From the Origins of Agriculture to The First River Valley Civilizations 8000 - 1500 BCE 1

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  • 2.Before Civilization- Food Gathering and Stone Technology The subject of history is the development, spread, and alteration of cultural practices and events. African origins of human beings were confirmed in 1950 and even suggested by Darwin that human evolution must have begun in Africa. Human evolution began with hominids who were distinguished from primates by different characteristics and finally arrived at Homo sapiens ,who migrated to other areas and adapted to their environments through cultural means. Stone tool making became the first recognizable cultural activity and emerged around 2 million years ago. The Stone Age lasted till about 4,000 years ago but all tools were not only made of stone, they were also made of bone, skin, and wood. The Stone Age consisted of two subdivisions , the Paleolithic and Neolithic Revolutions. The Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age, lasted till about 10,000 years ago . (Bulliet 6) Foraging societies, or hunter-gatherer clans, were made up of small groups of people who traveled from place to place as climate and abundance of plants and animals varied. Foragers were affected by climate changes and disease and also by the fact that they could not store food for a long period of time. They did not have permanent shelters nor did they have many personal possessions. (Armstrong 92) According to studies, women may have been better food gatherers while men would have been better hunters. These studies also show that the hunter-gatherers lived in large enough groups that allowed them to defend themselves against predators but they were also small enough that they did not run out of resources and food supply. Because these groups only spent about five hours securing the basic needs, there was plenty of time for artistic and social life. During the Stone Age, the first evidence of what is now called science, art, and religion developed; for example, there were many cave drawings that might have some connection towards hunting. (Bulliet 7) Pastoral societies are often found in mountainous regions and were characterized by the domestication of animals and just like the foragers, they also did not have many personal belongings and were always searching for new grazing areas. (Armstrong 92)
  • 3.Agricultural Revolution Between 8000 B.C.E. and 3000 B.C.E. , the nomadic people started to change to agricultural lifestyles. (Armstrong 92) Archaeologists first discovered food-producing practices when they found stone tools that were shaped for agricultural purposes. (Bulliet 8) When people figured out how to cultivate plants and found a place with a dependable source of water and soil, they could stay and could depend on the supply of food which caused them to remain in the same area for longer amounts of time. (Armstrong 92) The Middle East, which is the area with the earliest evidence of agriculture, domesticated many plants and spread to distant regions; however, food production seems to have arose independently in most places. One reason why many crops could not be spread to distant lands was the different geographical boundaries that blocked them from thriving in those areas. (Bulliet 8-10) The first domesticated animal was the dog, which might have helped hunters track their game. Pastoralism, or the way of life that depends on herds of livestock, was dominant in dry regions. Other possible factors that could have stirred and started agriculture and food production are shortages of wild food caused by aridness and population growth. (Bulliet 10-11) A dependable supply of food allowed farmers and the population to survive droughts and epidemics and in the end, farmers outnumbered foragers. Kinship and marriage united farming communities and encouraged the forming of clans or lineages. Farmers prayed to deities such as Earth Mother and the Sky God, while the foragers had centered on springs and wild animals. They used megaliths, big stones, to create burial chambers, calendar circles, and help with astronomical findings. Two towns that served as centers of trade and crafts were Jericho and Catal Huyuk. Even though wall painting in Catal Huyuk proved that hunting was very popular, its economy was focused on agriculture. Metal working became a significant job in the Neolithic period but metal did not replace weapons because it was soft . (Bulliet 12-13) As agricultural societies became more complicated, we begin to see the creation of a society or civilization.
