The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Discussions regarding actual culture and history of Earth.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by eldin raigmore » Wed 05 Dec 2012, 00:34

ABC wrote:What about including writing in the definition ?
My Merriam-Webster Third Intercollegiate Dictionary does include writing in the definition.
I thought it's better not to, though.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Lambuzhao » Wed 05 Dec 2012, 23:06

Three Sisters = Corn, beans, squash


about "history" - history, as a subject in school, of course includes some of "pre-history", HUMAN pre-history. students learn about Australoops-pithecus, Homo horribilis, Homo eructus, Homo near-anbesolensis and the whole gang. Really, they do.

Nonetheless, "History" is precisely the human record of human events.
History is not merely told by the winners, but told by the winners who also had some kind of pencil or pen. For example, as tantalizing as it is to reconstruct Hunter-Gatherer mindset, we do not know exactly what they thought was historical, nor can we know how those bygone folks would have spoken/phrased/recorded it, had they the chance.
We've got petroglyphs galore, we've got Lascaux, Altamira, the Moon-phase antler, and a other thingamabobs. We don't have subtitles, captions, in the languages they spoke.
Thus, it's "pre-history".

You can do all sorts of things with all sorts of things. But that doesn't mean that anyone actually DID any of these things.
Well, quipus are not a myth told round campfires to scare little Kechwa children. We have actual artifacts. They seem pretty complex, but have some predictability/repitition to them to warrant they symbolize something. Not anything, something.
Also, stories from contemporaries of Pizarro tell us that the Quipu-Accountants kept vital records with these objects, which had weight at the Court to settle disputes. We know that Incan folks actually DID DO some things with them. Especially mathematical/arithmetical/financial (calendrical?) sorts of things. And there is a theory, not so whacky, that the Incans might have used knots to refer numerically to population centers - almost like Postal Code.
it's clear that the idea that one knotted artifact some how means a written language is absurd, it's too shaky.
Of course, we can go dancing round the maypole of "not language" - "language" for a fortnight. Nonetheless, the quipus DID mean something pretty darn important to them. And they (the Incan Indians) made a lot more than just one of them. But, if the above refers to the one found at Supe, point taken. It could be the start of a fish-net, for all we know (archaeos found many remains of fish-nets at Supe). Nonetheless, let's step lively here.



Also, be careful about saying that bumps and dots, notches and knots cannot carry complex meaning or linguistic information. Many folks who practice Morse Code, or who can read Braille, or who can get meaning from Ogham would beg to differ. Among others, Marconi made a name for himself concerning the conveyence of this sort of linguistic information.

A "city" has always been one of the major population-centers of its time. But in the 1776-1789 time-period, Philadelphia was North America's biggest city and its population was only about 40,000.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Lambuzhao » Thu 06 Dec 2012, 19:35

Do people have to live in cities to be called "civilized"? Does a people have to actually build one or more new cities to be "civilized"? If so does that mean the Israelites hadn't proven they were "civilized" until they built Samaria?
Well, for this doosie, I remembered something from the History Alive! series
I used to use when I taught Social Studies/History. It's not so much a "definition" of what a civilization, but it is seven characteristics of a civilization.

Skip to page 8 of the PDF for the spoke-diagram version.
http://www.larue.k12.ky.us/userfiles/10 ... NMENTS.pdf

The authors used the "7 Characteristics" as a sort of litmus-test for Ancient Sumer, but we were to recycle the concept when we visited India, China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Africa. Feel free to agree or disagree. You might think it overly simplified, and looking back, it certainly seems so. The textbook goes into some more detail for each characteristic.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by eldin raigmore » Sat 08 Dec 2012, 23:12

Thanks. I think that's worth reading.
BTW I thought "stable food supply" was also something a culture needed. I assume others may disagree.
I don't think a civilization has to have a religion to be called a civilization.
If it does, the Establishment clause in the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that the U.S. isn't and will never be civilized.
And doesn't the current French Republic also have anti-Establishment in its organic law?

