Bonus Blog: Specialization

At the beginning of this class we discussed a variety of characteristics that are typically used to define a state. Not all states have all of these characteristics, but they are generally present. However, one of these characteristics sticks out as the most important in defining and developing a state: specialization.

Specialization is when people specialize in a certain area of production. It occurs when only part of the population is needed for food production, allowing others to take on other duties. Specialization is what allows for many of the other characteristics that define a state. Without specialization, a complex economy would not form. Specialization allows for an increase in both production and quality of goods. This in turn fosters the growth of trade because a society is able to make a great number of desirable goods to exchange with others. Upper Egypt was able to create sophisticated pottery that was superior to that of Lower Egypt, creating a lot of trade between the two. It is theorized that the cultural connection produced by this trade aided Hierakonpolis in its takeover of Buto.

Specialization also aids in the development of a stratified society. It creates a class of skilled producers and creates prestige objects that are used by elites to demonstrate their status. Specialization is what leads to the creation of beautiful and sophisticated objects, such as the beads found in Harappa. Some of the beads would have taken up to twenty-four hours to make. These goods can only occur within a society that has people working this as their sole job. These objects are used as markers of class, often demonstrated bu grave goods. Cong and bi were elite grave goods found in ancient China that marked prestigious burials. These sophisticated objects had to be specially made and would have taken a great deal of time to produce.

Specialization is what really sets a state apart. It allows for growth in many different areas of society and culture. The more specialized roles get, the more opportunity there is for complexity. All the characteristics that define a state are intertwined. They are not black and white categories but rather mix in with one another. Specialization is needed in a complex economy and for social stratification, metallurgy and the mass production of goods, but specialization also depends on this complex economy and an urbanized society to maintain itself. I count specialization as the most important individual factor, but it is really the interplay of these factors that creates a state.