History Grossmont College Theories About the Significance of Cave Art and The Venus Figurines Discussion Write a thoughtful response of at least 350 words

History Grossmont College Theories About the Significance of Cave Art and The Venus Figurines Discussion Write a thoughtful response of at least 350 words to the following questions. What are the theories about the significance of cave art and the Venus figurines? What do the art and sculptures tell us about the societies that created them? What might early prehistoric religion have been like? Imagine the shaman and god (s) of this period and tell me what you think the “religion” would been like and why. Then, explain what, if anything, can we say about the position of women from viewing the Venus Figurines? Take quotes and talk about them from the PDF uploaded please

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The Dordogne, France: Lascaux’s Prehistoric Cave Paintings Chapter 1
Introduction to Ancient Times
Prehistory: to 3500 B.C.E.
“Prehistory” is a deceptively simple term on its face. In
its narrowest sense, the word refers to the era of human
activity that predates our ability to talk about the past
“historically,” that is to say, with the aid of written records.
Writing may preserve for later generations a broad range
of information that mute artifacts (for example, pottery,
tools, wall paintings, architecture) will not: religious beliefs,
lists of officials, narratives about military endeavors, laws,
and, of course, literature. The very word “history” derives
from a Greek writer, Herodotus, who in the later fifth
century B.C.E. characterized his account of the wars
between Greeks and Persians – and of the origins of the
enmity between them – as the result of his own historiai,
which translates most accurately into English as
“inquiries.” In conducting his inquiries and constructing his
narrative, Herodotus travelled extensively around the
Eastern Mediterranean Sea and Western Asia, consulting
written records, interrogating eyewitnesses, and recording
oral legends, and combined the knowledge he derived
from these sources with his own observations. His primary goal was to make certain that the
great deeds accomplished in the era of the Persian Wars would not perish from memory, but he
also sought at the same time to explain to his fellow Greeks the factors that had led to conflict
and, as he saw it, led to their victory over the largest and most powerful nation of the age.
When we attempt to inquire about the
distant past, and especially the past prior to
writing, we find ourselves at a distinct
disadvantage compared to Herodotus. We
obviously cannot interview eyewitnesses of
events that took place thousands of years
ago. Moreover, human societies did not use
writing, properly speaking, until the late
fourth millennium B.C.E. (c. 3500 – 3100
B.C.E.), and even then, only in very limited
areas: Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and
Egypt. Human beings began using symbols
as early as 40,000 years ago, particularly in
wall-paintings, and archaeologists have
found evidence for “proto-writing” systems
dating to the seventh millennium B.C.E. (6999-6000 B.C.E.) in various locations stretching from
China to South Asia to Southwestern Asia. To whatever extent these systems of symbols were
used as part of a formal method for expressing meaning (and many scholars are very skeptical
that such sophistication existed prior to about 3500 B.C.E.), they do us little good in terms of
writing history. Even in places such as fourth-millennium Mesopotamia and Egypt, where we
can easily recognize the limited writing samples we have as the direct ancestors of later scripts
1
we can read, the respective writing systems are so archaic and primitive in their development
that we cannot be entirely certain what they say. Elsewhere, formal writing systems emerged
much later still (in Greece around 1500 B.C.E.; China around 1200 B.C.E.; and Mesoamerica
around 600-500 B.C.E.), and in many cases we are uncertain how to read these earliest
examples of written script, if we can read them at all.
“Development of Writing in Mesopotamia”
Thus, if we want to describe
human experience in the absence
of decipherable written records,
and for prehistory we have no
other choice, then we must rely on
what
archaeology
and
anthropology
might
reveal.
Anthropological studies are often
most useful by analogy. In the late
nineteenth and twentieth centuries
of our own era, anthropologists
were able to study a variety of socalled “primitive” or “traditional”
societies. These were small-scale
groups, usually consisting of no more than a few dozen individuals, and typically still engaged in
hunting and gathering for their survival and therefore constantly on the move. In other words,
without agriculture and technology beyond basic uses of stone and bone, these present-day
“primitive” societies lived much as we may imagine such groups lived in the distant past, before
writing, before cities, and before agriculture. The use of anthropological data is especially
important in trying to understand how hunting and gathering human societies may have
organized themselves. Because hunter-gatherers were constantly on the move, the discovery of
any archaeological traces of their activities is almost a happy accident. Furthermore, even when
we find the physical remains of their temporary camps, since these groups moved on quickly, it
is only in exceptional circumstances, and relatively late, that we might be able to trace a single
group over significant periods of time.
