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A civilization is a complex culture in which large numbers of human beings share a number of common elements. The six most important characteristics of a civilization are cities, government, religion, social structure, writing, and arts and architecture.


Cities grew on rivers and bodies of water where people could carry on large scale farming or could fish for food. As the population grew, villages became towns and towns became cities, and surplus goods could be used in trade. Cities were centers of population, culture, and trade.


Government organizes and regulates human activity. Government provides smooth interaction between groups and people. Early governments were led by monarchs who organized armies to defend the people and they made laws to regulate their subjects lives.


Religion explains the forces of nature and their roles in the world, why thing are the way they are, and provide values for living. Early civilizations religions were connected to the rulers who claimed that their power was based on divine approval or they themselves were divine.


Social structure gives civilization a framework for peoples’ roles in the society. Rulers and an upper class of priests, government officials, and warriors dominated the society. Below them a large group of free people – farmers, artisans, and craftspeople – grew food and made necessary items for the society. The upper classes wanted luxury items which encouraged artisans, and they bought food from the farmers. The population growing created trade of goods for raw materials.


Writing was used to keep records of history and important matters. Eventually writing was also used for creative expression and produced literature.


Architecture was used to build temples for worship or sacrifice and palaces and tombs for kings. Painters and artists portrayed stories of nature and depicted gods and rulers.

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