When we speak of civilization, we mean the materialistic and spiritual expressions of the people living in certain regions. From ancient times many civilizations have flourished in different parts of the world. Some have collapsed or merged with other mighty civilizations or have changed with the time but showing its continuity of basic elements through its course.
How do we differentiate between civilizations? What criterion's normally do we use to differentiate one civilization from others? We normally classify the civilizations by their architecture, religious beliefs, war and other technologies, script, languages, mythologies, burial practices those indicate life-after-death concepts. There could be some other aspects but what I have enumerated are major those easily can help us to differentiate the civilizations. When we speak of Egypt, Pyramids automatically appear before our eyes and when we talk of the Indus-Ghaggar civilization seals, planned cities, brick-paved roads and great baths do flash in an instant in our minds. So, architecture becomes a major part of our general classification of the civilizations.
We know about some of the languages spoken in the ancient civilizations, thanks to the written records and their decipherments, same time we do not know what were the languages spoken in many civilizations for lack of the written proofs or inability to decipher them in an absence of Rosetta stone. Indus script and linier A of Greeks are fine examples of this. We may find that the scripts of ancient civilizations, though mostly an independent development, their influences still are detectable in the areas of shadow civilizations. Such as Greek early script was introduced to them by Phoenicians which was further modified to suit the various dialects of Greeks.
We also are aware that every civilization had independent religious concepts and mythologies. We also find from the archaeological layers the changes in the pantheon of the deities and their changed priorities and evolution in the ritualistic priorities. However, some superficial similarities, too, do occur baffling the archeologists and linguists prompting them to propose theories of “outside influences” caused by migrating people. There are examples here for such theories those have been fought viciously by the scholars. For example, from eighteenth century onwards Aryan Invasion Theories were in vogue those claimed migrations ns of mighty Aryan Race from some hypothetical original homeland, riding in spoke-wheeled chariots, subjugating other contemporary races enforcing their “polished language” and culture over them. The theory did no good to the world. Rather the world experienced genocide and destructive Second World War. Later, the theory was replaced with dispersals of the Proto Indo-0European speakers from some hypothetical original homeland However; underlined meaning remained the same, racist and supremacist.
However, we cannot attribute all the time such migrating hoards for causing immense impact on the already established civilizations. We should not forget here that the pre-civilization era, when agriculture was not invented and human being in bands was roaming in the known regions for search of the food and grazing lands for his cattle. This was the period that roughly begins from 60,000 BC and continues till 10,000 BC. In this vast span of the time, human beings learnt many things…language was one of them. Faculty to speak is as old as hundred thousand years. From proto-abstract-sounds meaningful words were developed, exchanged between the tribes and thus multiplying the basic vocabulary. Since the human transactions were limited, not so complex, language too was rudimentary. All the vocabulary was not independent innovation but accumulated through the exchanges as well. Not only vocabulary, the religious concepts too did evolve during this era. The technologies, such as stone weaponry, stone-utensils and artificial skin-clothing and shelters too were developed during this era. The geographical sense and regional affinities too must have been evolved in this transitional phase when he transgressed from hunter-gatherer man to pastoral man. About 40000 years ago we find sudden cultural explosion across the globe that involved from jewelry making to specific funeral practices. We cannot attribute such cultural innovations taking place in single tribe and at a single location but can attribute them to the continuous exchanges, imitations, modifications and independent or joint advancements out of the need of the human being. The stone weaponry is a common feature of all the human species spread across the globe. It was not invention of any single tribe, but of all the tribes of those times. The early inventions mostly have been out of the grave necessity of survival against all odds.
Era of foragers must have been too interesting in many aspects. First of all a vital question remains unsolved that whether early humane first appeared on some certain place (e.g. Africa) and then later dispersed to populate the globe or had it been the multi-regional creation is a hotly debated topic amongst scholars today. Though I support multi-regional model for Out of Africa theory for single location model has its own limitations loaded with Biblical Adam-Eve fantasies.
Anyway, there is no doubt that the early human was forager. But the most important question would be how he must have been deciding on the directions to move? He mustn’t have roamed aimlessly to any direction where he hoped for food and game. In all probabilities he must have known the regions where he could find enough food and shelter. People always accommodate with the known environments and the available food. The regional food habits vary greatly even today. Then in ancient times such variation naturally would be greater.