Archaeological data are crucial for any understanding of our prehistoric past; and, once
people began to settle down in one location for extended periods of time (sedentism) the
remains of their material culture became able to provide insights about many aspects of their
existence. Much like written texts for the historian; however, archaeological evidence is not
uncomplicated. Archaeologists must interpret their data, and any number of considerations may
affect what conclusions we reach based on that evidence. There is much the excavation of a
continuously occupied site can tell us. We may be able to determine the degree of social
differentiation based on variations in house sizes, or the wealth deposited in the graves of a few
individuals; the types of architecture a group preferred, and whether certain buildings seem to
have housed a great deal of cultic activity (animal, or human, sacrifice; altars; images of “gods”);
the expense and effort the occupants devoted to planning their settlement, up to and including
any fortifications they built; and the degree to which those occupants engaged in trade with
2
other settlements based on the presence and prevalence of goods
not native to the surrounding region. However, in approaching
purely archaeological data, especially those that exist in an
absence of writing, we should remain cautious, and never ask a
pot or a house foundation questions they cannot answer. Pottery
shards – the individual pieces of broken ceramics – can reveal
much about an ancient society’s members: their ceramic
technology and techniques, their decorative themes and interests,
what sorts of goods they stored (if residues remain on the shard),
and they may even indicate social or economic differences among
members based on the sophistication or beauty of certain pieces.
But, in the absence of other evidence, all by itself a pot cannot
answer questions we might otherwise pose about the religious
beliefs of its makers, the date of its manufacture, and so on.
“Oldest Hebrew Text Unearthed”
For establishing the chronology of prehistory (and in
many cases, ancient historical times as well),
archaeology is indispensible. Chronology refers to our
ability to discuss when something happened, in either
relative or absolute terms. “Absolute chronology” entails
fixing a (more or less) exact date or dates to past events:
the reign of the Babylonian king Hammurabi from 1792 to
1750 B.C.E., the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44
B.C.E., the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the
Americas in C.E. 1492. All such systems of absolute
chronology are culturally determined. For example, the
Jewish, Muslim, and Chinese calendars all use a different
orientation point than the Christian-based Western
calendar. And ancient societies, such as the Romans,
knew nothing of course of the B.C.E. – C.E. division,
using instead other types of organizing principles for
reckoning the passage of the years. Obviously, we
typically require some sort of written record of past events
in order to determine their specific date or dates.
Archaeologists, however, may use certain methods in order to arrive at approximate dates
for artifacts and their associated contexts. While there are important exceptions to what follows,
in the vast majority of cases an archaeological site consists of layers, or strata (sing., stratum).
The strata closest to the present day surface of the site will contain the most recently deposited
material, and those closest to the bedrock, the oldest. Broadly speaking, the artifacts of the
same stratum will be of roughly the same age. “Relative chronology” allows us to use these
archaeological rules of thumb to determine the chronological order in which artifacts came to
rest in their current state, especially when certain types of material present in a stratum permit
approximate dating.
3
Radiometric and chemical dating: If an archaeological stratum contains organic matter, we
may apply the method of testing these carbon-containing artifacts known most commonly as
carbon-14 dating. This refers to testing for the presence of the unstable carbon-14 isotope in
proportion to the remaining carbon-12 and carbon-13, both of which are stable. Because of its
instability, carbon-14 decays over time, with a half-life (i.e., half of whatever remains decays) of
5,730 +/- 40 years. So, for example, if a stratum contains organic matter such as wood or
charcoal, and carbon-14 dating determines it to be approximately 3,400 years old based on the
remaining presence of the isotope, then we can be reasonably confident that this stratum and its
other artifacts will likewise date to roughly this same time frame. Because of its decay rate,
however, carbon-14 all but disappears from organic matter after about 62,000 to 70,000 years,
meaning it is not a useful technique for testing material any older than that. With the use of
isotope series of other elements, where the half-life of the decaying isotope is much longer,
scientists can determine within 1% margin of error the age of much older materials, such as a
rock that contains an early human fossil.
