Civilizations developing in different parts of the world show similar features and pass through the same series of stages extending form the Neolithic to the modern period. These stages are differentiated according to technological gains, economic structure, and artistic expression. An examination of four civilizations in different parts of the world extending from the period of approximately 4000 B.C. to 1500 B.C. will show some of the similarities and some of the differences that can be discerned among them.
The geographical features of China determined the development of its first civilizations, and indeed geography plays a role in all of the ancient civilizations and how they developed over time. China proper was divided into the basic division of North and South. Chinese civilization was based on intensive farming and so spread over time into areas suitable for agriculture, while it did not take hold in regions too dry for farming. The southern region is the area best suited for subsistence farming and later intensive farming, and the region is bordered by areas that are unsuitable for agriculture.
Archaeologists have speculated that because agriculture began as early as it did in southeast Asia, there might then be a relationship between this early activity and the spread of it into the north of China. It is known that there was north-south contact in terms of pottery. The pattern of settlement distribution and the nature of cultural deposition suggests that there was at first a generally slash-and-burn type of cultivation in the fields, with small rivers on one side and mountain slopes on the other. The cultivation systems is one adaptive to the ecosystem. The principal contrast to southeast Asia is in the Chinese emphasis on cereals and other seeded plants.
There were Neolithic social structures in both North and South by about 4000 B.C., and after that date interchange took place among the various cul...