Echoing one of Mark Twain's old sayings, the anthropologist Clifford Geertz argued that even though history might not repeat itself, it does rhyme (2005: 10). The easiest of these rhythms to notice are those that occur in our own lifetimes. Your children make many of the mistakes that you did as a kid, many “innovations” are just more of the same, and another freedom fighter turns into a dictator when he comes into power. There are, of course, other rhythms in history that are more difficult to grasp because they unfold beyond living memory. Geertz's comment, for example, was part of a personal reflection on his struggles to understand the roots of Indonesian culture as the region went through drastic changes in the 1950s and 1960s. The world would “not stand still” for his pen, and he found that the unrelenting chatter of daily life kept on engulfing the deeper rhythms of history that he sought to explore (2005: 10).
Despite these challenges, uncovering long-term patterns is important because these processes help to structure current events and ultimately have a significant impact on how history unfolds (e.g., Braudel 1979). One of the most important long-standing rhythms in world history may be the peaks and valleys in long-distance connectivity that have typified interactions in different parts of the world over the last few millennia (Chase-Dunn and Anderson 2005; Frank 1993; Marcus 1998).
Globalization seems quintessentially modern. Up until very recently, the images that sprang to my mind when I heard the word were a jumble of post–World War II vignettes – someone sharing files over the Internet with a friend across the ocean, a woman hunkered down at her sewing machine in a vast third-world sweatshop, the flags flapping outside of the United Nations. These mental snapshots evoked a feeling that I lived in a rapidly shrinking, ever-changing, and perhaps out-of-control world. I no longer see just these images. These recent pictures are now joined by images from antiquity when I think of globalization. A thousand-year-old megalith in Mexico is as vivid as an MTV broadcast in India; a luxury hotel in Dubai is juxtaposed to a colony of the Indus Valley civilization (Figure 1.1).
For most readers, these new pairings may seem silly. You might understandably argue that globalization is a modern phenomenon that is categorically different from anything in the past. After all, ancient civilizations did not have a truly “global” impact, and enormous leaps in technology, transformed socioeconomic systems, and new ways of thinking all separate us from the deep past. In short, you could argue that globalization is a new process, and you could find dozens of well-regarded books in the library to bolster your argument. Nonetheless, I will try to show that globalization has occurred many times in history and that these earlier globalizations can help us better understand the future of the world that we live in today.
In 1931, archaeologist Julio C. Tello decided to use his vacation time to make a grueling trip from the coast to the Ayacucho Valley in the highlands of central Peru (Tello1970: 519). He was going there in search of the source of what was then known as “Coast Tiahuanaco,” a beautiful polychrome ceramic style that depicted gods, angels, plants, and animals in bold lines (Figure 6.1). The style, found at site after site on the coast of Peru, was reminiscent of that found on pots documented forty years earlier at the great ceremonial center of Tiahuanaco in Bolivia (Stübel and Uhle 1892). Even though many people believed at the time that these ceramics were evidence of the spread of a vast Tiwanaku civilization, Tello and other archaeologists thought the style was distinct enough to have developed independently.
Tello was the most famous archaeologist in Peru at the time. His lifelong goal was to prove that Peruvian cultures developed independently from those in Central America. He was keen on showing the importance of the sierra and jungle in Peruvian prehistory and was one of the few archaeologists of the period who regularly took trips into the mountains (Tello 1970: 520). When he got to Ayacucho, Tello was directed to the site of Huari, a sprawling site with monumental architecture. The ceramics on the site closely matched the Coast Tiahuanaco style, and his excavations confirmed the association of the style with some of Huari's most impressive buildings.
Asking if there were ancient globalizations is a question that might seem much easier to ask than to answer. The grand sweep of human history that awaits those who tear down the Great Wall separating modernity and antiquity is incredibly complex. One of the ways to deal with these intricacies would be to declare, like those who follow the globalization as long-term process approach, that all of these past interactions are the roots of modern globalization. Yet history has not unfolded along a well-trodden path of ever-increasing long-distance interaction from the first humans to the present (Wenke and Olszewski 2006). Instead, history unfolds in a more cyclical rhythm of expansions and contractions. Mesoamerican and Andean history, for example, is broken up into “horizons” of widespread cultural traits that are sandwiched between periods of regionalization (Rice 1993a), and Ancient Egypt's chronological sequence displays a similar pattern (Kemp 1989).
Archaeologist Joyce Marcus provides perhaps the best visual representation of these “peaks and valleys” of interregional interaction (1998) (Figure 2.1). Using case studies from both the Old and New Worlds, Marcus shows how various areas experienced similar “dynamic cycles of consolidation and collapse” over time (1998: 81). Although Marcus associates these cycles with the formation and dissolution of polities, other scholars have connected this pattern to the rise and fall of larger interaction networks (e.g., Frank and Gills 2000; Friedman 1992, 2005; Hall and Chase-Dunn 2006).
