Friday, July 08, 2005

More Than Just Dirt

We've been exploring a number of historic sites recently, including Stonehenge with it's associated barrow mounds, Roman ruins near Cardiff, various castles in England and Wales, and most recently the Etowah Mounds State Park near Cartersville, Georgia.

The site near Cartersville supported a population of several thousand people 500 years ago and includes three flat-topped mounds -- one of which is 63 feet tall.

Most sites with mounds also feature ditches nearby, since you had to get the dirt for the mounds or fortifications from somewhere. The combination of ditches and mounds, or what know in castle-building circles as the motte and bailey technique, is an ancient one.

Three key things struck me while exploring these sites, especially in light of the recent terrorist attacks in London:
  • Human beings have had sophisticated civilizations for a long time

  • Outposts of civilized life have always had to protect themselves from external threats

  • Ditches, mounds, and walls have provided protection for civilized life for millenia
The mounds built to protect groups of people in the past were more than just dirt. They represented symbolic and often actual security. They marked the boundary between Us and Them. They took a lot of work to create and maintain and advancing technology -- like cannons -- eventually made them obsolete.

Another approach to the matter of security was to establish trading networks so that your neighbors had a vested interest in your security and prosperity as well as their own. Trading networks aren't obsolete yet.

Today, conservative talk show hosts are calling for the U.S. to build a wall around the country to curtail illegal emmigration. Many people are also worried about how China, our largest trading partner, will behave when our interests start to diverge.

It will be interesting to see how the balance between building protective mounds and building trading networks plays out over the next few decades.


Anonymous cartersville said...

Interesting blog. Keep up the good work.


BBQ Lover

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Euharlee said...

Interesting blog...a good read.

A Cassville Heritage Association member, Cassville, Georgia

1:10 PM  
Blogger Johnny Reb said...

Interesting blog. Keep up the good work.


Johnny Reb

7:31 AM  

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