Introduction: Agricultural Revolutions
Even though the four civilizations under analysis are very different and unique, they can be characterized by a set of similar features when it comes to their history and development. In particular, all of them are known as ancient river-valley civilizations which indicate that they were surrounded by rivers (the Nile River in Egypt, Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia, the Indus and Ganges Rivers in India, and the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers in China). Due to the plentiful water supply, the civilizations were able to boost their farming activities and start agricultural revolutions – a rapid increase in the crops harvest powering the development of the cities and the population growth.
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Background: The Rise of Ancient Civilizations (Irrigation, City-States, Etc.)
Large city-states became one of the phenomena typical for river-valley civilizations. Due to their size, the citizens had to develop complex and efficient irrigation systems comprised on a multitude of canals delivering water not only to the fields but also to different parts of the cities (“The River Valley Civilizations”). The civilizations rose from the smaller peoples heavily dependent on gathering and hunting who did not tend to build permanent settlements. Due to the closeness of the rivers, the ongoing farming became possible and the civilizations grew fast developing art, communications, technology, and complex institutions.
River-Valley Civilizations ( Bronze AGE: 3500 -1000 BC)
Mesopotamia & Egypt
As specified in the previous sections, the Egyptian river-valley civilization settled at the backs of Nile River, and Mesopotamians successfully located themselves between Tigris and Euphrates. Both locations were prone to floods and often faced armed conflicts with the neighboring nations due to the favorable geographical position and plentiful resources (“Basic features of early civilizations- Mesopotamia, Indus Valley, & Egypt”). Both cultures had patriarchal societies with strict hierarchies and employed slave labor.
Located on the river system formed by the Indus River, the ancient Indian river-valley civilization was surrounded by mountains and turned out to be difficult to reach. For the purpose of communications and trade, the Indians developed Khyber Pass – a road connecting them to some of the trade routes; also, the civilization did not suffer from any military invasions and existed in quite a peaceful environment (“Basic features of early civilizations- Mesopotamia, Indus Valley, & Egypt”).
The territory between the Yellow and Yangzi Rivers was the home to the ancient river-valley civilization in China that used complex irrigation systems to direct their water supplies across the land. The civilization is known for its techniques for smelting metals and creating metal tools and utensils. Also, its society was built on a strict hierarchy and ruled by several royal dynasties throughout the centuries (“Early River Valley Civilizations”).
Eurasian Steppe represents a large grassland territory parting the Eastern and Western civilizations in the North hemisphere. For the settled civilizations, the main challenge posed by the steppe were the nomadic tribes that inhabited it. Light and flexible, they soon mastered weapons of their neighbors and began to present a significant military threat to the river-valley city-states and villages.
Civilizations in the Eastern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere
The factors that caused the emergence of the Eastern and Western river-valley civilizations were very similar and included favorable conditions allowing the creation and maintenance of large settlements. Moreover, however, the Western ones seemed to have more military clashes. Also, in terms of arts and technology, all of the civilizations showed significant development and a shift from stone to metal materials with the occurrence of Bronze Age.
Decline of River-valley Civilizations
The declines of the large river-valley civilizations occurred due to several reasons such as disease and the lack of appropriate technologies to cure people, overpopulation and the exhaustion of resources, frequent flooding, and constant warfare leading to destruction and economic and political instability. In ancient times, the societies did not have enough technology to manage large populations or create sustainable systems supporting them for the purpose of preserving the existing resources. As a result, the exhaustion of soil, over fishing, overhunting, and pollution were some of the primary root causes leading to the decline of the previously powerful civilizations.
Destruction of the Bronze Age Civilizations and Eransition toward the Iron Age (1000 BC)
The transition of Bronze Age to Iron Age was a lengthy process because it took a long time for the early civilizations to master the process of smelting iron ore that in addition to a rather high smelting temperature also requires thorough management and the removal of defects that significantly damage the quality of the final result tools and utensils. Different civilizations came to develop the appropriate technology at different periods. However, the high quality of the iron tools and weapons made the ability to smelt iron extremely valuable for the survival of the ancient nations in armed conflicts with their more developed neighbors. As a result, bronze was eventually replaced with iron as more and more civilizations thrived to adopt the new and promising technology.
“Basic Features of Early Civilizations- Mesopotamia, Indus Valley, & Egypt.” APWorldhistory, 2017, Web.
“Early River Valley Civilizations.” Art History Worlds, 2017, Web.
“The River Valley Civilizations.” Historyheaven, n.d., Web.