Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (2023)

Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (2)

Ancient civilizations increasingly valued natural resources.


Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (3)

Puertadr. Sydney H. Aufrère
Professor of Linguistics
University of Aix-Marseille

To prevent a recurrence of famine caused by the whims of the Nile (flood or drought), the pharaonic kin group had to establish an effective organization. Its purpose was to improve the standard of living of an increasing number of people, satisfy their basic needs (for example, food and consumer goods) and respond to the demand of the aristocracy for imported products and artifacts for funerary or liturgical purposes. .

With the establishment of departments, each of which is responsible for a specific economic sector, the hierarchy of working methods grew. New craft techniques were developed for the production of goods, which to a greater or lesser extent affected the environment, in accordance with the increase in population and the constant improvement of the standard of living. These new techniques greatly increased the production of artifacts (metal, mineral, glass), with several spikes in the importation of cloth during the Middle and New Kingdoms, as evidenced by Egypt's dominance of the Near East and Lower Nubia. The availability of a wide range of materials allowed for the development of more advanced technologies, particularly for weaponry, which mobilized techniques in a variety of different fields, including metallurgy, quarrying, and woodworking. A study of the techniques used in weaponry and shipbuilding has shown that materials are chosen for their strength or flexibility, with the ultimate goal of improving performance.

The production of chariots, bows, arrows, and spears brought these complex technologies to their zenith. Their production processes not only increased artisan experimentation and control of the chemical processes involved, but also led to the overexploitation of non-renewable resources such as minerals and renewable resources such as wood. In fact, the scarcity of wood in the Lower Nile Valley and in Mesopotamia forced the Egyptians to obtain wood from the Lebanese forests -oak, cedar, fir and Cilician pine- whose exploitation contributed greatly to the deforestation of this region.

Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (4)

Since the information available in the texts does not cover the wide range of professions involved in the conversion of materials and substances used in chemical processes, a brief overview is provided here. Archaeological and textual records indicate the short- and long-term effects of this activity on the environment in Egypt and abroad. Of the methods used to build monuments ranging from civil architecture to pyramids, mud brick making was the most important, as it was cheap and did not require skilled labor (Kemp 2000: 83-4). The adobes were made from a mixture of mud and straw, as well as mineral and vegetable residues that ensured their cohesion. The moist mud was packed into wooden molds and then dried to make bricks for wall construction. Some of these stones were pressed into the construction cartridges of the pharaohs. The spaces between the bricks were filled with sand-mud plaster (Kemp 2000: 92-3). The exterior of the adobe structures had to be plastered and then covered with a thin layer of plaster to provide additional protection from the weather and prevent salt from moving up.

Made from natural elements, adobe could not be reused, but it did not pollute the environment. The remains of ancient monuments were blown upsabaj(in the 19th and 20th centuries BC) which isdon't worry(ie decomposed dry organic matter rich in nitrates) to fertilize agricultural soils. In ancient times, the mud foundations of the old buildings were not evacuated, the second levels were simply rebuilt on top, creating the shape of a bowl (Gr.whose, "people") structures. When they were reddened by fire, the remains of mud buildings covered the ground. The use of mud bricks, which also polluted the soil, appeared in the New Kingdom.

It should be noted here that thanks to a process invented in the Third Dynasty (2700 – 2625 BCE), the hand-carved stone used for funerary and divine architecture was sometimes reused. There are still many monuments built in Egypt partly with such materials. Larger cemetery monuments can be removed. For example, during the reign of Ramses II. and due to the unavailability of cut stone (limestone, sandstone, or granite), engineers resorted to destroying Giza's ancient monuments for new architectural projects. This detail calls into question the myth of the political will to preserve the structures of the past. However, Khaemouaset, the fourth son of Ramses II. and high priest of Ptah in Memphis, he distinguished himself in this regard by restoring several ancient monuments (Aufrère 1998e), earning him posterity in Egyptian literature under the name Setne (Charron and Barbotin 2016).

The mining and quarrying operations demonstrated the administration's ability to mobilize a large workforce, if necessary, both in the Nile Valley and in the surrounding deserts. This makes us aware of the impact of human activities in this desert environment. As evidenced by documents such asbirthday, the Egyptians tried to control this influence by creating new offices such as governor of the treasury of gold and silver, governor of the desert beyond Syria, and governor of the deserts of the land of Kush. But the texts also mention that among the Theban priestly titles was "Elder of Gebel of the Gold of Amun", which confirms the omnipotence of the priesthood in the New Kingdom (Ziegler 1981). From this it can be concluded that Egyptian political and religious systems were based on looting the plant, animal and mineral (especially aureus) resources of subjugated Nubia, mainly those of Wadi Allaqi. Thus, the Kush viceroys ensured that the royal capitals (Thebes, Memphis, etc.) received important annual tributes, which probably required forced labor in the gold mines, as the classical texts attest. The interpretation of written texts and the observation of mines and quarries exploited in ancient times show that although the first miners did not intend to destroy the divine resources to perform their necessary rituals, they were nevertheless changed by the long-term overexploitation of this resource. To facilitate human settlement in these desolate areas, even occasionally, the availability of plant resources was more important than the transformation of these materials.

Unchecked en masse until the materials ran out, not only by the Egyptians themselves, but also by the later Greek and Roman conquerors of Egypt, the desert became a place of fear and irrationality (Keimer 1944). Despite the lack of wood and water resources, people and animals could be employed as labor if a network of reinforced wells or water tanks were available, along with new means of transporting heavy loads. Over time, most Pharaonic and Greco-Roman work sites have exposed entire sections of mountains and veins drained down to the tiniest nuggets or mineral balls, while mounds of accumulated trash and erratic boulders have been discarded in quarries. In addition, near the gates of the Roman fortresses there were dumps of all kinds of waste related to daily life (Reddé 2018).

Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (5)

The production of ceramics was a very polluting activity that resulted first from the combustion in kilns and then from the processing of the material itself. In fact, once shredded, the material had little chance of being recycled. However, some pottery fragments could have been used to spread the adobes of the vaults, and could also have been used as ostraca (writing surfaces). However, this reuse was very limited and did not solve the waste problem. As pottery was indispensable in daily life, rubbish was dumped on isolated hills outside the town, turning the moor into a wasteland. Since the food consisted mainly of bread, the enamel of the teeth was worn away prematurely by the fragments of silica that separated from the grinding wheels and millstones during the milling of the flour. Tooth wear was observed even in the ruling classes.

