Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mesopotamian's Environment

Conner Lewis, World History 4 10/1/14
Thoughts and Reflections On: Cadillac Desert
Article by Marc Reisney

Mesopotamian Environment Change
The Mesopotamians lived in the Fertile Crescent, between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, which is a great place for farming. However the Mesopotamians did not live within the confines of their environment because they used irrigation to allow for crops to grow even when rain did not come. Irrigation allows for a good harvest to be mostly ensured, because even if a drought occurs they can rely on water coming from the nearby water source through their canals. It also keeps soil healthy because the nutrients needed for soil to keep plants alive is brought and absorbed into the soil from the canals. Mesopotamians such as the Sumerians allowed for safer farming through irrigation but they also allowed for farming to occur in places it otherwise wouldn't have and on a much grander scale. Instead of being forced to farm along rivers and in very fertile areas, they could dig canals and irrigate land they wished to use. This meant even more land was viable. Irrigation also allowed for farming to occur over much larger areas because since more land could be kept fertile, a farmer could own larger amounts of land instead of small sets of fields along natural streams and rivers.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Digital Scrapbook Entry #2 - Agrarian Era

Author: The World Religions & Spirituality Project
Author: Zachary Beauchamp
                                                       Religion and Empire
The Sassanid Empire
The invention and use of irrigation is what most historians believe to have led to the creation of cities and eventually states. The manpower and organization needed to successfully create and maintain irrigation systems is very large, however because farming with irrigation allows for such high crop yield most populations turned to it. The use of irrigation leads to food surplus since agriculture is much more efficient at producing large quantities of food. This food surplus leads to both population growth and specialization of labor. The growth of population means tension and disagreement also rise as people grow less and less attached and connected to everyone within the community. This, along with the specialization of labor, leads to the creation of organized religion. Religion allows for people within a community to feel connected with others of their religion, which leads to much less rivalries and unrest. In this way religion was a necessity to keep early civilization from crumbling from the inside. The creation of cities then leads to the creation of nations and states as cities begin to conquer nearby cities and as they begin to grow in influence and power. Naturally as the cities gain more land and people, they spread their beliefs and religion to the population they now control. Before long, these fledgling states start growing until they form large empires covering hundreds of miles of land. Again, they continue to spread their original religion, until the religion has been forced on so many people that it becomes large enough to be called a world religion. In this way the success of the religion is based in most part with the success of the city or nation it belongs to. The success or failure of the state will directly affect the religion, at least initially. An example of this is the Sassanid Empire. Along with the Achaemid Empire, the Sassanid Empire grew and spread Zoroastrianism. However upon the collapse of the Sassanid Empire, the Rashidun Caliphate rose to power in the Middle East. The Rashidun Caliphate was a Muslim state, and after rising to power Islam replaced Zoroastrianism as the prominent religion in the area.
Current ISIS holdings: Red
Claims: pink
Uncontrolled/Unclaimed: White
Although the empires of the Agrarian age have fallen and been replaced, many of the religions still exist, and they are just as tied to nations as ever. A perfect example of this is the ever growing organization ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, is an unrecognized state which has been gaining traction in the Middle East. The main area which they contend over is found within Iraq and Syria. They are an extremist sect of the Islamic faith which is attempting to reform the caliphate, which is an Islamic state ruled by a leader who is the head of both the empire and the Muslim faith. The last caliphate with any power was dissolved when President Ataturk of the Ottoman Empire reformed the government in 1924 and abolished the institution. ISIS follow Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They wish to restore the Sunni Caliphate as well as abolish other religions and beliefs from the Middle East. If fact much of the reason for ISIS' existence is that they are a Sunni organization, and they often fight to take land from the Shia Muslims, whom they believe to be heretics. Many believe the faith and thoughts of ISIS are not that of most Muslims, and many disagree with their actions.Currently ISIS is classified as a foreign terrorist organization by the US, UK, Australia, and Canada.
Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdad

The organization of ISIS is a perfect example of how religion still follows expansion of states the way it did during the Agrarian Era, however with several twists. Both times the belief of a state has been forced upon the people it has conquered, whether that be peacefully or not. It is important to note however, that the religion being force upon conquered peoples may not be different fundamentally, but the way it is practiced is. For example when ISIS forces its religion upon Shiite Muslims, it is spreading its particular beliefs, and even though Shiite Muslims believe in Muhammad as well, what exactly they believe in and how they go around practicing is different. This is important because even though most the Middle East is Islamic, ISIS is still spreading it's particular views. It is also very likely that if ISIS and Caliph Abu Bakr fall, the particular beliefs of ISIS will, for the most part, dissipate with it. This is speculated because most of the Islamic community has shown their disagreement with ISIS, and so when ISIS falls, their personal beliefs on Islam will fall as well.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why Pork is Really Tabooed

Conner Lewis, World History 4 9/22/14
Thoughts and Reflections On: Pork Lovers and Pork Haters
Article by Marvin Harris

