When In Rome

Objects as History Week 2


Our discussion today began with discussing the early stage of Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilisations( The Indus Valley Civilisation.

  • The first settlement of the Indus Valley Civilisation was somewhere around 10,000-7500 BC,called Mehrgarh.It consisted of huts dug in the ground.Evidences of protodentistry were found in this settlement( i.e. surgical instruments used to remove the tooth.)
  • Malwa and Jorwe are two other examples of settlements in India.

We then begun discussing one of my favourite history topics- Greeks and Romans!( Blame Rick Riordan,honestly. That guy made me read some thick novels in my adolescent years)

  • The first historian in the world was Xenophon.He wrote a book called Anabasis which was later referred to by Alexander the Great as reference to invade Persia.

I then learnt about the absolute madness that was the Pelopanesian War.It was fought between Sparta, Athens, and Persia.And mainly was enlightened about the star of the show, Alkibiades. Alkibiades was kind of a…n unfaithful human, and an interesting psychological case. He would basically help one kingdom against another,and change sides at the last moment,wreaking havoc.Eventually,all the three kingdoms realised that they had one common psychotic enemy,and thus killed him on a united front.

Alkibiades and a very fed up Socrates.

We also discussed common objects and their nature in Italy/Greece at that time.

  • Pots were either decorative or plain.Plain pots would usually be used for cooking and were thus blackened inside.
  • Copper was used in abundance in Italy,led to the Bronze age.
  • Diet consisting of wheat,barley,legumes,rice,sheep,goats and pigs.
  • The cities were poor in terms of planning.
Greek Pottery
Pottery used for cooking.
Tools during the Bronze Age.

Finding seashells near a settlement usually meant trade.Malwa being a coastal settlement,this was something that was commonly found here. Bharuch was another settlement in India,near Gujarat.This was a place that Malwa probably traded with at the time.

Idol worship at this time was pretty basic. Bulls and snakes were widely worshipped. Venus of Willendorf was one of the idols worshipped, representing the female fertility which was considered divine at the time.

The Deccan Chalcolithic phase also includes Jorwe. The first stage was from 1400 BC -1000 BC,while the second was from 1000 BC-700 BC. Over a span of 200 settlements,there are proper towns,makeshift campsites,and large sites like Diamabad,coming complete with a mud fortification.Mud fortification symbolizes possible threat that these inhabitants were used to. Usually everyone in such settlements would live in small one room settlements,while higher authorities would have multiple rooms.This would occur since a settlement was divided into an upper and lower town,and people who were higher in terms of social strata would live in the upper town,which was better built,while others would live in the lower town,consisting of a basic chessboard-like pattern.

Venus of Willendorf

Pottery is one of the most important remains of a civilization since they do not easily decompose.Here I came across a very interesting fact. The most difficult colour to make for fabric was purple,while the riskiest colour to obtain was red. Red pigment would usually originate from an ore of mercury HgO (mercuric oxide or Cinnabar),and the slaves were required to work in ore mines which would produce toxic mercury fumes. Purple was extracted from a sea slug/mollusc called Bolinus brandaris.One would need to dive into the depths of the ocean to collect this slug,and several kilos of this animal would probably yield a few grams of colour.Thus purple became the colour of royalty.

 Bolinus brandaris.
Tyrian purple royal robes.

People would be amputated before they were buried.This was probably to safely bury a man alive.Their material remains would be kept in urns under the drawing rooms.This is what probably lead to the Indian custom of treating the deceased as guardian spirits instead of just someone who’s dead.

In this manner,everything that we believe today is basically an idea that mutated into a norm, which we then chose to turn into a belief.Every time a challenge is placed in front of us,the idea mutates accordingly,like a virus adapting to a vaccine.This was again compared to today’s meme culture and how one picture with a caption on a single person’s phone spreads to someone else,like a virus,and eventually everyone understands the context.Then it dies eventually.A change in format and words revives the meme again,and the cycle continues.

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