Friday, December 18, 2009

The Names of Hatshepsut as King

The story of Hatshepsut is a fascinating one. Not only did she rule Egypt as a woman, but she did so under the guise of a man. Because of this, according to Gay Robins, she has some of the most interesting names in Egyptian history. There are several names that a King must take upon ascension to the throne; a Horus name, a Nebty name, a Golden Horus name, a first cartouche name, and epithets added to their birth name. Hatshepsut’s names clearly play up the fact that she is a woman but also plays the role of Pharaoh.
Her Horus name is “powerful of the kas” which is a variation on a typical pharaoh name, meaning bull. In this case, it stands for a generic royal name but also signifies nourishment, in that the pharaoh must nourish the people. Her Nebty name is “flourishing of years”, which although not relatively common, has been used in past ruler’s names. Her Golden Horus name is “divine of appearances/manifestations/crowns” which has been used in several names, including Pepy II who has the mascunalized version of Hatshepsut’s name. Her cartouche name is “true one of the ka of Ra” which is a relatively normal name, but has the added aspect of tying Hatshepsut with the goddess Maat, giving Hatshepsut a more divine presence. Lastly, her birth name, Hatshepsut, means “foremost of noble women”. One unique characteristic of this name is that it contains no mention of a deity, which is atypical of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Various parts of Hatshepsut’s names do refer to goddesses in a deliberate attempt to establish her right to rule and be accepted as both a woman and pharaoh.

Another interesting aspect of Hatshepsut’s legacy is that she claimed to be pharaoh by divine right and through an oracle of god. While all pharaohs claim to be divine, most gain their power also through lineage and birthright. Because she was a woman, it was especially important for Hatshepsut to legitimize her rule. There is also an interesting dichotomy when you look at her names in contrast with the images depicting her as a male, with a false beard and traditional male dress. This is important to note, due to the fact that a large portion of the population was illiterate and therefore would only understand visual displays of power. High ranking government officials or educated persons would have most likely been aware already of her sex, therefore her name emphasizes this fact.
This was a particularly hard article to finish reading, mostly because so much of it was about the language of her names and the various meanings and histories behind their inclusion. It was also interesting for this reason, simply because I have never read an article this focused on one particular topic. Just choosing to write on her various names creates a succinct and to the point article, but if you are unfamiliar with the various terms it can be difficult to understand. I understand the scholarly validity of this but as a student, and especially one unfamiliar with the genealogy of Egyptian Pharaoh’s names, I think this article could have been greatly simplified.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tablet Project

For my clay tablet, I tried to re-create this picture, which shows the evolution of various cunieform symbols over time and in different languages

This is a photo of my tablet, sorry for the quality but I had to use my web cam to take it

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Excavation Project Update

                 In researching my topic for our Excavation Project, I had to do a lot of background research on Nefertiti before I could begin to look more in depth into her life and the search for artifacts surrounding her. While there are many sources online and in print about her life and the famous bust, I had to narrow those down to what would actually be useful to my study.
                  One good source I found is a website that spans much of the history of her actual life and the archaeological record that pertains to her. Nefertiti was the wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) and was known around the ancient world as a beautiful woman. She also seemingly had more influence over the kingdom than previous queens as she is depicted in artwork as having almost as much influence as her husband.  Together they shared a special bond and she was the Chief Royal wife. In one eulogy, she is proclaimed as
And the Heiress, Great in the Palace, Fair of Face, Adorned with the Double Plumes, Mistress of Happiness, Endowed with Favors, at hearing whose voice the King rejoices, the Chief Wife of the King, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, May she live for Ever and Always
There is also a great deal of mystery surrounding Nefertiti, including her apparent disappearance from historical records towards the end of Akhenaten’s reign. There has also been many quests to find her mummy, most of which have yielded little to no concrete evidence. That coupled with the everlasting fascination surrounding her famous bust will guarantee that Nefertiti will be a topic of interest for many years to come. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Digging up Deborah

Digging up Deborah presents an interesting view on Old Testament’s women and the role they might have played in everyday life. It can be difficult to place women into a real context when reading the Old Testament. Many scholars have tried to analyze how the Bible relates to real women in ancient Israel. Two authors, Bird and Trible give us two ways of looking at scholarship. Trible focus’s on how stories in the Bible reflect women’s roles and lives, as opposed to Bird who asks what we can learn from the texts about women’s actual lives.
The are three methods for understanding Tible’s work. The first is to be concerned with the received text of the Hebrew Bible, especially Genesis, Exodus, Judges, Samuel and Kings. The second is to focus on women as characters an sometimes focus on women as readers and on the gender bias presented in the Bible. The third is to attempt to interoperate the women characters of the text as we have received it through the analysis of literary structure, grammar, syntax, vocabulary and other writing conventions.
The main problem presented in scholarship of women during this time is that there are very few sources that actually contain information directly about women. Many written sources found focus mainly on military records, politics, or commerce, which would likely include little to none information about women. Archaeology in the Iron II period has also yielded little information about women, as it commonly is focused on urban areas and monumental structures such as temples and palaces. These again are areas that wouldn’t contain much information particularly about women. Iron I has been more village centered historically, but never conducted on the basis of gender or women.
One prominent archaeologist, Carol Meyers, has focused on finding evidence for women in the Bible to put them into context. She states that Israelite women had a relatively high status in the culture and had a potential to gain power. The most female characters appear in the book of Judges, followed by Genesis, such as Achsan, Jael, and Deborah among others. Their roles do coincide with evidence that women participated in religious capacities, helping out with military operations and celebrations afterwards. They were also in charge of household matters and daily finances.
Taking the example of Deborah in Judges 4 and 5 we see her portrayed as a prophet and potentially a military commander. In Judges 4, she delivers the message to Barak who then takes the lead in the battle against Sisera. Judges 5, on the other had, has Deborah actually leading troops on the battlefield. But how can we know which is more accurate? Judges 5 was written approximately around 1100 B.C.E., which was roughly around the same time as the battle actually occurred. Two more examples of women’s importance during Iron II include the Queen of Heaven Cult, in which women baked “cakes” or bread as offerings to the goddess. Also women were the primary weavers of cloth, something important for both commerce and everyday life.

This article was very interesting to me because gender as well as history and archaeology is something that I really enjoy studying. I am by no means an expert in that area, but have found myself in the past being drawn to that area of study in many of my classes. Anytime I get to read about this topic I am always interested to learn that much of the time, not much study has actually been completed. The fact that there has never been an archaeological dig done specifically on women surprises me, but also makes sense considering that you can never tell what you might find. It does seem odd that there isn’t more done after evidence is found at a site that relates to gender that it is not investigated further.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Boats and Sea Peoples

Artzy’s article On Boats and Sea Peoples outlines the studies of the mysterious “Sea People’s” that are mentioned in various sources across the Ancient Near East. In the 14th through the 12th century there are references to a group of people that ravaged the area repeatedly, but there is little evidence as to who these people are or where they came from.  Some of the possible groups include the Sharadan, the Shekelesh, the Danuna, the Teresh, the Plesheset, the Tejeker, and the Weshesh. The most evidence we have about these peoples are the drawings of boats left behind.  One example is an altar found at Tel Akko from around 1200 B.C. that portrays several marks representing ships. There is a possibility that it was a ship’s altar that could have been moved onshore when the ship was docked.
There are four boats depicted on the altar ranging in size and overlapping one another. The ships vary in detail and complexity, especially a “fan” shaped stem that is very peculiar. There are no other examples of this type of “fan” on any other ship during that time period. There are many reasons that the ship might possess this shape, including that it could be of ritual or spiritual importance. It could also be exaggerated from any actual ship’s dimensions. There are some examples of similar types of ships and there are writings about other types of prows shaped like flowers and examples of ships similar made of clay. 
While there is no certainty about where these ships came from of who was actually responsible for them, there are some conjectures that they originated in Cyprus or another group that is unknown. There really aren’t any hard and fast answers about these ships, and there is a likelihood that there never will be. Unless there is evidence found about these cultures or more depictions of these ships found, how can we know for certain?

This was one of the most frustrating articles that I have read so far for this class, mainly because there are no answers about the ships and there is really no conclusion about the article. It mostly goes back and forth suggesting possible solutions and then stating that they don’t have enough evidence to support them or that there is another possibility that could be it instead. This is extremely frustrating to me, because when trying to understand what there is to get out of the article, the less answers there are, the harder it becomes to make any sense of it without being an expert. There are a few other sources mentioned in the article that could have helped to make this more accessible, but unfortunately, I don’t have access to them.
Even regardless of learning more about this topic, I still don’t think that this article offers much for either scholars or students. Without any real information in the article, I can’t imagine what there is to understand about these boats or sea peoples. I understand that it is important to learn more about different groups of people in the ancient world and would love to actually get some answers about these artifacts but that is something that I can’t see happening in the near future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Archaeology and Texts in the Ancient Near East

