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Governance & Complexity                   6,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

In General

 The crashing through of the ocean at Bosporus, permanently drowning all the fertile oases that had brought the assembly together, scattered the inhabitants like leaves in the swirling wind. Both the language tree and the genetic tree show a great fissioning event. With hardly any warning, the inhabitants abandoned homes, fields, possessions, and food to escape with family upstream or on the high seas. Little but knowledge and skill could be rescued. Ryan and Pitman believe that the Semites and Ubaids fled southward to the Levant and Mesopotamia; the Kartvelians retreated to the Caucasus; the LBK dashed across Europe, leapfrogging from one site to the next, pushing ahead their frontier for reasons never adequately explained; the Vinca retreated upstream to the enclosed valley of the Hungarian plain. Others went to the Adriatic and the islands of the Aegean. Some refugees migrated into the heartland of Eurasia via the Don. Still others used the Volga as access to the distant steppes of the southern Ural Mountains. In due course the Indo-Europeans soon occupied an arc extending from the Adriatic, western Europe, and the Balkans across Ukraine to the Caspian Sea. From somewhere in this strip the Tocharians struck out east to settle one day in the Tarim basin at the edge of what was to become the Old Silk Route. (131)

Africa

 The

Southwest Asia

When archaeologists speak of the development in the past of the first "complex" societies, most have in mind the kinds of changes we think happened first long ago in Mesopotamia, on the broad Tigris-Euphrates alluvial plains and adjacent hills of what is now Iraq. Based on well over a century of systematic archaeology, we know that if you were a member of an ordinary community here at about 6,000 BC, you would have lived in a village of a few hundred people, most of whom were your blood relatives. You and almost everyone else in your community would have worked in the fields to produce the grain held in common stores for large extended families and the community as a whole. And if you were an older adult male you would have made most of the decisions for you and your family about every aspect of your life. People very much like you and communities very much like yours would be found in all directions from your home, but your only contacts with them would have been minor trade in obsidian, flint, semi-precious stone, and a few other commodities, the exchange of young men and women in marriage, and--probably--the occasional fight. For all practical purposes, you and your fellow villagers were on your own terms of religion, manufacturing tools, defense, and food production; probably you and every other adult in town would know most of the skills necessary for survival; and your extended family--and every other extended family--probably could muster all the techbnological and social skills necessary for survival.

These shrines do not seem to have required the expenditure of vast amounts of labor and resources for essentially noneconomic purposes, as did the monumental constructions of later periods. Nor do they enclose radically different amounts of expensive goods, indicating great wealth disparities. Little about them, in fact, conflicts with the interpretation that they were kinship-cult centers in a simple ranked society.

Men, women, and children were buried in much the same way, either in baskets or simply in holes. Most of the graves contained no goods, but some women and children were accompanied by shell and stone necklaces, armlets and anklets, and, occasionally, obsidian mirrors and bone cosmetic implements. Some men were buried with mace heads, flint daggers, obsidian projectile points, clay seals, and other items. Trade at Catal Huyuk was considerable, but mainly in small quantities of exotic items. The Tell as-Sawwan burials do not seem to reflect inherited status and wealth. (46)

These people were the first to establish a productive economy on the basis of a traditional Mesopotamian farming strategy, based on cereals (in this case, barley) and various vegetable and fruits (particularly dates) in combination with the milk and meat of cattle, sheep, and goats. Living in communities that ranged in size from fewer than fifty to a few thousand, the Ubaid peoples did small-time irrigation of crops, traded for a few products, and in general were able to produce the base materials out of which the alchemy of cultures produces civilization, namely economic surpluses.

A major temple dating to after 4000 B.C. at Uruk was found to haw been built on the exact same site as a temple of the 'Ubaid period, indicating a great continuity of religious traditions.

But by 4500 B.C. some signs of cultural changes toward cultural complexity appeared in a large region of the lower alluvial plain, in the foothills of the Zagros and in some of the larger valleys of the Zagros. Henry Wright notes that in these areas "There were large centers with populations of 1,000 to 3,000, which dominated networks of smaller settlements. Excavation on some of these larger centers revealed central platforms, supporting ritual buildings, segregated elite residences with large storage structures, and indications of socially segregated cemeteries.

