V. 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 desert environment.

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 priests.

3) Each primary producer paid surplus as a tithe or tax to an imaginary deity or divine king, who then concentrated the surplus. This capital concentration was necessary to sponsor specialist activities. Social classes arose as economic differentiation arose.

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" These ruling classes conferred benefits on their subjects by providing planning and organization. Religion 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 power. There was a conflict of values between the subsistence farmers and the small yet emerging ruling class. Solidarity had 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. An important 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.)

8) Writing was developed for management of surplus and the administration of revenues compelled societies to invent systems of recording economic transactions and practical knowledge. This required 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. Cities became dependent on vital materials, such as metal or obsidian. Regular trade became an important activity in support of craft specialization. Some raw materials became valuable as social markers of classes and elite.

Here are ten criteria that represent well the above:

a) PRIMARY
1. settlement in cities of 5000
2. full-time labor specialization
3. concentration of surplus
4. class structure
5. state society (ruler and army)

b) SECONDARY
6. monumental public buildings
7. long distance trade
8. sophisticated art
9. writing
10. predictive sciences: arithmetic, astronomy, geometry

The primary characteristics are related to the organization of the community. The secondary ones imply the existence of some or all of the primary characteristics. For instance, monumental public buildings would usually indicate a powerful centralized government.