For other thread-participators, here are the seven characteristics of civilization in the PDF Lambuzhao referred to (in an order I made up; I couldn't tell what the "real" order was):
  1. Arts
  2. Stable Food Supply
  3. Government
  4. Religion
  5. Social Structure
  6. Technology
  7. Writing
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Torco » Sat 08 Dec 2012, 23:13

Those are all forms of differentiation and complexity. jussayin
eldin, having religion and being a theocracy are different things.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Lambuzhao » Sun 09 Dec 2012, 04:08

On another tack, I think "religion" could also refer to a moral-ethical code that operates with the populace outside of whatever governmental structure to assure the tranquility and common defense. Cf. Confucianism in China.

Plus, along with what Torco suggests, the context of the Freedom of Religion in that Amendment guarantees religion(s), but not one State-mandated and sanctioned creed. As Torco avers, that's a far cry from a Theocracy.

Also, a stable, regular food supply does not depend upon agriculture solely.
As long as the food supply is stable (cattle, sheep, goats, swine, reindeer, fish, nuts and berries, llamas and guinea pigs, plantains and breadfruits, Crunchberries, Smurfberries, MLP, etc.) that's what acts as a pillar for a civilization.

I always wistfully thought of Sid Meyer's addictive game when I taught that chapter, and, dare I say,
Spoiler:
Utopia from Intellivision and Aquarius
. [:$] :mrgreen:
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Yačay256 » Thu 23 May 2013, 22:02

I feel writing should be a requirement for a society being termed "civilized", a term which I furthermore think should be considered synonymous with being a state.

If we define writing as "any symbolic system capable of representing complete messages linguistically", this would include semasiogrammies, glottogrammies and mixed scripts; besides, the requirement of writing kind of serves as a natural requirement for being civilized: With the almost certain exception of Tenevil's Script (if it is real, of course) from the tribe-level Chukchi, and most likely Rongorongo of chiefdom-level Rapa Nui, only the seven generally recognized pristine civilizations - namely, Guinea for West Africa, Caral-Supe for the Andes, the Olmecs for Mesoamerica, Egypt for Northeast Africa, China for the Sinosphere, the Indus Valley Civilization for the Indosphere and Sumer for Mesopotamia - developed symoblic systems that meet the above definition of writing. For each of these seven "mother civilizations", these scripts were as follows: Khipu (or quipu) in for the Caral-Supe (probably semasiogrammic), the Indus Script for the IVC (probably logosyllabic), Cuneiform for Sumer (logosyllabic), the Epi-Olmec Script (almost certainly logosyllabic) for the Olmec (perhaps the Cascajal Block is an earlier example, but I doubt its authenticity), Hieroglyphics in Egypt (logophonemic), the Oracle Bone Script in China (logogrammic) and Nsibidi in West Africa (some mixture of syllabic, logogrammic and semasiogrammic), respectively.

On a related note, I find the idea that state-level social complexity could arise without writing absurd, not the least because of the simple fact that states have, and indeed arise from, higher populations that even complex chiefdoms (like the Missippians: Cahokia had roughly the same population of Middle Kingdom Memphis, IIRC): Even the early pristine states had very large numbers of people, at least for their day, under one government, and the population of all the seven civilizations over the long run has been growing ever since the beginning of their own history, even with such catastrophies as the Bronze Age Collapse, the Transatlantic Slave Genocide, the Collapse of Classical Antiquity, the Rise of the Mongols and the Western Invasion of each and all of the Mesoamerican States and of the Inka Empire. Furthermore, all states keep records far more detailed and requiring far greater precision than any other type of human society: How could the Inka maintain their elaborate planned economy's remarkable efficiency without writing, especially given that they had the largest territory on the face of the Earth for a time? Or how could Shang astronomers have recorded such awesome accuracy in the length of the Earth's day as to help present-day scientists more accuratley predict the slowing of the Earth's rotation over vast stretches of time, without meticulous written records? It seems faily obvious that both these civilizations - and the other five as well - needed to have writing: Otherwise, their social complexity would have simply crumbled, if it would have ever been attainable in the first place.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by eldin raigmore » Thu 23 May 2013, 22:22