In sharp contrast to the pervasive smaller villages of the [earlier] periods, Choga Mish on the Susiana Plain covered an area of some fifteen hectares by 4300 B.C. Most architecture consisted of residences and associated ceramic kilns. The community also contained at least one monumental building, perhaps more. This ten-by-fifteen-meter structure had walls of between one and two meters thick and contained several interior rooms. One of these was stacked with storage jars, while another was apparently used in working flint. A substantial mud-brick platform stood nearby. This period in Susiana and elsewhere saw the introduction of formalized closure of containers using clay sealings that carried the impression of a decorated seal. This practice is ordinarily associate with problems of security in materials storage or shipment.

Virtually every 'Ubaid settlement had a large nonresidential building, probably a temple, built of mud brick on platforms of clay or imported stone. Access typically was by a flight of stairs, to a room about ten meters in length, with a broad platform at one end and a table or small altar at the other.

Until about 5000 BC, settlements seem to have been located primarily with regard to the availability of resources and the land's agricultural potential, not on the basis of political or economic relationships. By 4000 BC, the number of small settlements had increased dramatically in many areas, and there was increasing variability in their arrangement and composition. (46)

Abstract terms like "punctuated leap" cannot explain how hunters and gatherers, who reputedly had only recently left their caves, could evolve to having modern city-states like Kish, Uruk, Akkad, and Babylon in just a few centuries. Scenarios like "rebirth of a pre-existing civilization" or "external assistance" can better explain the development of such complexity in the short period of time available. (113)

Within a few thousand years of the Flood, Sumerians created artifacts that demonstrate writing and mathematical systems with evidence of professions like medicine, astronomy, architecture, and law, among others. However, the records of their views showed that the Sumerians clearly believed they were "created to serve, to labor for the gods." Art produced by them left us images of the people, their gods, and their activities (including waging war for the gods). The gods helped set the tone for human institutions. By 8,000 years ago, human society in this part of the world was back on its feet, if not rivaling the legendary Age of Atlantis. (113)

Within the region, Anunnaki centers of power shifted around. Babylon rose above all other cities and ruled from the Persian Gulf to Syria in the north. Babylon's civilization remains a legend. Great palaces and courtyards and underground structures rivaled any of the modern world. Science and learning rapidly exceeded any expectations that might have been based on the gradual pedestrian and mundane progress of almost still-Neolithic tribes. The Code of Hammurabi (really a compendium of common law already in existence) epitomizes Babylon's level of civil society. (113)

The huge settlement at Catal Huyuk was spread over thirty-two acres of the Konya plain of central Anatolia, accommodating perhaps five to seven thousand persons at peak levels. Only one acre of the Catal mound has been excavated to date, but the wealth of material recovered from that acre alone has, in the words of one archaeologist, "astonished the world." The many wall paintings and relief constructions, the excellent textiles, the polished obsidian mirrors and jewelry, the elaborate burial arrangements--all suggest a luxurious standard of living that fit no one's expectations for a Neolithic community. (115)

Mellaart's description of this new era in Anatolia, known as Early Chalcolithic, expresses the magnitude of a change that was almost universal: “...the chipped-stone industries lose their weapons and are reduced to blades... Maces and sling-stones are the only weapons. The dead are buried outside the settlement, and archaic features such as red floors, roof entry, secondary burial, ochre graves, become far fewer. The date of its beginning is roughly the middle of the sixth millennium in carbon-14 terms.” …when mid-sixth-millennium carbon-14 dates are corrected to calendar time, the dawn of this new impulse will be dated to approximately 65/6300 BC. (115)

The speakers of the Semitic tongues climbed through the hills to the south, up creeks and streams and over the Anatolian plateau, scattered wide by the complex of deep valleys and mountains. In Anatolia some of these desperate peoples laid siege to a few small villages, which were then burned to the ground. Many deserted farm villages of the Levant were suddenly reoccupied, and strangers with an advanced farming technology and domesticates of foreign origin settled in Egypt on the Nile Delta. Many more of the Halaf appeared along the northern fringes of Mesopotamia and ventured southward into its arid valleys farther than any farmers had dared before. Some of the Semitic peoples who crossed southward through eastern Anatolia and speakers of Caucasian languages who fled from the eastern end of the Black Sea to the south or up the Rioni Valley and around to the south, drifted down along the eastern side of Mesopotamia, and settled in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains. They, too, were farmers. (131)

A few of these, called Ubaid, speakers of a tongue later to be known as Sumerian, ventured to the middle of the southern Mesopotamian alluvium, a region where the rainfall was only four inches a year and where the only natural resources were the extraordinarily rich soil and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that bound the plain. These people, who knew how to irrigate and may even have used a light plow, flourished. Irrigation here required canals and, hence, social organization was needed to design, plan, and maintain the canals. (131)

