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

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,261
Lisbon, Portugal
From what I remember, Austronesians or Melanesian people were indigenous to South Asia and later were driven out or absorbed by invading groups, the Dravidians are more native than Indo-Aryans but there is the Elamo-Dravidian theory that claims Dravidians descend from Elamites, it is quite interesting that the Brahui people of Pakistan are also Dravidian yet don't look or sound South Indian and are genetically the same as other Baloch, perhaps that could explain a link between Elamites and Dravidians.
Not quite. Austronesians and Melanesians are as related to the AASI (Ancient Ancestral South Asians) as modern East Asians are.
The hypothesized AASI population represents the indigenous and first modern human inhabitants in South Asia, and also one of the fist Out-of-Africa populations to settle definitively in a large Eurasian landmass. That population occupies a basal position in which some of them migrated further east later on and split off to make rise to the modern Australasian and modern East Asian populations.
 
Aug 2018
697
london
Why is Mesopotamia often still dubbed "the cradle of civilization", meaning the site where human civilization first emerged and developed? While it was the first region to establish agriculture and a complex society, there were many regions of the world where agriculture and the building of complex societies with advanced economics, politics and use of technology have occurred independently, including: China, MesoAmerica, Egypt and South Asia (all known as pristine civilizations).

My theory on why Mesopotamia is called the "cradle of civilization" has to do with western bias and lots of false theories generated by western scholarship many hundred years ago because they had superiority complexes. Not only was Mesopotamia is the earliest known site to be excavated along with ancient Egypt, it is also connected to European civilization, from the origins of European agriculture to the civilizations of Greece and Rome (the originators of Western civilization).
- One, early agriculture in Europe originated in the Mesopotamian region where it spread from the Near East to Anatolia to Southern Europe to all Europe.
- Two, the roots of Western civilization (which really refers to Western European countries or the former Western areas of the Roman empire) lay in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, but these two civilizations were not pristine civilizations as they largely build upon the foundation that Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt laid out.
- Three, the widespread European religion, Christianity, originated in the Middle East, and the very core of Christianity is still largely Semitic/Judaic.

This is just my opinion, since it's a widely accepted idea in the mainstream. What are you're opinions?
The Helladic-Minoan or Aegean civilisation is also a 'pristine' civilisation. It originated its own writing, advanced architecture, complex urban societies etc. Its roots lie in the Old European or Danubian civilisation in the Balkans/Eastern Europe and Greece; this is also where the earliest evidence of metallurgy, wheeled vehicles, complex stratified societies (etc) is found so this is a genuine cradle of civilization. However the Vinca symbols are often not considered to be writing, although some linguists think they are a form of writing. Anyway Minoan Linear A is recognised as full writing (and it may be derived from the Vinca symbols), so at the very least the Helladic-Minoan or Aegean civilisation can be considered a 'pristine civilisation'.

Some prominent anthropologists and historians already classify 'Old Europe' as a civilisation, rather than as a 'culture':


Also the originator of the thread (Ricster4455) has an extreme anti-European bias, FYI.
 
