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Rise of western civilization
The essay portion of the exam must be typewritten with at least a page for each question. Answer the following essay questions. being careful to
respond to all parts of each question.
1. Karl Wittfogel’s “Hydraulic Hypothesis” underscores the contribution of the control and maintenance of irrigation and reclamation (“hydraulic”)
systems to the generation of complex societies. particularly in river valley areas. Robert Carneiro’s “Environmental Circumscription” hypothesis also
focuses on the rise of complex societies in river valleys. but emphasizes the fertility of the valleys. the associated human population density. and the
resultant high levels of competition and warfare in these environments. How might these theories help us to understand the association of ancient
civilizations with alluvial river valleys? Might both of these processes be operating simultaneously? What might be some other factors that underlie
the importance of river valleys for the rise of civilization? (Remember that river valleys are composed not only of rivers. but of mountains. so that in
river valleys there are frequently a variety of resources found in a relatively small area.) Using at least three examples of ancient civilizations. at
least one of which comes from southern or eastern Asia and one from the Americas. what can we conclude about the relationship of river valleys
and ancient civilizations?
2. Monumental architecture is generally associated with ancient civilizations. and its beginning can sometimes be seen even in the chiefdom-level
societies that preceded full-fledged civilizations. What does monumental architecture tell us about the level of political complexity (i.e.. hierarchy)
characteristic of a given society? Why is the association of monumental architecture with civilization so frequent? What variety of functions does
monumental architecture perform in ancient civilizations? In answering these questions. cite specific examples of monumental architecture from at
least three ancient civilizations. at least one of which is from southern or eastern Asia and one from the Americas.
3. The development of civilization in some areas may be described as a “primary” process. while in other areas it may be thought of as a
“secondary” development in the sense that the development of highly centralized political power seems to have required the previous existence of
complex societies in other regions. In particular. the role of trade seems to have been of primary importance in creating the rise of a politically
powerful elite. Utilizing at least three of the ancient civilizations that we have described in the course from Europe. subSaharan Africa. SE Asia. or
the Americas. describe the role of trade in the rise of civilization.
4. The existence of political power and standing armies as elements of coercion is often cited as the defining factor for the “state” level for social
evolution in various parts of the world. Sometimes warfare appears to have been a causative element in the unification of societies under centralized
political leadership. while at other times it seems to have been primarily a byproduct of already-existing centralized political control. Drawing from at
least three examples of ancient civilizations. at least one of which is from the Americas. discuss the connection of warfare with civilization.
5. Religion in some cases appears to have played an important role in the generation of complex societies. although it took quite different forms in
different areas – ranging from simple rites to human sacrifice. from small shrines to enormous temples. and variously practiced by priests. “priest-
kings.” or “divine” secular leaders. Great kings may simply be sanctified by priests. may be the head of the “church” (state religion). or may
themselves be living gods or demigods. Why is there such a wide range of linkages between religion and ancient civilizations? In spite of these
differences. what are some of the universal elements underlying religion as a political force in the generation of complex


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