been Giza once again

History is absolutely my favorite in my life. The first book I read in my life is historical book, called<<the 5000 year history of China>>.so, from that time, I just can not stopping reading historical book and collect as much historical stuff as can which are mostly ancient coin .In my hometown, Beijing, China, has the biggest antique market in my country, maybe in the world.so I usually went there couple times per month to buy some ancient coin or other old stuff. There is usually a sale on Saturdays when all the antique digger and dealer who is actually not doing illegal business come and sale archaeological stuff. You can find great deal in that day often. Through my childhood and teen age, I have been traveling most important archaeological site in china, including the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses, Great Wall, ZhouKoudian and etc. Although I have been really eager to experience a archaeological trip, but to go such thing is illegal in anywhere. Every year, I have a topic about history to read on. Last year the topic is nomadic empire in Central Asia and Middle East. This year is era after fall of Qing dynasty before 1927 when Chiang Kai-shek unifies china into central government. So the passion of history and archaeology make to choose this course to learn more knowledge
On the today’s lecture, I was just driven back to ancient Egypt immediately. Egypt was the first foreign country I have been to. I went there in the winter vocation of 2008 because I have been truly admiring the one of first civilization in the world. I still can remember clearly the second day after arriving on Cairo when saw the Giza pyramid. It was just gigantic and unbelievable. I was like a piece of sand in front of it. The Great Pyramids of Giza have three different pyramids together and were made for different Pharaohs including Khufu, Khafe, and Menkaure. Khufu pyramid is the biggest and tallest Egyptian pyramid in the world. There was an open area that you can go into the pyramid. Although the pyramid seems unreachable , but when I went inside of the pyramid from the gate (at least the part I went down) is small and even almost can not breath because of it small space and low oxygen concentration. It is just hard to imagine how the worker build such a tremendous building 4500 thousand years ago in the desert.
I think this course will get me a lot of new thing to learn and arose some old memory about archaeology.

 

 

Flintknapping is hard!

My experience with flintknapping began in the fall of my senior year. I was in a survival class as an elective, so we learned how to build shelters, how to make fires, and other rudimentary skills. Among these skills was flintknapping. We would sit on the floor of the classroom – a garage-like room – and whack away at pieces of glass. The teacher did it as a hobby, and had made some interesting points and other tools. He demonstrated the flaking of volcanic glass, and showed that the resultant flakes were sharper than surgical steel.  We compared a flake about the size of a razor to a scalpel from the biology department; the flake sliced right through buckskin, where the scalpel encountered some difficulty on its way though.  We were very excited to begin making our own lithics using the method he presented.

We started by gathering our material that we would fashion into weapons: large pieces of glass windowpanes from the recycling. They were only perhaps a quarter inch thick, but the fragments we began with measured about three inches by four, in a triangular shape. We decided to try to just work on the edges, to get them sharp without destroying the main piece we were working with. Although it sounds like a simple task, we soon found otherwise. We made our tools ourselves, as well: our hard hammers (or “boppers,” as he termed them) were bars of metal, about a half inch thick, rounded on the ends. The soft hammer and pressure flaker were combined into the same tool, which we made by taking an inch-thick dowel – about the thickness of a shower rod – and hammering a nail most of the way into one end. The wooden dowel served as the soft hammer. To make the pressure flaker portions, we proceeded to strip the head off the nail with pliers, leaving a dull, somewhat rounded metal stub, perhaps half an inch long. Once this was filed into more of a point, our tools were ready.

We set off in no general direction, just experimenting with the tools and materials. We found that there were a lit of ways to hit the glass so that it shattered, and very few methods that would produce a productive result. We experimented to find the limits of the tools we used – what depths and areas of the glass would flake when it was struck in different ways.  The largest flakes I could get were about an eighth of an inch thick, and covered maybe a square inch.  Working with a thicker chunk of glass would probably have produced larger results.
We did the majority of our work sitting on the floor, with our laps covered by aprons.  This was so that the flakes and shards of glass that are an inevitable result of the process were easy to clean up. When class was over, we just shook the aprons into a trash bin, and vacuumed the cement floor with a shop-vac.  By the end of a few hours’ work, I had a vaguely triangular chunk of glass, which had some of the edges mashed into something that resembled a sharp, extremely jagged edge.  To think that this was using impurity-free glass and virtually optimal tools!  I can’t begin to imagine the time investment and skill that would have gone into using rock that fractures in unpredictable ways, using whatever tools can be found, and depending on your craft for survival!  Though they may look mundane, the tools and projectile points unearthed so frequently are truly works of art, products of a truly fine craftsman’s hand.

