4. Idea For A Universal History


Egypt, Sumer 
And The 'Rise of Civilization' 


Section 4.4

World History 
And The Eonic Effect

Civilization, Darwinism, And Theories of Evolution
4th Edition
The Book
By  John Landon





4. Idea For A Universal History  
    4.1 A Short History of The World  
       4.1.1 The Modern Turn: Looking Backward          
    4.2 Big Histories, Universal Histories  
       4.2.1 In Search of The Big Bang 
       4.2.2 From Life's Origin to The Dawn of Human Culture  
    4.3 Neolithic Beginnings  
       4.3.1 Fields of Diffusion  
       4.3.2 Genesis of the Great Religions 
       4.3.3 The Tower of Babel           
   4.4 Egypt, Sumer and The 'Rise of Civilization'  
      4.4.1 Sumer and The Cuneiform Civilization
      4.4.2 Egypt: A Synchronous 'Axial' Effect
   4.5 From Akkad to The Assyrians...and Israel...  
      4.5.1 The Indo-European Migrations  
      4.5.2 The Curse of Mideonic Empire 

 5. Symphony of Emergence


    World History And The Eonic Effect: Fourth Edition

     4.4 Egypt, Sumer and The Rise of Civilization


We come to the majestic first visible phase of our eonic sequence with the parallel emergence of the Sumerian and Egyptian transitions at the end of the third millennium. Right on schedule at the end of the fourth millennium we see two synchronous emergent phases bringing into existence the first period of higher civilization. This is the beginning of an epoch in world history that will endure until, like clockwork, the next phase of our eonic sequence, the so-called Axial Age. The prime innovation of this new era is the onset of literate civilization with the invention of writing. We should consider the Sumerian nexus to be, in some sense, a mainline, with Egypt a newcomer, or sidewinder, to this core area, whose previous steps are clearly visible to the north of Sumer in the Hassuna/Halaaf cultures of what we suspect, in the first example of what we called the ‘frontier effect’, is a prior stage in the emergence of civilization.

Two synchronous transitions?: ca. -3300 to -3000: the statistical region of our first transition is a bit thin, just on the borderline of our standard, and yet we can see clearly that these periods show the sudden synchronous crystallization of higher civilization in Egypt and Sumer in exact timing. The eonic signature is unmistakable, down to the rough three century transition (keeping in mind these are relative transformations). Although the data is insufficient, we can even still detect the rough point of the divide phenomenon ca. -3000, and a rapid fall off by the end of first millennium after this divide.

The overall fit of the data is too close to be chance, and the dynamics are visible from looking at the way two civilizations peak very early, and then stabilize for the next two millennia. In Sumer, the resemblance to later Greece is clear: a system of city-states yields rapidly to a string of empires. The civilization of Egypt, especially, remains almost static after the first emergence of its basic forms. That this is a stage of complexification of the Neolithic, and not the absolute beginning described in older works of such historians as Toynbee is actually a better confirmation of our thesis. Toynbee and many others are driven to posit theories of the sudden jump to a higher level that we see here, such as Toynbee’s ‘Challenge and Response’. But in our formulation the search for local antecedent causes misses the larger dimension of the eonic sequence, where the evolution of the whole proceeding toward gloabalization demands an analysis far broader than the purely sociological or environmental. The eonic model is primed to resolve the standard continuity/discontinuity debate that arises at each of our three transitional periods. Walter Emery notes:

At a period approximately 3400 years before Christ, a great change took place in Egypt, and the country passed rapidly from a state of Neolithic culture with a complex tribal character to one of well-organized monarchy…At the same time the art of writing appears, monumental architecture and the arts and crafts develop to an astonishing degree, and all the evidence points to the existence of luxurious civilization. All this was achieved within a comparatively short period of time for there appears to be little or no background to these fundamental developments in writing and architecture.[i]

We are at the threshold of the Urban Revolution, so-called. Gordon Childe notes, in Man Makes Himself:

And so by 3000 B.C. the archaeologist’s picture of Egypt , Mesopotamia, and the Indus valley no longer focuses attention on communities of simple farmers, but on States embracing various professions and classes. The foreground is occupied by priests, princes, scribes, and officials, and an army of specialized craftsmen, professional soldiers, and miscellaneous laborers, all withdrawn from the primary task of food-production. The most striking objects now unearthed are no longer the tools of agriculture and the chase and other products of domestic industry, but temple furniture, weapons, wheel-made pots, jewelry, and other manufactures turned out on a large scale by skilled artisans. As monuments we have instead of huts and farmhouses, monumental tombs, temples, palaces, and workshops. And in them we find all manner of exotic substances, not as rarities, but regularly imported and used in everyday life.[ii]

In fact, the case of the Indus civilization is quite different, and appears later in the diffusion field created by Sumer and Egypt. We can clock somewhat precisely the spread of higher civilization as State formation across Eurasia as a function distance with the Indus, followed by the Shang, and the case of the Minoans of Crete, and then the Mycenaean Greeks arising in the mixed diffusion fields of the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations.

Childe adds the Urban Revolution to his Neolithic, and we can see how the idea of revolution is groping toward our idea of transitions. There is a suspicious resemblance between the two, for the Urban Revolution is in reality also another agricultural revolution  whereby the birth of the structures of the state, and higher civil society, emerge in relation to the regulation and control of the productive surplus in forms of society labeled ‘hydraulic’ in the world of the irrigated civilization we see in Egypt, and Sumer. Look at the rise of the modern, it is an Industrial Revolution, but also still another agricultural revolution. Egypt is the obvious example of this, as the rise to civilization becomes from another point of view a new stage of agricultural industry. The immense prosperity of the Egyptian experiment ushers in a civilization with the resources to indulge in the great Pyramid Age to come.




   Web:  chap4_4.htm


[i] Walter Emery, Archaic Egypt (NY: Penguin, 1962), p.192

[ii] Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself (New York: New American Library, 1983), p. 107. Bernard Knapp, The History and Culture of Ancient Western Asia (Chicago: Dorsey, 1988), Marc Van De Mieroop, A History of The Ancient Near East ( Malden , MA : Blackwell, 2004). Susan Bauer, The History Of The Ancient World ( New York : Norton, 2007), Michael Rice, Egypt ’s Making: The Origins of Ancient Egypt 5000-2000 BC (New York: Routledge, 1990).





Last modified: 09/23/2010