What is a Civilization?

What is a Civilization?

In this video I want to discuss the idea
of a civilization and what exactly that means. I want you to imagine that you and some
of your friends are stuck on a desert island to live; however, you can bring anything you want with you. I imagine you would want to bring all sorts of modern technology that would help you either get off the island or at least make
living there comfortable. Well, if you did have to stay on that
island even with all of the technology the question is, would that make you and
your friends a civilization? It definitely would not. When we say an
ancient people are a civilization what we are saying is that their society had some very specific things that set them apart from some people living on an
island, a lone village, or some hunters and gatherers wandering about the
countryside. First, a civilization had to have an
organized central government. This was more than a King or a Pharaoh and included laws, ways to collect taxes, ways to defend the civilization’s populace, and to make sure that there was enough food and water. Second, a civilization had to have
a complex religion. Often these religions were polytheistic which means they believed in multiple gods. This involved having temples, priests and
a system of public ceremonies and sacrifices that were very important to
the people. Third, a civilization needed something we call the division of labor. When people specialize in their jobs for example bricklaying, trading or weaving,
they tended to be more productive. Higher productivity meant more goods and money in a society. Fourth, each civilization had separate
social classes. Nobles and priests were often at the top of a civilization’s
social pyramid. The middle usually comprised merchants bankers, various people of the middle classes even scribes. And the lower classes including
peasants and farmers were at the very bottom of the social pyramid. Fifth, civilizations had some sort of art or architecture. Temples were often the largest buildings in a city and dominated people’s lives. The temple complex could even be a
meeting place for business transactions on a daily basis. Art could have included paintings, carvings and even fine jewelry. Six, each civilization built large public
works projects that were meant to provide for the people. Examples of these could be bridges, large
dams, road systems, and even walls for protection. These buildings served a purpose and
reinforced the power of the government and its ability to protect and oversee
the people. Seventh, and most importantly, a
civilization had to have a system of writing. Writing allowed priests and
officials to keep detailed records. It allowed merchants to keep track of
trades. It allowed treaties, marriages and all sorts of technological advancements. Each of these seven characteristics
served a critical purpose in setting apart a civilization such as Mesopotamia or Egypt from hunters and gatherers or small villages. Now these characteristics
all apply to early civilizations. Today we might add a few to the list. Maybe technology for example. However, understanding these categories
and how civilizations all around the world had them in common is important to
understanding how humans develop and organize themselves. In fact, though today it’s 2,000 years later for many of these early civilizations, we can still find
examples of all of these categories today.

12 thoughts on “What is a Civilization?

  1. A civilization or civilisation (see English spelling differences) is any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification imposed by a cultural elite, symbolic systems of communication (for example, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]
    Civilizations are intimately associated with and often further defined by other socio-politico-economic characteristics, including centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms, specialization of labour, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon farming and expansionism.[2][3][4][6][7][8] Historically, civilization has often been understood as a larger and "more advanced" culture, in contrast to smaller, supposedly primitive cultures.[1][3][4][9] Similarly, some scholars have described civilization as being necessarily multicultural.[10] In this broad sense, a civilization contrasts with non-centralized tribal societies, including the cultures of nomadic pastoralists, Neolithic societies or hunter-gatherers, but sometimes it also contrasts with the cultures found within civilizations themselves. As an uncountable noun, "civilization" also refers to the process of a society developing into a centralized, urbanized, stratified structure. Civilizations are organized in densely populated settlements divided into hierarchical social classes with a ruling elite and subordinate urban and rural populations, which engage in intensive agriculture, mining, small-scale manufacture and trade. Civilization concentrates power, extending human control over the rest of nature, including over other human beings.[11]
    Civilization, as its etymology (below) suggests, is a concept originally linked to towns and cities. The earliest emergence of civilizations is generally associated with the final stages of the Neolithic Revolution, culminating in the relatively rapid process of urban revolution and state formation, a political development associated with the appearance of a governing elite.

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