A Critical Review on the Rise of Civilization, the Formation
A Critical Review on the Rise of Civilization, the Formation of the State, and Early Slavery
—The significance of the cross-cultural approach to the debate about Chinese Prehistory
First draft on December 31, 2006
Revised on May 25, 2007
Translated into English on July 19, 2007
Abstract The rise of the civilisation could be determined by the formation of a class society, emergence of the cities, beginning of writing, etc. Among these criteria, beginning of writing is the most critical point and the only unique creation of this stage of socio-economic development, which forms the basis of effective and systematic governmental administration, and allows the subsequent development of mathematics, literature, history, laws, etc. By this criteria, Mesopotamia and Egypt established their civilisation in the early part of the 3rd millennium BC, Minoa established its civilisation in the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, while China established its civilisation in the later half of the 2nd millennium BC. On the other hand, the formation of the state should be judged by its ability to control the natural and human resources. Formation of the state could predate civilisation, as in the case of Uruk of Mesopotamia, Kot Diji of Indus Valley, and Shang of China (thus called pre-civilisation state); or it could be simultaneous with it, as in the case of dynasty 0 of Egypt and the Protopalatial Period of Minoa. There is no precedence of civilisation predates the formation of the state, which also suggest a positive impact of civilisation on social development including the formation of the state. As an example of the rise of the earliest form of the state in the Aegean, Minoa society especially its burial practise is further examined to demonstrate its collectivist and egalitarian characteristics, and to dispel the persistent myth among the Chinese scholars that the earliest form of the state and civilisation must always be based on slavery. In addition, it is demonstrated that prehistorical wars, massacres, and human sacrifices predated slavery and should be viewed as indicators that the society has not a slavery-based economy. By cross-cultural comparison, it is shown that the legendary Xia, which supposedly existed in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC, has not been substantiated considering the available evidences especially the fact that location and period of the alleged-Xia cannot be matched with any particular archaeological culture. By investigating the historical literature, it is proposed that Xia, if it ever existed, belonged to the stage equivalent to a proto-state. Finally, critical analyses of the orthodox Confucian tradition on the early prehistory were given to demonstrate its logical inconsistency, and point out that early prehistory is typically a product of cultural construct and a reverse projection of the later historical developments.
In recent years, the debate regarding the origin of the Chinese civilization and the authenticity of the legendary Xia continues without a sign of reaching consensus. The key of this debate is about how to define civilization and the state. Hence, the issues are not to be resolved by a few excavations in the Yellow River basin; instead, it need to be investigated within the larger historical background of the overall development of the human civilization.
The progress in biological sciences has revealed to us that all the branches of the humanity dwelling on the earth share a common origin. The biological common origin predetermined the common origin of the social morphology including the ideology. The difference in their living environment produced various social structures, operational modes, and experiences of the different nations, but the basic principles governing the process of national differentiation is common. We could compare two nations with the decimal number and the fraction, which obey the same fundamental rules of operation; or we could compare them to human and lichen, the life process of both being determined by the same genetic material: double helix DNA. The underlying basic principles were called "Dao" by the ancient Chinese philosophers. Lao Zi gave a succinct summary on Dao: "Dao is predetermined by Nature."
Hence, we are not surprised when the development history of the early civilizations in Anatolia and Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Aegean, China, The Hindus Valley, and Central America all experienced the Neolithic Revolution, development of metallurgy, differentiation of labor, invention of writings, rise of the matured form of religions, and the formation of the states. The issues pertaining to the definitions of the civilization and the state is nothing unique about the Chinese prehistory. We are looking for a common, fundamental criteria for both, which form the center of the discussions here, where the basic underlying principles constitute the rational for any kind of cross-cultural approaches.
The Definition of the Civilization
The emergence of the civilization was often associated with the formation of the complex society, which is almost always a class society. Hence, the complex society is an economical concept related to economic polarization and the dominance of the socio-economic activities by the property owners. It is a result of surplus creation. From such a society, a state will be formed soon, accompanied by highly developed a religion(s), large-scale warfare, and slavery.
