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Antropology: Cataclysmic events in Human History - Research Paper Example

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Environmental Factors of Societal Collapse in the Aztec Empire INTRODUCTION In understanding the root causes of the destinies of entire civilized cultures, the ebb and flow of temporal power due to internal politics is subordinate to more natural forces. But even as the shifting tides of military and economic fortunes do not decide the fate of millions overnight, the broad factors that can trigger a society's pestilence or prosperity must exert their influence in a sustained pattern more persistent than any mere earthquake, or flood…
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Antropology: Cataclysmic events in Human History
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Download file to see previous pages While many of these factors can potentially exist in a local context at the level of the City-State, the entity discussed in this paper must meet a criteria of personal unfamiliarity. A depersonalization happens when the tribe grows too large. In pre-history, and today with indigenous hunter-gatherer cultures, a familial gerontocracy can often emerge for the purpose of decision-making and overall direction. But a different social structure is needed when a group prospers, and grows to the point that there are many individuals with the same language and cultural norms that do not know each other on an intimate level. Tribes of under a hundred individuals can maintain internal peace through a form of familial consensus. You're much less likely to victimize your community when you personally know everyone, and the group is small enough that everyone knows you. And exile could become a real threat if one were to commit offenses your people regard as a crime. But a culture expansive enough where you do not have a relationship with a man you might meet down the street, even though he speaks the same language, and has the same religious beliefs, requires a professionalized delineation of the business of survival. And at this level, a single incident of natural violence is unlikely to spell the death-knell of that prosperous culture. But any human society must unavoidably find itself linked the interactions of environmental factors that control biology, via ecology. The premise I will demonstrate being that spontaneous catastrophes cannot annihilate an organized civilization, and that only biological factors can determine whether ultimate social collapse is inevitable. THE EIGHT OMENS In the year 1509, ten years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico, a series of eight portentous omens were rumored amongst the people of the Aztec Empire: 1.) Fire falling from the sky 2.) Fire burning down the temple of Huitzilopochtli 3.) Lightning destroying the straw temple Xiuhtecuhtli 4.) Streaking flames across the oceans 5.) Boiling and flooding of a lake close to the capitol of Tenochtitlan 6.) A woman weeping in the night begging them to flee while they still could 7.) A two-headed man running through the street. 8.) Images seen by Montezuma of fighting men in a mirror on the head of his bird. These unlikely occurrences were explained as portents of an imminent, yet unknown disaster. It was later explained as a forewarning of the Spanish conquest and the military, social, and ecological consequences therein. Omens of this sort are illustrative of the fear primitive cultures felt in the face of shifts in natural forces that could indeed spell their doom. Although, it is possible that these pronouncements were post-conquest, historical revisions made as an attempt to justify the calamity that befell them, and perhaps to curry favor with the conquerors. (Restall, 2003) THE PLAGUE Smallpox has been a scourge of mankind for thousands of years and on multiple continents. Perhaps the location where its influence was felt most strongly was in ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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