Rise of Civilisations

Definition of “Civilisation”
  • The word “civilisation” comes from a Latin word “civis” (which means citizen).

  • Originally being “civilised” meant:
  • Dwelling in a city
  • Protected by the Roan Constitution and Law
  • Belonging to the larger Roman community

  • It is difficult to define the term “civilisation” exactly because people across the world have different notions of the term “civilisation”, hence the term “civilisation” is less of a definitive term than an intuitive term.
  • Below are some text definitions of the civilisation [3]:
  • Civilisation is a form of human culture in which many people live in urban centers, have mastered the art of smelting metals, and have developed a method of writing.
  • The first civilizations began in cities, which were larger, more populated, and more complex in their political, economic and social structure than Neolithic villages.
  • One definition of civilization requires that a civilized people have a sense of history -- meaning that the past counts in the present.

  • Although it is difficult to define “civilisation”, it is possible to find out the factors which give rise to civilisation and the features of civilisations.

Factors which lead to the rise of civilisations (“Civilising Ingredients”)
  • Before the Neolithic Revolution (ca. 12,000 BCE), humans were hunter-gatherers. This means that people were moving from one place to another searching for food instead of settling in one place with stable supply of food.

  • During the Neolithic Revolution, people learnt how to practice agriculture and domesticate animals for food. They were able to produce stable food like barley, wheat, maize, rice, beans, potato, etc. And they domesticated animals like cows, cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, chickens, ducks, etc. All these allowed the people to secure constant food supply.

  • Normally, people settled somewhere with the favourable environment (constant supply of water and fertile soil) to start agriculture (e.g. river valleys near the tropics, etc.). Also, such favourable environment provided people with other resources like metals and minerals.

  • Settling near a permanent source of water provided people with several things. Water could be used for consumption and irrigation. Also, people could get seafood from water bodies like rivers and oceans. Water was needed in metal-working and water was used as a means of transport.

  • And, they also developed stone-working technology to develop tools for agriculture (e.g. plough) and to kill domesticated animals for food (e.g. spears). The stone-working technology marked a great technological shift from using wooden tools because stone is a harder material and allows greater efficiency.

  • So, with agriculture and domestication of animals, people were able to get stable supply of food and hence they did not have to move from place to place searching for food.

  • Finally, they were able to settle in one place and started forming a settlement/community. These smalls patches of settlements around the Earth gradually evolved to form civilisations in which they had a shared culture.

  • Here, we can identify four key factors which led to the rise of civilisations:
  • Favourable environment (fertile soil and warm climate)
  • Water
  • Stone-working technology
  • Agriculture and animal domestication

[1] https://docs.google.com/present/edit?id=0AVhzppQ6CcGjZDVxbTRxdl8yMDZkbTkzczQ4ag&hl=en&authkey=CLCt-uEJ
[2] http://www.slideshare.net/daryl_tanyl/chapter-3-birth-of-civilisations-presentation
[3] http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/lecture1b.html

Printable Version