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Underwater Wreckage

The underwater archaeology talk taught some very interesting things about the Adriatic Sea. For instance, I never knew just how important the sea was all through history. Dr. Petrobica informed us that there are currently around two hundred known shipwrecks along the Croatian coastline. Over one hundred are known to be Roman, four are medieval, and over seventy are modern. The Adriatic Sea is a gold mine of naval history- sometimes literally! These ships carried many different treasures though, not just gold. Many of the shipwrecks are from trading vessels, which would explain why the items on the ships originated everywhere. Eastern ceramics have even been found in the wrecks.  Along with Roman art and sarcophagi, Medieval glass cups and coins, to cool renaissance equipment such as sun dials and pad locks. Dr. Petrobica even mentioned how clothes and chandeliers dating back to the renaissance have been found. Considering the wide diversity of all of these goods’ origins how is it possible to know where and when these ships actually came from? If there are European ceramics and byzantine art on the same ship then how can we tell who this ship belongs to? I found it pretty clever when Dr. Petrobica told us they look at the living quarters and kitchen of the crew in order to find information about the origin. It makes sense too: The crewmembers will be eating and using food and tools that they are used to using and eating. This is a good way of identifying the people this ship belonged to. Merchant ships aren’t the only shipwrecks found in the sea, however. Military vessels are somewhat abundant as well, especially considering the sea’s tactical advantage in World War II.  The oldest cannons found, however, date back further than World War II. A cannon from the renaissance period has been found in the bay of Molunat which may indicate the ship was protecting itself from pirates. A World War II vessel that has been found is not even a ship but a plane! A B-24J Liberator is an American Bomber that was assumed to have been shot down over the sea. The excavators found an intact machine gun and propeller, but not before plunderers aid the sit a visit ahead of time. German torpedo boats have been found as well as a couple ocean liners. The Baron Gautsh was a passenger ship that ran into a minefield and sunk in 1914. I found the image of this ship underwater is very ominous because of how it lays on the sea floor: Completely upright as if it is sailing through the sand.

Bonus – “Submerged History of the Adriatic”

Located northeast across the Adriatic Sea of modern day Italy lays Croatia, a country that for most of recorded history has had a friendly and mutually beneficial trade relationship with “The Boot” across the water. In the ancient world, trade was a huge part of the economy; supplying goods from all over the place to those who had the means to buy them, and one of the best ways to deliver these goods was on the water. Not only was it relatively cheap to carry large amounts of goods within the confines of a boat, but it was also the fastest and most efficient method of transporting luggage over long distances. Now aquatic travel has its benefits, but there is always your fair share of shipwrecks that happen out at sea due to a number of reasons – that’s where underwater archaeologist Hrvoje Potrebica comes in.

Hrvoje Potrebica dedicates a great deal of his time studying the submerged history of the Adriatic Sea ranging from sunken Neanderthal stone tools to World War II fighter jets. Interestingly enough, Croatia is home to the world’s largest collection of Neanderthal bones and is a place of great Archaeological study in which researchers are trying to answer still unknown questions like “did modern day humans and Neanderthals at one time mix with each other?” Being located so close to Italy, it’s no surprise that a majority of the underwater sites archaeologists deal with in Croatia end up being Roman shipwrecks. Having a proximity so close to a historically dominant empire that traded and controlled so many elaborate goods over the water has lead to the discovery of tons of cool objects.

Take my spelling of these underwater sites with a grain of salt – they weren’t on screen for a very long time, but Hrvoje went into detail about sites like “Myoka” where they uncovered ancient sundials, brass jingle bells, spectacle glass, and brass weights that were at one time headed en route only to be forever lost at sea until their recent discovery. Or sites like “Molunat” where underwater archaeologists have uncovered one of the best preserved bronze cannons from ca. 1758, or sites like “Sv. Pavo” where an ancient ship carrying Turkish pottery that was more valuable than gold at the time it sank (1567) was discovered in relatively good shape. There was also a really interesting story about a bronze statue that was accidentally uncovered by the Belgian diver Renè Wouters named Apoxyomenos –which was very rare and is now considered one of the best preserved statues of its time.

