Ch. 1 Ancient Civilizations

What is Civilization?

To European scholarsof the late 19th century (approximately 1 850-1900) including Charles Darwin, Gabriel de Mortillet, and Sir Edward Tylor civilization was the result of "progress", the end of a sequence of change in society form "savagery" (hunting and collecting), through "barbarism" (simple farming) to "civilization" (complex society).

In the US, Louis Henry Morgan promoted the same ideas of civilization at about the same time.

In the 1930s and 1940s archaeologist V. Gordon Childe expanded this sequence for use by archaeologists to suggest

Savagery was the condition of the hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic

Barbarism was the way of life of farmers of the Neolithic and copper Age

Civilization was characterized by the Bronze Age communities of the Near East

Childe believed that the progression from one condition to the next was logical, natural, and that people desired change from one stage to the next.

Today, "civilization" is used to indicate urbanized state-level society.

Ancient civilizations may be called "preindustrial" civilizations for their reliance on farming and trade.

How do we define civilization?

There has been some effort to identify traits that are typical of civilization: writing, metallurgy, calendar, army, but all traits are not present in all areas where we find ancient civilization (See map in text, and timeline).

Urbanism: presence of cities

City: large and dense settlement with population in the thousands.

The largest ancient cities sucha as Rome or Changan (China) may have had over a million inhabitants.

Cities are interdependent with the surrounding areas (the hinterland)

Cities are the location of specialists.

Cities are "central places", providing services not available elsewhere, such as a marketplace

Cities have more complex organization than smaller communities

Cities have centralized insitutions to maintain security, to regulate activities, these may be marked by monumental architecture (palace, temple, city hall)

State organization: a centralized political unit

There is some overlap with cities in organization

V.Gordon Childe, and later Charles Redman divided the characteristics of civilization into two groups, primary (essential) and secondary (likely to be present)

Primary characteristics:

cities and states

full time specialization of labor

concentration of surplus

class structured society

Secondary characteristics: These are symptoms or by products of the primary characteristics (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy)

Comparing Civilizations

To understand a region in terms of population, technology, religious beliefs and practices, legal systems, and family and community organization.

To understand the variety of ancient civilizations and to see the differences that existed among these ancient societies

Archaeologist Bruce Trigger has suggested a difference among kinds of civilizations:

City States: the city is the whole of society and has all component peoples, specialists and functions. Know what a city state is and have an example of a city-state.

Territorial states: the city is a political center and there was less internal strife. Contact between the hinterland and the center (a city or cities) was usually just via tax payments or tribute.

Know what a territorial state is and have an example of a territorial state.

Civilizations and Their Neighbors

Know some of the consequences of civilization for neighboring groups.

Primary and Secondary Civilizations

Primary (pristine) civilization are those that cave first, formed completely on their own:

Examples: Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, Shang China, the Maya, coastal Peru

Secondary civilization are those that developed from contacts with pristine states:

the Minoans and the Mycenaeans in the Aegean (Mediterranean), early civilization in Nubia (present day Egypt and the Sudan), and southeast Asia

The Rediscovery of Ancient Civilizations

Know which areas of the world we are studying, see the map and time line in the book.

Know an explorer and a site for each of the six regions:

Greece and Rome



Greece and Crete

The Indus and Eastern Asia



Ch. 2 Theories of States

Historical and Anthropological Perspectives

Civilizationists and World Systems

Civilizationists look for cyclical patterns in world history

Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History (1934-1961)

Pitirim Sorokin, studies the 'central ideas' behind different civilizations, also cyclical

Carol Quigley, The evolution of Civilization (1961), peripheries of states go through cycles

Oswald Spengler, German historian, each civilization has its own basic 'essence'

Evolutionary Schemes

Cultural processes

Prestate and State-Organized Societies

Bands all three categories: vs. states

Tribes (complex tribes)


New challenges to evolutionary typologies:


Settlement Hierarchy

Four-tiered hierarchy: cities, towns, large villages, and small villages

Six Classic Theories for the Emergence of State Societies

What characterizes all preindustrial civilizations?

