Getting back to my special topic, after a long lay off, let me start off with a question. How long does a civilization last, in all its glory. As pointed out earlier, none of the ancient civilizations ever died out entirely. The guys who lived in Mohan Jo Daro and Harappa quit long ago, leaving only the ruins. Most of us think we know what happened to the Mayans. Mesopotamia exists no more. But the people who created these ancient glories, are probably still around in some gene pool.
But that is not the question. The question concerns the peak and slow decline of these cultures. With my limited knowledge of history, it seems to me that the duration of the peak and the speed of decline, as wel as the speed of the ascend, have all accelerated.
Which, once more, brings me to my favourite topic: Do civilizations have something like half live for radioisotopes?. Funny question. But I suspect there is something in that.
I got a comment on the post on Indus Valley Civilization from cyavhn. The comment was: “Indus valley civilization didn`t die…it evolved into classical Indian culture…”
Thanks for the comment on Indus Civilization. Actually I didn’t mean that Indus Valley Civilization ‘died’. None of the great civilizations ever really die. They just go into a prolonged old age. Some recuperate from this senility and bounce back with all the old vigor that made them great in their best days. Others drag on. But all the civilizations I have mentioned are still alive.
The point or rather the points, I was trying to get across is that
1. Civilizations appear to have a sort of exponential decay
2. The rapid development of modern age has shortened the half life of the civilizations.
I have taken the approximate period from which recognizable, centralized governments evolved in these cradles of ancient human society. Going further back into the pre-agrarian age doesn’t figure here. Starting from the centralized age, so to say, there is a upward peak lasting some centuries, followed by a crest of glory, and then a slow decay. This is rather like a skewed distributionb curve with the skewness to the left.
So is there some way in which we can develop a formula for predicting how long a culture will last. Why is this important? The answer should be obvious. More of this in subsequent posts.
I am sorry about deleting your comment. But it appeared just as I had deleted the entry in order to combine the three posts. I will post this reply in my blog.
(PS: I did warn you. I can get quite ponderous at times)
Here is a brief resume of three great ancient civilizations, the barebone stuff on just about how long they lasted. The actual dates mentioned are open to question- but is ther much to argue about if I state that they lasted about three millenia ?
1. Nile: The Nile valley civilization of ancient Egypt is usually regarded as dating from 3100 BC and ending in 31 BC with the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra by Octavian (Caesar Augustus). That is about 3000 years.
2. Mesopotamia: Almost from 9000 BC when the first agricultural societies were formed to 500 BC when Cyrus, the Persian warrior conquered Babylon. However if Sumerian occupation of the Euphrated basin is taken as the starting point, this comes to about 3000 years again, because the Sumerian period began around 3500 BC.
3. Indus: Probably the shortest of the three, Indus Valley civilization is believed to have lasted from 3500 BC to 1750 BC. That is about 2000 years.
I propose that all civilizations have a normal life expectancy which is gradually shrinking with time. (An observation not quite in the league of General Relativity, perhaps).
But looking at the great river valley civilizations like the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Indus valley it is possible to see a pattern. A period of childhood, youth, middle-aged maturity and finally senecesance. With the shrinking of time and distance by modern technology the longevity of cultures have come down. The British Empire didnot last quite as long as the Roman.
In the light of this hypothesis, it would appear that dominant cultures of today will inevitably succumb to thier built in destiny in about 500-1000 years.
(If you think is ponderous, wait till I blog some more. Odd, huh !)