The Birth of Civilization in Asia
Some of the characteristics commonly associated with civilizations, such as the building of fortifications and the use of conventional signs for record keeping, may have occurred in noncivilized contexts. Search for the origins of civilization leads back into the fateful venture of deliberately altering the natural ecological system by cultivating the soil, selecting seeds, selecting and breeding animals. The civilizations of all three regions revealed in their origins the distinctive styles and symbols that made them recognizably the ancestors of their modern descendants despite the transformations that all of them have since undergone. As archaeologists dig down through progressively earlier occupation layers in primary urban sites, they can sometimes trace the city's origins back to a simple shrine, the "ancestor" of increasingly elaborate temple complexes. Long before the first civilization with its cities and towns appeared in Sumer, the necessary preliminary stages had been reached in the surrounding uplands.