Chapter 2 The First Civilizations
Between about 3500 and 2500 B.C., in the river valleys of the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers of Mesopotamia, the Nile River valley in Egypt, the Indus River
valley in northern India, and finally along the
Huang He, or Yellow River, in China, different groups of Neolithic farmers went
a single, yet infinitely great step farther than the highly developed town life
represented by places like Jericho and Catal Huyuk. From towns they developed
full-fledged cities, cities dependent upon the kind of surplus food supplies
that only large-scale agriculture could provide.
Yet even as these first
civilizations confronted similar problems and shared many of the same basic
elements, they also developed distinct, unique cultures. The rivers along which
they developed were not all alike. Techniques needed for mastering the Nile were
very different from those necessary for taming the Tigris and Euphrates, for
example. The Indus and the Huang He, too, each had their own unique features.
Climates also varied enormously from region to region, affecting peoples' outlooks
on life in different ways. Consequently, the 'style' of civilization varied considerably
in all four regions, as it would in other regions that later developed
civilizations of their own.