Nazca Lines and Culture

Stretching across the Nazca plains like a giant map or blueprint left by ancient astronauts, lie the famous Nazca Lines of Peru. Peru is associated with the Incan Civilization who many link with alien visitors who still interact with local people to this day.

The Nazca Lines are an engima. No one has proof who built them or why. Since their discovery, the Nazca Lines have inspired fantastic explanations from ancient gods, a landing strip for returning aliens, a celestial calendar created by the ancient Nazca civilization — putting the creation of the lines between 200 BC and 600 AD, used for rituals probably related to astronomy, to confirm the ayllus or clans who made up the population and to determine through ritual their economic functions held up by reciprocity and redistribution, or a map of underground water supplies.

There are also huge geoglyphs in Egypt, Malta, United States (Mississippi and California), Chile, Bolivia and in other countries. But the Nazca geoglyphs, because of their numbers, characteristics, dimensions and cultural continuity, as they were made and remade through out the whole prehispanic period, form the most impressive, as well as enigmatic, archeological group.

Location

The Nazca Lines are located in the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the pampa (a large flat area of southern Peru). The desolate plain of the Peruvian coast which comprises the Pampas of San Jose (Jumana), Socos, El Ingenio and others in the province of Nasca, is 400 Km. South of Lima, covers an area of approximately 450 km2, of sandy desert as well as the slopes of the contours of the Andes. They cover nearly 400 square miles of desert. Etched in the surface of the desert pampa sand about 300 hundred figures made of straight lines, geometric shapes most clearly visible from the air.

Nazca Plain

The Nazca plain is virtually unique for its ability to preserve the markings upon it, due to the combination of the climate (one of the driest on Earth, with only twenty minutes of rainfall per year) and the flat, stony ground which minimises the effect of the wind at ground level. With no dust or sand to cover the plain, and little rain or wind to erode it, lines drawn here tend to stay drawn. These factors, combined with the existence of a lighter-coloured subsoil beneath the desert crust, provide a vast writing pad that is ideally suited to the artist who wants to leave his mark for eternity.

The pebbles which cover the surface of the desert contain ferrous oxide. The exposure of centuries has given them a dark patina. When the gravel is removed, they contrast with the color underneath. In this way the lines were drawn as furrows of a lighter color, even though in some cases they became prints. In other cases, the stones defining the lines and drawings form small lateral humps of different sizes. Some drawings, especially the early ones, were made by removing the stones and gravel from their contours and in this way the figures stood out in high relief.

The concentration and juxtaposition of the lines and drawings leave no doubt that they required intensive long-term labor as is demonstrated by the stylistic continuity of the designs, which clearly correspond to the different stages of cultural changes.

Designs, Myths and Metaphors

There appear to be various designs consisting of figures of animals, flowers and plants, objects, and anthropomorphic figures of colossal proportions made with well-defined lines. An example of this is the drawing of a weird being with two enormous hands, one normal and the other with only four fingers.


Gray Alien hand vs. Human Hand?

Also represented are drawings of man-made objects such as yarn, looms and “tupus” (ornamental clasps). All these figures have well-defined entrances which could be used as paths or to allow people to line together along the conformations of the drawings. Continue reading Nazca Lines and Culture

Giza Pyramids Hold Pharaohs’ Ancient Secrets

The Giza Pyramids, built to endure an eternity, have done just that. The monumental tombs are relics of Egypt’s Old Kingdom era and were constructed some 4,500 years ago.

Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt

Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt

This exhibition uses Egyptian artifacts from the collection of the Kelsey Museum and the Papyrology collection of the University of Michigan Library to examine the roles and lives of women in ancient Egyptian society, and how these fit into the larger patterns of gender definitions and relations. Since ancient times, it has been recognized that women occupied special positions within Egyptian society, but only recently has the nature of women’s experience and status in ancient Egypt been the subject of systematic study.

The material presented in Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt spans nearly four thousand years, from later prehistoric times through the Muslim conquest of Egypt. Even in a culture that showed remarkable continuities over long periods of time, there was obviously considerable change in the roles and status of women, as well as in gender definitions and relations over such a long chronological range.

