So, having learned my lesson, I’ll stick to something I know a little better. Interesting little fact, wheat was first domesticated in Mesopotamia around 8000 B.C.E., about the same time as rice in China. By that I don’t mean they were discovered then, or that someone started using either crop as their mainstay food then. I mean that 8000 was about the date when both crops were first planted and sown as crops. However, our ancestors soon realized that both grains gave people an abundance of calories and that the soil had no trouble growing them. Humans became sedentary for the first time at that point, and over the next few hundred years knowledge of wheat and rice as well as the art of farming spread throughout Eurasia north of the Sahara.
Second piece of information, books have been saying since I first started reading history that civilization started in around 5000 B.C.E. and the first kingdoms show up around 3100 B.C.E. By civilization they generally mean pottery and trade routes as compared to only shared symbols and knowledge of craftsmanship.
Simple question then, what happened for the three thousand years between the cultivation of wheat and rice on the one hand and the first civilizations (Yangtze/Indus/Mesopotamia/Nile river valleys) on the other?
Actually, the given history is a little different than all that. Prehistoric hunter/gatherers had been migratory, following herds but also living off a region before moving on. Four times a year whatever bands were nearby would gather at communal meeting places throughout Eurasia and trade ideas, crafts, and occasionally people who had decided to partner with someone (generally that was men going to the woman’s tribe, but that’s another blog). Cultures developed and spread that way. When groups started settling in the river valleys, they kept ties to nearby settlements out of tradition. New cultures developed from the old, but they were also sedentary. The date for pottery varies but in all the areas I mentioned they were in use centuries before 5000.
All that can be summed up easily with the acknowledgment that civilization began almost the moment grains were domesticated. The confusion seems to be over political development. The first settlements worked much as the tribal organization had, with elders guiding the community but no real political hierarchy. There was really no need for it. Larger groups could live together and trade as they had when they were migratory. Even the development of city-states wouldn’t have changed that fact.
Cities with rulers and bureaucracy took awhile longer. Settlements and large populations were able to settle along the river valleys, but not everyone took advantage. Instead, many neighboring tribes (Nubians, Elamites, Mongols) saw the prosperous settlements as resources to be exploited. Villages would in time respond to the threat with a militia, standardized protection, weapons, a wall and inevitably, a leader. That happened in the years before 3100 B.C.E. 3100 is only significant because it was in about that year that the first kingships appeared. Tradition has it that Menes conquered the last of Egypt at that time, for example.