Origins of Civilization

Growing up in the industrialized and now electronic world, dominated as it has been by the rival material philosophies of capitalism and communism, we automatically imbibe from schools, peers, and parents the idea that civilization is something man invented in order to meet his material and economic needs. This is why, when archaeologists look for the origins of civilization, they look for the material and economic forces that might have driven hunter-gatherers to become farmers, and to create the first permanent village communities.

But India, with its vibrant spiritual culture, its armies of ragged pilgrims, and its remarkable Vedas, raises the possibility that the real origin of civilization could be very different, not driven by economics, but by the spiritual quests that all true ascetics of India still pursue with the utmost dedication. Such a quest does not deny that the basic material requirements of the human creature must be met, but seeks to limit our attachment to material things and, in general, to subordinate material needs to mental and spiritual self-discipline.

Graham Hancock

Just as recent archaeological research has challenged old definitions of agriculture and blurred the lines between farmers and hunter-gatherers, it’s also leading us to rethink what nature means and where it is. The deep roots of how humanity transformed the globe pose a challenge to the emerging Anthropocene paradigm, in which human-caused environmental change is typically seen as a 20th-century or industrial-era phenomenon. Instead, it’s clearer than ever before that most places we think of as ‘pristine’ or ‘untouched’ have long relied on human societies to fill crucial ecological roles. As a consequence, trying to disentangle ‘natural’ ecosystems from those that people have managed for millennia is becoming less and less realistic, let alone desirable.

Lucas Stevens

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