Underwater Archaeology is a field of study that deals mainly with uncovering lost artifacts from the past, but Hrvoje told us he sees his work as a lot more than that. Sure they’re discovering, recovering, and labeling everything that they find so we can have it on record, but they’re also finding pieces of people’s lives and uncovering stories from the past – which is really powerful when you think about it. I’m just grateful I was able to sit down and hear about Hrvoje’s story.

Increasing Complexity and Spread of Trade

One of the more interesting aspects of ancient states and societies are the development of complexities within the groups. This is because you can actually see the cultural evolution that happens and how it correlates to the social scientists that have created theories of how this development proceeds. As the intertwining of groups and economies proceeds, the honing of skills and the relations between groups of people develop as well.

To me it is interesting to observe the trade routes used in different states and societies. The example that we briefly discussed in class would be the Harappan trade networks. I find the persistence and ingenuity it takes to continue the exchange of goods from such far locations fascinating. It also brings up some cool questions given the technology of the time.

In our modern times, trade between groups of people is achieved with ease as technology provides great assistance. In these time periods we discuss in class there is no technology remotely close to the level modern times are at in order to maintain communications and knowledge of locations. That, to me anyways, is what makes this such a great feat worth acknowledging. The Harappans not only navigated the lands to mesopotamia, but also via sea routes in order to trade their semi-precious gems.

Trade in society must develop naturally; and as the complexity of the economy develops further as will the trade. Small group trade is the early stages of the development. However, as continued relations grow and the product becomes much better known, the spreading of connects grows with it. Groups such as the Sumerians and Akkadians  provided a benefit of the Harappan’s because of their trading networks established. This word of mouth assisted in forming the “Harappan Trade Systems”. This is a decent example of the trade network developing from small interactions into a formal system that frequently interacts with one another.

As the trade routes become established and economic complexity grows these groups become dependent on one another. The items that are being created to be sent off are an important commodity in the society. If it were modern times the items could easily be advertised and packaged for shipment within the days or week. In the Harappan networks and other networks of the times it requires a lot of quality product and the persistence/organization to be known from locations around the further areas. This lack of technological knowhow makes the early development of economic complexity much more impressive.

Harrapan? By Tara Corey/Lyon

This civilization is very interesting and mysterious. People say that the monsoon plated up or enroll in the social collapse of the Harrapan society. What interests me the most about the society is that it was densely settled and Pat with large and small towns and villages but these in the villages were independent unities they were in no way a city system nor were they unified. The structures of their towns or villages were very unique they were grid like patterns that took much architectural ability to build. These grid like towns and villages are very unique and I would consider them special because everything is marked out according to how it is to be used you have alleyways at a certain distance and link main roadways are wider and there is even drainage systems and these very early towns which I find to be amazing. also put in place was public sanitation which it is hard to believe that this was thought of at such an early time in our world. When today most places or I should not say most of some places still do not have public sanitation systems. Their mud brick style structure buildings and walls are kind of standardized all the mud bricks are almost the same size and shape everything is very uniform. What is another interesting fact is that they saw there was always a danger flooding the basement a lot of their time managing water they built irrigation canals to manage water at all times to prevent flooding to irrigate their crops and to just move it along. The Harrapan society had a very technological trade system their ceramics were of high quality in another interesting piece is that their stone beads contain a lot of information. The trade was always less looking they extended their train network and Iran and along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula but it was always a West looking trade system. Maritime trade became a big bang during the social legacy of early Harrapans this increase their social complexity. The Harrapan language has still not been deciphered. It is going to be interesting to find out their language because it is very different from white we have encountered from other societies so far they have 417 distinct symbols found which in contrast are somewhat like those of the Egyptian hieroglyphics. But we cannot understand or identify the underlying language the average length of their inscriptions as less than five signs in the longest is only 17 this makes it hard for the archaeologists to even start trying to decipher the language they do not really have anything to go by. There has been no bilingual text found to help them so unfortunately there is no Rosetta Stone for this language. Their script is very beautiful pictures of animals that are very detailed with a lot of thought put into them. So I cannot wait to find out the results of this language because I think it’s going to be very interesting and very insightful.