Archaeologically, civilization could be more conveniently defined as the rise of the cities, as it symbolized a sophisticated agriculture that could reliably produce sufficient surplus to sustain a non-agricultural population of craftsmen, trades, soldiers, the gentile class, and, above all, the rulers. As the social labor was differentiated, the production and the trade processes was also differentiated into two sectors, one serving the basic needs of the commoners, the other serving the needs for the luxuries of the elite, including the palace, the temple, and the loyal tombs. From this perspective, the emergence of the early cities was also an economic criteria related to the agricultural development, surplus production, and economic polarization.
So far, we have not yet come across with the cultural development, such as the writing, mathematics, literature, historical records, etc. By focusing on the material culture, the concept of civilization would inevitably be reduced to an economic definition and become synonymous with the class society, or perhaps the state. As soon as we touch upon the cultural development, the invention of the writing becomes a precondition of the other aspects of the culture, including mathematics, literature, history, law, and even the daily administration. Without writing, even a strong social apparatus would represent nothing more than the peak of uncivilized society rather a nascent civil society; it would be the end of a long chain of development rather than the departure point for new developments.
In Mesopotamia, social polarization could be identified as early as the Ubaid Period (5700-3750 BC) according to the burials practice as well as the division of the town Eridu into three residential zones: near the temple lived the upper class, followed by the craftsmen, and, eventually, the farmers in the peripheral areas. During the Uruk Period (4100-3150 BC), the largest city had a population exceeding ten thousands. In the late Uruk Period, the magnificent temples of Eanna and Anu were built. An alabaster vase of more than a meter in height was found in the Eanna Temple, with the relief showing the nude farmers dedicating the produces to the female priest, which obviously should be considered as an ancient form of taxation. Among all the elements related to civilization, the writing was still in the early stage of development. Some primitive sign were already in use as early as 5500 BP, but real cuneiforms did not appear until the Jemdet Nasr Period (3150-2900 BC), which matured around the boundary between the ED-II and the ED-III Periods (2600 BC). The exaggerated reigns of the early kings in the Sumerian King List show that the Gilgamesh era (ED-I and ED-II) still belonged to the legendary time, whereas the ED III Period belonged to history. Interestingly, the time when the Sumerian writing matured coincided with the boundary between the prehistory and the history. The literature tradition symbolized by the books of Gilgamesh appeared not long thereafter. Obviously, the invention of the writing was the last and the most critical stage in the development of the Mesopotamian civilization.
The invention of the writing was not only the critical turning point in the development, but also a unique innovation of this period. In contrast, signs of social polarization and the early religions have been discovered in the early to middle Neolithic Period. The residential area in the Catal Hoyuk site (8000 BP) in Anatolia could be classified into the larger houses with ceremonial facility and the smaller ones without, suggesting an early polarization. The residential areas in Jiangzhai near the Yellow River could also be classified into two to three ranks. In addition, the burial studies suggest that the Hemudu Culture, the Beixin Culture, and the Dawenkou Culture (6000-7000 BP) all belonged to class societies. As far as the city is concerned, some historians believe that Jericho (9000 BP), Catal Hoyuk (8000 BP) and Hacilar (7000 BP) should also be admitted.
Warfare was once considered a phenomenon associated with the civilized societies. Now, this is in doubt since. The population increase in the West Asia during the early Neolithic could have caused soil erosion, resource depletion and famine within a few centuries of the invention of the agriculture, and thus produced regional conflicts. The destruction of some of the early Neolithic sites could be associate with the early warfare. The fortification of Jericho and Tell Maghzaliya provided some circumstantial evidences.
The interpretation of the social polarization based on archaeological evidences receives supports from ethnological studies. When Polynesia was discovered the European colonialists, it was still in the stage of Pre-Potary Neolithic Period with limited agriculture without grain cultivation. Nonetheless, the Polynesian society was already differentiated into the ruling elite and the commoners without intermarriage. In effect, the two classes could be regarded as two castes. The ruling elites were the landowners, and had the right to kill the commoners. The head ruler (chieftain) was inherited along the male line. Election of the chief was only found in Samoa. In reality, the commoners were similar to the serfs. They provided the ruling elites by a tributary system. In larger islands such as Tahiti and Hawaii, a middle class has already emerged. In general, however, As the social polarization was limited by the perishable nature of the surplus, which could not be accumulated as capitals. Polynesian tribes also engaged in their unique brand of warfare, often conducted according to unwritten rules of honor, although the POW would be routinely eaten. The Polynesian chiefs were also their religious leaders. Their religious doctrines teach a heaven divided into the riches and the poor: the rich in this world will enter the rich part of the heaven, and vice versa.
