All posts by Emily Horbatch

Organization of the Inca State

Prior to this class, I had not learned much about the Inca state. I had heard the name Inca before, but never knew them to be the well organized, largest state in the New World that they were. I can’t help but notice the similarities between the organization of the Inca state and the ancient Egyptian state.

The fact that the Inca state can be compared to ancient Egypt is a testament in itself to the success that the Inca state experienced during its time. As we previously have seen with the pharaohs in Egypt, the Inca state was controlled by one ruler, that is, the Sapa Inca, who was mummified after he passed away. The Sapa Inca was considered to be related the gods, also similar to the Egyptian pharaohs who had a divine right to rule. This Sapa Inca tradition began with the Manco Capac, the first Sapa Inca, who founded the short-lived Kingdom of Cuzco, from which the Inca state arose.

I was intrigued to learn in class how these Sapa Inca, even after their deaths, continued to be involved in the running of the state. The deceased Sapa Inca’s possessions remained entitled to him, and were not given to the next Sapa Inca, a practice called split inheritance. The fact that this split inheritance practice was created and adhered to demonstrates the respect the Sapa Inca had for each other. Because the possessions of the old Sapa Inca were not passed on, the new Sapa Inca needed to find ways to obtain his own wealth. To obtain wealth, it was necessary for the Sapa Inca to conquer new lands, from which tribute could be extracted. Each new Sapa Inca’s attempts to gain wealth is what caused the Kingdom of Cuzco to continue to expand and become the Inca state.

The lands conquered by the Sapa Inca gave tribute to the state, or as it was known by the Inca, Mit’a. Tribute, which also existed in ancient Egypt, was not only used as a means for the Sapa Inca to obtain wealth, but helped to support the construction of large public works, like terraces and roads, that, without tribute, could not have been built. Tribute existed as labor, which was helpful because many laborers were needed to build complex works. Tribute also existed in the form of food, which was needed to feed the laborers so that they would continue to have enough energy to work on and complete these large projects.

The organization of the Inca state is physically manifested in the roads that were constructed, which were extensive, spanning the entire Inca state so that even the most distant places were connected. The fact that the state was able to gather enough laborers to complete such a large project also demonstrates the high level of organization of the Inca state.

It has been truly intriguing to learn about the Inca state. Considering the large territory that it occupied, it is incredible that the Inca state was as well organized as it was.

Thoughts on and Discussion of “Submerged History of the Adriatic”

Before hearing about and attending the lecture “Submerged History of the Adriatic” given by Hrvoje Potrebica, in thinking about shipwrecks, I associated them with larger oceans like the Pacific. From some reason, I never thought to connect shipwrecks with the Mediterranean region, its Adriatic Sea, or this region’s lakes and rivers. This is unfortunate because so many important finds have been discovered in the Adriatic Sea by Hrvoje Potrebica and other underwater archaeologists.
Some important finds from the Adriatic Sea include those found at the only underwater Neanderthal site that has been found so far, a site that includes Neanderthal bones and associated Mousterian tools. Many of the ships that wrecked in the Adriatic were involved in trade routes, and carrying items to be traded, indicated by the items onboard not being local, but having originated from a variety of places. Some of the more interesting finds include the 200 pipes found in a Roman shipwreck in the Bay of Cikat at Mali Losinj. Other intriguing finds include cannons, indicating that the sailors onboard the ship on which the cannons were stowed were expecting to be attacked, or do the attacking, a ship bell with the year 1567 engraved on it, and Renaissance period finds like chandeliers and textiles. The shipwrecks that have been found are from more recent times as well, as battleships from the 20th century, and even an airplane, have been found in the Adriatic.
Underwater archaeology has become a vital method by which we are able to learn about past peoples. It must be an amazing feeling for those archaeologists to be able to bring the stories of the people of the region back to the people who live there now. Project Adrias was formed so that artifacts that have been found can be associated with knowledge of the past and input into a database that everyone can access. Many of the artifacts that have been recovered now occupy space in museums on land, as well as in museums underwater. This is such a fun, smart way to be able to view these artifacts. Rather than remove the artifacts and risk their deterioration in the above water conditions that they have lacked for so long, it is safer, and respectful, to leave them in the place where they were deposited when the ships on which they were stored sank. Also, being able to swim while viewing these artifacts makes the museum experience all the more entertaining!
It was absolutely incredible to see some of the artifacts that have been recovered from the Adriatic Sea. The Roman bronze statue of a man that was accidentally discovered in 1997 by Renne Wouters while he was on a dive was particularly breathtaking. For something that was created so long ago to be in such an impeccable, whole condition once the encrustations were removed is incredible. Its amazing to think that there are most likely finds comparable to this still waiting in the Adriatic or in other bodies of water to be recovered.