1)Urbanized societies based on cities, substantial territory

2)economies based on centralized accumulation of capital and social status through tribute and taxation; long distance trade, division of labor, specialization

3)moves toward record keeping, science, math, and writing, from knots to script

4) monumental architecture

5) state religion

Childe and the Urban Revolution

James Brestead coined the term 'the Fertile Crescent', 1920s

V.G. Childe (1892-1957)

Neolithic revolution, origin of farming

Urban revolution, development of metallurgy, class of artisans and specialists living in cities

Technology and craft specialization the cornerstone of the revolution

Today craft specialization is seen as part of both chiefdoms and states, and Childe's urban revolution was noted by R. Mc.Adams and others as placing too much evidence on cities at the expense of the hinterland, which were probably interdependent.

Ecology and Irrigation

Three elements of Childe's urban revolution were of particular importance in the development of early civilization:

Large food surpluses

Diversified farming economies

Irrigation agriculture

Brestead, the unusual fertility of the Mesopotamian flookplain and the Nile V. were the primary cause for the appearance of cities and states in the region.

Boserup, population growth, not food surplus, was the incentive for intensified agriculture and eventually more complex societies.

(Nile and Mesopotamia)

Ecological diversity protected people against famile and stimulated trade and exchange for food, e.g. Inka, Mycenaeans.

Harappans, gems for cotton

Peru, cotton for anchovies

Highland and lowland mesoamerica

Adoption of irrigation agriculture was a major factor in the rise of civilization, as it supported far higher population densities.

Julian Steward

Karl Wittfogel, hydraulic hypothesis, China, Egypt, India, 1920s

Adams, Mesopotamia, 1960s, also Egypt: The earliest irrigation was local, not institutional

Large scale irrigation requires maintenance and supervision, political stability and control of water sources, e.g. Inka overthrew the Chimu by taking control of their watershed.

Technology and Trade



Coercive versus Voluntaristic Theories

Coercive Theory: That individuals and communities were forced to participate in

the process of state formation.

Cultural Systems and Civilization (Systems Theory)

Adams, Mesopotamia, systems theory

Positive feedback among irrigation agriculture, increased warfare, and the

variability of local resources

Other systems possible

Flannery, Mesoamerica

Renfrew, Minoans

Ecological theories

Sanders, Valley of Mexico

Environment, large-scale agriculture could be organized

Centralized leadership important

Mesopotamia, sea level lower by 300 ft during late ice age,

Binford, Post-pleistocene adaptations

Kennett, local development of cultivation and then villages sparked by rising sea level

Social Theories

Archaeology has shifted toward an interest in individuals and groups

Power in three domains: economic, social/ideological, and political

Economic Power, trade and exchange

Sumer, metal from Anatolia, Iran, Persian Gulf

Egypt, gold and ivory from Nubia

Andes, fish from the Pacific coast.

Needed: organization, record keeping, supervision

Social Power, creation or modification of symbols

Expressed in art, architecture, ritual activities, literature

Grants special status to defenders, practicioners

Creates inequality

Political Power

Ability of a ruler to impose authority

Ideology and factionalism

We see ideology in art

Public architecture

Mesopotamian city states were a cluster of urban precincts around a complex of public buildings

Sumerians, e.g. Ur, ziggurat was the center

Maya, sacred hills and caves, forests

Over time cereminial centers became larger, more elaborate, institutionalized

With ideology comes factionalism

'competing factions within local groups and in different regions triggered social inequality and changing patterns of leadership, increased specialization, and the development of states'

e.g. Calakmul and tikal

Cycling Chiefdoms: Processes and Agents

Cycling chiefdoms: the constant fluctuation between simple and more complex chiefdoms.

States arise from the competition between the chiefdoms when 3 factors come together:

--Buffer zones created between warring chiefdoms separating them

--One chiefdom acquires more population than the others, often at the others

expense. Highly organized warfare develops.

--A large capital settlement, usually a city, develops

The Collapse of Civilizations

Dynamic Model: consolidation, expansion, and dissolution

Collapse--smaller, simpler, more egalitarian, population declines, trade and the economy decline, information flow declines, and the known world shrinks for the survivors.

Civilization and Sustainability