Sunday, April 19, 2015


            The Western Hemisphere is the hemisphere that includes North and South America; the civilizations that developed in the Western Hemisphere, such as the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs, were not as complex as those in the Eastern Hemisphere. There are doubtlessly many different reasons why it worked out that way, but it is probably important that the Eastern Hemisphere, including Eurasia and Africa, was inhabited for a much longer time and had more diverse ethnicities with longer histories, which became more competitive with each other than the relatively homogeneous cultures of the Western Hemisphere, and the competition pushed civilization to greater complexity. I would also say that the invention of the phonetic alphabet by the Phonecians was perhaps the single most critical advance of the Eastern Hemisphere. After the rise of the great river valley civilizations, history witnessed the rise of civilizations in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres (2200-250 B.C.E). Each civilization faces challenges from politics to environment and everything in between. This chapter explains how each society became urbanized even though it was very tough. Nubia, China, Olmec, and Chavin are connected though each are separated by millions of miles and geological isolation. 
            Chinese civilization may be the oldest continuous one in world history, and it has a number of enduring characteristics. [1]The uniqueness and distinctiveness of Chinese civilization is due at least in part to geography:
·         It is located at the eastern end of Eurasia and is bounded by mountains, deserts, and steppes.  To the north is Siberia, and to the east is the Pacific Ocean.
·         Its ability to have less civilized invaders who then absorbed Chinese culture and the language rather than the other way around, as was frequently the case in India.
·         Also important was the secular nature of Chinese civilization; it never produced a priestly class that had an important political role.
·          In addition, Chinese culture stresses the social life rather than the individual life of human beings, thus emphasizing the importance of relations between members of a family or between subject and king.
Early Neolithic agricultural villages appeared in China’s Yellow River Valley about 4,000BC.  Others developed along other rivers like the Huai and the Yangtze.  The earliest crop was millet, followed by rice, wheat, cabbage, and soybeans. Early Chinese also domesticated animals, made pots for the storage of grain and liquids, and owned weapons.  Little is known about religious beliefs or practices, but it is thought that ancestral worship was very important. The Urban Revolution may have occurred about 2,000 BC, but the details are sketchy, largely because extensive archeological excavations have not been undertaken. Early Chinese history is traditionally divided into three dynasties:
·         The Hsia (ca. 2205-1766 BC);
·         The Shang (ca. 1766-1050BC);
·         The Chou (ca. 1050-256BC).
Until the 20th century, most historians assumed the first two were mythical, but the discovery of Shang cities has forced a re-evaluation and the suggestion that the Hsia may also be real; its legendary founder is named Yu the Great.  Nonetheless, little is known about this dynasty, except for legends describing the cruelty of the Hsia princes.
            [2]The Hsia Dynasty was overthrown by members of the Shang family led by King T’ang, who according to early records was called upon by Heaven to oust the Hsia rulers.  Located near the Yellow River, Shang civilization centered on great city-states like the capital, which was founded by P’an Keng in 1384 BC and consisted of a walled city surrounded by Neolithic agricultural villages.  Characteristics of Shang civilization included: Political, economic, social, and religious power which belonged to the king, who with the nobility lived in the fortified cities, armies were composed of aristocrats who fought in horse-drawn chariots and foot soldiers; armies were around 4,000 troops and were equipped with bronze weapons, the Shang had a complex system of writing, and it has been preserved on bronzes and oracle bones. Furthermore, Shang religion combined animism and ancestor worship.  They believed, in the existence of a kindly and all-powerful dragon, who lived in the rivers and seas and rose into the heavens.  They also had a supreme “Deity Above” who was served by lesser natural gods.  The gods were not worshiped directly but through the intermediation of ancestors. Reverence for one’s parents and ancestors was of paramount importance.  [3]Religion was associated with cosmology, and the movements of the planets and stars was recorded.  Important for an agricultural people was a calendar.  The Shang calendar had 30 day months and a 360 day in a year; extra days were added as needed to correct the calendar. The Shang were also masters of bronze technology; it was used for weapons, armor, and ceremonial vessels. As Shang society developed, a rigid stratification system was introduced.  At the top were the king, his court officials, and warriors; at the bottom were masses of artisans, agricultural workers, and slaves who did the needed manual labor like building city walls -- those of one city required the labor of 10,000 men for 18 years.  Evidence for the lowly status of those at the bottom is provided by Shang royal tombs; some were filled with the bodies of the king’s slaves and servants, all sacrificed to accompany their master for eternity; one royal tomb at Anyang contains the remains of fifty-two animals and seventy-nine humans.