  • 4.Mesopotamia-Agriculture and Cities, Kings, and Trade Most of world’s early civilizations were found around river valleys because they were regular sources of water and also contained nutrients in the soil; Mesopotamia is one of these civilizations. (Armstrong 94) The rivers that supported this Fertile Crescent were the Tigris and the Euphrates and the most important city in southern Mesopotamia at the time was Babylon. (McCannon 57) Agriculture actually did not reach Mesopotamia till around 5000 B.C.E. even though settlement began around 8000 B.C.E. The Mesopotamians considered floods to be inconvenient and violent. The first inhabitants of Mesopotamia were the Sumerians and Semites, and in 2000 B.C.E., Semitic people became the people with the political power. The Sumerian and Semitic culture lasted until the Greeks and their arrival in the late fourth century B.C.E. (Bulliet 14-15) Cities depended on agriculture and the term city-state means a self-governing urban center and the agricultural regions it controlled. Mesopotamians organized complex irrigation systems that encouraged people to work together. The temple was located in the heart of the city and the king’s power grew because the army was behind him. Kings were in charge of the building and maintenance of temples. The Epic of Gilgamesh portrays the importance of kings and how communities relied on their strength, courage, and wisdom. Some city-states became so dominant and took over neighboring regions and expanded their territories such as the Akkadian state and one established by Hammurabi that is know as “Old Babylonian” state. Trade and conquest were two ways of receiving access to important resources and commerce flourished in almost all the periods. (Bulliet 16-17)
  • 5.Mesopotamian SocietyGods, Priests, and Temples The Law Code of Hammurabi reflected the social divisions in the eighteenth century B.C.E. It identifies three social classes : the free, landowning class-royalty, warriors, priests, high ranking officials, and merchants, 2-dependant farmers and artisans(the primary rural work force), and 3-slaves. The punishments in the law code depended on the class of the offender. (Bulliet 18) Mesopotamian writings mostly reveal male activities among the elites and that women most probably lost their social freedom with the introduction to agriculture. Women could own property, maintain control of their offerings, and take part in trade, but men however were the ones who were charge of the political side of the civilization. The Semitic people took many of the Sumerian deities and the rituals that the Sumerians used to do. They believed their gods to be anthropomorphic or like humans in form and behavior. (Bulliet 18) Temples were very important as the population were devoted to their deities who protected their communities. Priests lived off the food from the deity's estates and had many jobs from performing rituals to reading patterns in incensed smoke. The most visible part of the temple was the ziggurat. Not much is know about the beliefs of the common people but they might have had a popular belief in magic . (Bulliet 19)
  • 6.Mesopotamian Technology and Science Technology refers to the tools and processes that humans use to change the world. (Bulliet 19) Writing appeared in Mesopotamia before 3300 B.C.E. and the most possible theory about its origin is that is was derived from a system used to keep track of property. This system then turned into the method of writing of using a clay tablet called cuneiform. Cuneiform took many years to master because of the series of hundred signs that were included. Although cuneiform was at first created for the Sumerian language, it was used for the Akkadian language and the other languages in western Asia proving Mesopotamia’s influence on other parts of the region. (Bulliet 22) Irrigation, which served as the basis of agriculture, included the building and upkeeping of canals and dikes. The Mesopotamians made bronze out of ores to improve their stone tools. Mesopotamia’s most rich resource, clay, is what formed the construction of city walls, temples, and palaces. Military technology also changed when horses appeared in the second millenium B.C.E., and soldiers learned to known down walls that hid their enemies. Mesopotamians also made advances in mathematics with the invention of the base-60 number system ,and Mesopotamians also made discoveries in the subject of astronomy. (Bulliet 23)
  • 7.The Land of Egypt Even though Egypt is located at the intersection of Asia and Africa, Egypt was more of a isolated region. Egypt was surrounded by desert and a marshy seacoast. The world’s longest river, the Nile, is the river that supported agriculture and life in Egypt. Most of the important cities were located on the river, and travel and communication was focused on the river. (Bulliet 23) The northern delta was called “Lower Egypt” and the southern part was called “Upper Egypt” because the river flows from south to north. (Bulliet 24-25) Agriculture was suitable for this area because of the hot, sunny climate. The Nile overflowed every September and allowed water to spread into the valley. In contrast to the Mesopotamians, Egyptians needed no nothing to raise the level of the water because the Nile flooded at the best time fir agriculture to prosper. Egypt also had many other natural resources such as copper and turquoise deposits, gold, papyrus seeds, and much more that allowed to be much more self-reliant than Mesopotamia. Farming villages emerged in Egypt around 5500 B.C.E. and relied on plant and animal domestication. At that time, the Sahara had a wet and mild climate. (Bulliet 24-25)