“Carbon Dating”
Dendrochronology: In some parts of the world for certain species of tree, scientists have
been able to establish tree-ring sequences, which may stretch anywhere from several hundred
to several thousands of years into the past. The science is complex, but in essence, over the
course of a tree’s lifetime it will grow more or grow less each year depending on the favorability
of the climate to that particular species of tree. Once a tree has been cut down it ceases to grow
and its sequence of growth rings stops. By comparing the tree-ring sequences of different
generations of trees, scientists can build “chains” of sequences that, in the best cases, may
even allow us to identify the precise year in which someone cut down a tree. Therefore, if
archaeologists discover an ancient timber (or the fossilized impression of its rings) used in a
structure, they may in some cases be able to determine the absolute date after which that
structure must have been built. Using that date as a fixed point in conjunction with relative
4
chronology, we then have some idea of
the approximate age of the closely
associated artifacts at that site. In the case
of Native American prehistory in the
present-day Southwestern United States,
a bristlecone pine tree sequence that
extends more than 8500 years into the
past has proved crucial in determining the
dates of settlements based on the roof
timbers their builders employed.
“Whispering Giant: Dendrochonology”
In addition, the stratigraphy of one site
may aid us in establishing rough dates for
another. While ceramic vessels themselves
are quite fragile, the individual pottery shards
from a broken one are exceptionally durable,
and preserve the decorative motifs and
preferences of their manufacturers. Because
“fashions” in pottery adornment changed
very quickly among most cultures (usually
lasting no longer than a generation or so),
identifiable pottery types can be useful in
establishing not only relative chronologies,
but given the right sort of associated artifact
assemblages, may help us assign a range of
absolute dates as well. Suppose we have
three different sites: Site A in Greece, Site B
in Palestine, and Site C in Egypt. At Site A, a
particular stratum contains a variety of objects, including native Greek pots, but also vessels
from Palestine that made their way to Greece through trade. However, due to the absence of
datable written records in Greece prior to about 700 B.C.E., we have, in the absence of other
indicators, no means of determining the approximate age of this stratum. At Site B, we find that
same type of Palestinian ceramic decoration in a particular stratum, say, associated with several
artifacts of Egyptian origin, including jewelry. At Site C in Egypt, we find that exact same type of
jewelry in a level that, thanks to other artifacts (including hieroglyphic inscriptions), we may be
able to date to the reign of a particular pharaoh (i.e., Egyptian king). If we have relatively secure
dates for that reign, then we can begin to triangulate the dates for our Site A in Greece. This
example is oversimplified for the sake of illustration, and the dates would by no means be
certain for Sites A or B. What if, for example, the Egyptian jewelry at Site B had been kept for
generations as an heirloom before it was deposited? There is no way necessarily of knowing
whether that was the case, but clearly such a fact would impact the accuracy of the dating of
artifacts there and at our Site A. Thankfully, due to the sheer volume of materials unearthed by
archaeologists, in conjunction with other means of dating discussed above, we have multiple
ways to argue for at least approximate dates.
5
Archaeologists might likewise describe the
age of material cultural assemblages in very
broad terms, based on the principal material used
by the occupants of a site in their tools and/or
weaponry. For the vast majority of prehistory, as
we will see in the remainder of this chapter,
humans principally relied on stone for the
implements they used in hunting, scavenging, or
defending themselves; the ways in which we
divide this “Stone Age” depends on the
introduction of supplemental materials (bone,
horn, animal sinew) and the sophistication with
which past human societies produced and utilized
these stone tools. As we approach more properly historical periods, humans began to master
the technologies necessary to exploit various metal resources: typically copper first, and in
some regions of the world we can discern a “Chalcolithic” phase (from Greek chalce, “bronze,”
and lithos, “stone”). In societies that went through this stage of development we find the use of
copper, an easily workable but also relatively soft metal, so that these same groups would
continue to rely on well-established stone tools and weapons as well. Subsequently, some
cultures learned that alloying copper with a small amount of tin – or, in a pinch, arsenic –
produced bronze. This alloy combined the advantages of being easy to smelt and hammer,
since it was 90% copper, with the fact that the end product was a substantially more durable
metal for weapons and tools. Wherever we find that bronze had significantly displaced stone
and unalloyed copper as a primary material for tools and weapons, we speak of that society as
entering a “Bronze Age.” After a highly variable period of time, depending on what part of the
world we are considering, societies discovered the ability to work with iron. Depending on the
quality of the original ore and the technology available to a particular society’s metal smiths, the
resulting tools and weapons could prove superior to bronze ones. As one might already
suspect, the prevalence of iron tools and weapons wherever we find it is taken to inaugurate an
“Iron Age.” Archaeologists may then settle on divisions within these much longer periods based
on a variety of factors related to changes in material culture.