This reading spoke more about tablets and writings, like we had talked about in past classes but also focused on the important aspect that the Ancient Near East has a great written record, unlike that of many countries, that has survived until present day. This is largely due to the fact that tablets were made out of clay and that the environment in which they were created was very hospitable to their survival. This fact brings out a very interesting point. Not only are tablets that contain texts valuable for the simple reason that they provide us with texts from that time, but also that they are artifacts in and of themselves.
This leads us to the differences between scholars interested in archaeology and scholars interested in languages and ancient writing. Archaeologists are more concerned with the context in which the item was found and what we can learn about the culture as a whole. Because many tablets are found in areas varying from trash heaps to libraries and archives, what an archaeologist can learn from these tablets also varies. This is in contrast to Philologists, who view the inscriptions as the key importance for the tablets. There are a large number of tablets that are put on to the black market, which can lead to problems between these two groups. Philologists often are willing to purchase these tablets, even at the expense of encouraging black market trade, in order to retain the information on the tablets and to keep them safe.

The main issue of this discrepancy is that both communities can be singularly focused on their disciplines and tend to not share information or collaborate in their studies. It astounds me that this hasn’t come to pass at this point, just simply because so much could be learned if the two groups would work together to create new hypothesizes and learn more about the artifacts than either group could do alone. What is the reason that they can't seem to come together? I have no idea but I think that there is no reason not to work together when a greater result can be achieved together. 
This article was interesting, but repeated some of the same information that I had read in the past about cuneiform and writings in the Ancient Near East. While I do enjoy continuing to learn about this subject, the most interesting idea that the article proposed was about the differences in academic study. I can't seem to understand why it would be so hard to work together in an academic study. I understand that everyone wants to focus on their own ideas and perspectives but when an area would greatly benefit from both working together, it doesn't make good sense for the advancement of academics that they would keep working in their separate fields. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Growth of Bureaucracy

The evolution of writing is something that has been debated for years, and while everyone can accept that its creation took place in Mesopotamia at the end of the fourth millennium B.C. there are conflicting ideas about how it began. The two theories are that writing evolved slowly over time or that it was invented quickly by a small number of individuals. Writing was originally intended for accounting purposes, and when looking at how accounts were tallied it becomes clear how writing could have evolved out of counting.

Writing was primarily used for bureaucratic functions at first, then gradually evolving into something that could be used to religious and historical writings. The first kind of record-keeping technology that was developed is a system of tokens. Tokens represented a quantity of goods that were hand molded out of clay or carved out of stone. They can be traced all the way back to the Neolithic period (around 8000 B.C.) and continue in use until around 3000 B.C. and were a part of a concrete numerical system.

The tokens were placed in clay envelopes called bullae that were approximately 5-7 centimeters in diameter and hollow in the center. One of the uses for bullae was that a certain amount of tokens could be placed inside and the bullae sealed. When sent along with an order of cloth or grain, the amount could be verified by breaking the bullae open and checking against the number of tokens. This gradually evolved into making impressions of tokens on the bullae’s surface, and then onto small tablets, thereby rendering the use of tokens unnecessary. This technology also brought about the use of seals in order to authenticate a tablet.

Stamp seals were the first form of seals developed and could identify the person, office or institution that the seal belonged to. They were typically carved out of stone or shell and were of one of two categories: naturalistic (hand-carved) or schematic (worked with drills). Interestingly enough, most seal impressions that have been found were of naturalistic type seals, while most of the seals themselves that have been found are of the schematic type. Also, the type of image on the seal can tell us something about who may have used the seal. Contest motifs are often associated with men, while images of two figures sitting and eating or drinking together are associated with women.

Protocuneiform writing is the precursor to cuneiform and is a mnemonic device, as opposed to a way of communicating speech. At its earliest stages, writing was only distantly similar to spoken language. The earliest examples of writing are from the final centuries of the fourth and beginning of the third millennium, and while the script clearly resembles later cuneiform, it is an earlier form. Most were found in rubbish piles, so there is no context for their usage, however, they are still very important in the study of cuneiform’s evolution. It is an ideographic script, where individual signs can stand for an idea, or combined for additional meanings. Using over 1,200 different signs, but rarely any syntax, many offer no clue as to the language involved.