Yačay256 wrote:... (long interesting post) ...
While I don't know whether I would fully accept every one of your statements as a fact or every one of your opinions as my opinion, I do know that I think every one of them in your latest post here was interesting. Thank you.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Yačay256 » Thu 23 May 2013, 22:38

eldin raigmore wrote:For other thread-participators, here are the seven characteristics of civilization in the PDF Lambuzhao referred to (in an order I made up; I couldn't tell what the "real" order was):
  1. Arts
  2. Stable Food Supply
  3. Government
  4. Religion
  5. Social Structure
  6. Technology
  7. Writing
There are several insurmountable problems with every item (execpt quite possibly writing) on that list from Lambuzhao's PDF being associated uniquely with civilization; here are some counter examples:
[*] "Stable food supply": The Gunditjmara People of Southeastern Australia, the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast (e.g. the Haida, Tshimshian, Tlingit, Nuu-Chah-Nulth, &c.), the St. Johns Culture, most Indigenous Californians (such as the Pomo, Miwok, Ohlone, Karuk, Maidu, &c.) and the Jōmon Culture of Prehistoric Japan.
[*] "Government": Chiefdoms and complex chiefdoms have government, though our definitions may differ with regards to the word "government": To me, even though they had yet to achieve statehood, the Ancient Hawaiian Aliʻi and their kahuna served as a government, for example.
[*] "Religion": I would seriously disagree: Most states today in fact lack an official religion and many of their citizens do as well (Hoxhaist Albania, obviously a state, even banned religion completly). Furthermore, religion is not unique to states either, as can be clearly seen with Lardil Religion, from a band-level society, or with the Kuksu Religion, from a variety of triblet-level to quasi-chiefdom-level societies, with even organized religion being found among the historically chiefdom-level Pueblo Peoples of Oasisamerica and the Tlingit, to name but a couple of religious traditions.
[*] "Social Structure": All human cultures (even the Pirãha) have some sort of social structure and means of social cohesion, albiet possibly acephalous in nature. It is a cultural universal by necessity, being that we are social animals.
[*] "Technology": All humans (even the Indigenous Tasmanians) have some sort of technology: While knapping stone tools (one of the few things the Indingeous Tasmanians did know of, in terms of technology, at least) is quite obviously far behind firing stoneware bangles, doing chilkat weaving, making steel in a blast furnace made out of an abandoned termite mound, shoveling wood into a Watt steam engine or riding in a spacecraft powered by decommissioned nuclear warheads to Mars, it is still technology.
[*] "Writing": See my earlier post on this topic.
EDIT: Clarified which point I myself was referring to from the PDF; sorry for the confusion everyone.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by eldin raigmore » Fri 24 May 2013, 22:38

I can't tell which of your items says one of Lambuzhao's features is wrong because there's a civilization that doesn't have it, and which of them say a feature is wrong because many non-civilizations do have it.

In fact, I can't really tell which feature each of your items is responding to. You seem to skip some of his/her features and also to hit some of them twice.

Perhaps you haven't yet fully-mastered how to use the "list" feature of phpBBoard editing? And once you have you could edit your post so that it was clearer?

Anyway;
for those of your examples that you don't think are civilizations, why don't you?
And for those of your examples which you think are civilizations, why do you?
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Lambuzhao » Sat 25 May 2013, 02:08

Wow. What have I done?

Some clarifications are in order.

1) The list is not "mine" per se. Thank/curse/critique the History Alive series for that.

2) There is no intentional order to the characteristics, neither in time nor importance. They are all treated as more or less synchronic/concommitant in development.

