How do civilizations "just go missing"?

by cameo-d 15 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • cameo-d

    Here is another one. The little stars *** are to show my comments on it along the way.

    The Vedas, the oldest texts of south Asia, dating from some 3,500 years ago, made no mention of it, nor did the Bible. No pyramids or burial mounds marked the area as the site of an ancient power. Yet, 4,600 years ago, at the same time as the early civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, great cities arose along the flood plains of he ancient Indus and Saraswati rivers in what is now Pakistan and northwest India. The people of the Indus Valley didn't build towering monuments, bury their riches along with their dead, or fight legendary and bloody battles. They didn't have a mighty army or a divine emperor. Yet they were a highly organized and stupendously successful civilization. They built some of the world's first planned cities, created one of the world's first written languages, and thrived in an area twice the size of Egypt and Mesopotamia for 700 years.

    Kenoyer has been excavating at Harappa for the past 12 years. His work, and that of his colleagues, is changing the image of Harappa from a stark, state-run city into a vibrant, diverse metropolis, teeming with artisans and well-traveled merchants.

    "What we're finding at Harappa, for the first time," says Kenoyer, "is how the first cities started." Mesopotamian texts suggest that cities sprang up around deities and their temples, and once archeologists found these temples, they didn't look much further. "People assumed this is how cities evolved, but we don't know that for a fact," says Kenoyer. At Harappa, a temple of the glitzy Mesopotamian variety has yet to be found. Kenoyer's archeological evidence suggests that the city got its start as a farming village around 3300 B.C. Situated near the Ravi River, one of several tributaries of the ancient Indus River system of Pakistan and northwestern India, Harappa lay on a fertile flood plain. Good land and a reliable food supply allowed the village to thrive, but the key to urbanization was its location at the crossroads of several major trading routes.

    By 2200 B.C., Harappa covered about 370 acres and may have held 80,000 people, making it roughly as populous as the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia. And it soon had plenty of neighbors. Over the course of 700 years, some 1,500 Indus Valley settlements were scattered over 280,000 square miles of the northwestern subcontinent.

    Unlike the haphazard arrangement of Mesopotamian cities, Indus Valley settlements all followed the same basic plan. Streets and houses were laid out on a north-south, east-west grid, and houses and walls were built of standard-size bricks. Even early agricultural settlements were constructed on a grid. "People had a ritual conception of the universe, of universal order," says Kenoyer. "The Indus cities and earlier villages reflect that." This organization, he believes, could have helped the growing city avoid conflicts, giving newcomers their own space rather than leaving them to elbow their way into established territories.

    Part of that ritual conception included a devotion to sanitation. Nearly every Harappan home had a bathing platform and a latrine, says Kenoyer, and some Indus Valley cities reached heights of 40 feet in part because of concern about hygiene. Cities often grow upon their foundations over time, but in the Indus Valley, homes were also periodically elevated to avoid the risk of runoff from a neighbor’s sewage. "It’s keeping up with the Joneses’ bathroom," he quips, "that made these cities rise so high so quickly." Each neighborhood had its own well, and elaborate covered drainage systems carried dirty water outside the city. By contrast, city dwellers in Mesopotamian cities tended to draw water from the river or irrigation canals and they had no drains.

    At Harappa, standardized cubical stone weights have been found at the gates, and Kenoyer suggests they were used to levy taxes on trade goods coming into the city.

    Unlike the rulers of Mesopotamia and Egypt, Indus Valley rulers did not immortalize themselves with mummies or monuments. They did, however, leave behind elaborately carved stone seals, used to impress tokens or clay tabs on goods bound for market. The seals bore images of animals, like the humped bull, the elephant, the rhinoceros, and the crocodile, which were probably emblems of powerful clans. The most common image is the unicorn, a symbol that originated in the Indus Valley.


    (By the way, peeps, the Unicorn is one of the icons for the Royal House of Stewart which is supposed to be the continuation of the lineage of David which has been "hidden" due to the fact that civilizations began to elect their officials from the common man when monarchies went out of existence.)********

    Frustratingly, though, those seals carry inscriptions that no one has been able to decipher. Not only are the inscriptions short, but they don’t resemble any known language. From analyzing overlapping strokes, it is clear that the script reads right to left. It is also clear that the script is a mix of phonetic symbols and pictographs. Early Mesopotamian cuneiform, which used only pictographs, was thought to be the world’s first written language, says Kenoyer, but the Indus Valley script emerged independently around the same time --- at least by around 3300 B.C.
    As long as the language remains a mystery, so too will the identities of the Indus Valley elites. Kenoyer thinks each of the large cities may have functioned as an independent city-state, controlled by a small group of merchants, landowners, and religious leaders. **** (seems to be the same way the world is controlled today...politics, religion, and commerce.) ****"They controlled taxation, access to the city, and communication with the gods," he says. While the balance of power may have shifted between these groups, they seem to have ruled without a standing army. Sculptures, paintings, and texts from Egypt and Mesopotamia clearly illustrate battles between cities and pharaonic wars of conquest. But in the Indus Valley, not a single depiction of a military act, of taking prisoners, of a human killing another human has been found. It’s possible these acts were illustrated on cloth or paper or some other perishable and simply did not survive. Yet none of the cities show signs of battle damage to buildings or city walls, and very few weapons have been recovered.

