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Related to Oldest Civilization: Mesopotamia


culture with a relatively high degree of elaboration and technical development. The term civilization also designates that complex of cultural elements that first appeared in human history between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago. At that time, on the basis of agriculture, stock-raising, and metallurgy, intensive occupational specialization began to appear in the river valleys of SW Asia. Writing appeared, as well as urban centers that accommodated administrators, traders, and other specialists. The specific characteristics of civilization are: food production (plant and animal domestication), metallurgy, a high degree of occupational specialization, writing, and the growth of cities. Such characteristics originally emerged in several different parts of the prehistoric world: Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, the central Andes, and Mesoamerica. However, some civilizations did not have all of these characteristics (e.g., the Classic Maya had no metallurgy, and true writing apparently never emerged in central Mexico or the central Andes). Many anthropologists now focus on a political factor—the development of hierarchical administrative bureaucracies—as the critical characteristic of all civilizations.


See P. Sorokin, Social and Cultural Dynamics (1981); R. Wothnaw, Meaning and Moral Order (1987); F. Fernández-Armesto, Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature (2001).


  1. the advanced cultural forms (e.g. central government, development of the arts and learning, articulated concern with morals and manners) associated with cities and the wider societies in which these are located. The term derives from the Latin civis, citizen.
  2. a particular society or culture area possessing the above characteristics (e.g. ‘Chinese civilization’ or ‘Western civilization’).
Historically, use of the term was often strongly, and somewhat crudely, evaluative, e.g. the contrast with pre-existing stages such as SAVAGERY or BARBARISM. See also CIVILIZING PROCESS.



(1) A synonym for culture. In Marxist literature the word is also used to designate material culture.

(2) A level or stage of social development or material and nonmaterial culture, for example, ancient civilization and modern civilization.

(3) The stage of social development that follows barbarism (L. Morgan, F. Engels).

The concept of civilization originated in the 18th century along with the concept of culture. The French Enlightenment philosophers applied the term to a society based on the principles of reason and justice. In the 19th century the concept of civilization was used to a limited extent to characterize capitalism as a whole. Thus, N. Ia. Danilevskii formulated the theory of the general typology of cultures, or civilizations, in accordance with which universal history does not exist, but only the history of given civilizations having an individual, closed character. In the conception of O. Spengler, civilization is the distinct, final stage of development of any culture. Its primary signs are the development of industry and technology, the degradation of art and literature, the concentration of people in big cities, and the transformation of the people into faceless “masses.” In this interpretation, civilization as an age of decline is contrasted to the integrity and organicism of culture. These and other idealist concepts explain neither the nature of civilization nor the true essence of its development. The classics of Marxism analyzed the driving forces and contradictions of the development of civilization, substantiating the necessity of the revolutionary transition to its new phase—the communist society.


Marx, K. “Konspekt knigi L’iuisa G. Morgana ’Drevnee obshchestvo.’” In Arkhiv K. Marksai F. Engel’sa, vol. 9. Moscow, 1941.
Engels, F. Proiskhozhdenie sem’i chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Morgan, L. Drevnee obshchestvo, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1935. (Translated from English.)
Markarian, E. S. O kontsepisiilokal’nykh tsivilizatsii. Yerevan, 1962.
Artanovskii, S. N. Istoricheskoe edinstvo chelovechestva i vzaimnoe vliianie kul’tur: Filosofsko-metodologicheskii analiz sovremennykh zarubezhnykh kontseptsii. Leningrad, 1967.
Emge, K. A. Die Frage nach einem neuen Kulturbegriff. Mainz, 1963.
References in periodicals archive ?
We have only one date so far so we can say it is one of the earliest civilizations in the region, but with more dates, we will be able to verify whether it is the oldest civilization in the region," he added.
Egypt is a great country and one of the oldest civilizations in the world," Breisinger said, adding that he is "looking forward to continuing and scaling up IFPRI's longstanding collaboration with Egypt".
The show not only highlighted the archaeological sites of Harappa, but it represented the entire Harappan civilization which is also called the Indus Valley civilization that dates back to 2600 BC - the third millenium BC and is one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
As one of the world's oldest civilizations with all its magnificent ancient cultural and religious sites, Iran has the potential of being a tourist magnet," Rifai added.
UNESCO said the "armed extremists in Iraq" were targeting "cultural heritage, cultural and religious minorities, and the documents and written evidence of one of the oldest civilizations in human history.
There existed in these times the oldest civilizations like Mesopotamian (3500 B.
The threatened resignation of Lakhdar Brahimi as UN Special Envoy shows how the international community is ready to give up and walk away as one of the world's oldest civilizations rips itself to pieces, leaving millions of people to suffer.
Turkey watches closely the developments in Yemen and it stands by the unity, security and stability of Yemen that is one of the oldest civilizations in the Middle East, he said.
Chicago's Chinatown offers a glimpse into the customs, traditions and rich culture of one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
Mind you, we Hellenes are among the oldest civilizations, having invented or perfected such bagatelles as philosophy, science, medicine, astronomy, tragedy, epic poetry, literature, the arts, classical architecture, and the greatest system of government: selective democracy based on good citizenship, knowledge, and responsibility.
Desert Silver: Nomadic and Traditional Silver Jewelry from the Middle East and North Africa" investigates the styles used throughout the southern half of the Mediterranean sea through some of Humanity's oldest civilizations.
Syria's role in history is vast as it houses the imprints of some of the world's oldest civilizations.