To think that writing is something we use every day without even thinking, and being able to make others understand what we mean and convey our thoughts into a tangible form, it is crazy to think that someone had to invent it. Of course it makes sense that everything we use today was at some point nonexistent and that someone one day had to have the idea to put symbols to clay to represent the world around them, but learning about it places it into a different context. In the end, does it really matter that we don’t know if writing was a gradual invention, or a product of a small group of dedicated individuals in a short burst of creativity? All that is important is that we, as humans, have the ability to create and bring about new forms of technology and skills, and that we can never take that for granted.

Friday, October 2, 2009

AIA Lecture #1: Underwater Archaeology

I have seen a few movies that portray underwater archaeology and I know that what we see in movies is more often than not a complete fabrication. Knowing that this is the case, I was surprised at how exciting the real life of an underwater archaeologist is. Listening to Eric Wartenweiler Smith, professional diver and underwater explorer, speak about his experiences in Egypt, the Philippines, Florida, and all over the world. Through out the talk, he spoke about the discovery of Cleopatra’s palace which he was involved in, the lost city of Heraklion, and shipwrecks all over the world. Most of the readings we have done in class and general knowledge about archaeology focus mainly on sites and artifacts found on land and under ground. But of course it seems obvious that over the years, through both shipwrecks and movement of the earth that a great number of artifacts are laying just beneath the waves. Taking Alexandria as an example, the movement of tectonic plates and gradual sinking of the sea floor has created a veritable treasure trove of artifacts. The sea floor is completely covered in amphora and in some areas not even 15 feet deep artifacts can be found that haven’t seen the surface in over 2,000 years.

Some of the most interesting things that Smith spoke about were new technology that has been developed to scan for underwater artifacts. Metal detectors, and submarines have long been used for underwater exploration, but as technology as progressed over the years, scanning has become more advanced and the use of computers has put most of the information into digital format. One of Smith’s most recent ventures is being a part of Aqua Survey Inc. a company that uses technology to develop better metal detectors and scanners. Their “mud sled” is able to find objects buried nearly four and half feet deep in clay. Not only can it be used for archaeology purposes, but also to find bombs and mines that were discarded over the years and can pose a threat to people and the environment.

I have never before wanted to try scuba diving, and really haven’t spent much time under the water, with the exception of a few snorkeling trips. Seeing how these divers worked and what they could accomplish for the first time made me curious about diving for the first time. Learning about all the equipment and techniques of salvage and restoration of the artifacts was interesting, as was learning about the risks of diving. I would never have guessed that statues had to be soaked in fresh water for years before they could be displayed. Division of goods and findings was also fascinating. To hear that in some countries they expect 50% of all findings and that others allow you to show the artifacts but return them to their native land created a whole new perception for me about treasure hunting and archaeology.

Sitting in the auditorium, I barely wanted to take notes on the lecture. All I wanted to do was to sit and listen to his stories about the amazing things he has discovered during his career. The slideshow of pictures took my breath away. Crystal clear images of ancient Egyptian artifacts; a perfectly preserved stella, a sphinx that has stood guard at Cleopatra’s sanctuary since being washed off her island years ago. It is amazing that after so many years that these objects haven’t been obliterated by the surf, sand, or the countless boats that use the harbor. These discoveries have only come to the surface in the past twenty years, and with continuing advances in technology we can guarantee that more are sure to come.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Real Story of Nazi Eqyptology

I found the link to the article “The Real Story of Nazi Egyptology” on one of the Jack Sasson mailings. It interested me for many reasons but mainly that I had never thought of the Nazi’s interest in Egypt. Other than the Indiana Jones movies, mentioned in fact in this article, and my limited knowledge of the Nazi obsession with the Aryan race and looking for its origins, I had no idea that a great deal was done in the field of archaeology by the Nazis during the thirties and up until the end of the Second World War. The article is about Thomas Schneider, a professor at the University of British Columbia, who is in the process of examining this time in history and writing a manuscript.

Prior to the rise of Hitler, Germany had been known as a respected figure in Egyptology and even had an archaeological institute based in Cairo. Some famous figures in this field were Adolf Erman who helped to “unravel the grammar of Egyptian writing”, Ludwig Brochart who discovered the famous bust of Nefertiti, and Heinrich Schafer who made huge steps forward in understanding Egyptian art. Many American Egyptologists also trained in Germany, including the inspiration for Indiana Jones himself, James Henry Breasted.
One of Professor Schneider’s main points in this study is to show that the Nazis that were involved in archaeology during this time were in no way uniform in their studies or activities. One example is Helmut Berve, a professor or ancient history at University of Leipzig, who questioned the right of Egyptology to exist at all, saying that “Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Germany will automatically focus on the peoples akin to us in terms of race and mind; Egyptology and Assyriology will recede into the background,” transposing the ideals of Aryan thought into the study of the ancient world. Walther Wolf, another pro-Nazi Egyptologist who defended the study by saying that the ruling of Pharaoh can be likened to the way Hitler ruled over Germany and it’s conquests.

