What is a Civilization?

Civilization means: the stage of human social development and organization that is considered most advanced, and also defined as complex culture with five characteristics. Those five characteristics are: advanced cities, specialized workers, complex institutions, record keeping, and advanced technology.

Advanced cities are an important feature of civilized life. Cities were actually the birthplaces of the first civilizations. Evidence of the first civilizations can be found in Mesopotamia. Just like today, cities came into being and grew due to trade. Ancient city dwellers relied on trade in order to continue their non-nomadic lifestyle. In exchange for various goods, city dwellers produced a wide variety of goods they could trade. This was a very early form of economics. Trading was currency!

Specialized workers were another sign of development. Because people weren’t busy following their food as nomadic hunter-gatherers, they had more time on their hands. This meant that they had the time to develop special skills! Some city dwellers became artisans

An artisan is a skilled worker who makes goods by hand. This could be pottery, clothes, etc. Artisans played an important role in early civilization because their wide range of crafts helped cities to become centers of trade.

Complex institutions developed naturally because civilization meant lots of people were living in one area. There had to be ways to keep order in cities. City populations were soaring, which meant that people needed a system of ruling, or government. Leaders of civilizations eventually emerged so that they could create and enforce laws. Before civilization, people had religious beliefs, as was seen in cave paintings. But in early civilization, religion became a formal institution. The coming together of large numbers of people really changed the way life was lived-from rules to religion!

In this time, record keeping extended far beyond pictures. In Mesopotamia, Sumerians developed a writing system called cuneiform. Cuneiform was recorded by inscribing information onto clay tablets. Writers were called scribes. Scribes would keep records of important information such as the names of rulers, the law, and important historical events on clay tablets.

Technology continued to advance in early civilization. It went beyond bone and wood tools for hunting. Again, due to trading and farming, people had lots more time to do other things besides look for food! Around 3500 BC, Sumerian artisans used the potter’s wheel for the first time. With the potter’s wheel, they were able to make jugs, plates, and bowls. After 2500 BC, metalworkers in Sumeria produced thousands of bronze spearheads. Imagine how much time was saved by the development of such technology!

The first civilizations saw a way of life almost entirely different from the prehistoric era. Agriculture, economy, religion, law, and technology defined a new way of human life.