Pit House Usage in Ancient China

As I read about ancient China over the weekend, I was perplexed by the wide usage of pit houses amongst the various Ancient Chinese cultures. Compared to the other ancient states we have so far discussed, pit houses seemed to be much more prolific in ancient China. I question why though. Surely one of the benefits of a pit house (better insulation from the elements) would be something equally liked by the peoples of other ancient states. What we have seen with the other ancient state cultures has been above-ground structures (in some cases with storage pits underground), often placed in structured layers within a village or village. For what I have read so far about ancient China though, pit houses were the common structures alongside vast amounts of storage pits (although by the Yangshao culture there exists evidence of above ground houses). Like other ancient states so far discussed, the ancient Chinese tended to situate themselves alongside the various rivers that flow throughout China. This similarity with other ancient states is somewhat perplexing to me given the preference for pit houses. I am certainly not educated enough to elaborate on my thoughts as to why, other than the potential for ground water flowing towards the rivers flooding these pit houses, along with the increased potential for moisture to destroy what is stored inside (which paints a question towards the vast usage of storage pits as well). As the lands occupied by ancient Chinese cultures also dealt with the East Asian monsoon, I would think above ground (perhaps even structures above the ground itself as seen in many regions today with flooding issues) would be more preferable. Perhaps the ancient Chinese had a particular process of placing their underground homes to mitigate these issues that I see. Naturally I doubt that they built such dwelling directly next to the rivers, but I do not know that for sure.

I also ponder whether it was not just the environment temperatures and weather concerns that prompted such wide spread use of pithouses, but also the terrain. Certainly the cold and harsh environment of North China, for example, would prompt the ancient Chinese living there to seek warmth and safety underground, but perhaps there was also a lack of suitable material to build dwellings about ground that could survive the elements at first. Perhaps it is instead simply just a matter of progression, although even today underground dwellings can be preferable in certain cases. I for one, living in the space that is considered underground for my home, enjoy not being susceptible to the elements as much (in lazy modernness I refer to not having the wind battering windows and shaking the room up).

Centralization and Trader Housing

In class we said that perhaps the Harappan “Civilization” may have been decentralized. I would like to argue that centralization must have occurred resulting from the economic situation. The Indus valley peoples were heavily reliant on trade, perhaps more so than other ancient states at the time. This is called the Harappan world economic system. The sys is this complicated web of trading goods with states to the west in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Indus region peoples are the product of an enormous dependence on trade. This world economic system is the reason the area thrived. Perhaps this is an argument for the centralization of a state. Instead of having everybody trading using different standards and methods we see that the Indus people had a specific uniform system of weights and measures. It is hard to believe that a system like this became so engrossed and accepted in a culture without having some type of leadership to say “This is what we’re going to use from now on.”. We see other institutions of standards as well in mud bricks. Mud bricks are used for everything and they’re all nearly identical. I imagine that brick makers around the area were told specific dimensions with which to create their product by some authority. If this leadership had the ability to extend their economic authority throughout the region then it must have been a state-like authority and centralized.

I’d like to shift topics to the idea that large urban centers may have been like a mecca in that it was a religious center visited by many people.  I like this idea and I think the architecture supports it. It may be possible that city authorities designed the housing to be space efficient and easy to build. Perhaps authorities designed these housing areas not to be used by families or individuals for long periods of times but perhaps more like a hotel room for limited periods of time. It is hard to look at the floor plans of the major cities and not ask why they were so deliberately and specifically built in the manor they are. Perhaps this is why. Also, I would like to put forth the possibility that the housing units were not necessarily designed for religious travelers visiting the city but for incoming traders to stay comfortably for short periods of time. Considering the extreme reliance on trade in the Indus region I imagine they did whatever they could do to make sure the relationships were maintained. If I were a traveling trader then having a shelter and private area to stay in while visiting the Indus region would be quite welcome after the journey and would make me want to keep trading there.

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.


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.