All posts by thanehun

Bonus Blog: The Need to Feed

For me, the most important characteristic of a state is the aspect of intensive agriculture. If there is no method by which to maintain the massive population of a state then there is no state. Without a method of intensive agriculture then the people will not survive. It is the only characteristic of a state that is absolutely needed. All of the other primary characteristics are not necessary for the survival of the population. Yes, without these characteristics there is no state, but without agriculture there is no people. An urban environment is merely a convenient way to keep the massive population of a state in a generally manageable place. Specialization is merely a method by which the trade networks of a state can more easily expand. A complex economy is in essence a direct result of specialization since no one person can equally weight the worth of such varying objects that each take their own special form of mastery to derive. Social stratification is most definitely not necessary for a population of people to survive since most often those who occupy higher societal echelons have a tendency to take away those things necessary for a successful living. The only other primary argument for another primary characteristic is the importance of a state authority. This is somewhat necessary since without a centralized form of decision making there would be complete and utter anarchy. However, since a state authority is not necessary for the survival of a population and since one of the decisions that must be made by the state authority is how to equally divide and store the products of the agricultural process I will not designate this as the most important characteristic of a state; more like the second most important. Then the argument comes to the secondary characteristics of a state. These are not even marginally necessary to the survival of a population and as such do not even merit another word on their behalf. Basically, what I have been saying is that if any other characteristic of a state were to be removed, then the people will still be able to live on, just not in the fashion that they were used to. I would also like to stress the need that intensive agriculture is needed since subsistence would not be able to provide the necessary quantity for which to sustain a large population that is so often associated with an ancient state.

The Warmongers

To me, it seems that if you lived in Mesoamerica, you had an almost borderline obsession with war and conquest. A few of the groups that lived in Mesoamerica even went beyond the mere ideology of war obsession and could even be considered fanatics in the practice of war. Every empire that emerged was a conquest state. This differs from all of the other militarized states that we have looked at in the sense that when the other states expanded they would at least consider other avenues of expansion such as trade or diplomatic relations; this is most certainly not the case in Mesoamerica. As time goes on, the states appear to become even more and more consumed with the idea of military conquest.

First, lets look at a relatively late state to see what happens when fanaticism truly emerges: the Aztecs. Obsession can’t even incorporate an iota of the ideology that the Aztecs had with war. But, their obsession came from a religious belief. Their incessant need for sacrifice (as told by the Spanish) could definitely be a driving force in the Aztec war method. It honestly would have been amazing to see how much the Aztecs could have accomplished if they were not utterly decimated by the Spanish. Their need to conquer would have easily pushed their empire’s boundaries beyond what it already was. But, I would argue that they weren’t even the empire that was most concerned with militaristic conquest.

The Incas had the most militaristic ideology out of all of the groups that lived in Mesoamerica in my opinion. As I said earlier, the conquest ideology increased among the groups as time went on, so it would only make sense that the latest group we observed was the also the most militaristic group in Mesoamerica. I would argue that they were the most militaristic group in Mesoamerica since they had two powerful driving forces to fuel the need for conquest. An intertwining relationship between religion and politics that showed its face in the concept of split inheritance. Since no new ruler had the ability to tax any of the existing lands that were already under Incan rule, they had no other option than to completely conquer new lands in order to gain new wealth. This would obviously drive the new leaders to build an intense militaristic ideology that would form the basis of Incan culture in the relatively few years that they reigned.

Submerged History of the Adriatic Bonus Blog

For me the most interesting portion of the lecture was the amazing artifacts that were found at the wreckage. The first one that really stood out for me was the bell. To think that the year the bell was created was still completely observable on the outside of the bell is amazing. No amount of dating techniques could possibly give a more accurate representation of the possible age in which the wreckage could have came from. The other impressive fact about the bell is that not only did it date itself but it ended up in giving a very specific age range for the rest of the items found in the wreckage. The only item that would not be able to be dated with a relative certainty at the wreckage would be the ship itself since it was most likely made many years before the bell made the voyage. But the age of the ship is still somewhere around the age of the bell since the ship would not be ridiculously older than the bell.

The other amazing artifact that was found in the Adriatic was the bronze statue. I am not certain what affect the water of the Adriatic would be able to do to bronze in terms of degeneration of quality but the statue that was recovered is of exceptional quality and the restoration that was done is of impeccable ability. That statue must have been a spectacular find, especially when considered how complete it was.

The final amazing part of the lecture in my opinion was the future intent of Project AdriaS. Most specifically the idea of an underwater museum. That is a completely original and amazing idea. That is something that I would most definitely want to go visit in the future. It would be amazing to see all the underwater artifacts as they were found. I liken it to the prospect of going to the pyramids of Egypt. Most things there are in their original placement and it is amazing to see them in a representation of how they were originally found. The cool part about the underwater museum is that it is the same thing, just under water. I mean, I never picked squirtle, I was always a charmander fan but I still consider water to be a cool thing and to be able to explore history through this exceptional medium is a truly revolutionary idea.