Historical events and cultural imports are often the most obvious influences on women’s roles and gender relations, but factors such as class and status, sexuality and ethnicity also influence understandings of gender. Part of the source material from ancient Egypt reflects a major class bias: texts and images most often come from elites in Egyptian society and reflect their views. It is mainly the archaeological sources–remains of dwellings and burials–that offer unfiltered evidence for non-elites. While texts and images tend to be relatively explicit about gender, archaeological remains require more work to distinguish biological sex from human remains, gender in the artifactual record, gendered space. Patterns of sexual behavior and construction of sexual identity are also closely tied to gender definitions and roles. As is common in premodern agrarian societies, sexuality in ancient Egypt was linked to fertility, although not exclusively. Surviving sexually explicit imagery and texts from ancient Egypt can be of erotic, humorous, satirical, or even religious intent as well. Moreover, many ethnic groups influenced Egyptian life throughout the period covered by this exhibition (c. 3100 BCE-700 CE). The most conspicuous were the Macedonian Greeks and Romans who successively ruled Egypt after 332 BCE, but many other groups from all over the Mediterranean world influenced Egyptian customs and society. Certainly Greek and Roman traditions concerning gender–the more dependent status of women in these cultures as well as the different approaches to gender relations and definitions–had a major impact on Egyptian life during the Graeco-Roman period.

The kingdom of Mitanni – ancient torkey

The kingdom of Mitanni

The kingdom of Mitanni was a feudal state led by a warrior nobility of Aryan or Hurrian origin. Frequently horses were bred on their large landed estates. Documents and contract agreements in Syria often mention a chariot-warrior caste that also constituted the social upper class in the cities.

Below: The Hittites Kingdom at it’s height

The aristocratic families usually received their landed property as an inalienable fief. Consequently, no documents on the selling of landed property are to be found in the great archives of Akkadian documents and letters discovered in Nuzi, near Kirkuk. The prohibition against selling landed property was often dodged, however, with a stratagem: the previous owner “adopted” a willing buyer against an appropriate sum of money. The wealthy lord Tehiptilla was “adopted” almost 200 times, acquiring tremendous holdings of landed property in this way without interference by the local governmental authorities. He had gained his wealth through trade and commerce and through a productive two-field system of agriculture (in which each field was cultivated only once in two years). For a long time, Prince Shilwa-Teshub was in charge of the royal governmental administration in the district capital. Sheep breeding was the basis for a woolen industry, and textiles collected by the palace were exported on a large scale. Society was highly structured in classes, ranks, and professions. The judiciary, patterned after the Babylonian model, was well organized; the documents place heavy emphasis on correct procedure.

Native sources on the religion of the Hurrians of the Mitanni kingdom are limited; about their mythology, however, much is known from related Hittite and Ugaritic myths. Like the other peoples of the ancient Middle East, the Hurrians worshiped gods of various origins. The king of the gods was the weather god Teshub. According to the myths, he violently deposed his father Kumarbi; in this respect he resembled the Greek god Zeus, who deposed his father Kronos. The war chariot of Teshub was drawn by the bull gods Seris (“Day”) and Hurris (“Night”). Major sanctuaries of Teshub were located at Arrapkha (modern Kirkuk) and at Halab (modern Aleppo) in Syria. In the east his consort was the goddess of love and war Shaushka, and in the west the goddess Hebat (Hepat); both were similar to the Ishtar-Astarte of the Semites.

The sun god Shimegi and the moon god Kushuh, whose consort was Nikkal, the Ningal of the Sumerians, were of lesser rank. More important was the position of the Babylonian god of war and the underworld, Nergal. In northern Syria the god of war Astapi and the goddess of oaths Ishara are attested as early as the 3rd millennium BC.

Below: The Hittites were some of the first warriors to use the chariot.

In addition, a considerable importance was attributed to impersonal numina such as heaven and earth as well as to deities of mountains and rivers. In the myths the terrible aspect of the gods often prevails over indications of a benevolent attitude. The cults of sacrifices and other rites are similar to those known from the neighbouring countries; many Hurrian rituals were found in Hittite Anatolia. There is abundant evidence for magic and oracles.

Temple monuments of modest dimensions have been unearthed; in all probability, specific local traditions were a factor in their design. The dead were probably buried outside the settlement. Small artifacts, particularly seals, show a peculiar continuation of Babylonian and Assyrian traditions in their preference for the naturalistic representation of figures. There were painted ceramics with finely drawn decorations (white on a dark background). The strong position of the royal house was evident in the large palaces, existing even in district capitals. The palaces were decorated with frescoes. Because only a few Mitanni settlements have been unearthed in Mesopotamia, knowledge of Mitanni arts and culture is as yet insufficient.

China’s ancient warriors unveiled in Santa Ana

Hes_more_than_2200_years_old_and_si The largest-ever display of the terra cotta warriors from Xian, China, opens today at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Diane Haithman reports.

“…an army of ancient Chinese soldiers who were buried for 2,000 years will march into Santa Ana’s Bowers Museum, the result of the largest loan of terra cotta figures and artifacts to visit the United States since their astonishing 1974 discovery.”