             The third of the early Chinese dynasties, the Chou dynasty originated along the Wei River, a tributary of the Yellow River.  Its history is divided into two major periods, that of the Western (ca. 1050-771 BC) and that of the Eastern Chou (771-256 BC).  A less civilized but more warlike people, they conquered the neighboring Shang about 1050 BC, perhaps because they were tired of paying tribute, or because of the wickedness of the last Shang king, one Chou Hsin. Their characteristics included: they then adopted and preserved the main features of Shang civilization, including their writing system, the practice of ancestor worship, divination by the reading of oracle bones, and the division of society into two major groups, peasants and an aristocratic warrior class, Mandate of Heaven—the approval of the gods to govern—, which gave the Chou kings political legitimacy and which justified the overthrow of the Shang Dynasty.  They claimed that the Shang had once had it, but that it had been withdrawn because of the wickedness of the last Shang king; it therefore passed to the Chou kings.  This basic idea survived into the 20th century. Because of the size of their lands, the Chou rulers set up a feudalistic system.  Trusted royal family members and military leaders were granted land in exchange for loyal and military service to the ruler and protection for the people living on the land.  Over time, some of these lords built city-states and grew very powerful, and they fought with each other or power, wealth, and land. The Western Chou state ended in 771 BC when it was overrun by barbarians. They also had Great intellectual flowering with the development of Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism.
            [4]The Chou Dynasty (1050-256 BC), especially the Warring States period, witnessed remarkable creativity in Chinese intellectual life.  It is called the time of the Hundred Schools.  The political, social, and economic challenges confronting the Chinese state and Chinese society stimulated the production of new ideas and theories.  Some, like Sun Wu wrote about such matters as The Art of War.  But, the most noteworthy is Confucius; other school of thought are Daoism and Legalism.  These thinkers are the contemporaries as well as the intellectual equals of the Hebrew prophets, the Greek philosophers, and a number of religious teachers in India. Confucius (ca 551-478 BC) is considered China’s greatest thinker and teacher, and his ideas have influenced Chinese beliefs and styles of living to the present time.
            Another civilization was the Olmec civilization. [5]The ancient Olmec civilization is now considered to be one of the earliest great civilizations in Mesoamerica.  This civilization came and went long before the Aztec empire was even thought of, and yet they left their mark on the peoples of Mexico and beyond, and developed a complex culture which is still echoed today, probably in ways we don't yet even realize. The ancient Olmec civilization is believed to have been centered on the southern Gulf Coast of Mexico area (today the states of Veracruz and Tabasco) - further south east than the heart of the Aztec empire.  The Olmec culture developed in the centuries before 1200BC (BCE), and declined around 400BC. [6]There are a couple of reasons why the Olmec’s are so important. They used and perhaps developed many things culturally and religiously that were later used by the Mayans and Aztecs and many other cultures. The Olmec’s carved stone, jade, and the volcanic rock basalt (used for the great stone heads
            In addition, the Kush (also known as Nubia) was the empire to the south of Egypt. Kush was built in at the base of the mountains, at the start of the Nile River. [7]They didn't have to worry, as the Egyptians did, about the annual flooding of the Nile to bring good soil. They had good soil. They enjoyed plenty of rainfall all year long to keep things fresh and growing. Kush had tremendous natural wealth. They had gold mines and ivory and iron ore. Other kingdoms wanted to conquer Kush and keep the wealth for themselves.  They were known as the Land of the Bow because of their many expert archers. The nobles lived along the Nile River. They thought of themselves as Egyptians, although the Egyptians would not have agreed. They lived in similar houses and worshiped the same gods as the ancient Egyptians, with a couple of additional gods tossed in, like the three-headed lion god. Unlike the Egyptians, their rulers were queens, rather than kings or pharaohs. They mummified their dead. They built tombs with flat roofs. Like the Kush nobles, the common people mummified their dead, and worshiped the same gods. But they did not think of themselves as Egyptians. The common people lived in villages. They were farmers. They were proud of their village. Each village had a leader, but the leader was not a king or queen or chief. The leader did not rule. Rather, the leader suggested and led discussions. The villagers decided. There was a place in Kush where two or more villages might meet. You had to be invited, but if invited, you knew where to go, as the meeting place was always the same. Festivals were held in the meeting place. One of Kush's natural resources was iron ore. This was the Iron Age. Everyone wanted iron weapons and iron tools. Kush was the center of the iron trade in the ancient African world. [8]To produce iron from ore, Kush needed to burn wood. Wood was running out. Kush had to turn their attention to other trade goods to survive. They had heard stories of the wonderful gold mines on the other side of Africa. It was a very long trip. The Sahara Desert was in the way. Around 750 CE, Kush tried using camels and camel trains to cross the sea of sand. It was dangerous. It was miserable. But as Kush traders discovered, it could be done. Kush turned their attention to the trade with West Africa. This was the beginning of the Trans-Sahara Trade Route.