In summary, inherited monarchy, association between the political and religious organizations, and warfare could exist in a rather primitive agrarian society without highly developed civilization based on both archaeological and ethnological evidences. On the other hand, writing, literature, history, and law did not appear until much later and symbolized a higher stage of development not seen until the onset of the Bronze Age.
Writing is also the most tenacious element of the civilization. Cuneiforms remained in use in the first century AD, and the hieroglyphs survived into the fifth century. The Mesopotamian political system ceased to exist at the time of the Persian invasion at 539 BC. It was outlived by the Sumerian writing by at least six centuries. The Egyptian political system was terminated by the Macedonian invasion at 332 BC. It was survived by the hieroglyphs by eight centuries. The death of the writing marks the final death of a civilization. Could anyone truly understand the Chinese civilization without learning the Chinese language? Evidently, the writing is the carrier of the civilization, and the core element.
The inquiry above has demonstrated that the invention of writing was the second milestone since the Neolithic Revolution. The first one was the invention of agriculture. It reduced food dependency on the nature, and enabled the creation of surplus, and triggered a whole series of events including the rise of the state and the invention of the writing. Some historians believe that agriculture could be considered the beginning of human civilization. In the second stage, the invention of the writing overcame the dependency of individual memory, enabled the spread of experience and ideology over time and space, and thus laid down the foundation of philosophy and science. If agriculture represents a transcendental event over nature, the invention of the writing represents a transcendental event over biological limit of the individuals. Should we desire to give a conservative indicator to mark the beginning of the civilization, there is nothing more proper than the invention of the writing.
The agriculture provided the material base for the civilization, but there is a large delay the potential could be realized. Mesopotamia became an agrarian society in the PPN-B Period. Nemriq, M'lefaat, Mazgalia at 9000 BP, and Jarmo, Ali Kosh, Ganj Dareh at 8000 BP reached this milestone, merely several centuries behind Muryebat and Abu Hureyra, the cradle of agriculture. Civilization did not appear until ca. 4600 BP.
Compared to the slow process in Mesopotamia, the Nile Basin developed its agriculture at ca. 6000 BP, while civilization already appeared in the Upper Egypt just one millennium later (3200-3100 BC), while the recorded history appeared in the later part of the Second Dynasty (2700 BC), slightly ahead of Mesopotamia. In the Aegean, agriculture spread to this region from Asia Minor even before the invention of pottery (Franchthi, Thessaly in the mainland and Knossos in Crete), about the same time it appeared in Mesopotamia, whereas the writing only invented at the beginning of the MM I Period at Knossos.
It is still premature to say when the Chinese agriculture started, but the civilization certainly appeared in the later part of Shang Dynasty, when the Mediterranean area including Egypt was in the Late Bronze Age. Some archaeological discoveries in the recent years indicate that the Longshan Culture in Shangdong, and possibly the Liangzhu Culture in Zhejiang might have developed their own writing systems before the writing system of Shang on the oracle bones and shells made its debut. As the Shang people came from the east, it is possible that they brought their writing to the central China when Shang Dynasty was founded.
Here, I have touch on the topic of the Dinggong writing on the broken pottery, which was allegedly discovered in 1992 in central Shandong. The inscription could be interpreted with the modern Yi Language in the southwestern China. If this discovery could be authenticated, the earliest writing in China was not invented by the Chinese (the Hua-Xia people) but by the Yi ethnic group in the eastern China, which was subjected to purges by the Chinese kings and emperors from the prehistory until middle of the Imperial Period. But the recent discovery of the oracle shells from the late second millennium BC in Daxinzhuang, also in central Shandong, has caused some doubt about the alleged earlier finding.