Actually, the 14 life-size human figures were already in town, having landed May 4 at Ontario International Airport and been transported, complete with police and helicopter escort, to the museum. The warriors — not only fighters but also court officials, acrobats and generals, though no females — will be on display through Oct. 12 in “Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor,” a sample of the contents of the vast tomb complex of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

The warriors came toting plenty of “luggage” that would never fit in the overhead compartment: about 100 sets of objects including weapons and armor. Also on board: a life-sized terra cotta cavalry horse, as well as a

SUMERIAN ARCHITECTURE

The beginnings of monumental architecture in Mesopotamia are usually considered to have been contemporary with the founding of the Sumerian cities and the invention of writing, in about 3100 BC. Conscious attempts at architectural design during this so-called Protoliterate period (c. 3400-c. 2900 BC) are recognizable in the construction of religious buildings. There is, however, one temple, at Abu Shahrayn (ancient Eridu), that is no more than a final rebuilding of a shrine the original foundation of which dates back to the beginning of the 4th millennium; the continuity of design has been thought by some to confirm the presence of the Sumerians throughout the temple’s history.

Already, in the Ubaid period (c. 5200-c.3500 BC), this temple anticipated most of the architectural characteristics of the typical Protoliterate Sumerian platform temple. It is built of mud brick on a raised plinth (platform base) of the same material, and its walls are ornamented on their outside surfaces with alternating buttresses (supports) and recesses. Tripartite in form, its long central sanctuary is flanked on two sides by subsidiary chambers, provided with an altar at one end and a freestanding offering table at the other.

Typical temples of the Protoliterate period–both the platform type and the type built at ground level–are, however, much more elaborate both in planning and ornament. Interior wall ornament often consists of a patterned mosaic of Terra cotta cones sunk into the wall, their exposed ends dipped in bright colors or sheathed in bronze. An open hall at the Sumerian city of Uruk (biblical Erech; modern Tall al-Warka’, Iraq) contains freestanding and attached brick columns that have been brilliantly decorated in this way. Alternatively, the internal-wall faces of a platform temple could be ornamented with mural paintings depicting mythical scenes, such as at ‘Uqair.

The two forms of temple – the platform variety and that built at ground level – persisted throughout the early dynasties of Sumerian history (c. 2900-c. 2400 BC). It is known that two of the platform temples originally stood within walled enclosures, oval in shape and containing, in addition to the temple, accommodation for priests. But the raised shrines themselves are lost, and their appearance can be judged only from facade ornaments discovered at Tall al-‘Ubayd. These devices, which were intended to relieve the monotony of sun-dried brick or mud plaster, include a huge copper-sheathed lintel, with animal figures modeled partly in the round; wooden columns sheathed in a patterned mosaic of colored stone or shell; and bands of copper-sheathed bulls and lions, modeled in relief but with projecting heads. The planning of ground-level temples continued to elaborate on a single theme: a rectangular sanctuary, entered on the cross axis, with altar, offering table, and pedestals for votive statuary (statues used for vicarious worship or intercession).

Considerably less is known about palaces or other secular buildings at this time. Circular brick columns and austerely simplified facades have been found at Kish (modern Tall al-Uhaimer, Iraq). Flat roofs, supported on palm trunks, must be assumed, although some knowledge of corbelled vaulting (a technique of spanning an opening like an arch by having successive cones of masonry project farther inward as they rise on each side off the gap)–and even of dome construction–is suggested by tombs at Ur, where a little stone was available.

The Sumerian temple was a small brick house that the god was supposed to visit periodically. It was ornamented so as to recall the reed houses built by the earliest Sumerians in the valley. This house, however, was set on a brick platform, which became larger and taller as time progressed until the platform at Ur (built around 2100 BC) was 150 by 200 feet (45 by 60 meters) and 75 feet (23 meters) high. These Mesopotamian temple platforms are called ziggurats, a word derived from the Assyrian ziqquratu, meaning “high.” They were symbols in themselves; the ziggurat at Ur was planted with trees to make it represent a mountain. There the god visited Earth, and the priests climbed to its top to worship.

Most cities were simple in structure, the ziggurat was one of the world’s first great architectural structures.

White Temple and Ziggurat, Uruk (Warka), 3200 -3000 B.C.

This temple was erected at Warka or Uruk (Sumer), probably about 300 B.C.It stood on a brick terrace, formed by the construction of successive buildings on the site (the Ziggurat). The top was reached by a staircase. The temple measured 22 x 17 meters (73 x 57 feet). Access to the temple was through three doors, the main located at its southern side.


Sumerian Artifacts – British Museum