Dependence on and Control of Water

Many of the first societies in Africa and Asia were greatly dependent on nearby water sources for their survival. I can’t imagine how nervous these people must have felt having their lives dependent on the natural processes associated with water, as these processes can be so unpredictable. The societies in the major regions that we have studied so far, that is, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley, all flourished because of their proximity to water sources. But, as we have learned, they also experienced hardships because of the unpredictability of nature.
For example, those who occupied the Nabta Playa for thousands of years deserted the site after the lake dried up. The ancient Egyptians relied heavily on the Nile for their livelihood, as their were no other major water sources in Egypt to depend on. Each year the Nile flooded, and deposited silt and mud, which made the land fertile. When flooding was low, it had a devastating effect on ancient Egyptians. With low flooding, less fertile land was available on which the Egyptians could plant their crops. This low flooding induced starvation, which can be seen in the depictions on the Causeway to the Pyramid of the Unas. In contrast, when the Nile experienced too much flooding, the high waters delayed harvests, destroyed settlements, and destroyed stored food.
In Mesopotamia, Mesopotamians had access to the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. But, the Northern Plain in Mesopotamia only became fertile during the fall when it rained. The demonstrate importance of rain to the Mesopotamians, they even had a word, isohyet, which referred to geographic lines of various amounts of rainfall. One of the causes of the collapse of the Akkadian empire in Mesopotamia has even been attributed to the region experiencing a dry period. And in the Indus Valley, many settlements were constructed along the Indus river and its tributaries. The water in the Indus Valley was governed by the monsoons that the area experienced each year from May to September. This monsoon flooding assisted in the fertility of the land in the region, but could also have adverse effects, as it could bring too much water into the area and destroy the Harappan settlements.
To ease some of the stress from the unpredictability of these natural water processes, these early societies developed means to control the water that they had access to. In ancient Egypt for example, over a span of 10 years, a team of 500 laborers built a dam to control the annual flooding of the Nile. But, before it was even finished, it was destroyed by the water it was built to control. Mesopotamians were able to expand agriculture into areas where agriculture previously would not have been possible using irrigation. The Harappans in the Indus Valley devoted much of their time and labor to the control of water. They dug irrigation canals to avoid experiencing too little or too much water. Alleys in Harappan settlements contained drains as a means of avoiding the buildup of water.
It is truly remarkable how these early societies were able to take nature into their own hands with these water controlling technologies.

The Pyramids of Egypt

Before taking this class, I had read enough about the Pyramids of Giza that I thought there was not much more for me to learn about these pyramids. With this class, I have come to learn so much more about the Pyramids of Giza, and the pyramids of Egypt in general, than what I had previously known.

Sneferu is one of the many Egyptian pharaohs whose life, and whose pyramids, I previously knew nothing about. It is amazing all that Sneferu was able to accomplish throughout his reign as pharaoh. The fact that he was able to build three pyramids in his lifetime, when most pharaohs only built one, is a testament to the power that Sneferu must have had in order to convince the state to invest all of its time and money into these three pyramids. I was interested to learn that even the great pyramid builders like Sneferu made mistakes in their pyramid building, evident with his Bent Pyramid at Dashur.

Prior to this class, I knew little about the interior of the Egyptian pyramids. So, in class, it was interesting to learn about the pyramid texts and funerary texts that have been found on the walls within these pyramids, and to learn about the duat, the spiritual world with which these texts are associated. According to the Egypt Uncovered: Chaos and Kings Video that we watched in class, the size of the pyramids also served a spiritual function, that is, that the imposing, hard to miss nature of the pyramids ensured that the pharaohs who built them would forever be remembered, and in this way, they can live eternally.

I find it interesting that pharaohs back in the 4th dynasty were documenting their history, and Egyptian history, through the biographies and kings lists they had written on the walls of their tombs. It is fortunate that pharaohs did this so that today, we may have an easier time understanding Egyptian history.

I was previously unaware that those who built the Pyramids of Giza were farmers; I had always thought these pyramids were built by slaves. The level of social organization that was achieved in building these pyramids is astounding, that those in power were able to round up enough laborers not by force, but instead workers willingly contributed their labor as a means of fulfilling their tax quota.

Learning about Heit el-Ghurab, the settlement site for the laborers who built the Pyramids of Giza, also really interested me. I had never heard of Heit el-Ghurab prior to learning about it in class, which is really too bad, because this settlement site played such a large role in the building of the Pyramids of Giza. Heit el-Ghurab is truly a reflection of the amount of man power needed to build these pyramids, that a settlement site was needed to house all of the laborers, and a testament to the time needed to build these pyramids, so much time that a long term settlement site was constructed for these laborers to live.

Reflecting on the Importance of Egyptian Burials

It is amazing how much archaeologists are able to glean about past societies through excavations of graves and cemeteries. In class, we have addressed numerous instances of cemetery findings that have shed light on, or been the primary source of information for, past Egyptian societies.

At the Predynastic site of El Badari, for example, excavations of graves reveal  thin, black top brown ceramics, which demonstrate the skill of the potters who created them. This skill indicates that specialization existed in El Badari. Much more can be inferred about El Badari based on this evidence. For instance, those who lived at El Badari must have had a stable food source, which would have allowed them the time to hone their skill as potters instead of spending time searching for food. The ceramics that archaeologists find in graves are also important to interpretations of past societies because they often feature decorations, like those found on Naqada II period ceramics. These decorations serve as a form of language that archaeologists are able to interpret. The boat motif featured on Naqada II ceramics, for example, has been interpreted to symbolize the elite.

Archaeologists are able to infer about other characteristics of past societies, like organizational structure. If an individual was buried with obvious preferential treatment over others, for example, certainly there must have been some reason for it. Preferential treatment might mean that an individual was buried in a tomb with many grave goods, while others in the same or in a nearby cemetery were buried with few grave goods, as seen in the cemeteries of the Badarian and Naqada I Upper Egyptian Predynastic periods. It is fair to infer that the treatment that an individual received in death reflects their treatment in life. Continuing on with this  example, if an individual did receive preferential treatment in life, this might mean that they were considered an important member of society, possibly a member of the elite or part of a society’s ruling class. To sum this up, this preferential burial treatment can demonstrate that a society was stratified, with certain people having more power than others.

It is truly amazing how much information archaeologists are able to draw from the cemeteries of past societies. It is fortunate that in Egypt, graves and cemeteries are preserved well enough that archaeologists are able to draw information from them. Writing this blog makes me wonder about what future archaeologists might interpret about us based on our graves. What do you think? What does the way we bury people today say about us?

By: Emily Horbatch