Namesakes and King

So, when we examine more and more cultures and sites, we inevitably come across something I personally to find to be very interesting: Names. How we define things when we talk about them is of critical importance.  Often times, the names the names we use for a civilization is completely different than the one used by the people of that civilization/culture.

 A good example of this would be China. The name for China in Chinese is “Zhongguo.” With it’s Japanese name being “Chugoku.” Namely, it sounds fairly different from the English name of “China.” So, the question then becomes where names of these things come from? In my mind, one thing starts to arise: Kings.

So what strikes as being the most prolific is how history tends to emphasize the the power of individuals. And of course, who would be the most powerful and influential but Kings?

The Namesakes from Kings: 

So I’d like to take my time here and discuss How Kings have Influenced the naming of various things in history. An example we discussed in class would be the Sapa Inca. Inca itself meaning “King.” And of course, then when we refer to their civilization, we call them “Inca.”

Hey look, It’s a Sapa Inca!

So in this regard, a King defines the name of the people itself, which shows the importance and influence of the King. In a more extreme example, we have Qin Shihuang of the Qin Dynasty of China. It is supposed that he is the namesake of China. Being the first Chinese Emperor, his name Qin, ultimately became the namesake of his entire empire/people/country/civilization for thousands of years.

(Just to make it as painfully obvious as possible)




It’s Emperor Qin…


Kings also give names to not just their own people, but often times set precedent for rulers  that come after them. By following the name of a previous king, it also channels the authority, achievement, and power of that King. The most striking example of this seems to be the case of Julius Caesar.

Caesar was probably among the most prolific Kings (being the catch-all for ruler in this case) who ever lived. And what is important to note is that the number of titles he gave his name to. First off, it’s important to note that Caesar itself become the name of the leader of the Roman Empire, so even his successors wanted to channel his name.

It is also interesting to note though, that a variety of other European titles are derived from Caesar as well: The most notable are the Russian Tsar, and the German Kaiser, the terms for Caesar in Russian and German respectively. It was even flat out stated that by the German Chancellor (during the founding of Germany), that the name was chosen to channel the the authority of the Caesar himself.


So, I guess, I just wanted to make a point, that although we examine cultures and their contexts in Archaeology, it is also important to keep in mind the the influence of Individuals upon cultures. And in the most direct way, that’s usually some kind of King. So whether it’s  The Dolce of Italy or the Emperor of Japan, I’d implore to think not just about the events and culture, but the people within them, and how they fit into the Big Picture.


Henge Hen-ge*

*Henge (Hen-Geh) means transformation in Japanese

So originally, I wanted to write about the supposed connections between Stonehenge with aliens and Atlantis and all that jazz, but we haven’t mentioned that and that would make it irrelevant to the class this far (Jackie Chan adventures anyone?).

As I was looking over some materials on Stonehenge, one thing about it stuck out to me: Unlike a lot of other henges that I’d seen, Stone Henge has a section has has a kind of “Gate” imagery to it. That is to say, like the Nile in Ancient Egypt, perhaps it served as a kind of physical analogue to some sort of division between different realms. This contrasts it a lot with many of the other henges I’ve examined, as one of Stonehenge’s features is the now broken top ring (versus many other henges that just materials arranged in a circle).

Obligatory Stonehenge Picture.

As a result, I’d like to take some time to compare Stonehenge to another Structure that I’ve also been recently reading about: Japanese Torii.When compared to Torii Stonehenge’s direct function isn’t for certain, so I’ll be discussing a couple of the (non-crazy) theories that I read in a book when I was in high school pertain to the Stonehenge

Torii (鳥居) are Japanese shrine gates, which like many gate-esque structures are symbolic to some kind of separation from one realm to another. In this case, they detonate sacred space, which is why there is a line of them around the path leading up to Shinto Temples. Coincidentally, Torii resemble the Chinese/Japanese Character for Heaven which is  “天.”  Despite gate structures being quite common in Asia, it’s not actually known exactly where “Torii” themselves came from.

