What steps in the Neolithic revolution led to the growth of settled civilizations and the first states?
The neolithic revolution is a transition from reliance on gathering and hunting to agriculture and stockbreeding dated around 10000 BC to 8000 DC1. Its significance cannot be underestimated, as it was a gigantic step towards the settling down of tribes and the rise of a civilization that as well has led to the appearance of the first states.
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There are few ways in which the Neolithic revolution and the development of agriculture have entailed the rise of civilization. First of all, raising crops implied that people could be dependent upon themselves in what they eat. Of course, nature had its influence but not as significant as it was before because people have got an opportunity to choose what crops they would like to grow and the quantity of the potential harvest and what animals they would like to eat, even though this choice was influenced by climate and environmental conditions.
Second, the transition to agriculture and stockbreeding has caused the first demographic explosion in the history of human civilization2. It can be explained by one simple fact – humans now had an opportunity to predict the amount of food, so, they could afford to have bigger families. In truth, the choice to have bigger families was also an economic decision because, in the case of growing crops and cattle, people spent more time and energy than with hunting and gathering. So, they needed to have more hands.
Bigger families have become a reason that led to settling down and, as a result, the rise of civilization. With more members in a household and tribe as a whole, it became more complicated to migrate in search of new places to hunt and gather food. Raising crops and cattle eradicated the need for migration and, in turn, created the necessity of finding a permanent place of dwelling. With the settled place of living and running a household, people have faced the perforce of interactions with other tribes that could offer them those crops and animals that they could not raise by themselves. It gave impetus to the development of trade.
Moreover, the transition to agriculture and stockbreeding triggered the need to separate the functions in the tribe, thus giving rise to the division of labor. Since then, people have started carrying out particular roles in society. Ones, for example, were hunters, the others specialized in making tools for hunting and tilling up the soil, the third was building housing accommodations as with settling down people needed safer places to live in.
Together with that, settling down became an engine for the rise of culture and finding ways of distinguishing among other tribes. What is more, people saw the need for fitting up their houses that motivated the development of pottery that later served as a distinction because every tribe had a definite pattern for ornamenting stoneware.
So, the Neolithic revolution is what became a cause of the rise of human civilization. It led to the demographic explosion that, in the first place, has created the need for settling down. Moreover, it became a reason for labor division, building up relationships with other tribes, and gave impetus to the development of culture and thus the rise of civilization.
Describe the Economic, Social, and Political Characteristics of Nile River Valley/Egypt and Tigris-Euphrates/ Mesopotamia
Ancient Egyptian civilization was situated in the Nile River Valley. The beginnings of the state came with the farmers in approximately 5000 BC, who could not but settle down on the lands with fertile soils and close to the river. The ancient civilization of Egypt had many economic, social, and political characteristics distinguishing it from other ancient civilizations. First of all, it is its geographical position. Located in the delta of the Nile River, Egypt had many advantages that defined its economic opportunities and potential. Proximity to a river and fertile lands turned Egypt into a powerful agricultural country.
Farmers grew fruit, vegetables, grains, and many other crops. Harvesting great amounts of harvests allowed developing trade in the local markets as well as with the foreign countries bearing in mind the advantageous geographical location. Some materials were mined, but agriculture was still the most profitable industry in Ancient Egypt’s economy.
As for the social characteristics of Egyptian civilization, society had a well-defined structure. The country was ruled by pharaohs, emperors who gained power based on heredity, who had absolute authority. They had assistants in the face of government officials. Some noblemen and priests were of equal status to one of the government officials. Among other classes of society, there were soldiers, scribes who helped in governmental affairs as they could read and write, merchants, farmers, and slaves and servants as the lowest class3. The class system was very strict, so there was no opportunity to move between the classes unless parents paid for their children so they could become scribes or priests.
Speaking of the political characteristics, all political power, and freedom to make crucial decisions were in the hands of the pharaoh. The pharaoh, however, had advisors and assistants, but he had supreme authority over the country. There were also administrations of the districts called nomes4, but they had little power and were ruled by nomarchs5 appointed by the pharaohs.
Mesopotamia is an ancient civilization located between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. It started developing in around 10,000 BC and was one of the first sites of the Neolithic Revolution. The reason for the rise of cities in this area is simple – fertile lands and proximity to rivers. Like Egypt, it had some distinguishing economic, political, and social characteristics.
The political system of Mesopotamia was based on a city-state approach. City-states were separate cities and surrounding rural territories. They were governed by the priests. However, they remained in the constant state of warfare that eventually led to the establishment of one king who ruled the whole territory of the Mesopotamian civilization. As of the social characteristics, society was divided into classes: elite including priests, government official and warriors, free men comprising of different professionals and merchants, and slaves who were the lowest class6. Since there was a separate class of traders in society, it is not difficult to suppose that the foundation of the Mesopotamian economy was traded. Together with that, because of fertile lands and proximity to rivers, there was excess in food products that is why part of the crops was sold. Among other goods for sale, there were pottery, metal products, and textiles7.
