All posts by holechri

Complex Economy Builds a Complex State.

I find that the most important characteristic for the development of a state is a Complex Economy. None of the six traits seem to have the possibility to establish a state by themselves. They do, however, have the capability to develop the needed components for a complex state. In the case of a complex economy, the establishment of a state can begin to happen at full steam as long as one other factor (for this example agriculture) is present. For starters, a complex economy develops stratification and inter communal activities. Stratification develops due to the difference in wealth between members of the society while the inter-communal trade begins to further build the hierarchy. With the addition of agriculture, the person who controls irrigation will hold a large amount of value within the community, therefore providing him with a manner in which to be the higher class. Because of the people would have agriculture, urban centers grow from what was once nomadic groups of people. Authority is also a requirement for a state to function. With an elite class will come a ruler.

It may seem like rambling, but personally I feel that all of these traits of a complex state develop from one another. It may not be nearly as linear as it is shown in this blog post, but the idea still remains that they work in tandem with one another while also being created from the existence of other characteristics. Economic development plays a large role in shaping much of the modern and ancient states. Without a developed economy there would be no standardization for transactions or records such as we have seen with some of our class material. The economy is also important for the further expansion of the state. Warfare and trade are the two prominent reasons for travel  outside of a state’s borders. Such as with the Harappan trade system, the exchange of goods between people of different regions gives relations with foreign lands at the arsenal of a state. This also gives what resembles almost a trademark of the society such as Harappan and their beads they created. The specialization characteristic of the state also seems to be a trait that can grow from the presence of a complex economy.

All of the characteristics of a state that we discussed in class hold importance in the development of a state. Some of these, such as the economy, provide a stronger backbone for how a state becomes more complex.

The Use of Sacrifice to Satisfy

Within the Aztec empire the use of sacrifice is pretty sickening but intriguing nonetheless. I find that the drive for sacrifice being the manner in which they nourish and replenish the strength of their gods super interesting. You have to wonder how that idea first came into existence and how they pitched that to the rest of the people. It probably was not too difficult as they were a pretty war and violence based state. I’ve known that the Aztec were pretty keen on ritual sacrifice for a while, it was pretty much the only thing I knew about that region and its ancient states. What I did not know was that it was only the prisoners of war that were captured in order to be sacrificed to the gods. Huitzilopochtli was their sun God (the main god) and needed enoguh nourishment every 52 years in order to continually fight off the darkness and bring the light every single day. I also did not know that there were different types of sacrifice besides the sacrificing of humans. It’s interesting that the person providing the ritual would also give up their own blood to the Sun god but did not have to die. I also did not know that they sacrificed animals in order to satiate this hunger for nourishment by their gods. Previously, I only knew that the heart was cut out from the body. I did not know that it was done while living nor did I know that they were kicked down the stops afterwards either, talk about adding insult to injury.  Upon deeper reflection on the idea it makes sense though. If you want a strong state you can’t really be killing your own people because you would be losing that which gives you your support and strength as a government. Although we do not know if this is entirely true as the information was passed down through the conquerors from the Spanish which means that it could be biased in attempts to make the “savage” impression of the Aztecs. I do not doubt that it happened, we see artwork and other things that support the ideas, but maybe it was much less savage in manner and more ritualistic. We won’t ever know the true answer to it for some time if at all, but it still is a pretty interesting thought to swell upon. It definitely is something I would like to delve further into in my own despite the morbidness.

Increasing Complexity and Spread of Trade

One of the more interesting aspects of ancient states and societies are the development of complexities within the groups. This is because you can actually see the cultural evolution that happens and how it correlates to the social scientists that have created theories of how this development proceeds. As the intertwining of groups and economies proceeds, the honing of skills and the relations between groups of people develop as well.

To me it is interesting to observe the trade routes used in different states and societies. The example that we briefly discussed in class would be the Harappan trade networks. I find the persistence and ingenuity it takes to continue the exchange of goods from such far locations fascinating. It also brings up some cool questions given the technology of the time.

In our modern times, trade between groups of people is achieved with ease as technology provides great assistance. In these time periods we discuss in class there is no technology remotely close to the level modern times are at in order to maintain communications and knowledge of locations. That, to me anyways, is what makes this such a great feat worth acknowledging. The Harappans not only navigated the lands to mesopotamia, but also via sea routes in order to trade their semi-precious gems.

