A civilization is a complex culture that develops political, economic and religious structures with a high degree of social organization. It also develops art and writing. It is a concept that is easier to describe than to define, but that has led to many debates and disagreements about what constitutes civilization.
Until recently, scholars used only a very narrow definition of civilization when they spoke of it, restricting the term to people who developed some kind of writing and had urban centers that were larger than Neolithic villages. This left out many cultures that have since been recognized as highly advanced, including the Inca and their capital at Machu Picchu (c. 1100 to c. 1550), and the West African kingdoms of Great Zimbabwe and the Yoruba with their city of Ife (c. 500 to c. 1500). Even the moundbuilders of North America, who never developed a writing system and do not fit into the typical urban definition of civilization as cities today, have been described as civilizations because they were organized, complex societies.
Modern scholars have found that there are several important factors that are necessary for the emergence of civilizations. One is that the societies need to be large enough to require urbanization and that they must have access to abundant natural resources. These resources include food, water and building materials. People in cities can use their labor to construct canals, dykes and store houses as well as temples, mausoleums and palaces. They can also work together to provide services such as public health and sanitation, agriculture, trade and the maintenance of sewage systems and water supply.
Another factor that contributes to the development of civilization is a highly developed sense of history. Civilized societies usually have a record of past events that they can study, and they use this knowledge to understand their present situation and make plans for the future. This ability to look back and reflect on the past allows a society to learn from its mistakes and improve itself in the future.
In addition to these factors, civilizations must have a certain amount of technology and a high level of education. They must also have a desire to create more than they consume. This desire comes from a fundamental human drive to live, to make things better for themselves and for their descendants. It is this desire that has driven humans to explore every corner of the planet. It is why the ancient humans who settled at Gobekli Tepe c. 12000-11000 years ago were considered one of the first ‘civilizations’. The site is best known for a huge structure that may have been a temple. It is thought that the early farmers at this site, who lived in semi-nomadic lifestyles, worked together to create it. Then they worked to produce surplus food to trade with other communities. Over time, as their population grew, they constructed irrigation canals, dykes, store houses, temples and city walls. The surplus food they produced allowed them to eat more than they consumed and to devote some of their time and labor to other projects.