Re: Civilizations (was GRB)

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Mon Jan 14 2002 - 09:27:29 MST wrote:
> In a message dated 1/13/02 8:31:09 AM, writes:
> >The "Complex large scale political organization"
> >was nothing more than a priestly caste, but I would not characterise
> >their culture as a 'civilization'.
> Running an empire the length of the Andes under a nigh-communistic
> regime requires a lot of organization. Several Andean civilizations
> had built large-scale irrigation works.
> >They had not invented the wheel for
> >transportation (something that the barbaric tribes of the eurasian
> >steppes had had for thousands of years prior).
> Precisely. Barbarians can have the wheel, and civilizations can
> lack them.

Uh, no. The American native 'civilizations' are the only examples of
such which never developed the wheel. Why? You could say because their
ancestors were stupid and exterminated useful animal species rather than
domesticated them, but the Incas did domesticate the llama, and the very
IDEA of the wheel, it seems, was not alien to the Inca, they just
prohibited it as an instrument of blasphemy.

Every Old World civilization had the wheel, sophisticated written
language, inter-civilizational trade, true large cities (i.e. over
100,000 pop), and could support the organization of disciplined and
professional martial classes (rather than just a bunch of bullies who
hoot and charge madly into battle).

> >Their 'cities' were
> >nothing more than large religious complexes surrounded by several
> >villages,
> Their cities were more than a "couple of villages". Cuzco had over
> 10,000.

You prove my point. 10k people is nothing but a small town. The capital
cities of true civilizations that were far more ancient (i.e. Cuzco had
10k in 1500 AD, while Babylon had 250,000 in 1500 BC) were a few orders
of magnitude larger.

> >and they had no metals technology beyond working with gold,
> >copper, and in a few cases, bronze. Iron technology was just beginning
> >to be experimented with by a few Toltec tribes at the time of the
> >Conquistadors.
> Which makes them equivalent to Egypt around 1400 BC. Hardly
> uncivilized.

The Aztecs, the dominant civilization in the area, along with the
earlier mayan and toltec tribes can aspire to the status of
civilization, because they specifically DID have written languages. My
original point, though, is that they did not achieve that level until
thousands of years AFTER the western, and even the eastern civilizations
had. The oldest new world civilization we know of is that of the Olmecs,
who lived in the same Yucatan/Honduras area, and which existed as far
back as 1500 BC, but were little more than a group of jaguar worshipping
cannibals who were fair stonecutters for a stone age culture.

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