3) Somehow, cultures and states got jumbled into the mix. I believe we were originally talking about Civilizations. A human culture, or a human nation-state may happen to exhibit most or even all of the aforementioned characteristics.
But the focus is on Civilization, and how history "begins" with a civilization. There were no doubt many prehistoric cultures that came and went, but no such thing as a "prehistoric" human civilization.

4) Anti-Establishment of religion is not the same thing as Nullification/Anihillation.

5) All human cultures exhibit some sort of technology. Does the culture maintain a "traditional way" of doing things, or does it welcome advancement or admit periodic inventions/innovations. Not always, I'm afraid. It is a civilization that exhibits technological invention and innovation , whether frequent or sporadic.

6) I do not want to be understood as making an ad hominem, but Yačay256, you need to explain further what you're getting at. There may be insurmountable problems with the list; please be more specific. You mention many cultures, but it is not entirely clear to which characteristics (at least the initial ones) they refer/refute.

7) Really, in essence, the History Alive! list is just a briefer encapsulation of a pretty spot-on definition provided by Salmoneus within the first posts of this thread:
I think it's relatively easy to define civilisation, in concept, if not in details. Civilisation is the condition of societies that show considerable social stratification and extensive and highly complex divisions of labour. These are obviously qualitative terms, but they're also more or less objective and measurable facts. These things, of course, are continua, although in practice they are somewhat quantised (they don't just creep up, there tend to be relatively sudden leaps with few societies 'in the middle'). Conventionally the boundary for 'civilisation' is set somewhere between the megalithic cultures of prehistoric europe and the early state societies of mesopotamia.
If we define civilisation through the division of labour, other things can be used as indicative of civilisation, either because they are required for, or because they require, the complex division of labour. Urbanisation, for instance, both requires (because it is only possible with sophisticated management of land, labour and food, as well as a high degree of legalisation) and is usually required by (because it permits more complex social networks and a larger surplus population not required for manual labour) sophisticated divisions of labour. Writing, likewise, both enables this (because written records allow more control over both people and goods) and is enabled by this (because writing requires either an extensive educational system (with dedicated teachers), or a limited educational system combined with a specialised class of scribes).
Pretty spot-on, I'd say.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Yačay256 » Sat 25 May 2013, 20:13

eldin raigmore wrote:Anyway;
for those of your examples that you don't think are civilizations, why don't you?
And for those of your examples which you think are civilizations, why do you?
Good point.

Examples I do not consider civilizations: I think its fairly obvious why I do not consider the Indigenous Tasmanians nor the Pirãha to be state-level societies (which I shall hereafter use as a synonym for "civilization"), The St. Johns Culture, the Gunditjmara, the Indigenous Californians and the Indigenous Peoples of the PNW coast deserve more explanation. All of these cultures lacked writing (which is why I do not consider the Mississipian Culture a civilization, among other reasons; I would say this is debatable, though), purely monumental or otherwise purely public architecture (as with the Great Bath of Mohenjo-Daro or the Pyramid Complex at Giza), strong horizontal specialization, otherwise known as a division of labor, and, while they all had permanant settlements, these settlements lacked the characteristic division of labor and/or purely public architecture that states have.

Why I consider Nri (West Africa) and the Chavín Civilization (the Andes) to be Civilizations: Nri had writing (Nsibidi), an elaborate division of labor and a complex system of social stratification as well as true urbanism (as can be seen in the ancient city of Nri to this day). Though no confirmed writing survives from the Chavín Civilization, this could easily be a preservation bias; besides, their art could be some lost writing system (if so, it is probably a semasiogrammy, IMHO; look up "Gary Urton" for why). Chavín de Huantar is clearly a ritual center, not an example of true urbanism, but it nonetheless supported a small permenant population, much like later Tiwanaku, and, more importantly for our purposes, had, and indeed was/is mostly composed of, clearly public architecture.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Keenir » Sat 25 May 2013, 21:29

