Articles, Blog

Cradle of civilization | Wikipedia audio article


A cradle of civilization is a location where
civilization is understood to have emerged. Current thinking is that there was no single
“cradle”, but several civilizations that developed independently, with the Fertile Crescent (Ancient
Egypt, Mesopotamia), Ancient India, and Ancient China understood to be the earliest. The extent
to which there was significant influence between the early civilizations of the Near East and
those of East Asia (Far East) is disputed. Scholars accept that the civilizations of
Mesoamerica, mainly in modern Mexico, and Norte Chico, in the north-central coastal
region of Peru, emerged independently from those in Eurasia.Scholars have defined civilization
using various criteria such as the use of writing, cities, a class-based society, agriculture,
animal husbandry, public buildings, metallurgy, and monumental architecture. The term cradle
of civilization has frequently been applied to a variety of cultures and areas, in particular
the Ancient Near Eastern Chalcolithic (Ubaid period) and Fertile Crescent, Ancient India
and Ancient China. It has also been applied to ancient Anatolia, the Levant and Iranian
plateau, and used to refer to culture predecessors—such as Ancient Greece as the predecessor of Western
civilization—even when such sites are not understood as an independent development of
civilization, as well as within national rhetoric.==History of the idea==
The concept “cradle of civilization” is the subject of much debate. The figurative use
of cradle to mean “the place or region in which anything is nurtured or sheltered in
its earlier stage” is traced by the Oxford English Dictionary to Spenser (1590). Charles
Rollin’s Ancient History (1734) has “Egypt that served at first as the cradle of the
holy nation”. The phrase “cradle of civilization” plays
a certain role in national mysticism. It has been used in Eastern as well as Western cultures,
for instance, in Indian nationalism (In Search of the Cradle of Civilization 1995) and Chinese
nationalism (Chinese;— The Cradle of Civilization 2002). The terms also appear in esoteric pseudohistory,
such as the Urantia Book, claiming the title for “the second Eden”, or the pseudoarchaeology
related to Megalithic Britain (Civilization One 2004,
Ancient Britain: The Cradle of Civilization 1921).==Rise of civilization==The earliest signs of a process leading to
sedentary culture can be seen in the Levant to as early as 12,000 BC, when the Natufian
culture became sedentary; it evolved into an agricultural society by 10,000 BC. The
importance of water to safeguard an abundant and stable food supply, due to favourable
conditions for hunting, fishing and gathering resources including cereals, provided an initial
wide spectrum economy that triggered the creation of permanent villages.The earliest proto-urban
settlements with several thousand inhabitants emerged in the Neolithic. The first cities
to house several tens of thousands were Memphis and Uruk, by the 31st century BC (see Historical
urban community sizes). Historic times are marked apart from prehistoric
times when “records of the past begin to be kept for the benefit of future generations”;
which may be in written or oral form. If the rise of civilization is taken to coincide
with the development of writing out of proto-writing, the Near Eastern Chalcolithic, the transitional
period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age during the 4th millennium BC, and the
development of proto-writing in Harappa in the Indus Valley of South Asia around 3300
BC are the earliest incidences, followed by Chinese proto-writing evolving into the oracle
bone script, and again by the emergence of Mesoamerican writing systems from about 900
BC. In the absence of written documents, most
aspects of the rise of early civilizations are contained in archaeological assessments
that document the development of formal institutions and the material culture. A “civilized” way
of life is ultimately linked to conditions coming almost exclusively from intensive agriculture.
Gordon Childe defined the development of civilization as the result of two successive revolutions:
the Neolithic Revolution, triggering the development of settled communities, and the Urban Revolution,
which enhanced tendencies towards dense settlements, specialized occupational groups, social classes,
exploitation of surpluses, monumental public buildings and writing. Few of those conditions,
however, are unchallenged by the records: dense settlements were not attested in Egypt’s
Old Kingdom and were absent in the Maya area; the Incas lacked writing altogether; and often
monumental architecture preceded any indication of village settlement. For instance, in present-day
Louisiana, researchers have determined that cultures that were primarily nomadic organized
over generations to build earthwork mounds at seasonal settlements as early as 3400 BC.