Trade in society must develop naturally; and as the complexity of the economy develops further as will the trade. Small group trade is the early stages of the development. However, as continued relations grow and the product becomes much better known, the spreading of connects grows with it. Groups such as the Sumerians and Akkadians  provided a benefit of the Harappan’s because of their trading networks established. This word of mouth assisted in forming the “Harappan Trade Systems”. This is a decent example of the trade network developing from small interactions into a formal system that frequently interacts with one another.

As the trade routes become established and economic complexity grows these groups become dependent on one another. The items that are being created to be sent off are an important commodity in the society. If it were modern times the items could easily be advertised and packaged for shipment within the days or week. In the Harappan networks and other networks of the times it requires a lot of quality product and the persistence/organization to be known from locations around the further areas. This lack of technological knowhow makes the early development of economic complexity much more impressive.

It All Goes Back To Agriculture

As professor Watrall stated in our last class, it all goes back to irrigation and agriculture. It seems so amazing that one thing (although admittedly combined with some other factors) can make such a difference on the development of a state. What makes me the most curious is how this idea comes to those who develop it within a society. It is understandable and observable how the intellectuals or the lucky become quite successful and important in society with their inventions/discoveries, we see this even in the modern world today. What I wonder is how they developed it at first. I know this question is essentially unanswerable today as to the exact reason, but it provides some cool ideas as to how they produced irrigation for agricultural development.

One image I get in my head is some person around the rivers or body of water playing in the dirt and digging a hole. as he reaches the edge of the river bed or edge of some form of body of water after the small amount of rains, he may see the water flow into the creation of his. Maybe upon realizing this, the idea come to his mind that he can manipulate such an event so that it assists with bringing water to a dry location. With this he could be the one who brings water and there for assisted in the development of something so legendary for the people.

The social development step of this is obvious as it brings an important role to those who understand how to manipulate the waters to bring it to the people. With this they can manipulate their knowledge to give them a position of power or wealth. This brings stratification. But the next question is how do they regulate such things? Who is to say someone does not simply build their own, or use it when no one is watching? How do the developers pitch it to benefit themselves if they do? These questions allow the mind to wander more and bring some interesting thoughts. One of which that made me chuckle is the thought that there could be the use of guards. Maybe ancient day bouncers of some sort. It is a far-fetched idea but the possibility of it is there. I also like to think that maybe it wasn’t manipulated for power or wealth, but given to the population to benefit them as a whole. But that just may be the optimist in me.

Blog Post #1: Narmer Palette, Scorpion Macehead, and Archaeological Interpretations

This first blog post relates to the understanding of how the history is reconstructed from what is found of archaeological remains, specifically that which is found on them. It is interesting how one can infer so much from such little details on small items found buried in the ground for centuries upon centuries. With more recent histories it is extremely simple in comparison as there is a translations of written documents as states began to develop non-pictograph related writing styles along with more detailed recorded histories than per-dynastic and dynastic Egyptians.

The first portion of this post pertains to the per-dynastic findings of bowls and grinding stones within the settlement camps discussed in class, as well as those found in burial sites. It is sort of mind blowing that we can infer the shift from hunter gatherers to more sedentary lifestyles simply from these remains. As for the complexity of societies, the comparison of upper Egyptian and lower Egyptian complexity via ceramics seemed really interesting. Mainly with the thought that different styles can be seen that home remedy fixes or creations were used depending on economic worth. In relation to economic worth it also caught my interest in how the variation in economic worth grew as communities became semi-sedentary.

Returning to the topic of the Narmer Palette is one we have recently learned about in lecture. The palette’s use of hieroglyphs to explain what is considered to be a story about the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.  Due to what is found on the palette the inference that under a person of great importance (Narmer) will came the assimilation of Lower Egypt with that of Upper Egypt. The Scorpion Macehead is the same concept that is incredibly interesting. The interesting difference  with the Macehead is that these inferences can be coherently created despite the remains being minimal. Regardless of the missing pieces of the story, the past is retold through the pictures.

It may not seem impressive to everyone, however it is pretty intriguing to me to compare it to historical research of the modern and per-renaissance eras since that is most of what I have studied so far. Those works simply require a knowledge of the language, and most of the work discovered is largely intact to a degree instead of suffering centuries of weathering from natural elements. It is just  that I found it somewhat impressive that these archaeologists can come to conclusions and create reconstructions from such limited materials  compared to something that else that I have previously learned about.