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In the Nile Valley, the copper smelting industry, which mobilized a significant number of workers, polluted the air with toxic gases emitted by open or closed furnaces. The use of toxins and cow urine in tanneries and goat workshops created a stench and polluted the waters of the Nile. Tanned leather was widely used to make cloth and weapons. The use of vegetable tanning has somewhat reduced contamination. The dye containers also gave off unpleasant odors, as was reported by madder in thehandel satire(IV 5–7), but also many other colors such as waad. Furthermore, according to classical authors, the embalming workshops around Thebes, located on the western bank of the Nile and far from populated areas, were known to emit horrible odors caused by the preparation of bodies for embalming after evisceration and dehydration (Riggs 2014). This industrialized post mortem activity required the participation of a large number of specialized personnel and the use of large amounts of chemicals such as natron, widely distributed in the environment. The preparation of the bodies to ensure their passage into eternity required the weaving of linen strips, the construction of coffins to the standards required by the nobility, and the preparation of floral decorations (David 2000). This industry around death was also widely applicable to sacred animals, as evidenced by the animal necropolises at Saqqara and elsewhere.

If Egypt was traditionally considered a country where simple medicines were prepared to relieve pain, it was also known for the production of poisons (Cumont 1937:174-7). In Roman times, this reputation was mainly associated with the legend of Cleopatra (Marasco 1995). However, plants containing alkaloids – poppy (Papaver somniferumL., 1753) the henbane (black hyosciamusL., 1753)- although they were not very poisonous, but mineral poisons such as arsenic sulfides (orpiment and realgar), mercury sulfides (cinnabar) and copper sulfates were known as poisons. In antiquity these toxins were generally unstable, and only in the Renaissance did they stabilize and become truly highly toxic (Collar 2007). However, Alexandrian Egypt was considered the land of poisoners (Pharmakoi), also known for love potions and aphrodisiacs. In that period, poisoning was part of everyday life. For rulers, the risk of death from poisoned food could be avoided by employing the services of preasters (Kaufman 1932: 106; Cumont 1937: 174-6).


Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (6)

PuertaDoctor Cale Johnson
ancient history teacher
Free University of Berlin

Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (7)

Unlike today, when raw materials are purchased, stored in containers, and shipped all over the world, obtaining rare or precious raw materials was a difficult task in ancient times. And while it may be easy to apply the anachronistic model to the ancient Near East, where peaceful trade prevailed, two particularly important modes of raw material acquisition are often left out of such accounts: the direct acquisition of metals through mining by expeditionary forces, and the acquisition of materials through military force, either as tribute or theft (Englund 2006). Although resource acquisition through trade is deferred to the next chapter, this section first considers these two methods of resource acquisition through direct action, then considers both archaeological and literary evidence for debris, pollution, and recycling.

Since we would not expect minerals and other resources to be readily found in alluviums such as Mesopotamia, it is not surprising that almost all discussions have centered on the extraction of minerals and metals from known mining centers in the northwest and east. from Mesopotamia. Copper and other raw materials from the Gulf or across it, especially Oman, play a role later and in the Amarna era in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC. the store takes center stage. In contrast, the Mesopotamians looked east to Anatolia or the Iranian Plateau in the earliest stages (see generally Potts 2007; Weeks 2013), and only at the end of the 3rd millennium BC to sources outside of Iran, perhaps as far as Bactria Margiana. Archaeological Complex (BMAC; see Steinkeller 2016). There is ample evidence of ancient mining and metallurgical workings in eastern Anatolia, before the intervention of the southern Mesopotamian states during the Uruk expansion (Lehner and Yener 2014: 536); as Lehner and Yener note, "the main development in extractive metallurgy the early fifth millennium Cilicia (Garstang 1953), [including] the development of smelting technology and possibly smelting of ores into metal, "The best early evidence for extractive metallurgy comes from the Degirmentepe site in the early 4th millennium BC. Kr. (539). Of course, mining activities were not limited to this site: "Of the 91 recorded copper ore deposits in Anatolia, 36 reveal evidence of prehistoric mining" (Wagner and Öztunalı 2000:31; Kassianidou and Knapp 2005:218). .

Similarly, there is a long history of mining and metallurgy on the Iranian Plateau, especially near Mesopotamia, dating back to the 5th millennium BC (see generally Thornton 2009; Weeks 2012; Weeks 2013). Much of the literature has focused on Talmessa/Meskani near Anarak, but the centrality of this area for early copper ore mining is now disputed (Pernicka 2004; Weeks 2013: 278). The earliest evidence of copper casting in a pot comes from the 5th millennium BC site of Tal-i-Iblis. In the southeast. During the fourth millennium BC. Kr. this technological tradition continues to develop, as evidenced by the archaeological sequence at Arisman, culminating in copper smelting furnaces in the Proto-Elamite period at the end of the 4th millennium BC. Kr. (Helwing 2011; Steiniger 2011; Weeks 2013: 279). Although the protocuneiform sources (ca. 3300-3000 BC) contain administrative records of small amounts of metals, especially copper, we do not find traces until the third millennium BC. C. Kr. evidence of the movement of metals between major urban centers (Englund 2006). Despite the efforts of many later writers to claim technological priority for Uruk, we can be fairly certain that the Mesopotamians of the Uruk period (ca. 3800-3000 BC) were the recipients of this long metallurgical tradition.