Yačay256 wrote:Examples I do not consider civilizations: I think its fairly obvious why I do not consider the Indigenous Tasmanians nor the Pirãha to be state-level societies (which I shall hereafter use as a synonym for "civilization"), The St. Johns Culture, the Gunditjmara, the Indigenous Californians and the Indigenous Peoples of the PNW coast deserve more explanation. All of these cultures lacked writing (which is why I do not consider the Mississipian Culture a civilization, among other reasons; I would say this is debatable, though), purely monumental or otherwise purely public architecture (as with the Great Bath of Mohenjo-Daro or the Pyramid Complex at Giza), strong horizontal specialization, otherwise known as a division of labor, and, while they all had permanant settlements, these settlements lacked the characteristic division of labor and/or purely public architecture that states have.

Why I consider Nri (West Africa) and the Chavín Civilization (the Andes) to be Civilizations: Nri had writing (Nsibidi), an elaborate division of labor and a complex system of social stratification as well as true urbanism (as can be seen in the ancient city of Nri to this day). Though no confirmed writing survives from the Chavín Civilization, this could easily be a preservation bias; besides, their art could be some lost writing system (if so, it is probably a semasiogrammy, IMHO; look up "Gary Urton" for why). Chavín de Huantar is clearly a ritual center, not an example of true urbanism, but it nonetheless supported a small permenant population, much like later Tiwanaku, and, more importantly for our purposes, had, and indeed was/is mostly composed of, clearly public architecture.
"Public architecture"? as opposed to...?

So, you consider a necropolis/religious center like Chavin de Huantar to be civilization, but a city like Mohenjo-Daro is not civilization? If you say Chavin's art is writing, why not include Mohenjo-Daro's seals as writing?
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Yačay256 » Sun 26 May 2013, 04:42

Keenir wrote:
Yačay256 wrote:Examples I do not consider civilizations: I think its fairly obvious why I do not consider the Indigenous Tasmanians nor the Pirãha to be state-level societies (which I shall hereafter use as a synonym for "civilization"), The St. Johns Culture, the Gunditjmara, the Indigenous Californians and the Indigenous Peoples of the PNW coast deserve more explanation. All of these cultures lacked writing (which is why I do not consider the Mississipian Culture a civilization, among other reasons; I would say this is debatable, though), purely monumental or otherwise purely public architecture (as with the Great Bath of Mohenjo-Daro or the Pyramid Complex at Giza), strong horizontal specialization, otherwise known as a division of labor, and, while they all had permanant settlements, these settlements lacked the characteristic division of labor and/or purely public architecture that states have.

Why I consider Nri (West Africa) and the Chavín Civilization (the Andes) to be Civilizations: Nri had writing (Nsibidi), an elaborate division of labor and a complex system of social stratification as well as true urbanism (as can be seen in the ancient city of Nri to this day). Though no confirmed writing survives from the Chavín Civilization, this could easily be a preservation bias; besides, their art could be some lost writing system (if so, it is probably a semasiogrammy, IMHO; look up "Gary Urton" for why). Chavín de Huantar is clearly a ritual center, not an example of true urbanism, but it nonetheless supported a small permenant population, much like later Tiwanaku, and, more importantly for our purposes, had, and indeed was/is mostly composed of, clearly public architecture.
"Public architecture"? as opposed to...?

So, you consider a necropolis/religious center like Chavin de Huantar to be civilization, but a city like Mohenjo-Daro is not civilization? If you say Chavin's art is writing, why not include Mohenjo-Daro's seals as writing?
I said I believed that Chavín art was writing and explained why; I do very much find it obvious that the Indus Valley Civilization was a, well, civilization because it easily had all the requirements of a state including writing (I did mention it in my first post as one of the seven pristine civilizations, did I not?), via the seals you mentioned (though they probably mostly wrote on cotton, bark or palm leaves, the latter being the main medium of literacy in Southern India and Southeast Asia well into the common era.

