The Rise of Cities

The Development of Agriculture and the Rise of Civilizations

The transition from tribes of itinerant hunter gathers, to planters of grains and other crops with nascent irrigation systems and crop storage systems used to keep food produced edible after the harvest season was the key stimulus in the development of cities, market economies and written languages. A much higher level of social cooperation was required for people to be able to function at this new, more stable level.

The development of nascent market economies in the town markets and between adjacent or even more remote cities stimulated the development of proto-literacy skills. The development and use of written languages is evidenced by artifacts of that writing. Most proto-writing systems for which we have enough evidence to study began as accounting systems used by early merchants to track inventories in storage or transported to remote markets, or the proceeds of the early commerce they were engaged in.

The development of city based social structures is also tightly associated with the development of temple buildings. The social role and functions of these temples is often mistakenly assumed to have been uniquely focused on superstitious appeasement rituals directed to the local “gods of the city.” While there was no doubt that those things happened at neolithic and early bronze age temples (and later temple complexes), these temples quickly developed other important ways to be useful to the citizens of the society they served and were supported by.

The often missed activities at these temples may have been more important for the development of the human societies which followed than the appeasement rituals which were their initial “day job.” The two often overlooked but critically important temple activities were nascent banking activities, and educational and academic teaching activities (including the development of the written language of that society).

The rise of nascent temple banking activities:

The nascent banking almost certainly began as an effort to safely maintain the gradually increasing cache of valuable items (including objects precious metals and jewels) offered to the god of the temple. The existence of a trusted, temple storage area (a nascent vault as it were) then encourage local citizens (or monarchs) to deposit their valuables in the vault as well. Ancient temples are also know to have become nascent community warehouses which stored caches of common value, such as food stuffs (or even community arsenals). These nascent banks are known to have routinely conducted currency exchange transactions, made cash loans to rulers or promenent nobles, and to have provided nascent “letters of credit” (in preliterate societies these would have been “promises to pay”) which merchants could use in trade with more distant cities.

The rise of nascent educational and academic activities:

The other often overlooked activity at these temple city centers was education, and training. No doubt this was initially focused on training the next generation of temple priest. These temples became the schools in which writing was developed, again initially, as accounting systems for trade and inventory control, but writing also quickly developed as a system of written communication between the literate members of more distant cities.