The Beginnings of Civilization
The word ‘civilization’ literally implies people living together in towns, and some of the earliest evidence for this development comes from the Palestine region itself. At Einan, in the Huleh valley, there have been found remains of human habitation consisting of round pits, whose sides were reinforced with stone walls and in the centre of each of which were stone‐lined hearths. There were also many burial pits. These dwellings are dated to the Natufian period which ended in about 8500 BCE. The earliest remains from Jericho also belong to the Natufian culture. The Natufian period gave way to the Neolithic, more specifically the Pre‐Pottery Neolithic era, and at Jericho a settlement of round houses developed and was surrounded by a wall—the earliest known walled settlement. On the west, a round tower was constructed. These early fortifications date from the 8th millennium BCE. Probably the key reason for the development of this early settlement was the fact that Jericho was located by an oasis. This enabled irrigation and therefore crop production, providing a constant food supply for the people and their animals, at a time when other people were still forced to move periodically in search of their livelihood. Thus the people of Jericho were among the pioneers of a revolution whereby humans ceased to rely on hunting and what was grown in the wild, and began to control the resources of nature.
Some 4,000 years later in the valleys of the Nile, and the Tigris and Euphrates, another revolution occurred which was also based on irrigation. In each of these fertile areas there were constant supplies of water, providing the assurance of a good livelihood to any group of people capable of collaborating to exploit them (see ‘Israel and the Nations’ ). In these regions, for the first time, people submitted themselves and their labour to centralized political powers, recognizing the need for permanent authority and regarding this as having the sanction of the gods. So there emerged the first dynastic rulers, the first organizers of society on a large scale. This social revolution was associated with another, the development of writing. Prosaically, the impetus for this development may, in part at least, have been the necessity to compile lists. People who submitted themselves to central organization needed to be sure that they received a fair share of what had been produced or that they had contributed a fair share of the dues. Writing was a device for recording such things as produce, possessions, and payments, thereby confirming transactions and avoiding disputes. Writing was thus an essential instrument in the process of civilization.