Gordon Childe: Criteria for civilization.
One of the first anthropologists to look at the question of
rising complexity was V. Gordon Childe. Childe suggested that civilization in the Near East
resulted from increasing specialization which was made possible by technological
innovations which allowed for increased production and the accumulation of
surplus. He believed that specialization of labor began with itinerant experts.
If a single village could not produce enough surplus to sustain a craftsman, he
would take advantage of the resources of several outlets. Specialists left
kinship groups and had to form new institutions, which society changed to
accommodate the rise in specialization and exchange. Childe believed that
urbanism "rescued" craftsmen from nomadism and guaranteed them
security in a new social framework. The development of effective irrigation
agriculture combined with things such as animal husbandry afforded the surplus
necessary to support a growing number of specialists. The accumulation of
surplus was assisted by water transportation, pack animals, and newly invented
wheeled vehicles. At the same time, the use of irrigation restricted the areas
that could be cultivated effectively to those near water courses and canals,
thus causing an aggregation of population. Keep in mind that Mesopotamia is a
Greek word meaning "the area between the two rivers". The Near East as
with the Nile River Valley afforded only limited arable land within an otherwise
Childe proposed a series of criteria to distinguish the earliest cities
from any older or contemporary village:
1) Cities were more extensive and densely populated.
2) Cities accommodated peasants as well as classes of full-time
specialists such as craftsmen, transport workers, merchants, officials, and
3) Each primary producer paid surplus as a tithe or tax to an imaginary
deity or divine king, who then concentrated the surplus.
concentration was necessary to sponsor specialist activities. Social classes arose as economic differentiation
4) All those not engaged in food production were supported by surplus
accumulated in the temple. (Ziggurats were religious shrines and points for
storage in Mesopotamian cities.)
5) Some officials absorbed a major share of this surplus, and formed a
"ruling class" or what were to become "great families"
classes conferred benefits on their subjects by providing planning and
and state organization merged as a result.
6) cities had "organic solidarity" based on the
interdependence of agricultural producers, craftsmen, traders, priests, and
members of the ruling class. Organization
was based on residence rather than kinship. Craftsman could align politically as well as economically to support
was a conflict of values between the subsistence farmers and the small yet
emerging ruling class.
to be maintained by ideological devices.
7) the pre-eminence of the temple or shrine was used to hold society
together, and justify the social order. Monumental architecture emerged symbolizing the concentration of social surplus.
part of each temple complex was a granary or storage facility. (In Sumerian
society, social surplus was effectively concentrated in the hands of a god and
stored in his granary.)
for management of surplus and the administration of revenues compelled societies
to invent systems of recording economic transactions and practical knowledge.
intelligible systems of recording information and this fell to the scribes of
the temple domain
9) Exact and predictive sciences were developed.
The invention of
writing enabled the leisured class to develop the exact and predictive sciences
of arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. Calendars based on systematic observation by specialists allowed for
regulation of agricultural economy.
10) Other specialists, supported by social surplus, developed artistic
expression in conceptualized and sophisticated styles.
11) Trade in necessary raw materials and social surplus was also used to pay for the importation of raw
materials necessary for industry which were not available locally.
dependent on vital materials, such as metal or obsidian. Regular trade became an important activity in support of craft
raw materials became valuable as social markers of classes and elite.
are ten criteria that represent well the above: