 42 million tonnes of coal in 2018, about 40 percent of the country's total for that year. Originally founded with capital from British and American investors (including Herbert Hoover), the mine was nationalised by the Soviets in 1918 and re-privatised by the Kazakhs in the 1990s. It operates the Bogatyr Mine, whose output of 56.8 million tonnes of coal in 1985 got it into the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest coal mine. The company's reserves could keep it in business for another 100 years. </p><ul><li>Manufacturing is key to the oldest companies of three countries:</li></ul><strong>Uzbekistan: Tashkent Aviation Production Association (1932)</strong><p><strong></strong>Founded by the Soviets and moved from Russia to Uzbekistan in 1941 to stay clear of the invading Nazis, the aircraft manufacturer is currently known as the Tashkent Mechanical Plant. </p><strong>Indonesia: Pindad (1808)</strong><p><strong></strong>Manufacturer of guns, rifles and armored vehicles. Founded by the governor-general of the then Dutch East Indies.</p><strong>Russia: Petrodvorets Watch Factory (1721)</strong><p><strong></strong>Founded by Peter the Great as a workshop for luxury objects in carved stone, in Soviet times it produced the Lenin Mausoleum and the Kremlin stars. The factory has been producing watches since 1945 – including the first watch to have been in space. </p>The rest? A mixed bag. The oldest company of Laos produces electricity, in Brunei it's a department store, in Afghanistan a cotton company and in Bahrain a specialist in food logistics and retail. The oldest company of Azerbaijan, though landlocked, is the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company (a.k.a. Caspar), which sails the world's largest inland lake.<br><br> <p>Last, and oldest: Japan's Kongo Gumi. The Japanese construction firm traces its origins to 578 AD, when one of the skilled workers Prince Shōtoku invited from Korea to build a Buddhist temple decided to start his own business. Kongo Gumi helped build Osaka Castle and many other famous buildings. A 17th-century scroll tracing the company's origins reaches back 40 generations, and is three metres long. The company went into liquidation in 2006, but was purchased by Takamatsu Construction – so it continues, still specialised in building Buddhist temples.</p><p><em><br></em></p><p><em>Maps found <a href="https://businessfinancing.co.uk/the-oldest-company-in-almost-every-country/" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">here</a> </em><em>at </em><a href="https://businessfinancing.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">Business Financing</a><em>. Many thanks to Stefan Jacobs and all others who suggested this map.</em></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1042</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" rel="dofollow">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p><p>(1) "Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world. Lilith was her very-great-grandmamma, and that was before the days of Eve as everyone knows. In the West, people say rude things about Lalun's profession, and write lectures about it, and distribute the lectures to young persons in order that Morality may be preserved. In the East where the profession is hereditary, descending from mother to daughter, nobody writes lectures or takes any notice; and that is a distinct proof of the inability of the East to manage its own affairs." (Rudyard Kipling: <em><a href="https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_the_City_Wall" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">On the City Wall</a></em>, 1889)<br><br></p>
The discovery pushes back humanity's history with domestication.
- Until now, it was thought that cats weren't domesticated in Central Asia until much later.
- The completeness and details of the skeleton suggest it was someone's pet.
- Isotopic examination reveals a high-protein diet most likely provided by caring humans.
Piecing together history through archaeology is inherently sketchy. Clues that tell a complete story could be anywhere — so much depends on the artifacts that just happened to have been found. It's a credit to archaeologists' knowledge and imagination that they've been able to piece together as much about the distant past as they have.
The recent discovery of a nearly complete skeleton from 775–940 CE belonging to a house cat living along Asia's Silk Road significantly pushes back humanity's history with domesticated animals. Prior to this find, the domestic Felis catus L. — as opposed to F. l. ornat, the wild steppe feline — according to DNA testing, wasn't seen in the archaeological record of Central Asia until around the colonial period of the 18th and 19th centuries. While the remains of domesticated dogs are commonly found, cats are not, and certainly not specimens that are sufficiently complete. This allows archaeologists to infer much about the individual animal's life story. This cat's story is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The Silk Road
Image source: Nithid/Shutterstock
The legendary Silk Road was not, its name notwithstanding, a single road. Rather, it was a network of trade routes running across Asia from China to the Mediterranean. It was at its height between 130 BCE (when it was officially established by China's Han Dynasty) and 1453, when the Ottoman Empire closed it down.
While the Silk Road's primary purpose was commercial — the transport of goods across the ancient world — the communities through which it passed were exposed to a rich assortment of distant cultures, and its influence was thus profound. When the Silk Road was shut down, explorers took to the world's oceans in search of new trade routes that might replace it.
One of the many communities along the trade route was the early medieval settlement of Dzhankent, located in Kazakhstan, east of the Caspian Sea. It was populated primarily by a pastoralist Turkic tribe called the Oghuz. The Oghuz were nomads who controlled Dzhankent and ruled the surrounding region until the 11th century.
The Dzhankent cat
Image source: Haruda, et al
The tomcat skeleton was found in Dzhankent, and had apparently been deliberately buried, though there is no evidence of any sort of ritual involved, or even clear grave delineations. Still, the deliberate burial means its bones were well-preserved.
"A human skeleton is like a biography of that person," says lead investigator Ashleigh Haruda from the Central Natural Science Collections at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). "The bones provide a great deal of information about how the person lived and what they experienced." In the case of the cat, there were enough remains — its entire skull including its lower jaw, along with parts of its upper body, legs and four vertebrae — to understand quite a bit about its life.
Haruda's team included both archaeologists and DNA specialists. The tabby did not have an easy life, says Haruda, who conservatively estimates the cat was at least one year old at the time of death.
X-ray and 3D imaging of the bones revealed that "the cat suffered several broken bones during its lifetime." Isotope analysis revealed a high-protein diet, and according to Haruda, "It must have been fed by humans since the animal had lost almost all its teeth towards the end of its life."
From an historical point of view, the cat's presence in the Oghuz community suggests a surprisingly early change in the way these people viewed animals. "The Oghuz were people who only kept animals when they were essential to their lives," says Haruda. "Dogs, for example, can watch over the herd. They had no obvious use for cats back then."