  • 8.Divine kingship-Administration and communication The population growth called for political organization and some form of kingship and in contrast to Mesopotamia, one thing that Egypt discovered earlier than Mesopotamia was unity. Scholars divide Egyptian history into the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, which were periods of much political and cultural achievements. The king, or pharaoh, was the center of the Egyptian state and was considered a god on earth, that he took care of ma’at or the order of the universe, and he was the link or messenger between the people and the gods. It may be that Egypt did not have a code of law like Mesopotamia because they followed the idea of following a divine king. Around 2630 B.C.E., Djoser, had a stepped pyramid, or a series of stone platforms laid on top of one another and built it out of stone tools and human muscle power for royal tombs to be placed as the kings rejoined the gods. (Bulliet 25) Memphis was the capital of the Old Kingdom and Thebes became the more prominent capital in the Middle and New Kingdom time periods. The government controlled most of thee economy and long-distance trade. Hieroglyphics became the earliest form of writing in Egypt and was made of up pictures that represented symbols of words, syllables, and or individual sounds and by 2500 B.C.E., the Egyptians were writing on writing material called papyrus. Egyptian literature also flourished with the tales of adventure, love, poetry, and religious hymns. Egypt’s interests were getting goods from the south, Nubia as they invaded Nubia in the early second millenium B.C.E. and took possession of gold fields. (Bulliet 26-27)
  • 9.The People and their Beliefs and Knowledge There was a population of a million to a million and a half and they ranged from dark skinned of Sub-Saharan Africa to lighter-skinned of North Africa. Egypt had a less distinct amount of social divisions however the king and high ranking officials enjoyed wealth and power. Below them were local leaders and priests, and even below were peasants who made up much of the population. Peasants devoted themselves to agriculture; however this is only known through literary evidence and tomb paintings. Slavery existed but what not of significance to the economy. What is known about the lives of women in ancient Egypt comes from artists and scribes which show women and their husbands engaging in activities together showing equality and love. Egyptian women could own property and will to anyone they wished. Women seem to have much more respect, rights, and social freedom than women in Mesopotamia and other societies. (Bulliet 27) The king was believed to be the proof of the dead returning to life and he intervened with gods for the sake of the region. Egyptian rulers spent much on temples, their own tombs, and most of the country’s wealth went towards religious reasons so that they could win the gods’ favor. Egyptians believed in the afterlife and this obsession led to the process of mummification or when specialists remove vital organs to preserve the bodies. Tombs also signified wealth and status. (Bulliet 28) They learned chemistry through mummification, and flooding and irrigation led to the development of mathematics. (Bulliet 29)
  • 10.Indus Valley Civilization TwThe central part of the Indus Valley is located in the province Sind in modern Pakistan. ice a year, the Indus River overflows for around 10 miles and these floods allow crops twice a year. Between 2600 to 1900 B.C.E., two major urban centers were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro . The Indus Valley had a writing system, however the tablets that were found were so brief that no one has decoded them yet, but they contain evidence of a Dravidian language that was spoken. Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa were very similar in appearance which might represent a strong central authority however, Harappa might have been on the zone where agricultural lands turn into pastoral societies. (Bulliet 30) Indus Valley seems to be very uniform in its architecture and their industry also thrived. (Armstrong 99) The Indus Valley people used the potter’s wheel showing their use of technologies. The Indus Valley people also had much better access to metal than the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians and used it to create goods and luxury items. Not much is known about the political, social, economic, or religious aspects of this society. Some of the Indus Valley’s technological improvements are irrigation systems, the potter’s wheel, bricks of kiln, a system of writing, and the use of bronze. They also created much extensive trade with mountain areas, Iran and Afghanistan, and even with Mesopotamia. (Bulliet 31)
  • 11.Transformation in the Indus Valley Society The Indus Valley cities may have been abandoned around 1900 B.C.E. because of a breakdown in systems that were not connected such as political organization and the economy. (Bulliet 32- 33) There were also several natural disasters such as earthquakes and colossal flooding. Towns may have been left dry because of ecological changes and patterns may have changed. The urban centers became replaced with farming and herding within villages. Interaction between the adjacent regions decreased and the consistency in technology and style became substituted with a variation regions. While the urban centers collapsed and the life of the elites disappeared, the peasants most probably survived. (Bulliet 33) In summary, the first civilizations developed higher levels of political organization, urbanization, and technology and the availability of water and soil contributed to this. Crops not only fed these river valley civilizations; they also allowed engineering, mathematics, and metallurgy to flourish. While floods of the Tigris and Euphrates were considered violent and a threat to Mesopotamia, the Nile floods were considered a gift and satisfied the people. Mesopotamia tried to calm their deities while the Egyptians believed in guaranteed prosperity. However, in both Egypt and Mesopotamia, kingship was the most dominant political form and the kings were considered the center of power. All river valley religions were polytheistic. Women’s rights varied from different river valley civilizations. While the Mesopotamian and Egyptians civilizations continued to flourish and expand until it became too big to control and while the Indus Valley went into decline, a new civilization emerged in the valley of the Yellow River.
  • 12.Works Cited Books   1 Armstrong, Monty. Cracking the AP World History Exam. 2010 Edition. New York, New York: The Princeton Review Inc, 2009   2 Bulliet, Richard W., Pamela Kyle Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson, and David Northrup. Earth and Its People Advanced Placement Version Third Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.   3 McCannon, John. Barron’s AP World History 3rd Edition. Hauppauge, New York: Barron’s Educational Series Inc, 2008. Websites Ancient River Valley Civilizations. Africa. Agriculture.> Mesopotamia. 5. Tablets of Mesopotamia. 6. Cuneiform. . 8. Pyramids. 9. Egyptian Art. 10. Indus Valley Civilization. 11. Indus Valley Writing.> 12. Anicent Cultures.>>