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Nats 1760 Lecture: Science Technology in Ancient Greco Roman Civilizations

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Natural Science
NATS 1760
Vera Pavri

NATS 1760 Lecture 2: Science and Technology in Ancient & Greco-Roman Civilizations Lowest # of people with high power lowest amount of powerth I. Early Civilizations - Urban Revolution – 6000 years ago - Where? At least six different centers around the world: Mesopotamia (after 3500 BC), Oldest Civilization; Egypt (after 3400 BC); Indus River Valley (after 2500 BC); Yellow River in China (after 1800 BC); Mesoamerica (500 BC); South America (after 300 BC) - Characteristics these civilizations share: high populations, centralized political and economic authority, education, regional states, stratified societies, complex architecture, higher learning - Where a social, economical, political shape of society occurs - Urban civilizations were highly stratified, very few people have the most power within the civilization, these are called hierarchies - Many question why these civilizations develop? Why do they share these similar characteristics? Larger populations needed intensified agricultural production - Simple agriculture was replaced by field agriculture - Large scale water management networks (‘public works’) built and maintained by “the corvee” which were conscripted labor gangs - Projects supervised by state employed engineers II. Hydraulic Hypothesis - Fact that all these early civilizations required large-scale hydraulic engineering projects (because of either too much or too little water for practicing intensified agriculture) has led some scholars to explain this phenomena as hydraulic hypothesis - An old theory created by Wittfogel and Steward - Attempts to link the economic and stratified cities to technologic systems - HYDRAULIC HYPOTHESIS: there is a link between the rise of early civilizations and the technology of large scale hydraulic systems - Hydraulic systems are large scale irrigation necessitates centralized co-ordination and this leads to greater political integration in society - Urban civilization developed because of geography also, mountains, rivers barrier to travel, more people, need more adequate supply of water - Water irrigation systems also known as hydraulic system to maintain water resource - Irrigation on such a large scale thus “causes” the emergence of centralized and hierarchal political system (socially and stratified societies to occur). - The society enlarged as a result of the water systems which were constructed during this time. - Civilizations like Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, etc… are thus types of “irrigation civilizations” which have common features and develop in a similar way because of this need to adapt to their environment via large scale irrigation - For example, these civilizations have very hot climates which makes it easier to produce large amounts of crops - Civilizations are able to grow because they are in a environmental restricted space – when warfare occurs, groups that are defeated cannot move anywhere like they could in earlier times – instead, become slaves and peasants who work to maintain intensified farming practices - This allows more people to be fed but also requires society to be organized in a way that allows for maintaining system, distributing goods, settling water disputes, controlling grain surpluses 1 - Therefore there is the development of an authoritarian state because water (a scarce commodity) must be controlled - Mass labor had to be coordinated, disciplined when necessary, and “led” by higher political authority **This is a theory that highlights technological determinism; these social, political and economic hierarchies have been created by hydraulic systems, technology. III. Criticisms of Hydraulic Hypothesis - Criticize as more (1) technologically deterministic, they neglect to take in account other factors that could have led to the emergence of these type of societies - Very simplistic idea - Major criticisms of hydraulic hypothesis stem from idea that large-scale irrigation “causes” this type of hierarchal political system - This association between irrigation and the political systems present in these civilizations is very deterministic - Critics argue that centralized political power did not just center around irrigation activities - It makes an assumption that says these technological systems caused social and political hierarchies to emerge; others have argued the very opposite to be true… - In places like (2)Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica had centralized states even before they began having large-scale irrigation projects; large cities were already developed - Thus irrigation more a “consequence” or “product” than “cause” of this kind of state organization (although it does facilitate development of bureaucratic elite) - Technological systems were a consequence of economic systems already in place - Also question whether large-scale irrigation products always require this kind of political organization (i.e. Hohokam society, ancient Ceylon) - (3) In Ceylon civilization had large-scale irrigation systems that did not develop a centralized or hierarchical society. * This theory is highly debated till today - William Mitchell: reformulate hypothesis to state that, “it is not irrigation itself, but the centralized coordination of irrigation activities that has important social