Finally, the inscription on the potteries from the Banpo and the Jiangzhai sites are unlikely to be connected to the Shang writing system, as the two cultures were more than two thousand years apart. Based on the early experience of the writing systems of the other civilizations in Eurasia, a writing system matured within several centuries after the appearance of its initial prototype, and the process was always associated with the rise of the state (if the state had not actually predated the writing). It is a reflection of the important significance of the writing for the social progress. It is inconceivable that this process could be dragged out into such the great time span of more than two millennia in China unless a special reason could be offered to explain this anomaly.
In any event, the invention of the writing in East Asia is no longer monopolized by the Hua-Xia group, the alleged ancestor of the Han Chinese people. In contrary, it involved various ethnic groups along the Yangtze River and the Yellow River. Some historians believe that the different writing systems could have merged together to form the Han writing system. But there is no evidence to back up such a claim. The different writing systems were probably competing with each other, and the ultimate winner was the Shang system.
The Relation between the Civilization and the State
The establishment of the early state was a result of power consolidation process when it reached certain threshold. For the study of prehistory, the scale of the site and the architectural standard was objective criteria related to the control of the human resources and the natural resources by the ruling class, and thus it represented the extent of power consolidation. Another parallel process was the appearance of a dominant, highly organized religion. Unlike the small-scale, dispersed worship based on the tribal units or villages, the new religion was based on the city-state and closely linked to the political power.
During the Uruk Period, Uruk was the largest city in the world spread over an area of eight hundred thousand square maters. There were two major temples, Anu Temple and Eanna Temple. In the latter early writings in the form of financial records were found. It is believed that the head of the state was also the religious leader in charge of the temple administration including taxation. Thus, the religion and the state were one and the same. Uruk set up colonies or trading posts in remote areas. The weapons discovered in the Eanna Temple suggest frequent warfare, presumably related to the colonial policy of the state. The highly consolidated political power enabled an effective control over the resources in the entire Mesopotamia and its peripheral area extending into Turkey, Syria and Iran. Therefore, it could qualify as an early state (some called it an empire).
Nevertheless, the Uruk Period as a whole was still in the pre-civilization period. It was without historical record, written law, and literature. It is not clear whether the political structure was a hereditary monarchy. Some believe that the heads of the state ("EN") were civil servants because they left no name behind. But this argument is unconvincing. Many of the hereditary vessel kings in Zhou also did not leave their name behind, even though their titles were hereditary. If we are to trust the description in the Sumerian King List on the pre-flood period, the head of the early Mesopotamian states were hereditary monarchs.
The appearance of the writing started a new page in the history of Mesopotamia. During the period of 2500-2000 BC, archives were established in Nippur and other cities. About the same time, the earliest historical records and literature works also came into being, followed by Hammurabi Code (ca. 1763 BC). This was also a period of economic prosperity. The area of Uruk increased to 4.5 million square meters, surrounded by a city wall of 9.5 km. Nippur also expanded to 1.35 million square meters duing the Ur III Period. Hence, the Uruk Period was pre-civilized state, while Akkad, Ur III and the Old Babylonia were civilized states. The ED Period in between was a transitional stage when the writing developed and matured.
Kot Diji was another pre-civilized city-state, located in the Hindus Valley. The discovered signs of four or five hundreds identified so far that were related to the Harappa Culture were insufficient for recording spoken languages. These were still prototypes of writing rather than matured writings. Thus, the Harappa Culture was not a true civilization. The social development in the Hindus Valley paralleled that in Mesopotamia as the state predated the civilization. The Harappa signs probably represented another case of aborted civilization.
The pre-civilized state, however, did not existed in the history of all the civilizations. In Egypt, hieroglyphs have been developed at Dynasty 0, the earliest Egyptian state. In Minoa, pictographic writing was invented in the Proto-Palatial Period. In these two civilizations, the rise of the state was accompanied by the invention of the writing. The fast rise of these civilizations apparently benefited from the availability of the writing system.
Anywhere we look in the ancient world, there is no precedence that the rise of the state lagged significantly behind the invention of the writing. Either the state appeared first before the writing, or they appeared about the same time. Either way they were closely related phenomena. we should never underestimate the accelerating effect of the writing on the social progress.
