Posted: September 4th, 2013
Origins of Civilization ANTHRO ARCHEO
The first age of modern civilization may seemingly have emerged from no established location. Archeologists normally have a knack of dismissing any evidence that may appear contrary to their theories. However, myths emanating from diverse parts of the world seem to give evidence of numerous common events. These pieces of evidence indicate that ancient communities were advanced societies were advanced forms of culture (Willis, 18). However, the progress of this developing civilization was halted by dire calamity. The result was scattered remnant pieces of its legacy in various world locations. Indeed, evidence suggests that the above scenario may have occurred more than once and consequently eradicating more than one developing civilization. The location of Sumer was in the Southern region of Mesopotamia. Sumerians are regarded as one of the earliest civilizations in history and statistics agree that they qualified to earn the status of a civilized society, based on archeological and anthropogenic evidence (Willis, 36).
The Sumerian society was one that had developed to embrace the art of pottery and archeology was able excavate remaining dishes, bowls, and vases from this civilization. The Sumerian civilization was so developed that it either incorporated artistic ideas into pottery by molding vases that had were flat or had stands, and others were found to bear spouts. Additionally, evidence suggests that the Sumerian civilization was popular with music and was considered a fundamental part of their civic and religious life. Even though the Sumerian culture was male dominated, the women in this society were of higher status compared to women of other societies.
In the Sumerian society, religion was deemed intricate in their daily lives. The largest structure in the Sumerian city was the temple and was considered the most important structure. Every city in Sumeria was bestowed a patron deity who were mandated with the task of overseeing religious sessions in the society. The temple in the city served several purposes including education and worship (Willis, 52). Each temple was constructed together with education centers where students were taught scribbling and mathematics. Mathematics involved minor skills such as addition and subtraction, and multiplication was a more challenging feat at the time, but was still taught.
The Sumerian society was adherent to the caste system that comprised amelu, mushkinu, and lowly slaves. The amelu were at the highest rank in this society followed in the order of mushkinu, and slaves. The amelu comprised government officials, priests and professional soldiers. The mushkinu were the middle class citizens of the Sumerian society who comprised laborers, shopkeepers, merchants, and farmers. This class was the largest among the three. This society was characterized by large disparities between the poor and the rich. However, unlike many other societies at the time, the poor in the Sumerian society were fortunate to own livestock and land (Willis, 65).
Slavery was accepted in the Sumerian society and slaves formed the lowest part of the caste system. Slaves in this society normally resulted from war prisoners, born into slavery, or one could become a slave as a means of settling a debt. Slaves min this society had the capability of borrowing money, owning property, could buy their freedom. A family in this society had the freedom of selling a member of their family into slavery. Archeological evidence suggested that slaves in this society did not pose negative stigma.
The Sumerian society considered the Law as an integral part to controlling their civilization. The Sumerian society was adept to writing and thus every civil life aspect was recorded on tablets through lighting. The tablets were a representation of evidence whenever there was legal dispute. The verification of these records was done through cylinder seals. Archeological evidence concluded that the cylinder seals were constructed from small gems and were decorated with battles scenes and mythical beasts. Legal disputes were handled through defined course actions in the Sumerian society (Willis, 74. Prior to the matter reaching the court, significant action was taken to quell the dispute. The Sumerians civilization is considered the originator of the first set of written laws. The laws are referred to as the Ur-Nammu code. These laws were designed to offer solidity in the society as well as protecting the poor, orphans, widows, and the weak against the rich and powerful.
The ancient Mayan civilization is evidenced to have located the eastern region of Mesoamerica. The Mayan culture is thought to be contrary to what current beliefs suggest. Rather than one unified empire, the Mayan civilization was established to resemble separate multitude entities but had similar cultural backgrounds. Similar to the Sumerian civilization, the Mayan society was religious and art oriented, but had a more political sovereign state. The Mayan civilization comprised twenty states. On rare occasions, were accorded the opportunity of acquiring a ruling position but would not be granted the ‘mah kina’ supreme title
The Mayan civilization is established to have developed an elaborate writing system that was mainly used to record the power of transition of power in the Mayan civilization. Writing in the Mayan society was recorded through inscriptions on wood and stone and was used in architecture. It is notable the Sumerian society was less advanced in their writing than the Mayan society (Willis, 102). The Mayan society went on to establish laws through their development in writing. The Mayan civilization however was creative enough to create folding books from trees. These books however did not survive the tropical humidity in the Mayan region nor the invasion by the Spanish.
Apparently, unlike the Sumerian system, nepotism was the prevailing order of transferring power in the Mayan society running from the ruling class to priesthood. New kings were normally chosen under the primogeniture as leadership authority was passed from father to son. After an heir to the throne was born, the King would draw his own blood as a form of thanksgiving and sacrifice to the ancestors. When a new king was inaugurated, a human sacrifice was made. This is yet another difference with the Sumerian civilization, which was governed by civil laws protecting every individual, especially the poor. The Mayan civilization primarily involved a society where the citizens were either rich and powerful, or the lowly citizens. This is quite contrary to the Sumerian society that implemented a caste system that divided its citizens into the amelu, mushkinu, and lowly slaves.
Just like the Sumerian civilization, the Mayan society reflected their culture and lifestyle through art. The art was done through painting and delineation on plaster and paper. Carvings were also made on clay, stone, and wood, including terra cotta molds. The Mayan society went a step ahead of the Sumerian culture to develop metalworking at a time when other resources became scarce. Just like the temple in the Sumerian society, the Mayan civilization was adept with construction and constructed the hieroglyphic stairway in Copan. The stairway is still standing to date (Willis, 123). In contrast, the two civilizations are indeed marveling judging by their innovations and the period of their breakthrough. This is in consideration of the other civilizations in the same era, which were less developed, compared to these two societies.
Willis, Laurie J, and Lior Taylor. Early Civilizations: Fact Cards. Milpitas, CA: Toucan Valley Publications, 2008. Print.
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