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NATS 1775 September 26 Notes Lecture 2.doc

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Natural Science
NATS 1775
Vera Pavri

Ilmeeyat M NATS 1775 A Thursday, September 26, 2013 Lecture 2: Technology in Ancient Civilizations (part 1) I. Early Civilizations - Urban Revolution – 6000 years ago – within short period of time began to develop around the world - Where? At least six different centers around the world: Mesopotamia (after 3500 BC); 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 of civilization: high populations, centralized political and economic authority, regional states, stratified societies, complex architecture, higher learning (technology developed because of these characteristics) - Why did they develop? Larger populations needed intensified agricultural production and geographical needs - Simple agriculture 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 - Stratified societies: few people at the top of the pyramid have more power than the large amount of people on the bottom 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 (Wittfogel and Steward) - HYDRAULIC HYPOTHESIS: there is a link between the rise of early civilizations and the technology of large scale hydraulic systems – this theory is a deterministic way to justify stratified socieites - Large scale irrigation necessitates centralized co-ordination and this leads to greater political integration in society - Irrigation on such a large scale thus “causes” the emergence of centralized and hierarchal political system - Civilizations like Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, etc… are therefore 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 – irrigation civilization is a label given to a society based on the technology - For example, these civilizations have very hot climates which makes it easier to produce large amounts of crops - Civilizations able to grow because they are in a environmental restricted space – when warfare occurs, groups that are defeated cannot move Ilmeeyat M NATS 1775 A Thursday, September 26, 2013 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 - 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 III. Criticisms of Hydraulic Hypothesis - 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 st in these civilizations is very deterministic – the 1 theory about technological determinism and it assumes that the creation of the hydraulic system is what resulted in the creation of political communities - Critics argue that centralized political power did not just center around irrigation activities - in fact in places like 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” rather than “cause” of this kind of state organization (although it does facilitate development of bureaucratic elite) - also question whether large-scale irrigation products always require this kind of political organization (i.e. Hohokam society, ancient Ceylon had different way to use the hydraulic technology) - 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” (this is deterministic) - Metal used for tools and weapons instead of stone means that these civilizations able to master comp
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