By "purely public architecture" I mean buildings without no domestic role: This includes temples (which would include the Lanzón Gallery in the Old Temple at Chavín de Huantar), fora, public baths, museums, libraries, bazaars, factories, &c.; it would also include Indigenous Californian sweatlodges and the mounds of the Mississipians, but these cultures lacked at least the writing requirement.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by eldin raigmore » Tue 28 May 2013, 18:37

My thanks to those who posted since I last did so.
I now have a much clearer idea of what you have been trying to say.
I think I kind of agree, or at worst don't really disagree, with anyone.

Anyway, most of the discussion has been about Civilization.

What about History?

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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Lambuzhao » Tue 28 May 2013, 22:10

Well, to get back to the original thread heading,

in a way, history began in places like Egypt, Mesopotamia, Tihuantisuyu, Harrapa, Mohenjo-Daro, and China at more or less the same moment. It, of course was not the same moment in the general, time-line parade of ages. It was the moment that each endemic culture fulfilled all of the characteristics of a civilization, and could record important events, did have evidence of recorded events, and needed to record those events (to bolster the regime, keep accurate accounts, maintain societal structure, guard the religious holidays and traditions).

The Bronze Age & the disasters and revolutions (pastoral, agricultural) were essential precursors to "history", but they are not a part of history. No civilization has the actual date in their own civilization when millet or corn or barley were domesticated, nor when the dog, cat, llama, pig or zebu were domesticated, nor when bronze was first forged. At best, these pre-historic events are mistily remembered and recounted in myths and legends.

History began when folks started recording it for themselves. it reminds me of the saying:

Until lions write books, history will always glorify the hunter.

No matter how advanced a culture may behave, it is still locked in a "state of nature" like the proverbial lions, until they can write about themselves, refer back to those writings, and have a kind of inter-generational dialectic which is part criticism, part confirmation of what they see in the mirror.

On another tack, certain cultures are "a-historical", such as the Piraha, Yanomamo, and others. They may display all kinds of innovation, societal structure, some kind of public architecture, but they have no way of describing the process of how they got to where they are today, and some cultures are only able to express a kind of "eternal now", which has not changed much at all from the past, so far as they may attest, or that we may infer.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by cntrational » Fri 07 Jun 2013, 12:13

I haven't seen anybody mention the book Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is very good, and discusses many topics relevant to this conversation.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Yačay256 » Fri 07 Jun 2013, 19:21

cntrational wrote:I haven't seen anybody mention the book Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is very good, and discusses many topics relevant to this conversation.
Well, while I have read not only Guns, Germs and Steel but also Collapse and The World Before Yesterday, and while I respect Professor Diamond's intellegence and knowledge, especially about New Guinean Cultures, and I do quite like the latter book, I find many critical problems with the former book (warning, I am an undergraduate anthropology major [;)] ):

Firstly, the book Guns, Germs and Steel really does not say much about the origins of civilization: Mr. Diamond even leaves out the Norte Chico Civilization, the first in the Americas, for example (if IIDRC). He also focuses far too much on the Fertile Crescent and to a lesser extent Egypt until the West arrives on the scene and then he basically focuses on that civilization for the rest of the book.

Secondly, Guns, Germs and Steel does not discuss India at all really, and does not say very much about Eurasia other than Europe and to a lesser extent the Near East. And the reason he gives for China's fall behind the west (which Mr. Diamond puts far too early; see Kenneth Pomeranz's The Great Divergance for a more in depth and better argued expalanation of this event) is too simplistic. Also, see The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization by John M. Hobson for an excellent and more global look at the various civilizations of the world and how the Occident is largely indebted to them for the Industrial Revolution.