On the other side was anti-Nazi Alexander Scharff, who was one of the chairs of Egyptology at the University of Munich. He openly criticized Wolf’s work and contested that you could not use the “lens of Nazism” to critique or defend Egyptology because the two are completely unrelated. Despite his criticisms, he was actually able to keep his job throughout the war. George Steindorff was another prominent Egyptology professor, who also happened to be Jewish. He was forced to quit his positions and flee to America to escape from being placed in a concentration camp.

The Nazis also controlled the former German Archaeological Institute base, which operated until the beginning of the war in 1939. Professor Schneider believes that during that time, the Nazis used the base to advance themselves in the Middle East. The head of the institute, Hermann Junker, continued to excavate during the war and was a Nazi supporter. He focused most of his time excavating the Great Pyramids at Giza and worked primarily without direction from Hitler or any other Nazi officials. There is a lot of speculation, however that the base’s use was not confined to solely archaeological purposes, and that Junker often received Nazi guests and spread Nazi propaganda.

As far as the leader of the Nazis, Hitler, it is hard to say what is primary interest in Egyptology was. Professor Schneider did find a photo however of an Ancient Egyptian Art expedition in Berlin, 1938, with Hitler sitting in the front row. Hitler was also particularly interested in the bust of Nefertiti and refused to have it be returned to Cairo. In his great scheme for a transformed Berlin, Germania, Hitler planned to place the bust in a museum along side one of himself.

As Professor Schneider states, “This was, what I think, a decisive turning point in the international history of Egyptology,” and I after reading this piece I don’t think anyone could argue. Germany lost much of its academic credibility after this era, and lost some of its greatest contributors, such as Steindorff. This continues to affect Germany today and who knows what German academics could have accomplished had they not been disrupted by Nazism. It always surprises me how academic pursuits can be twisted and morphed into something entirely different by government or social influence. Especially after choosing to study Nefertiti for my excavation project, I am amazed at the history of her famous bust and Hitler’s fascination of it. I will most definitely have to look further into German Archaeology for that project, something I really hadn’t considered previously.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Response Paper #2: How Were Artifacts Made, Used, and Distributed?

It seems simple to say that artifacts make up the bulk of discoveries by archaeologists, but when you consider how fragile and small some of these artifacts are, it is amazing that we have any record of them at all. What’s more amazing is to consider that these items were crafted long before the use of complicated manufacturing techniques with relatively primitive tools. In our quest to understand ancient peoples and how they lived, worked and died, it is very important to study these artifacts, how they were made and used and when they were created.

An interesting point the author makes about artifacts prior to going into the rest of the chapter is that what we find may not be actually representative of how important the artifact was in the time of it’s use. One example is that during the Paleolithic period, most of the artifacts that have survived are made of stone, but there were most certainly tools made of wood and bone that were just as important. The author also expands on the knowledge we can gain by looking at artifacts. By using the artifacts to learn about the migration of goods and tools, we can make guesses about the trading habits of certain cultural groups, which lead us to know more about their economic systems and transportation.

As far as the types of artifacts found, there are two main classes – unaltered, such as flints, and synthetic, which were molded by human activity such as metal. The first recognizable tools were made out of stone around 2.5 million years ago and until the invention and widespread use of pottery, stone was the predominant material used. Through finding quarries and mines we can tell how the stone was removed and what kind of material was found. How tools were created also helps us to place them into a certain time period, as tooling methods evolved over time to become more efficient and complex. Another of the unaltered materials sometimes found is wood, although it takes a certain environment for the material to survive. Wood was a very important commodity for ancient cultures, and in fact many of the stone and bone tools made were for the harvesting of lumber. In a dry climate such as Egypt we have been able to find all sorts of materials that are wood-based including farming tools, furniture, toys, carpentry tools and even wooden ships. Waterlogged woods also can tell us much about woodworking techniques and how the artifacts were used. Plant and animal fibers are classified as unaltered materials but are very rare do to their fragile nature, especially from early periods.