Rather than a succession of events and preconditions, the rise of civilization could equally be
hypothesized as an accelerated process that started with incipient agriculture and culminated
in the Oriental Bronze Age.==Single or multiple cradles==
A traditional theory of the spread of civilization is that it began in the Fertile Crescent and
spread out from there by influence. Scholars more generally now believe that civilizations
arose independently at several locations in both hemispheres. They have observed that
sociocultural developments occurred along different timeframes. “Sedentary” and “nomadic”
communities continued to interact considerably; they were not strictly divided among widely
different cultural groups. The concept of a cradle of civilization has a focus where
the inhabitants came to build cities, to create writing systems, to experiment in techniques
for making pottery and using metals, to domesticate animals, and to develop complex social structures
involving class systems.Current scholarship generally identifies six sites where civilization
emerged independently: Fertile Crescent
Tigris–Euphrates Valley Nile Valley
Indo-Gangetic Plain North China Plain
Central Andes Mesoamerica==Cradles of civilization=====Fertile Crescent=======Mesopotamia====Around 10,200 BC the first fully developed
Neolithic cultures belonging to the phases Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) and Pre-Pottery
Neolithic B (7600 to 6000 BC) appeared in the Fertile Crescent and from there spread
eastwards and westwards. One of the most notable PPNA settlements is Jericho in the Levant
region, thought to be the world’s first town (settled around 8500 BC and fortified around
6800 BC). In Mesopotamia, the convergence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers produced
rich fertile soil and a supply of water for irrigation. The civilizations that emerged
around these rivers are among the earliest known non-nomadic agrarian societies. It is
because of this that the Fertile Crescent region, and Mesopotamia in particular, are
often referred to as the cradle of civilization. The period known as the Ubaid period (c. 6500
to 3800 BC) is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain, although it is likely
earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. It was during the Ubaid period that the movement
towards urbanization began. Agriculture and animal husbandry were widely practiced in
sedentary communities, particularly in Northern Mesopotamia, and intensive irrigated hydraulic
agriculture began to be practiced in the south.Around 6000 BC, Neolithic settlements appear all
over Egypt. Studies based on morphological, genetic, and archaeological data have attributed
these settlements to migrants from the Fertile Crescent in the Near East returning during
the Egyptian and North African Neolithic and bringing agriculture to the region.
Eridu is the oldest Sumerian site settled during this period, around 5300 BC, and the
city of Ur also first dates to the end of this period. In the south, the Ubaid period
had a very long duration from around 6500 to 3800 BC; when it is replaced by the Uruk
period.Sumerian civilization coalesces in the subsequent Uruk period (4000 to 3100 BC).
Named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in
Mesopotamia and, during its later phase, the gradual emergence of the cuneiform script.
Proto-writing in the region dates to around 3500 BC, with the earliest texts dating to
3300 BC; early cuneiform writing emerged in 3000 BC. It was also during this period that
pottery painting declined as copper started to become popular, along with cylinder seals.
Sumerian cities during the Uruk period were probably theocratic and were most likely headed
by a priest-king (ensi), assisted by a council of elders, including both men and women. It
is quite possible that the later Sumerian pantheon was modeled upon this political structure.
Uruk trade networks started to expand to other parts of Mesopotamia and as far as North Caucasus,
and strong signs of governmental organization and social stratification began to emerge
leading to the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2900 BC). The Jemdet Nasr period, which is generally
dated from 3100–2900 BC and succeeds the Uruk period, is known as one of the formative
stages in the development of the cuneiform script. The oldest clay tablets come from
Uruk and date to the late fourth millennium BC, slightly earlier than the Jemdet Nasr
Period. By the time of the Jemdet Nasr Period, the script had already undergone a number
of significant changes. It originally consisted of pictographs, but by the time of the Jemdet
Nasr Period it was already adopting simpler and more abstract designs. It is also during
this period that the script acquired its iconic wedge-shaped appearance. At the end of the
Jemdet Nasr period there was a major archaeologically attested river flood in Shuruppak and other
parts of Mesopotamia. Polychrome pottery from a destruction level below the flood deposit
has been dated to immediately before the Early Dynastic Period around 2900 BC.After the Early
Dynastic period begins, there was a shift in control of the city-states from the temple
establishment headed by council of elders led by a priestly “En” (a male figure when
it was a temple for a goddess, or a female figure when headed by a male god) towards
a more secular Lugal (Lu=man, Gal=great) and includes such legendary patriarchal figures
as Enmerkar, Lugalbanda and Gilgamesh—who are supposed to have reigned shortly before
the historic record opens c. 2700 BC, when the now deciphered syllabic writing started
to develop from the early pictograms. The center of Sumerian culture remained in southern
Mesopotamia, even though rulers soon began expanding into neighboring areas, and neighboring
Semitic groups adopted much of Sumerian culture for their own. The earliest ziggurats began
near the end of the Early Dynastic Period, although architectural precursors in the form
of raised platforms date back to the Ubaid period,. The well-known Sumerian King List
dates to the early second millennium BC. It consists of a succession of royal dynasties
from different Sumerian cities, ranging back into the Early Dynastic Period. Each dynasty
rises to prominence and dominates the region, only to be replaced by the next. The document
was used by later Mesopotamian kings to legitimize their rule. While some of the information
in the list can be checked against other texts such as economic documents, much of it is
probably purely fictional, and its use as a historical document is limited.Eannatum,
the Sumerian king of Lagash, established one of the first verifiable empires in history
in 2500 BC. The neighboring Elam, in modern Iran, was also part of the early urbanization
during the Chalcolithic period. Elamite states were among the leading political forces of
the Ancient Near East. The emergence of Elamite written records from around 3000 BC also parallels
Sumerian history, where slightly earlier records have been found. During the 3rd millennium
BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians.
Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere between the 3rd
and the 2nd millennia BC. The Semitic-speaking Akkadian empire emerged around 2350 BC under
Sargon the Great. The Akkadian Empire reached its political peak between the 24th and 22nd
centuries BC. Under Sargon and his successors, the Akkadian language was briefly imposed
on neighboring conquered states such as Elam and Gutium. After the fall of the Akkadian
Empire and the overthrow of the Gutians, there was a brief reassertion of Sumerian dominance
in Mesopotamia under the Third Dynasty of Ur. After the final collapse of Sumerian hegemony
in Mesopotamia around 2004 BC, the Semitic Akkadian people of Mesopotamia eventually
coalesced into two major Akkadian-speaking nations: Assyria in the north, and, a few
centuries later, Babylonia in the south.====Ancient Egypt====The developed Neolithic cultures belonging
to the phases Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (10,200 BC) and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (7600 to 6000
BC) appeared in the fertile crescent and from there spread eastwards and westwards. Contemporaneously,
a grain-grinding culture using the earliest type of sickle blades had replaced the culture
of hunters, fishers, and gathering people using stone tools along the Nile. Geological
evidence and computer climate modeling studies also suggest that natural climate changes
around 8000 BC began to desiccate the extensive pastoral lands of northern Africa, eventually
forming the Sahara. Continued desiccation forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians
to settle around the Nile more permanently and to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. The
oldest fully developed neolithic culture in Egypt is Fayum A culture which began around
5500 B.C. By about 5500 BC, small tribes living in the
Nile valley had developed into a series of inter-related cultures as far south as Sudan,
demonstrating firm control of agriculture and animal husbandry, and identifiable by
their pottery and personal items, such as combs, bracelets, and beads. The largest of
these early cultures in upper Southern Egypt was the Badari, which probably originated
in the Western Desert; it was known for its high quality ceramics, stone tools, and use
of copper. The oldest known domesticated bovine in Africa are from Fayum dating to around
4400 BC. The Badari cultures was followed by the Naqada culture, which brought a number
of technological improvements. As early as the first Naqada Period, Amratia, Egyptians
imported obsidian from Ethiopia, used to shape blades and other objects from flakes. By 3300
BC, just before the first Egyptian dynasty, Egypt was divided into two kingdoms, known
as Upper Egypt to the south, and Lower Egypt to the north.Egyptian civilization begins
during the second phase of the Naqda culture, known as the Gerzeh period, around 3500 BC
and coalesces with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt around 3150 BC. Farming produced
the vast majority of food; with increased food supplies, the populace adopted a much
more sedentary lifestyle, and the larger settlements grew to cities of about 5,000 residents. It
was in this time that the city dwellers started using mud brick to build their cities, and
the use of the arch and recessed walls for decorative effect became popular. Copper instead
of stone was increasingly used to make tools and weaponry. Symbols on Gerzean pottery also
resemble nascent Egyptian hieroglyphs. Early evidence also exists of contact with the Near
East, particularly Canaan and the Byblos coast, during this time. Concurrent with these cultural
advances, a process of unification of the societies and towns of the upper Nile River,
or Upper Egypt, occurred. At the same time the societies of the Nile Delta, or Lower
Egypt, also underwent a unification process. During his reign in Upper Egypt, King Narmer
defeated his enemies on the Delta and merged both the Kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt
under his single rule.The Early Dynastic Period of Egypt immediately followed the unification
of Upper and Lower Egypt. It is generally taken to include the First and Second Dynasties,
lasting from the Naqada III archaeological period until about the beginning of the Old
Kingdom, c. 2686 BC. With the First Dynasty, the capital moved from Thinis to Memphis with
a unified Egypt ruled by a god-king. The hallmarks of ancient Egyptian civilization, such as
art, architecture and many aspects of religion, took shape during the Early Dynastic period.