One of the most important innovations, at the beginning of the third millennium BC. BC, was the development of tin bronze, and it is significant that the opinion of scientists about the nature and origin of the material for tin bronze in Mesopotamia has changed dramatically in recent times. one of each. It has long been argued that tin bronzes, as opposed to arsenic bronzes, were intentional alloys and that the sources of tin had to be sought in Central Asia, but both ideas have been challenged over the past decade. There is "some evidence of the deliberate (albeit uncontrolled) production of arsenic-rich materials for alloying purposes", such as the arsenide-rich slag from Arisman and the iron-arsenic-speiss slag at Hissar (see Weeks 2013:280 for a discussion). revision). Furthermore, recent work in the Central Zagros Mountains, at the Deh Hosein mine in Luristan, suggests that tin and copper ores were mined in this region, between Mesopotamia and the Iranian Plateau, on the eastern edge of the Zagros in Iran, in the beginning of the second millennium BC. (Nezafati et al. 2009; Weeks 2013: 280) and consequently a "naturally mixed source of copper and tin [such as] Deh Hosein" could have been the source of bronze artifacts in the 3rd millennium BC. . Nezafati et al., 2009: 225). If so, the production processes for arsenic bronze and tin bronze may have been more similar than previously believed. This possibility tends to undermine the idea that ancient Assyrian trade was undermined in the early 2nd millennium BC. Taken as a model of what happened in the third millennium BC. see Ezer 2014), that is, tin came to Anatolia from Central Asia via the Iranian plateau and the Mesopotamian alluvium, while gold and silver went the other way from Anatolia. Steinkeller (2016) noted the large amounts of gold and silver donated by Ebla on the Euphrates in western Syria as a tribute to Marius on the middle Euphrates, further arguing that during this period of massive political centralization in ancient Akkad and Ur III . it was the inflow of gold and especially silver into southern Mesopotamia, which served as a special economic medium of that imperial era. But some elements of Steinkeller's general model appear to be at odds with new finds, such as the discovery of tin and copper ores at Zagros and Archie's argument that Durgurasa, which Steinkeller, following Biga, identifies with Egypt, was actually located in western Iran. (Archive 2016).

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The only well-documented case of early cuneiform mining, from the Ur III period (ca. 2112-2004 BCE), does not involve commercial or local experts, but rather a team of "mountain (that) metal workers" or "miners " (Sum simug hur.sag, believed to have been sent from the southern Mesopotamian city of Lagash to mine locally in the Iranian foothills east of the alluvium (Lafont 1996). the same region and also approximately contemporary with Deha. The Hosein mine was studied by Nezafati and colleagues. The text itself is a record of one day's flour distribution, in which a team of apparently 100 miners received 6 liters of flour each as they made their way to the town of Adamdun, i.e. Adamshah (we cannot assume that the team consisted of 100 people, as Ur III bureaucrats occasionally used such simplified summaries for smaller groups of workers over several days). Lafont discusses two other allusions, in literary texts of the near-contemporaneous Gudea inscription, to "copper (Sum. tombs (Sum. Uruda)" in the cities of Abullat and Kimash (statue B vi 21-3 and cylinder A xvi 17), and on the basis of these data argued that the route from Lagash, via Adamshah, was transit. at the Adamshah and Kimash sites, which Potts (2010) beautifully synthesized and evaluated. examining a wide range of cuneiform textual sources and Layard's mid-19th century study of Mount Tiyari in Iraqi Kurdistan, Potts also points to archaeological evidence of mines in northwestern Zagros (2010: 251), ultimately arguing that Adamshah Kimash In this region of the three regions briefly discussed here (Anatolia, the Iranian Plateau, and northwestern Zagros), it is probably not a coincidence that the only cuneiform tablet that directly reports mining activity refers to Adamshah, which is probably found in the northwest of Zagros, the nearest of these. three regions south of Mesopotamia.

Although we readily speak of trade networks, Englund, influenced by contemporary models, emphasized that the most accessible source of raw materials in ancient Mesopotamia would have been finished products stored in temples, palaces, and warehouses in competing or antagonistic urban centers. The historical record makes it quite clear that temples were one of the main beneficiaries of military campaigns, often receiving much of the loot from other conquered cities, and that one of the most widely used techniques was resource extraction, as Englund described as "mere looting". "of other people's temples. and the palace.

Forcibly removing desirable goods from Anatolia, Persia, and other Gulf regions such as Bahrain and especially Oman (ancient Magan), or removing them under threat of destruction, was the preferred means of Babylonian elites to satisfy their need for non-native goods. in Mesopotamia. .... This threat of violence was directly behind the more benign extortion of taxes from the native population and near neighbors, and the demands of the day from those furthest from the Babylonian seat of power.

England 2006: 40

In recent years, the clearest example of this process (now anchored in Steinkeller's model of a silver-based economy emerging at the end of the third millennium BCE) is the conflict between Ebla and Mari at the end of the period Early Dynastic.

Just before the rise of the old Akkadian Empire, we have quite detailed evidence of more than four decades of conflict and diplomacy (c. 2380-2334 BC) between Ebla and Mari. At the beginning of this period, Mari was on the rise and Ebla had to pay more than 1,000 kg of silver and 60 kg of gold as tribute (Archi 2017: 165). Mari would eventually fall to Ebla (and this entire conflict zone would be incorporated into the former Akkadian Empire almost immediately thereafter), but the cuneiform text makes it clear that the acquisition of metals, whether by looting, tribute, or diplomatic "gift," was a concern. central to these city-states. As Archie says:

War was therefore the primary means of acquiring valuable goods. Documents prove that the Eblaite army went to war almost every year (a practice well illustrated in the Hittite and Assyrian annals of the following centuries), but only one document (ARET XIV 56) records that the booty taken during these campaigns was collected. . .

Archive 2017: 164
Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (9)
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Although we do not have such clear documentation of later extracts from the Old Akkadian period, we do see this practice recorded in Sumerian literary compositions, probably written in the Ur III period, asAgada's curse. It was undoubtedly written by Sumerian writers in southern Mesopotamia to embarrass their colonial masters, especially former Akkadian rulers such as Naram-Sîn,Agada's curseshows the new and prosperous capital of the Akkadian Empire, Akkad, with Inanna as its main deity, in contrast to the traditional religious center of Mesopotamia, the Temple of Ekur at Nippur. Booty and other wealth, especially in the form of precious metals and stones, which had previously reached Nippur, was now diverted to Akkad, and Naram-Sîn's attempts to rebuild the Ekur temple in Nippur would even go awry. they are presented as a kind of profane recycling of raw materials in the Ekur temple. This story goes against a central belief in Mesopotamian temple-building ideologies, namely that the raw materials for a new temple should come from the entire state (or macrocosm) that the palace represents, and not be recycled from previous temples. . incarnations of a temple or palace (Liverani 2001; Johnson 2014), an idea that was probably in stark contrast to the usual state of affairs.