Synthetic materials and their creation is strongly dependant on the use and control of fire, called pyrotechnology. The most important of these artifacts is clearly pottery, just due to the amount of it that has been discovered throughout the years and the differences that each culture puts into their clay work. From figurines to wine containers and bowls, almost every ancient culture produced pottery which also coincides with the settling down of cultures into villages and a more permanent lifestyle. Another prominent synthetic artifact is metal. The use of metals shows how human technique evolved over time, moving from working with copper and expanding to alloying and using bronze and other metals. Analyzing these artifacts in the lab allows us to see what kinds of metals were used and what techniques were employed in its creation.

While the article goes on to explain how these artifacts were used, I am more interested in their creation. What went through the creator’s mind when he first made a tool out of flint? These are some of the earliest pieces of evidence in the world of human discoveries that have affected the entire course of life afterwards. If that first person hadn’t created that tool or hadn’t figured out how to combine metals to create a stronger more durable metal then what could have been changed? It is so fascinating that these first tools have survived and we can still look at them today and see the creation of something new.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Response Paper #1: What is the Ancient Near East?

While reading Marc Van De Mieroop’s A History of the Ancient Near East, I was surprised at how little I really understood about the Near East. Even the definition, something I had always assumed meant the Middle East or simply Mesopotamia, was not what I had expected going into this reading. Mieroop designates the Near East as “the region from the Aegean coast of Turkey to central Iran, and from Northern Anatolia to the Red Sea” and defining Mesopotamia as only a part of the Near East, abet the most important and documented of the areas (1).

I had also never considered that the evidence of past civilizations found in Mesopotamia and the surrounding areas was so important because written word had only recently been discovered (around 3000 BC), providing us with great amounts of evidence about how the people there lived and died. Writing in this area has survived in great numbers. From stone monuments documenting the achievements of kings to clay tablets, the preferred method of documentation in this area, have remained for us to find after all these years. Texts range from “the mundane receipt of a single sheep to literary works such as the Epic of Gilgamesh,” and due to the dry soil of the region, preservation was relatively easy (4). I had never thought about how this might contrast with other cultures that used papyrus and parchment, relatively fragile materials, and how this affects our understanding of the cultures.

Another point made by Mieroop is that we have “only scratched the surface” of the archeological sites in the Near East during the 150 or so years that excavation has been taking place. When I tend to think of areas in the Ancient world that are famous for their ruins or structures, I usually consider Egyptian, Roman and Greek first. While this may be a naive view, I tend to feel that many of the major discoveries in those areas have already been made, or are at least underway just due to the greater amount of traffic and archeological study in those areas that I have read about in the past. The Near East presents a whole new wealth of knowledge that I had never even thought about in much detail. If there are thousands of uncovered sites left to explore, what’s to say that some of the most important discoveries in mankind’s history aren’t still beneath the dirt?

Something that I had heard about, however, was how war and the gradual closing off of the Middle East to western scientists, let alone all westerners who weren’t there for military duty, had effected archeology in this area. Not just considering the sites left to be discovered, but the destruction and looting of artifacts from museums in Iraq and other areas that have gone through wars and the complete destruction of sites, whether deliberate or by accident. This is cultural information that will never be regained, something that is so terrible and unnecessary. This has forced archaeologists to move to different areas of the Near East, mainly to the outlying areas of northern Syria and southern Turkey. Just from my perspective, while it is great that we still have access to some areas, losing the “heartland of Mesopotamia” because of war and internal conflicts is such a loss. That cultural heritage is something everyone should be able to access to, or at least the experts of that field should be able to go and learn what they can from something that could be lost forever.

When I first signed up for this course, I really wasn’t sure what the Near East was going to entail. After reading this chapter, I have a more concrete idea and more insight in to the benefits and problems with researching and exploring this area. I also have a better understanding of what could be found and what its purpose might have been, for example the structures of homes and how their size, placement, and even shape show us what was going on at that time with family structure and cultural shifts. The simple shift to a more rectangular structure from the previous round hints at a new social hierarchy and the evolution of specialized rooms. Taking that into context and the fact that the Near East is the presumed start of many of societies greatest discoveries such as agriculture and irrigation makes this an area of great importance in studying the evolution of mankind. Mieroop states his most important opinion in the introduction as well, that the “ancient Near East provides us the first cultures in human history which true and detailed historical research can take place, ” once again outlining its importance to world history and proving this is a place worth knowing (7).