All posts by mullerga

Primary vs. Secondary

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.

Mesoamerican Sacrificial Rituals

Over the years, we have studied the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca people from Mesoamerica in our history classes. In these classes topics such as the rise and fall of the regions, the elite, and many other things have been discussed. A major part of Mesoamerica that has been discussed over the past few weeks in class regarding this region, is sacrifice and the rituals behind them. I am most interested in the Aztec people and examining their culture and sacrificial rituals. It has been very intriguing to learn about the reasoning to why these people sacrificed animals and even humans. The reasons were very important.

The Aztecs considered themselves the descendents of the Toltecs, which made them known as great warriors. Being a conquest state, the Aztecs were very powerful and dominant, and had special beliefs that had to be followed in order to survive. These people were huge practitioners of human sacrifice. Looking at their barbarian ways, the majority of people would consider the Aztecs savage and ruthless, but most of the sacrificing was done out of a religious standpoint. In order to survive, the Aztecs believed that they must sacrifice beings to the Sun God. The ideology behind is was that the Sun God, Huitzilopochtli, needed nourishment in order to keep the universe a float. This god’s job was to keep the darkness at bay and the universe running. The only way to nourish Huitzilopochtli was through sacrifice. The universe cycled every 52 years. With everything running on a 52 year clock, sacrifice became wrapped up in this process. There were blood sacrifices done by priests, animal sacrifices and human sacrifices. The human sacrifices were not an act of cruelty, but an act of the world. The majority of the sacrifices were captured prisoners of war. Known as a conquest empire, this explains why the Aztecs took prisoners of war usually for sacrificed. The number of sacrifices that occurred per year in unknown, but it was definitely a large number.

In previous classes, the art of sacrifice has been touched on lightly, but it was interesting to learn how the Aztec performed their sacrifices. There were temples that were that held the chacmool. The chacmool was the rain deity who had a direct connection to sacrifice. The Aztec would make offerings to this deity by cutting out the heart of the sacrifice and be placed before him. Then the body would be kicked down the steps of the temple.

It can be seen that the Aztec people were definitely a fierce and powerful group. Now a days, sacrifice is viewed as savage and cruel, but the Aztec’s religion said that it had to be done in order to survive and this was the norm. I find it very interesting how norms and beliefs change over the years and enjoy learning about them.


It was very interesting to learn about the ancient states of Egypt, but moving on to the new topic of Mesopotamian will be exciting as well. In past years in history classes, Mesopotamia has been brushed upon, but the topic was never explored deeper. Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates River and the Tigris River, is also sandwiched between the Arabian Desert and Zagros Mountains. So, it was not surprising to learn in the introductory lecture that irrigation played a major role throughout the large region that was between two rivers and how complexity began to grow.

Unlike Egypt where people were forced to stay near the Nile River or travel to find oases, members of society living in Mesopotamia were creative when it came to survival. We recently learned about the Hydrolic Origins of Complexity. Living in certain areas, people had to dig canals which required cooperative labor and a certain degree of central control. Once the canals were finished, farmers became dependent on them for survival. Here was seen some of the first signs of complexity, for this was an opportunity for community leaders to expand their power by exploiting their control over the irrigation system.

There were four major regions that occurred over time across Mesopotamia. First Hassuna which took place around 6500-6000BC. Samarra took place around the same time as Hassuna, which was 6500-5900BC, and was located in almost the same region as well. The difference between the two was that they were separated by material culture. Next was Halaf which took place in 6000-5400BC. Halaf was located in the northwest region and was well-known for its very characteristic ceramics. By this time in history, specialized institutions were occurring. Ubaid which took place between 5900-4000BC, was the largest of the region located in the south, but then gradually grew bigger and bigger. During this period of time was when everything seemed to snowball into complexity and spread throughout the entire region.

I found it very interesting to learn about Ubaid. There were 4 phases that took place in this region. Overtime, the development of canal networks became more extensive from major settlements and irrigation agriculture became more developed. There was rapid urbanization that took place in Ubaid. The trading system began to stretch across the land. By the end of the Ubaid period “social stratification and inequality was demonstrated by mortuary goods, large public temples were being used, and kin-based elite who maintained power through the administration” were taking place. The Ubaid culture was the foundation for future Mesopotamian regions.

Blog 1: The Rise of Ancient States and Egypt

Growing up, one reads books and watches movies about the past. Ancient States and Egypt are depicted a certain way in movies, for example. There are mummies, huge pyramids and desert. There always seems to be a powerful Pharaoh who rules over everyone, and there are cats! There always seems to be cats. Over the past few weeks, however, we have discussed the rise of Ancient States, and there is much more that meets the eye then just this. Agriculture and ceramics were two major focal points during the rise of Ancient State and Egypt.

Agriculture is defined as the “cultivation of domesticated plants, animals, and fungi for food, fiber, and other products.” The primary evidence that archeologists have found that displays the birth of agriculture were plants and animals. During the Neolithic Transition, it has been discovered that the first crops and domesticated animals were wheat, barley, lentils, sheep, goat, and cattle. When studying Egypt, archaeologists divide it into four different regions. There is Lower Egypt which is in the north, Upper Egypt in the south, and then the Nile River splits the eastern and western regions. The western region is the Sahara where it is desert land and very dry. There are a number of oases where people would live and cultivate. The Fayum Oasis is known for being the largest of the oases. This watering hole was huge, and was a very large agricultural area. The eastern region is very rocky and looks similar to pictures of Mars.  As states began to form, it was noticed that the Nile River Valley was where people would collect. Larger and more complex settlements were forming around the river. The Nile Floodplain was where all of the agriculture took place and where people lived. The lives of the people who lived in this area relied on the annual inundation. If a low flood year took place, the lands agriculture would be jeopardized. To me, agriculture played the biggest role when it comes to the rise of Ancient States, for without it people would not have been able to survive.

While excavating the different sites in Upper and Lower Egypt, ceramics became a focal point to the understanding of different regions and time periods. It was interesting to  learn about the differences between how ceramics were made and the quality of the products. Different types of “ware” were used for different things. “Fine ware” was usually found at mortuary sites. Over time, ceramics began displaying different motifs such as boats, birds, etc.

It still baffles me that archaeologists are able to discover artifacts that are from such a long time ago and are able to figure how these people cultivated the land and the animals that were domesticated. It is very interesting to learn about how Ancient States are born, and to dig deeper and learn to truths about Egypt’s beginning.