On Friday, I spoke about the intimate and physical link between our bodies and waters of our landscapes of dwelling, on how materially connected we are to the geologies of the places we live in, how we are constituted by the mineral worlds around us and in return how we build and impact them with our own interventions. Archaeological scientists have been enthusiastically investigating the chemical residues of local geologies in human and animal bones and teeth, with the help of radioactive isotopes. Read more about this in Brenda Fowler’s “Written in Bone” (Archaeology 60.3, 2007). This sedimentation of local geological chemistries in our bodies are made possible with our consumption of water and plant foods, and the study of ancient human remains allow archaeological scientists to speak about where those individuals have lived, what kind of diet they maintained, what kind of heavy diseases or injuries they had and if they were exposed to specific types of bodily labor. (Highly recommended readings on this: Joanna R. Sofaer’s The body as material culture: a theoretical osteaoarchaeology and Rosemary Joyce, ; 2005. “Archaeology of the body,” Annual Review of Anthropology 34: 139-158.). Phenomenological approaches such as Gaston Bachelard’s Water and Dreams point similarly to the ontological basis of our being in the world, the sensory, the visceral aspects of our immersion into the matter of the earth. In phenomenology, we are not quiet spectators of the landscape around us but we enter into mutual exchanges with glaciers, mountains, lakes, and seas, as Julie Cruikshank elegantly shown in Do Glaciers Listen?. I will try to follow up on this in the coming lectures.
During class today, the question was raised about whether any chemical or mineralogical studies had been performed at springs long held to have curative powers. A brief google search led me to William Frosch’s “Taking the Waters – springs, wells, and spas,” a short (3-page) article that describes some of the analyses that have been performed at various places of healing waters. I discovered to my surprise that chemical analysis of various mineral waters was attempted as early as the 1730s (p. 1949)! This interesting article describes studies from 18th century “trial[s] of the waters” at Bath, undertaken by a hospital serving the “deserving poor” to modern lead workers and NASA astronauts being submerged to compare with the old Bath protocols (p. 1950). It also has a short bibliography that might be helpful if you’re interested in pursuing some of these issues further, namely Roy Porter (1990) The Medical History of Waters and Spas, featuring chapters like David Harley’s “Physicians, chemists, and the analysis of mineral waters: ‘The most difficult part of chemistry'” or Noel G. Coley’s “Chemistry, medicine, and the legitimization of English spas, 1740-1840.” I’ve also ordered Healing Springs: the ultimate guide to taking the waters, from hidden springs to the world’s greatest spas through WorldCat if you are interested in taking a look at it!* You might also find van Tubergen’s and van der Linden’s “A brief history of spa therapy” (2002) helpful.
*A link to the book can be found on the password-protected page of the wiki.
A course with Ömür Harmanşah
Water is the source of life. In the midst of a global climate change, environmental crises for water resources and the political debates over water, we have come to the full realization of our complete dependence on water. This course investigates our long term attachment and engagement with water using archaeology, environmental history, visual, literary and historical sources. The cultural and political aspects of water around springs, rivers, lakes, marshes, and living by the sea are explored from the Last Ice Age to late antiquity. Human societies small or large tended to live close to water, near marshes, springs or lakes and made wise use of water resources using a variety of different technologies. We will explore water management in ancient cities of the Near East and classical antiquity in the Mediterranean.
We have put together this blog for the ARCH 0680: Water, Culture and Power course, to which we hope you will all contribute. The blog is the place which you should check for announcements, and you will be encouraged to share materials that you see relevant to the class discussions. There will be weekly formal postings on the blog, and you will be expected to post responses to them.