The strong institution of kingship developed by the pharaohs served to legitimize state
control over the land, labour, and resources that were essential to the survival and growth
of ancient Egyptian civilization.Major advances in architecture, art, and technology were
made during the subsequent Old Kingdom, fueled by the increased agricultural productivity
and resulting population, made possible by a well-developed central administration. Some
of ancient Egypt’s crowning achievements, the Giza pyramids and Great Sphinx, were constructed
during the Old Kingdom. Under the direction of the vizier, state officials collected taxes,
coordinated irrigation projects to improve crop yield, drafted peasants to work on construction
projects, and established a justice system to maintain peace and order. Along with the
rising importance of a central administration there arose a new class of educated scribes
and officials who were granted estates by the pharaoh in payment for their services.
Pharaohs also made land grants to their mortuary cults and local temples, to ensure that these
institutions had the resources to worship the pharaoh after his death. Scholars believe
that five centuries of these practices slowly eroded the economic power of the pharaoh,
and that the economy could no longer afford to support a large centralized administration.
As the power of the pharaoh diminished, regional governors called nomarchs began to challenge
the supremacy of the pharaoh. This, coupled with severe droughts between 2200 and 2150
BC, is assumed to have caused the country to enter the 140-year period of famine and
strife known as the First Intermediate Period.===Ancient India===One of the earliest Neolithic sites in the
Indian subcontinent is Bhirrana along the ancient Saraswati riverine system in the present
day state of Haryana in India, dating to around 7600 BC. Other early sites include Lahuradewa
in the Middle Ganges region and Jhusi near the confluence of Ganges and Yamuna rivers,
both dating to around 7000 BC. The aceramic Neolithic at Mehrgarh lasts from 7000 to 5500
BC, with the ceramic Neolithic at Mehrgarh lasting up to 3300 BC; blending into the Early
Bronze Age. Mehrgarh is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming and herding
in the Indian subcontinent. It is likely that the culture centered around Mehrgarh migrated
into the Indus Valley and became the Indus Valley Civilisation. The earliest fortified
town in the region is found at Rehman Dheri, dated 4000 BC in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa close
to River Zhob Valley. Other fortified towns found to date are at Amri (3600–3300 BC),
Kot Diji in Sindh, and at Kalibangan (3000 BC) at the Hakra River.The Indus Valley Civilisation
starts around 3300 BC with what is referred to as the Early Harappan Phase (3300 to 2600
BC). The earliest examples of the Indus Script date to this period, as well as the emergence
of citadels representing centralised authority and an increasingly urban quality of life.
Trade networks linked this culture with related regional cultures and distant sources of raw
materials, including lapis lazuli and other materials for bead-making. By this time, villagers
had domesticated numerous crops, including peas, sesame seeds, dates, and cotton, as
well as animals, including the water buffalo.2600 BC marks the Mature Harappan Phase during
which Early Harappan communities turned into large urban centres including Harappa, Dholavira,
Mohenjo-Daro, Lothal, Rupar, and Rakhigarhi, and more than 1,000 towns and villages, often
of relatively small size. Mature Harappans evolved new techniques in metallurgy and produced
copper, bronze, lead, and tin and displayed advanced levels of engineering. As seen in
Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and the recently partially excavated Rakhigarhi, this urban plan included
the world’s first known urban sanitation systems: see hydraulic engineering of the Indus Valley
Civilisation. Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from
wells. From a room that appears to have been set aside for bathing, waste water was directed
to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Houses opened only to inner courtyards and
smaller lanes. The house-building in some villages in the region still resembles in
some respects the house-building of the Harappans. The advanced architecture of the Harappans
is shown by their impressive dockyards, granaries, warehouses, brick platforms, and protective
walls. The massive walls of Indus cities most likely protected the Harappans from floods
and may have dissuaded military conflicts.The people of the Indus Civilisation achieved
great accuracy in measuring length, mass, and time. They were among the first to develop
a system of uniform weights and measures. A comparison of available objects indicates
large scale variation across the Indus territories. Their smallest division, which is marked on
an ivory scale found in Lothal in Gujarat, was approximately 1.704 mm, the smallest division
ever recorded on a scale of the Bronze Age. Harappan engineers followed the decimal division
of measurement for all practical purposes, including the measurement of mass as revealed
by their hexahedron weights. These chert weights were in a ratio of 5:2:1 with weights of 0.05,
0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 units, with each unit weighing approximately
28 grams, similar to the English Imperial ounce or Greek uncia, and smaller objects
were weighed in similar ratios with the units of 0.871. However, as in other cultures, actual
weights were not uniform throughout the area. The weights and measures later used in Kautilya’s
Arthashastra (4th century BC) are the same as those used in Lothal.Around 1800 BC, signs
of a gradual decline began to emerge, and by around 1700 BC most of the cities had been
abandoned. Suggested contributory causes for the localisation of the IVC include changes
in the course of the river, and climate change that is also signalled for the neighbouring
areas of the Middle East. As of 2016 many scholars believe that drought led to a decline
in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia contributing to the collapse of the Indus Civilisation.