Sim city: Harrapan style

For having no discernible central government, the Harrapan cities were beautifully manufactured. A grid pattern is such a genuinely easy method in which to plan out your city; much nicer than my hometown which has more of wagon wheel feel to it. But not only was there a standard city planning, there was also a standard building shape and size. To take it a step further there was even a standard size of the mud bricks used for construction. That means that someone had the fore-sight to sit down and think about how much easier it would be if everything was approximately the same size and shape.

Not only did they have a completely standardized system of construction, they also had necessary items to improve the overall quality of the city itself. They had PUBLIC sanitation buildings and units. This means they had a group who also maintained these buildings. There was also a system of private sanitation that was in place such as their household wells. Sanitation was taken another step further through the use of drainage channels in the streets. I would now turn the argument to say that the Harrapan people had an understanding of the impact of standing water in an urban area. That, or they just didn’t like the idea of having water everywhere and as such they invested the effort to help remove it from their streets. Either way, this is just another fact that shows how complex and developed of an ancient state it was.

But pick up that brain matter off the floor, because we are about to blow your mind one more time. The Harrapan also had a system of public meeting buildings built into their city. Not just religious centers either but public meeting buildings. Now, whether the non religious meeting buildings were used for “governmental” purposes or just for little Timmy’s eighth birthday isn’t really understood. But none-the-less, they still had them. I mean, I know it probably wasn’t a recreational hall, but how cool would it be if it was? Some of these public buildings did have a set purpose though. A few of them were used for production purposes, like the creation of trading beads. It is somewhat similar to an early factory in that sense. Which is such a cool idea. This whole concept of the Harrapan people being able to plan out their cities and buildings in a logical manner is so spectacularly amazing. And if you don’t think it is, then I’m sorry that you have no concept of what is cool then.

Jingling Change

The bulla are incredibly interesting pieces of culture to look at. Firstly, consider their dual accountability. Not only is the bulla marked with the transaction, but it also contains the physical representation of that transaction. It’s like a back up plan in and of itself. If the writing on the outside is presumed to be incorrect, then just break open the bulla and count the tokens on the inside to see the actual value of the transaction. There in lies another safeguard of the bulla in the sense that the tokens contained within the hollow ball are also marked with what was traded. It’s a backup plan for the backup plan. In my opinion, the only people who would  think of such an elaborate system of recording transactions are people who are incredibly paranoid of getting something wrong or people who have an exasperatingly close eye for detail. Also, one must consider the rather unorthodox size of this method of record keeping. These bulla were not paper receipts but instead clay balls. Balls, like a baseball. I’m slightly peeved if I have too many quarters in my pocket, let alone having to find a place to store the clay ball that recorded how much I payed for a gift. As such, the bulla is just one example of how important record keeping was to the people of the Uruk-period.

The other incredibly obvious example of record keeping is the whole concept of writing itself. If it’s not obvious how important writing was to the people of Mesopotamia just consider that among all those city states composed of different people who all worshiped different deities and who all had different kings, they all shared the same written language. They even had a different verbal tongue from ethnic group to ethnic group, yet they still kept the same written word. This was all to have a uniform style of record keeping.

This also proves just how vast the inter-geographical trading of the Mesopotamian people was. Since multiple spoken languages were involved, which is usually something that covers an incredibly large area difference, especially for the Uruk-period, it just shows how important transaction records were since they all agreed to keep to a common written language. It also proves the importance of trade to the people of Mesopotamia since they were in agreement to go through the hassle of making sure they were in concordance with each specific ethnic group in the idea of transactions.

Tombs of the Elite

The first thing  that interested me in the super tombs of the Hierakonpolis was their tremendous size.  One of the first super tombs unearthed in Hierakonpolis was 5.5 meters by 3 meters in size; it was the largest tomb to be discovered at the HK6 site that dated to the Naqada II period at that time. Later on large halls were excavated that were in close proximity to the super tombs. Now, when considering the fact that one of the largest structures unearthed at HK6 was 5.5 meters by 3 meters, the halls which were recorded as 15 meters by 10.5 meters practically dwarf the tombs themselves. Of the eight large halls that were discovered, each held a plethora of mortuary items that were both elegant and unique. In the majority of the  halls there were ceramics and ostrich eggs with carvings on them and palettes and many more items. One of these large halls even included the life size marble statue discussed in class. These structures that are tremendous in size prove the complexity of the people if they can become this deeply immersed in mortuary practices and privileges. But it even shows how incredibly important those people who live in the upper echelon of society were to the rest of their people.

Now, for me, the most important question is why. These super tombs and their surrounding structures were essentially the first of their kind. What happened in Hierakonpolis that made this upscale move to increase the mortuary importance of the elite? I mean,  even the animals of the elite were buried in structures around them. One of the animal tombs was even the final resting place of an elephant. I don’t care how much I love my mother, I am not digging an elephant grave next to hers just to honor her in the afterlife. So, why then did the people of Hierakonpolis decide to elate the levels of those dead elite beyond what they already were? Before Hierakonpolis, the elite were honored through mortuary practices, but nothing even close to this scale. At one time it was believed that mortuary practices of this large of a proportion didn’t even exist in the predynastic era, and yet here it is years before it was even considered possible. The fact that this happened is just such an interesting concept to me and I hope that someone else will find this subject as interesting as I do so they can help to point me in the right direction.