Early populations, about 60,000 years ago were far less, could be one person per square kilometer at the most. The earth was going through the Ice Age during those times. However, far remote and climatically hostile regions, such as Antarctica and nearer regions to the North Pole must have avoided by him. He had formed bands, mostly consisting of the blood related people. He soon must have learnt what was edible and what was not. But the process wouldn’t have been simple. He would have tried various vegetation, fruits and meat. After lot many accidents or catching fatal diseases he would have selected carefully his diet. He must have known soon which animal were dangerous and who weren’t! As we find regional variety of flora and fauna and forestry, changing seasons and its influence on its growth, he too must have observed minutely the change in the nature with seasons. Why his roaming must been limited to the known regions is only because he must have preferred the places where he could find known food and game…and even known tribes with whom they could establish dialogue.
For the fear of unknown, he must have limited his life within the known regions where he could feel safety and assurance of survival, is but natural.
But how far he could have been reaching? There is no material proof available to indicate a single tribe’s journey, its original place and its travel. However, there are suggestive hypotheses that the some tribes had travelled across the oceans to populate remote islands in ancient past. What forced them out of their place of origin or region may remain speculative. It could be either because sudden climatic changes forced them to leave the known regions or it was an eternal zeal of the human being to know the unknown, risking life sometimes!
The scholars do admit that the foraging communities had lot of leisure time. What they needed from the surrounding was the food. Working few hours a day would be enough for them. Rest of the time, unlike other animal kind, there must have been attempts to communicate, making tools and weapons from the stones and bones. Evenings they might have been dancing with their early rudimentary vocal songs, may be meaningless yet with some meaning they only could comprehend. The language, we can find, has roots in the early life of the foragers.
While looking at the recorded archaeological civilizations, we cannot limit our search at that point but have to go back at the earliest era when the modern human being emerged on the earth and started thinking and express. Forager man could think. He could differentiate between useful and useless, fearsome and friendly. The elements of the early religion too can be attributed to the foragers. From archaeological proofs we find the burial practices getting more and more systematic. He must have some ideas about life after death otherwise the burial practices wouldn’t have been felt necessary. He must have envisaged the good forces, invisible but to him existent and so the bad forces. Among tribes they must have discussed vehemently on them, creating the mythologies out of their past experiences or from the rudimentary legends flown to them. Need of the creating new words for deities, demons, variety of the abstract forces and extant technologies and even flora-fauna thus was the necessity. The cave paintings of France and Bhimbetka of India give us clear hints of their life styles and weapons used in hunting, their dances and their earlier domesticated animal.
The tribal identities from kinship must have become stronger with the strengthening of the tribal egos. The totems were the early identities of the tribal clans. The struggles over power within the tribe must have caused the branching of the tribes or bloodbath within the tribes. However overall population must have been fluctuating for the epidemics and natural calamities to which as yet he had no cure. Many tribes could have become extinct. Otherwise, it is affirmatively has been proved from the fossil organisms that the health of the foragers was often better than of the people of early farming communities. The average life expectances, though low, but there have been evidences that many persons lived up to sixty-seventies.
However, no matter the first appearance of the human was a single location phenomena or multi-regional event, the fact is the territorial consciousness in the foragers was a phenomena that became foundation of the early civilizations.
How they envisaged the geography? Did they know distant regions? Had they been roaming round the earth during foraging era? We must look at the facts that the foragers had limited their roaming in the known territories and frequently came across the same tribes. Every tribe naturally had multiple tribal contacts thus sharing the information of the far away tribes. We can call it ‘Territorial Tribal Culture’ those had many features in common. Asia, Africa and Europe are the continents those are interconnected and yet isolated for their peculiar geographical features. Hence naturally the continental interaction would be far less, but not that insignificant as well. Every continental tribe’s internal and external interaction naturally would be in a varying degree. The exchanges, linguistics and of technological advances or imitations did spread across the territories because of this. We find many archaic words common in many parts of the world because of such exchanges. However, the fact remains that though there are many common words, they could not retain original pronunciations and at many a places, meanings too drastically changed. That way, there is no linguistic root to any word because there is no way to find where the word originated and what it was meant originally!
