The Mediterranean’s Use of Olive Oil

Throughout this article, I saw many references to how olive oil was used and made in antiquity to how it is used and made today.  So I wanted to focus my discussion on this idea with this blog post.  One of the major developments of the Mediterranean antiquity was the olive tree.  As described by Meneley, Poseidon and Athena were vying for the role as patron god/goddess of Athens.  Poseidon thought that he would win because of the sea and what he could bring to the Mediterranean (specifically fishing).  Athena gave the Athenians a grove of olive trees, which eventually was made into a sacred grove that was used to worship the goddess.  Because of the important usage of the olive tree and the realization of the Athenians about the importance of the olive tree, Athena won as the patron goddess of Athens.

For the following centuries, the olive tree gave the Athenians, as well as the Romans, plenty of inventions and uses.  The olive tree gave olives, which in turn gave them olive oil.  The bark from the tree was used for building ships and tools.  And many groves were used in ceremonies to honor Athena.  A major use of olive oil was as a prize during games.  During the Panathenaia, the Athenian games, they strictly worshipped Athena and what she gave to the Athenians, the olive tree.  By showing their gratitude, the winners of each of the contests would receive amphora/amphorae of olive oil.  This showed how much the Athenians used olive oil and the importance of it in their lives.

Going outside of the Ionian peninsula, the Romans used olive oil just as much as the Greeks.  Just as Athena was identified with the production of the olive tree in Athens, Minerva (the Roman equivalent to Athena) was identified with the production of the olive tree in Rome.  The Romans held olive oil in high regard for their civilization.  One specific reference that showed its importance is the hill of amphorae, Monte Testaccio.  This hill is made up of approximately 53 million broken amphorae, which mostly stored olive oil.  With this high number, it shows the importance of olive oil during the Roman Empire.

Fast forwarding to more modern times, olive oil is still identified as a source from antiquity.  It may have many modern uses, i.e. cooking, as a source of light, and as a lubricant in mechanics, it is still identified with its ancient sources.  While times have obviously changed since the invention of olive oil, the mode of making it is still somewhat similar.  The use of stone wheels to crush the olives is still used, however, it is no longer powered by slaves, horses, or water, but by electricity.  The lack of change in this technique shows the direct ties to the Athenians and Romans because of the unwillingness to change to a quicker and more proficient way of extracting the oil.  Olive oil is also still considered a staple to many parts of the Mediterranean, including its originating areas (Athens and Rome).  This is identified in the fact that its import and exports in Rome increased with the realization from other areas of the world to its importance.

It is not a question as to why olive oil has been used for millennia.  Its importance throughout antiquity and modern times is exhibited by its wide spread usage throughout the world.  Not only was Athens the origin of the invention of olive oil, but it has prospered in the area since approximately the 7th century BCE.  It is, however, questionable why the Greek economy suffers so much if olive oil was originated in Greece and they would be the best source of pure olive oil.  They could use this as a source of economic gain, but instead remember its usage throughout antiquity as a prize to be cherished because of the great goddess of wisdom, Athena.

Algeria in France- ‘An Immigration Problem’

This ethnography is taking a while to get into because of the way that the discussion is laid out.  Silverstein is focusing on Europe as a whole for many parts of the text, however, this lends a lot of weight into the the debate of migration as a whole throughout Europe, including many parts of the Mediterranean.  Silverstein originally states that some countries are “countries of immigration,” like Great Britain and Germany, and others were originally viewed as “countries of emigration,” such as Spain.  However, these lines began to blur Post-WWII because of the mass immigration of people throughout Europe due to the Nazi regime collapse and the increased presence of Russia in Germany with the East-West Germany divide.  This circumstance led to an increase of immigration to other areas of Europe that were originally primarily emigrant countries.

However, immigrants weren’t always a favored bunch in Europe.  In Germany, for example, immigrants that did come to Germany for work were called numerous names, including Gastarbeiter (Guest-worker), Arbeitnehmer (literally Work-taker, colloquially “employee”), Ausländer (literally Outsider, colloquially “foreigner”), Migranten (Migrant), and Asylanten (Refugee).  All of these are names of people that immigrated to Germany for work.  This is a major distinction laid out between the foreigners and the “ethnic Germans” or Volksdeutsch.  What this distinction does is to support the idea of an “immigration problem” and reinforces the stigmatization of these individuals in other countries.

We can see this in what is happening today.  Refugees are fleeing east because of fear for their lives or the lives of their families, but the places that they are fleeing to aren’t exactly always accepting of refugees.  They have fled to places like Greece who is having enough problems supporting their own country and citizens, Germany who began to cut off refugees completely from entering their country, Italy who like Greece is having economic problems, all through through France and the UK.  But these refugees are looked down on because of the economic status of the individual or of the country itself.  So it is evident that the ideas of an “immigration problem” has been around for more than 70 years and will probably prevail into the next century because of the lack of concern that many citizens have for the other areas of the world.

One major note that I found intriguing in the text was the idea of many sociologists and political scientists on the solution of citizenship for immigrants.  On pages 30 and 31, Silverstein makes not that many scholars argue that there should be a united Europe, like the United States, where all citizens would be equal because they are all citizens.  This would break down the country borders and would in effect, make Europe a country instead of a continent.  I’m not sure how exactly this would work in the real world but in theory it sounds like it would be a great program.  But this could also harm all of the countries involved because of the potential loss of their individual cultures and customs.  These countries are known for their cultural norms and the breaking of national borders would harm the potentiality of all citizens in Europe.

Archaeology and Politics

This article spoke to me more than most of the other articles, mostly because archaeology is one of my many interests.  So I wanted to make sure that I wrote this week’s blog post on this article.  Nadia Abu El-Haj makes many arguments, specifically about the use of archaeology in politics.  She talks about how the government, possibly, killed an archaeologist because of a find that could have changed the entire historiography of Israel as we know it.  This rang somewhat true because I have read many stories and watched many movies that play with this type of plot.  Once I started reading the article, one movie in particular jumped out at me.  The movie is titled “The Body” and stars Antonio Banderas as a priest who is tasked with watching over an archaeologist that has made a major find.  She has found skeletal remains that show evidence of crucifixion and comes from the time of Christ.  The movie continues with confrontations with religious community members (I can’t remember their group’s name right now) and her life is constantly threatened because this find could alter the entire history of Israel because of the body’s potential to be that of Christ.

This type of story is continuously used throughout time because of the politics involved with archaeology.  In Italy, Mussolini used archaeology to tie directly with the Emperor Augustus and used as his authority to rule.  The term fascist, which is what Mussolini’s reign is considered, comes from the term fasces, which showed individual’s power in Ancient Rome.  Hitler used archaeology as a way of connecting with the past and to “hold power” over history.  But as the article notes, Israel and Palestine has had a very long history with finding their connections with the Jewish past in archaeological materials.

Another thing that I noted extremely interesting was the idea that archaeologists overlooked many other periods to get back to a specific time.  This is evident even in today’s history.  Some archaeologists use bulldozers to go through a larger set of time because of their projects specific interest.  They aren’t wanting to look at all of the history of a place, but just to look at a specific time in a specific place.  This was the same thing that Mussolini did when he was looking at Ancient Roman materials.  He would encourage the use of bulldozers and the eventual destruction of all material culture between the fall of the Roman Empire and modern day.  All of the artifacts would eventually be tossed into the Tiber, where some of it still lays today.

This practice of searching for what you want in a specific time era doesn’t help the overall field of archaeology.  We should be wanting to look at all aspects of a location, no matter what period in time it is.  Some later periods might tell a lot about how the civilization changes from the earlier times, which could tell you a lot about the earlier time and how they stayed that way for so long.  So Nadia’s argument about the use of archaeology to preserve the politics and cultural understandings of the country is quite correct.  It will probably never change because of the differing cultures around the world and their interests in their historic past.

Something I’d like to note:

I highly suggest watching the movie “The Body” because it not only talks about this type of phenomenon, but it also speaks directly with the relation of archaeology and preserving a cultural identity.  Plus, this movie also ties in with a lot of academic work that is currently being done today.  An April 2015 article from LiveScience speaks directly about the bones of Jesus and his family’s tomb and the controversies that it might cause if the tomb really does have Jesus’ remains in it.  So archaeology and politics is obviously still alive today.

Writing Women’s Worlds Chapters 1 & 3

This ethnography has been extremely interesting thus far.  It tells the story of the lives of the Bedouin women in Egypt during and after WW2.  It talks about their troubles with the men in the communities and of the adventures with outsiders that come into the group.  From an anthropological perspective, it is identifying the social construct of this specific Bedouin group and how they interacted with each other.

The first chapter focuses strictly on the life of Migdim and how she got to where she is.  Earlier in her life, her father had attempted to marry her off to numerous guys, one of which was specifically identified as her first cousin that she refused to marry.  He had gone as far as to threaten her with death and to scream at her for ruining the tent dyes by pouring it on herself.  She had gone so far as to run away and seek help from her mother’s uncle.  This had been fruitful and she got out of that marriage.  The other marriage arrangements she had refused to eat, she threw plates, she screamed, and she cried until she got out of the arrangement.  The final marriage arrangement was with Jawwad, whom she had 7 living children with.  This man was the patriarch of the family and coming from a patrilineal community, held all of the power, though as the matriarch Migdim held the ear of her husband and of his children.

After Jawwad’s death, her sons had moved up to being the leader of the family and initially would come to her and seek her advise.  But they would eventually begin to start going behind her back and disregarding her advise.  They would arrange marriages for their sister to men that Migdim did not agree with.  They would sell property to neighbors, which Migdim did not agree with.  They inevitably treated Migdim more like a chore than a responsibility as her children.  As she was growing old, it was wise for the community to look up to Migdim and seek her guidance.  The women of the community held her in higher regard, but the men treated her with contempt.  This was, after all, their patrilineal community and they held the power.

Another part of the first chapter that intrigued me was when Migdim and her son, Sagr’s, stories about his interaction with the mine during the scavenging differed.  Migdim focused her story on her role in Sagr’s recovery.  Whereas Sagr’s story centered on his father and the Englishman that saved his life.  He only mentions his mother in passing and makes it clear that Jawwad and the Englishman were the important part of the story.  This shows the patrilineal way of thinking because the woman wasn’t the first thing in his mind, even though she was the one that had taken care of him while he was recovering.

Both chapters 1 and 3 focused on reproduction.  The first chapter discusses the fact that Migdim refused to have her children around anyone else.  She would go into labor outside while everyone else was inside.  She would only seek help once the delivery was finished and the umbilical cord needed to be cut.  She did not like the way that the other women of the community acted during the delivery and wanted to do it all on her own.  I think this independence helped to garner the respect needed from the other women, as well as some of the men, from the community.  It is evident from this chapter that the woman’s role in the Bedouin community mostly centered on reproduction, cleaning, sewing, cooking, and household chores.  Migdim was in charge of running the household, while Jawwad, and later her sons, were in charge of the outside life.

Chapter 3 discusses the different aspects of reproduction itself.  Lila Abu-Lughod mentions that the women from the Bedouin community mostly wanted girls.  One is quoted as saying, “…it is only the ignorant who prefer boys.  Some daughters are worth a hundred sons” (Page 129).  This shows the views of the woman’s role in the Bedouin community.  One could make the conclusion that the Bedouin woman’s role is more important because of all that they need to do, so having girls is more important than having boys.  But this could be contested, especially for the men of the community since the boys would be taking over for them upon their death.

This chapter also shows the importance of childbirth because of the role that women should play in the delivery.  One individual is noted as saying that the older women should help by being midwives because of their experience during labor.  She stated that she would even removed all of her clothes to assist in the childbirth because it was her “duty” to help the new mother.  Another community member is noted as telling Lila how she can go about having children by going to a “woman healer” who can help with the conception part of reproduction.  This again goes back to the idea that the woman’s main role in the community is reproduction, especially because the author decided to take an entire chapter to discuss the role of reproduction to the Bedouin community.

These two sections were interesting because of the visions that it brings to the reader’s mind of the Bedouin community.  We have all heard of the Bedouin people being like gypsies and moving around, at least that is how I always pictured them.  They were completely nomadic and rarely stayed in one place for long.  But this text contradicts this sentiment and brings to mind the complexities of the community.  There’s still a matriarch in this society, though she has little say in how the community is ran.  It is intriguing that while this is a patrilineal society, they still place the girls and women in high regard, but only because of her marrying well and her growing up well.  Sagr is quoted as saying that “daughters are dearer to him than sons” (page 160).  This goes against what one would normally think because of his role in the community and the need to pass on his inheritance to his sons, but it is interesting to see that while the patrilineal line is still strong in this community, the opposite sex is still revered for their contributions to the society.

The Horns of a Mediterraneanist Dilemma

The article “The Horns of a Mediterraneanist Dilemma” by Michael Herzfeld was an interesting discussion on the homogeneity of the Mediterranean area.  He uses symbols that are enforced by the existing stereotypes to maintain his argument that previous research does not support the homogeneous theory of the Mediterranean.  The use of research done by previous scholars is prominent in this article.  He discusses the study of the ram horns and billy goats by Anton Blok to show that, though Blok tried making the argument that this is a Mediterranean phenomenon, it really is not because it is shown in other areas of the world, including the island of Crete.  He also states that Blok’s translation of certain texts could be indicative of the lack of understanding for the “Mediterranean Unit.”

Another argument that Herzfeld makes in the article is that of the “evil eye.”  He states that while the evil eye persists in many parts of the Mediterranean, it does not always mean the same thing in every region.  He states that Anthony Galt’s analysis of the evil eye phenomenon relies specifically on speculative ethnography.  The theory on the use of the evil eye to determine the homogeneity of the region uses both ethnographic stories and archaeology to undermine the actual meanings behind the evil eye in all of the regions because their view is being clouded by the presumption that the Mediterranean can be considered a homogeneous unit.

The stereotyping of the Mediterranean has endured even through today.  The outside world’s ideas of the Mediterranean man and woman has helped to secure these roles in their society.  The idea of the ram being equivalent to the manliness and the billy goat more equivalent to a passivity still persists today.  The ram being strong and “manly” and the billy goat being more weak and “effeminate” equates to how the gender roles are still prominent in many parts of the Mediterranean.  This stereotyping by outsiders does not help the collective ideals of the community but actually hinders it because they are not able to make their own culture since it is so dependent on the stereotyping of the rest of the world.

I think that Herzfeld is making his argument against the idea of the Mediterranean unit being homogeneous because of his use of these two examples.  He is stating that trying to say that the Mediterranean is a single culture can hinder future research in the region because it clouds over the fact that all of the countries, cities, towns, villages, etc. have their own ways of thinking and their own customs.  He makes this clear with the the evil eye discussion and even more clear with the ram/billy goat discussion because the ideas in the Mediterranean are not wholly the same.

I would agree with Herzfold’s arguments because knowing the different regions of the Mediterranean Sea and the histories of each of the countries, they are significantly different from each other.  Greece is different from Italy which is different from Spain which is different from Tunisia.  To say that all of these countries have the same culture and therefore could be considered a single homogeneous unit could hinder their own cultural identity.