Why do we still call Mesopotamia the "cradle of civilization"?

Dec 2015
Which modern country shall we hold up as an exemplar of a great civilization?
There is no such thing as an exemplar of a great civilization. All civilizations had their glory days and all civilizations had their bloody and dark history.

I'd say that China is the only civilization to retain it's culture, belief systems and writing system over the course of it's history (from it's prehistory to now, something most civilizations cannot do).
Oct 2019
West Virginia
No evidence whatsoever of "Vincan products" being found in Southern Iraq. The so called "Vinca culture" that arose in the Balkans was mainly the result of Neolithic migrations from the Near East to the Balkans via Anatolia. There maybe some similarities between the Vinca script and Sumerian cuneiform, but that's about it. Not only can we not find a connection between the two, we still haven't even fully deciphered the symbols.

There is no full agreement between archaeologists on whether the symbols were used as writing system. The symbols are not yet fully deciphered.
The prevailing theory is that the symbols were used for religious purposes in a traditional agricultural society. If so, the fact that the same symbols were used for centuries with little change suggests that the ritual meaning and culture represented by the symbols likewise remained constant for a very long time, with no need for further development.
Another problem is, even if it was a script, we don't know what language was used along with it (before the IE migrations). Also, why don't we see these symbols in other parts of Europe? These symbols were confined to one small area of Europe, never widespread, and these symbols predate the IE migrations.

There's still alot we need to learn about the Danube before it's qualified as a "civilization". What we know is that they were just an advanced culture, but we still see lack of evidence of any early urbanization (no evidence of cities forming around that area), advanced system of government, economic system, social structure, trade, etc.
Again, we still have yet to fully decipher and come to conclusion that Vinca symbols were a true writing system and not cultural symbols. Speaking of IE migrations, while they did spread their languages throughout Europe, they still kept the agriculture, the old pottery, so it wasn't like they totally destroyed the population. There are still some pre-IE societies (Finns and Basques for ex)
This is the standard denial. The doubters of Vinca will not be satisfied until we find a Vincan Caesar and perhaps an Acropolis or 2.

Yes, Vincan pottery was found in Sumer. Yes, they had trading systems (obviously), cities, and though lacking the abusive class system we think is a prerequisite for civilization (à la the Yamnaya model), they clearly enjoyed effective governance to maintain cities with no evidence of constabulary or a standing army, or even defensive works until the Yamnayas begin to show up.

Multiple Vincan symbols reoccur unchanged in Sumerian writing. That is an impossible coincidence.

We have the site of Vinca, plus many others of the same cultural complex, and clearly a culture existed yet you say, "so-called" Vincan culture? This is good evidence of the pre-existing bias among many in accepting that the Greeks weren't the first civilization in Europe, and that civilization in Europe was not created by Indoeuropean speakers. There is furthermore considerable evidence of a pre-existing bias against the notion of a civilization in which females were not subjugated, and the fact that Old Europe was essentially discovered by a woman (M. Gimbutas) feeds into this bias.

I am not attacking you as a bigot, simply pointing out that your thinking is very much in line with much of mainstream archaeology, and it is gradually all being proven to be reactionary and erroneous, most recently in the mounting archaeological evidence for just the sort of violence Gimbutas described for the Yamnaya incursions.
Oct 2019
West Virginia
There is no such thing as an exemplar of a great civilization. All civilizations had their glory days and all civilizations had their bloody and dark history.

I'd say that China is the only civilization to retain it's culture, belief systems and writing system over the course of it's history (from it's prehistory to now, something most civilizations cannot do).
Yes, certainly they do rise and fall.

My own proclivity is to assign "greatness" to those cultures which practice humanity, kindness and justice toward their own and other people. "El respeto al ajeno es la paz," as Benito Juárez put it. Peace means respecting the outsider, and "greatness" then I would define as Juárez does "peace".

Therefore the civilizations I find to be greatest are those of Old Europe, the Harappan, and others whose level of class oppression and violence was lower than the better-known Romans, Chinese, Arabs, etc.
Jun 2017
I prefer going with the four valleys, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indus and China. Of the four though there's the greatest link between Mesopotamia and the West and Mesopotamia saw the rise of the most advanced civilizations at the fastest pace.
Aug 2018
From 'The Horse, the Wheel, and Language' (David Anthony, 2007):

"By 4300–4200 BCE Old Europe was at its peak. The Varna cemetery in eastern Bulgaria had the most ostentatious funerals in the world, richer than anything of the same age in the Near East. Among the 281 graves at Varna, 61 (22%) contained more than three thousand golden objects together weighing 6 kg (13.2 lb). Two thousand of these were found in just four graves (1, 4, 36, and 43). Grave 43, an adult male, had golden beads, armrings, and rings totaling 1,516 grams (3.37 lb), including a copper axe-adze with a gold-sheathed handle.1 Golden ornaments have also been found in tell settlements in the lower Danube valley, at Gumelniţa, Vidra, and at Hotnitsa (a 310-gm cache of golden ornaments). A few men in these communities played prominent social roles as chiefs or clan leaders, symbolized by the public display of shining gold ornaments and cast copper weapons.

Thousands of settlements with broadly similar ceramics, houses, and female figurines were occupied between about 4500 and 4100 BCE in eastern Bulgaria (Varna), the upland plains of Balkan Thrace (KaranovoVI), the upper part of the Lower Danube valley in western Bulgaria and Romania (Krivodol-Sălcuta), and the broad riverine plains of the lower Danube valley (Gumelniţa) (figure 11.1). Beautifully painted ceramic vessels, some almost 1 m tall and fired at temperatures of over 800˚C, lined the walls of their two-storied houses. Conventions in ceramic design and ritual were shared over large regions. The crafts of metallurgy, ceramics, and even flint working became so refined that they must have required master craft specialists who were patronized and supported by chiefs. In spite of this, power was not obviously centralized in any one village. Perhaps, as John Chapman observed, it was a time when the restricted resources (gold, copper, Spondylus shell) were not critical, and the critical resources (land, timber, labor, marriage partners) were not seriously restricted. This could have prevented any one region or town from dominating others.

Towns in the high plains atop the Balkans and in the fertile lower Danube valley formed high tells. Settlements fixed in one place for so long imply fixed agricultural fields and a rigid system of land tenure around each tell. The settlement on level VI at Karanovo in the Balkans was the type site for the period. About fifty houses crowded together in orderly rows inside a protective wooden palisade wall atop a massive 12-m (40-ft) tell. Many tells were surrounded by substantial towns. At Bereket, not far from Karanovo, the central part of the tell was 250 m in diameter and had cultural deposits 17.5 m (57 ft) thick, but even 300–600 m away from this central eminence the occupation deposits were 1–3 m thick. Surveys at Podgoritsa in northeastern Bulgaria also found substantial off-tell settlement."

The End of Old Europe and the Rise of the Steppe - The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World