A civilization can be defined as a complex society that has a high degree of organization, produces food and other basic commodities and advances in mathematics, science, literature, architecture, art and organized religion. Unlike barbarism and primitivism, a civilization is a system that provides peace, security and economic growth for its people. Typically, a society is considered to be civilized if it has a large number of citizens who have the freedom to express their own beliefs. Civilization also requires a stable economy and government structure.
Whether a particular human culture is a civilization is a matter of opinion, but most historians and anthropologists agree on some of the characteristics that mark it as such. These include agriculture, a division of labor that allows specialization in craft and scholarship, urban centers and a highly developed culture, including a literate writing system, standards of measurement, advanced transportation and metallurgy.
Civilization is thought to have begun when ancient humans grew enough to require a more complex way of life. These early cultures included cities, and as the populations of these grew, they needed to develop complex institutions to keep order. The institutions of civilizations usually include state-based decision making apparatuses, a sophisticated literature, professional art and architecture and organized religion.
Although the concept of civilization is not universal, most experts believe that it is inevitable as humankind evolves. It has been estimated that a civilization is formed when the population reaches about 10 million people. The need to support these massive numbers of people leads to the development of specialized occupations and scholarship, urban centers, and social structures such as hierarchy and authority.
The earliest civilizations developed in river valleys because these were the most fertile areas. These valleys also benefited from the silt they received from flooding and their location near fresh water sources. They also were conducive to the construction of waterworks that could control flooding and provide water for irrigation purposes.
Another key factor in the development of civilization is the advanced practice of agriculture, which allowed large amounts of produce to be gathered by farmers. The development of agriculture also led to the discovery of other essential technologies, such as pottery and pottery techniques that aided in food storage.
Agricultural advances also allow for a more complicated form of trade. Most civilizations have some sort of trade system, such as barter or the use of a currency that allows for long-distance trading. The development of a code of rules, the legal recognition of property and land rights, social enforcement of stratification and organized religion are also features of most civilizations.
The evolution of civilizations is one of the most fascinating questions in history. How did ancient humans manage to create the amazingly complex societies of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Shang China? How did they develop the skills necessary to live in cities and maintain these hierarchical and coercive societies? The answers may surprise you.