In my January writing, I spoke about the dawn of civilization, the period of prehistory when man began to abandon his hunter-gatherer lifestyle and coalesce into settlements and towns. I spoke also about how the development of agriculture allowed man to create permanent settlements, which in turn lead to the dawn of masonry. In this writing I will briefly expand and discuss some of the earliest civilizations that grew out of these first settlements.
Cities and agriculture require an abundance of fresh water; it is therefore not surprising that the earliest civilizations developed along great rivers. The abundance of fresh water and the regular flooding of these rivers provided ideal conditions, under which man was able to discern the most fundamental principles of agriculture which could later be expanded upon and adapted to more difficult environments. The Nile in Egypt, the Indus Valley in India, the Yellow River in China and the region between the Tigris and Euphrates, called Mesopotamia (from the Greek for “land between rivers”), all gave rise to early civilizations.
Mesopotamia in particular is considered to be the birth place of our own western civilization, which it is arguable, begins with the ancient Sumerians, who settled this region sometime between 5500 and 4000 BC. They were the first people known to use the wheel and they built towns and cities using mud-bricks. The Sumerians were gradually succeeded by the Akkadians, with whom they coexisted for a considerable period of time. The Akkadians were gradually dominated and absorbed by the Amorites, a formerly nomadic people who are believed to have entered the valley when they were forced out of the mountainous regions to the east by drought. The Amorites established numerous settlements in the region, including the city of Babylon, on the banks of the Euphrates around 1900 BC (although earlier Akkadian settlements are believed to have existed in the area as early as 2300 BC). Babylon would grow into the early Babylonian empire, and is believed to be the site of the earliest example of operative masonry noted in the Holy Bible, the Tower of Babel:
4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.
7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
W.B. James P. Aglione Worshipful Master 2018