The origin of civilization - World History

The origin of civilization - World History
Posted on 27-12-2022

The origin of civilization ( 20,000 years ) Background of the first historical civilizations.

Some 20,000 years ago, during the fourth and last ice age of the Quaternary era, man roamed the Earth in search of game and collected fruits wherever he found them. When a group of humans arrived in an area rich in game or edible vegetation, they would establish temporary camps until the resources were exhausted, but some found particularly fertile places, to the point that they regenerated before being exhausted, so that little by little Little by little stable camps or towns dedicated to hunting and gathering began to emerge. This was how man became sedentary.

Perhaps the oldest examples of this type of settlement (although not very numerous at first) are a series of settlements staggered in time in northeast Africa, in present-day Egypt, the earliest of which date back 19,000 years. Apparently, its inhabitants collected annual crops of barley and wheatwild. At that time, all of North Africa was a jungle rich in fauna and vegetation, but the ice age would soon end and a desertification process would begin that would give rise to the Sahara desert. However, the northeast area remained fertile for a long time thanks to the Nile River. It is the longest river in the world, which rises in Lake Victoria on the African equator and carries its waters north to the Mediterranean. However, this was only discovered much later. In ancient times, no "civilized" man knew where the Nile came from, as a series of cataracts prevented it from continuing upstream through the jungle.

Another area where there are early signs of grain harvesting is the easternmost coast of the Mediterranean, what is now Palestine. Remains from 15,000 years ago have been found that show that in this region man had learned to grind grain. Palestine was part of an area of ​​especially favorable conditions, known as the fertile crescent. It is a region that, as its name indicates, has the approximate shape of a crescent. Its eastern part is what we could call Canaan. The coast of Canaan receives the name of Palestine to the south and Phoeniciato the north, although these names are related to towns that would later inhabit the region. The fertile crescent moves east along the so-called Syrian corridor and then descends south following the course of two parallel-flowing rivers: the Euphrates and the Tigris, which finally join shortly before emptying into the Persian Gulf. In ancient times the sea covered a larger area, so the Euphrates and Tigris had separate mouths. The land between the two rivers (and, by extension, their surroundings) is known as Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is bordered to the east by the Zagros Mountains. Remains of hunter-gatherers who inhabited these mountains almost 13,000 years ago are known.


Life in stable towns was an important cultural change. Thus opens a last phase of the Paleolithic period known as Mesolithic. The cases that we have just commented are their first manifestations, although the Mesolithic culture only began to be representative about 12,000 years ago, that is, from the X millennium, when the last period of the Quaternary era is considered to have begun. : the holocene. Palestinian villages with semi-subterranean circular huts made of wood, adobe and stone remain from this period.

In the 9th millennium the fourth ice age ended. The Mesolithic culture spread from Palestine to Syria following the fertile crescent. While Northeast Africa remained in a Mesolithic state for several millennia, the Near East underwent relatively rapid changes. Sedentary men had the opportunity to further study the behavior of plants and animals. Slowly, they discovered that it was possible to keep and feed some animals instead of killing them, so their meat could be available when it was most needed. There are indications that around this time, in a settlement that would later become the city of Jericho, theram. Little by little, the men in the western part of the fertile crescent became herders and farmers.

Those who chose to gather animals and graze them found that they had to travel from one place to another in search of pasture, which led them to abandon the villages and become nomadic peoples. On the contrary, farmers had to stay with their land, which required all kinds of work and care. They formed stronger and more numerous settlements, since, on the one hand, the worked land provided food for more people and, on the other, they needed to defend themselves from wild beasts and other nomadic peoples who had no scruples of arriving and effortlessly taking the fruit of their work. unaffiliated.

With the appearance of agriculture and livestock we entered the second stage of the Stone Age: the Neolithic. The first proper Neolithic manifestations appear in Palestine from the year 8600. At that time, the Earth must have had around eight million inhabitants. New discoveries spread slowly, along with other innovations. in the year 8000pottery was discovered in the Sahara and in Syria independently. Clay pots were practical substitutes for heavy stone containers. However, the carving of the stone was also perfected. In fact, the Paleolithic/Neolithic denomination marks the transition from carved stone to polished stone, although, as has already been said, this is not the most significant difference between the two cultures, but rather the appearance of agriculture and livestock.

