Why did civilization appear everywhere
Homo Sapiens had appeared and populated Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia
by 50,000 BC, and the Americas by 12,000 BC (perhaps much earlier). After that
not much happens for tens of thousands of years.
Then, after tens of thousands of years,
literate civilizations suddenly appear in
Mesopotamia (3000 BC), China (1700 BC),
and Central America (as early as 1000 BC)
Why did they all emerge at once?
Isolationism: the Sumerians, Shang Chinese, and Olmecs/Mayans
independently became civilized and invented writing at the same time.
This seems inconceivable. Why did they all do it within 3000 years of
each other, after 50,000+ years of wandering around hunter-gathering?
UFOs, Earth created in 4000 BC, etc.
Just mentioning the possibilities.
Diffusionism: agricultural techniques spread from Mesopotamia,
leading to civilization and literacy as far away as China and Central America.
The order of appearance of literate civilization is consistent with this,
but the actual transmission
seems like a major problem. Even assuming that agriculture naturally
leads to writing, how did agricultural techniques spread across the
infertile wastes between these regions?
[It has recently been suggested that some early Americans may have
come from Europe. Stone cutting techniques and some genetic evidence
points to it (Discover magazine,
This would make diffusion at least possible.]
Climate: before about 5000 BC civilization was trying to emerge
wherever there were people, but something in the global climate
stymied it. At some recent time that suddenly changed, and
within a few thousand years
civilization developed independently
wherever conditions were suitable.
This is conceivable, although it is hard to believe that
for 40,000+ years there was nowhere on earth that was suitable for
Interestingly, there is evidence from ice cores
(see, for example,
this paper, esp Fig. 1)
that 10,000 years ago the earth's climate
suddenly became not only warmer but more stable.
Was this the starting gun for the global race to civilisation?
© Mark Alford (1999)