Author Archives: Kevin Zemanski

Bonus Blog: Characteristics of a State

In the beginning of the semester we talked about the characteristics of a state. These characteristics ranged from intensive agriculture to the taxation of the people. When examining these characteristics I believe that the most important characteristic to a state is the presence of a state authority. A state authority is a system of decision making that has the ability to enforce these decisions. In other words, they have the power to make decisions and the authority needed to enforce them. This state system is responsible for organizing and maintaining all these other characteristics. They are responsible for making sure the state runs smoothly in all aspects. Without this system how would they organize their population to do anything. This system can created social stratification and ranked status throughout the state in order to maximize the state’s ability to grow and flourish. The state authority is also responsible for organizing intensive agriculture and creating specialization for the population. For example, they can assign different workers to work in different areas so that every function the state needs to accomplish can be accomplished. Some people can work in agriculture while others can work in trading and selling goods. Which brings me to my next point about state authority. There is no way that a complex economy, another characteristic of states, could function or even get running without a state authority. The complex, large scale interchange of goods and services that can make a state develop into an empire would not be possible without someone on top pulling the strings for the people. The state authority is also responsible for organizing the urban side of the state. They can decide the layout of the cities in order to maximize the space, while leaving room for temples, agriculture, housing, and even things like ball courts to entertain the population.

As you can see it is hard to imagine a state growing let alone maintaining the same level for years without a state authority. We listed six primary characteristics in class, and every single one of these characteristics would be hard to accomplish and put into place without a state authority. It would be complete chaos for the state and its population. A state authority, by giving the power and important decisions to one group, is able to act in the best interests of the state and allow it to grow and develop into the empire it can.

Ancient Ceremonies

It seems that every state we talk about and every group of people we mentioned had shaped their life around religious culture and ceremonies that praise so many different types of gods. Everyone place we look at has specific courtyards and temples built for these ceremonies to take place. It makes me wonder not only why they built their life around such figures but also how these religious ceremonies started. I don’t go to Church many times a year. Maybe three or four times on holidays when I am at home. And to think these people were out here building temples and large structures with their own hands for days on end just to please and worship their god. It’s not just these religious ceremonies that I am interested in, but also the way in which they buried their elite in a necropolis. When their king died, they sacrificed people just so they could be buried with him. Can you imagine that happening in today’s society in the United States. And to take it one step further, the last site we talked about in the Inca empire was Machu Picchu. In this site, once their ruler died  he was buried in the ground but not for long as they brought him out of his tomb for ceremonies as a symbol to link to the gods. Just the thought of that gives me chills. I know we live in a time so different than what we are learning about but we still share many similarities with our ancient friends. They instituted tax systems on their citizens, they had governments, they had trade networks but they also had regular murder and sacrifice. They regularly invaded other states just because they wanted to, sort of like a certain German ruler. Sorry, let me get back to my original point. Could you imagine having a church in your backyard where you regularly looked up at a dead guy as his friends and comrades did some sort of blessing between him and the gods. Maybe it’s just me and I don’t understand religion as well as I should. Maybe there are other people who see this as fine and well. I just don’t think I could survive in a world that was based on ceremonies like these. Yes, most people go to church everyday but these people are the priests and it’s not just a select few it’s everybody. This sounds like a lot of rambling, as usual with these blogs for me. Sorry about that.

Ancient Egyptian Pyramids

This week, we finally got to talk about pyramids. Let’s face it we all love pyramids. They’re big, old, and mysterious. We have all wondered about them before. Maybe pyramids were the only reason you took this class. I think pyramids interest so much because of the three simple reasons I listed above. They are from a land so foreign to us so alien to us. They were built over thousands of years ago by people that we don’t know much about. By people that never even dreamed about having the technology we have today. They were built by these people with minimal tools and no machinery. It’s amazing that they ever got built and even more amazing that they are still standing today. This leads us to the last reason, which is the mystery behind these insanely large, complex structures. Our heads are filled with wonder when we see images of them. Why were they built? How were they built? Who built them? How long did it take? Is there any meaning behind them? Now that I have been taking this class some of these questions are obvious and some still not quite. They were built by the Egyptians that lived in Old Kingdom times and beyond. They were organized projects, put in motion by the Pharaoh for many reasons. One reason being to exert power and force to show that he was still the ruler. Another reason could be to leave his mark on the land. To be remembered for many years. This goal was obviously accomplished. Some Pharaohs built multiple pyramids which is just mind boggling to me. I feel like it would take years to build just one. It’s amazing that the Pharaoh could find people willing to work on multiple pyramids. But this point just speaks to Pharaoh’s organization, power, and authority of his kingdom. However, I still wonder how they were built and how long it took. I cannot imagine working on a project of this size in that time period.

I believe these pyramids ultimately speak to how different our times are compared to these. One ruler, over all that built these structures just to show he still is better and bigger than you. Could you imagine in our time if President Obama decided he wanted to exert his authority by building a similar structure. Using time and money just so he could show you he is still your superior. It is indeed mind-boggling.

Predynastic Egypt & Ceramics

In this week’s lectures we talked about the predynastic period of Lower Egypt as well as the predynastic period of Upper Egypt. When discussing these topics what continually came up was the ceramics of these locations as well as the similarities and differences between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt’s ceramics. We also discussed how Upper Egypt’s ceramic techniques eventually took over Lower Egypt’s techniques as the two regions became more unified.

 

When thinking about this topic and these ceramics in general, I begin to wonder why about a lot of it. Why these decorations? Why these shapes? Why this size? I feel like we didn’t address a lot of these questions. That may not be that important in the scope of these civilizations as well as their rise and fall but with the way my brain works I have a tendency to wonder and ask why. Now, I know that a lot of the ceramics were used for cooking and such activities around the house and that a lot of them were buried with various people in their graves when they died. But why did they bury this person with a bird and a pear shape ceramic with very deliberate decorations on it. What did it mean to this person in their life? It made be hard to answer this and the reason may be trivial but for some reason I can’t help but think about the people of this time and their daily life. How could a clay ceramic pot be so significant to a person’s life that it was buried with them? It is fascinating to me and perhaps only me.

 

I should mention that I am not an anthropology student and I took this class because I am interested in the past and how people lived and how they evolved and changed in a time that is so alien to me, and so different from how we live today. Why did they make animal figurines? Did they see these animals as greater than them? Was it something they did when they were bored, in the same way that we surf the Internet? They also drew a lot of boat decorations on their ceramics and surfaces around their homes. Was this a way to tell people of the future about their life? A form of communication? Or maybe they were just showing off a skill?

 

Sorry if this sounded like a jumble of thoughts in my brain. But that’s kind of what it was. Again, maybe these questions were/are answered in different classes and maybe they aren’t important but it still makes me wonder. The unknown fascinates me.