What Is Cultural Diffusion? Essay
What Is Cultural Diffusion?
Cultural Diffusion is the process by which a cultural trait, material objects, idea or behavior pattern is spread from one society to another. It is very common in ancient times when small groups of humans lived in adjoining settlements and spreading of ideas and culture occurs. Since cultures have never been completely isolated from each other, diffusion has happened through out history and continues on today. Mesopotamia, considered as a place where civilization begins, was destined to be a land of trade from the very start. It is where the spread of cultures was believed to originate.
Ancient Mesopotamia had many languages and cultures; its history is broken up into many periods and eras; it had no real geographic unity, and above all no permanent capital city, so that by its very variety it stands out from other civilizations with greater uniformity, particularly that of Egypt. The script and the pantheon constitute the unifying factors, but in these also Mesopotamia shows its predilection for multiplicity and variety. Written documents were turned out in quantities, and there are often many copies of a single text.
The pantheon consisted of more than 1,000 deities, even though many divine names may apply to different manifestations of a single god. During 3,000 years of Mesopotamian civilization, each century gave birth to the next. Thus classical Sumerian civilization influenced that of the Akkadians, and the Ur III empire, which itself represented a Sumero-Akkadian synthesis, exercised its influence on the first quarter of the 2nd millennium BC. With the Hittites, large areas of Anatolia were infused with the culture of Mesopotamia from 1700 BC onward.
Contacts, via Mari, with Ebla in Syria, some 30 miles south of Aleppo, go back to the 24th century BC, so that links between Syrian and Palestinian scribal schools and Babylonian civilization during the Amarna period (14th century BC) may have had much older predecessors. At any rate, the similarity of certain themes in cuneiform literature and the Old Testament, such as the story of the Flood or the motif of the righteous sufferer, is due to such early contacts and not to direct borrowing.
The influence of the Mesopotamian legal codes upon the Mosaic body of laws (particularly in the area of property rights) is universally recognized as the foundation of the Western judicial corpus. Though it is a remarkable document, the code of “The King of Justice,” is itself capable of what a contemporary American would consider extreme injustice. For instance, a contractor builds a home for a nobleman. As a result of shoddy workmanship, the house collapses and a son of the nobleman is killed.
Rather than imposing a fine, or even executing the irresponsible builder, the code of Hammurabi requires that the son of the builder, by modern standards an innocent party, be put to death. As in the case of Egypt, the priests in Mesopotamia dominated the intellectual and educational domain as well as the applied. The center of intellectual activity and training was the library, which was usually housed in a temple under the supervision of influential priests. Methods of teaching and learning were memorization, oral repetition, copying of models, and individual instruction.
It is believed that the exact copying of scripts was the hardest and most strenuous and served as the test of excellence in learning. The period of education was long and rigorous, and discipline was harsh Western society is sometimes claimed to trace its cultural origins to both Greek thought and Christian religion, thus following an evolution that began in ancient Greece, continued through the Roman Empire and, with the coming of Christianity (which has its origins in the Middle East), spread throughout Europe.
The idea of Western society being influenced from (but not being the single evolution of) ancient Greek thought makes sense only for the post-Renaissance period of Western history. The philosopher Bertrand Russell, in his History of Western Philosophy, accepted the idea of the West as the heir to ancient Greek and Jewish culture, but went on to treat Islam and Marxism as developments within Western culture. River basin nurtured early Chinese civilization. From 3000 to 1600 BC. The plain of the Huang He (Yellow River) sustained large farming communities whose people raised silkworms and spun silk thread and cloth.
They traded these products across the camel trails of Central Asia. Although an advanced society developed, the Chinese did not keep written records until the Shang dynasty of the 16th century BC. The Shang ruled over a number of local kings who controlled walled city-states that cooperated to repulse raiding northern nomads. The nomads then dislodged other tribes, setting off a chain of migrations, including that of the Aryans into India between 1500 and 1200 BC. The early Maya(ancient native American) organized themselves into kin-based settlements headed by chiefs.
The chiefs were hereditary rulers who commanded a following through their political skills and their ability to communicate with supernatural powers. Along with their families, they composed an elite segment of society, enjoying the privileges of high social rank. However, these elites did not yet constitute a social class of nobles as they would in the Classic period. A council of chiefs or elders governed a group of several settlements located near one another. The council combined both political and religious functions.
Like other ancient farming peoples, the early Maya worshiped agricultural gods, such as the rain god and, later, the corn god. Eventually they developed the belief that gods controlled events in each day, month, and year, and that they had to make offerings to win the gods’ favor. Maya astronomers observed the movements of the sun, moon, and planets, made astronomical calculations, and devised almanacs (calendars combined with astronomical observations). The astronomers’ observations were used to divine auspicious moments for many different kinds of activity, from farming to warfare.
Jews, a people who have maintained a distinct cultural identity originally based on the idea of a covenant, or special relationship, with God. The Jewish people are among the oldest of the many peoples known to history. Their origins date back at least 3,000 years, and perhaps even further. During this lengthy period Jews have settled in all parts of the world and have had an impact on many civilizations. The Jewish religion, Judaism, has exerted influence far beyond its own adherents. Christianity grew out of Judaism, and Islam accepted many of the traditions and practices of Judaism.
Knowledge of the history of the Jews and their culture contributes to a fuller understanding of the history of the Western world and its spiritual life. Religion, ethnic identity, and language have all played important roles in maintaining Jewish identity. Because Judaism related to so many aspects of life, including those considered secular in other cultures, being a Jew led to a strong group or ethnic identity. For example, the Hebrew Bible (known to Christians as the Old Testament) laid down dietary laws and indicated which foods were considered kosher (fit) for consumption.