The most common types of debris or contamination in the archaeological record are various forms of nonchemical residues, such as flakes from stone tool production, but slag and other waste products from metal and glass production are the most prominent residues. of chemical processes. . Ceramic kilns and metal and glass factories are mostly cluttered with all kinds of waste, slag and other debris from the production process. The best, almost literary, example of this type of ruin field is found in Woolley's description of the potter's workshop at Pit F in Ur:

Buried in the mass of rubble at various levels were the actual ovens in which they were baked. All the kilns were used many times and were constantly being repaired...[They were] round and, although they varied in size, they all had more or less the same pattern...The actual kiln was four feet in diameter, rim 0, 20 m wide around the edge of the furnace shaft, which serves as a support for the roof of the latter; the walls were of brick...they were laid with clay mortar and abundantly plastered with refractory clay burnt by heat to a greenish-white colour, while the ground around was dark red, showing that the kiln had been partially buried to withstand the heat of the oven for longer conservation; the kiln roof was rebuilt before each firing and destroyed to remove the pots once the firing was complete.

Woolley 1956: 65–6: Moorey 1994: 146

The reality is that the entire place consisted of waste products of one kind or another.

Certain types of waste products from the smelting process were distinctive and have been given some sort of identity in recent descriptions. For example, in his description of sulphur-free copper ore smelting, Forbes describes zinc oxide residues "condensed on the furnace roof" and known as "Ofenbruch" by early modern German metallurgists. Agricola describes it as "a sort of white liquid [which] flows from the furnace and is injurious to silver because it burns the metal" (Forbes 1950: 281). Other processes known as cupellation (to separate silver from lead, for example) would result in remains, although evidence of this has only been found at a few sites in the ancient Near East (Kassianidou and Knapp 2005: 226-7 mention only Habuba Kabir in southern Syria [Pernicka et al. 1998] and Mahmaltar in Anatolia [Wertime 1973: 883]). By far the most important area for the complex processes involved in the production of refined metal (and the associated deposition of various tailings and slag) is the refining of sulphide copper ore. Summing up Roman to modern metallurgy, Forbes even notes that "from Roman times to the days of Biringuccio and Agricola, the main struggle was to perfect the method of dry extraction of copper from sulfide ores" (Forbes 1950:306), producing mainly sulfur, arsenic and antimony as residues. Forbes outlines the five-step process described in Agricola: (a) roasting the ore, (b) melting the roasted ore into a mixture of copper and iron known as copperstone, (c) melting the coarse materials with charcoal (coke ) and a silicate smelter, (d) remelting of blue metal and (e) refining of black copper. We don't know how familiar this complex process was to smelters in the ancient Near East, but if smelters had used a simpler process, they would have had to "sacrifice efficiency and extract a smaller percentage of the copper present in the ore and more copper in it." [its] dross. In fact, if earlier processes were perhaps simplified, it was at the expense of efficiency" (Forbes 1950: 310). In other words, there was a constant trade-off between relatively simple processes involving large amounts of heterogeneous scrap obtained (including metal still usable) and more complex processes producing more refined metal and separate types of slag. It has even been suggested that the transition from arsenic to tin bronze was driven in part by the toxicity of arsenic vapors, but others have found this argument unconvincing (see Charleston 1978: 30 and Pare 2000: 7; Steinkeller 2016 , however, he cites arguments against it from the Middle East [McKerrell and Tylecote 1972] and the Andean tradition of metallurgy [Lechtman 1979]).

In recent years, more and more global and scientific approaches to pollution have focused onLong durationevidence of contamination that can be identified in metal refineries or even, through atmospheric diffusion, in the Greenland ice sheet. As Grattan et al. question, "overall conclusions from lead and copper studies of cores from the Greenland ice sheet, as well as from high latitudes or high altitude wetlands in Europe... show that many of the main contributors of metallic pollutants to the global atmosphere from late prehistory to modern times reflected changes in the mode and intensity of mining, mineral processing, and smelting in the ancient classical world” (2007: 87).

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Since ancient Near Eastern workshops do not appear to have been recorded in the global environment in this way, the only available method is to test the chemical composition of the remains in situ. Gratten and his colleagues conducted a series of studies on human skeletal remains and fusion site remains in the Feynan Valley in western Jordan and found large toxic residues in both (see Gratten et al. 2002 and Gratten et al. 2005 for skeletal evidence). For example, in a study of toxic residues at three fusion sites, Grattan et al. (2007: 100) identified concentrations of lead (~45,000 parts per million [ppm] at one site, ~14,000 ppm lead at another) and thallium (~90, ~35, and ~145 ppm at three sites) that " They're obviously dangerous." ". To put these numbers into perspective, the US Environmental Protection Agency limits the amount of lead in a playground to 400 ppm, so the amount found in smelter waste was more than 100 times that limit.

Modern concerns about toxicity or pollution can easily lead us to misunderstand what "waste" or "pollution" looked like in ancient times. Instead of focusing on the harmful health effects of these "additives", the main concern in Mesopotamian and early Mediterranean antiquity was the false devaluation of precious metals (or other ingredients). Already in the second half of the third millennium B.C. in Ebla, and in the state of Ur III at the end of the third millennium BC, both gold and silver could be refined and graded according to their purity. During the Amarna era in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC. BC, as precious goods once again circulated among the elites of the Mediterranean region, Syria, and Mesopotamia, issues of purity and artificial creation came to the fore. This was the same time period when recipes for the production of artificial lapis lazuli were first written, and in the famous Amarna Letters (c. 1360-1330 BC) we find explicit discussions of debased gold sent by the Egyptian pharaoh as gift. to the "brothers" of him. "(other kings of great kingdoms), including the rulers of Babylon, the Hurites, and the Hittites.