The Ghaggar-Hakra system was rain-fed, and water-supply depended on the monsoons. The
Indus Valley climate grew significantly cooler and drier from about 1800 BC, linked to a
general weakening of the monsoon at that time. The Indian monsoon declined and aridity increased,
with the Ghaggar-Hakra retracting its reach towards the foothills of the Himalaya, leading
to erratic and less extensive floods that made inundation agriculture less sustainable.
Aridification reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilisation’s demise, and to
scatter its population eastward. As the monsoons kept shifting south, the floods grew too erratic
for sustainable agricultural activities. The residents then migrated towards the Ganges
basin in the east, where they established smaller villages and isolated farms. However
trade with the old cities did not flourish. The small surplus produced in these small
communities did not allow development of trade, and the cities died out. The Indo-Aryan peoples
migrated into the Indus River Valley during this period and began the Vedic age of India.
The Indus Valley Civilisation did not disappear suddenly and many elements of the civilization
continued in later Indian subcontinent and Vedic cultures.===Ancient China===Drawing on archaeology, geology and anthropology,
modern scholars do not see the origins of the Chinese civilization or history as a linear
story but rather the history of the interactions of different and distinct cultures and ethnic
groups that influenced each other’s development. The two specific cultural regions that developed
Chinese civilization was the Yellow River civilization and the Yangtze civilization.
Early evidence for Chinese millet agriculture is dated to around 7000 BC, with the earliest
evidence of cultivated rice found at Chengtoushan near the Yangtze River, dated to 6500 BC.
Chengtoushan may also be the site of the first walled city in China. By the beginning of
the Neolithic Revolution, the Yellow River valley began to establish itself as a center
of the Peiligang culture which flourished from 7000 to 5000 BC, with evidence of agriculture,
constructed buildings, pottery, and burial of the dead. With agriculture came increased
population, the ability to store and redistribute crops, and the potential to support specialist
craftsmen and administrators. Its most prominent site is Jiahu. Some scholars have suggested
that the Jiahu symbols (6600 BC) are the earliest form of proto-writing in China. However, it
is likely that they should not be understood as writing itself, but as features of a lengthy
period of sign-use which led eventually to a fully-fledged system of writing. Archaeologists
believe that the Peiligang culture was egalitarian, with little political organization.
It would eventually evolve into the Yangshao culture (5000 to 3000 BC), and their stone
tools were polished and highly specialized. They may also have practiced an early form
of silkworm cultivation. The main food of the Yangshao people was millet, with some
sites using foxtail millet and others broom-corn millet, though some evidence of rice has been
found. The exact nature of Yangshao agriculture, small-scale slash-and-burn cultivation versus
intensive agriculture in permanent fields, is currently a matter of debate. Once the
soil was exhausted, residents picked up their belongings, moved to new lands, and constructed
new villages. However, Middle Yangshao settlements such as Jiangzhi contain raised-floor buildings
that may have been used for the storage of surplus grains. Grinding stones for making
flour were also found.Later, Yangshao culture was superseded by the Longshan culture, which
was also centered on the Yellow River from about 3000 to 1900 BC, its most prominent
site being Taosi. The population expanded dramatically during the 3rd millennium BC,
with many settlements having rammed earth walls. It decreased in most areas around 2000
BC until the central area evolved into the Bronze Age Erlitou culture. The earliest bronze
artifacts have been found in the Majiayao culture site (3100 to 2700 BC).Chinese civilization
begins during the second phase of the Erlitou period (1900 to 1500 BC), with Erlitou considered
the first state level society of East Asia. There is considerable debate whether Erlitou
sites correlate to the semi-legendary Xia dynasty. The Xia dynasty (2070 to 1600 BC)
is the first dynasty to be described in ancient Chinese historical records such as the Bamboo
Annals, first published more than a millennium later during the Western Zhou period. Although
Xia is an important element in Chinese historiography, there is to date no contemporary written evidence
to corroborate the dynasty. Erlitou saw an increase in bronze metallurgy and urbanization
and was a rapidly growing regional center with palatial complexes that provide evidence
for social stratification. The Erlitou civilization is divided into four phases, each of roughly
50 years. During Phase I, covering 100 hectares (250 acres), Erlitou was a rapidly growing
regional center with estimated population of several thousand but not yet an urban civilization
or capital. Urbanization began in Phase II, expanding to 300 ha (740 acres) with a population
around 11,000. A palace area of 12 ha (30 acres) was demarcated by four roads. It contained
