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Lecture 4

Lecture Four: Technology and Ancient Civilizations

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York University
Natural Science
NATS 1775
Vera Pavri

Lecture Four: Technology and Ancient Civilizations September 22, 2011 Early Civilizations The Urban Revolution Occurred about 6000 years ago. This period of time was characterized by the development of urban civilizations fairly quickly. Examples: Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt All of these urban centers developed because - geography: there were some sort of barrier such as mountains (brought people together) - highly populated communities - simple agriculture was replaced by field agriculture - Higher levels of learning, technological achievements, scientific achievements, complex architecture were all characteristics. These were stratified societies (centralized/hierarchical). The majority of the power was held by the smallest groups of people. Most of the population was at the bottom of the hierarchy. The Hydraulic Hypothesis This hypothesis makes a connection between the development of certain large scale technological systems, and the development of these social, economical and organized societies. Water became a precious commodity in these societies for two main reasons - Not enough water - Too much water People needed to control and have water because the new agricultural system required more water (as there was more population to feed). Populations became more static and sedentary. The building of large irrigation systems was meant to solve these problems for the people. It was because of the need to create and control these systems that caused the development of these stratified societies. This is a determinist theory because it centers its idea on the belief that the invention of these technologies essentially created and shaped the culture and societies. Problems with this Theory Determinism - it is problematic because it assumes that the technology shaped the people and caused social, political and economical changes. It completely disregards all other factors for why this may have happened. Some historians believe that the societies were already stratified civilizations, before this technology was even created (therefore there is no reason to assume that the technology shaped the society). It is more believed that the society created the need for these irrigation systems, as opposed to the other way around. Another criticism is that there were other societies that developed and used large scale water irrigation systems, but did not necessarily evolve into stratified civilizations. Alternative Theories Hypothesize that an irrigation system was just another way for the ruling class to gain more power because they were in charge of distributing the water supply. 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) Early Science and Technology in Ancient Civilizations Urban civilizations during this time were able to manipulate and use materials such as bronze, which is why this time period is also referred to as the “Bronze Age” This is another case of determinism. The civilization is being labelled by only one of the technologies used during that time. It ignores other uses of the technology or other important things that happened during this period of time. “Bronze Age” - these civilizations could manipulate metals in temperatures up to 1000 degrees, jobs needed specialized workers now, people gained more skills, mining wa
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