Although only the subject of correspondence between great kings (and thus limited to the first thirty letters of the corpus), the word "gold" occurs more than 500 times in the first thirty letters of the Moran translation; it can certainly be considered one of the main obsessions of the Amarna era. The belief of non-Egyptian rulers, especially in the letters of Burna-buriash of Babylon (Amenhotep IV) and the Mitanni ruler Tushratta (Amenhotep III), was that "in the land of my brother [=Egypt] gold is most abundant what filth" (EA 19 rev. 20–1; Moran 1992: 44; Rainey 2015: 144–5), although we know from the Wadi Hammamat gold mine map and other sources that gold mining operations in Egypt they are large corporations under direct state control (see Stierlin 2007: 74-5; Van de Mieroop 2009: 172). In letters from both Babylonia and the Mitan Empire in Syria, we repeatedly hear about debased gold coming from Egypt. In EA 10 Burna-buriash writes to Amenhotep IV:

As for the messenger you sent me, the 20 minutes of gold you brought here weren't all there. When they put it in the oven, the browning did not appear for 5 minutes. [...that appeared, after cooling down, looked like ashes.

EA 10 obv 18–24; Morán 1992: 19; vgl. Rainey 2015: 96–7

The correspondence of Tushratta, ruler of the state of Mitanni, makes no mention of melting down the pharaoh's gold gifts in furnaces, but even there he complains that the gold in question "was neither gold nor solid" (EA 29 obv 71; Moran 1992 : 95, see Rainey 2015: 308-9). Elsewhere, the inventory of wedding gifts reads a total of "1,200 gold mines" (EA 14 ii 34; Moran 1992: 30; cf. Rainey 2015: 118-19), about the same size as the large quantity of precious metal. that Ebla was given to Mary as tribute a millennium earlier, but now made of gold instead of silver.

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The main literary commonplace for waste products and contamination in ancient Mesopotamian literature is the physical character and setting of the washerman, both in Akkadian and comic comics.with the cleaners, and in earlier Sumerian and Sumerian-Akkadian bilingual lists of humorous occupations and unpleasant physical traits. The key point here is that while Mesopotamian bottlers and washers appear to have used beer and other fermented liquids in their work, there is no evidence that they used ancient urine, particularly because of the ammonia it contains, as a cleaning agent. agent, so the malodor associated with washing clothes in later Greco-Roman texts is not necessarily attributable to earlier Mesopotamian sources (as emphasized in the latest edition, Wasserman 2013: 263-4, where it refers to a wide variety of possible means for cleansing in the Mishnah: "tasteless saliva, boiled semolina water, urine, saltpeter, soap, caraway earth, and lion's leaf" [m. Niddah 61b-2a]). Even if they didn't use ancient urine, fillers and scrubbers necessarily used a wide variety of bases, animal fats, and dyes, so their chemical concoctions may have already attracted attention. Unlike known lists of occupations that go back in various ways to the beginning of writing in the late 4th millennium BC. BC, the list is known as Lu-azlag (ie Sum. lu2.azlag = Akk.better"fuller, wasman") is first attested in the Old Babylonian period and most examples are bilingual (Veldhuis 2014:161–2). As Veldhuis goes on to say, "Terms for occupations are extremely rare in Lu-azlag, which focuses on physical characteristics (including diseases), psychological states, and human activities." But it is probably no coincidence that lexical items derived from the Lu-azlag list also served as building blocks for witty scholastic dialogues likeclass reunion, so it is likely that the list served as a summary of humorous motifs in the Old Babylonian period (Johnson and Geller 2015: 10-11)

Greco-Roman world

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Puertadr. mateo martelli
Professor of history of science and technology.
University of Bologna

Deforestation was a key result of the urban, economic, and technological development of the Greek and Roman civilizations. Various factors, such as large-scale agriculture, urbanization, and the construction of ships and residential buildings, certainly contributed to the intensive exploitation of forest lands and forests, resulting in the depletion of these natural resources in various districts and regions. from the Mediterranean. (Williams 2006: 62-86; Hughes 2014: 68-87; Hughes 2017). Deforestation in Attica is mentioned in a famous passage from Plato's dialogue.Criticism(111b-c). In its mythical past, the region was untouched and thick with forests, while in Critias' time the mountains of Attica could only support bees (Harris 2011). The lack of timber (especially tall trees for shipbuilding and housing) is also reported in other classical sources: in Platolaws(IV 706b), Attica would have no timber for shipbuilding, which in mainland Greece was produced only in Macedonia and parts of Thrace, as Theophrastus points out in hisplant research(IV 5.5).

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Metallurgy (especially mineral smelting) and metallurgy, along with other pyrotechnic activities such as pottery, glass production, tanning and dyeing, are often considered the main causes of deforestation, although recent studies on their impact in the local situation (Rehder 2000: 153-9; Williams 2006: 77-80). Wood and coal were the main fuel for the old kilns and were in great demand in mining areas. A much-discussed case study is that of the Athenian silver mines at Laurion, where, according to Hughes' calculations, the need for fuel exceeded the annual forest growth of all of Attica (Hughes 2014: 136-42; Hughes 2017: 204). . The smelting of copper ore must have contributed to the deforestation of Cyprus, according to the Hellenistic multifaceted Eratosthenes of Cyrene (3rd century BC). StraboGeography(XIV 6.5) connects the destruction of the forests on the island in part with the activities of the local mines, the main suppliers of copper sulphate (krijtanthos), iron oxide and other medicines.

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Intensive mining activities could certainly reshape the landscape of mined areas. Huge piles of spoil and discarded stones were sometimes heaped next to the mines, such as the Thasos gold mines, where Herodotus (VI 46-7) saw a mountain overturned by the Phoenicians. According to Pliny's report (N.HXXXIII 70-6), galleries were dug in the mines by crushing rocks with fire, vinegar, and iron picks, and were supported by arches. When the vein ran out, the bows overturned, so that the broken mountain collapsed with a terrible crash. A large amount of water was needed to wash this deposit into the sea. Pliny affirms that "the land of Spain, for these reasons, sank a great distance into the sea" (N.HXXXIII 76; Rackham 1952: 61). Water was collected in large reservoirs above the mines, often from distant sources through a network of man-made channels that stretched for miles through the ground (Craddock 2016: 208–11). Ancient authors often embellished their accounts of these environmental changes with moral judgments. Pliny denounces how the Earth was desecrated by human workers who penetrated its bowels and dug deep tunnels in search of gold, silver, electrum, copper, iron, pigments, precious stones and medicines. "We follow all the fibers of the earth", writes Pliny, "and we live on the holes we have made in it, marveling at how it opens here and there or begins to tremble" (N.HXXXIII 1; Rackham 1952:3). In the same way, Democritus, in the seventeenth epistle of the pseudo-Hippocrates (§5), harshly attacks those who run mining and extractive companies:

They are not ashamed to call themselves lucky because they dug holes in the ground with the hands of people in chains, some of whom died from the collapse of the hollow earth, and others remain in endless slavery... They search for gold and silver. , finding traces and scraping dust, picking up sand here and there and cutting the veins of the earth for profit, turning even mother earth into clods. But it is one and the same land in which they walk in wonder.