the 150×50 m Palace 3, composed of three courtyards along a 150-meter axis, and Palace 5. A bronze
foundry was established to the south of the palatial complex that was controlled by the
elite who lived in palaces. The city reached its peak in Phase III, and may have had a
population of around 24,000. The palatial complex was surrounded by a two-meter-thick
rammed-earth wall, and Palaces 1, 7, 8, 9 were built. The earthwork volume of rammed
earth for the base of largest Palace 1 is 20,000 m³ at least. Palaces 3 and 5 were
abandoned and replaced by 4,200-square-kilometer (4.5×1010 sq ft) Palace 2 and Palace 4. In
Phase IV, the population decreased to around 20,000, but building continued. Palace 6 was
built as an extension of Palace 2, and Palaces 10 and 11 were built. Phase IV overlaps with
the Lower phase of the Erligang culture (1600–1450  BC). Around 1600 to 1560 BC, about 6 km
northeast of Erlitou, Eligang cultural walled city was built at Yanshi, which coincides
with an increase in production of arrowheads at Erlitou. This situation might indicate
that the Yanshi City was competing for power and dominance with Erlitou. Production of
bronzes and other elite goods ceased at the end of Phase IV, at the same time as the Erligang
city of Zhengzhou was established 85 km (53 mi) to the east. There is no evidence of destruction
by fire or war, but, during the Upper Erligang phase (1450–1300  BC), all the palaces
were abandoned, and Erlitou was reduced to a village of 30 ha (74 acres).The earliest
traditional Chinese dynasty for which there is both archeological and written evidence
is the Shang dynasty (1600 to 1046 BC). Shang sites have yielded the earliest known body
of Chinese writing, the oracle bone script, mostly divinations inscribed on bones. These
inscriptions provide critical insight into many topics from the politics, economy, and
religious practices to the art and medicine of this early stage of Chinese civilization.
Some historians argue that Erlitou should be considered an early phase of the Shang
dynasty. The U.S. National Gallery of Art defines the Chinese Bronze Age as the period
between about 2000 and 771 BC; a period that begins with the Erlitou culture and ends abruptly
with the disintegration of Western Zhou rule. The Sanxingdui culture is another Chinese
Bronze Age society, contemporaneous to the Shang dynasty, however they developed a different
method of bronze-making from the Shang.===Ancient Peru===The earliest evidence of agriculture in the
Andean region dates to around 4700 BC at Huaca Prieta and Paredones. The oldest evidence
of canal irrigation in South America dates to 4700 to 2500 BC in the Zaña Valley of
northern Peru. The earliest urban settlements of the Andes, as well as North and South America,
are dated to 3500 BC at Huaricanga, in the Fortaleza area, and Sechin Bajo near the Sechin
River.The Norte Chico civilization proper is understood to have emerged around 3200
BC, as it is at that point that large-scale human settlement and communal construction
across multiple sites becomes clearly apparent. Since the early 21st century, it has been
established as the oldest known civilization in the Americas. The civilization flourished
at the confluence of three rivers, the Fortaleza, the Pativilca, and the Supe. These river valleys
each have large clusters of sites. Further south, there are several associated sites
along the Huaura River. Notable settlements include the cities of Caral, the largest and
most complex Preceramic site, and Aspero. Norte Chico sites are known for their density
of large sites with immense architecture. Haas argues that the density of sites in such
a small area is globally unique for a nascent civilization. During the third millennium
BC, Norte Chico may have been the most densely populated area of the world (excepting, possibly,
northern China). The Supe, Pativilca, Fortaleza, and Huaura River valleys each have several
related sites. Norte Chico is unusual in that it completely
lacked ceramics and apparently had almost no visual art. Nevertheless, the civilization
exhibited impressive architectural feats, including large earthwork platform mounds
and sunken circular plazas, and an advanced textile industry. The platform mounds, as
well as large stone warehouses, provide evidence for a stratified society and a centralized
authority necessary to distribute resources such as cotton. However, there is no evidence
of warfare or defensive structures during this period. Originally, it was theorized
that, unlike other early civilizations, Norte Chico developed by relying on maritime food
sources in place of a staple cereal. This hypothesis, the Maritime Foundation of Andean
Civilization, is still hotly debated; however, most researches now agree that agriculture
played a central role in the civilization’s development while still acknowledging a strong
supplemental reliance on maritime proteins.The Norte Chico chiefdoms were “almost certainly
theocratic, though not brutally so”, according to Mann. Construction areas show possible
evidence of feasting, which would have included music and likely alcohol, suggesting an elite
able to both mobilize and reward the population. The degree of centralized authority is difficult
to ascertain, but architectural construction patterns are indicative of an elite that,
at least in certain places at certain times, wielded considerable power: while some of