In 1811, Henry Marie Brackenridge walked up the Cahokia Creek in search of ancient mounds. Brackenridge lived in St. Louis – a town known for years as Mound City – and had been told that the biggest mounds in the area could be found on the grounds of a Trappist monastery on the other side of the Mississippi River. After walking for about four miles into the floodplain, he found himself in front of the largest earthen mound ever constructed north of Mexico (Young and Fowler 2000: 3–5). Two years later, he described this moment in a letter to his good friend, the former president of the United States Thomas Jefferson (1962 : 187):
When I reached the foot of the principal mound, I was struck with a degree of astonishment, not unlike that which is experienced in contemplating the Egyptian pyramids. What a stupendous pile of earth! To heap up such a mass must have required years, and the labor of thousands.
Brackenridge spent the remainder of that day exploring the dozens of mounds that made up the site. He found flint, animal bones, and pottery littering the surface and concluded that “if the city of Philadelphia and its environs were deserted there would not be more numerous traces of human existence” (1962 : 186).
Henry Marie Brackenridge was perhaps the first European American to recognize the significance of Cahokia and its related sites in the St. Louis area.
The existence of the widespread interactions described over the last few chapters will not come as a surprise to most readers. I remember as a boy curling up on the sofa to read about Genghis Khan's army sweeping across Eurasia, and I was fascinated with Hannibal's elephants, Hadrian's Wall, and the depictions of foreign diplomats laying gifts at Pharaoh's feet. We have learned since grade school about some of these earlier long-distance connections, and we know that these connections occasionally caused widespread cultural change. But I never read about ancient Egypt to learn more about my own world – I read to escape it (fighting evil forces on my way to Osiris was more fun than weeding the driveway). One of the great pleasures of reading about the past will always be in exploring different ways of life. Yet by treating the past as a qualitatively different world, we reify the Great Wall separating antiquity and modernity and diminish our ability to find patterns that connect the present to earlier eras.
For most scholars and general readers, ancient interactions are at best prologues to modern globalization – the expansion of Islam or the Inca Empire is seen as foreshadowing the radical changes that subsequently gripped the world. This book argues, however, that there were earlier periods of intense interactions that should be considered globalization eras in their own right. How do we determine if past globalizations occurred?
It is difficult to imagine a world without cities. More people around the globe now live in urban rather than rural areas, and almost everyone has traveled to a city, seen cityscapes on television, or used goods manufactured in factories. Yet for most of human history there were no urban centers. Indeed, there were no villages until about 14,000 years ago, and up until a few decades ago the great majority of people lived in small communities. To determine whether the spread of some early civilizations were earlier moments of globalizations, we need to first appreciate what life was like in villages before cities emerged. Almost all the people you knew were neighbors, virtually everything that you owned or consumed came from nearby, and your ideas about how the world worked came from family traditions. The emergence of cities transformed people's lives by dramatically increasing interregional interaction. Who you knew, what you ate, and what you thought changed after the urban revolution.
The possible links between urbanism, interaction, and the spread of what has often been called civilization have been of long-standing interest within anthropology, sociology, and archaeology (Schortman and Urban 1998; Trigger 1989: 150–5). One of the earliest authors to make these connections was Emile Durkheim. In his classic work, The Division of Labor in Society (1984 ), he argued that there were two extremes in social integration – mechanical and organic solidarity.
In the final weeks of 1932, R. Campbell Thompson's mood was turning increasingly glum. As the long-time director of the Nineveh excavations, he had spent the last few years at this northern Mesopotamian city searching for Assyrian buildings and inscriptions on behalf of the British Museum. His assistant for the 1932–3 season, Max Mallowan, had convinced Campbell Thompson to dig a deep sounding from the highest part of one of Nineveh's mounds down to sterile soil. Campbell Thompson knew that the sounding would produce the first chronological sequence for the northern Mesopotamia, but it was a dangerous endeavor that was taking workmen away from the historical levels of the site that most interested him and the museum (Gut 2002: 18). His mood darkened as the sounding went deeper and deeper into cultural fill. The daily march of buckets out of the black hole finally ended in the first days of 1933 when diggers reached sterile soil thirty-one meters below the surface (Thompson and Mallowan 1933: plate 73).
Campbell Thompson's frustration with the blasé artifacts coming out of the hole reached a crescendo midway through the sounding. As his workers dug through almost twelve meters of fill dominated by thousands of mass-produced, undecorated bowls, he despaired in a letter that “if these miserable bowls represent all that is to be found” then he would have trouble finding future sponsors for his excavations (quoted in Gut 2002: 20).
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