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ancient civilizations

The Journey of Paper

By: Darren and Theresa

Hi Guys, our interactive post will be based on Prezi presentation! It's about the invention of paper, how it was made, its spread and also its significance in different civilization when it gained the knowledge of paper production. Click this link and you'll be directed to your very own journey of paper! Enjoy! 

Lost Cities: Now you see me, now you don't

Tehsil-Phillaur-indus-valley.jpg

The colossal Indus region, which remained undiscovered until the 1920s, was home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, South Asia and China around 2500BCE. Much of its ruins have yet to be excavated, but one can tell that the cities were well planned with wide streets, public and private wells, drains bathing platforms and reservoirs. Currently, many questions about the Indus people who created this highly complex culture remain unanswered. This is because despite having many remnants of the script on pottery vessels, seals, and amulets, without a "Rosetta Stone" linguists and archaeologists have been unable to decipher it. Nevertheless, other aspects of their society can be understood through various types of archaeological studies.

Mohenjo-Daro translates to “Mound of the Dead Man” in Sindhi and it is an archaeological site built in the province of Pakistan around 2500 BCE. Dubbed as being one of the largest settlements of the Indus Valley Civilizations and the world’s earliest major urban settlements, it was unfortunately abandoned in the 19th century BCE as the civilization declined.

Regardless, the discovery of Mohenjo-Daro led to excitement for archaeologists and historians as this was their outlet for renewing their passion. The ruins surrounding Mohenjo-Daro were left undocumented for around 3,700 years and was only re-discovered in 1920s. Many rounds of excavation have since been taking place in that region and it was designated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

It is known for its unique layout dating back to its ancient roots as part of the Indus Valley Civilization. Its ruins were once part of this ancient society and at its peak, its population might have been well over five million as documented by the archaeologists. It had a well-planned grid that had structures constructed of dried bricks made from baked mud and burned wood. The occupants of that time and the urbanistic nature of the architectural layout hints a relatively high level of social organization prevalent at that time.

Religious practices and norms were carried out through the ritualistic act of bathing in what was known as ‘The Great Bath’. Bathing was considered to be a significant part of their life and while how the ‘Great Bath’ was used remains a mystery, one could probably tell the significance water had in their lives, probably using it as a means of cleansing or purifying themselves.

Besides Mohenjo-Daro itself, Harappa was another neighboring city, located just 350 miles to the north of the tributary river, Ravi. Many similarities arose between the two cities and they were both considered a part of Indus Valley Civilization. The main streets of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa had shops and the houses built were connected to a vast network of drainage system that provided sufficient sanitation. There was also a distinct feature notable in Mohenjo-Daro and that was the underground furnace and dressing rooms hinting an air of sophistication. Also, this was seen again through their usage of sophisticated system of weights and measures and although it is unclear as to whether that symbolized written-language, some scholars have highlighted that while inscriptions that were seen engraved and symbols on religious possessions may have been there for their own mode of communication, it is not evidence for a fully developed written language.

Also, the Harappans utilized the same size sun-dried bricks and standardized weights as were used in other Indus cities such as Mohenjo-Daro. Material culture and the skeletons from the Harappa cemetery and other sites also testified to a continual intermingling of communities from both the west and the east.

Similarities between Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro transcend mere geographical and infrastructural entities. The civilization's economy appears to have depended significantly on trade, which was facilitated by major advances in transport technology. The Indus River Valley Civilization may have been the first civilization to use wheeled transport, in the form of bullock carts that are identical to those seen throughout South Asia today.

In terms of governance, Mohenjo-Daro was governed as a city-state with no obvious sign of government or evidence of kings or queens. It appears that the Harappan and other Indus rulers governed their cities through the control of trade and religion, not by military might. There were regardless, certain rules or law they abided by such as the preference for modesty, having a certain sense of order and cleanliness were preferred themes they valued.

Art was also a much valued topic by the people of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. They mass-produced pottery with fine designs and made clay figurines that were representative of their own attitudes and reflective of their own background that they came from. There was also clear signs of trade as seen by the seals and weights and even the art, pottery, that they valued was standardized from having tool made of copper and stone.

Seals are one of the most commonly found objects in Harappan cities. They are decorated with animal motifs such as elephants, water buffalo, tigers, and most commonly unicorns. Some of these seals are inscribed with figures that are prototypes to Hindu religious figures as seen today. Ivory, Capis, Carnelian and gold beads and baked-brick city structures symbolized the city’s wealth and stature. However, just as quickly as the entire civilization thrived, it diminished soon after between 1800 and 1700 BCE.