Smit 1990: 81

In the second century AD. The copper mines of Soli, an ancient Greek city in Cyprus, were visited by the Greek physician Galen, who traveled to different regions of the Roman Empire (Palestine, Lycia, the island of Lemnos) to collect copper mines. and buy medicines of the best quality. Galen was tormented by the working conditions of the miners, chained slaves (probably convicted criminals) who were used to running quickly naked down a corridor that, starting from the building at the mine entrance, led to a green underground lake, thick, hot water (Galen,About the capabilities of simple drugs., IX 3.34 = XII 239–40 Kuhn). It was almost impossible to breathe in the tunnel due to the hot and dense air, which also prevented the lamps from burning for long. Water from the underground pool was drawn to the surface and poured into square ceramic vessels, where it evaporated, leaving copper concretions in the vessels (Mattern 2013: 101–3). All mining was carried out under the strict control of a cavalry officer, who allowed Galen to collect as much copper ore as he wanted from the multi-layered deposit in the mine (About the capabilities of simple drugs,IX 3,21 = XII 226–7 Kuhn).

Ancient miners often worked in terrible conditions, about which ancient authors left vivid records. The Greek historian and geographer Agatharchides (2nd century BC) described the dangerous working conditions in the gold mines of Nubia. Later authors, especially Diodorus Siculus (III 12-18) and the Byzantine scholar Photius (Library, codex 250). Extracts from Photius were also copied into the oldest alchemical manuscript, TheMarcianaGram. 299 (10th century AD), which also contains a list of gold mines in Egypt (The plasticII 26-7; 1995 Letter: 66–8). Greco-Egyptian alchemists were really interested in mining activities. In particular, Zosimus of Panopolis says that in Egypt the extraction and processing of precious metals were under the strict control of the kings (The plasticII 239-40; Festugiere 1944: 363–4); according to the commentary of the late ancient alchemist Olympiodorus (The plasticII 69-73; Viano 2018), Zosimos himself is said to have discussed how to wash and treat the arena aureus in his lost action.

The miners must have been exposed to poisonous fumes, as noted by the Latin poet Lucretius (DRNVI 808-15): The unpleasant stench of sulfur and bitumen hung underground, and after inhaling these fumes, the pale workers in the silver and gold mines of Scaptensula, a Thracian city, always died. Pliny points out that the release of silver mines was dangerous for all animals, especially dogs (N.HXXXIII 98). Due to toxic fumes from minerals mined at Mount Sandarakourgion in Asia Minor, probably an arsenic-based ore mine, ofin sandarac, "realgar" - 200 workers (mostly enslaved criminals) often fell ill and died (Strabo XII 3.40). To reduce these risks, ventilation shafts were opened in the mines to expel toxic vapors (Gas.N.HXXXI 49).

Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (14)

Poisonous exhalations were also produced in the workshops where the extracted minerals were processed. For example, Dioscorides (V 94) warned about the harmful properties of cinnabar, which he identified with the Spanishfollower(from Latinnow, usually referring to red lead) and is different fromkinnabarior "dragon's blood", that is, the secretions of an oriental plantdracaena(see also pl.N.HXXXIII 116). Although the plant substance had many medicinal uses, cinnabarite was poisonous, as evidenced by the suffocating odor it produced when heated in ovens (Trinquier 2013; Martelli 2014b: 39-42). Pliny was skeptical of recipes that prescribed cinnabarite for medicinal use and encouraged cinnabarite handlers in workshops to produce red pigments to protect their faces "with bladder-skin masks to prevent them from inhaling the dust which is very harmful" (N.HXXXIII 122; Caley 1928: 424). Similarly, workers were advised not to inhale the poisonous fumes from lead processed for medicinal purposes: in fact, deadly fumes escaped from furnaces when lead was melted in clay pots with sulfur (Plin.N.HXXXIV 167). The ancient alchemists tested their devices (for example, stills andKerotakis) and make them hermetically sealed to prevent dangerous vapors from escaping. Lutes of different compositions (wisdom mudor "lute of wisdom") were actually used to cover alchemical devices. In his commentary on the alchemical work of Zosimus, Olympiodorus mentions a glass cup used to burn the mineral arsenic, which Julius Africanusasymptote(F72 in Wallraff et al. 2012: 185): Olympiodorus claims that there is another vessel on topasymptoteso that arsenic cannot be dispersed as a vapor (The plasticII 75,19-22; Beretta 2009: 116). Pipes or funnels can also be used to extract noxious fumes from ovens. Strabo (III 2.8), after praising the singular variety of metals that are extracted in Spain, mentions the local silver smelting furnaces equipped with tall chimneys “so that the ore gas rises into the air; for it is heavy and deadly' (Jones 1921:43).