“Magical Bronze Age Alchemist”
The student should bear in mind several important
cautions about these chronological divisions. First, the
people who lived through these transitions from one
tool technology to the next were utterly unaware that
they were crossing some epoch-making threshold;
these are labels modern scholars have imposed in an
attempt to organize and better understand the past.
Second, “transition” is the proper way of understanding
the shift from one technology to the other. Once a
society discovered iron metallurgy, it did not therefore
completely abandon bronze, and some cultures, such
as the ancient Greeks, found they could produce better
6
shields and armor from bronze than iron. Third, the beginnings and ends of such periods vary
considerably from one part of the world to the next. The inhabitants of Mesopotamia and Egypt
had entered the “Bronze Age” by 3100 – 2900 B.C.E., whereas in the Indus Valley (modern
Pakistan), bronze metallurgy seems to have emerged even earlier (c. 3300 B.C.E.). In most
parts of Europe, however, bronze technology did not arrive until somewhere between 2100 and
1800 B.C.E. Archaeologists argue over the appropriateness of the concept for China because of
the strong persistence of the usage of bronze alongside iron, and in the Americas the Andean
cultures of South America produced copper artifacts as early as 5000 B.C.E., yet the smelting of
alloys and metallurgy generally were largely unknown north of the Isthmus of Panama. Fourth,
in some places the “Bronze Age” may coincide with the existence of written records, and thus
correspond to a “historical” period of a certain civilization’s development; whereas in other
cases, there may be a complete lack of historical materials well into the “Iron Age.”
This last observation returns us to
the point raised at the beginning of the
chapter, and is an appropriate place to
end this section. Especially for the
earliest historical human societies, the
line that divides “prehistory” from
“history” is at best blurred. Simply
because people began producing
written documents does not mean that
we can ignore the methods of
disciplines such as archaeology or
anthropology; far from it. The accidents
of survival, especially since many of
the materials ancient writers used were
perishable, mean that the written
record of the past is highly fragmentary
and idiosyncratic, and we often
confront infuriating gaps in the documentary records of ancient cultures. For example, while we
have relatively extensive testimony about fifth and fourth century B.C.E. Greece, the sources for
the third century are so scattered that even the exact chronology of major events is not secure.
It is not that no one in antiquity wrote about this period; on the contrary, from references in later
authors, we know the names of many writers who described it. But, for whatever reasons,
subsequent generations did not find these works worth the effort of preservation, and the
opportunity of copying them while early versions still existed has long since vanished. In the
case of the Romans, we consider their “history” to have begun in the middle of the eighth
century B.C.E., yet, due to a combination of unique cultural and historical factors, the Romans
were uninterested in history as we would recognize it until around 200 B.C.E. Much of what
historians had to rely on after that point leaves the early historical development of Rome in
significant doubt. In both cases, obviously, reconstructing any historical narrative will still rely
greatly on archaeological data.
Finally, we should always bear in mind that, with a relative handful of exceptions, the
surviving literature of the ancient and medieval world was produced by urban elites of one type
or another for an audience of other urban elites. Ancient and medieval agricultural techniques,
at most times and in most parts of the world, required nine individuals to engage directly in food
production in order to create a surplus large enough to support a tenth person engaged in some
“non-productive,” urban occupation: priests, kings, scribes, potters, mortic…
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