Author Archives: baile175

Agriculture: The catalyst for all Characteristics of a State

After reviewing of the different primary and secondary characteristics of a state, I truly believe the most important characteristic of all is the practice of agriculture, particularly intensive agriculture. While the other characteristics such as urbanism, complex economy, stratification, and state authority are extremely important, I argue that without agriculture, these factors would not have emerged period.

I argue, first, that agriculture is the most important characteristic because it is involved in one of the four classic theories for the emergence of Ancient State. Irrigation agriculture was particularly important because hit allowed for high density populations, higher productivity, and higher efficiency of agriculture. In addition, agriculture combined with irrigation, requires an elite who can be in authority and tell people what needs to be done. With the utilization of agriculture, human populations were able to create a sedentary life style that allowed them to produce massive amounts of subsistence products in response to the increase in their population size. It was through agriculture that early populations learned how to create irrigation systems, such as canals, that eventually led to the emergence of a more complex society because management of the canals and water were controlled by the elite.

In other words, agriculture “births” the opportunities for other primary characteristics of states to come about:

URBANISM- with the practice of agriculture, groups of people were able to begin a sedentary life style. This allowed for the population density to increased because there was available food for all. Thus, in a way, agriculture allowed for urbanization to occur.

STRATIFICATION & SPECIALIZATION- through agriculture, stratification could occur at the same time as specialization because agriculture allowed civilizations to developed different specializations- whether it was specializations in farming, domesticating the animals which would help cultivate, or even the specialization of creating the tools/technology necessary to cultivate the crops. But as with any empire, when specializations occur, so does stratification. So therefore, the presence and practice of agriculture allowed for these other two characteristics to become more prominent.

COMPLEX SOCIETY- I also believe that agriculture allowed for the beginnings of a complex society to emerge. Through agriculture, states were able to not only grow enough crops for their use, but they were also able to grow enough surplus for trade. Having surpluses was incredibly important for the beginnings of trade.

STATE AUTHORITY- For agriculture to even be successful, irrigation canals had to be put in place to help give the crops a better opportunity to survive. According to class lecture, the presence of the irrigation canals alone allowed for the emergent of state authority because someone had to be in charge of them- for the production of them and for the management of them. In addition, surpluses were more common in agriculture societies and it was not uncommon for the state to demand some of the surpluses for taxes for example. These kinds of acts only enforce and strengthen the state authority. So again, I argue that agriculture provided the opportunities necessary for other characteristics of a state to emerge.

In my opinion, really all of the characteristics of a state relate to each other and are intimately connected in some way or another because when one occurs, another one follows. It is my belief that without agriculture, states would not exist at all because I believe agriculture was the catalyst for all characteristics to emerge.


Early Intermediate Highland State: The Wari

Student Blog Post #4: The Wari

Today in class we discussed the emergence of the first Highland States during the Early intermediate time period in South America. In particular in class we focused on the Highland state of Tiwanaku, but we did not discuss the emergence of the highland state called the Wari.

The Wari state was located in the North Western coastal area of the Southern and emerged/ became prominent in the time period of (700 AD -1100 AD). This culture, also known as Huari, apparently had one unique factor that made them stand apart from Tiwanaku… that factor was that they were believed to have been the first culture to use military force to conquer the surrounding civilizations to expand their power and control over the highlands and coast of Modern day Peru. The Wari (Huari) reigned for 400 years, between 600 and 1000 CE, as the largest and most-dominant culture in the Andes until the rise of the Inca centuries later.  Also interestingly enough, apparently the Wari forced other cultures to subdue to them by forbidding any further practice of traditions that were not affiliated with the Wari culture.

The architecture of the Wari consisted of large rectangular shaped buildings that were laid out in strict grid patterns that less resembled most of today’s city block structures. It was also thought that they Wari were impeccable organizers, developers, urban planners, and constructors because they rebuilt on top of old settlements left by earlier civilizations- making them even more grand and prominent.  Probably one of the most known and best preserved remnants, besides the Wari Ruins, are the recently discovered Northern Wari ruins near the city of Chiclayo. These remains are from an entire prehistoric city. The discovery was made by Cesar Soriano in December of 2008. The ruins provided the first evidence of Wari influence found in Northern Peru. The site was remarkably well preserved- probably due to the arid conditions of the desert. The site had evidence of human sacrifice, with special spots set aside and a pile of bones at the bottom of a cliff.

Unfortunately though, it seems that there is little evidence to suggest was the Wari administrative organization was life. Even with this said, the Wari were known for their expansion and for their distinctive administrative centers. It is important to note that these administrative centers were different from the architecture of Tiwanaku. The Wari did not appear to have a type or form of written record, which contributes to the lack of knowledge about the details of the Wari administrative structure. This IS evidence for significant social stratification though, which is indicative of a complex socio-political hierarchy.

PG800- The Final Resting place of Quen Puabi- Royalty of Ur

PG800- The Final Resting place of Quen Puabi- Royalty of Ur

As discussed in class, the city state of Sumeria, Ur, has been excavated over the years and many royal graves have been discovered. Within the 16 royal graves associated with the dynasty of Ur there is one site that is particularly interesting and exciting: PG-800.

The tomb, measuring 4.35 x 2.8 meters, was a vaulted chamber that was built of limestone slabs and mud brick and placed ontop of a raised platform was a skeleton of a middle aged woman. According to written descriptions of the site, the woman was decorated in elaborate gold, lapid lazuli, and a carnelian headdress. Also discovered on the body were a pair of crescent- shaped gold earrings and covering the entire torso of the skeleton were gold and semi-precious beads. In addition to the precious artifacts, many other skeletons were distributed throughout the site. A total of 52 other skeletons were found, in addition to the middle aged women on the raised slab. Taking into account of all the precious artifacts and the immense amount of skeletons buried with the woman, it is theorized that this woman was royalty during the dynasty of Ur and those were her servants. Near the woman’s right shoulder, three lapis lazuli cylinder seals were found. On these seals was the name Pu-abi, with the title “nin”, translated as queen.