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Dec 2015
370
NYC
The Helladic-Minoan or Aegean civilisation is also a 'pristine' civilisation. It originated its own writing, advanced architecture, complex urban societies etc. Its roots lie in the Old European or Danubian civilisation in the Balkans/Eastern Europe and Greece; this is also where the earliest evidence of metallurgy, wheeled vehicles, complex stratified societies (etc) is found so this is a genuine cradle of civilization. However the Vinca symbols are often not considered to be writing, although some linguists think they are a form of writing. Anyway Minoan Linear A is recognised as full writing (and it may be derived from the Vinca symbols), so at the very least the Helladic-Minoan or Aegean civilisation can be considered a 'pristine civilisation'.
Uggh...here we go again [headslap]. This has been discussed over and over again. The Minoans (who aren't even Greek or Indo-European, or even related to any Indo-European tribes. 'Real' Greeks, the Mycenaean, are the ones who migrated from the Balkans into the Greek peninsula and Hellenized the locals and the Minoans) were not a pristine civilization. They were mostly a commerical/maritime civilization (since the terrain on Crete is not suitable for agriculture) and a local culture that has been heavily influenced by trade with the much older Eastern Mediterranean societies (Egypt and the Levant). Their entire knowledge, 'advanced architecture', and complex urban societies was basically laid out for them by their more advanced neighbors. The Mycenaean Greeks borrowed heavily from the Minoans, and later on in the Archaic period, they borrowed more from the Eastern Mediterranean (including alphabet from Phoenicians, art/architecture/sculptures from Egyptians and other Near Eastern cultures, mathematics/astronomy from Babylonians and Egyptians, early Greek city-states were probably influenced by early city-states of the Levant and Mesopotamia, and early Greek Philosophy was probably heavily influenced by the early Near Eastern and Egyptians beliefs/ways of thinking that allowed later Greek Philosophers to question and doubt those ways of thinking), and like the Minoans, the Mycenaeans were mostly a maritime civilization whos economy is centered on imported goods from North Africa, Middle East and their main colonies in Southern Italy and Anatolia. Greeks may have had their own culture and may have had their own ideas and all, but Egyptians and Near Easterns were the ones who laid out the foundation for Greeks, the same as how the Greeks laid the foundation of knowledge for Europe. The truth is Europe has never has a pristine civilization of it's own (an advanced civilization built from scratch), and Greece would never had existed if it weren't so close to the Eastern Mediterranean (I mean, ever wonder why no other advanced/sophisticated civilization on par with the likes of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indus and China occurred in other parts of Europe. Why is Greece known as the 'cradle of European civilization' and not the Danube? Why don't we see advanced civilizations popping up elsewhere in Europe during those times?). And about Linear A and B, first of all Linear B remains undeciphered and Linear A still remains unknown, and their is proof (like the ones you showed me in a past PM) that it may have been influenced either by Egyptian hieroglyphics or Near Eastern cuneiform.

Anyways, that is not the topic at hand. We can discuss this in another thread or PM.

Also the originator of the thread (Ricster4455) has an extreme anti-European bias, FYI.
Proof that I am "anti-European". Show me where I made one deragatory remark towards Europeans? Just because I said that Early Greece is mostly the product of Near Eastern/Egyptian influences (Of course Greeks are culturally different, but that's a different story), does not make me "Anti-European". Greeks (and Europeans in general) in the past have shown time and time to have borrowed from Near Easterns and Egyptians, including early agriculture, art/architecture/science and mathematics, and Christianity. Of course, Greeks built off what they learned from their Oriental/African predecessors and made new innovations and new ideas different from their predecessors (similar to how Western Europeans during the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution and now build off what they learned from the Ancient Greeks (along with Islamic/Hindu and Chinese innovations) and had made new innovations and ideas different from the Greeks), but we cannot deny the early foundations that early civilizations made to Greece.

If you don't like my opinion, that's fine, but don't dismiss me as being "Anti-European" just because I said Europeans were influenced by the those said civilizations.

And as I said before, we can discuss this in another thread or PM.
 
Dec 2015
370
NYC
Not quite. Austronesians and Melanesians are as related to the AASI (Ancient Ancestral South Asians) as modern East Asians are.
The hypothesized AASI population represents the indigenous and first modern human inhabitants in South Asia, and also one of the fist Out-of-Africa populations to settle definitively in a large Eurasian landmass. That population occupies a basal position in which some of them migrated further east later on and split off to make rise to the modern Australasian and modern East Asian populations.
There is DNA evidence of a strong link between Austronesians and Austro-Asiatic people and Darvidian people, so it's not plausible of Dravidians coming from the Iranian plateau. What is already known is the Indo-Aryans (who were already heavily mixed with those from the Near East and Central Asia) came from the Iranian Plateau who mixed with the indigenous Dravidians in the Northwest. (Can't go further into genetics, but that's about it)
 
Dec 2015
370
NYC
As far as I am concerned this bickering is rather pointless

Civilizations developped independently (or mostly independently) where natural conditions where right... A bit like plants or animals develop where the conditions are right for them (which is why there are no -say- polar bears in Ouganda or no girafes in the arctic)

Initially these conditions were :

  • free energy (the sun)
  • mild climate (no cold = no need for fancy clothes and ability to be outside all year round, not too hot =ability to work productively) ,
  • free water in large quantities (a large river which also doubles as a free "road")
  • good arable land near the river
  • + some wood.....
  • and preferably away from tsunamis, earthquake zones, volcanoes any of which can wipe up a civ in its early stages
(later the need for more wood, then metal, then horses plus the invention of all kinds of technology such as aqueducts would change the picture)

Looking at the world map you'll see that pretty much the Nile river valley in Egypt, the Indus river valley and the Euphrates + Tigris valleys have the best INITIAL conditions (Egypt's Nile river valley is somewhat better because it is a quasi fortress, protected by the desert and to the north by the sea... forcing potential invaders to develop logistics and/or navigation before they can effectively threaten it) plus are all about 1000 km long (which makes for a lot of arable land along the river)..... In China, along the large rivers. the conditions are somewhat worse from the climate perspective.... Other long rivers are not so good (the Amazon is problematic, the Mississipi can freeze in winter etc...)

