What Is a Civilization?
Civilization is a period in human history when people live in society that is organized, comfortable, and able to think about things like art and education. It is the opposite of barbarism and chaos, and civilization covers a wide range of achievements by humans from ancient Egypt to Mayan and Chinese civilizations and from Western civilization to modern society.
Common characteristics of civilizations include: religion, culture, government, and technology.
Religious System All civilizations need a religious system, a set of beliefs, and God(s) to provide meaning to their lives. These systems help people feel connected and build trust with other members of their community.
Culture All civilizations have a developed culture, which shows how they live and what they value. This includes the arts, music, and other ways they express themselves.
Writing All civilizations have a written language, which is used to record what they do and what they believe. This is a very important way to communicate and learn about the world around them.
Technology All civilizations use technology to help them with their daily tasks. They can create tools, write, and other things to make their life easier.
Complex Divisions of Labor All civilizations have a variety of people performing specialized tasks. These people can include officials who collect taxes, engineers who plan irrigation systems, and soldiers who defend their cities from outside attacks.
A civilization must be able to produce a large amount of goods and services for its people. These goods and services can be food, clothing, shelter, or other items.
They must be able to organize their people into different classes with distinct roles, such as priests, farmers, artisans, and merchants. These groups of people provide a social and economic basis for the entire civilization.
These people must be able to work together to build cities and other public works. They must also be able to protect their citizens from danger and provide emergency medical care when needed.
The earliest civilizations rely on hunting and gathering for their food supply, but over time they begin to grow crops. This helps them to have a more reliable food supply and allows them to build large settlements.
Agricultural farming, herding, and ranching become the main form of life for most of the human population in the Neolithic Revolution, which starts about 9,500 years ago. This gives rise to urban communities, which have larger populations, unique architecture and art, systems of government, and a complex division of labor.
Early civilizations often unified their communities by religion, which helped people feel connected and build trust with other members. Political leaders often became religious leaders, too, as they tried to justify their power and support their followers.
Many civilizations have complex divisions of labor, which are the groups that do a specific task, such as farmers who grow one type of crop. Other people in a civilization can perform other specialized tasks, such as a merchant who exchanges goods or an engineer who plans irrigation systems.