Around 7500 wheat began to be cultivated in Jericho, and the pig and goat were domesticated . Around this time, agriculture and livestock farming reached Upper Mesopotamia (that is, its northern part, the furthest from the sea). Palestine continued to be at the head of civilization: by the year 7000, the old circular huts had been replaced by houses rectangular in plan, subdivided into rooms and with the walls and floor covered with clay. Its inhabitants buried the deceased under their houses, but before they separated the skull, covered it with clay and decorated it with paintings. This indicates a religious ceremonial complex.

In general, agricultural cultures developed a more complex and sophisticated religion than nomadic peoples. The nomads led a relatively comfortable life. They felt capable of dominating their environment. They were rude and strong people. They often made profitable raids on defenseless farmers' villages. For their few needs, they did not know what scarcity or lack of resources was. The only things they couldn't control were storms, disease, and perhaps clashes with other nomadic peoples. For this reason, their religions were limited to some "god of storms" or "of thunder" or "of lightning", to whom to implore mercy in storms, or perhaps to a "god of war". Who to turn to and ask for protection before a confrontation. Rather, farmers were surrounded by events beyond their control. Their standard of living depended on the fact that it rained at the right time, that there were no devastating storms, that the harvests were good, that the rivers brought enough but not excessive water, etc. They knew the different seasons of the year and linked them with the changes in the position of the Sun and the stars in the celestial vault. Thus, the farmer learned to pray in the face of adversity. Superstition spread rapidly among the agricultural peoples, and all kinds of rites sprang up to keep the gods of rain and rivers, and the Sun, etc. auspicious. Priests specialized in ensuring that the gods were satisfied with the people did not take long to emerge around these beliefs. The priests are reputed to be wise and are often the subject of innumerable questions of all kinds, for which they always have some answer based on stories about this or that god. Thus, each town was creating its mythology, more or less rich according to the imagination of its people, and in line with the degree of sophistication of each society. for which they always have some answer based on stories about this or that god. Thus, each town was creating its mythology, more or less rich according to the imagination of its people, and in line with the degree of sophistication of each society. for which they always have some answer based on stories about this or that god. Thus, each town was creating its mythology, more or less rich according to the imagination of its people, and in line with the degree of sophistication of each society.

During the seventh millennium the population density in the fertile crescent increased remarkably. The ox was tamed . Many innovations were explored in Syria, such as the manufacture of lime containers, although these techniques did not continue. Agriculture spread throughout the Anatolian peninsula (Turkey). Around the year 6500 we find a group of towns of about 6,000 inhabitants, with raw brick houses and sanctuaries and frescoes of female divinities and bulls. At the end of the millennium they learned to melt copperto make ornaments, spearheads and various objects, but the metal was scarce and the discovery did not have much impact.

At this time agriculture also began to appear in some areas of present-day Mexico.

At the beginning of the sixth millennium , agricultural techniques had been considerably perfected in the western part of the fertile crescent. The sickle, hoe, etc. , was invented . Pottery spread from Syria down both "horns" of the crescent. The Euphrates and the Tigris supplied excessive water in spring and little the rest of the year, which is why large villages of workers built dams and canals to store and distribute the water around them. Lower Mesopotamia, which had been depopulated since the ice age , was occupied .

Farmers could harvest more than they needed to consume, leading some men to specialize in producing other goods than trading farmers for their surplus. Thus, after ceramics, basketry arose and then the production of fabrics. An important village was formed where the city of Ur would later be. There arose a community of merchants who came to travel the coasts of Arabia by sea. Its location is currently far from the sea, but then the coast reached its vicinity. There is evidence that during a certain period the village was completely inundated by the sea. It is possible that this event was the origin of a legend that survived for millennia in the area about a "universal flood", which supposedly had flooded the entire Earth. The map shows other villages founded at this time that would eventually become major cities. North of the fertile crescent, near the source of the Tigris, Nineveh was founded,that thousands of years later would be the capital of a powerful empire.

Meanwhile, life in Anatolia must have been especially difficult. The only cultural advance during the sixth millennium was the construction of fortresses, a sign that their inhabitants suffered frequent incursions from neighboring nomadic peoples. In Egypt conditions were more propitious than those of Mesopotamia or Canaan, so the region remained oblivious to the advances of these regions and continued in its Mesolithic tradition of hunting and gathering throughout the millennium. By contrast, Neolithic culture spread from the Near East to Europe. around the year 6000The first agricultural communities appear in southeastern Europe and over the millennium they spread along the Mediterranean coast. Likewise, agriculture appeared around the Indus Valley (in present-day Pakistan).