Going back to the East Asia, the existence of Shang is not in doubt anymore. It is equally true that the Shang writing appeared around its later period (ca. 1300 BC). Even the prototype could not be much earlier. Consequently, the early states in central China, including the early Shang, and possibly Xia (if validated), all belonged to pre-civilized states. From this perspective, the concept of the "Xia civilization" has no validity whatsoever, unless we defined it as an "agrarian civilization", a concept equally applicable to the archaeological cultures of Peiligang, Cishan, Dadiwan, Laoguangtai, Yangshao, Hougang, Dahecun, Miaodigou, Shenkezhuang, Majiayao, Jijia, Dawenkou, Longshan along the Yellow River, and Pengtoushan, Chengbeixi, Daxi, qujialing, Shanbei, Qinglongquan, Beiyingyangying, Maojiabang, Hemudu, Liangzhu along the Yangtze River, among others.
The true turning point in the prehistory was the invention of the writing during the Shang Dynasty. The attempt to lump together the "Three Dynasties" from the legendary Xia to Zhou as proposed by Su Bingyi in his "fang-guo" theory is quite meaningless. The concept of fang-guo meant something like a vessel kingdom, which is not an independent political entity and should never be used to delineate the central power. Dragging the unproved Xia into his model is another blunder in theoretical reconstruction.
The "gu-guo" (ancient state) that presumably predated "fang-guo" was also theoretically unsound. The Hongshan Culture was used as a model for the "gu-guo" stage. Unfortunately, the Hongshan pottery was rather primitive and crude, possibly below the level of Laoguangtai and Yangshao in material culture. But Su put his emphasis on the social hierarchy of the tombs and the religious worship evidenced by Niuheliang Temple (ca. 3000 BC). It has been demonstrated earlier that the social hierarchy and the religious worship could be dated back to the early Neolithic Period in Anatolia. The Cayonu Tepesi I (ca. 9000 BP) featured several temples including Flagstone Building, Cranium Building and Terrazzo Building. In Catal Hoyuk, shrines for the ubiquitous bull worshipping were dispersed throughout the mount, suggesting the existence of a homogenous belief system, although a communal temple is still to be discovered. Mesopotamia of the Ubaid Period was also a hierarchical society coupled with a strong belief system. The Eridu Temple certainly exceeded the Niuheling Temple in its scale and standard. The social hierarchy and the religious structures also existed in Europe from Wiltshire to Saflieni as core elements during the megalithic period. Therefore, social hierarchy and religious worship should never be used in isolation as the criteria for the early states. If the Hongshan Culture could be used as the starting point of the East Asian civilization (here, there is no prove of its connection with the "Chinese" civilization yet), the starting point of the European civilization could also be pushed back to the megalithic period more than five thousand years ago, while the West Asian civilization would be extended all the way to the early NP of eight to nine thousand years ago. In reality the so-called "gu-guo" was nothing more than a primitive chiefdom renamed expressively for the purpose of inventing a new theory. Finally, there were all the talks by Su about "China under the Five-Emperors" as a political complex extending from the Yan Mountains in the north (around the Great Walls) to the southern China, which should also fall into the "gu-guo" stage. It is not clear the system was clued together, but it is unnecessary to repudiate such a fabrication.
Is Slavery the Exclusive Form of the Early State?
An inevitable issue related to the early state was slavery. Evidence of massacres and human sacrifices were used by some Chinese historians to prove the existence of slavery, which is in turn, used as indicator of the early states and civilizations. This kind of interpretations, overtly or covertly, depends on the introduction of the two following hypotheses: firstly, massacres and human sacrifices, either related to worshipping or to the burials of the rulers, is an evidence for the existence of slavery; secondly, slavery is an indispensable element of the early civilizations and states. We will start our inquiry by the examination of the first hypothesis, because it is a relatively simple matter.