Both Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia had much in common. First of all, they were located near large rivers and on fertile soils that turned them into agricultural civilizations and let them trade agricultural products. Second, societies of both states had a separate class of slaves and servants who were the lowest and had no rights. Moreover, the transition between classes was impossible. Finally, they both had a source of unlimited authority, even though bearing different legal titles.
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Describe the Economic, Social, and Political Characteristics of One Ancient African and One Ancient American (pre-Columbian) Civilization: Kush and Olmec Civilization
The ancient African civilization of Kush was initially comprised of wandering herders who settled down along the Nile River to build up their civilization and develop farming villages between 800 BC and 350 AD. Located to the south of Egypt, Nubians, the people of Kush, were luckier than their neighbors because they did not have to depend on the waters of the Nile to irrigate their fertile soils. Enjoying enough rainfall all year long, they could grow enough crops8. So, the foundation of the Kushite economy was agriculture. Moreover, the civilization was rich in natural resources such as ores, gold, incense, and ivory. So, they traded agricultural products and raw materials.
As for the political system, Kush was ruled by a king, who had supreme power. However, people were allowed to demand the king’s resignation if they thought that he was a bad ruler. The primary specificity of the Kushite political system is that the kings had a right to use their mothers as advisors without attracting governmental officials. The state was divided into districts ruled by local authorities that were rather independent and had the freedom to carry out local decisions. However, they bought this freedom out because they paid high taxes to the king. Speaking of the social system, society consisted of classes such as priests, governmental officials and warriors, artisans and minor officials, farmers, unskilled workers, and slaves, and functioned under the hierarchy9.
Olmec civilization existed between 1700 BC and 400 BC10. It is rightfully considered to be the first American civilization. Having fertile soils and a prolific climate, people settling those lands were mainly involved in agriculture raising fruit, beans, and grains with maize as a predominant culture. The civilization was also rich in raw materials such as different ores and metals. The foundation of the Olmec economy was traded in agricultural products, pottery, rubber, and goods made of metals.
Olmec society was divided into classes including elite, mainly priests and rich families controlling access to crucial resources such as stone and water, and other people. That means that there was no distinct social structure, except for this division with wealth and power as a primary criterion for distinction. As for political power, there was no single ruler. Instead, the state was governed according to the societal hierarchy mentioned above, so, the wealthiest people concentrated power in their hands.
So, Kush Civilization located in Africa and the American Olmec Civilization were two striking differences. Except for the fact that they had an advantageous natural position including fertile soils and a prolific climate that helped them become agricultural giants and died out in approximately the same period, everything else about their political and social systems was contrasting.
“Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations.” Wattpad.com. Web.
Guzman, Ricardo Andrez and Weisdorf, Jacob. “The Neolithic Revolution form a price-theoretic perspective.” Journal of Development Economics 96, no. 2 (2011): 209-219.
Lesure, Richard G. ”The Beginnings of Mesoamerican Civilization: Inter-Regional Interaction and the Olmec.” Cambridge Archaelogical Journal 21, no. 3 (2011): 482-483.
Lloyd, Allan B. Egypt: State and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Maloney, Tara. ”The Kingdoms of Axum and Kush.” Prezi. Web.
McIntosh, Jane. Ancient Mesopotamia: New Perspectives. Santa Barbara: ABC Clio, 2005.
Putterman, Louis. “Agriculture, Diffusion and Development: Ripple Effects of the Neolithic Revolution.” Economica 75, no. 300 (2008): 729–748.
Smith, Stuart Tyson. Wretched Kush: Ethnic Identities and Boundaries in Egypt’s Nubian Empire. London: Routledge, 2003.
- Louis Putterman, “Agriculture, Diffusion and Development: Ripple Effects of the Neolithic Revolution,” Economica 75, no. 300 (2008): 729.
- Ricardo Andrez Guzman and Jacob Weisdorf, “The Neolithic Revolution form a price-theoretic perspective,” Journal of Development Economics 96, no. 2 (2011): 209.
- Allan B. Lloyd, Egypt: State and Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 154-158.
- Ibid., 166.
- Ibid., 160.
- Jane McIntosh, Ancient Mesopotamia: New Perspectives (Santa Barbara: ABC Clio, 2005), 156.
- “Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations,” Wattpad.com. Web.
- Stuart Tyson Smith, Wretched Kush: Ethnic Identities and Boundaries in Egypt’s Nubian Empire (London: Routledge, 2003), 64.
- Tara Maloney, “The Kingdoms of Axum and Kush,” Prezi. Web.
- Richard G. Lesure, “The Beginnings of Mesoamerican Civilization: Inter-Regional Interaction and the Olmec,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21, no. 3 (2011): 482.