Throughout the V millennium the Neolithic culture expanded and consolidated throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. The prosperity was such that in this period the world population went from about 10 million inhabitants to almost 50 million. In Europe and central Africa the megalithic culture arose, characterized by the construction of large stone monuments: sometimes simple stones raised as columns, sometimes aligned according to certain patterns, others in the form of huge horizontal slabs resting on two other vertical ones, etc. Naturally, these constructions must have been associated with new rituals and more or less sophisticated beliefs, typical of Neolithic culture. In Greece, navigation through the Aegean was developed, which reached the island of Crete. In Asia agriculture continued to spread slowly through the Indus Valley.

In America progress was slightly slower: in some areas of Mexico and Peru there were hunter-gatherer peoples who began to lead a sedentary life. They domesticated animals and invented pottery. The crops were very varied, but agriculture provided them with only a small part of their resources. They also learned to weave plant fibers.


In China, Mesolithic settlements formed along the Yellow River (Huang He), where rice cultivation was eventually learned . In the Baikal originated a complex of nomadic cultures that spread and diversified throughout Siberia and Central Asia. His influence reached as far as China. West of the Ural Mountains a culture of nomadic herders arose, between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Its members spoke a common language, known as Indo-European. The Arabian peninsula and North Africa was populated by another human group that also spoke the same language, known as Afroasiaticor Camitosemitic. However, the Sinai desert meant a permanent separation between Arabia and Africa, so the dialectal variants of Arabian Afroasiatic soon formed a group of languages ​​well differentiated from African ones, known as Semitic languages. The tribes of Arabia became herders, while those of North Africa continued to live for much longer from hunting and gathering, as the territory was much more fertile.


The greatest advances occurred in Lower Mesopotamia, that is, the part closest to the mouth of the Euphrates and the Tigris. The system of canals that they had devised in the upper part of the region reached as far as the south, which made it possible to take full advantage of the possibilities offered by the rivers, giving rise to irrigated agriculture that made the area the most fertile and prosperous in the region. epoch. In addition to agriculture, trade and pottery flourished. The merchants invented an antecedent of writing: the seal.Clay containers were marked with flat stamps that printed a distinctive relief of their owner or their contents. At the end of the millennium some cities came to have 10,000 inhabitants.

Until then, small villages had a tribal structure, made up of a few families that obeyed a patriarch, but large cities required an organization that did not rest on family ties. Thus, the Mesopotamian cities gradually became city-states. Each city dominated and cultivated the land around it and was ruled by a king. The administration was in charge of the priests. They acted as treasurers and tax collectors, and as their authority lay in their role as intermediaries with the gods, religion became more and more sophisticated. The temple was the center of each city. In addition to the priestly class, an aristocracy and a bourgeoisie arose that originated a demand for ornaments, fabrics and works of art. The Lower Mesopotamian way of life was quickly imitated by the rest of the fertile crescent, which maintained a similar culture.

Copper smelting was discovered in the Sinai Peninsula , and the system spread rapidly to both Mesopotamia and Egypt. Around 4500 southern Canaan was invaded by a people who knew how to smelt copper. Around the same time, the first Neolithic settlements appeared in Egypt, next to Lake Moeris,somewhat to the west of the course of the Nile. The vicinity of the Nile would have required a system of canals similar to that of Mesopotamia to be adequately used, so the nearby areas (but prudently removed from the sudden floods of the river) were more suitable for a population who had just discovered agriculture and livestock.

Copper metallurgy flourished in Iran, which imported the ore from India and exported it in manufactures to Mesopotamia, along with gold, silver, and precious stones. Copper was especially useful in Mesopotamia. Gold and silver are soft, and were only used to make ornaments. Copper, on the other hand, is harder and was used to make weapons more effective than stone, weapons with which to repel the incursions of the nomads, which became more frequent the more the valley prospered. On the one hand were the rude shepherds who lived in the Zagros Mountains to the east, and on the other the inhabitants of the Arabian desert to the southwest. The city-states were fortified, as those of Anatolia had done long ago. Egypt, on the other hand,

Around the year 4000 , Lower Mesopotamia could no longer resist the pressure of the herders, who invaded the region from the Zagros Mountains and settled there, plunging it into a deep crisis.

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