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

Dec 2015
320
NYC
You don't seem to realize that words and concepts can carry different meanings in different contexts, and that you are moving from one use of the term 'original' to another, and making a value judgement based on a lingusitic confusion. Except for certain cultures in very early times, no culture is in fact totally self-enclosed, and that is as true of China after a certain period as it of Japan , but putting that aside, you are moving from one meaning of 'original', relating to a civilization that is primarily at least developed of internal influences, to another meaning of 'original' when you imply that a civilzation like that of Japanese or Greek, as being more open to external influences (or might say, suggestions) that some others, is less 'original' in the sense of having less right to claim that it has introduced things that are new and distinctive into the world. There are quite a number of aspects of Greek culture that are no less original in the latter sense any aspect of Egyptian or Mesopotamian culture; and European culture of the early modern period did not sacrifice any of its originality in the latter sense by being open to the world, quite the opposite in fact.
I agree that all cultures had influences from other cultures, but for example, in the case of China, yes they were influenced by different cultures in neolithic times (all of which were internal in the Chinese mainland), but they created a culture that was completely distant from pre-civilized Japanese and Koreans. The Chinese created a unique writing system that was later adopted by both the Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese. Even though there are slight differences in the writing systems they use, it still originated from the Chinese. China did in fact later on in its history adopted some cultural ideas from other foreign cultures (such as Buddhism), but most of Chinese culture developed internally for most of it's history. As for the Greeks, they adopted many cultural aspects from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Greeks were distant from those east of them, but the things they adopted, the Greeks never created. What I mean by "original" is that one thing that was created by one society that was not created by another society. When the latter society adopts the creation of the former society, even though they innovated upon that idea, it still does not make the latter society original. They just innovative or re-invented an idea that already exists.
 
Dec 2015
320
NYC
Actually yes it does imply that.
They're related to Europeans only by language and some small ancestry here and there. Overall, IE-cultures (especially outside Europe) are completely distinct from each other. Otherwise, we would be calling Iranians and Indians "Europeans".

Latin Americans are related to Iberians.

And Latin Americans are also related to their Amerindian and African ancestors. The only similarities between Iberians and Latin Americans are language and cultural influences, but overall, Iberia is genetically and culturally a part of Europe while Latin America has a completely different identity.



1000 years is not a short time. Greek and Latin were the common languages at that time. Greco-Roman culture obviously had a massive influence, but of course you don't know anything about that.
There is much more history, interactions and conquest between Middle Eastern and North African societies (Assyrians ruling Egypt, Persians ruling Egypt and all of Mesopotamia and later on Arabs ruling all of North Africa and the Middle East). Greek and Roman rule over North Africa and parts of the Middle East are short compared to the Middle Eastern empires ruling each others land. Middle Eastern culture was for the most part Middle Eastern and distinct from the Southern European cultures of Greece and Rome.

So Indo-Europeans are completely unrelated but Afro-Asiatics are all the same stock. Got it.
What I meant was Arabs were related to Egyptians and Mesopotamians in that they were all Afro-Asiatic speaking people, plus there were more cultural similarities between Arabs and other Semitic people, and Egypt had much more in common with Arabs than with Greeks or Romans. Greeks and Romans were not related to any of the Egyptian, North African or Middle Eastern cultures. And the similarities between Indo-Europeans pretty much end with language. Indo-Europeans outside the European peninsula have been mixing with vastly different cultures and races of the Far East, South Asian and the Middle East. Afro-Asiatics for the most part stayed in their own place.

The Greeks already had their own writing system before the invention of the alphabet. And Egyptian hieroglyphs are not an alphabet, so the Egyptians didn't have an alphabet.


I'll repeat that so there's a chance it might get into your head.


The Greeks already had their own writing system before the invention of the alphabet. And Egyptian hieroglyphs are not an alphabet, so the Egyptians didn't have an alphabet.

The Phoenician alphabet is the earliest known alphabet, but the Phoenician alphabet only has consonants whereas the Greek alphabet also has vowels. As such the Greek alphabet is often referred to as the first 'true' alphabet. The Egyptians later adopted the Greek alphabet and added letters derived from Egyptian Demotic to create the Coptic alphabet. The Phoenician alphabet may also have been influenced or partly derived from earlier Greek/Aegean scripts as well as Egyptian hieroglyphs.
One, the Minoans weren't even Greek. They had much more in common with the Middle East at that time than with Greeks. And the Mycenaeans (the first people to not only speak Greek, but were actually descendants of pre-IE Greeks who adopted their writing system (still yet to be deciphered) and cultural aspects from the Minoans) lost their writing system, didn't even have written history (at least not found), and culture all but lost. Mycenaean Greece is all pre-history. Ancient Greece (the Ancient Greece we all know) really begins during and after the Greek dark ages and Archaic period when they started adopting cultural elements (including writing system) from the Eastern Mediterranean, started having written history and a fully developed civilization and established culture.

Two, the Phoenician alphabet (Ancient Greece's one and only true alphabet) evolved out of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Without Egyptian hieroglyphics, Phoenician alphabet would never have developed, and without Phoenician alphabet, the Greek, Latin and Cyrillic alphabets would never exist.
 
Dec 2015
320
NYC
What was that greek writing system ?

Also the arabic alphabet has no vowels for example (there are rules to derive vowels so a word like banana would be written bnn but still be read as "banana")
If we're talking about pre-historic Greeks (Mycenaeans for example), they adopted their writing system (still yet to be deciphered) by the Minoans (who never spoke a lick of Greek and and more interactions with Egypt and the Levant than with Greek tribes in the North).

If we're talking about Archaic Greeks (the one and only true Greeks we know of), they still adopted theirs from the Phoenicians.