Thus early civs developped exactly along the Nile, the Indus, the Euphrates.... which of them did so quicker is a matter of debate depending on definition of "civilization" plus accuracy of dating
China seems to be the only riverine civilization to have arose from a four season climate (though monsoon influenced), the rest seem to have arose in more arid and hot conditions near their respective rivers. Though I agree that civilizations develop in relatively mild climate that is sunny, I would add that why civilizations develop faster than other nearby regions can pretty simply be explained by it’s type of soil and type of vegetation in the area, which means that it’s much easier to farm there.
 
Aug 2018
697
london
The Minoans (who aren't even Greek or Indo-European
That's completely irrelevant to the topic.

Also European doesn't only mean Indo-European. The Greeks or proto-Greeks were Indo-Europeans who probably arrived in the Bronze Age, but nonetheless there was population and cultural continuity in Greece from the neolithic through to the classical era. Greek culture combined elements from both Indo-European and pre-Indo-European sources.

the terrain on Crete is not suitable for agriculture)
"Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, is built of fertile soils in a region of moderate temperatures and reliable rainfall. Basically, it's a great place for agriculture. Not only did the ability to grow lots of food result in the conditions necessary for the Minoans to develop the first advanced civilization of Europe, but it also gave them the tools they needed to build a strong international economy." https://study.com/academy/lesson/minoan-civilization-economy-trade.html

"The Minoans raised cattle, sheep, pigs and goats, and grew wheat, barley, vetch and chickpeas. They also cultivated grapes, figs and olives, grew poppies for seed and perhaps opium. The Minoans also domesticated bees.[48] Vegetables, including lettuce, celery, asparagus and carrots, grew wild on Crete." Minoan civilization - Wikipedia

You obviously don't know what you're talking about. Why do you express your opinions on things without even bothering to do the slightest bit of research?

"They were mostly a commerical/maritime civilization"

You can only be a maritime trading civilization if you have something to trade, and the necessary maritime technology with which to trade. Perhaps you should also try to think logically about the subject before expressing your opinions.

"a local culture that has been heavily influenced by trade with the much older Eastern Mediterranean societies (Egypt and the Levant)"

The origins of civilisation in Greece and Europe are actually older than in Egypt. The Neolithic began in Greece with the Sesklo culture, around 500 to 1000+ years before Egypt. In Greece they were living in agricultural villages with mud brick houses with stone foundations and walls whilst in Egypt they were still living in temporary camps with huts made out of reeds. The earliest evidence of metallurgy in the world is in Europe, from the Vinca culture. In Europe they were using metal tools made from ores about 1500 years before Egypt. The oldest evidence of wheeled vehicles is also in Europe, about 1000 years before Egypt. Monumental stone architecture in Europe is also significantly older than in Egypt (see for example the megalithic temples in Malta or other megalithic buildings and monuments in Western Europe). The earliest evidence of elite burials and a stratified society is also in Europe; over 1000 years before the first dynasty in Egypt, elite rulers in Europe were being buried with more gold than the rest of the world combined for the next 1000 years:

“The weight and the number of gold finds in the Varna cemetery [Bulgaria] exceeds by several times the combined weight and number of all of the gold artifacts found in all excavated sites of the same millennium, 5000-4000 BC, from all over the world, including Mesopotamia and Egypt.” Anthony, D. and Chi, J. (eds), The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 BC, 2010.

“Varna is the richest cemetery anywhere before 3500 BC. There’s more gold in the cemetery of Varna than has been recovered from all of the rest of the old world put together, before 3500 BC. And the gold at Varna is found in only a few graves. There are 310 graves in the cemetery of Varna; only 60 of them contain gold, and the great majority of the gold was contained in four extraordinarily rich graves” The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000 to 3500 BC, NY University, 2010.

