Over the course of this semester both primary and secondary characteristics of a state have been discussed. Primary characteristics are categorized as urbanism, agriculture, specialization, complex economy, stratification, and state authority. A state must have all of these characteristics in order to be considered a state. On the other hand, a state may or may not have all secondary characteristics. Secondary characteristics are categorized as writing, monumental public works, metallurgy (decorative or warfare), tribute and taxation, mass production of goods, state religion (associated arts like astrology or calendars), state art, and epidemic disease and malnutrition. After learning about the different ancient states throughout this semester, I have come to the decision that when defining a state, primary characteristics are definitely the most important and teach one more about the culture and society of the state. In my opinion, the most important and impacting primary characteristic is agriculture.
Agriculture is the cultivation of domesticated plants, animals, and fungi for food, fiber, and other products. There are two different types of agriculture. Casual agriculture is when groups of people would consistently harvest a certain plant, this begins to domesticate and change the species. Intensive agriculture is the harvesting of huge crops of land. Archaeologists have theories about agriculture. The Oasis Theory maintains that as the climate got drier due to ocean depressions shifting, communities contracted to oases where they were forced into close association with animals, which were then domesticated together with the planting of seeds. The Feasting Model was agriculture driven by ostentatious displays of power, such as giving feasts to exert dominance. This required assembling large quantities of food, which drove agricultural technology. The Demographic Model was sedentary population that expanded to the carrying capacity of the local environment and required more food than could be gathered. Agriculture had many characteristics on its own.
It can be seen throughout history that agriculture played a large role in the rise of states and the collapse of states. Communities would collect around land that was prime for cultivation. Ancient states formed around agriculture. It is my opinion that agriculture is the base of the creation of the ancient states. The ancient states that were studied this semester all had sustainable agriculture that maintained survival for the citizens. I also believe that agriculture was the main reason for a state’s collapse as well. Many of the ancient states experienced drought or some other intense climate/environmental change. If a state’s agriculture is not able to survive neither will its people, which in the end will cause a decline and collapse.
I believe primary characteristics are what define ancient states, and agriculture is the most important.