This question poses for a lot of room for discussion. I don’t think that one specific site that we talked about this semester falls under the category of important, captivating, interesting, and exciting. I feel like one site can be the most important, while a different site captivates my attention, while I find a third site interesting.
I find mounds and earthworks the most interesting because I always thought that these were natural creations. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around it in the beginning. I find it interesting that these were created for religious and ceremonial reasons long with burial and residence for the elite. I think that the fact that grass has grown over many of them makes them look so natural, that then learning that they are man made
The sites I find the most important however are the Great Pyramids. I can’t pick one specific pyramid as more important than the other, but as a whole, they have told us so much about the ancient Egyptians. We know who the Egyptians are, why they built these pyramids, and when they built them. We’ve learned that pyramids are a place of offerings of food and water to the specific King that the pyramid was built for because even a dead king needs them in the afterlife. We know that it took thousands of slaves to construct these pyramids and that they weren’t just built over night; they took years and year to construct. From other pyramids that were discovered, we’ve been able to see that many of the slaves lived in these while they were building the pyramids for their kings. Archeologists know this because they have found rooms and kitchens inside of these pyramids.
Finally throughout the semester I’ve found that Stonehenge is the most captivating site that we’ve learned about. As a child, I learned that it was one of the Seven Wonders of the World; so finally learning about it in class grabs my attention greatly. I love that there is an astrological significance of some sort to Stonehenge and that the Summer and Winter Solstice play an important role. I find it intriguing that the only time you are allowed to touch Stonehenge is during the rave during the Summer Solstice. The last captivating thing about Stonehenge is how we learned about the great detail and time that it took to build it and the many different assumptions of who built it. The idea that the Devil built Stonehenge makes me laugh because it seems like such a far-fetched that it is not a possibility at all. Also, the fact that there are five different phases and time periods that it was created in and took that long to create must mean that there was great importance in its reasons for being built.
During lecture I found the site of Palenque very interesting. The fact that there was the ball court, where they played ballgames grabbed my attention. The fact that the ball games were very dangerous and the depth of skill set needed to play them made it all the more interesting. I did some further research on these ballgames and found that there wasn’t as much information on it as I thought there would be. Even though a vast amount of research has been done, archaeologists still don’t fully understand the meaning, social factors and political reasons for the ball court. I did find that the ball court is one of the oldest structures at Palenque. Palenque was a Mayan city-state in southern Mexico and dates back to 226 BC, and falls around 1123 AD. The ball court dates back to around 500AD and is the only ball court in Palenque. We do know that the ball court is typical of the Mayan society, and very important in religious aspects. It was connected with the circle of life and with the growth of corn. The ball court is also one of the entrances to the underworld. The first two players of this ball game were the Hero twin’s father and uncle. They were playing the game so close to the underworld that the Lord got angry about the noise that he sent owls to captured the twin brothers. Their names were Hunahpu and Ixbalanque. They ended up playing the game and defeating the Lord of the Underworld, Lord Xibalba. When the Mayan play the ballgame, they play it to symbolize the victory over the Lord of the Underworld.
Aside from the ball courts, Palenque contains some of the finest architecture, sculptures and carving that the Mayans’ produced. It is a medium-sized site, but much smaller site compared to Tikal and Copan. A vast majority of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed form the readings of the hieroglyphics inscribed on the many monuments. From these hieroglyphics, archaeologists have been able to discover long sequences of the ruling dynasty of Palenque in the 5th century. Along with this they have also been able to understand and gain a great amount of knowledge about the rivalry between city-states like Calakmul and Tinina. Palenque is unlike any other Mayan art formation. It is characterized by fineness and lightness due to a new form of construction techniques and draining methods. These new construction methods were able to reduce the thickness of the walls and expanded interior space and allowed for multiple opening. The uses of galleries give the architecture a sense of rare elegance due to its richly decoration of sculptures and the form of stucco, a wall plaster decoration that had never been previously seem. This influence extended as far as the western border of the Mayan cultural zone.
One thing I love about this class is that through lecture I hear tidbits of facts and information from other classes I have taken before. They are usually not talked about much in this class, which gives me a great opportunity to research more information on them for blog topics. In this section of the class the one thing that stuck out to me that I’ve heard of before is the Venus of Willendorf. I find this statue very interesting because of the way the woman is built is seen as a sign of fertility. It is also called the Woman of Willendorf, and is only 11cm tall. I find the fact that something so small as this to be of great archaeological importance fascinating. It is estimated that it was made between 24,000 and 22,000 BCE, but wasn’t found until 1908 by a man named Johann Veran. He found it in during an excavation at a Paleolithic site near Willendorf, a city in lower Austria. The Venus of Willendorf is carved out of oolithic limestone and is tinted with red ochre. This limestone is not a local stone to the area, leaving room for interpretation as to where the stone came from and how it go to they city of Willendorf. There were many other Venus figures found later to match in a set together.