Jews also had their own written language, Hebrew, and distinct spoken languages developed. The best known of these spoken languages is Yiddish, which is based on the German language. Rather than the high estate which the Hebrews assigned to man as the representative of God on earth, for the inhabitants of Mesopotamia man was nothing more than the slave of the gods, designed to relieve them of their toils and subject to their whims. The flooding of the Tigris and the Euphrates was violent and irregular, hence the mental life of the Mesopotamian civilizations became dominated by a sense of anxiety.
They consider the world as unpredictable and capricious, bringing life-giving rain and fertility one day and devastating destruction the next. They consider this the forces of nature which are expressions of the whims of the gods, the gods are also unpredictable and capricious. Unlike other cultures of the day, the Hebrew people believed in one God, and His Name was YHWH. That in itself was distinctive because most other cultures engaged in polytheistic worship, where not one god, but many were exalted.
Yet, it is not merely their belief in one God that set the foundation for Hebrew thinking and living; it is what they believed about Him that made the difference. In contrast to this, other cultures of the time saw their gods as removed from everyday human life. Their divinities were too busy fighting with each other to be overly concerned with mere mortals. Two of the most prominent societies of the time were the Egyptians and the Babylonians. The Egyptians had a complex system of religion that included a multiplicity of gods, often represented by animals such as a cat, baboon, or lion.
Even through modern research it is hard to piece together a complete system of Egyptian religion because of the inconsistent and confusing information left behind. Many of the gods and goddesses seem more or less identical, yet they existed together. Contradictory myths explaining the creation of the world, natural phenomena, and the like were accepted without argument. Attributes of deities were freely and indiscriminately adopted from one group or locality to another, and combinations and fusions of gods were frequent.
The Egyptian gods were made by the people, fabricated to suit their desieres and ideas. Unfortunately, these gods could not be counted upon to be faithful or loyal to their followers. Blessing was based upon flattery and offerings. Likewise, the Babylonian system of religion revolved around many personalities, most of which were related to nature. Their religious ideas developed as a result of other Near Eastern religions in the Mesopotamian area. In their theological thinking, man was created for the benefit of the gods.
His whole purpose was to serve, proved for, pamper, worship, and revere them. in return, the people could hope for protection and blessing, even though the personalities of their gods were, more often than not, abusive and cruel. Warfare, revenge, murder, and the like were, common behaviors to expect from the Babylonian deities. Some ideas that might be considered cornerstones of Western tradition are: Christianity, secularism, rational deductive reasoning, rule of law, esteem for human civilization, the development of science and technology.
The Enlightenment has had a major influence in the western thought over the last two centuries. . However, the conquest of the western parts of the Roman Empire by Germanic peoples and the subsequent advent of despotism in the form of dominance by the Western Christian Papacy (which held combined political and spiritual authority, a state of affairs absent from Greek civilization in all its stages), resulted into a rupture of the previously existing ties between the Latin West and Greek thought , including Christian Greek thought. The Great Schism and the Fourth Crusade confirmed this deviation.
Hence, the Medieval West is limited to Western Christendom only, as the Greeks and other European peoples not under the authority of the Papacy are not included in it. The clearly Greek-influenced form of Christianity, Orthodoxy, is more linked to Eastern than Western Europe. On the other hand, the Modern West, emerging after the Renaissance as a new civilization, has been influenced by (its own interpretation of) Greek thought, which was preserved in the Byzantine Empire during the Medieval West’s Dark Ages and transmitted therefrom by emigre scholars.
Morever, European peoples not included in Western Christendom, such as the Greeks, have redefined their relationship to this new, Currently, in the post-Cold War era, particularly after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States of America and the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, major global antagonist blocs are the Muslim world and the Western world, or vice-versa.
Westerners accuse Muslims for treating non-Muslims differently and for not recognizing and adopt social accomplishments of Western society (such as the universal concepts of free speech, democracy, universal suffrage, human rights, and gender equality), while largely using Western wealth, science and technology for self development and enrichment. On the other hand, Muslim world largely views the Western world as a overwhelmingly decadent, corrupt, immoral and imperialistic society with inferior moral and spiritual beliefs.
Thus, the contrast of theology between these cultures and the Hebrew people is evident. The god of the Hebrews was not dependent upon them, they were vitally dependent upon Him. One look at the book of Proverbs and it is evident that the Hebrew wisdom was practical advice for living. There are rare passages that refer to abstract ideals (perhaps the most frequent being the personification of wisdom as a woman), but for he most part, it is a book that meets people were they live and tells them how to do it successfully.
This practicality comes from their theological presuppositions about God. in their eyes, he was the Almighty One and living in obedience to his law was what a righteous, blessed life was all about. In other words, someone who is smart will obey the one who knows it all anyway! Along with practical wisdom for living day to day, the Hebrews did deal with philosophical questions about life such as suffering, calamity, inequity, and injustice.
The difference between their perspective and that of their contemporaries, is that the were not always understood and could not always be explained. So, Hebrew thought left the unexplainable unexplained. This is not to intimate that they somehow ignored crisis and inequity, or gave a pseudo-intellectual answer. As is reflected in their writings, they honestly questioned and openly confronted both man and God. Yet, ultimately some things were beyond knowing, at which point the Hebrews responded with the attitude, “God sees and knows, and I will trust in Him. “