In truth, Greeks never had their own writing system. It was mostly adopted.
 
Dec 2015
320
NYC
So? How's that even relevant? "Mongoloid" is a phenotype, not a culture. It's not even relevant to our discussion.
Agreed. It's as ridiculous as using "Caucasoid" when discussing the Middle Eastern and European civilizations. But the Southern Chinese cultures were always more in contact with those from the North than with Austronesians, and were not completely different than those from Northern China/


It is widely understood that those crops came originally from the Near East. It's you that has to prove that they did come originally from Egypt.
Egypt is usually considered part of the fertile crescent, and Egypt has always had affilications with the Near East via the Levant than with other parts of Africa (the South part of Egypt is part of Egypt)
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,214
Welsh Marches
I agree that all cultures had influences from other cultures, but for example, in the case of China, yes they were influenced by different cultures in neolithic times (all of which were internal in the Chinese mainland), but they created a culture that was completely distant from pre-civilized Japanese and Koreans. The Chinese created a unique writing system that was later adopted by both the Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese. Even though there are slight differences in the writing systems they use, it still originated from the Chinese. China did in fact later on in its history adopted some cultural ideas from other foreign cultures (such as Buddhism), but most of Chinese culture developed internally for most of it's history. As for the Greeks, they adopted many cultural aspects from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Greeks were distant from those east of them, but the things they adopted, the Greeks never created. What I mean by "original" is that one thing that was created by one society that was not created by another society. When the latter society adopts the creation of the former society, even though they innovated upon that idea, it still does not make the latter society original. They just innovative or re-invented an idea that already exists.
We are perhaps talking partly at cross-purposes here. One really needs to look at specific examples. Take Greek philosophy (including natural science) of the era of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle - one cannot in any way talk here as if it was developed by 'innovating upon' already existing ideas from the Middle East, it is as pristine a developement as anything that was ever developed in Egypt or China. Similarly with the Japanese literary tradition, just to mention poetry in the haiku and waka form, that is utterly different in form and accompanying outlook than anything that could be found in China (and that is actually true of most Japanese vernacular literature); the same applies to Japanese ceramics (based on a ttoally indigenous aesthetic), and even painting.
 

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,184
Lisbon, Portugal
Agreed. It's as ridiculous as using "Caucasoid" when discussing the Middle Eastern and European civilizations. But the Southern Chinese cultures were always more in contact with those from the North than with Austronesians, and were not completely different than those from Northern China/
Austronesians are originally from southern China, by the way. And yes, the Chinese civilization formed up as an amalgamation of northern, possibly Sinitic-speaking Neolithic (millet-based) cultures, with southern non-Sinitic (rice-based) cultures. But one thing is true, the first urbanized societies in China, and the first dynasties, were clearly northern in origin and they all speak a Sinitic language.

Egypt is usually considered part of the fertile crescent, and Egypt has always had affilications with the Near East via the Levant than with other parts of Africa (the South part of Egypt is part of Egypt)
That's also very true. I know genetics are forbidden on this forum, but it is already verified that Ancient Egyptians from the most part were descendants of Levantine farmers.
 
Aug 2018
594
london
I seek indications of increase in understanding of nature in ancient societies, for example the ability to mine and work metals to provide better tools.
The earliest evidence of extractive metallurgy (i.e. smelting) as well as the largest quantity of early metal artefacts, is in the Balkans (Europe). The Vinca culture has the earliest evidence of copper smelting (c.5400-5000 BC) and the Varna culture has the earliest evidence of gold smelting (c.4600 BC), as well as elite burials that contain more gold than the rest of the world combined before 3500 BC.

Before the invention of smelting small pieces of naturally-occurring 'native' metal were already used, but the invention of smelting made it possible to produce metal tools, weapons etc and so ushered in the metal age.

'The Rise of Metallurgy in the Balkans' (2016)
'On the Origins of Extractive Metallurgy: New Evidence from Europe' (2010)
'On the Invention of Gold Metallurgy: Gold objects from the Varna 1 Cemetery' (2015)

Between 4500 BC and 4000 BC copper and gold smelting were introduced to the southern Levant (Israel). At the same time new people arrived in Israel from Anatolia and possibly Europe (closely related people migrated into Northwest Africa from Europe around the same time). The earliest gold found in the Levant (from Nahal Qanah) dates to c.4000 BC and has the same chemical composition as naturally-occurring gold from the Balkans and Varna gold artefacts.

Ghassulian - Wikipedia
'Earliest Gold Artefacts in the Levant' (1990)

After 4000 BC copper and gold smelting were introduced to Egypt from the Levant, arriving first in the northern delta then spreading southwards.

'A Companion to Ancient Egypt - The Chalcolithic' (2010)
'Metals in Past Societies' (2015)
 
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fascinating

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,405
Thanks for the information Ario. It's quite interesting that Egypt only came to know metal-working from the Levant (and I think that the Levant may have obtained the knowledge from the Balkans).

From what I read, the Chinese didn't have metallurgy until 3100BC, when bronze artefacts appear. Of course, there is always the possibility that discoveries will be made which throw light on earlier metal-working.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,249
Sydney
Some technical transmitions is to be taken for granted , it doesn't invalidate a civilization originality

while Egypt got a lot of things from Mesopotamia ,its civilization was deeply indigenous
Mohenjo Daro link with the Persian gulf city states are proved but it can claim to be a self standing culture
Ankor is an Indian derivation but shone as a local achievement
the Olmec did it on their own
the Yellow river dynasties got impulse from the Western steppe and the Deep south , it is still a Chinese achievement

the Ur of the Chaldeans was based on the Ubai culture of the Gulf
but Mesopotamia was the very root of all subsequent civilizations around the Mediterranean
 
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