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The Development of Civilization in the Ancient World
In order to understand the evolution of civilization in humans, a long and almost as diverse process, complete with downfalls and dead-ends, as the physical evolution of mankind itself, we must first understand the conditions of life in that time period. Other factors we have to account for are the different physical capabilities and limitations of man and the climactic conditions of the ancient world.
The evolution has gone from simple groups of hunters to great empires to advanced forms of government such as democracy and communism. However, the main concept that has driven men to learn to work together is survival. Man, due to physical limitations, is unable to survive on his own. Men must interact with each other in order to survive. This common thread in the evolution of civilization has enabled man to develop to the level he has, from a time when cave drawings were considered historical records and had religious significance to an age when we have readily available at our fingertips the temperature of a city two thousand miles away.
In this essay, I am going to examine how mankind went from bands of hunters to the great cities that sprung all over Asia, the Middle East and southeastern Europe in ancient times. In examining this evolution, I will explain how man has become the in one sense the high end in evolution, in his ability to manipulate nature, and the low point in evolution, in his ability and apparent willingness to destroy himself. Also, any reference to the word man is implied in the general sense of the entire human race, male and female alike.
To begin this essay, I am going to discuss the need of man for other men. Whether the dependence that men have on each other is a positive or negative aspect of mankind is open for debate. However there is almost no one in this day and age, at least in western civilization, who is totally independent of others to survive. Not one of us is able to emotionally survive (totally ignoring the physical aspects of survival) loneliness. This eventually leads to madness and self-destruction.
However, the primary necessity that led to the development of civilization was not the mental factor, it was the physical factor. Men learned that in order to survive they were going to have to work together. Men learned that better cloaks could be made if one man made them all and that more and better food could be caught or gathered and eaten if one man or a group of men caught or collected all of it.
All of these realizations led to the development of the earliest communities of people. Men learned to work together in order to work more efficiently and to make life easier. Mankind could never have developed into what it is today if it wasn?t for its ability to work together, for this ability was the ultimate separation point between us and animals.
By working together, man was able to improve on his efficiency in food production. Man switched from simply gathering food and simply gambling that the next place he went would have the food he needed to survive. Now man began to insure that the food would always be there when he needed it by beginning to farm and domesticate animals. These farming techniques and the division of labor brought mankind to a turning point in his development. Animals, unlike humans spend every waking hour of their lives trying to survive and men did that until it was no longer necessary because they had enough food, if not more than enough to survive and so man was actually able to sit down and think about things, to consider, interpret and explore.
One of the greatest evolutionary accomplishments came from these accomplishments: spoken communication. Spoken communication, as advanced as ours, is one of the things that separate us from animals, because thoughts are worthless if there is no way to share them. It is incredible how much as evolved from the simple need to survive. The physical evolution of man, however great it is, has been well surpassed by the social evolution of man. It is simple to marvel at the past, but we can never really understand our current civilization without understanding its roots.
Even at this early level of civilization, art, one of the most wondrous and unique things about the human race, developed. It is believed that art started out as symbolic depiction?s of human relationships. This theory suggests that early social philosophers tried to interpret the demands of the social structure by depicting them symbolically. For example, cave bison were not meant to be seen as bison, but rather depicted as women, and horses were meant to be seen as men.
Some famous cave drawings can be seen in southern France/northern Spain. On these cave walls are depicted wondrous murals of animals, such as bison, bulls, horses, ponies and stags. Also, the cave painters were not of the hunters in their group, their roles in society was to draw these paintings. They were specialists at their art. These people spent their whole day, just like the hunter-gatherers spent their whole day, doing their job. This is evidence that division of labor is a very old concept. Cave drawings were obviously a very important part of a society in ancient days, and art itself came to be a very important part of every culture that has ever existed.
Later civilizations formed more advanced versions of art, such as sculpture, music and literature. These are all defined as arts. Almost every culture that had the ability to developed these forms of art, did.
After the social group of hunter-gatherers, another type of community evolved. This was the community of villagers. Villages would not have been possible if it wasn?t for the development of hand-tools, specifically the hand-ax. Hand tools made it possible for man to build some of the structures he built when he built the villages.
?Nineteenth-century scholars hypothesized four stages in human development: (1) a savage stage in which all people were hunter-gatherers, (2) a herdsman or nomad stage during which man domesticated some animals, (3) a farming stage, and (4) civilization. Researchers have since attempted to determine when and where man first changed from hunter-gatherer to pastoralist or agriculturist. ?Many authorities have come to think that man’s domestication of plants and animals caused changes in their formand that the presence or absence of such changes may indicate whether the animal or plant was domesticated at some time in the past. On the basis of such evidence, some scholars have hypothesized a preliminary agricultural phase of intensive food gathering in the Middle East about 9000-7000 BC, when man passed from hunting and gathering to food producing or agriculture. The Natufians of Palestine, who possessed sickles, lived at this time; whether the grain they harvested was sown or wild is not known. Cattle were probably domesticated during this period or slightly earlier from the wild ox (Bos taurus), which stood six to seven feet (1.8 to 2.1 metres) high at the withers (the ridge between the shoulder bones). At Shanidar, in Iraq, it is claimed that sheep, similar to wild varieties in form and structure, were kept in herds. Furthermore, it has been suggested on somewhat speculative grounds that einkorn wheat (Triticummonococcum), emmer wheat (Triticum turgidum), and wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum) were cultivated about 7000 BC at Ali Kosh on the borders of Iraq and Iran.
