There are reports that state that anatomically modern humans started existing about 200,000 years ago. Not much is known about the first human civilizations which appeared on the planet thousands of years ago. However, it is apparent that for humans to survive, civilization is necessary. Needless to say, the term civilization has a contested definition. So what exactly is civilization?

What is Civilization?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “civilization” is about “a relatively high level of cultural and technological development.” This is the term used to describe the cultural characteristics of a human settlement at a particular time or place. Most of the human knowledge and teachings are collections of learnings of people from different civilizations.

Some of the most notable civilizations that existed in the past are the Roman Empire, Ancient Egypt, the Chinese Empire, and the Mesopotamian Civilization. Although the list might feel a “list of the greatest empires” instead, a government is just one of the major characteristics of a civilization. Here are the ten major criteria that define what civilization is.

10 main characteristics of a civilization

1. A ruling government exists

Once a human settlement started growing, the population needs to establish a government. The two major tasks of a government are to establish laws and maintain the order of its constituents. Without a governing force, civilization is not possible, as there will be no one that can regulate human activity into civilization growth. In earlier times, the person or the family that can maintain food supply and defend the people were the government. In modern times, the rule of the government is much more than that.

2. Religious development

Religion is a system of faith and worship that attempts to answer and explain forces of nature which humans cannot fathom alone. Religious development is not specifically just about the God or Gods a population follows. Instead, it is more about a population’s way of living life and the practices they do for their beliefs. For thousands of years, religion affected cultures and the value of their followers. From artworks to moral beliefs, religion affects a lot in our lives.

3. Social structure

Social structure is a term given to describe the framework of people’s roles in society. It is a social arrangement affected by the environment, as well as the personal actions of an individual. During the early formation of civilizations, there are different kinds of roles in society: artisans, farmers, warriors, priests and shamans, and more. At present, the term is more complicated. Nevertheless, without a social structure, society will not function properly.

4. Advanced cities with bodies of water

Nowadays, human settlement can exist almost anywhere with the help of planning and development. However, during the early formation of civilizations, a city cannot exist without a body of water. Small settlements can only turn into cities if there is water that can sustain human activities (such as farming, cleaning, getting food, etc.). Bodies of water are also used for trading goods and information with other cities. Since cities are the centers of populations, this is where most cultural characteristics emerge.

5. There are languages and writings.

Language is necessary to communicate a thought, command, and information. To start a new civilization, a writing system is essential for record-keeping, lawmaking,  and creative expressions. Most early civilizations keep their trades and food records via characters, letters, and words understood universally. There are other civilizations, such as the Inca in Peru, who trained people to memorize important records. As of now, the English alphabet is a universally used writing system in the world.

6. Development of artistic activities

What separates humans from other species on Earth is its appreciation of art. Humans are the only species that can make, interpret, and appreciate art in the world. We use it for self-expression, preserving culture, and sharing of ideas. Practically, art is used for architectural function, such as building better buildings: both building integrity and aesthetics.

7. Education and literacy

A population needs to be literate to understand the language, the writing system, and the artistic activities. This means that individuals should be able to read and write using the most common shared communication used. Most functions of civilization, such as the laws of the land, would be difficult to communicate without the use of the writing system.

Education is the way of conveying experience and knowledge from one generation to another. During the early times, education was given by intellectual elites such as shamans, priests, and more. Currently, education is provided by educational institutions all around the world.

8. Job specification

How can you make any progress when you do all the work that you need to do to survive? Job specialization answers this problem and enables a city to grow and sustain itself by training specialized workers who can do the job more efficiently. One group would provide the food for the whole settlement, while other groups would provide the clothes needed.

9. Public works

Public works are benefits that can be used by all people in the population, regardless of their contribution. These structures include roads, post offices, dams, and even simple street lighting during the night. The benefits of public works and goods help in keeping the population order.

10. Food source and trading systems

And last but not least, a food source that can be cultivated is necessary to start a civilization. Once the food cultivation process is established, a city can trade with other cities to supplement resources that cannot be found in their current area.

What are the 7 characteristics of a civilization?

