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The Beginning of Civilizations

Humanity found animals to hunt and edible plants to gather. They were somewhat nomadic, living in shelters they had constructed, life an endless camping trip with their relatives, and they might meet other nomads they considered other than people like themselves. They had no science that classified others as human. They called themselves "the people", and for all they knew the strangers might be demonic.

Strangers might raid, take what little food they had, or might kidnap a woman or a child. Nomadic societies tended to be warrior societies. To be respected, men wanted to be good at warfare. And in some societies men exercised their skills as warriors by raiding. A science article in BBC News (21 January 2016) describes archaeologists having uncovered the remains of 27 people who had been clubbed and stabbed to death in a single event around 10,000 years ago (in what today is Kenya).

Recent scholarship describes humanity's transition to growing food and domesticating animals having started around 12,500 years ago, at different times and in separate locations of the world, depending on local conditions. It was a revolution that stimulated settlement (with some migrations to more fertile grounds and better animal grazing), a growth in population, a greater dependence on weather and climate, and changes in religiosity: fertility gods, for example, and human sacrifices to please the gods and bring rain.

With the agricultural revolution human history became a more complicated story. The author of Sapiens, Yuval Harari, writes of change dominating across millennia. He describes diversity, amalgamations and disintegrations, but we do well, he writes, if we view history as "moving toward unity.

Cultures have been subject to diffusions and transitions. Harari writes of "small, simple cultures" across millennia having coalesced "into bigger and more complex civilisations." And "at the microlevel, it seems that for every group of cultures that coalesces into a mega-culture, there's a mega group of cultures that breaks up into pieces."

With societies that grew the food or herded animals some migrations occurred. Many migrated into Mesopotamia. Africa had its great Bantu migration within the continent — the Banta a diversity of ethnicities). So were the Romans. Property was wealth, and property- owning aristocrats had begun to enjoy considerable power and led followers in trying to extend that power. Conflict reigned across the ages. Conquerers integrated ethnicities. Empires developed and empires divided. There were cultural diffusions and name changes for gods. In places monotheism replaced polytheism. Humanity continued to think by stories, and new rationals arose for following rulers. Philosophers tried to explain things. And new techniques were learned — a move into the age of iron. By the 1500s a new age of science had begun, and new sailing ships were making the world smaller. Eventually the industrial revolution would come, and there would be more cultural diffusion, a move toward greater uniformity and toward a global perspective, along with conflicts made more intense by advancing technology. Clashing political perspectives would be international.

That is my summary of what appears to me to be the change that followed the rise of agriculture which Harari describes as moving across millennia towards unity.

CONTINUE READING: First Civilizations

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Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.