Trends

Hello fellow classmates,

With the progression of the last lecture and the information given about more recent discoveries, such as that at Teotihuacan, I am noticing a few trends throughout various regions of the world. One trend I notice is that of pyramid or pyramid like structures.

As I recall, the point of the Ancient Egyptians pyramid building was to have the pyramid serve as a vehicle to allow the pharaoh to ascend into the afterlife. That seems fairly straight forward and shows the importance of the building structure. I did find it rather surprising that in some instances if the pharaoh died before the completion of his pyramid work would stop and the laborers would move on. Then again, with the succession of the pharaoh, why would maximal effort still be given to such a tremendous task? The new pharaoh would have his own agenda and would probably have wanted to focus on his own ascension vehicle. So in ancient Egyptian culture the monumental undertaking of building such magnificent structures was driven by a quest rooted in afterlife beliefs.

Now when most people think of pyramids they would most probably think of Egypt, but as noted, there seems to be a common theme of pyramid building around the world in different cultures. Take for example the Nubians and their pyramids. Upon inspection it can be seen that they have a slightly different form, making them distinct from the Egyptian behemoths to the north. These pyramids are not extremely distant from the Egyptian pyramids by any means so to have pyramids elsewhere in that region isn’t really all too strange, but there are more locations for pyramids around the world.

The Mississippian culture had their mounds (round and flat top) for the purposes of burial and building sites. Some of these mounds throughout the mid-west resemble pyramid like structures, especially the multi-tiered mounds. The trend does not stop there though. Travel south into Mexico and you will find Teotihuacan and the pyramids of the sun and moon. Further south from that location you will run into sites, as discussed in class, like Tikal and other Mayan cities. It is possible that this pyramid construction method was “easy” for various cultures to build and I can see how some pseudo archaeologists would draw some pretty wacky conclusions from the use of pyramids throughout history around different unrelated parts of the world.

The designs of all of these pyramids are somewhat similar from external gaze and of course their uses would vary from culture to culture, but there is one more interwoven trend beyond that of pyramid type architecture. The importance of building large upright structures that appears to dominate the surrounding landscape. The structures we have spoken about in class are important functionality and symbolically. Although we are not building structures quite like these today, modern cultures around the world are building skyscrapers, and many of them! The skyscraper is the modern analogue, in a sense, to the ancient grand buildings. Skyscrapers represent, symbolically: power, wealth, and an assertive dominance financially. Humans are fascinated with large structures and will continue building larger and taller structures in the future, which leaves me with the question, what will the future archaeological record look like?

1 thought on “Trends

  1. Well, first I’d like to say that I actually scrolled through a bunch of posts, and while a lot of them were interesting to me, and I really thought yours provoked an interesting discussion.

    So first, to answer your question about how I think the future Archaeological Record will pan out to be, I think that given the circumstances, eventually you’ll just find old buildings underneath newer ones as we continue to Urbanize the planet and eventually build over old things (you can see this a lot in many long-lived cities).
    I’d also like to say that among the structures you mentioned, there is also the Ziggurat, which is a Sumerian thing. However, more to the point, I think that the idea of a kind of commonality in symbolism between cultures is an important thought. It shows that despite many drastically different cultural practices and other such things, there is some kind of consistency among mankind. In the broadest sense, I feel like this boils down to: “Big equals power.” Because at some point, I feel like some ruler thought: “Hey, if I make something big, everyone will know it’s mine because they’ll see it and think hey, it belongs to [insert the ruler’s name here]!”

    But beyond just commemorating a Ruler, these structures often also exist for another reason: To celebrate deities. And this is something that I think I can add to my earlier definition or rather the idea behind these structures. Namely, that that they exist to serve as a symbol of something. Be it a Deity, A ruler, or some other thing. It’s just that the “Big equals power” makes it a more prominent feature and serves to establish the importance of whatever the structure is dedicated to.

    Although sometimes, it gets a bit out of hand…

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