The Urban Revolution

  1. Population and Agriculture

    1. By 4000 BC in some places, increasing population brings need for more intensive agriculture

      1. Large scale field agriculture replace gardening

      2. Higher population makes it possible to harness large amounts of labor for irrigation, dams, levees, etc.

      3. In Old World, development of the ox-pulled plow

      4. This new form of agriculture produces up to 50% more food than Neolithic agriculture

    2. Food surpluses allow increased population, which in turn requires ever more expansive farming and public works

    3. Surplus also significant numbers of people to work outside of agriculture, provides funds for urban civilization

      1. Creation of urban centers
      2. Monumental architecture - large permanent buildings
      3. Institutional politics
        1. creation of an independent state, rules for government, society, succession
        2. creation of taxes to run the state and distribute wealth (not necessarily fairly)
      4. Creation of class system
      5. Creation of specialized sciences and arts
      6. Development of specialization in workforce
      7. Movement from equality to inequality
  2. The Rise of Urban Civilization
    1. Urban civilization develops independently in several places
      1. Mesopotamia c. 3500 BC
      2. Egypt c. 3400 BC
      3. Indus River valley c. 2500 BC
      4. Yellow River valley c. 1800 BC
      5. Mesoamerica c. 500 BC
      6. Andean Region c. 300 BC
    2. Possible causes
      1. Hydrologicaly distressed areas
        1. too much water or too little
        2. Need for organization to build large public works - irrigation, dams, levees, etc.
      2. Environmental circumscription
        1. Good farmland surrounded by places with little food or water, such as the Nile Valley
        2. Population increases lead to warfare, as there is nowhere for excesses population to migrate to
        3. Warfare in turn creates a enslaved or subject population that victors can put to work on major public works projects
    3. New mineral technologies foster trade as well as technological development
      1. Extensive trade and warfare revolving around copper and tin resources (to make bronze) in Old World
      2. Similar trade and warfare in Mesoamerica focused on obsidian
  3. Technology and the Rise of the State
    1. Major public works require high levels of organization, and reinforce that organization
    2. Egyptian pyramids an example of this
      1. Great Pyramid built 2789-2767 BC
      2. May have used cantilevered cranes, but depended primarily on large amounts of seasonal corvee labor  and smaller group of year-round specialists
      3. Evidence shows that multiple pyramids under construction at once - as fewer workers needed on smaller upper portions, others would be transferred to new projects
      4. Shows existence of large labor pool and ability of state to control that labor, and to support specialists
      5. As propaganda, reinforces power by advertising power
  4. Writing
    1. Develops quickly in all urban civilization except the Andean
    2. Promoted by the state, which in many places employed and trained large number of scribes
    3. Furthered the power of the state by increasing ability to collect and organize information
    4. Although prompted by state, used primarily for utilitarian purposes - 85% of cuneiform tablets are commercial records
    5. Arithmetic develops alongside writing
      1. Largely utilitarian
        1. Geometric calculations for engineering and surveying
        2. Commercial calculations, such as figuring interest payments
      2. Little evidence of abstract mathematics
  5. Scientific Knowledge
    1. In general, lack of abstraction, generalizations, theories of nature
    2. Knowledge collected in lists - only possible where states employee large number of scribes
  6. Astronomy, Calendrics, Time, and Cosmology
    1. All early urban civilizations develop calendars based on astronomical phenomena
    2. This requires sophisticated and sustained astronomical observation
    3. Magic, astrology, and astronomy inseparable in this period
    4. Cosmologies (explanations for origin and structure of the universe) all mythopoetic
      1. Generally, gods are shown as transforming chaos into order
      2. The act of creation is the act of bringing order out of chaos
      3. Often, this involves separating opposites - the sky from the earth, the water from the land, etc.
    5. Babylon the most sophisticated of early centers of astronomy
      1. Extensive records of observations - first recorded observation known date to 2000 BC
      2. By 400s BC, Babylonians able to predict motions of bodies, eclipses, solstices and equinoxes indefinitely into the future
      3. Legacy remains with us today in the use of their base-60 system for mapping, astronomy, time (360 degrees in a circle, 60 seconds in a minute, etc.)
      4. Capacity to solve new moon problem resulted from true research
        1. Time between new moons varies (average=29.53 days), and depends on several independent variables
        2. Babylonians used extensive observation, mathematical analysis, and abstract modeling to resolve this problem