Where was the first civilization?

I thought it was Assyria, but now i don’t know. Some web sites say it was the Sumerians, some say multiple civilizations started at the same time around 4000-5000 BC.

By civilization, i mean moving from a nomadic life to a urban life with legal laws, trade, irrigation, housing, universal religion, division of labor, and government.

Before civilization started about 7000 years ago, did people live as individuals or in their own families, or did people exist in small tribes? i can’t find info on the internet.

The first literate civilization was Sumer, the remaining traces of which are about to be bombed into dust by George W. Bush and his supergiant bombs. So long, Sumerians, we hardly knew ye. :frowning:

It all depends on how you are defining civilization. Is it the rise of cities? The rise of agriculture? The rise of animal domestication? Or the rise of written language? I see what you said in the OP, but different scholars will have different answers depending on the criteria. Most of those things were developed over a varied geographic area before they all ended up in one place together.

The fertile cresent is probably the place where most of those things got their foothold.

Humans used to live in small bands as hunter-gatherers.

I have no direct citations to help you out on this but I’m pretty sure that the Sumerians are considered to be the first civilization. As far as whether we had any kind of social cohesion prior to the advent of agrarian and urban societies the answer is most definitely yes. We have ample paleo-anthropological evidence that homo sapiens lived in tribes.

Not sure about this but I think there is evidence that other hominids also lived in tribes.

Catalhoyuk in Anatolia (south-central Turkey) is currently a leading contender for earliest city. Certainly these people had language, though I don’t believe writing has been discovered there. Plenty of evidence for religion, agriculture, and of course housing. But law, division of labor, government, etc. are all very speculative.

The first known urban, or quasi-urban, culture was Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia. They didn’t have writing, which is considered a major hallmark of civilization—but—they did have cities, or at least towns, and after all civilization comes from the Latin word for city. It is thought that the Sumerian civilization built upon the citified achievements of the Anatolians in places like Çatal Hüyük.

China might not have the FIRST civilization but it definitely has the OLDEST: The Chinese still have essentially the same national culture they had in the Stone Age, the culture that started out on the banks of the Yellow River and slowly grew and grew, absorbing and sinicizing its non-Chinese neighbors at every step. From the time of the legendary Yellow Emperor, their civilization has never “fallen,” has never been overrun or supplanted by something fundamentally different. Foreigners have conquered China and ruled it for periods, sometimes for centuries, but China has remained Chinese. They can still read Confucius in the original ideograms.

Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and Pakistan might, possibly, contain regions which were civilized before China was (defining “civilization” as a cultural condition characterized by large-scale agriculture, large towns or cities, and, if you want to be sticky, metallurgy and some form of writing). However, the ancient civilizations of those regions are long since extinct. E.g., the modern Egyptians and Iraqis both belong to an Arabic-Islamic civilization which is not descended from the cultures of the ancient Egyptians nore the ancient Sumerians, Babylonians or Assyrians.

There might have been one in Africa, but I wouldn’t know.


To paraphrase Sigmund Freud:

“Wherever man first hurled an insult instead of a stone.”

Jomo Mojo, I thought exactly the same… :wink:

This is an interesting potential candidate for the oldest civilization.


It’s even likely that some of the founders of Sumerian civilization were refugees from the disaster.

I remember seeing a program on Discovery recently (which automatically makes me doubt its credibility considering this is also the channel which has specials on hauntings and psychics) which claimed that there is evidence that Egyptian Hieroglyphs actually predate Sumerian cunieform and, of course, hieroglyphs were actual sounds rather than pictograms.

Of course, that excludes the extremely advanced society popularized in the Jim Henson company’s hit TV series Dinosaurs. :wink:

It’s been a number of years since the last time I updated myself on this topic, but I thought the lowest level at Jericho predated Çatal Hüyük.

There’s some uncertainty about that. As I understand it, the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphs (which are pictograms, by the way) sort of sprang out of nowhere. That is, the earliest examples we have are a fully developed writing system. In contrast, we’ve found evidence for the development of Sumerian writing. Some see this as evidence that Egypt borrowed writing from the Sumerians. Others point out that Egyptian writing looks nothing like Sumerian which is not what you’d expect if it had been borrowed.

So how long it took to develop hieroglyphs is not known as they apparently did it on non-permanent media. I think cuneiform took several hundred years from the earliest predecessors to get to a general purpose writing system.

Check out the Mods post at the top of the GQ message board. The mods may not consider your post to be bringing one’s personal political issues into a thread, but keep it in mind and post carefully :slight_smile:

What exactly did the lowest level at Jericho contain? A town? Or settlements that underlay the town that grew up there much later? I ask because, after all, there are pre-urban settlements underlying the Sumerian sites, but I wouldn’t cite them as evidence of civilization at that level. Yes, the continued habitation in a spot could contribute to the eventual growth into urban life, but we want to know about the point where something we can identify as civilization developed.

No, Banger, what I wrote wasn’t political. If I wrote


that would be political. Which is why I don’t write like that here.