After some hearing about the presumed Queen and how some considered her tomb was comparable to King Tutankhamen’s tomb of Egypt due to its escape form looting and it high prevalence of elaborate jewelry. Probably the most elaborate artifact found in the final resting place of Queen Puabi would have been the headdress. The headdress discovered in the tomb is beyond elaborate. The height of the headdress is 26 cm with a diameter of 11 cm. The entire headdress was made of gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian and was decorated entirely in leaves, rings, ribbons, and flowers.

At the time of her death, it was assessed that she was approximately 40 years of age and stood just under 5 feet tall. Probably the most intriguing part about this site was that there seemed to be no mention of a husband to this woman. As discussed in class, this kind of finding leads researchers and archaeologists to believe she was a ruler all on her own- separate from a husband. Findings or theories like these are incredible to wrap your head around.

Headress of Queen Puabi Queen's seal tomb layout

The Egyptian Pyramids: How were they built?

Ever since I was little, whenever I pictured Egypt in my mind, the first thing I would see was giant pyramids. As beautiful as that picture may be, it tends not to be an original idea. With Egypt containing more than 100 pyramids throughout the country, it comes to no surprise why the country is considered pyramid country. Although there are many pyramids, no others stand out as much as the Great Pyramids of the Giza Plateau. Being one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it comes to no question as to why Egypt is so famous for their Great Pyramids. With the Khufu pyramid standing 455ft tall, the Khafre pyramid standing 448 ft tall, and Menkaure standing 215 ft tall, these massive man-made structures leave tourists and visitors all around the world wondering how they were constructed.

Over the years, many construction techniques were theorized on how the Egyptians built their famous pyramids. One of the most daunting hurdles the Egyptians had to face was getting extremely large and heavy stones all the way up the pyramid. According to a few studies, it is estimated that the Great Pyramids comprise of some 2.4 million stone block that would average a size of 2.5 tons each. Because of this hurdle, the Egyptians had to come up with a plan that would help aid in the transportation of stones up the side of the pyramid.

The only PROVEN tactic used for this task was the usage of ramps. These ramps had to be constructed up the side of the pyramid at large inclines while they were entirely made up of mud brick and rubble. In addition to the ramp, the Egyptians had to innovate a way to ease the transport of the large, heavy stones up the ramp. For this, the Egyptians used sledges to drag the stones up the pyramid sides. As the pyramid grew, more and more ramps were needed to be constructed. Once many tiers were constructed (the internal construction), packing blocks were used to fill the “step” of the pyramid that were created by the tiers. Once the packing blocks were put in place (typically Limestone), the completed structure of the pyramid would represent a true pyramid, one worthy of a king.

The building of the Great Pyramid, Khufu, was estimated to have taken nearly 20 years from start to finish. With this time estimation, it would have required the workers to have placed 1.1 blocks in their final resting place on the pyramid literally every to minutes (and this is taking into account their work schedule would consist of at least 10 hours a day, ever day, for every 365 days)!!!! After taking in the shear amount of hurdles the Egyptians had to overcome to create these structures, it creates the opportunity for others to really grasp the tremendous work the Egyptians must have done to have achieved such magnificent structures. No wonder why they are considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World!

Abu Simbel Temples: Relocation due to Aswan Dam

In professor Watrall’s lectures last week, he mentioned that modern Egypt built the Aswan Dam in an attempt to try to contain and minimize the impacts of the annual rising and falling of the water levels of the Nile that for centuries has caused fluctuations in the productivity of agriculture on the flood lands along the river. Due to the construction of the dam, many archaeological sites we threaten by the flooding that would result from the construction of the dam. One of the most famous sites that were threatened was the Abu Simbel temples located in Nubia. For those who are not familiar with the temples, the temples are located on the west bank of the Nile, just southwest of Aswan and were originally constructed during the time period of the Pharaoh Ramses II (around 1257 BCE).

abu simbel temples

The Abe Simbel temples are spectacular! In the past I had read about them and have grown quite fond of the temples themselves. The temples were discovered in 1813 and were explored in 1817 by Giovanni Battista Belzoni. The temples themselves were actually carved into a face of a cliff, much like our very own Mount Rushmore here in the United States. Instead of 5 faces of past presidents, the Abu Simbel temples’ front face shows four colossal seated figures of Ramses himself, all about 67 feet in height. It has been said that the construction of the temple took about 20 years to complete.

When the proposal of the construction of the Aswan Dam begun and discussions about the area at which would most likely flood started, it became imperative to move the Abel Simbel temples to a location that they would be safe from the rising water levels of Lake Nassar. So in 1959, an international donations campaign to save the monument began. According to one resource, the actual saving and reconstruction act for the temples required 5 years of time and approximately $40 million dollars. On Nov. 16,1963, the disassembling of the temples began. With the help of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Egyptian government, the temples were successfully moved and reconstructed on top of a cliff another 200 feet above the original site.

During my search, I ran across a link for a video that discussed some of the tactics used to disassemble the temples. I thought it was extremely interesting and entertaining so I thought I would share it with you.

Moving the Abu Simbel Temples

Food for thought:

Even though the Aswan dam caused havoc for many archaeologists in terms of moving sites such as the Abu Simbel temples, it must be noted that without the dam construction, surveys of the surrounded area would not have been conducted and it is quite possible that the many archaeological findings found in the area would have never been found if the dam idea had never even been proposed.