As far the known world of the individual tribe, what we understand from the history that the people did not know farthest regions. They didn’t know at all the geographical end of their known world. They thought the region intimately known to them was center of the universe. The territorial psychologies are interesting that exhibit specific patterns. Those psychologies we find reflected in their religions, mythologies and architecture and so many other cultural aspects. We find From Avesta, Rig Veda and Egyptian scriptures that they knew the world, about five hundred square miles from their respective locations. They mythologized the territories those were heard of but not seen.
River Rasa (Tigris) appears in Avesta and Rig Veda as mythical boundary of their known world. Hence the claims that new people appeared to effect cultural changes in any civilization are doubtful.
Although, as a human being, it is but natural that the fundamental features of the psychological functioning would be same, we clearly can see that the psychological patterns changing with every region. The patterns reflect in the culture, in the language and spirituality of every regional culture. No matter how geographically societies are close still speaking varying dialects. We should call it “Regional Psychology”. We should also find out why the regional psychologies differ to such extent even within the people of same ethnicity and religions!
Invention of the agriculture has been a turning point in the life of the early foragers those had turned to pastoral society by 20,000 BC. Agriculture changed his life dramatically. Although, because of excavated archaeological proofs, it is believed that the agriculture was invented around 7000+ BC, the agro-era in reality can be even older by few more thousand years than that of assumed era.
We do not know when exactly it came to the mind of the pastoral people that he needs not to wander for grazing lands and forests for food and fodder, but he could produce it. He must have observed the cycle of the nature, seeds sprouting to grow like the same vegetation. He would have come across the variety of wild plants of maze or other food. He could have actually consumed them. The knowledge of re-growing of the same vegetation after showers must have been acquired from ancient times. He even could have applied it for the fruit-yielding trees by sowing the seeds and would have observed for years in awe the growth of it, if spared by nature. However, it seems he didn’t think he actually could produce food by systematic application of the cultivation.
However at about, say ten thousand years ago, there seems sudden rise in agricultural practices across the globe. The Mehrgarh and Zargos sites are the archaeological sites those are examples of the oldest agriculture practices. What could be reasons for almost all the tribes turned to agriculture? ? It couldn’t have been new invention, the agriculture. Could have been practiced arbitrarily, may be as a fun. But he didn’t practice it as a mean of livelihood, or at the least it would seem so. We have to find what exactly could have happened that the suddenly foragers/pastorals turned to the agriculture and led to the settled life.
There is a close association of the climatic changes in rise and falls of the human civilizations. It has not only forced human being to change its living ways but cultural patterns as well. Recent examples are the decline of Mesopotamian, Indus and Chinese civilization came to decline about 2000 BC because of the gradual climatic change. The living patterns did change because of sudden rise into the aridity because it forced to look for new ways to survive under changed climatic scenario.
We have to look into the climatic history of the earth. The human being of those times had experienced cold era which is called as ice age. The period was more hostile, difficult for survival and cultivation. However, the genetic makeup of fossilized bones, dating back about 37,000 years ago, found in Western Russia suggests the continuous history of the Europeans. However, ice age, it seems, kept populations limited. But people largely lived in the same areas during the ice age and after. This is evident from the DNA of Kostenki man that was similar to the 24000 year old boy found in central Siberia. This also indicates to the fact that the people were more rooted with their known territories irrespective of the climatic conditions.
About 12 thousand years ago or little before the Holocene age began. This was warmer age. The ice melt caused in rising of the sea levels, by almost 115 feet’s. Some animal species became extinct because of this climate change. There could have been population loss during the transitional phase of climate change. Human being too was forced to change his life style. The innate urge of the survival made him to find new ways for livelihood. Our ancestors were product of Ice Age. They had experienced glacial era and had adjusted their life style accordingly with it.
However, the change in the nature, though not sudden, must have forced him to look for new ways for survival. It is quite possible that the humans would have extended their settlements to earlier uninhibited regions for end of the Ice Age would have emptied many regions of ice caps.
The beginning of the agrarian life coincides with the beginning of Holocene. This means this era has very significant and meaningful in our ancient history. Agriculture helped early agrarians to settle down in respective regions wherever he could permanently cultivate. The river valleys were natural choice for assurance of water supply and fertile lands. This was a revolutionary turn in human history. It dramatically changed his lifestyle and social references. In real sense he got rooted to the land. The territories or the regions he used to be wander about already had become further limited because of the agriculture.