Finally, many of his theories, cheif among them the "east-west vs. north-south axis" theory, are too easily disproven. And he does nothing to explain why the Inka, who should, given all their "geographical disadvantages" (none the least their being an extreme counterexample of his "north-south axis" theory, being the largest empire in the world... along the basically north-south Andes Mountains), were basically ahead of the Occident in several critical ways - economics, agriculture, textile technologies, medicine and infrastructure, to name but the most obvious.
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by taylorS » Fri 28 Jun 2013, 02:21

Salmoneus wrote:Hunter gatherers simply aren't (generally) part of history. This is an empirical fact - look in a history book. There is no history from these societies, because they made no written records (i.e. histories). We can of course try to write our own histories of prehistoric times, but our ability to do so is very limited in accuracy and detail, and these attempts should probably be considered 'archaeology' or 'anthrophology' or suchlike rather than 'history'.


I think it's relatively easy to define civilisation, in concept, if not in details. Civilisation is the condition of societies that show considerable social stratification and extensive and highly complex divisions of labour. These are obviously qualitative terms, but they're also more or less objective and measurable facts. These things, of course, are continua, although in practice they are somewhat quantised (they don't just creep up, there tend to be relatively sudden leaps with few societies 'in the middle'). Conventionally the boundary for 'civilisation' is set somewhere between the megalithic cultures of prehistoric europe and the early state societies of mesopotamia.
If we define civilisation through the division of labour, other things can be used as indicative of civilisation, either because they are required for, or because they require, the complex division of labour. Urbanisation, for instance, both requires (because it is only possible with sophisticated management of land, labour and food, as well as a high degree of legalisation) and is usually required by (because it permits more complex social networks and a larger surplus population not required for manual labour) sophisticated divisions of labour. Writing, likewise, both enables this (because written records allow more control over both people and goods) and is enabled by this (because writing requires either an extensive educational system (with dedicated teachers), or a limited educational system combined with a specialised class of scribes).

I don't think the relative artistic merit of rennaissance and modernist sculpture has anything to do with this.
IMO the big question in my mind is what distinguishes a "mere" chiefdom from a true state? A formalized bureaucracy? Settlements of over a certain size?

What about the feudal mess that was France in AD 900, was it a state or a collection of petty chiefdoms? The French king at that time had pretty much no power outside his own lands.

The Mississippian Mound Builders seem to have achieved a state level of social complexity (Cahokia had 30,000 people at it's height), but so far no evidence of writing has been discovered
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Re: The Beginnings of History in Different Places

Post by Salmoneus » Tue 13 Aug 2013, 13:00

There are many civilisations that have lacked writing, and some non-civilised societies with writing (though in the latter case I think only through borrowing from civilised neighbours).

However, I have to take issue with your Cahokia example. Cahokia had 30k at its height? Wikipedia mentions that estimates range between 6k and 40k. Unesco go with the safe option and say that it "may" have had 10k-20k at its peak. I think it's wisest to read "a little under or over 10k, certainly not more than 20k, but we don't want to offend the fanatics". Cahokia was certainly large, but that doesn't mean it was populated. Bear in mind that we're talking about an area in which there were no other sizeable cities, had never been any other sizeable cities, would never again be a city of comparable size (if we're talking 30-40k) until the late eighteenth century, and the idea is that suddenly this city that started out with 1000 inhabitants suddenly had thirty thousand inhabitants a century or two later, making it the largest city in the world outside China, and then just as suddenly went back to 1000 inhabitants and then none at all a century later?
Alternatively, we could hypothesise that Cahokia was a large settlement that became a major regional ritual centre with many priests, religious buildings, and possibly migrant pilgrims. This seems more likely to me.


Yacay: frustrating to see people continue to buy into the 'Incas were ahead of the old world' myth (and by the way, 'occident' means 'west', so the incas were occidental compared to europe - europe was the orient to them). But more importantly: dude, norte chico, seriously? That's the most ridiculous criticism imaginable. GGS was published in 1997. Norte Chico wasn't discovered/invented until 2001 (work had begun there in the lat '90s, but it wasn't really publicised until the 2001 paper, and the really eyecatching non-peer-reviewed stuff came even after that).
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