All posts by hooverre

characteristics of a state

I think that agriculture is the most important primary characteristic of a state. Food is usually the number one priory when it comes to sustaining a population, especially when the population is growing and using up more local resources than hunting and gathering can provide. If everyone is starving to death, you’re obviously doing something wrong. Agriculture isn’t just about the cultivation of plants but also about the domestication of animals. Animals besides providing primary products such asmilk, hyde, and meat can also provide important secondary products such as cheese, bread, bone tools, etc.

Of course agriculture doesn’t just have to be used as a food staple for society. In Mesopotamia’s case they decided to trade their cereals with Harappa in exchange for luxury goods. Agriculture can help open the door to trade due to the  land that one group is on being more suitable for a staple crop such as wheat than other regions. This way they can trade excess portions in order to obtain items or materials that aren’t obtainable my their local resources.

However I feel that agriculture goes hand-in-hand with large population densities. Agriculture allows for more food to be produced within a set period of time and states usually tend to keep intensifying it because there are more and more people. So that means there are more people to aid in the fields in order to produce more food and this can help lead to the plots of farming land becoming larger. This is because agriculture provides a healthier way of life than hunting and gathering. Therefore more of the younger generations are surviving and creating “age grades.” As time goes on a larger amount of people allow for specialized craftsmanship like metallurgy and skilled foremen to aid in building the monumental works.  Larger populations and an urbanized environment make trade safer. It’s not just one person making tools, going off to maybe sell them and probably getting looted on the way there or back. In urbanized states, trade is more organized traders can hire others to protect them on their journey to acquire wealth. This helps to introduce other materials to the society such as bronze or iron were for many states. A of these societies were no where near any type of mines so they had to trade in order to get what they wanted.

I really just find this interesting how many of these characteristics are inter-related and it’s hard to imagine some being unaccompanied by some of the others.

Aztec Human Sacrifice

I know this subject of human sacrifice is beaten and tired, but it interests me a great deal.  The Aztecs believed that sacrifices to the gods would keep the universe in balance. They had mainly two types of sacrifice: human and animal. Human sacrifices fulfilled both religious purposes and socio-political purposes.

Human sacrifices could either consist of self-sacrifice, such as bloodletting or sacrificing the lives of other people. The latter being the means of justification the Spanish used for their actions of persecution.  The Aztecs believed that they were the people whom the gods had chosen to feed them and keep the world in order and considered themselves the chosen people of the sun.  After some time, sacrifices also served as political propaganda.  The sacrifice of war captives, often obtained through flower wars as well as political warfare, and slaves (although men, women and children were also sacrificed) helped to validate the connections the priests and rulers had with the gods. These rituals also helped to strike fear into external rulers and common subjects negating ideas of intimidation, resistance, and other types of non-cooperation.

The victim, often dressed to represent the god they were being offered to, were led up the temple stairs and stretched over the sacrificial stone by four priests. The fifth priest would then extract the still beating heart.  In the case of sacrifices to the god Tlaloc, the heart would then be placed in the hands of his statue.  The Templo Mayor of the capital city of Tenochtitlan is a famous example of these type of sacrifices, where the bodies were kicked down the steps after the removal of the heart. The head was then cut off the body and placed in the skull rack. Heart sacrifices were the most common but not the only type of sacrifice.

The Xipe Totec cult also performed ceremonial gladiator and arrow sacrifice.  The gladiator ritual consisted of a type of mock battle. The  captive was tied to a large stone and given fake weaponry made of feathers.  His opponent would be equipped with real weapons and then carry on to ‘defeat’ the captive. The arrow sacrifice involved the victim being tied to a wooden frame with their arms and legs spread. Arrows were then fired at the victim, ensuring that the blood would run into the ground. Some sources say that the Xipe Totec priests would then remove the victims skin so that they could wear it.

These were just some of the forms of sacrifices the Aztecs made. There were many forms, sadly I couldn’t really find anything on animal sacrifices that they made. I have to wonder if the rituals for animal sacrifices were any different or maybe even more brutal than human sacrifices made.

