Author Archives: Reginald Jackson

Agriculture

When I was reviewing the primary and secondary characteristics of a state I kind of found it hard to decide which one was most important. In my opinion, I think that they all depend upon each other for the betterment of a society. The main three characteristics that I was able to narrow it down to but had a hard time deciding on were: urban, agriculture, and complex economy. Personally I think that all three of these are equally the most important but since I have to choose I think that agriculture is the most important characteristic.

Why agriculture? Let’s take a moment and think about this for a second, agriculture is concerned with cultivating land, raising crops, and feeding, breeding, and raising livestock; farming. This takes a lot of time and community cooperation. A lot of times we see that a lot of civilizations start to dwindle down and decline because they become so largely populated that they aren’t enough resources to sustain the society.  A large scale intense agricultural system helps not only sustain a society but also helps bring means to the use of trade and market economy. Through the domestication of wheat, barley, lentils, sheep, goats, and cattle bring the business of trade which can help a society sustain its society.

Agriculture was also a key factor in indentifying the transition to the Neolithic period. We see the development of human history that was traditionally the last part of the Stone Age. This transition was associated with the transition from nomadic hunting and gathering communities to agricultural subsistence and settlements. In many parts of the world began to transition to the village life but not at the same time. Another reason why I think that agriculture is the most important characteristic is that it is used as archaeological evidence in identifying and finding information about ancient states. We see this trough the domestication of plants and animals by identifying their distinct morphologies.

I think that agriculture is in close ties with urbanism. Through urbanism we also learn about past settlements and learn from their mistakes or follow in their footsteps to a better society.  In my opinion you just can’t set up a community anywhere and just start farming. If you want a good, productive, thriving community you would look for an area with promising features. Now these promising features may range from a number of things such as close bodies of water to large plains for raising live stock. My main point is that positioning is everything and I feel that urbanism is a key factor in creating a state along with agriculture because for urbanization to occurred because there was an available food source to support an increasing population.

Mesoamerican Why the need to Sacrifice?

Professor Watrall’s lectures about Mesoamerica really caught my attention and got me thinking about how things were back then.  How we see a lot rise and falls of many of capital and cities, how elites were gained and used their power, and how so many people were sacrificed to the gods. So as I was lost in my thoughts I kept thinking this movie I went to see with my dad a couple years ago called “Apocalypto”.  The film takes place in a Mayan civilization and is about this peaceful tribe that gets brutally attacked by warriors seeking slaves and human beings for sacrifice for their gods.  The chief’s son, Jaguar Paw, hides his pregnant wife and his son in a deep hole nearby their tribe and is captured while fighting with his people. Now the part of the film that stuck out was this fifteen minutes scene were the captured me of were brought to this giant temple and were sacrifice on this chacmool in front of the entire city. An eclipse spares his life from the sacrifice and later he has to fight to survive and save his beloved family but what really got me was that the elites paid these warriors top dollar to go out and hunt people to be sacrificed to their Sun god. Now this made me think about what other gods they may have worshipped, what other societies shared this or what roles religion played in their society.

So I decided to do a little research on Mesoamerica and came across this article entitled “Mesoamerican Religions” which had some pretty cool info about Mesoamerican religion.  So this article talks about not only Mayan religion but that of the Zapotec, Mixtec and the Aztec. What all of these distinct groups had in common was that they all had a concept of a vital force that separated the living from the nonliving. The Maya expressed this concept of “ik,” or wind, breath, or life; the Zapotecs expressed it with “pee” or wind, breath, or spirit; for the Mixtec it was “”yni” or “ini” or spirit, heart, or heat: and for the Aztec it was “tona” or vital energy, or heat. Due to their doctrine that the soul is the principle of life and health, they attributed life to many things. The idea of human sacrifice was one of the more notable shared concepts of these religions which were concerned with keeping the cosmos in balance through human action. The article goes on to talk about the perceived relationship between humans and supernaturals; principal beliefs and major gods; expression of religious themes in art and writing; the “ideological” function of religion in the society; and the religion and the needs of the state: the relationship between religion and political, military, and economic institutions for all of these societies in vast detail.

Here’s a link to article if you want to read it and there are also link to articles regarding Mesoamerica: http://www.angelfire.com/ca/humanorigins/religion.html

A Brief History on Jade

During Monday’s lecture Professor Watrall lecture on The Ancient Chinese State he about the “Cong & Bi” and how it has significant representations in their culture. But really caught my attention was the material that they were made from-Jade. Usually when I hear someone talking about I instantly think about the old school kung fu movies where there is the “Evil Jade Emperor” and a young village boy who has to master a certain martial art to stop the emperor’s tyranny. Now I know the only reason for the emperor’s to have that jade in their name was to help show that they are elite and I’m not saying that jade represents anything evil but when professor was talking about it in class it peaked my curiosity so I did a little searching and found out some pretty sweet information its involvement with Chinese culture.

Although that jade is found in Central America, Brazil, Burma, India and Canada no other culture able to rival China’s vast amount of jade art and jewelry. The usage of jade in Chinese culture and History dates back to almost nine thousand years ago. During that time many Imperial families used it for grave goods, it was also used for adornment for kings, utilitarian and ceremonial objects. The milky green stone was viewed as a metaphor for human virtues because of its hardness, durability and beauty. There was a Chinese philosopher by the name of Confucius who famously said the good virtue of man is like jade. It represents dignity, blessing, fortune and longevity. White jade is the most highly valued, but the stone comes in a variety of translucent shades of green, brown and black. It was said that jade links both the spiritual and physical world, it encapsulates both the yin and yang qualities of heaven and earth which later gave way to it being nicknamed “The Stone of Heaven”.   There was a record from a 200 A.D. dictionary that defined jade as the “fairest of stones” and enriched with the five virtues charity, rectitude, wisdom, courage and equity. There is a lot of deep meaning with Jade and there is also superstitions that come along with it. Over time jade naturally changes color, it gradually shifts to a darker green. The Chinese believe that jade is a purifier, it helps with blood circulation and also it absorbs bad chi, hints its change to a darker shade. I found this article to really be interesting because I didn’t know that jade had such history and deep meaning.

