Chapter 6 - People Create Civilizations: The Urban Wave

During the Urban Wave, beginning in Mesopotamia around 3500 BCE, groups of people evolve out of sedentary agricultural villages to develop more populous and complex urban societies. This wave marks a transition to what we call civilization and all its accompanying characteristics. Some people in the world today continue to practice conventions that are characteristic of the Urban Wave, especially its religious traditions. A section on nomadic/pastoral people is also included. The Urban Wave is further examined in three historical periods: ancient, classical, and post-classical civilizations.

On the right are links to 10 categories of teacher resources.
Most are in PDF format (requires Adobe Reader)

Author's Comments

To me, the Urban Wave was the most difficult to organize. It is 5,000 years of history crammed into one chapter! I wanted to create a simple framework in which students can plug in information without being overwhelmed by that information. I came up with what is essentially a five part organization.

In following the developmental approach, I first presented general characteristics of the Urban Wave using the five currents for organization. Second, I included a section on pastoral people, who had an interdependent relationship with people of the Urban Wave. The next three parts were a bit more difficult. In Part III I decided to follow a loose chronological approach, with development as a sub-theme. I divided Part III into three eras of civilization: Ancient (3500 to 1000 BCE), Classical (1000 BCE to 500 CE), and Post-Classical (500 to 1500 CE). I plug in different civilizations around the world into these three categories either using chronology or development as the deciding factor.

In using this periodization scheme described, I decided to use a regional approach. Civilizations are described as separate from each other. Each one has a distinct history, traditions, and culture. One of the problems I struggled with was how to convey the interaction of these different civilizations with each other. I had to make a judgment call. I decided from the evidence that regional distinction appeared to be more common during this time period than interaction. After all, the Western hemisphere didn't interact with the Eastern hemisphere until around 1500. Interaction would be relegated to a sub-current in the political currents section.

I think this approach to the Urban Wave works pretty well. The Western hemisphere isn't relegated to an afterthought in history as in a strictly chronological approach. Instead it is part the ancient, classical, and post-classical developmental framework even though the dates don't conform exactly to those of Eurasian civilizations. Also, this framework takes away from the emphasis on dates. There are just a few to memorize.

As with the Communal and Agricultural Waves, the Urban Wave does not end in 1500 but continues well into the 19th and early 20th centuries in many parts of the world. Also, parts of the Urban Wave, such as the universal religions, are still deeply entrenched throughout the world today.

I know there is a lot of interesting information missing in this chapter. I have provided links to many resources for educators to flesh out this chapter as they wish. Yet, if world history is consigned to a mere one semester course in college or high school, this framework works very well. I hope you have fun with the Urban Wave, as I have found there is always something new to learn.

Kind regards,
Denise Ames