Over the course of this semester we learned about many historical sites, ranging from the Pyramids of Giza to Machu Picchu. However, an important and intriguing site we had not learned about is the ancient city of Pompeii. Pompeii was a thriving city a couple thousand years ago which consisted of about 20,000 people at its peak. It is located near modern day Naples in Italy. Almost everyone knows about the horrible end of the city from the eruption of the volcano called Mount Vesuvius which wiped out nearly everything.
The Greeks settled in the region around Mount Vesuvius in the 8th century B.C. The town of Pompeii was about five miles from the mountain and was a flourishing resort for wealthy citizens of Rome. Mount Vesuvius formed hundreds of thousands of years ago and has been erupting ever since. It was in 79 A.D. in which it erupted and caused the end of the thriving city of Pompeii. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius sent a blast ash, rocks, and gases miles into the sky, and swallowed everything in its path and covered Pompeii. Millions of tons of volcanic ash buried Pompeii over the course of about 6 hours. Around two thousand people died and others were forced to leave their city behind. This was a massive catastrophe at the time and eventually was forgotten about until its rediscovery.
Pompeii was left practically untouched until 1748 where it was rediscovered by a group of Spanish explorers. They soon found out how wonderfully the ancient city had been preserved due to the ash that covered everything and also the lack of air and moisture. Bodies were remarkably preserved right where they had fallen. Some buildings were still intact, and goods and other objects littered the streets. The discovery of Pompeii tells us a lot about the past that we couldn’t learn from any other site. Pompeii is a great look into the past and to learn about the lifestyle of the city. It’s been a popular tourist destination for years and receives millions of visitors per year, making it one of the most popular tourist sites in Italy.
The history of Pompeii is remarkable and is fascinating to learn about. Even though we didn’t cover it in class, I think it would be a prime topic to include in the lecture. It was a great discovery and contributed a lot to our knowledge about the ancient Greeks.
Before this class, I was always very interested in Stonehenge but hardly knew anything about it. I was always curious about who built it, why they built it, and how they built it. After the lecture today, I was left with a much better understanding of all of that. I was also amazed to learn many things that I never knew before. Some things that were interesting to me were that the actual Stonehenge is just one part of the whole area. It is just one small part to such a larger site. There are many other things all around it like burial mounds, pits, holes, and Woodhenge. It’s fascinating to think who lived there thousands of years ago and what kind of incredible events took place all around that area. I never knew there were so many other parts to Stonehenge than just the standing stones.
I was also intrigued to learn about the possible ways it was built. It’s hard to imagine how people were able to build such an incredible structure without the machinery we have today. A large amount of people were needed to create it. Also many resources were needed, and most of them were not anywhere close. It’s quite interesting to think how people were able to transport huge stones weighing many tons from a place miles away. Another fascinating fact was how Stonehenge was the result of a few thousands of years, and not just something that could be put together in a couple of days. It was also interesting to learn about the other possibilities of how Stonehenge could have been built instead. It was very thought-provoking to hear about some myths about how people thought it was built instead. Even though some don’t seem completely logical, it opened my mind to think about the other alternatives.
Another curiosity of mine is thinking what Stonehenge was actually built for. It could have been a place for festivities to occur, a place of pilgrimage for religious folk, or something used for astronomy. The purpose behind it could have been any of these or something else entirely. Stonehenge will be something that will continue to interest me for years to come. Stonehenge has huge historical importance and holds many answers to the past. It also has many mysteries about it and some questions that can probably never be answered. The mystery behind Stonehenge makes it even more fascinating.
In the lecture on Tuesday, the main topic was about Tutankhamen. I enjoyed learning about him but something intrigued me more. I was more interesting in learning about Aten and Ra. I’ve heard enough about Tutankhamen before, but not too much about Ra and Aten. I have seen both figures in the past but never really researched anything about them. I was curious about how they were such prominent figures in ancient Egypt but yet I still knew nothing. So I decided to find out more about Aten and Ra.
In ancient Egypt during the Armana period, Ra and Aten played a big role. Aten is the disk of sun highly worshiped by Amenhotep IV. Aten was different from other gods because it was just the sun, with no human qualities like the others. Aten also didn’t usually have the word “the” before it like other objects do. Amenhotep IV believed Aten was the creator, and giver of life. He worshiped Aten so much he changed his name to Akhenaten, meaning “living spirit of Aten.” Akhenaten wanted everyone to be monotheistic. He wanted everyone to worship only one God, and that God of course was Aten. Akhenaten then moved the capital of his people to a new city he had built for Aten called Akhetaten. All of the decisions made by Akhenaten revolved around Aten. After his death, his ideas were abandoned and the people moved back to their original city.
Aten was associated often times with the sun God Ra. Ra was the ancient Egyptian solar deity and a major god in ancient Egyptian religion. Ra is depicted with a human body and a bird-like face, with Aten right above his head. It was believed that all forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra. The Egyptians highly worshiped the sun, so it made since for them to worship Ra as well. Later in Armana period, there was a change in pantheon and the Ra and Aten were separated. They started to be seen separately instead of always together.
I think Ra and Aten are very important to ancient Egypt. They are so popular that I think anyone would be able to recognize Ra or Aten if shown. Even though they’re easily recognizable, there is a lack of knowledge about them. If anyone wanted to study ancient Egypt, I believe it is important not to forget Ra and Aten.
Before this semester, I had no prior knowledge of archaeology at all. Taking this class was a last minute decision and I just picked a random class because I needed more credits. So far, I have not regretted this decision at all. I soon found out how fascinated I am by archaeology. I am very intrigued by learning all about ancient settlements and the process of archaeology. I used to just think that it was a bunch of people digging around for stuff that looks cool. After a few days I found out that everything is very structured and there are so many techniques used when excavating. I also learned the different types of artifacts that are found and how they can be used to find out about past cultures.
When I first came to MSU I had no idea what I wanted to major in, and I still don’t. After the first few weeks of this class, I definitely considered making my major archaeology. I could never choose a major because I never could think of something I wanted to do for my whole life. However I believe if I were an archaeologist, I could easily enjoy doing that for many years. There is always somewhere new to explore and new things waiting to be discovered. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my life than traveling the world and doing something I love. I have always been fascinated in places like ancient Rome and Machu Picchu. To think that I could one day see these places in real life to research more about them in person is very exciting.
To know the fact that there are areas still undiscovered and things are still waiting to be found, makes me want to be an archaeologist even more. I’m also considering studying abroad in Belize after we had a guest speaker talk to us about it. It would be the perfect opportunity for me to study archaeology hands on and to confirm whether or not it’s what I want to do with my life. With my remaining 2 years at State, I am definitely going to look into taking more classes in anthropology. I’m excited to finish the rest of this semester and learn even more than I have already. I feel relieved to know that I finally found something I enjoy learning about and could perhaps do the rest of my life.