Author Archives: Shelby Huffman

Figurines the new “Writing”

What I found to be interesting in the last couple weeks was in relation to the Harrappan Society who reside within the Indus Valley, in particular a focus on their material culture.  The Harrappan Society is one of shrouded in mystery because of the lack of knowledge from writings. There is still no known bilingual object or “Rosetta Stone” for this ancient writing so the ancient tablets go unread, Though there has been progress on the writings by use of a computer program that was initiated by  an assembly of computer scientist from universities in India and the United States. The use of the program is to find patterns within the writing in hopes to be able to construct a script of the writing. Even though most of the Ancient Empires information that have been discovered comes from ancient writings, the Harrappan have another way to show their “society”.

Yet the Harrappan society has another way for understanding. The material culture of the Harrappan society is consistent of ceramics, figurines and beads. The figurines in particular are a way for the ancient world to be open to the eyes of the modern world. Most of the figurines are made out of terracotta. They carved into animals or gods , and are painted over with reds and blacks in some cases. Averaging in about 6 inches in height, the figurines are distinctive in their designs. They could be used to help understand certain aspects of the Indus Valley empire.

Figurines can be seen through out many ancient culture and states. They can be used to help learn about ancient cultural norms or constructs such as ideas about fertility, dress or even about their sub-cultures. Some of the earliest Harrappan figurines are stylized seated females with exaggerated buttocks and thighs.  These type of figurines have been found all over the world and are thought to symbolize fertility. Especially in a time where plumpness meant healthiness and wealth.

Other figurines also are portrayed as women. The figurines portrayed what could be seen as traditional dress. Showing the design of  headdress, necklaces, skirts and even bangles on some. On some of the figurines the designs were carved into the actual figurine, where other were painted in the traditional reds and blacks. The actual headdress are actually very detailed in design showing braided cords, and flowers.

These figurines can be seen as a way instead of written texts that past empires can be researched. As well as discovering new cultural aspects of certain cultures that sometimes can not be seen in writings. Do to the normal social inequality that is a part of writing.

 

http://www.harappa.com/figurines/5.html

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1919795,00.html

Using Religion for Power

What really interested me from the lectures and reading for this week, was this idea of Power of Elites through Religion. About how they used it to create a greater social stratification in the society.  What drew my attention was the discussion about how part of the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt was somewhat brought on by the decline in tribute from the Nomarchs, as well as thoughts, from the article “Ancient Mesopotamia” by Susan Pollack, about the social differences between the “Priests” and civilians. This made me contemplate why did they give tribute to the Pharaoh in the start. What was pulled from the lectures was that Pharaohs were given their power by this idea that they were the god in human form. So that their power was from the idea that they were a god. Giving them control over their people through religious beliefs. By using this power the Pharaohs were able to convince the people to build many things in their honor. Giant Pyramids that would house their mummified bodies and treasures. During the time of the Old Kingdom colossal projects were finished and constructed. The creation of separate burial grounds that far exceeded that off “normal” civilians was part of the way this power help to social stratify the society even more.

Then I drew the connection from the reading about Ancient Mesopotamia about how the only differences in housing was with in the Ubadid society was between the temples and the civilian housing. That the temples were built on platforms that would draw them as high as 1 to 10 meters above the surrounding housing. The temples tended to not be larger than the normal households their construction was what made them different. Thought went into the construction of the temples with focuses on decorative architectural features, such as mosaic decorations, recessed portals, and niched facades. Even though the temples tended to contain house hold artifacts it also held more finely created ceramics that were painted and sometimes shaped unusually.  The unusual painted and shaped ceramics were only seen with in the temple part of the site. This created a difference between those who lived with in the temple and those who did not. Power also came with this differentiation  the very creation of these elaborate temples, and their sheer numbers in the sites that litter Mesopotamia can be used to show the acceptance of the Priest with in a separate category.

So in these two examples the use of Religious thought and roles can be seen as a way to for certain individuals to gain power as well as social standing. It is curious to me whether this occurs with in every beginning of every society? As well as this idea that without religion would certain monumental structures have been created?

 

The “Temperamental” Nile

The topic that most drew my attention in the last couple lectures was the one discussing the Nile River.  The Nile was one of the most important aspects with in Egypt and it is one the main focuses of the country even today. What caught my eye was this idea that the Nile could be seen in two lights, both good and bad. In the same year, the Nile, could bring a wealth of crops and then destroy them with a high flood that brought infestation of insects.

The Nile each year would renew the land, flooding it with fresh nutrient rich soil, that could grow many different types of crops. To me this reliance on the environment was fascinating because had the Nile moved or changed in some way we may have not seen the Egypt that grew from the agricultural productivity in this area today. The Egyptians relied heavily on the Nile, not only for its fertile soil cycles, but also for transportation. They used the natural flow of the river, and the direction of the winds to travel up and down the Nile. The current flowed north so those going against the current could use sails to travel south. This was possible because the prevailing winds blew from north to south. For those wanting to travel north along the river the use of poles were used. The easiness of travel along the river allowed for the transportation of goods, as well as the intermixing of ideas through out the area.

The way that the ancient Egyptians were able to use the river and still maintain their civilization is commendable.   Other societies in history have thought to been destroyed by major climatic changes such as the Ancient Harrappan Society that arose in Indus Valley. Which is thought by some to have been destroyed by random floods, as well as a change to the desert like conditions we see in that area today. The very fact that the Egyptians were able to cope with the constantly changing cycles of the Nile and use it to their advantage is admirable.

This idea has made me wonder how on the edge growing societies as well as established ones are from a decline. Since we live in a “first world” country, i begin to wonder what are decline might be. We have talked about the decline of civilizations in class as being a mixture of elements. It has me analyzing what would make supposedly an advanced” society today fall.  Would it be environmental reasons, war, internal disruption or some outside element that is still unforeseen.