All posts by Kelsey Sloan

Primary characteristics bonus blog

I believe the most important characteristic of being categorized as an ancient state would have to be agriculture. Agriculture opens doors to extensive trade networks, a rising economy, and the survival of the people of the state. This primary characteristic leads is an imperative asset to the continuation of a state. It is necessary to survive and without it a dependence of hunting and gathering would not be enough. Without the advancement of agriculture, states would not have been able to rapidly expand as they did once agriculture was established around 10,000 BC. Agriculture is key to the rest of the remaining primary characteristics. If agriculture was not present then a complex economy and urban setting would not have been possible. Without those, the people of the time would continue to be nomadic and would not retain a state authority and stratification of classes as well as having specializations. Specializations are based on the presence of food production and that would not be as present without agriculture.  As for the secondary characteristics of being called a state, they branch off from the primary characteristics and without them, they would not have much of a basis in societies.  Agriculture maintained a population increase in order for all of these characteristics to follow. Until agriculture became a part of everyday life for the people living around 10,000 BC, advancements were slow and relating to hunting and tools. But until the radical change of agriculture came, humans were more nomadic and followed herds of animals in order to survive. With agriculture people were able to settle down and become sedentary and reproducing more. The growing populations continued humans advancements and urban centers grew and distinct cultural societies were claiming their lands. You can see the rapid growth and advancement through states like Mesopotamia, the Aztecs, and the Egyptians. These states growth and development would not have been possible without the foundation of agriculture. As agriculture spread, societies sprouted up where agriculture was possible continuing the humans settlement across our planet. When you look at all of the ancient states we learned about in class, take out agriculture and you can see it was the foundation and beginning of that particular state and the reason behind its continuation. Without agriculture these states would not be the great ancient states we learn about in school today. We may not even be here today without the primary characteristic of agriculture.

Ancient Roman Port

Through all the archaeology classes I have taken and articles I have read, I have learned that there is always something more at archaeological excavation sites. Whether it’s a new artifact that leads to a new interpretation or new questions or more to a site than was discovered before. In a previous class I had done a project on a port in Italy that was very important during to the Romans called Ostia. While surveying critical ports to Rome during the Romans height, archaeologists have discovered a new boundary wall meaning it was much bigger than they previously thought it to be. Through the use of “geophysical survey techniques”, specifically magnetometry, archaeologists found the boundary wall extended more down the Tiber river and included towers and three more warehouses which were much bigger than previously excavated warehouses. One of which being as big as a football field. This discovery pushes further evidence of commercial activities during the beginning centuries of this ports building. “Director of the Portus Project, Professor Simon Keay says, “Our research not only increases the known area of the ancient city, but it also shows that the Tiber bisected Ostia, rather than defining its northern side.” The Portus Project is working on the important ports of Rome between the 1st through 6th century including the port of Ostia and Portus, Ostia’s neighboring port.  Another building was also discovered but its use is still unknown, which is why I believe it’s important for archaeologists to revisit sites that have already had research done on it and for archaeologists to extensively excavate newly discovered sites as to retain as much information from that site as possible. This way archaeologists can get a better interpretation of sites. Professor Keay states, “Our results are of major importance for our understanding of Roman Ostia and the discoveries will lead to a major re-think of the topography of one of the iconic Roman cities in the Mediterranean.”  The workings of this project supports that going back to iconic sites like the Roman port of Ostia can give new insights and a better understanding on topics like topography of critical archaeological sites. With the advancement of technology over the last 50 years, archaeologists should revisit sites and use new technology like GIS to bring forward more information and better understandings of the important sites of past civilizations, like the Portus Project did for the Roman port of Ostia.  

Europe’s oldest footprints found in England

Off the English coast near Happisburgh, near Norfolk, archaeologists of the Queen Mary University of London and the British Museum, and the Natural History Museum, uncovered the oldest remains of footprints in Europe confirmed by photogrammetry and a 3D image analysis of the surface taken by the team of archaeologists.  Techniques like those are what helps archaeology thrive today, being able to see the surface more clearly and find remains left behind when we can’t see them with our own eyes. The land that used to stretch past today’s shore held rich resources and an abundance of animals, perfect for a group of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers looking for food to survive. This find is a rare one, with there only being two other known archaeological sites with footprints, one at Laetoli in Tanzania, at 3.5 million years ago, and the other at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya, at 1.5 million years ago. Another reason for their rarity is the fact that they survived hundreds and thousands of years environmental change over time. And if the team of scientists hadn’t come upon those sets of footprints when they did, they probably wouldn’t have been found due to the erosion from the incoming tide. And I find it important to take advantage of the shores of Europe and try and find the archaeological sites that could be just a few waves away from being gone forever.  Most of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic sites are underwater now because of the rising sea level, erosion, and environmental changes when they used to have land where the seas of today are now. So it’s up to the archaeologists of today to make sure they find and preserve sites like the footprints at this one before they disappear. The information we are losing on our shorelines are very prevalent to the understanding of the people and cultures of the past. The evidence of up to five different sets of footprints, from a child up to a UK adult size 8, were left and preserved in the mud over 800,000 years ago. Their presence indicates the first set of humans in northern Europe found today and, “their discovery offers researchers an insight into the migration of pre-historic people hundreds of thousands of years ago when Britain was linked by land to continental Europe.” Not taking action and actively looking for sites like this one in Happisburgh will result in the lose of a plethora of information that can help us further understand the lives of the people from 800,000 years ago.