As humane started settling down, except for neighboring settlers, his exchanges of the cultural advances became limited. The settled life demanded for various inventions and innovations. Implements for the agriculture, permanent houses and safeguards would have been his first need to adjust with the new life. Early architecture, crops, various utensils, potteries etc. were outcome of the needs of the people of those times.
However, this transitional phase too wouldn’t have been easy. The wars, aggressions to occupy fertile lands by the large tribes would have been evident. Many smaller or weak tribes would have been subjugated, even enslaved. The situation persisted for long period of time in human history. Even the otherwise peaceful sounding Indus civilization had to build fortification walls around their cities for protection. 10,000 BC onwards till 5000 BC we find the growth of the rural settlements all over the globe. Many such ancient village sites are found and excavated. Gobelki Tepe, Nevali Kori, Jhusi etc are such ancient sites. Many more has been erased from the pages of the history for either repetitive use of the same sites for new constructions or completely ruined because of their abandonment or bringing them in use for other purposes after they were vacated. However, the excavated sites give us fair idea about the technological advances of those times.
As the complexities of the settled life grew, the languages too took mostly independent course based on the linguistic accumulations from the wandering past. However, it clearly seems, this caused to give rise to the net of the languages. Many words, concepts, technological features, epithets, personal names to plant names, those occur in the various pan-territorial languages have roots in the remote past of the human being.
We cannot solve the mystery of such linguistic similarities by formulating “migration” theories but by the simple understanding of the human past.
Anyway, human beings gradually started settling around 10000 BC. The archeological proofs of early settlements and agriculture have been surfaced almost everywhere. In India, Kenoyer has shown from the archeological proofs that the people of Indus-Ghaggar Civilization traded with the people of Iranian plateau since 7000 BC. In Gangetic plains too the agricultural practices and settlement have been discovered that too date back to the same period, or even earlier to that. In Zargos region of Iran archaeologists have recently discovered the proofs of agriculture that dates back to 12000 BC. In short,
we can surmise that by 10,000 BC human being was almost settled on the globe. We do not trace any massive migrations taking place after that. The ambitious warring classes might have moved to make military expeditions, but largely the populations did not leave their habitats, even if they were subjugated and enslaved. They, in course of the time changed their settlement patterns, vacated earlier settlements to live in new and advanced ones. Towns and villages and temples or sanctuaries gradually were developed. The food produce in fertile lands, with help of the advanced farming equipment's and innovative ideas of canals, grew to phenomenal extent. The huge granaries found in IVC stands proof for the surplus agricultural produce. Trade of the artifacts, food and other agricultural products, such as cotton, begun with other distant civilization. Indus trade with Mesopotamia, Middle East and Iran is established by the archaeological finds.
It can be said that the cultural contact with Semitic and so-called Indo-European speaking territories through trade was simultaneous. It is a wonder, even then the scholars want to deny Semitic influence over North-West languages and claim influence of the so-called IE languages. It is equally possible that the North-Western languages of those times had some influence on Semitic languages. However, such influence means only the exchange of vocabulary and some cultural concepts. The fundamental cultural traits, including languages would have remained independent.
The civilizations thrived, reached their heights of the glory and because of the climatic changes in the end of second millennia BC the downfall began almost everywhere. It gave rise to the political upheavals. It forced people to change their settlement and life patterns. The centers of the urbanizations changed and moved to the wet regions. It does not mean the people moved to occupy new urban centers. They largely remained in the same regions adapting to the changed socio-economic conditions.
The overview of the human journey tells us that the territorial and regional consciousness in human being has very early traits. The regions they occupied from early era left inerasable imprint in his lingo-ethnic identity. It has nothing to do with the racial concepts. It was land that helped evolve the human psychology and thus culture. The early settlement patterns of the human being, though superficially same, in course of the time, we find, every civilization acquired its own recognizable distinct face.