Gas and vapor emissions had consequences for both human health and the environment. Several lakes near mining areas were polluted in ancient times. In Roman times, deposits of silver and lead in southeastern Spain (eg, the Rio Tinto region; Richardson 1976) were especially exploited. For example, the Laguna de Río Seco in southern Spain records a significant peak in lead content between 2100 and 1700, which can be linked to Roman metallurgy (García-Alix et al. 2013: 454). Northwestern Spain was particularly rich in gold deposits; Analysis of water in Laguna Roya, a small glacial lake 35 km south of the Las Médulas mine, showed high concentrations of lead, antimony, bismuth, and arsenic, probably due to the extraction and processing of gold ore (Hillman et al. al. 2017). Significant atmospheric effects produced by ancient metallurgical industries can still be detected in the Greenland ice sheets (see Figure 5.1), which represent “unique frozen files of past changes in large-scale atmospheric metal fluxes” (Hong et al. 1996b: 191). Recent studies have shown that lead and copper concentrations in Greenland ice cores during Greco-Roman times were significantly higher than in previous and subsequent centuries (Hong et al. 1994; Makra 2015: 31-3). Copper emissions into the atmosphere increased between 200 B.C. and AD 350, the height of the Roman Empire (Hong et al. 1996a; Hong et al. 1996b). Especially between the middle of the 4th century B.C. and the II-III century AD. High levels of lead emissions have been recorded, as evidenced by the Greenland ice sheet dating between 2,500 and 1,700 years old: lead is present in concentrations four times higher than in natural water. values ​​(Hong et al. 1994; Capasso 1995). Fluctuations have been recorded in connection with plagues, wars, or periods of political instability (especially during the Roman Republic), which likely caused a temporary decline in mining activity (McConnel et al. 2018).

During wars, water can be deliberately poisoned, a cunning strategy that is particularly effective with siege ships. During the First Holy War (c. 595-585 BC), for example, to defeat the city of Kirrha, which had been besieged for ten years, the Athenians used corn to poison the canal that supplied water to the city ​​(Grmek 1979: 146–7; Mayor 2003: 100–4). According to the writings of Pseudohippocrates (Embassy, § 4 in Smith 1990:114), it was Dr. Nebros (lit. "Slane"), an ancestor of Hippocrates, who intended to contaminate the waters with unspecified poisons (pharmacist). Poison fumes were also used in sieges, using pitch, sulfur, and bitumen as fire accelerants and to produce noxious smoke (Mayor 2003:207-50). For example, the Spartans defeated Plataea (427 BC) by lighting a great fire with pitch and sulfur in front of the city walls (Thucydides, II 77). The same substances can also be used underground, as evidenced by archaeological finds in the eastern Roman city of Dura Europos, which was besieged by the Persians in AD 256. Here both the Romans and the Persians dug a network of tunnels under the city walls; however, the latter burned sulfur and bitumen to kill their enemies trapped in the galleries (James 2011). In the East, petroleum derivatives actually had a military use: in Samosata (on the Euphrates), the local combustible sludge (so-calledMaltaby Pliny; perhaps with oil) was used as an incendiary weapon against the army of Lucullus (Plin.N.HII 235; Partington 1999: 3–5). Sulfur, quicklime, bitumen and other ingredients were combined in the recipe for "self-igniting fire" given by Julius Africanus inCause of(fr. D25 in Wallraff et al. 2012: 116-19), a multi-volume "encyclopedia" that included military literature and alchemical recipes (Partington 1999: 5-10). This incendiary weapon anticipated the infamous "Greek fire", more precisely the "liquid fire" of combustible crudes (petroleum or naphtha) expelled from a sophisticated device containing siphons, pipes, boilers and pumps, which could be attached to Byzantine ships. (Haldon 2006).

In addition to mining and metal processing, other activities such as brick and glass production and the textile industry (including filling and dyeing processes) also polluted the air and water in urban areas. Roman glassmakers produced polluting smoke, which often blew molten glass: the process required advanced pyrotechnology with furnaces capable of consistently high temperatures (c. 1050-1150°C; Stern 1999: 450-4). The recycled material was sometimes melted down, as can be inferred from the scattered references to the exchange of broken pieces of glass in various Flavian poets, most notably Martial (epigrams, X 3,3–4), Statius (Silva, I 6,73–4) and Juvenal (Satire, V 47-8). It is difficult to find glass workshops in Rome:Vitrariusstraat(an area named after glassblowers) at nearby Porta Capena was recorded in the 4th centuryregional catalogs(Holleran 2018: 461), and Martial mentions a Transtiberian street vendor who trades sulfur for broken glass (epigrams, I 41,3-5). Scholars have sometimes interpreted this passage from Martial (along with the aforementioned passages from Statius and Juvenal) as referring to the use of sulfur to remelt or glue broken glass together (see, for example, Post 1908:21; Kardos 2002 :122). However, this interpretation, already questioned by several scholars (Leon 1941; Harrison 1987; Santorelli 2013:93-5), does not seem to be confirmed in ancient sources.

Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (15)

As early as the second century AD, glass production was probably moved to the outskirts of Rome to eliminate the smoke nuisance of the city center (Douglas and Frank 1972: 4). Similar restrictions were applied in Palestine, at least according to a brief treatise on town planning from the sixth century AD. factories, dyers and bottlers, on the outskirts of cities (Dell'Acqua 2004:138; Saliou 2012:44–5). In additionmishnah(Jewish Exegetical Oral Traditions Dating to the First Century AD 2012:47).

Tanning was one of the trades that the ancients considered responsible for water pollution; the use of urine in conjunction with a variety of astringent substances, both vegetable (for example, oak gall, rosehip, or ruddy) and mineral (especially alum), can contaminate the rivers in which the processed leather was soaked. Inscription from the 5th century BC. (IG I3 1.257; 430 BC) found in Athens mentions a decree that forbade the use of the waters of the Ilisos river, upstream of the Temple of Heracles, to wash leather or eliminate tannery waste (Rossetti 2002; Beazot 2017: 55 - 6). The application of this provision had beneficial effects, if we are to believe the testimony of Plato, who a few decades later praised the sweet water and fragrant air in that area (Phaedrus, 230b-c). Refinishing and painting shops often had similar problems.fullonskithey were commercial laundries that washed used clothing and, less frequently, finished new textiles. Although some service stations are located on the outskirts of the city (for example, largefullonskiexcavated in Casal Bertone; Musko et al. 2008), it is more likely that they were located in the center of cities, as is clear from the archaeological evidence in Pompeii and Ostia (Flohr 2013a: 229-36). The use of urine and sulfur in processes can be harmful to workers (especially due to ammonia; Bresson 2017: 186–187) and can generate unpleasant odors, which are widely reported in literary sources (Flohr 2003). The impact on health and the environment was probably most severe in the case of paint shops, where chemicals were handled in heated kettles (Flohr 2013a: 184-6). Thus Strabo (XVI 2.23) mentions polluting dyers on the island of Tyre:

The city was also unlucky when Alexander besieged it; but he overcame such calamities, and was means of his dyes for the color purple; for the purple of Tire turned out to be by far the most beautiful of all; and the shells are caught near the shore; and other necessary things for coloring are easy to get; and though the great number of dyers makes the town unpleasant to live in, yet it is enriched by the superior skill of its inhabitants.