The exceptional fertility, the presence of a limitless supply of water for irrigation, and the growing web of canals for transport meant that the few could provide for the many. Prosperity led to more prosperity, and soon one of the world's great civilizations emerged as a people and culture known as Sumerian succeeded from their ancestors, the Ubaids. There flowered among them an amazing pantheon of gods, one for every need. A very superstitious and fatalistic people, they believed in predestination but also that the future could be revealed by divination. They sought a cause for all events among the gods. Small wonder that their entire history was recorded in myth. By 3000 BC these people had invented writing. Using wedge-shaped styli to inscribe symbols on tablets of wet day, they recorded the everyday events of their lives and immortalized their myths, religious beliefs, and practices. (131)

...Catalhoyuk in central Turkey...was one of the earliest large farming settlements. The striking feature of the settlement was its longevity. The latest radiocarbon dating estimates suggest that it was occupied from around 9.3 to 8.2 kya, It could conceivably have consisted of up to 5000 people in its heyday. Individual buildings were typically occupied for between 50 and 80 years, although it appears that they were actually occupied for a longer duration earlier on and that this decreased through time. Although this was a farming community its principal raison d'etre appears to have been that it was the centre for trade in obsidian that was mined locally. This trade extended as far as southern Palestine. As such it appears to have been a prototype for the trading centres that would come to form the earliest cities of the Middle East. At the same time there is little evidence of the handling of obsidian being concentrated in one part of the settlement. The widespread presence of knapping debris suggests that a significant part of the community was involved with the production of artefacts. (145)

c. 8500-5500 BC High-point of Watcher culture, which remains in virtual isolation in northern Kurdistan. c. 6500-6000 BC Height of Catal Huyuk culture on the Anatolian plain, practising excarnation and an advanced form of death-trance shamanism that features the vulture. The Jarmo community flourishes in Upper Iraq, its direct contact with the fallen race being preserved as abstract serpentine art. (149)

Egypt

 …The people of about 6200-5900 BC lived in communities in which: The houses and pits indicate long term or, at least, recurrent settlement. At the very least, they must have been occupied for most of the year, and it seems likely that the Nile no longer played an important role in the settlement system, suggesting that a different kind of exploitation was now employed in the desert. Instead of sites representing small family units or task-groups, there are now medium-sized villages, composed of perhaps as many as 14 family units ... where there was at least sufficient social control to determine the arrangement of the community. (47)

The speakers of the Semitic tongues climbed through the hills to the south, up creeks and streams and over the Anatolian plateau, scattered wide by the complex of deep valleys and mountains. In Anatolia some of these desperate peoples laid siege to a few small villages, which were then burned to the ground. Many deserted farm villages of the Levant were suddenly reoccupied, and strangers with an advanced farming technology and domesticates of foreign origin settled in Egypt on the Nile Delta. Many more of the Halaf appeared along the northern fringes of Mesopotamia and ventured southward into its arid valleys farther than any farmers had dared before. (131)

Indus Valley

 There is an unbroken archaeological continuum between Mehrgarh I A around 7000 BC and the upsurge of Mohenjodaro and Harappa as great cities after 3000 BC. For some reason the rate of growth and development became particularly rapid between 2600 and 2500 BC - the mature phase of incredibly vigorous urban expansion - but you can see the roots even of this phase in many small and large details more than 4000 years older exposed in the excavations of the first habitation layers at Mehrgarh. (124)

In a major marine archaeological discovery, Indian scientists have come up with excellent geometric objects below the sea-bed in the western coast similar to Harapppan-like ruins. 'This is the first time such sites have been reported in the Gulf of Cambay,' Science and Technology Minister Murli Manohar Joshi told reporters. The discovery was made a few weeks ago when multi-disciplinary underwater surveys carried out by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) picked up images of 'excellent geometrical objects', which were normally man-made, in a 9-kilometre stretch west of Hazira in Gujerat. 'It is important to note that the underwater marine structures discovered in Gulf of Cambay have similarity with the structures found on land on archaeological sites of Harappan and pre-Harappan times,' Joshi said. The acoustic [sonar] images showed the area lined with well-laid house basements, like features partially covered by sand waves and sand ripples at 30-40 metre water depth. At many places channel-like features were also seen indicating the possible existence of possible drainage in the area, he said. Possible age of the finds can be anywhere between 4000 and 6000 years, Joshi said, adding the site might have got submerged due to a powerful earthquake. (125)

