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Reading 03: Archeological Valuables

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READING 03: Archeological Valuables

From the earliest of times, humans have invested a tremendous amount of energy and time in the creation and acquisition of items with little or no practical use but nonetheless with an extremely high value because of their cultural, symbolic, or religious importance; this high regard for certain substances and their designation as valuable commodities within various cultures has been around since at least the Upper Paleolithic period. Archeological valuables, as they are called, provide considerable insight into ancient cultures inasmuch as they are often important indicators of social structure, of wealth and power, or of the role of religion in a particular culture, and the fact that the use of archeological valuables within cultures has increased over time is an indication of the increasingly hierarchical nature of society.

It is interesting to note that many of the substances that were held in high regard by ancient cultures came to be held in high regard as precious commodities independently, in different eras and in geographically distant parts of the world. One example of this phenomenon is jade, which was considered valuable in such diverse places and times as prehistoric Europe, in Central America prior to the arrival of the Spanish, and in China. Another example is gold, which was highly valued in diverse cultures throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Gold was quite common in the graves of Egyptian rulers, while jade was equally ubiquitous in the burial chambers of Chinese rulers because these substances symbolized eternity in these cultures; royalty was denoted through the use of gold in the crowns and scepters of historical European monarchies and through the use of jade in the scepters of ancient China; the western wall of the Temple of the Sun at Cuzco held a huge golden plate engraved with a representation of the Incan Sun god to demonstrate the devotion of the culture to religion; finely polished jade axes from Neolithic Europe may well have been symbols of power.

The fact that widely separated cultures attributed value to the same materials leads to the conclusion that this attributed value is more than a mere coincidence and instead is based upon special qualities that the materials possess. Among these special qualities are most likely the attractiveness, the durability, and the rarity of the materials. The appearance of these valuable materials must, of course, have been extremely important in that the precious materials, or the items made from them, were intended to be displayed and to impress those who viewed them. The durability of the valued substances was also important in that the valued materials were passed from generation to generation to mark social status or power, or religious zeal, or were buried with the wealthy and powerful with the idea that they would last for eternity. Finally, it was important that a valued substance be either rare or difficult to access in order to retain its value; the sources of many valued substances were geographically remote from the areas where they were used and valued and had huge costs associated with the transportation of the substances in addition to the costs associated with their mining or extraction from the earth. Because of the tremendously high costs associated with these substances, only the wealthiest and most powerful members of a society could afford to own them, and this has helped to maintain their value.

1. Which of the sentences below expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in paragraph 1?
 As early as the Upper Paleolithic period, humans have been interested in certain valuable substances

 Humans have been around since at least the Upper Paleolithic period and have developed valuable symbols of culture and religion.

 Humans have always been interested in symbols that were important during the Paleolithic period.

 In the Upper Paleolithic period, humans used up a lot of energy creating various types of commodities for exchange.

2. The phrase insight into in paragraph 1 is closest in meaning to 

3. The word note in paragraph 2 could be best replaced by 

4. It is stated in the passage that certain substances of value in ancient cultures became valuable

     in the same period of time

     in separate situations

     in places where they were abundant

     in limited geographic areas

5. The word ubiquitous in paragraph 2 is closest in meaning to 

6. The phrase a mere coincidence in paragraph 3 is closest in meaning to 

     a special coincidence

     a simple error

     a stated detail

     a chance occurrence

7. Why does the author use the expression of course in paragraph 3?

     To emphasize the idea that appearance is the most obvious characteristic that leads to value

     To support the claim that widely separated cultures rarely attributed value to similar materials

     To contradict the idea that attractiveness leads to value

     To make it clear that rarity of precious materials is insignificant 

8. The word durability in paragraph 3 is closest in meaning to 

9. If a substance is not either rare or difficult to access, then it would most likely

     last for an eternity

     be prized by various cultures

     indicate social status or power

     lose its value

10. The word their in paragraph 3 refers to 

11. Select the appropriate sentences from the answer choices that are key points in a discussion of archeological valuables. THREE of the answer choices will NOT be used.

1.  Jade was considered a valuable commodity in early China

 Certain substances have been considered valuable in cultures separated by distance and time
 The features that determine the value of substances in cultures today differ from the factors that determined value in earlier cultures
 Cultures have attributed value to certain substances for a considerable amount of time
 The rarity of a substance was the most important factor in determining its value
 Substances most likely achieved status or value in a culture because of special qualities that they possessed.