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Re-thinking the "cradle of civilization"
August 14, 2007 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Re-thinking the "cradle of civilization". New discoveries at dig sites in Middle Asia are challenging the archaeological worlds idea that civilization began in Mesopotamia. Sites in modern-day Iran and Russia suggest that a vast network of societies together constituted the first cities, along with the potential discovery of a new writing system.
posted by stbalbach (20 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well it's about time Iraq got some bad news innit?
posted by Mister_A at 7:46 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Awesome. I love it when the complexity gets filled in.

*holds onto hope for evidence of 10,000-year-old wood-based jungle civilizations*
posted by mediareport at 7:54 AM on August 14, 2007


...a vast network of societies together constituted the first cities...

What?

The first link seems more informative, but still we have this: "While Mesopotamia is still the cradle of civilization in the sense that urban evolution began there, we now know that the area between Mesopotamia and India spawned a host of cities and cultures between 3000 B.C.E. and 2000 B.C.E."

There seem to be two points here.

First, that cultures and societies can exist without cities. NEWSFLASH: NOMADS AREN'T 19TH CENTURY "SAVAGES"

Second, that there were a bunch of cities, not just one. Duh? The comment about India in particular makes one thing of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, both of which have long been known to predate 2000 BCE.
posted by DU at 7:58 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Double?
posted by afu at 8:09 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


What DU said: this is fascinating stuff, but the post drastically oversells it. Mesopotamia is still the site of the first cities; it's just that other cities grew up faster and in more widespread areas than had been suspected. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for the post, but leave the hype to the marketers.

Double?

Nah, that was just about Jiroft.
posted by languagehat at 8:14 AM on August 14, 2007


If only Lord Dunsany were still alive.
posted by drezdn at 8:39 AM on August 14, 2007


Listen. Civilization started in roughly 7 randomly-seeded spots around the map globe, and has been expanding outwards ever since as quickly as the tech trees and available resources allow. I refuse to believe otherwise, and if you doubt me I'll overrun your cities with Modern Armor.
posted by COBRA! at 9:07 AM on August 14, 2007 [15 favorites]


roughly 7 randomly-seeded spots around the map globe

Not random at all. Seven spots with a very specific confluence of climatic, geographic, ecological (both in the numbers and kinds of species present, both plant and animal) factors. For instance, all in sub-tropical floodplains. That's hardly random.

As for the "cradle of civilization," by 3000 BCE, civilization in the Middle East was already 5,000 years old. I fail to see how this really changes much....
posted by jefgodesky at 9:36 AM on August 14, 2007


Diplomacy, COBRA!, diplomacy.
posted by NationalKato at 9:40 AM on August 14, 2007


Not random at all. Seven spots with a very specific confluence of climatic, geographic, ecological (both in the numbers and kinds of species present, both plant and animal) factors chosen by the Galactic Overlords a billion years ago according to a pattern that, if you were foolish enough to try to understand it, would make your brain explode like a grape in a microwave.
posted by languagehat at 9:44 AM on August 14, 2007


Don't you realize what this means?

We must invade Iran.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:46 AM on August 14, 2007


TERRORISTS CONTROL THE ROOTS OF CIVILIZATION!
posted by klangklangston at 9:51 AM on August 14, 2007


> all in sub-tropical floodplains.

And now, after 4000 years of experience give or take a couple, we still haven't figured out not to build in floodplains.
posted by jfuller at 10:47 AM on August 14, 2007


DU: it was my impression that nomadism (pastoral nomadism) arrived rather late on the scene. Honest question: before or after the birth of cities?
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:55 AM on August 14, 2007


And now, after 4000 years of experience give or take a couple, we still haven't figured out not to build in floodplains.

The floodplains were actually pretty crucial, not just a random mistake. All of the major agricultural crops (corn, rice, wheat) are disaster-adapted cereal grains. It was probably the regular flooding that made agriculture conceivable. The basic job of the plow, after all, is simply to mimic a natural disaster, so as to favor the growth of disaster-oriented crops (specifically, wheat).

So, agriculture arose when and where the specific material factors allowed for it and encouraged it. That's not random.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:39 PM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


chosen by the Galactic Overlords a billion years ago according to a pattern that, if you were foolish enough to try to understand it, would make your brain explode like a grape in a microwave

I'm as big a fan of Sid Meier as anybody, but Galactic Overlord is a little OTT.
posted by MetaMonkey at 1:10 PM on August 14, 2007


Yeah, jefgodesky, we know you don't like Civilization all that much, but you should really try it, it can be fun sometimes.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:31 PM on August 14, 2007


Actually, I love the video game. It's the one sense of the word in which I have something good to say about it. :^)
posted by jefgodesky at 1:51 PM on August 14, 2007


Seven? What a pussy. Real gamers play the 18 civ scenario.
posted by absalom at 2:17 PM on August 14, 2007


It be a value judgement. "Civilization" gets defined by the level of enviromental control, i.e. technology. The urges and ability to dominate that came with the technology is just a self back-pat definition of civilization.

ok..we're civilized because we're living longer.
posted by stirfry at 3:45 PM on August 14, 2007


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