the monumental architecture was constructed incrementally, other buildings, such as the
two main platform mounds at Caral, appear to have been constructed in one or two intense
construction phases. As further evidence of centralized control, Haas points to remains
of large stone warehouses found at Upaca, on the Pativilca, as emblematic of authorities
able to control vital resources such as cotton. Economic authority would have rested on the
control of cotton and edible plants and associated trade relationships, with power centered on
the inland sites. Haas tentatively suggests that the scope of this economic power base
may have extended widely: there are only two confirmed shore sites in the Norte Chico (Aspero
and Bandurria) and possibly two more, but cotton fishing nets and domesticated plants
have been found up and down the Peruvian coast. It is possible that the major inland centers
of Norte Chico were at the center of a broad regional trade network centered on these resources.Discover
magazine, citing Shady, suggests a rich and varied trade life: “[Caral] exported its own
products and those of Aspero to distant communities in exchange for exotic imports: Spondylus
shells from the coast of Ecuador, rich dyes from the Andean highlands, hallucinogenic
snuff from the Amazon.” (Given the still limited extent of Norte Chico research, such claims
should be treated circumspectly.) Other reports on Shady’s work indicate Caral traded with
communities in the Andes and in the jungles of the Amazon basin on the opposite side of
the Andres.Leaders’ ideological power was based on apparent access to deities and the
supernatural. Evidence regarding Norte Chico religion is limited: an image of the Staff
God, a leering figure with a hood and fangs, has been found on a gourd dated to 2250 BC.
The Staff God is a major deity of later Andean cultures, and Winifred Creamer suggests the
find points to worship of common symbols of gods. As with much other research at Norte
Chico, the nature and significance of the find has been disputed by other researchers.
The act of architectural construction and maintenance may also have been a spiritual
or religious experience: a process of communal exaltation and ceremony. Shady has called
Caral “the sacred city” (la ciudad sagrada): socio-economic and political focus was on
the temples, which were periodically remodeled, with major burnt offerings associated with
the remodeling.The discovery of quipu, string-based recording devices, at Caral can be understood
as a form of “proto-writing” at Norte Chico. However, the exact use of quipu in this and
later Andean cultures has been widely debated. Additionally, the image of the Staff God has
been found on a gourd dated to 2250 BC. The Staff God is a major deity of later Andean
cultures. The presence of quipu and the commonality of religious symbols suggests a cultural link
between Norte Chico and later Andean cultures.Circa 1800 BC, the Norte Chico civilization began
to decline, with more powerful centers appearing to the south and north along the coast and
to the east inside the belt of the Andes. Pottery eventually developed in the Amazon
Basin and spread to the Andean culture region around 2000 BC. The next major civilization
to arise in the Andes would be the Chavín culture at Chavín de Huantar, located in
the Andean highlands of the present-day Ancash Region. It is believed to have been built
around 900 BC and was the religious and political center of the Chavín people.===Ancient Mesoamerica===The Coxcatlan caves in the Valley of Tehuacán
provide evidence for agriculture in components dated between 5000 and 3400 BC. Similarly,
sites such as Sipacate in Guatemala provide maize pollen samples dating to 3500 BC. It
is estimated that fully domesticated maize developed in Mesoamerica around 2700 BC. Mesoamericans
during this period likely divided their time between small hunting encampments and large
temporary villages. Around 1900 BC, the Mokaya domesticated one of the dozen species of cacao.
A Mokaya archaeological site provides evidence of cacao beverages dating to this time. The
Mokaya are also thought to have been among the first cultures in Mesoamerica to develop
a hierarchical society. What would become the Olmec civilization had its roots in early
farming cultures of Tabasco, which began around 5100 to 4600 BC.The emergence of the Olmec
civilization has traditionally been dated to around 1600 to 1500 BC. Olmec features
first emerged in the city of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, fully coalescing around 1400 BC. The rise
of civilization was assisted by the local ecology of well-watered alluvial soil, as
well as by the transportation network provided by the Coatzacoalcos River basin. This environment
encouraged a densely concentrated population, which in turn triggered the rise of an elite
class and an associated demand for the production of the symbolic and sophisticated luxury artifacts
that define Olmec culture. Many of these luxury artifacts were made from materials such as
jade, obsidian, and magnetite, which came from distant locations and suggest that early
Olmec elites had access to an extensive trading network in Mesoamerica. The aspect of Olmec
culture perhaps most familiar today is their artwork, particularly the Olmec colossal heads.