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Jones 1930: 269

Martial Arts (epigrams, I 49.32; II 16,3; IX 62) often mentions the unpleasant odor of purple-dyed clothing, probably caused by the use of urine in the dyeing process (see also Plin.N.HIX127). Perhaps to remedy this problem, the recipe for dyeing purple in the alchemical books of Pseudo-Democritus (Martelli 2013:80-1) prescribes the use of an aromatic substance to decontaminate wool that has been soaked in urine for two days.

The textile industry is often associated with women in literary sources, especially in terms of weaving and spinning. However, it is difficult to assess the actual participation of women workers in the various stages of textile production. Filling and coloring are particularly opaque areas. Latin inscriptions mention purpuraria, women who produced or sold purple dyes or products (Larsson Lovén 2013: 115–16; Larsson Lovén 2016: 203–7); we also found two perfume sellers (perfumery;CILVI 10006; X 1965), and the woman is among the five jewelers (jeweler's;CILVI 9435: see Larsson Lovén 2016: 204). Frescoes in Pompeiisheetthey show some women at work, usually associated with the final stage of the production process and less physically demanding work (Clarke 2003: 116-17; Flohr 2013a: 282-3). Greco-Egyptian papyri refer to female fillers (Brieflyofin trouble; see eg.pmIV 359;P. OxyXXIV 2425;P.IandIII 43), and the papyrus P.Oxy.XIV 1648 (2nd century AD) preserves a contract in which three women (a mother with two daughters) sell their dry-cleaning workshop equipped with a lead pot and a clay pot ( Wipszycka 1965:148). ). Some letters from the archives of Apolonio, astrategist(ca. 113-120 AD), who ran a large weaving factory in Upper Egypt, records that his wife Aline and mother Eudaimonis were engaged in buying purple dye and evaluating its quality (Martelli 2014c: 118-20 ).

The recipes for dyeing purple in the Leiden and Stockholm chemical papyri do not specifically mention the potential users of the copied instructions. However, in general, Greek alchemical literature often mentions women as important players in the early development of this art in Greco-Roman Egypt. The Jewish woman Marija is numbered among the foremost authorities in the field, especially for her accurate descriptions of various devices, such as the alembic,Kerotakisand ovens. Zosimos of Panopolis wrote his own alchemical writings for Theosebeia, a wealthy upper-class woman, perhaps of Roman origin, whom the alchemist addresses as "the lady in the purple robes" and "my lover" (The plasticII 226, 246; Hallum 2008). For a time, he joined the Egyptian priest Neilos and his alchemical circle, which also included the Egyptian Taphnoutia (The plasticII 190-1; Letrouit 1995: 22, n. 49).

Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (16)

After all, women were the first to receive the book of chēmeia revealed by the fallen angels, according to Zosimos's report, and the angel Amnael revealed to the goddess Isis the secrets of preparing silver and gold (The plasticII 28-9). Also,chemicalis defined as the preparation of gold and silver in the Byzantine lexiconSweden(χ 280), which also refers to the Roman Emperor Diocletian (AD 244–311), who destroyed all books on the subject. The same story was already recorded by Juan de Antioquia in hisUniversal history(fr. 191 Mariev):

Diocletian, full of hatred and resentment towards those who rebelled against his rule in Egypt, did not settle for an unfair and cruel administration of the country, but instead devastated and damaged Egypt with persecutions and assassinations of prominent figures. He tracked down the books and burned them.chemicalof silver and gold, written by their ancestors: so the Egyptians would no longer make money from this art, and from then on they would lose confidence in the abundance of their possessions and rebel against the Romans.

The early Byzantine emperors do not appear to have retained Diocletian's hostility to alchemy. In fact, the content of the oldest alchemical manuscript (MarcianaGram. 299, fol. 2r; Saffrey 1995: 4–5) lists works on alchemy attributed to the emperors Justinian (c. 482–565) and Heraclius (c. 575–641); In addition, the alchemist Stephen of Alexandria turned to HeracliusConferencesabout the sacred art of making gold (Papathanassiou 2017: 213–8).


Society and the environment: changing the ancient landscape (17)

PuertaDr Marco Beretta
Professor of history of science and technology.
University of Bologna

The increasing value that ancient civilizations placed on raw materials that were the product of chemical manipulation, such as metals, minerals, precious stones, and glass, affected their society and environment in two ways: (a) territorial expansion and ( b) environmental change. .

When they could not trade in valuables, Egyptian and Mesopotamian rulers expanded their territories wherever they could find new sources of wealth. Tin, which was needed to be alloyed with copper to make bronze, was imported from Anatolia. Even less valuable materials such as wood, scarce in both Egypt and Mesopotamia and essential for the operation of battery furnaces built by chemical workshops, were imported from Lebanon (especially cedar), Nubia (ebony), and other wealthy areas. in forests located in the Middle East.

The systematic exploitation of these resources has led to deforestation, probably the most widespread form of landscape change. Although the polluting effects of chemical art soon became apparent, they did not lead to attempts to mitigate these effects. In addition, the miserable conditions of workers such as miners, mostly slaves, were considered normal. Pollution and waste were not yet considered environmental problems, but the situation began to change with Greco-Roman authors who in some texts condemned both greed and the dangers of exploiting the land without any control. Advances in medicine increased awareness of the toxic properties of certain chemical substances and processes: tanning and dyeing plants poisoned water and toxic fumes from glass and metallurgical factories, and noxious air often filled mines. The great application of chemical art introduced by the Romans motivated the authorities to take some measures to alleviate the effects of contamination. The increasing production of waste in chemical art also inspired the first techniques that allowed reuse through recycling.

See the bibliography in the source.

Chapter 5 (139-160) outCultural history of chemistry in antiquity., Uredio Framework Beretta (Bloomsbury Academic, 19.05.2022.),PublishedpuertaOPENunder the conditions of aCreative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 Internationallicense.




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