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Development of Early Societies

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The development and foundations of complex societies are important concepts showing how societies have rapidly spread throughout the world. These early societies have improved as humans established social, economic, and cultural foundations. During the fourth millennium B.C.E., homo sapiens existed and were problem solvers as well as great thinkers. Societies developed primarily in southwest Asia. Individual and group interests became conflicted a result of the need to resolve problems. Furthermore, a substantial improvement that led to such successful communities and great breakthroughs is the transition to agriculture. Rather than relying on hunting and gathering, people learned to use nearby rivers to create irrigation agriculture; thus, they were able to cultivate crops for subsistence.

The formation of agriculture led to the domestication of wild animals, an efficient source of food, and population growth. The determinants of status included age, hunting skills, fertility, and personality. Gender equality was related to food production since men were responsible for hunting and women were in charge of plant gathering during the Paleolithic Era. However, during the Neolithic Era, men would herd animals and women would nurture vegetation. Urbanization gradually developed as craft specialization, social stratification, and governance became known.

Shortly after the development of complex societies in Mesopotamia, agricultural societies spread to Eurasia during the late fourth millennium B.C.E. Cultivation and herding changed African societies specifically in Sudan which later spread to Nile River valley. These regions were dominated by Egyptian and Nubian societies. They were able to organize formal states from agricultural surpluses, provide specialized laborers, and follow distinctive cultural traditions. During 5000 B.C.E., herders migrated to Nile River valley and were able to adapt to seasonal floodings because waterways were constructed. Egypt was unified by Mene, a legendary conqueror. He known to be the founder of Memphis which was a cultural and political center of ancient Egypt.

Moreover, pyramids were built as a symbol for pharaoh authority and divine status. They were used as burial chambers for Pharaohs. As competition over the Nile trade heightened, military conflict rose which drove the Nubians to the south. They established the Kingdom of Kush in 2500 B.C.E. and focused in building an empire to protect against foreign invasions. Major cities were established along the Nile river which included Kerma, Napata, and Meroe. Ancient cities in Egypt and Nubia were centers of wealth therefore it was important that they establish social distinctions. Sitting on top of the social pyramid would be the pharaoh, or extreme central ruler. At the bottom would be the slaves who provided labor to support the agricultural society. The Nile river acted as a passageway that encouraged trade and transportation between the societies. Along with the growth of trade along the Nile river, hieroglyphs emerged as a form of communication and formal writing. These hieroglyphs included symbols representing sounds and ideas that adopted the Greek alphabet. Moreover, religion played a vital role in the development of society. For example, Egyptians and Nubians worshipped two principal gods, Amon and Re.

However, their beliefs shifted to the sun god Aten. This was one of the world’s earliest expression of monotheism, the belief in one god. Some other beliefs would be the revival of the death which explains why mummification became traditional. People believed in many various gods and had different traditions creating great variations among the population.

Agricultural and complex societies also developed in south and east Asia. An example would be the the Harappan society from around 3000 to 1900 B.C.E. Near the Indus River of India, this major society was built by the Dravidian people. They were able to cultivate cotton and poultry. Harrapa was considered a major city in the Punjab region by the Indus River. Similar to other societies, they also had specialized labor and trade. The Harappan civilization late had an influence on the Indian culture based on its statues, figurines, and illustrations. Although the civilization vanished by 1500 B.C.E., their traditions continued to thrive. These traditions involve agricultural practices, religious beliefs and urban traditions. Soon after, the Aryans migrated to India and relied on pastoral economy, agriculture focused on raising of livestock.

Unlike Dravidians, Aryans are lighter-skinned invaders from the north. Early Aryans did not use any form of writing; however, they would preserve religious and literary works orally. An example of this would be The Vedas which was a collection of prayers, songs, and rituals based on the various gods that they worshipped. Sanskrit was their sacred tongue and Prakrit was known as their everyday language. During the Vedic Age, conflicts between the Aryans and indigenous enemies. They established the caste system which is a social pyramid including the priest, warrior, merchant, commoner, and the “untouchables”. Much like the Indus River valley of India, river valleys made the establishment of villages and societies possible along the river banks. The earliest dynasties that existed were the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. During 2200 B.C.E., the Xia dynasty was organized and thrived through networking, hereditary monarchy, and their control over floods. The Shang dynasty lasted from 1766 to 1122 B.C.E. They left behind written records which created clarity of the early Chinese society. From 1122 to 256 B.C.E., many of the people shifted their loyalties to Zhou which was a prominent dynasty throughout northern and central China.

Each essay will summarize key points of the assigned chapters, briefly identifying and describing the societies and cultures covered, making comparisons of similarities and differences, discussing their legacies to later ages, etc.

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