There’s just so many…. They stretch on… and On…

What does this have to do with Stonehenge?

So like Stonehenge, you also have this kind of Gate Structure. If it’s not already apparent, door structures are rather recurring in cultures across the world, but Unlike Stonehenge, which seems to have been built for an unspecified purpose, Torii have a very well defined purpose. So, in order to compare it to Stonehenge in a deeper manner than just “Well, this is a gate and…. Stonehenge has henges.” we’ll have to move on to a few theories and speculations about Stonehenge.

So, there is speculation that Stonehenge was anything from some kind of gate that separated a sort of “realm of the living” from a “land of the dead” with the surrounding Earthwork denoting one realm versus the inside of the henge-ring-structure being the another (as there have been burials found in the rings)

It’s Big.

So like Stonehenge may have, the torii pictured above is also here used to create a physical manifestation between the realms of the living and dead. Additionally, there is speculation that Stonehenge may have been a place of healing, as people from a variety of places have been found buried there, a few supposedly with some disfigurements. This hints people journeying to Stonehenge to perhaps receive healing.

In the same vein, Torii are gates to Shrines and temples. In ancient times, these were also places of healing (i.e. demon exorcising), which gives a similar function.

Why it Matters

To be totally blunt, this comparison doesn’t really have any greater meaning in the larger scheme of things, but instead is just another example of cross-cultural comparison and how we can try to find some similarities in human cultures….

Even if said cultures are on opposite sides of the world (Although Japan and the United Kingdom are both small Island Nations…).

Pop Culture + Archaeology

So, What really interested me were aspects of pop culture that were presented about the Archaeology Discoveries… or at least the Aspects of Egypt, so I’d like to take this blog post to mainly talk about the two aspects of Egypt’s image that seemed to have spawned in pop culture: “Egypt and Ancient… Ancient Civilizations (Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, etc.)” and “Mummies.”  Mostly because I figured I’d never get any a chance to talk about such things anywhere else in school and because I find the spread of memes in culture to be interesting.


Ancient… Ancient Civilizations

So here we have what I’ve always felt is an interesting thing in pop-culture: Romanticism  of the past. It’s over, so people think it’s better. So, in a world that’s uncertain, the past seems to be the only constant. As a result, we like to think there are mysteries in past, that those who came before, know more (hey, that rhymed).

So, as far as I know, I look at the whole idea of an ancient civilization, and I just take it as a lot of envy on the part of the Europeans. A lot of them had to tell themselves that it was the work of something related to themselves, if only so they could justify ideal of their civilization being the most “civilized.”

So while I do believe that the racism exists in the sense that they believed that the Egyptians could not build the pyramids themselves, I also think the reverse was true. It was a way for the Europeans to justify why they couldn’t build such great structures as the pyramids. Although ultimately, It probably just devolved to both and a mass combination of random and out there theories.

In terms of things I’ve seen in pop-culture, I think my favorite Lampooning of the “Pyramids were built by someone else” is probably from Futurama. In the episode “A Pharaoh to Remember” the characters travel to a planet called Osiris IV, which bears a striking resemblance to the general image of Ancient Egypt. When they get on the planet, it’s revealed that the Egyptians were to advanced, they had developed space-travel, and had went to Osiris IV to teach them their culture. Essentially, it’s the “Ancient Aliens Theory” turned upside down.

Mummies, Tut and… Stuff? 

I also spent some time pondering the role of mummies in pop-culture after the lecture. To me, I find it interesting how there is a variable amount portrayals of mummies. From shows like “Tutenstein” which was on Discovery Kids to shows like “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” there are an innumerable number of depictions of mummies (I must say, I enjoyed the former much more than the latter).

