telophase: (Hiromasa - Uh...what?)
This morning, as I'm lying in bed listening to the news on NPR from my clock radio, they played a snippet from a speech someone gave yesterday that included a line somethng like "The only empires that build walls are those who are falling" and cited the Romans and the Great Wall of China.

Bzuh? At the time the two were built, neither empire was in danger of falling. Plz to do a bit of research kthx.

It's probably telling that at that hour of the morning I am way too bleary to follow whatever the news story is or see what it has to do with anything, but I can still spot a historical fallacy when I hear one. A sign that I am overeducated, I expect.

And in a slight anthropological digression, during my first master's program, in anthropology, I took an Archaeology of Landscape class, whichw as about how humans have modified the landscape to suit their needs. I really liked the section on megalithic architecture, enough to write a paper on Stonehenge, and what I remember about that is that societies who invest in large-scale monumental architecture such as pyramids or Stonehenge, do so at times of turmoil and transition, when the elite class is trying to consolidate their political power. It's a way to co-opt the energies of the people (apparently there's not much energy left to foment rebellion when you're building a giant mound like Silbury Hill or something), as well as to demonstrate how much power they possess.

If you look back at the archaeology of Stonehenge, it was built in an area that has been considered sacred for millennia - there's evidence of a big wooden post (maybe like a totem pole?) on the area stretching back to 8000 B.C. - and the earliest phase of Stonehenge was started when the culture was changing from more egalitarian people who buried their dead communially in long barrows to a more stratified society that buried their elite separately in round barrows. I have no idea if it was an invading culture or a change from within, but it was interesting nontheless.

I have no idea if architecture on the order of skyscrapers counts or not - they're mostly commercial buildings, not government-sponsored buildings, so the same forces probably don't bear on them, but they're pretty damn impressive anyway. ETA: But there's some interesting things here - probably worth looking at what was going on when the Petronas Towers in Malaysia were built in the 1990s, and the proposed designs for the World Trade Center replacement, which is scheduled to be one of the tallest buildings in the world and whose political and social associations are pretty damn apparent. ETA2: Empire State Building - 1931. That seems telling.

And that is your anthropology lesson for today.

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