?There seems no compelling reason, however, why these instances should be regarded as the first of their kind. It is possible that domesticated beans (Phaseolus), peas (Pisum), bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria), and water chestnuts(Trapa) may have been grown at the Spirit Cave in northern Thailand about 9000 BC. In the Americas, pumpkins(Cucurbita) and gourds (Lagenaria) are known to have existed in domesticated form in northeast Mexico about 7000 BC, and probably beans in the Tehuac?n Valley. The bones of a dog, possibly used for hunting around 8500 B.C.; were discovered in the United States. In sum, it now seems unlikely that there was either a single or even a very limited number of places of origin of plant and animal domestication and, therefore, of agriculture.?
Villagers were able to stay in one place because of the newfound abilities in farming and livestock. This brought about even greater accomplishments because of its complexity. Men had to totally change their way of life to survive village life. Most of their time was spent in field-work. Most people worked in food production, with a very small percent, perhaps as little as one percent were involved in handicrafts such as making pottery, weaving, and tool/weapon making. When people in western Asia became agriculturists, they began building year-round dwelling places. With the development of permanent villages came the development of warfare.
Warfare has become an everyday part of people?s lives. People?s attitudes reflect this war-like behavior. How people build up alliances in everyday life. How one group of children can not like another group, and vice-versa. The spirit of war is imbedded in us all. It may not come naturally, but we see it in ourselves and each other. ?Village organization inevitably brought about long- distance trade , and it just as inevitably provoked the growth of war. No doubt war has been the bane of human existence, with famine and disease, at least since the appearance of agricultural villages, but since the growth of warfare in ancient times stimulated the growth of economic and social complexity it nonetheless must be counted as a step toward the emergence of civilization.?
The advancements that can be contributed to warfare in ancient times can also be attributed to modern times. For example, the United States and many other countries across the world were brought out of the Great Depression by World War II. In addition to economic advancements due to the war, social advancements were also made. Civil rights and women?s rights movements gained great strength during this time, and the same can be expected to have happened in ancient times, because, as we already know, history repeats itself. ?What makes the hand-ax of particular interest here is that by the time of its perfection during the second inter-glacial, it was being manufactured over a truly vast area : from South Africa to southern England and from England across the southern half of Europe and the Near East to India.?
Villages, however, were only a minor beginning to what was to come. The next level in the development of civilization was the emergence of the towns. Towns were slightly more populated than villages and much more organized. Townspeople had leaders or kings and these towns eventually evolved into cities. Many towns sprung up around southwest Asia and Europe around this time. Religion played an important role in the lives of towns people.
?From the 3rd millennium BC to the beginning of the Christian Era, forms of prayer changed little among the Assyrians and Babylonians and their descendants. The oldest forms are composed of hymns and litanies to the moon goddess Sin and the god Tammuz. Though some songs of joy have been found, most are adjurations. Some hymns of thanksgiving tell of gratitude to the divinity for victory over an enemy.?
Many civilization?s developed religions to explain natural phenomenon. They believed that if they made sacrifices to their gods, they would receive a good harvest, good weather and be free from diseases. Religion played an important role in the development of ancient civilizations. Many of these newly formed cities were ruled under a theocracy, a form of government in which the ruler has both religious and political power.
While these civilizations were developing, they were laying the groundwork for future societies. The United States, for example, modeled itself after Athens, an ancient city in Greece. Their development was just as important as was that of modern countries because they initiated new techniques and strategies. The ancient civilizations formed a part of our modern world that is very evident today. These civilizations shaped our theology, art, music, literature, language, lifestyles, and government.
In closing, I would like to reflect on certain key points in this essay. First off being how mankind learned to work together. Men worked together in order to accomplish a common goal from the earliest times. But these alliances brought about warfare. War is permanently imbedded in our souls and our minds. It has always played a major role of world history.
Despite this characteristic, the want of man to achieve a common good has continually popped up through history and resolved many of these conflicts. It is necessary that we understand how modern civilization developed so that we can fully comprehend it. Mankind has shown a continual effort to achieve perfection, with some methods coming to a dead end and others flourishing, and whether or not we ever achieve a perfect society depends on whether or not we are able to fully trust each other.
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