The First Towns: Seedbeds Of Civilization The Origins Of Civilizations

2031 words - 8 pages

By about 7000 B.C., techniques of agricultural production in the MiddleEast had reached a level at which it was possible to support thousands ofpeople, many of whom were not engaged in agriculture, in densely populatedsettlements. Two of the earliest of these settlements were at Jericho in whatis today the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and at Catal Huyuk in present-daysouthern Turkey. With populations of about 2000 and from 4000 to 6000 peoplerespectively, Jericho and Catal Huyuk would be seen today as little more thanlarge villages or small towns. But in the perspective of human culturaldevelopment they represented the first stirrings of urban life. In these andother Middle Eastern Neolithic settlements, occupational specialization andthe formation of religious and political-military elite groups advancedsignificantly. Trade became essential for the community's survival and wascarried on, perhaps by specialized merchants, with peoples at considerabledistances. Crafts such as pottery, metalworking, and jewelry making werehighly developed. At Catal Huyuk in particular, both sculpture and wallpainting were carried to a high level of sophistication.In these earliest town centers, the key ingredients of civilization cametogether. Agricultural surpluses were sufficient to support specializednon farming producers and non farming political and religious leaders. Theinteraction of these groups resulted in a burst of creativity and innovationin a wide variety of fields. But these earliest centers were quite isolated.They were merely tiny islands of sedentary cultivators and small numbers oftownspeople, surrounded by vast plains and woodlands. The earliest towncenters appear to have traded rather extensively but to have maintained onlyintermittent and limited contacts with neighboring hunting-and-gatheringpeoples. Though small in size and not highly specialized in comparison withthe cities of Sumer and other early civilizations, the first towns, settledduring this period, nonetheless played critical roles in continuing theNeolithic transformation. The ruling elites and craft specialists of thesetowns contributed in several major ways to the introduction in the 4thmillennium B.C. of critical inventions - inventions such as the wheel, theplow, writing, and the use of bronze - that secured the future of civilizedlife as the central pattern of human history.JerichoProximity to the Jordan River and the deep and clear waters of an oasisspring account for repeated human settlement at the place where the town ofJericho was built. By 7000 B.C., over ten acres at the site were occupied byround houses of mud and brick resting on stone foundations. Most early houseshad only a single room with mud plaster floors and a domed ceiling, but somehouses had as many as three rooms. Entry to these windowless dwellings wasprovided by a single wood-framed doorway and steps down to the floor of themain room underground. Although there is no evidence that the town wasfortified in...

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