Why Pork is Actually Tabooed
Many people have come up with a variety of explanations of why the consumption of pork is tabooed in religions such as Judaism and Islam. The earliest explanation believed that pigs were quite literally dirty animals. They believed it was unclean as it wallowed and ate its own filth. This is proven as inconsistent and incorrect because many other animals such as cows, dogs and chickens eat excrement as well. Also on the basis that they look unclean, the Bible states that locusts and grasshoppers are clean, which to most would appear strange and many would not agree. Another reason given was by Moses Maimonides during the early Renaissance. He believed that the ban on pigs was given as a public safety matter, and that a pigs meat could be damaging on the human body. He never stated how or why it was damaging on the human body, but people accepted this belief nonetheless. Another reason given was that in the mid 1800’s, it was found that uncooked pork could cause trichinosis. However this was later rebuked because many stated if the reason for the taboo on pork was that it was under cooked, surely Yahweh would have just stated to cook their pork well, not ban it altogether. It is also now known that many domesticated animals spread disease, so a ban on just pork would seem unreasonable. The final reason given was a very mystical and spiritual approach, many stating that the taboo was just something to follow, and that they should not try to decipher Yahweh's intent. Another reason given by Sir James Frazer states that many ethnic groups and religions in the Middle East hold the pig sacred, so this was simply that belief being conformed to by the Bible. However many other animals, such as the cow, are sacred in the Middle East as well, and they are not mentioned in the taboo.
The true reason for banning the consumption of pigs is that during the time before the Hebrew’s conquest of the Jordan Valley, they were nomadic pastoralists living between Mesopotamia and Egypt. The terrain of the areas between these two river valleys was very rugged and mountainous, and only suitable for some domesticated animals. The animals they kept tended to be sheep, goats and cows, who could survive in terrain as harsh as the Hebraic homes. Pigs on the other hand, are not suited for such dry and arid environments, mainly due to their inability to graze the flat plains which other domesticated animals do. They mainly live in shaded forests and rivers, and they consume the same foods people do. Their main source of nutrition is grain, making them a contender for the resource which humans need. It also cannot maintain a very stable body temperature in such a hot environment, due to its inability to sweat, and its lack of wool which sheep use to keep the sun off. This makes it a large hassle to keep them at good and stable conditions, especially for nomadic peoples. They also cannot create byproducts such as milk or wool and are very difficult to move in herds. The rise in population and overuse of fields also made pigs even more difficult to raise. This made pigs a commodity and luxury, as they were very tasty to humans due to their fatty bodies, making more people desire to raise them. The reason for the ban on pork was the need to stop people from attempting to raise pigs in a condition absolutely unsuitable for them. It was inefficient and harmful for both the environment and humans.

This is an environmental issue because the reason for banning pigs was to stop farmers and nomadic peoples from attempting to change the environment and make it suitable for raising and maintaining pigs. It was also a large waste of time seeing as the cost to keep the pig healthy in such a different environment from its natural habitat was much larger than that of goats and cows. It was considered a delicacy because of how rare it was, tempting people to go against what was suitable in their environment and raise a foreign animal. The Middle East is one of the worst environments for pigs, however human desires tend to override common sense and reasoning. This is why Yahweh and Allah had to step in and put a stop to the inefficient and foolish endeavor.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Digital Scrapbook Entry #1 - Hunters and Gatherers

Author: Matt J. Rossano
Author: Ainu Museum Porotokotan
                      Ancient and Modern Totemism, Animism, and Shamanism