What led to its decline remains a mystery but it is perpetrated that the Aryans supposedly destroyed many ancient cities around 1500 B.C. and this could account for the decline of the Indus civilization. However, the continuity of religious practices makes this unlikely. In addition, more probable explanations for the decline of the Indus Valley civilization have been proposed in recent years; such as climate shifts which caused great droughts around 2200 B.C. that forced abandonment of the Indus cities impelled a westward migration. Recent findings have brought to light that the Sumerian empire declined sharply around this time due to a climate shift that caused major droughts for several centuries. The Harappans being so close to Sumer, would in all probability have been affected by this harsh shift in climate.

Guess what our post is about!

Let’s play a little game. We will describe a scene and you will guess what topic our final blog post is going to be about! Game on!  

It is the year 1964. Ahmed Moussa, an Egyptologist, has just discovered the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum who had been ancient royal servants in an ancient cemetery. In the Palace of King Niuserre during the 5th Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, both Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum had shared the title of Overseer of the Manicurists and as a result, had been buried in their joint tomb. However, was that the only reason? A close inspection of all the tombs in the ancient cemetery showed that this was the only tomb that had images of men embracing and holding hands!

 

Another interesting tidbit would be the names of Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum. Khnumhotep means “joined to the blessed state of the dead” while Niankhkhnum means “joined to life”. A combination of their names therefore, bring about the meaning of “joined in life and joined in death”. They had worked together in life and had been united in death as well. How romantic! Within the tomb, these two men are also depicted in an embracing posture while their noses are touching (which is basically a kiss in ancient Egypt). This is actually the most intimate pose that one can find on Egyptian art!

 

So, have you guessed what we are going to be talking about?

It is about homosexuality in ancient civilisations! As years have gone by, homosexuality has been an increasingly controversial topic that has been debated on a global level. Although the term “homosexuality” had only been invented in the 19th century, homosexual behavior exists in all cultures and has existed in all periods in history. Even in one of our UGC111 classes in the first half of the semester about Greece, homosexuality had been briefly mentioned as something that was the norm amongst men who sought after each other for companionship. Therefore, we decided that we shall expand on that topic and shed more knowledge about homosexuality in Greece.

 

Fun fact: Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum are seen as the first homosexual couple known to mankind!

 

The Ancient view

In Ancient civilisations, homosexual sex had been seen as innocent and safe if it was consensual. Similar to sex between heterosexuals, it was viewed as a symbol of love.

 

Greece

As we had learned in class, men in Greece had seeked companionship with other men which could have been either a friendship or a romantic relationship. However, did you know that there was another term given to homosexuality? “Paiderastia” which meant “boy love” when it had been directly translated was the most common form of homosexual relationship between humans seen in Greece. This was a relationship between two males - one is normally an adult, while another is an adolescent. Slightly disturbing, isn’t it?

 

You may now begin to wonder, ''What was the reason behind this pederasty?'' To give you some context about when this had started, it was actually before the rise of poleis in ancient Greece. The Greeks had been organised according to age groups into different tribal communities and as each male progressed from one age group to the next, he was accompanied by an older man for some time in order to smoothen the transition between age groups which was seen as a rite of passage. The older man would educate his youth about the ways of the Greek life and the responsibilities of adulthood which over time, evolved into pederasty.

 

The rise of poleis further elevated pederasty as instead of leaving the confines of their community, boys began to pair up with older men within their polis who played the usual educational and instructional role that they used to in the tribal communities while sharing a sexual relationship with these boys. You will be relieved to know that this had an age limit; boys had to be above 12. However, no evidence of legal punishments for engaging with boys younger than 12 can be found either. These relationships normally lasted from when a boy was 12 to when he was 17 as males were considered adult men when there is widespread growth of body hair. In Ancient Greece, men who adopted the passive role within a homosexual relationship were often stigmatised and feminised within society and even shamed! Examples of such relationships would be Pausanias of Athens and the tragic poet Agathon as well as Alexander of Macedon and his childhood friend, Hephaestion.

 

Art in ancient Greece also reflected homosexuality. A female poet, Sappho, from the Island of Lesbos had written almost 12,000 lines of love poetry to women and girls and in some cases, her love had not been requited. Sappho and her island have, therefore, become the emblem of love between women, hence, the term ''lesbians''.

Some of you curious readers may like to find out more about homosexuality in other ancient civilisations as well! Other ancient civilisations include Ancient Rome, Ancient Persia, Medieval Europe and Ancient China.

 

Kiki, Shankari, Siti Hafizah