I believe that secondary characteristics of a state are the most important. The secondary characteristics of a state in my opinion are what we remember most about a society. Secondary characteristics is what is left behind for us as Anthropologist to study and build upon to gain more knowledge about histories of the past and understand our place as modern civilizations in the future. I think that we should place more emphasis on secondary characteristics as opposed to the primary characteristics because in my opinion the primary characteristics of a state are a lot more generic and do not provide as much information as we could gather from secondary characteristics. The reason why I believe secondary characteristics are more important because it allows us to compare characteristics across different civilizations. Thus allowing us to see not only similarities, but we also get the chance to see how the evolution of previous civilizations are sometimes passed on to the next one and this helps us understand newer aspects of our own civilizations. For instance, think of the Indus Valley: There are certain characteristics that are present in Early Harappan that are similar to characteristics that were present from the Sumerians and Akkadians; such as the extension of trade networks. The Early Harappan’s were able to pull from the Akkadians and Sumerians and reorganize their trade to be more efficient to the needs of their civilization and they also understood the importance of the foreign goods/trade.
Although I do believe that secondary characteristics are more important than primary characteristics I do not think that we should completely dismiss the role that primary characteristics play in helping Anthropologist understand civilizations from the past. The biggest thing that we should take away from primary characteristics is that they lay a foundation for the importance of secondary characteristics. Understanding the basic layout of a particular state such as its geographical location, agriculture, its main sources of food, etc. allows us to better understand why certain states adopted the particular secondary characteristics that they did. For example, the Indus Valley were near bodies of water so it made since for their methods of transportation agriculture and major networks of trade to be based around water as well. Granted this is a very simplistic example of why primary characteristics are valuable to recognize, but it does help us see how primary and secondary characteristics interact with one another and even though i’m arguing that one may be more important than the other these two characteristics do work hand in hand at times. I believe that as anthropologist we shouldn’t necessarily look at whether one is more important than the other, but rather than how does one affect the other or arguably is there any relationship at all.
The city of Abydos was a necropolis in southern Egypt. Many archeologists find themselves asking why the mummies of the elite and early royals were buried there. Abydos has a spiritual significance in the burial of the elite of Egypt. It was considered the entrance to the Duatt (also known as the underworld) which is a ceremonial center. The journey behind the Duatt is important because it helps us to understand more in depth the social and cultural constructions that can be found in viewing dynastic chronology. Egyptians believe that when you die your body goes to the Duat and split into two spirits: Apophis and Ra. These two spirits eventually go their own ways and travel separate journeys. However, the spirits have to come back and replenish themselves in the body of the person they just left. One of the things that we talked about in class regarding the legend of the Duat in Egyptian culture, deals with the journey in itself. The supporters of the elite would bring offerings to the dead in order to better help them through the journey in the afterlife. It was important that the spirits were fed and constantly replenished. The offerings helped to make sure that this happened so that the dead could successfully complete their journeys on to the next step where they found out which world they will ultimately reside in. In fact, their where hieroglyphs along the walls of the tombs that were essentially directions a step by step guide that explains how to get through the underworld successfully. What I thought was so interesting about this entire aspect it how it sheds light into other areas of the dynastic such as the mortuary practices of early pre-dynastic and dynastic cultures. For instance in the earlier sections of the course we talked about the burial practices of the Naqada and how they buried their dead in locations that are away from the residential complexes. There is a presence of the elite being buried separately from the lower classed individuals, but not only that the individuals of the Naqada were buried with their belongings, with minimal to no hieroglyphs along the tomb walls of the dead. However, as time progresses there becomes more a presence of the elite and an even stronger presence of burial sacrifices and the importance of them in understanding as well as executing the journey the dead will embark on during their second life.
Lately we have been discussing the role of socioeconomic status in archaeology. I must admit that initially I found no correlation between class status and archaeology. Granted this could have been due to my pre-conceived notions about archaeology, but it was refreshing to know that other components such as class status is a part of the field. In a few of our class discussions we’ve discussed several civilizations (for lack of a better phrase) that have exhibited class distribution in a variety of areas such as: mortuary practices, material culture and agricultural practices. However I will be focusing on mortuary practices.
For instance in Predynastic Upper Egypt, the Naqada mortuary practices were different depending on the social class of the person being buried. For instance, tombs of the rich were segregated from the poor. The contents within the graves were also evidence of class differentiation. There was an unequal distribution of goods within the graves as well. What I really like about looking at the mortuary practices of the Naqada is how heightened the class distinction became as different levels of the Naqada arose. I also find it interesting that in this period of time there were marked class distinctions that are evident within the burial sites. I think that its very important to look at class distinctions within older societies because it helps us to understand how trends in class status reinvent themselves in newer societies and these are related to concepts of power. High economic class usually represents elite figures and those who are elite usually have power and its evident throughout the society.