San Lorenzo was situated in the midst of a large agricultural area. San Lorenzo seems
to have been largely a ceremonial site, a town without city walls, centered in the midst
of a widespread medium-to-large agricultural population. The ceremonial center and attendant
buildings could have housed 5,500 while the entire area, including hinterlands, could
have reached 13,000. It is thought that while San Lorenzo controlled much or all of the
Coatzacoalcos basin, areas to the east (such as the area where La Venta would rise to prominence)
and north-northwest (such as the Tuxtla Mountains) were home to independent polities. San Lorenzo
was all but abandoned around 900 BC at about the same time that La Venta rose to prominence.
A wholesale destruction of many San Lorenzo monuments occurred around 950 BC. A wholesale
destruction of many San Lorenzo monuments also occurred circa 950 BC, which may indicate
an internal uprising or, less likely, an invasion. The latest thinking, however, is that environmental
changes may have been responsible for this shift in Olmec centers, with certain important
rivers changing course.La Venta became the cultural capital of the Olmec concentration
in the region until its abandonment around 400 BC; constructing monumental architectural
achievements such as the Great Pyramid of La Venta. It contained a “concentration
of power,” as reflected by the sheer enormity of the architecture and the extreme value
of the artifacts uncovered. La Venta is perhaps the largest Olmec city and it was controlled
and expanded by an extremely complex hierarchical system with a king, as the ruler and the elites
below him. Priests had power and influence over life and death and likely great political
sway as well. Unfortunately, not much is known about the political or social structure of
the Olmec, though new dating techniques might, at some point, reveal more information about
this elusive culture. It is possible that the signs of status exist in the artifacts
recovered at the site such as depictions of feathered headdresses or of individuals wearing
a mirror on their chest or forehead. “High-status objects were a significant source of power
in the La Venta polity political power, economic power, and ideological power. They were tools
used by the elite to enhance and maintain rights to rulership.” It has been estimated
that La Venta would need to be supported by a population of at least 18,000 people during
its principal occupation. To add to the mystique of La Venta, the alluvial soil did not preserve
skeletal remains, so it is difficult to observe differences in burials. However, colossal
heads provide proof that the elite had some control over the lower classes, as their construction
would have been extremely labor-intensive. “Other features similarly indicate that
many laborers were involved.” In addition, excavations over the years have discovered
that different parts of the site were likely reserved for elites and other parts for non-elites.
This segregation of the city indicates that there must have been social classes and therefore
social inequality. The exact cause of the decline of the Olmec
culture is uncertain. Between 400 and 350 BC, the population in the eastern half of
the Olmec heartland dropped precipitously. This depopulation was probably the result
of serious environmental changes that rendered the region unsuited for large groups of farmers,
in particular changes to the riverine environment that the Olmec depended upon for agriculture,
hunting and gathering, and transportation. These changes may have been triggered by tectonic
upheavals or subsidence, or the silting up of rivers due to agricultural practices. Within
a few hundred years of the abandonment of the last Olmec cities, successor cultures
became firmly established. The Tres Zapotes site, on the western edge of the Olmec heartland,
continued to be occupied well past 400 BC, but without the hallmarks of the Olmec culture.
This post-Olmec culture, often labeled Epi-Olmec, has features similar to those found at Izapa,
some 550 km (330 miles) to the southeast.The Olmecs are sometimes referred to as the mother
culture of Mesoamerica, as they were the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of
the foundations for the civilizations that followed. However, the causes and degree of
Olmec influences on Mesoamerican cultures has been a subject of debate over many decades.
Practices introduced by the Olmec include ritual bloodletting and the Mesoamerican ballgame;
hallmarks of subsequent Mesoamerican societies such as the Maya and Aztec. Although the Mesoamerican
writing system would fully develop later, early Olmec ceramics show representations
that may be interpreted as codices.==Timeline==
The following timeline shows the approximate dates of the emergence of civilization in
the featured areas and the primary Neolithic cultures preceding them. It is important to
note that the timeline is not indicative of the beginning of human habitation, or the
start of a specific ethnic group which often occurred significantly earlier than the emergence
of civilization proper.==Cradle of Western civilization==There is academic consensus that Classical
Greece is the seminal culture which provided the foundation of modern Western culture,
democracy, art, theatre, philosophy and science. For this reason it is known as the cradle
of Western Civilization. Along with Greece, Rome has sometimes been described as a birthplace
or as the cradle of Western Civilization because of the role the city had in politics, republicanism,
law, architecture, warfare and Western Christianity.==See also==
Chronology of the ancient Near East Cradle of Humankind
Human history==Notes

One Comment

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *