Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cultural and Historical Diffusion

I think its important to go over the concept of Cultural/Historical Diffusion one more time. The definition of the term, as we discussed in class, went something like this:

Two or more historical events, environments, situations or ideas, occurring in different geographic places, in which one can clearly be shown to have influenced the other.

The key to understanding cultural diffusion is the concept of interaction. The manner in which people interact inevitably alters the history of anyone who participates in the interaction. In class, this was shown when we looked back to the Environment unit and the Silk Road. Along the Silk Road, traders from all over interacted and exchanged goods. While exchanging goods, they also consistently (and usually unintentionally) exchanged cultural elements-it could be religion or food or clothing-and brought the new cultural elements back home.

When they returned home to their friends and family they (also usually unintentionally) shared those new cultural elements with others. Thus their homes' history would be changed forever. This is really how history happens-the interactions between people that causes them to change, even a little bit. Adding up all those "little bits" equals a huge amount of change for civilization as a whole.

The evidence of this is the documents we've been looking at for the last two days. There were quite a few Israelites who lived in Ancient Egypt for a long time before moving East. Many lived under Akhenaton when he mandated that Egypt move from polytheism to monotheism. Certainly, many were exposed to Akhenaton's "Hymn to Aton".

Over the course of the next hundred years or so, elements of that prayer were probably passed down from generation to generation. When the authors of the Hebrew Bible were putting it together, it is not surprising that they included things that had been passed down through generations. Thus, looking at "Hymn to Aton" and "Psalm 104" today, its pretty obvious that some serious cultural diffusion took place.

So its important, when studying the history of religion, that we look at the role cultural diffusion plays. The "big three" monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam did not come out of nowhere. In each, you'll see elements of previous religions. As we move forward on our timeline, keep that in mind as you look at the movement in the world from polytheism to monotheism.


Keely Mullen said...

Cultural diffusion is very prevalent in all of history. Whether certain changes to owns own home may seem insignificant, we all feed off of each others knowledge. In early times, when knowledge of other cultures was rare, people who had knowledge were badgered to share what they knew. Therefore, this knowledge of other cultures was spread, and enveloped by other cultures. In a larger sense, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam were all affected by each other, and also affected by religions previous to them. Zoroastrianism for instance, although the following of this religion currently is slim to none, the ideas of Zoroastrianism were filtered through the ideas of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Being the three main monotheistic religions, clearly the ideas of these three religions all affected each other in certain ways. And although they were in competition, these religions, in there purest form, had very similar beliefs.

Evan Silver said...

So, I'm not sure if this is what I'm supposed to be posting on (this is the newest thing I could find), but you said to post on the blog because of the days I missed, even though that doesn't really make sense because this doesn't have to do with what I missed? Anyway, cultural diffusion is simply how history happens and is created. Even when cultures are fighting against each other in issues and disputes of war and conduct, they often take something from that other culture and embed it into their own culture, forever changing how their people make history. Simply put, no idea is truly unique in history, as these ideas may just be a variation of a pre-existing idea part of some culture that they may have taken something from. History is not defined. History is only the nature of people interacting with each other, and whether intentionally or not, sharing ideas.

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