    Human remains show no signs of violence either. Only a few cemeteries have been found, suggesting that burial of the dead may have been limited to high ranking individuals (others may have been disposed of through cremation or river burials). The bones from excavated burials show few signs of disease or malnourishment. Preliminary genetic studies from a cemetery in Harappa have suggested that women were buried near their mothers and grandmothers. Men do not seem to be related to those near them, so they were probably buries with their wives’ families. There is evidence that people believed in afterlife: personal items like amulets and simple pottery have been recovered from a few burials. But true to their practical, businesslike nature, the Harappans didn’t bury their dead with riches. Unlike the elites of the Near East, Harappans kept their valuable items in circulation, trading for new, often extraordinary ornaments for themselves and their descendents.

    Eventually, between 1900 and 1700 B.C., the extensive trading networks and productive farms supporting this cultural integration collapsed, says Kenoyer, and distinct local cultures emerged. "They stopped writing," he says. "They stopped using the weight system for taxation. And the unicorn motif disappeared." Speculation as to the reasons for the disintegration has ranged from warfare to weather. Early archeologists believed that Indo-Aryan invaders from the north swept through and conquered the peaceful Harappans, but that theory has since been disputed. Most of the major cities dont show evidence of warfare, though some smaller settlements appear to have been abandoned.

    (You can read more about it here. and also here

    Have any of you ever contemplated how many civilizations "just go missing" without an explanation? Archeological digs for this one only started 12 years ago.

  • Hortensia

    that's really interesting, thanks for sharing. Now to go back and read more.

  • PrimateDave

    Very interesting post! In the past year I read a book that attempts to address that issue:

    Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is a 2005 book by Jared M. Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles. Diamond's book deals with "societal collapses involving an environmental component, and in some cases also contributions of climate change, hostile neighbors, and trade partners, plus questions of societal responses" (p. 15). In writing the book Diamond intended that its readers should learn from history. (From the Wikipedia article.)


  • Pahpa

    The same puzzles exist with more recent civilizations here in the Americas. We have the great civilizations of the Olmecs, the Toltecs and Zapotecs that disappeared after reaching their zeniths. Was it the environment? Was it overpopulation? Was it war? There will probably never be a definitive answers since few if any written records are left. All we have is the ruins with a few glyphs on some monuments to decifer.

  • Satanus

    If it's true that harappans had no military, then they were ripe for picking by the first invaders from the north. There have been many waves of conquerers from there, including persians, greeks, mongols, to name a few. Not much mystery to their demise. Their irrigation system merely needed to be destroyed.

    The peaceful hindu history is a fabrication put together by the british together w some indian powers, who have a stake in history. Their own ancesters were invovlved. In that past, the indian violence of the last few decades is a mere continuation.


  • Satanus

    Whoever put that together hasn't read the holy books, which write a lot about warfare.


  • Bumble Bee
    Bumble Bee

    Thanks for posting this. I find this subject facinating!


  • Leolaia

    Whatever happened to the Kingdom of Burgandy, the Kingdom of Leon, the Caliphate of Cordova, the Bulgarian Empire, Mazovia, Zeta, the Kingdom of Aragon, Wallachia, and all the other civilizations of medieval Europe and the Mediterranean? These states and kingdoms and political entities have all vanished but the descendents of these peoples still exist, whether absorbed into new populations or having formed later states under different names. Cultures may change due to warfare or subjugation -- think of what happened to the Moors in Spain -- now there's a "lost civilization". The problem with antiquity is that we lack the kind of information we have about more recent times. The Harrapan civilization contributed to the later population of India -- but exactly how? Were they Dravidians or some other group? At least in the case of the Sumerians we can say that this "lost civilization" was absorbed into the later Akkadian civilization, which was absorbed into the Old Babylonian and Neo-Babylonian civilizations, which was absorbed into the Persian empire, which was then absorbed into the Seleucid kingdoms, which was then absorbed into the kingdom of Parthia, which was then absorbed into the Omayyad Caliphate, which 1300 years later eventually has modern Iraq as one of its heirs.

  • cameo-d


    you hurt my head like op art hurts my eyes.

    Too much to think about ...and there's more.

    Another civilization I was reading about recently, the Anasazi (which was in the USA) seemed to have "gone missing" due to cannibalism. They ate all the kids, then eventually the old lineage died out because no one reproduced anymore.

  • PrimateDave

    Jared Diamond deals with the issue of cannibalism in his book. However, he makes it plain that the descendants of the Anasazi very likely live on in the south west United States today or at the very least migrated to more favorable areas for settlement. Yes, there was a die-off, but it was not complete and rarely is except in the most extreme of circumstances.

    Jared Diamond presents a pretty detailed account of the occupation of Greenland by the Norse which lasted for several centuries. It seems that once the Norse settlements became isolated from Europe, they were unable or unwilling to adapt to a way of life more like the other North American inhabitants that they came into contact with. In the end there is no evidence that they were absorbed into any of those groups, nor did they return to Iceland or Europe. In this case they completely died off.

    Speaking once again of cannibalism, Jared Diamond takes a look at the history (and prehistory) of Easter Island. For a time the small island in the eastern Pacific supported a fascinating civilization which eventually overshot its resource base and collapsed. By the time European contact was established, the population had crashed from its estimated high point. Even so, the descendants of that civilization live on today.


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