I just finished a slew of library books on the origins of civilization; I have consciously avoided relexing earth history but, as they say, people are people
- on any planet, civilization will arise according to a pattern. For example, no conceivable people would invent the cart before the wheel.
Note: the notation I use for years is thus: xxK BP, where the x's are years, the K means thousand and BP = before present. Thus, 150K BP means one hundred fifty thousand years before present. K is short for kilo[thousand]
The earliest people on this planet were nomads, who roamed the great plains as early as 150K BP following animals searching for fresh grazing. Around 130K BP, as people began migrating past the mountains to their south(where the arrow is in the picture), this pattern began to change. A more settled way of life developed, based on farming. This transition occurred in different places at different times. It seems to have happened first in the Southern Peninsula about 125K BP. For the first time, plants were grown deliberately for food. People no longer just gathered suitable plants that just happened to be growing near their campsites. The beginning of agriculture came a little later to the people still living in the plains, who first started farming about 120 to 115K BP. A patch of edible wild grasses could feed a group of nomads for a month; it had only to be picked. After harvesting, the grasses grew again from seeds sewn by the wind, encouraging the group to return to the area year after year. This allowed people to stay in one place longer. The domestication of wild animals had begun thousands of years earlier on the plains, as evidenced by the countless artifacts from the period found on the much-trafficked yet seldom-settled plain. By 130K BP, hunters began catching very young wild animals to raise themselves. Once tamed, the animals provided a source of milk, hide and meat. The larger, more aggressive animals were killed off, and slowly, new domesticated strains emerged from the smaller, more docile animals. Food for the livestock was now grown on site, allowing for fences and eventually walls to protect settlements. Thus was born the Town. Living in a town was probably one of the greatest changes ever to occur in the evolution of human society, after some 20K years roaming the plains following herds.
Towns were now becoming the standard of human settlements. This notion of a single dwelling location necessitated a barrier of some kind, leading to the development of new defenses, such as fences and motes surrounding the town. These came in handy as different groups clashed with each other more and more. Though a high wall with gates was an obvious option, some early cities employed other defensive measures.
One such city, probably founded about 115K BP(and thus the oldest discovered city), was located in the west of the Southern Peninsula - and lasted nearly a millennium. The brick houses were built on a rectangular plan, one beside the other, with no room for streets. Access to the houses was through openings in the roofs, and the inhabitants went about the town by walking across the roofs. In the event of an attack, the ladders leading to the roof-entrances were drawn up, and the enemy was faced with solid, blank walls. The city was destroyed no less than ten times in its thousand year existence, and each time it was rebuilt(by the victors, as often as not) on the ruins. In this way it eventually came to be situated on a hill, making it impossible to take in open war.
The "150" on the left of the plains is ground zero for modern humans. The number means 150K BP(150 thousand before present). Ten thousand years later, around 140K BP, people had spread east over half the plains, and by 130K years before present they populated the whole of the plainsland, and even a little bit to the north, around the great lakes.
Hopefully the picture doesn't make this unclear, but by 120K BP the bigger part of the Southern Peninsula was populated by two different stocks of people - those from the western plains, and those from the eastern plains. The mountains kept them separate until they met again in the southland and established the first trade routes. As I described in the body of this post, this is where animal husbandry and, to an even greater extent, agriculture(=civilization) developed.
See that area in the east which became populated around 125K BP? They eventually made their way back up the sparsely populated eastern coastline and they will be the focus of the post after next. (the next one is about the city-states which arose in the Southern peninsula. Think: Babylon, Egypt, Sumer, etc)
I get a big kick out of playing my own language game–it’s a unique thrill only conlangers know.
- J Burke