After rise of the agrarian era, the regional languages did not remain same. The religious practices and the pantheons of the deities did not remain the same. Mythologies too took independent paths, though the basic elements, such as division between good forces versus evil forces and their epithets had roots in his wandering past. Languages too started evolving independently, based on the accululated capital from his territorial past. Way of expressions changed with civilizations to civilizations. The civilizations albeit were in contacts, mostly for trade and in case of war like situations, but one civilization could not erase the cultural past of the others, except notable exchanges. We find the polity had developed to the extent that the written treaties between the two parties to the war were signed. We have a fine example of such treaty in form of the Bogazkoy treaty that was signed between Hittites and Mitannians.
What we can understand from above is that the global cultures started evolving about hundred thousand years ago. We find the traces of his advances from, though rare, the findings from the ancient past. For example we have 75000 year old engraved ochre chunks from South Africa (Blombos), we have 60000 year old engraved ostrich eggshells from South Africa, and also we have from all over the world the paintings in rock shelters that contain geometric symbolism, suggesting the symbolic communication from 40000 years ago. The symbols are repetitive and believed by the scholars that they must have been communication symbols. Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh of India too is a fine example of this where we find the early human being expressing through art depicting day to day affairs, including his hunting expeditions and dances.
The territorial sense in him must have been evolved around 40,000 years ago or even earlier when he limited his wandering within known geographies instead of roaming aimlessly. He must have acquired knowledge of the regions, flora-fauna, animals, birds, climates and the tribes, as friends, foes or neutral, within those territories.
From archaeological evidences we can be certain that the population distribution across the globe almost was completed by this time. Later on the social cultures thrived almost independently. They naturally were aware of the neighboring and distant reachable civilizations, with which they traded the essentials even risking lives. We have proofs that the Indus people, known as Melluha to the Mesopotamians, had established their trading colonies in Mesopotamia. Such meaningful migrations and settlements in foreign lands may have been a global practice of those times.
The Indo-European language theorists often claim that the invention of the spoke-wheeled chariots and taming of the horses by the PIE speakers and their aggression being the sole cause for the formation of a dominant language family. This is against the history of the civilizations. Rather net of the languages was already formed when the earliest civilization era had begun! The tribes were sharing basic vocabularies for long millenniums while they were on move within the known territories before they finally started to settle and there onwards took largely independent course of the linguistic developments! Sine basics were almost similar, developed with joint efforts, finding such common elements couldn’t have been a surprise at all! The net of the languages was already in place. Hence, the so-called Proto-Indo-European language family needed not dispersion of some group of the people that had supposedly developed that language independently and spread it with migration is an overstated and imaginary theory, nothing else. Rather we need to find, still, why there are different linguistic groups and cultural traits across the globe?
However, we can note from the excavated pre-history that the civilizations were prospering almost on every continent and territories and regions almost simultaneously. Every civilization had their own face and characteristics to speak of, exhibiting their distinct identities. They had their independent religious beliefs and most importantly the languages. Roots of the languages, though common in every territory, the languages of the every civilizations differed significantly, almost unintelligible except of those spoken in neighboring regions. Also we can find overlapping zones of the languages and as we proceed deeper in the regions we come across entirely different set of the language.
Not only this, with every region, we find significant changes in the cultures, no matter whether linguistic or architectural or religious beliefs, though largely they fall under a common single civilization. The pronunciation patterns too change significantly, no matter even if they are speaking similar dialect! We can notice easily the patterns of the lifestyle changing with region to region. Many factors associated with the culture thus can be observed taking noticeable forms with change of the geographical region.
But we have to think on, why so?
Why we do find closely adjoining regions exhibiting distinct cultural features including languages? Why cultural patterns must be changing though the people are of same ethnicity and language families? Why, although the religion being same, the regional religious beliefs, practices and expressions do change? Why some of the regional mythologies too differ significantly though they have single source or origin?
We have seen the journey of the civilizations, though brief and cursory, has ancient roots. The known civilizations of the globe exhibit their independent expressions through religions, architectures, settlement patterns and languages. Such distinctive features of the cultures still do survive in the era of globalization.
There shouldn’t be any doubt that, it certainly is the regional psyche of the people that exhibits through their cultural behaviors. We need to examine what makes the people of the certain regions to behave culturally different than the other regions. Rather we shall probe whether region has its own qualities that make human being culturally behave accordingly or the cultures are independent of it!