Culture and Technology - Tools to Aid in Survival
Culture: “the predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group”.
Technology: “the body of knowledge available to a society that is of use in fashioning implements, practicing manual arts and skills, and extracting or collecting materials”.
Technology aids in the functioning of a group: it is what enables “predominating attitudes and behavior” to be acted upon. Therefore, initially, a culture must provide incentive for the development/adoption of a technology. Once adopted, the technology must then be incorporated into the society, requiring cultural adjustments. Always, usefulness is the key determining factor. Cultural adjustments must be worth the effort, the technology must meet a societal need. The technologies that each society chooses to adopt are the ones that they find the most useful. Societies have not developed different technologies by accident: the criteria for determining “usefulness” is culturally based.
The Near East is not a particularly fertile area. Dry land and large rivers that periodically flood characterize the landscape. Obtaining sufficient food was not easy. “The most vital need of early man in regions of scanty rainfall such as the Near East is water.” (Drower, 520). Because this was the most difficult challenge facing them, from an early stage the people who populated the area must have focused on developing effective farming practices. For them, there was probably little else that was as important as water.
Because of this, the cultures of peoples in the area centered around the water. Everything was defined by the river. The oracle of Amen, for example, defined Egypt to be “The entire tract which the Nile overspreads and irrigates” (Drower, 526). The religions focused on the river, the way that it gave and took: it was often personified in the form of river gods such as Ea, “lord of the sweet waters that flow under the earth” (Drower, 526), and Hapi, the Nile-god. The governments focused on the river, as well. In Egypt, Pharaohs devoted much time to digging new wells, constructing dams, and improving irrigation systems. This was because of the nature of the land: people needed water more than anything else. To fulfill this need was to gain their loyalty.
Because of the scarcity of water, in many ways, an abundant supply of water came to be viewed as the ultimate luxury. There are many surviving pictures of formal Egyptian gardens, and descriptions of “hanging gardens” that were suspended above the ground. Pleasure gardens were everywhere, every country estate had a garden, and “the Pharaohs were horticultural connoisseurs. From their foreign campaigns they brought back exotic trees and plants to grow in their palace gardens or in the temples” (Drower, 543).
While what initially began as a focus on agriculture necessitated by the bleak nature of the landscape developed into a strong cultural love of the...