Saturday 26 March 2016

People Of The Jaguar

The first great civilization of Mesoamerica and South America rivaled those of Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt and China. In Mesomerica, the Olmecs  established a blueprint for later cultures in the region. At the heart of Olmec belief was jaguar-worship, which they shared with their South American counterparts.

One of the first cities in the Americas was Caral, 125 miles north of modern Lima. The city, which was well established by c.2500 BC, included pyramid structure built around the same time as those at Giza, Egypt.

Caral Excavations 

The years between about 1500 and 900 BC saw first real stirrings of modern advanced civilization in Mesoamerica - the Olmecs. They established themselves in the humid, fertile lowlands of South Mexico.

The first important Olmec center was San Lorenzo which was at it's height between 1200 and 900 BC and had a population of around 1,000. The other important Olmec center was La Venta which lasted between 900 and 400 BC.

The Olmecs are famed for their huge stone head sculptures, which were up to several meters tall and about 20 tons in weight. With distinctive flattened features, they are probably connected with Olmec gods.

Giant head sculptures 

To the south, the Peruvian Chavin culture began to develop in the Andes region around 1000 BC, and then along a great strip of Peruvian coast. Chavin de Huantar was a major cultural center.

Several well preserved panels depicting jaguars - important in Andean culture as well as Mesoamerican- have been found at  Chavin de Huantar. They would have surrounded the impressive main plaza of this interesting site,

Chavin jaguar imagery

Maya culture arose from Native American settlements in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and Central America. Significant early developments were taking place around 600 BC, and the culture had established itself by around 200 BC.

Chavin culture was declining by 200 BC but the jaguar remained important to the Maya culture, and also to the much later Aztecs.

Friday 18 March 2016

Town Planning

Four thousand year after agriculture began, many farming villages in southwest Asia had grown into towns with over a thousand inhabitants. In southern Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere, a few strategically placed communities became towns with neighborhood, public buildings and sacred precincts.

Life in early town was unsanitary and chaotic with people living at close quarters.

The Wheel originated in 5th century BC and is believed to have developed from potter's wheel.

The First Wheel

Uruk was earliest Mesopotamian town developed between 4,800 BC and 3,800 BC. It had an area of 620 acres and a population of Five thousand.

Eridu was another early town, close to Uruk which was the dwelling place of Enki, goddess of abyss.

First Egyptian Ruler - King Horus Aha often called Menes became the first ruler of a unified Egypt in about 3,000 BC. He assumed the role of divine king, the living god Horus on Earth.

Early Sumerian and Egyptian rulers ruled by precedent( using decision of their predecessors rather than written laws), gave limited public appeared and lived in seclusion.

Thursday 17 March 2016

Egypt in Order And Chaos

Over 100 years of uncertainty and lack of centralized control followed the collapse of Old Kingdom of Egypt. However, order and glory was restored once again with the great Middle kingdom and New kingdom eras, which were themselves separated by another period of some disorder.

At the collapse of the Old Kingdom of Egypt an unsettled time known as First Intermediate period began which lasted from 2180 BC till 2040 BC. Egypt saw civil war, drought and famine, and oppression by local tyrants.

In the 11th Dynasty, Theban king, Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II (c.2060 - 2010 BC), defeated his rivals from Heraklepolis, central Egypt. He reunified Egypt so took it into the Middle Kingdom era.

 Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II

The Middle Kingdom lasted from the 11th dynasty till the 13th dynasty(c.2040 BC - 1730 BC).

Powerful figures called viziers, as depicted by this 12th Dynasty statue, headed the administration of the Middle Kingdom. In the New Kingdom one took control in Lower Egypt and another in Upper Egypt.
A 12th Dynasty Vizier

The Middle Kingdoms's stability dissolved when local governors pushed for more power. Civil war brought about another unsettled era - the Second Intermediate period(c.1730 - 1550 BC; late Dynasties 13 to 17).

Egypt was reunited under pharaoh Amose I  and the New Kingdom(c.1550 - 1069 BC; Dynasties 18 to 20) began.This era is often seen as the time of glorious "empire", with a militaristic, nationalistic outlook and heights of wealth and power.

The New Kingdom was an age of spectacular architecture and art. The lavish tomb contents of the pharaoh Tutankhamun(c.1336-1327 BC) were interred and the monumental buildings and statues of Rameses II(c.1279 - 1213 BC) were erected.

Amenophis IV(1352 - 1336  BC) took sun worship to extremes, bending his kingdom to cult of Aten - worship of sun's disk alone - and renaming himself Akhenaten in honor of his beliefs. His wife Nefertiti seems to have taken a prominent role her husband's rule.

Nefertiti and Akhenaten

Egypt's New Kingdom became a vast empire and difficult to manage. Late in the 20th Dynasty central authority again gave way to destabilization - the Third Intermediate era(c.1069 - 664 BC).

The Third Intermediate period lasted from Dynasty 21 to 25, for over 400 years and saw a complex mixture of foreign control and Egyptian independence. Native pharaohs in upper Egypt gave way to period of Libyan control. Lower Egypt split into many separate regions.
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