Blog Post 1: It’s just a burial site.

Many view the pyramids as mysterious mega-structures built to display the power of a civilization. However, I believe they are simply apart of a glorified cemetery whose owners were hell-bent to build the largest representation of them. I am not attacking the purpose or engineering feat of the pyramids, they are incredible, but only pointing out their relative service.  For example, extraordinarily large structures are built today to honor the dead in the form of monuments, head stones, or buildings. In modern commentaries you commonly find an assortment of head stones and monuments all varying in size and extravagance relative to the importance, riches, or ego of the individual who lies beneath.

The Giza Plato is essentially a giant cemetery. On nearly every side of the three larger pyramids exits common graveyards and burial temples, complete with enclosures, and were viewed as a sacred place, not so different from today. The Egyptians even buried with them important items, commonly boats, a common practice in cultures all over the world.

The great pyramids of Giza sit on a granite plateau above the surrounding landscape. There are three extremely large pyramids; they are called Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. Khufu was built around 2560-2540 BC and Khafre was finished between 2558 and 2532 BC. However, Menkaure’s date is unknown. Menkaure was a monarch and was not exactly known when he died. Khufu was the tallest man made structure in the word until the 14th century AD. Although the pyramids look like a giant rock piles today, they were once covered with smooth stones. Many used limestone and granite and gave off a bright white color in the sunlight. Menkaure’s pyramid still has a lot of the casing stone in tact of the pyramid on the bottom. This is because Menkaure died before the pyramid was finished. Due to this incomplete nature, it provides archaeologies an idea of the process that was used to build the pyramids. Much like the memorials today, they were seen as a display of pristine stone work.

Although these pyramids were designed as a sacred resting place of Pharaohs, as a medium into their next life, they are essentially enormous monuments representative of an individual’s wealth, power, ego, or importance surrounded by other burial and sacred areas. Essentially the same as today, but on a much more dramatic scale, which may be proportional to the level of said qualities associated with the Pharaoh.

It begs the question- in thousands of years will people look back on our civilization’s monuments of individuals and associate our viewpoints of them like the Egyptians of the Pharaohs? Will the future civilizations see Mount Rushmore as the ‘Gods’ of America? Do our monuments have secret meanings? A historical example of similar occurrence can shed light on theses questions.

In 1799 Napoleon invaded Egypt to build a passage from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. His primary motivation was conquest. On July 21, 1799, at the Battle of Pyramids, Napoleon attacked the forces of the local rulers to control the Nile Valley. After Napoleon took control, his hundreds of scientists went all over Egypt to document and record the findings. They were responsible for finding things like the Rosetta Stone, which allowed the translation of the hieroglyphics.  Many artistic drawings were made of the exterior and interior of the pyramids.  This work was extremely important because it was widely distrusted throughout Europe to people who never had a chance to see Egypt.

This created a strong obsession with all things ancient Egyptian. As an effect, many Egyptian architectural features began appearing throughout Europe. The most obvious are the obelisk that appeared in nearly every major capital. The ancient Egyptian conspiracy of secret meaning of their monuments other than for burial purposes is still with us today. I can only wonder what future civilizations will think about our monuments and burial sites.

To dig or not to dig?

As a fairly cautious individual who likes to control as many variables as possible before taking action and gather as much information as possible before reaching conclusions, archaeology positively terrifies me.  The inherently destructive nature of archaeological excavation referred to in one of the first lectures of this course means that data can really only be gathered once from any find, and conclusions must be extrapolated from only that one set of data.  When one considers the possibility for error and the constant increase in technology that allows ever more data to be extracted from a single site, the natural impulse (for me at least) is to delay excavation until the optimal resources are available.  There are, of course, two obvious problems with this approach.  As time goes on better resources continually become available, and archaeological sites continually degrade.  There is, therefore, no best possible time to excavate.  The decision to dig must be made based on the ever-changing factors of development, decay, and – of course – funding.

I am driven further towards caution by the losses of the past.  Though their work laid the foundation for modern archaeology, one cannot help but wonder what could have been found if those excavating in previous centuries had waited for modern tools and modern thinking before plunging into their work.  Stories about Heinrich Schliemann digging rapidly and carelessly in his single-minded quest for Homeric artifacts make the modern reader cringe, as do accounts of fabrics and other delicate materials disintegrating just after the opening of sealed chambers.  Many items were simply removed from their sites for the purpose of filling out museum collections and private curio cabinets with no scientific care whatsoever.  The discovery of a site often led to just as much destruction by looters and tourists as it did to the advancement of knowledge.  How much more could have been found with modern methods and sensibilities?  More importantly, will the archaeologists of the future look back at us the same way?