  Throughout the Paleolithic era, homo sapiens sapiens were developing their technology and improving their understanding of the world. Nearly all of what we now know as common fact was unknown and they had no way of explaining many things in their world because they lacked the proper equipment and knowledge. This meant they had to explain their world in other ways, and so many gained over time specific beliefs about their world around them based on what they saw. Many believed everything had a spirit or god associated with it, from the sky to the smallest rocks. This is called totemism, and is the belief that any and all things are living, in that they have a soul, or a god in command of them. Forms of totemism also believe that each human is connected to another spirit, and this is their totem animal. It is believed that many totemists explained things through magic, such as fire. Others developed beliefs that specific people could contact spirits and deceased. This is shamanism,  the belief that certain people, shamans, could contact the spirit world, which held special power. Shamanism came during the Upper Paleolithic Era, nearing the end of the age. Animism is another form of belief which appeared, with many traits relating to totemism, such as that everything has a spirit. They also believed that natural forces had spirits, such as that there was a spirit of fertility, and other natural forces. One must understand that though they were classified under the same name, tribal beliefs could vary wildly from others, often mixing and combining beliefs from all three categories. These religions were also not recorded so much of what we know comes from old totems or statues found through archaeology.  These beliefs were also very fluid, changing as the cultures and beliefs of the group associated with it changed.
  Some modern day societies still hold on to these beliefs and practice their ways even with the creation and expansion of organized religions and belief systems such as Christianity. One prime example of totemism in the modern world are the Ainu people of modern day Japan. The Ainu are a culture native to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and the northern tip of the Japanese mainland, Honshu. They believe that everything beyond their control is a "kamuy" or god, and these gods vary wildly from each other. Some are gods of nature and natural forces, such as fire or thunder. Some are animal or plant gods. Interestingly, some of the gods are manmade objects, such as boats and pots. Other kamuy included the gods who protect houses and the gods of lakes. Ainu, in their language, means human. It also means the opposite of the kamuy. The Ainu performed many ceremonies and rituals to please the gods, some such ceremonies involved offering young bears, who were believed to be kind kamuy in disguise, which were captured during winter and sending them back to "kamuy moshir", or the Eastern Heaven. There are also evil or malevolent kamuy, who seek to harm humanity. They are blamed for things such as famine, disease, or just whenever things are not beneficial. To ward against them magical rituals are performed as protection. These rituals are usually performed by elders, who lead the ceremonies. One such evil god was "pakorkamuy", or smallpox, who was considered particularly evil. This is most likely because of how harmful smallpox was when the Europeans brought it to Japan.
Just like the Era of Foragers, much of the Ainu's religion had to do with diverse spirits in control of all aspects of life. They both mix and matched aspects from all three belief systems to create one that fits their culture, landscape, or ideology. The Ainu believed all things had spirits, similar to animists, but they also believed that everything had a kamuy related to it, which is similar to totemism. Also the Ainu took traits from shamanism, with their belief that elders held a special power or at least were more capable of leading rituals, much like shamans. Both groups use their beliefs to explain events and natural occurrences, such as disease and fertility. It is very surprising to see the belief system survive as nearly all other systems similar to have long since died out and gives historians a perfect specimen to study. Much like how historians study modern foragers to glean information on the past lifestyle, they examine present day totemists such as the Ainu to understand how foragers connected themselves to explained the world around them.

Monday, September 8, 2014

How and Why Man Invented Cities

Conner Lewis, World History 4                                                             9/9/14
Thoughts and Reflections On: How Man Invented Cities
Article by John Pfiffer

                                          How and Why Man Made Civilization
Man created cities through a series of events. The gathering of people near coasts and marshes to hunt the fish and fowl that had appeared in new places from the flood caused higher concentrations of people in less area. The lack of a nomadic lifestyle caused miscarriages to grow fewer in number, leading to an even higher population. To support this population on the rise people resorted to agriculture, which completely stopped people from being nomads, because it forced them to tend to one area of crops. This gathering of people around farms and lush areas led to villages, which grew to towns, which then grew to cities since the massive food surplus and population growth meant it kept expanding. Man invented cities all around the world, from Central America, to the Yellow River in China, to Mesopotamia. The first cities however, appeared in the Susiana Plain, which is found in modern day Iran, at about 6000 BC. Man invented cities in order to house and feed the rising population. Many people stayed near the areas which had been flooded, and wanted to stay there since there was easy meals. The large population could only be supported by a plentiful and reliable source of food. The source they chose was agriculture. Agriculture can feed the new population but in order to do so it requires a large workforce. Irrigation requires centralization and organization to keep the canals clear and that requires people who just manage the workforce. This all developed into cities full of farmers and aristocrats. That is why man invented cities.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Man's Cities Discussion Questions

1.  Did affluent foragers force agriculture upon themselves by not moving so much, so there were less miscarriages and so they over foraged the nearby area, making agriculture a necessity?
2.  Were hierarchies inevitable in a flourishing city or was it possible for a more socialist society to appear and take shape without an initial capitalist state?
3. Did the belief thatt hunter and gatherers had to work very hard for their food stem from the surplus agriculture gave people, and the belief agriculture was the only way to make enough food to survive?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How Man Spent Time + Discussion Questions

Conner Lewis, World History 4                                                         9/5/14
Thoughts and Reflections On: This Fleeting World Chapter 1
Book by David Christian
Published by: Berkshire Publishing Group
Published: 2007
                                                     How Man Spent Most Time
Man has spent nearly all of his time on the earth foraging in a nomadic, or at least partly nomadic, lifestyle. They gathered resources from nature and had to continue moving in order to find fresh food sources. While some were much less nomadic than others, with several places they returned to often, they were all nomadic to some degree. Places of particular abundance and the use of fire-stick farming caused some populations to become more sedentary because they could increase the food output of nearby areas or they were already so high they needed to move less. They used foraging as the main source of getting food because of several reasons. One reason was that it is natures most common way to get food. Most large animals move around to either hunt or gather plants or both. The second reason is that agriculture was not inherently obvious. It took hundreds of thousands of years to accumulate the knowledge required to properly farm. Many of the advances were very small so the change was not obvious to an individual, but rather a very gradual increase in overall knowledge.

Discussion Questions:
1. How large can a forager group realistically grow, what is the max?
2. Was farming inevitable through adapting and changing environments, or what it coincidental that our technology let to agriculture?
3.  Do foragers along the shore, without the ability to fish, need to work more or less for their food?
4. If groups were tied through kinship and family, what led to conflict and how large could they
become, would one family fight another?
5. What drove the invention of technology such as the bow, what it necessity for better tools, or desire for an easier hunt?