This scared the heck out of me as a kid…. (It still does)

But Mummies have penetrated more than just television. I find it funny that they are one of the classic Universal Horror Film Monsters and additionally they’re a classic monster that you fight in video games as well as tabletop RPGs (DnD). There’s even a sarcophagus Pokemon! (That no one has ever heard of because it’s from the latest games).


And it all stems from that discovery of tut! And that’s what stuck in my mind the most, that it all came from a relatively recent event, and one specific event at that (compare to the vampire, whose story evolved for a rather long time…). But I suppose that’s why it’s considered a “Great Discovery in Archaeology.”


From Dinosaurs to Disappointment… to Something Else.

I recently changed majors.

That was not fun.

This is class is oddly enough the only holdover from my pre-major-change schedule (As I was taking it to fill a gen-ed requirement). The day before schedules were set, I dreaded it. Reading over reviews of both the Professor and the class itself, it seemed like some kind of massive snore-fest. Like it’d be boring. Just another class I’d have to squirm my way through.

Come the day the semester starts and I get a peculiar email about how there has been a change in professors. I didn’t really pay it much mind. All I did was cherish the first week of no class and the extra time it gave me.

Now at this point, I’d like to go over my rationale for taking this class. While I was so hastily filling my schedule out at my orientation, I discovered this would take the place of my ISS requirement. Now being a naive young man, when I read the course description, three things immediately flew into my head: 1) Jackie Chan Adventures (in which he was an Archaeologist), 2) Lucy and 3) Dinosaurs.

Now, I may be a naive young man, but I’m not so naive as to believe that Archaeology was all about the dinosaurs (I did watch Friends and Ross was my favorite character growing up), but I prayed in my depths of my heart that somewhere, somehow I could relate this back to Dinosaurs.

So come the first actual lecture, specifically when it was said that Archaeology was not Dinosaurs. Some of my dreams died that day. But that’s not to say I wasn’t interested in Archaeology, rather it just meant that I had redirect my interests. I’ve gone on record a few times saying that humans are the most interesting thing in world. And I’ve spent way too much time reading about Ooparts (Although I never really cared about any of the crackpot theories behind them, I’m just curious about Antikythera mechanism and how it fits in to history).

But the point is, I wanted to establish that there were people who thought “Hey Archaeology, Yeah! Dinosaurs….” 

However, If we’re talking about Archaeology itself, what really fascinated me as a topic was the line between the public romanticism of Archaeology vs. what Archaeology really is. Growing up a child, I always had this mentality that pretty much every big site that there was to be discovered… had already been discovered (barring Atlantis). So my image (gathered from years of playing Harvest Moon) of Archaeology consisted mainly of excavating… just… lots, and lots of excavating with brushes, pickaxes (false), and tarps, lots of tarps. So once I got older and watched the Indiana Jones Movies, I ended up having a really awful suspension of disbelief because I thought, “there’s no way this guy’s a real Archaeologist.” In essence, I later learned that in the most people in the real world weren’t as cut and dry as I was in my youth.

A secondary thought I pondered upon was the role of Archaeology as a science. Specifically the focus on “context” and how things fit into some kind of sequence This was weird to me because I’d always saw history in the same light, that is being an ever growing chain of events (although it’d probably be more of a Web in the grand scheme of things for both disciplines). Archaeology (and most forms of Anthropology for that matter) had always been a blurred subject for me. Somewhere in between what one might define as hard science, and the humanities.

In my science had always been about two things: Rules and Quantities. But how do you quantify culture? How do you go about measuring it? And more importantly, is it possible to study culture in an Objective manner? Well, a lot of those kinds of things were answered in the last few lectures so that’s dandy, but at that point I have to wonder where humanities side of it fits in. To understand the context of a given artifact or a site, would that not require a tremendous amount of historical knowledge? So at that point, I just figured that while they’re very separate, history and Archaeology can both be used together to deepen one’s understanding of human culture.

Because truth be told, I’ve got a lot of questions, so it’s time to get crackin’

Oh and I am in fact, very much enjoying this class.