This statue was one of the earliest made to look like humankind and was most likely made my hunters and gathers. These hunter and gatherers lived in an environment that was much colder than present day, most likely the end of the ice age. The fatness of the woman makes her very desirable at the time because of the environment. At that time the most important thing was reproduction, so the size of the woman, her breast and her pelvic areas were of most importance to the artist when creating this statue. Her legs are very large and are touching all the way down to her knees, where they then reach her very detailed pelvic area. On the other hand her arms are very small and tiny and are placed on top of her breasts. Another interesting characteristic of all Paleolithic Venus figurine statues is that they all lack a face. Some argue that a face is the key point of featuring human identity, and that lacking a face symbolizes that this statue isn’t a representation of someone, but that it is a representation of an anonymous sexual object and that the physical body and its representation of fertility is the more important aspect. Aside from the Venus of Willendorf not having a face, it is mostly covered up by what seems to be her hair. It looks like her hair is braided in one continuous long braid and wrapped around her head, but in reality it is 7 concentric horizontal bands that encircle her head, with two more half bands below the bottom of her neck. Many Paleolithic figurines do not have specific attention drawn to hair, meaning that this artist was intending it to be of some significance. In later cultures hair is considered to be a source of strength and as the seat of the soul. Hair also has a long history as a source of erotic attraction giving more evidence to this figurine being a form of fertility.
During this class so far, I’ve been paying attention waiting that I will hear and recognize something that I learned about in my high school humanities class that I greatly enjoyed. We learned a little about King Tut, but who has not heard of him, I wanted to discuss something different and unusual in lecture. Last Thursday in lecture though really caught my ear and eye. The word Hatshepsut had appeared on the screen and I knew this would be a great topic to blog about. In lecture we talked very briefly, but I knew that I wanted to explore more. We discussed that she was only one of three pharaohs around and that her tomb was never discovered. I’m glad someone in lecture brought up the question of why her tomb was never found, but they still knew she existed. Even though we discussed that many tombs were reused and pharaohs were removed from the tombs, I wanted to know more.
When she rose to power it was totally against the social norms of that time period. She was the wife and queen of Thutmose II. Thutmose II had died and instead of his son taking power, like the train of power would state, she took over as pharaoh and made the son of Thutmose II her nephew. She was in power for twenty two years, and during these twenty two years the Egyptian economy had vastly grown. Trading expanded greatly and many more temples were built along with others being restored. During Hatsheput’s 22nd year as pharaoh her nephew grew older and took what was rightfully his and became pharaoh of Egypt. This train of events is still a mystery of how he came into power and how she lost hers. There is no modern day knowledge or evidence of how she died, but we do know that she died in the 9th month of her 22nd year as pharaoh. In modern day terms they estimated that she died on January 16, 1458 BC. A mummy has been found that many think is of her, but if this mummy is in fact her, that recent evidence states that she could have suffered from diabetes and died from bone cancer, that had spread through her body when she was in her fifties. Evidence shows that Hatsheput’s name had been cut away form temple walls showing that her nephew was not too fond of him. To me, that seem apparent because she took the reign of power from the rightful ruler.
Coming into college I had a large interest in art history and human artifacts due to taking a humanities class. From this I have been very eager and intrigued to learn more about the past and past histories about cultures and civilization. Excavating and the process of excavating seems interesting because of the facts, objects and artifacts found, but I know there is much more out there which rich history that interests me more. Today during lecture we started digging deeper into history with real interest at mind, the Great Pyramids of Giza.
The Great Pyramids of Giza consists of three different pyramids, all made for different Pharaohs including Khufu, Khafe, and Menkaure. These pyramids make up a large portion of the Giza Plateau Necropolis as well as smaller pyramids, the Queen’s Pyramids. Along with these pyramids parts of the necropolis included Eastern and Western cemeteries, funerary temples in front of each pyramid, causeways and enclosure walls and particularly the sphinx. The thing that interested me the most were how the Queens were not buried in these pyramids and how these slaves were able to accurately, precisely and geometrically built the pyramids on the land that they were given to use.
I found that these Queens and their family members were buried in temples off to the side the of the three main pyramids. These other pyramids were located on the eastern side and to the south of the main temple. The Queens pyramids located off of Khufu’s pyramids consist of three smaller pyramids. They have a slope of about 52 degrees and they are about one fifth the heigh of Khufu’s pyramids. I find it quite interesting that the slaves that built these pyramids did it with so much geometry and math involved with it. I am curious if there was a specific reason why the queen’s pyramids were one fifth of the Khufu’s pyramid and not a different measurement to scale. It is incredible that the builders of these pyramids are able to know the base of the land and know how much they should make the slope of the pyramid. Dealing with the uneven ground, the ancient egyptians were able to make the base of the pyramid ample to support the height of the pyramid. They appear to be more conventional than the main pyramid because they only have substructures consisting of them. They also contain other other elements to them including mortuary temples and boat pits.
This being such a small portion of history, I can’t wait to see what else there is to explore in ancient Egypt and around the world.