Here’s a link if you want to know a little more about jade in Chinese culture and to also look at some pretty solid pictures of Jade art: http://history.cultural-china.com/en/182History6209.html

Sicily has Mummies!

Today in class when Professor Watrall was discussing the story behind the sphinx and how the pyramids were used to bury the King/Pharaohs of old I started to wonder about other cultures and if the Egyptians’ were the only ones that mummified they diseased. To be completely honest the only kinds of mummies I have ever heard of or seen on T.V. were Egyptian, except for that horrible “Tomb of The Dragon Emperor” movie. So I went online to if there were any other mummies besides the Egyptian that being studied to with serious interest and I stumbled across an article that that really caught my eye.

The articles was entitled, “Sicilian Mummies Bring Centuries to Life” and it talks about a five year Sicilian Mummy project and the new advances that that technology has to help us get a better synopsis of the past. Led by anthropologist Dario Piombino- Mascali of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity in Palermo look at the life of religious men and their wealthy supporters of the late 16th– mid 20th century lived, dealt with diseases and the diseased, and interacted. Mascali’s team ran x-rays and CT scans to help preserve the bodies of many specimens. What the test found were traces of healthy dietary practices such as the consumption of dairy products, meats, fish, grains and veggies but what the test also found that gastronomic affluence of these foods lead to signs of maladies such as gout and skeletal disease. Also they found multiple cases of degenerative disorders from over two-thirds of the specimens. As the study goes on new discoveries are being uncovered in Sicily. For example there was another team ran by a forensic scientist that ran pilot programs on some of the specimen’s intestines and found that a man in his 40’s had myeloma but the real surprise came from one of his students that found evidence of milkwort, a pollen plant with antitumor agents used in China and Turkey but thought to be uncommon in Sicily. This find shows that these people had an esoteric knowledge of medicinal plants and found effective ways for treating cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Personally I found this article to be really interesting because it kind of gives us a prelude to what we can look forward to in the future by looking at the past. Looking at this article really got me excited about all the possibilities that can come to play by looking at past civilizations. Maybe one of the treatment methods for cancer from the past may get us one step closer to discovering a cure for it or may even be the cure. I feel that this article really opens up another door of archaeology, anthropology, and forensics. There more that we can learn from past civilizations then just the social order and demographics. Literally the possibilities are endless!

Here’s a link to look at some pictures of the mummies and see where the project took place: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/02/sicily-crypts/musi-photography

Archaeology and the Importance of Agriculture

            I never really knew about the importance of Archaeology and how complex it was. To be completely honest if someone were to of asked me what comes to mind about Archaeology, I’d tell them about  Harrison Ford running around fighting bad guys with swords, saving the damsels in distress, and reading stone tablets. But now I have gained a new respect and a better understanding what it is that archaeologists do and how their methods are used to by other disciplines.

             Archaeologist use agriculture/irrigation to help better understand ancient complex societies and this method has been adopted by a lot of past Anthropologist. Archaeologists have found that a lot places of today show remnants of ancient structures, such as chiefdoms, bands, tribes, and ancient states. Scholars go on to conclude that the development of irrigation and agricultural systems tell us a lot about origins of certain societies.In another one of my anthropology courses I read about a couple of anthropologist that uses method similar to that of the archaeologist.

The first is a man by the name of E.E. Evans-Pritchard who wrote an article on his fieldwork with the Nuer Tribe of Southern Sudan. In his article he talks about how the Nuer’s social organizations are impacted by the environment. Evans focuses on the Nuer’s environment and how they adapt and use it because it plays a key role in population, housing arrangements, and many of their cultural interactions. They have two seasons which can best be described as the Wet and Dry seasons. Due to the various harsh conditions that the Nuer face in these seasons there are customs and practices which they go threw to share food and help prevent starvation. Evans goes on to explain that it is threw vast years of the agricultural customs and practices are how this Tribe has been able to survive and maintain social order without. He uses kind of the same method as archaeologist do by showing the transition of their village life and agricultural subsistence as grounds for explaining how they have made it thus far.

The second article I read was by Julian Steward entitled “The Patrilineal band”. In Steward’s article he analyzes the cultures of the South African Bushmen, the Congo Negritos of Central Africa, Philippine Negritos, the Australians, the Tasmanians, and Southern Californian groups due to their cultures practice use of the band. Steward focuses his studies on “utility features” which are like the collection of key elements that the culture centers itself around. Steward also analyzes the cultural ecology and shows emphasis on the tribe’s human labor within the environment. He shows quite a bit of concern with the tribes technological processes and how they exploit the environment due to the fact that different subsistence strategies cause different social structures. He focuses on the interplay between the environment and the technology of the tribes because he believes that the environment determines one culture. Steward uses the past and present uses of the environment and agriculture to explain their origins of patrilineality. Archaeologists use the same methods to explain of a lot of pas ancient states came to be.

I felt that is was really interesting that I found similar connections in some of my classes and that some of the archaeologist method have been adopted by other disciplines. I also think its really cool how agriculture play such a crucial role in understanding the origins of a people.