consequences” - Feedback system: centralized control of irrigation means greater political integration and this then allows people in power to come up with an “excuse” for more political control (i.e. the right to limit access to water) IV. Early Science and Technology in Ancient Civilizations - Urban civilizations mastered art of bronze metallurgy; leads to this era being known as the “Bronze Age” - Another example of technological determinism, this era is defined by it’s technological advancement (“BRONZE”). - Not only recognized for the use of Bronze but also for scientifical and technological achievements - Metal used for tools and weapons instead of stone means that these civilizations able to master complex sets of technologies such as mining ore, smelting, hammering and casting metals at temperatures greater than 1100 degrees Celsius - These societies are fully capable to making metal, these were societies were able to involve in mining of metals, manipulate these metals, can be used for temperatures to melt down these metals. - Along with bronze metallurgy came silver and gold metallurgy but this was done mostly in new world for decorative or ceremonial purposes - Leads to more trade in minerals; These civilizations have more specialization of labor (i.e. craft production, beer brewing) 2 - Specialization Labour: You have individuals who have to have specific kills with regard to their occupation - These civilizations also used new sources of energy such as wind power, boats, ox plow, horse and wheeled cart, camel CONSIDER THE QUESTION BELOW!!! - If these early civilizations had such a high level of technological achievement why is it that historians refer to Greece as a pace of modern day science. - Based on the achievements in Mesopotamia or Egypt would you consider their advancement to be science or technology? a. Mesopotamia - Oldest area associated with this urban revolution - (1)Writing (developed by Ancient Sumerian, Sumerian cuneiform system of writing on clay tablets adopted by Babylonians), - New scribal tradition, this also developed to the creation of scribes, individuals who have the skills to write. These people who read and write have relationship to higher people in society - Schools developed to teach scribal (writing) skills - (2)Mathematics [they came up with the sexigesimal (base 60) system that uses digits to represent powers of 60 (think of today’s hours, minutes, circle) ] - Also created (Place value system) place system – 135 = 100 + 30 + 5 - Sophisticated astronomy and highly accurate calendars – Babylonians were very knowledgeable about solstices, equinoxes, sun and moon cycles; could predict solar and lunar eclipses, sun and moon cycles, computed and extrapolated information about movements of planets such as risings, settings, visibility - Mesopotamians used naked eye observation to figured things out - Diffusion of Knowledge: Knowledge eventually transferred to Greeks who made further developments - did not just keep records, conducted systematic research - advanced in astrology, meteorology, magic - Astrology: Today astrology is not considered by most to be scientific study, considered daily horoscope, within these civilization up until renaissance astrology had a great value to many as astronomy did, considered extremely important craft, done by many astronomers of the day, make predictions about society, that was important for society. - Achievements in advancement in astrology we must consider them in historical views rather than our own. - built great monuments/architecture – (required high levels of skills in engineering) temple complexes, pyramids (for example, Tower of Babel story based on Nebuchadnezzar’s tower which was over 270 ft) b. Egypt - Architectural achievements: Ancient Pyramids - Large scale architectural/construction projects like pyramids show highly sophisticated level of engineering knowledge in Egyptian civilization - Most pyramids built in Giza between 2789-2767 BC (give or take 200 years) - Great Pyramid at Giza: 2.3M blocks (2.3 tons each) = 6M tons; 485 feet high x 763 feet on side and encompasses 13.5 acres - Employed100000 workers for 20 years; 4000-5000 year round craftsmen - Many fascinated due to these questions, (1)How were they able to built it, how were they able to get large scale blocks up to the top of pyramids? - (2)Why were the pyramids constructed? Most assumed it was way to bury the dead, helped protect the tombs, some for religious purposes but the number of pyramids built by such few Pharaohs has led to other hypotheses - Large conscripted labor pool required something to do during off-season 3 - Pyramid built for management and control, according to our course - Act done by ruling parties as a make work projects, keep workers busy by keeping workers busy and refraining from revolting away from you and go against powerful ruling classes - Working on pyramids was thus one method of keeping working population in line - Writing (style known for is pictorial hieroglyphics, symbols that represent different words. - Mathematics (Not as great as ancient Mesopotamians no place value so not as efficient for calculating purposes but better for multiplication) - They used Decimal system; Power system: each power of ten represented by different symbol - Early astronomy, calendars, weights and measures, astrology, meteorology, magic, medicine - Their ideas in the field of medicine will be used and diffused into other societies over times V. Early Civilizations