The difficulty of deciding whether or not to excavate a site is exemplified by the debate over the tomb of the first Qin emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Though the location is famous for the army of terra-cotta warriors outside, the actual tomb itself has never been excavated.  The reluctance of the Chinese government is partly due to respect for the dead, but largely because it is feared that an excavation with the present technology would destroy much that could be preserved by an investigation farther down the road.  The terra-cotta warriors themselves provide an example of what the government fears.  When they were originally unearthed, the original pigments flaked off the warriors soon after their exposure to air.  Two thousand colorless statues later, a technique has been developed to preserve the pigment after the warriors are dug up.  If the tomb is as lavish as surviving accounts claim, it could be well worth the wait, but how long exactly should the government delay?  That debate has gone on for decades, and will likely rage until the day when – for better or for worse – the tomb is opened.  In the meantime, with every new discovery and piece of unbroken ground, archaeologists must confront the eternal question: to dig or not to dig?

Rosetta Stone

Archeologist spend countless hours a year digging, picking, shoveling and sorting various types of rocks and stones; many of which are no more than simply a piece of earth. Never would I have thought that a broken slab of black granite inscribed in two languages and three scripts would be an important document to the Egyptian’s history, but in so many words “an important document to the Egyptian’s history” is what we now call the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone was a discovery of French soldiers in 1799, it was originally displayed in a temple and later used by the soldiers as construction material for a fort at Rashid (Rosetta) located in the Nile Delta in Egypt. Two years after the discovery the French army was thrown out of Egypt by the British army and under the rules of the Capitulations of Alexandria, all antiquties collected by the French were now the property of the British; this included the Rosetta Stone.The Stone was then transported to London in 1802, and still to this day remains in the British Museum.

Next on the list was to translate the inscriptions on the Stone. The three inscriptions have the same meaning, a complete translation of the Greek text was published in 1803, but I find it crazy that it would take 20 years before the two Egyptian versions to be deciphered. The two Egyptian languages are hieroglyphics; used for monumental and sacred texts, and demotic; used for everyday text. In all, since the Greek version could already be translated the Rosetta Stone was the key to reading and understanding both Egyptian. During the process of deciphering the two unknown text it was clear to the many scholars that both hieroglyphics and demotic share one main similarity, this was the usage of phonetic characters to spell. Although ther were many people working to make sense of the texts, Jean-Fransois Champollion; a French schoool teacher, was the one to finally connect the Egyptian  phonetic characters for the two text to most of the Greek letters. This two decade process of deciphering was completed in 1822. Because of Champollion’s breakthough for the Rosetta Stone, it gave countless opportunities to international scholars to provide Egyptian history from what were impossible texts to comprehend, this made it possible to construct a chronology for the whole ancient East. The ancient choronicals from Egypt provided lists of pharoahs and their reigns and became the  basis for dating the entire Eastern Mediterranean archaeolgical record.

 

Archaeology

I am not an archaeology major, nor do I know much about archaeology in general. I took this class as an elective, but with some interest. When I think of the word “archaeology,” I think of digging and uncovering old bones. I used to collect rocks and that is about the extent of where I thought I could relate to archaeology. I know there is a lot of different opinions about what archaeology is, but I am excited to learn more about the truth of archaeology and because we are human, we should know about the things that make us who we are today.

After experiencing a little truth about what archaeology really is, I got excited. I like the connection between anthropology and archaeology. I previously took an anthropology class that connected other cultures to our own and it gave advice on how to navigate our country from an outside perspective. I really enjoyed the class, so when I heard about the correlation between anthropology and archaeology, I was more intrigued.

I have never really been the type of person to really care about things from the past. I was one of those ignorant people that would say “well why do we need to know about the past, it already happened.” Over time I have realized that it is important to know the past, it is what shaped the present and what will enhance the future. I am still one of those people who are busy trying to uncover our own culture and do not really have much time to explore other countries, but I think this class is going to help broaden my knowledge of other countries and the historical events that have helped make our world the way it is.

I think people, well now I know, people have this idea that archaeology is just a boring study of old dusty bones and ugly rocks. I mean just the name archaeology sounds a little boring and slightly dated. I don’t think this is necessarily wrong, but I think the fascinating part of archaeology comes in learning that it is truly a science. The exciting part is uncovering the mysteries that lie beneath the surface, literally.