To be considered a civilization, the 7 following requirements must be met:
  • Stable food supply.
  • Social structure.
  • System of government.
  • Religious system.
  • Highly developed culture.
  • Advances in technology.
  • Highly developed written language.

What are the 10 characteristics of a civilization?

30 Review With these 5 Key Elements of Civilization are: Centralized Government, Organized Religion, Job Specialization, Social Classes, Arts, Architecture, and Public Works and Writing.

What are the 8 characteristics of civilization?

  • Advanced Cities. As farmers settled in the fertile river valley, they began to grow surplus or extra food.
  • Organized Central Government.
  • Complex Religions.
  • Job Specialization.
  • Social Classes.
  • Writing.
  • Art and Architecture.
  • Public Works.

What are the five characteristics of human civilization?

Civilization is characterized by five traits: specialized workers, complex institutions, record keeping, advanced technology, and advanced cities.

What are the 9 characteristics of civilization?

These include: (1) large population centers; (2) monumental architecture and unique art styles; (3) shared communication strategies; (4) systems for administering territories; (5) a complex division of labor; and (6) the division of people into social and economic classes.

What is the most important characteristic of civilization?

A civilization is a complex culture in which large numbers of human beings share a number of common elements. The six most important characteristics of a civilization are cities, government, religion, social structure, writing, and arts and architecture.

What are the common features of these four civilizations?

Answer: These include: (1) large population centers; (2) monumental architecture and unique art styles; (3) shared communication strategies; (4) systems for administering territories; (5) a complex division of labor; and (6) the division of people into social and economic classes.

What is the first sign of civilization?

Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food.

What are the 6 major early civilizations?

First 6 Civilizations
  • Sumer (Mesopotamia)
  • Egypt.
  • China.
  • Norte Chico (Mexico)
  • Olmec (Mexico)
  • Indus Valley (Pakistan)

What are the four earliest civilizations?

Only four ancient civilizations—Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus valley, and China—provided the basis for continuous cultural developments in the same location.

What are the 3 earliest civilizations?

Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient India, and Ancient China are believed to be the earliest in the Old World. The extent to which there was significant influence between the early civilizations of the Near East and the Indus Valley with the Chinese civilization of East Asia (Far East) is disputed.

What are the 5 ancient civilizations?

At least five distinct times in world history, human beings created a unique writing system that allowed them to organize their thoughts and record and transmit information like never before: the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Chinese, People of the Indus Valley, and the Maya.

Which is oldest civilization?

The Sumerian civilization is the oldest civilization known to mankind. The term Sumer is today used to designate southern Mesopotamia. In 3000 BC, a flourishing urban civilization existed. The Sumerian civilization was predominantly agricultural and had community life.

What is the longest civilization?

An old missionary student of China once remarked that Chinese history is “remote, monotonous, obscure, and-worst of all-there is too much of it.” China has the longest continuous history of any country in the world—3,500 years of written history.

What is the oldest country?


What are the 10 oldest countries?

By many accounts, the Republic of San Marino, one of the world’s smallest countries, is also the world’s oldest country. The tiny country that is completely landlocked by Italy was founded on September 3rd in the year 301 BCE.

What is the first language in the world?

What are the 10 oldest countries? Egypt, Iran, Armenia, China, Japan, Ethiopia, Greece, Portugal, San Marino, and France are the top 10 oldest countries in the world.

What is oldest city in the world?

1. Tamil (5000 years old) – Oldest Living Language of the World. Source Spoken by 78 million people and official language in Sri Lanka and Singapore, Tamil is the oldest language in the world. It is the only ancient language that has survived all the way to the modern world.

What are the 5 oldest cities in the world?

Jericho, Palestinian Territories

A small city with a population of 20,000 people, Jericho, which is located in the Palestine Territories, is believed to be the oldest city in the world. Indeed, some of the earliest archeological evidence from the area dates back 11,000 years.

Which US state is the oldest?

Augustine, America’s Oldest City. St. Augustine, founded in September 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain, is the longest continually inhabited European-founded city in the United States – more commonly called the “Nation’s Oldest City.”