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Abby Weitkamp


World History Honors

12 February 2016

How the Past Has Affected Life Today

Human life is split into the Paleolithic and Neolithic period. During the Paleolithic period, Homo

sapiens created cave art, simple tools and weapons, a language, and lived in clans as nomads

(followed food supply). The Paleolithic period is prehistoric because it was before writing.

During the Neolithic period (or Agricultural Age), Homo sapiens developed agriculture,

domesticated animals, advanced tools, and weaving skills. Moving forward, we encounter the

Early River Valley Civilizations that began to shape civilization into the world we know today.

The six Early River Valley Civilizations are Indus River Valley, Egypt, Mesopotamia, China,

Mesoamerica, and Africa. The acronym CARTS is used to classify civilizations. It stands for

complex institutions (government, education, etc.), advanced cities, record keeping, technology,

and specialized workers. An example of a complex institution would be pharaohs (king-gods)

ruling in Egypt and providing the link between the gods and the citizens of Egypt. Examples of

advanced cities are Uruk and Jericho, located in Mesopotamia. An example of record keeping is

the uniform writing created in China that allowed anyone within the civilization to communicate

even if the language was spoken differently. An example of technology is plumbing found in the

Indus River Valley. Finally, an example of specialized workers is found in Africa, which was an

extreme center of trade and therefore required many different tasks, which led to specialized
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jobs. Social scientists are the ones who find evidence of whether or not civilizations are


Many social sciences combine to form a conclusion about a civilization. For example, in

Mesoamerica, archaeologists found artifacts that lead sociologists to believe that they had a

government with strong leaders. Another example is in Africa where economists have used

evidence from archaeology and linguistics (such as written trade agreements and coin money) to

determine that Africa was an extreme trade center. However, geography plays a big part in the

development of civilizations.

Geography played a large part in the lives of the humans in the Early River Valley Civilizations.

Each civilization had at least one reliable source of water. For example, the source of water in

Egypt was the Nile River that flooded regularly. In fact, the Egyptians believed the Nile to be so

important that they worshipped it as a god. However, some water sources could be detrimental

to civilizations. An example would be the Haung He River in China. The Haung He flooded

irregularly and when it did flood, it was extremely destructive. The flooding could ruin towns

and destroy housing easily.

Geography also affected the migration to and development of the civilizations. Mesopotamia was

located in the Fertile Crescent in what is now the Middle East. Mesopotamias literal translation

means the land between two rivers. In this case, the two rivers are the Tigris and the Euphrates.

When humans began to migrate out of Africa, most used a major migration route that led through

the Middle East. Humans stopped once they reached fertile land and began to form small farming

communities, which eventually led to the major civilizations we still talk about today.
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The societies of these civilizations greatly influenced their lives. A leader in Mesopotamia

named Hammurabi invented the first code of laws called the Code of Hammurabi. This led to the

development of laws in other civilizations as it spreads through cultural diffusion. The law codes

greatly influenced the social structure. A punishment for someone from the upper class would

often be less harsh than that of one that was in a lower class. The social structure was very strict

in most civilizations except for a few rarities. The Indus River Valley was the most equal

civilization as it did not have slaves and there was evidence of mass uniformity. In addition,

Egypt and the Indus River Valley had equal rights between genders whereas in other civilizations

such as China women were considered inferior. African Americans were also considered inferior

and were used as slaves.

The social institutions put into place also affected civilizations. Each Early River Valley

Civilization was polytheistic and a theocracy. Priests were often at the top of social classes as

they were considered important connections to the gods. Mesoamericans sacrificed victims for

religious rituals as payment to the gods. The Indus River Valley had extreme city planning and

Aksum in Africa had the first educational institution in the Africa civilization. Our modern

institutions have developed over time from the institutions found in the Early River Valley

Civilizations. Education is now worldwide as well as religion. However, our government is no

longer based on religion because of the variety in every place of the world.

Early River Valley Civilizations have shaped the world as we know it today. We have gained

much technology such as mathematics, calendars, agriculture, etc. We have adopted and adapted

the institutions to make them fit into society today while using similar principles. Overall, the
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Early River Valley Civilizations are critical to the development of society today and will still

continue to impact life today.