Taking the scientific aspect of archaeology and the many cultural variances described by anthropology; I believe that archaeology is truly unique in that there is so much to learn, further beyond what anyone could ever know. I am officially curious and intrigued to learn about what this class has in store for me.

 

The Step Pyramid at Saqqara

If you saw the Step Pyramid in Saqqara, Egypt, you would immediately know how it got it’s name.  This is a very unique pyramid in Egypt that was designed in a set of six steps.  It was designed this way by the pharaoh Djoser’s vizier Imhotep.  It was designed in a way that resembled tombs of king’s past stacked on top of one another in a sort of staircase to the heavens.  The steps of the pyramid form “benches” or mastaba towards the top.  Each level of the pyramid gets gradually less steep as it gets closer to the top.  The two bottom levels of the pyramid are square mastaba, a method that had never been used previously. After the first two levels, the design returns back to rectangular, which was the norm at the time.

The pyramid itself and its surroundings

The pyramid itself and its surroundings

On the outside there lies a massive wall that extends for about a mile in perimeter around the pyramid.  This wall forms a giant courtyard with the main entrance of the southeastern side.  There is a giant entrance hall facing the south side of the main pyramid where the king’s remains were buried.  Several “false entrances” were also made along the outside of the wall.  These were intended for use by the king is his afterlife.  Outside of that wall, lies a giant forty meter wide trench, which was believed to be another form of defense for the pyramid.  The only remaining actual part of the king himself was a mummified foot.

Like many tombs of that era, the infrastructure of this pyramid is a series of mazes and paths throughout.  The entrance to the inside was located on the north side of the pyramid, a tradition that was carried out for many years in ancient Egypt.  These paths through the inside lead to many remains of people of the royal family as well as many possessions and offerings .  Several of the passages were sealed off as the pyramid grew.  This, along with creating intricate mazes, were intended to differ grave-robbers from invading the tomb.  Their efforts were futile, and many new paths were created in order to plunder the tomb.  There have been many stone vases and other items found within the tomb.  The extensive use of stone in the pyramid made it much more durable than the previous buildings made of mud-brick, causing many entities of the pyramid to be preserved much better than things of the past.

The Step Pyramid of Saqqara is a very distinctive landmark, and surely a must-see for anyone interested in pyramids.  It was a significant part of the Egyptian culture and redefined the way people think of pyramids with it’s unprecedented design.

 

Because of the Rosetta Stone

The past week our class focused on the topic of the Great Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings, and Egypt in general. While in class the discussion centered around explorers, the pyramids, and the systematic robbing of Egyptian artifacts something piqued my curiosity. Albeit somewhat briefly, the Rosetta Stone was mentioned.The Rosetta Stone itself was a stele inscribed with a decree by King Ptolemy V, on it were the sane decree but written in three different scripts; Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and demotic script. This ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic stele has been so important to Egyptology and plays such a predominant role in learning about the ancient Egyptians. Rosetta Stone has even become a name for an essential clue in a field of knowledge. If it were not for the Rosetta Stone archaeologists would not be able to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Through the work of many linguists and archaeologists the Rosetta Stone became a tool to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, making scholars and archaeologists able to translate an innumerable amount of cravings, scripts, and wall inscriptions. Information could be gathered from hieroglyphics that could date back thousands of years. For example, ancient Egyptian literature such as papyrus scrolls from the Middle Egyptian era, and hieroglyphs on the walls of Theban temples. Egyptians wrote about burial customs, history, Egyptian mythology, and so much more all across their temples, in scripted on many walls. This gave Egyptologists an insight into the beliefs and minds of ancient Egyptians (or at least the upper, educated class). Such beliefs as the intricate Egyptian mythological system of many gods and goddesses. In addition, through the translation Egyptologists discovered cartouches and the names of the pharaohs, giving them the names of the buried pharaohs in the pyramids.

Locking the code to the Egyptian hieroglyphics also showed archaeologists that Egyptians had an extensive knowledge of astronomy, some scholars even argue that the pyramids have connections with astronomy. While that may be debatable, the impressive knowledge of ancient Egyptian architects is not. These architects designed and built massive structures. Even the sides of some pyramids have slopes with a small margin of error. Their lives and techniques written and stored in the burial places near their pharaohs.

There is plethora of knowledge about ancient Egypt that without the Rosetta Stone would be a mystery. The Rosetta stone has been essential to the modern knowledge of ancient Egyptian literature and civilization.