"This paper discusses the invention of gold metallurgy within the Southeast European Chalcolithic on the basis of newly investigated gold objects from the Varna I cemetery (4550-4450 cal. bc). Comprehensive analyses, including preceding gold finds, shed new light not only on the technical expertise of the so far earliest known fine metalworkers, but also on the general context and potential prerequisites in which the invention of gold metallurgy may be embedded. Here, these structural trajectories as well as the unprecedented inventions connected to this early gold working will be highlighted in order to contextualize the apparently sudden appearance and rapid development of this new craft". On the Invention of Gold Metallurgy: The Gold Objects from the Varna I Cemetery (Bulgaria)—Technological Consequence and Inventive Creativity, Pernika et al, 2015.

Like I said the Minoan civilisation has roots in the earlier cultures of the Balkans and mainland Greece, as well as local origins. Towns were already developing in Crete during the Neolithic period:

"The earliest known evidence for settlement on Crete comes from Knossos, from the Early Neolithic period. The site in northcentral Crete was first settled in the seventh millennium bce, and it was already an important town during the Neolithic period"
Minoan Trade (Chapter 9) - The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age

The Linear A script is not derived from Egyptian or Levant/Mesopotamian scripts. Some linguists argue that it is instead derived from the earlier Vinca symbols or Old European symbols. If these symbols are themselves a form of writing (rather than proto-writing etc) this would make 'Old Europe' the oldest civilisation in the world, according to definitions in which writing is a requirement. Early literacy and civilisation in Europe

The Helladic-Minoan or Aegean civilisation includes both the Greek mainland and Aegean islands. Much of the Minoan maritime trade was between different Aegean islands, with the Greek and broader European mainland, or with western Anatolia and Cyprus. Important resources like copper came from the Cycladic islands, tin came from western Europe, etc. Contact through trade introduced some influences from civilisations in the middle east, but Minoan influence can also be seen in those areas. The Minoans dominated the Eastern Mediterranean sea and established a presence in both the Levant and Egypt.
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,279
China seems to be the only riverine civilization to have arose from a four season climate (though monsoon influenced), the rest seem to have arose in more arid and hot conditions near their respective rivers. Though I agree that civilizations develop in relatively mild climate that is sunny, I would add that why civilizations develop faster than other nearby regions can pretty simply be explained by it’s type of soil and type of vegetation in the area, which means that it’s much easier to farm there.
Agree

And it seems that China developed somewhat later (again this is subject to debates around how to date), which is probably because the climate was somewhat less favorable
 
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Aug 2018
337
America
Now I want to take back everything I said about the Vinca culture. Even that is not exempted from old fashioned European chauvinism. What's hilarious is that this idea of Europe comes from the much derided Marija Gimbutas, who saw a "matristic" if not matriarchal Old Europe as much better before the "intrusion" of Asiatic patriarchal Indo-Europeans who killed off Europe's "prosperity" or at least a highly developed culture.
 
Dec 2015
370
NYC
Agree

And it seems that China developed somewhat later (again this is subject to debates around how to date), which is probably because the climate was somewhat less favorable
I would argue that Egypt and Indus got a head start in agriculture compared to China because of the spread of agriculture from the Fertile Crescent (even though Egypt and the Indus seem to have developed different ideas and knowledge compared to those from Mesopotamia). But yes, I think Chinas diverse climate system made it difficult initially for Chinese to start building a complex society (though Chinas climate isn't as extreme as those of the U.S. because the area where Chinese civilization developed is similar climate-wise to the Eastern U.S, albeit less extreme).
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,279
I would argue that Egypt and Indus got a head start in agriculture compared to China because of the spread of agriculture from the Fertile Crescent (even though Egypt and the Indus seem to have developed different ideas and knowledge compared to those from Mesopotamia). But yes, I think Chinas diverse climate system made it difficult initially for Chinese to start building a complex society (though Chinas climate isn't as extreme as those of the U.S. because the area where Chinese civilization developed is similar climate-wise to the Eastern U.S, albeit less extreme).
About the spread of agriculture: I have not looked into the topic.. So the following is just an assumption of mine... I am assuming that just by observation ( 1 "hey these plants can be eaten" then 2 " hey these plants tend to grow in these places" then 3 " oh look by using these seeds we can make these plants grow ourselves") it would have developed independently in several places (as I assume is the case re the Americas since they could not have contacts with the Crescent)... Now because Egypt is close and the Indus relatively so to the Crescent it is also possible that there were some exchanges "hey these seeds are better than ours" or "look their plants are bigger than ours"