Blog on Submerged History of the Adriatic

I attended Dr. Hrvoje Potrebica’s lecture on the underwater history of the Adriatic and was a little surprised to find the room packed. It was really nice to see people taking an interest.  I actually found most of it really interesting even though he was a little soft spoken.  I really liked when he was talking about the only location of a Neanderthal site and the mousterian tools associated with it.

Some of the Roman shipwrecks were actually quite interesting to hear about as well. Especially the shipwreck near the island of Muter in the first century B.C. because of the kitchen coarse ware found that could give some information about the crew itself. Which I imagine any type of artifacts that can be used to draw any type of notions about the people associated with them is scarce.  I also really liked some of the things I normally didn’t associate with Roman trading such as the sarcophagi that were complete with lids and the bone gambling dice.  I really wasn’t surprised to find that amphora were found with almost every medieval and Roman shipwreck he talked about. That can also be really great for the archaeologists.  Just like we do today, people who made amphora wanted to make them with low cost maters. Most amphora associated with trading were made from coarse clay, miner and rock inclusions. From a geologic standpoint, this can help relate them to the geology of their places of origin as well as the style in which they’re made and some of them even had stamped seals.

When Dr. Hrvoje Potrebica mentioned that the reconstruction teams were the back bone of the whole process it raised some concerns. Granted reconstructions take place outside of underwater archaeology, but I feel that it doesn’t play such a pivotal role. I understand why they would need to reconstruct artifacts due when they surface and dry out they start to crumble.  This also would subject them to the biases of the reconstruction teams and would in turn bias the archaeologists. I was really uneasy to accept the conclusions that they drew about the bronze statue  found by Rene Wouters because of this. Plus the Department for Underwater Archaeology was founded in the 1960s, so I think it still has some “kinks and bumps” to smooth out in order to be more efficient.

However I really like the idea of underwater museums. It would be a great way to experience some of the finds (even if they are replicas). But this may just stem from me always wanting to experience scuba diving.

Role of Women in Ancient China

To be honest I didn’t know what to write this blog post about until I got to one of the last paragraphs in chapter 11.  It was the paragraph about how Chinese civilizations have placed women in positions of power more than some other civilizations. Now that piqued my interest but sadly it was just a passing thought to the author.  When I think about women’s role in China I think about how women would have to follow a certain distance behind the man accompanying them. About if a man had sons with several different women, the women would compete with one another trying to advance their own sons. In the early historical record, women were usually only mentioned when they caused problems for the men.  Tales of virtuous women didn’t come until after Confucius. I hope that puts things into perspective. I figured that women’s positions of power wouldn’t happen in the time period that we will be talking about in class. But women do start to play a role in their family systems at these times which I think could be a little more than they did in Ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia.

After Confucius,  writers would often refer to the yin yang theory. Yin represented women. It was receptive, passive and tranquil. That leaves yang to represent men. Yang was hard, dominant, and active. They are of course perfect opposites. The yin yang theory indicates that these difference between men and women were part of a natural order instead of social institutions.  Yes, yin and yang compliment each other but it doesn’t mean it has to be equal. Yang was supposed to naturally be the dominant force, so if yin gained the upper hand it was viewed to unbalance order on a cosmic and social level.

It was in Han times that the family structure started to change with the passing of a few laws.  If the male head of the family died before his sons were not grown, it was the woman’s job to fulfill the role until the sons were old enough.  Also, a man could divorce a woman only if she had family to return to. Now according to modern times these weren’t much but it was a start.  In this time it was also starting to be seen that women could only have significant roles in the family when she was a grandmother.

It wasn’t until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) that increasing numbers of women were able to read and write. It also seems in this time female poets were quite common.  It’s because of this I must assume that the positions of power for women mentioned in our textbook were rare as much as that disappoints me to say.

Mesopotamia’s resources

Mesopotamia isn’t the most abundant in natural resources, which is one of the reasons why these societies had to make the most out of what was available. They also received goods from long distance trade, spoils of war, and exotic goods that were usually still in the form of raw materials. Most importantly they had to come up with new ways to use their resources in order to survive.

