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24-05-2015, 23:58

The First River-Valley Civilizations, 3500-1500 B. C. E

The Epic of Gilgamesh, whose roots date to before 2000 b. c.e., defines civilization as the people of ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) understood it. Gilgamesh, an early king, sends a temple prostitute to tame Enkidu (EN-kee-doo), a wild man who lives like an animal in the grasslands. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are depicted on the cylinder seal shown here. Using her sexual charms to win Enkidu's trust, the temple prostitute tells him:

¦  How did Mesopotamian civilization emerge, and what technologies promoted its advancement?

¦  What role did the environment and religion play in the evolution of Egyptian civilization?

¦  What does the material evidence tell us about the nature of the Indus Valley civilization, and what is the most likely reason for its collapse?

Come with me to the city, to Uruk (OO-rook), to the temple of Anu and the goddess Ishtar. . . to Uruk, where the processions are and music, let us go together through the dancing to the palace hall where Gilgamesh presides.1


Gilgamesh Find out how Gilgamesh's friend Enkidu propels him on a quest for immortality, and whether or not that quest is successful.

Civilization An ambiguous term often used to denote more complex societies but sometimes used by anthropologists to describe any group of people sharing a set of cultural traits.

She clothes Enkidu and teaches him to eat cooked food, drink beer, and bathe and oil his body. Her words and actions signal the principal traits of civilized life in ancient Mesopotamia.

The Mesopotamians, like other peoples throughout history, equated civilization with their own way of life, but civilization is an ambiguous concept, and the charge that a particular group is “uncivilized” has been used throughout human history to justify many things. Thus, it is important to explain the common claim that the first advanced civilizations emerged in Mesopotamia and Egypt sometime before 3000 b. c.e.

Scholars agree that certain political, social, economic, and technological traits are indicators of civilization: (1) cities as administrative centers, (2) a political system based on control of a defined territory rather than kinship connections, (3) many people engaged in specialized, non-food-producing activities, (4) status distinctions based largely on accumulation of substantial wealth by some groups, (5) monumental building, (6) a system for keeping permanent records, (7) long-distance trade, and (8) major advances in science and the arts. The earliest societies exhibiting these traits developed in the floodplains of great rivers: the Tigris (TIE-gris) and Euphrates (you-FRAY-teez) in Iraq, the Indus in Pakistan, the Yellow (Huang He [hwang huh]) in China, and the Nile in Egypt (see Map 2.1). The periodic flooding of the rivers deposited fertile silt and provided water for agriculture, but it also threatened lives and property. To protect themselves and channel the forces of nature, people living near the rivers created new technologies and forms of political and social organization.

The First River-Valley Civilizations, 3500-1500 B. C. E

© Cengage Learning

River-Valley Civilizations, 3500-1500 b. c.e. The earliest complex societies arose in the floodplains of large rivers: in the fourth millennium b. c.e. in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia and the Nile River in Egypt, in the third millennium b. c.e. in the valley of the Indus River in Pakistan, and in the second millennium b. c.e. in the valley of the Yellow River in China.