versus Greek Civilization - **If these early civilizations had such a high level of scientific and technical knowledge, why do historians often state that the origins of modern science were founded in Greece? - Must be careful to distinguish between arguments based on facts/evidence versus historical bias - Valid differences: early civilizations scientific knowledge used and applied for practical purposes such as: keeping records, political administration, calendars and astronomical predictions; engineering projects; architectural projects; agricultural management; health and well-being; religious purposes - Know-how versus theoretical knowledge - Knowledge fostered through state institutions – bureaucratic, not individualistic - Knowledge obtained through list making (encyclopedic) - Lack of abstract ideas and theories, generalities - Religious ideas about world dominate – heavens full of deities and gods that are responsible for what happens in cosmos - Lack of abstract, mechanical or naturalistic explanations about the universe - In contrast, Greeks foster abstract, theoretical knowledge – knowledge for its own sake - Develop analytical theorems and make generalizations - Study of natural philosophy or philosophy about nature stems from Greeks - Philosophy a new intellectual inquiry that stands beside but does not replace Greek mythology - Biased arguments: think about status of technology versus natural philosophy VI. Science and Technology in Greek Civilization - Civilization is not centralized kingdom but series of decentralized city states; lots of competition among various groups - Small scale agricultural production (reliance on rainfall, etc…); dependence on grain imports; could trade products like wine and olive oil - Religious deities have human element - Hellenic (600-300 BC) and Hellenistic era (this era coincides with unification of Greece by Alexander the “Great”) - In Hellenic era individuals (natural philosophers) start to make abstract speculations about natural world - Very individualistic – no state or public support - This meant most philosophers were wealthy or earned living that still allowed them time to ponder new ideas; slaves used – free up more time - In Hellenistic era new institutions formed that foster this type of thinking and learning - Important to understand that natural philosophers in Greece for most part interested in knowledge for its own sake – theoretical inquiries into nature not done for utilitarian or practical purposes - Why? use of slave labor, separation between those who engaged in natural philosophy and those of craft tradition - Many natural philosophers were disdainful of craft tradition 4 - Plato for example, in his book The Republic, believes in separating pursuit of natural knowledge from mundane activities of craft and technology - Should not study astronomy or mathematics for practical purposes - Completely separate endeavors - Attitude towards technical arts stems in part from fact that craftsman could not give account of WHY their technology worked; as such, technical arts inferior to liberal arts - There were some “inventors” in Greek Hellenistic period - For example, Archimedes one of few who tried to apply scientific principles to technology; i.e. Archimedean screw is machine used to lift water and was based on scientific mechanics of time - Development of alphabetical writing VII. Early Greek Philosophers - many early philosophers came from Ionia which at time was center of Greek civilization and were known as Pre-Socratics - Ionia – west coast of Asia Minor (Turkey today)- contact with Eastern cultures - these philosophers asked questions about nature and formed theories that were not based on religious or supernatural explanations - making generalizations about nature (accounting for all occurrences and not just single instances) required objectifying and demystifying nature - wanted to know about underlying (and not necessarily visible) “stuff” that makes up universe and debated ideas – nature is material - Questions asked and debated : What is earth made up of (ingredients); how many ingredients; what is location and shape of the earth; what is the process of change - criticism – had to defend own ideas (Philosophers: one against each other) - therefore asking new questions will generate new types of answers - New questions about universe, focusing on material rather than supernatural. - Generalizations, abstract theories - This is foundation of modern day scientific practice a. Thales (fl. 585 B.C.) - Earliest natural philosopher - Considered water is prime element of the world (water, earth, mist) - The individual nature of these generalizations led to debate - Problems: how does water create fire; both are mutually destructive b. Anaximander (fl. 555 B.C.) - Rejects water and proposes that universe made up of abstract “boundless” or formless entity (Apeiron) - From aperion comes seed which creates cosmos - World formed through this matter that allows for duality (i.e. hot and cold) - It was less criticisized, b/c people didn’t get it c. Anaximenes (fl. 535 B.C.) - Air is prime element - Adds concept of forces (rarefaction and condensation) d. Empedocles (fl. 445 B.C.) - Air, fire, earth and water are prime elements - This four element theory is the predominate theory about the universe - Forces: love and strife e. Pythagoreans (fl. 525 B.C.) - Rejected the ideas of universe created by water, fire, earth -
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