The economy was primarily based on agriculture, mainly for the cultivation of barley.  Barley was often used as a method of payment for wages and daily rations. Wheat was also used as well as barley to make beer.  Other items included wheat, flax, dates, figs, and grapes. Flax was mainly used to produce oil and linen.  Wool production was large with the need for textiles. Sheep and goats also provided milk, meat, and hides in order to produce leather. Donkeys were the main source of transportation. The Mesopotamian diet usually consisted of pigs, fish, birds, and wild mammals.

Clay was quite obviously used to create pottery for cooking, food storage, and food serving.  It was also used to produce a variety of tools, most notably cuneiform inscriptions. I really want to know how they made sickles out of  clay though, it seems really interesting.

There were two primary ways to obtain fundamental materials.  It was either by war or by trade. These good were usually offered as tribute or taken as loot by the military. While Mesopotamian society was dependent upon tribute, military expeditions were only encouraged after the harvest, this allowed the farmers to become soldiers. In the case of King Lugalbanda he did something a little different and offered grain in exchange for precious stones.

When it came to exports, Mesopotamia had so little to offer. Cereals, being the main export, were hard to to transport due to how heavy and bulky they were. So what did the Mesopotamians do?  They started to import tin, just to export it to the major metal industry of Anatolia.  This is due to Anatolia having easier access to wood than Mesopotamia, it was essential as fuel for the furnaces.

These people were extremely good at adapting to their environment and finding ways to shape their lifestyle around what the land had to offer even though they were never truly unified. That is one of the things I find most incredible about Mesopotamia.

Ancient Egyptian Grave Goods

Usually when people think of Ancient Egyptian graves they think of tombs, and the riches associated with them. A lot of people don’t realize that it didn’t start out like that at all. Well off the street anyway. Mortuary practices in any culture never fail to interest me. Yes, it’s a little dark but I’ve always been drawn to such things. Plus the Ancient Egyptians had such elaborate mortuary practices that I couldn’t resist looking more into them or more specifically the grave goods that were put with the dead. These help to emphasize the values the Egyptians placed on the afterlife and the social inequality that graves and what they contained expressed.

People usually associate Egypt with tombs of grandeur for the dead. For early Egypt, this is definitely not true, most people were actually commonly buried in sand pits that were dug into an oval shape. So, naturally there weren’t any grave goods to really talk about. From 5000-4100 B.C. in an area that’s known as Merimde Beni Salama, it was discovered that the dead were buried with no burial goods but the bodies were wrapped in animal skins or mats, being laid on their right side in a fetal position, with their head facing south and facing north to northeast.  Occasionally grave goods such as pots were found in the graves but never frequently. Eventually these graves dug in the and progressed to containing pottery and sometimes a small pillow placed under the head of the deceased. As time passed cemeteries eventually formed and social inequality could easily be seen. The emphasis on the afterlife starts to become more prevalent in the Egyptian culture.

The Ancient Egyptians buried what they believed important items with their dead. These could range from everyday items that were important to the individual to what they would need after death. Sometimes even servants would be buried with the deceased in the Predynastic and Early Dynastic Period. However, thankfully this didn’t get a strong foothold in the culture. In the Amduat (underworld) land was given to the deceased by Ra. Naturally, nobles and royals wanted nothing to the with actual work.  They wanted to take their servants with them. This is one of the reasons why there was the creation of  Shabti, small human figurines that represented who would do a certain task in the afterlife for the deceased. They first started to appear in tombs at the beginning of the Dynastic and continued to appear into the Ptolemaic Period.

There are many more examples of Ancient Egyptian grave goods. As mentioned in class, utilitarian objects were often buried with the deceased. Such as cosmetic palettes, stone tools, jewelry (somewhat rare to find) and of course lots and lots of pottery.  There have even been isolated burials with ibex horns, however I couldn’t really find much on ibex horns associated with ancient Egypt. For the most part the resources commonly agreed that the Egyptians had as symbolic connection between the Nile and the antelope.