What Joshi could not have known without studying inundation maps first is that earthquakes or not (and admittedly this part of India does suffer from severe earthquakes) no site anywhere in the Gulf of Cambay could possibly have been above water as recently as 4000 years ago - although 6000 years ago is getting closer. As we have seen, the Gulf of Cambay remained a valley until it was completely flooded by rising sea-levels at some point between 7700 years ago and 6900 years ago. A city 9 kilometres in extent and more than 3000 years older than Harappa and Mohenjodaro would rewrite not only the history of the Indian subcontinent but of the world. (124)

China

 

Europe

 Until about the seventh millennium BC, "Barbarian Europe"--the great forests, grasslands, and mountain ranges beyond the Aegean Sea and extending north to Britain, Scandinavia, and Russia, was inhabited only by hunters, and foragers. In succeeding millennia, Europeans developed complex forms of subsistence and adaptation, and a rich cultural repertoire of technology and social systems, but throughout prehistory and well into the early centuries of the first millennium AD, European cultures were not the equal of those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and other areas in most of the characteristics of cultural "complexity". (50)

…if some of the domesticated plants and animals, building and ceramic techniques, were either acquired or improved through contact with the east, a careful analysis of the existing data argues in favor of a largely independent Neolithic development of Greece. Moreover, when painted patterns are applied to ceramic vessels later in the period, the individuality of local designs throughout Greece and the Balkans speaks even more clearly for the presence in these lands of heretofore invisible native populations. (115)

A very striking feature of the LBK is the homogeneity in pottery design, stone tools, village plan, house shape, burial practices, and economy over the vast territory into which these people appeared, suggesting that their dispersal was almost instantaneous. Experts specializing in pottery from Belgium can readily recognize shards from Moldavia as if they had been crafted nearby in France. The domesticated plants and animals show practically no variation from village to village across a span of a thousand miles or more. But there is a dramatic cultural gap between the preexisting sparse hunter-gatherer population and the LBK homesteaders. The new arrivals either absorbed those in their way or wiped them out. Like the Vinca, the Linearbandkeramik never put down permanent roots near a sea coast. They never colonized fertile land in the coastal regions of northern Europe. Simultaneously with the appearance of the Vinca and the LBK, in the mid sixth millennium BC, the Danilo-Hvar settled on old abandoned sites along the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia in several of the fertile valleys that cut through the mountains to the sea. They crafted a now-famous pot decorated with a sailing ship, depicting masts and rigging dated at about 4000 BC.(131)

Farmers, called Vinca, makers of lovely wattle-and-daub houses and fine incised pottery, appeared abruptly on the plains of Bulgaria and up along the valley of the Danube. Other refugees crossed from the Black Sea to the Aegean to settle on some of the islands such as Samothrace, crossing over as far as the Dalmatian coast. Some Linearbandkeramik fled up the Dniester River and then rapidly to the west across northern Europe as far as the Paris basin, displacing peaceably or by force the indigent hunter-gatherers. They brought with them their longhouse building style, their ceramic pottery decorated with linear bands of incised grooves, and their agrarian ways. They may have been Indo-European speakers, but others who certainly were moved out to the north, up through the river valleys of the Dnieper, the Don, and the Volga, spreading in an arc from southeast Europe to the Caspian Sea and beyond. It was around the northern Caspian Sea that they first domesticated the horse, on the backs of which they stormed into eastern Europe sixteen hundred years later. (131)

The preconditions to warfare appear to have been a rising population density, resource shortages and perhaps ethnic differences. This in turn led to competition over territory and possessions. The issues of squabbling over territory appear to become the core of conflict after around 10 kya in Mesolithic northern Europe. Analysis of burials at Skateholm in southern Sweden dating from around 7.5 kya shows a remarkably high level of violent deaths. Here, and elsewhere in northern Europe at this time, over a fifth of skeletons show evidence of a violent end. The proportion is higher amongst men, and certain injuries, such damage to the left-hand side of the skull and arms broken parrying blows, suggest conflict. (145)

Catalhoyuk seems to show us that the development of large, sedentary settlements at the end of the Pleistocene was not necessarily prefaced by the development of intensive agriculture. Catalhoyuk was not a city but, as archaeologist Guillermo Algaze describes it, an "overgrown village". For example, there is no public architecture, no evidence of municipal buildings, palaces temples, or government structures; at least, none have been found in the 4% sample of the site excavated so far. (170)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 

North America

 

Other