The tradition of using sacrificial victim(s) in the burial of the ruling elite could be traced back to the Paleolithic Period. In Dolni Vestonice site (27000-23000 BP) in Czech, two young males were buried with a young female. The female, who probably died as a result of delivery, was buried in the center, between the two males, in a straight, supine position, indicating her dominant position. The male on her left was buried in a prone position, indicating a subordinate position, and is probably the father of her child, while the male on her right was buried on his side, with both hands stretching out to the female's genital area, could be regarded as the midwife. The two males were in good health, and there are evidences of violence as the cause of their death. This is the earliest known case of sacrificial victims found in a human burial. It is unlikely to be an isolated case of this kind. Hence, it is significant as it demonstrates the establishment of a hierarchical social order involving such sacrificial practice in a pre-agricultural tribal society. In the Neolithic Period, human sacrifices related to burials became more common. More than five thousand years ago, the well-known Xishuipo burial of an adult male with three juvenile females established this tradition in China, while Globular Amphora culture produced precedence of burying the entire family with the male family head. It has been proposed that this male-dominated European culture was related to migrants from Southern Russia, who invaded the female-centered, goddess-worshipping Europe in three major waves between 4500 BC and 2500 BC. The last wave reached the Danube basin around 3000 BC and later turned south to invade the Aegean and Near East around the end of LBA. There is no evidence to relate that the archaeological cultures of this period with slavery.
Human sacrificial ceremonies were closely associated with the rise of the Neolithic religions. Early Neolithic temple sites in Anatolia and Levant provided some examples of human sacrifice. Approximately seventy skulls have been founded in the Cranium Building in Cayonu Tepesi I (9250-8750 BP). The ages were all under thirty, including some infants. They are believed to be sacrificial victims. Fifty-nine young victims were also found in Dja'de el Mughara (9200-8300 BP). Ethnological studies already shown the tradition of human sacrifice in Polynesia, where troublesome families often received greater share of honor from the chieftains. None of these societies could be considered slave societies. In a mountain sanctuary of Anemospilia from the Protopalatial Period, human sacrifice involving a young male could be established, even though there was no evidence of slavery in Minoa. Taken together, there is no reason to propose a cause and effect relation between slavery and human sacrifice.
Wars and associated massacres of war prisoners started with the Neolithic Age rather than the Greek slavery. Approximately three hundred skeletons, some with embedded arrowheads, were found in San Ante Portam Latinam of Spain (6200-5500 BP). These were war victims, probably massacred POW. In Ofnet, Germany (9560-9360 BP) and Talheim (7000 BP) mass graves, each containing about thirty massacred victims, were found. Massacre of lesser scale (ten skeletons) has been found in the Jiangou site (Hougang II culture, ca. 4000 BP) along the Yellow River. In more recent times, massacres of war prisoners are well known among the Maori tribes of New Zealand and the Indian tribes in North America. The massacre evidence in Erlitou also suggests killing of war prisoners rather than execution of slaves. When we entered Shang Dynasty, human sacrifice and massacres of war prisoners became more common and occurred in a much larger scale. The documentary evidence indicated that those used in the sacrificial rituals were primarily war prisoners, although some slaves might have been included.
In tribal societies, prisoner of wars were customarily killed since keeping them would be an impossible economic burden. The Maori and the American Indians were known to practice cannibalism on their war prisoners for economic reasons. Sometimes, the Maori kept their war prisoners alive for a short period until the human protein was needed for consumption. In this case, the prisoners were treated more like cattle than human slaves, and could not be considered slaves in the proper sense. War prisoners could also be sacrificed in religious ceremonies or buried with the ruling elite. In more developed societies, regular agricultural surplus allowed the survival of large numbers of war prisoners as slaves, who often did not engaged in agricultural activities. Contrary to the imagination of some historians, routine massacre of war prisoners as well as human sacrifice indicated the lack of slavery; these practices disappeared after the establishment of slavery. The Old Kingdom of Egypt and Old Babylonia no longer practiced human sacrifice. The situation was similar in Shang Dynasty. After the invention of the writing, the number of sacrificial victims were drastically reduced from nearly ten thousands under King Wuding to a little more than a hundred under King Dixin (Zhou, the most "brutal" king according to official history book of Shang-Shu). At the time of Erlitou, massacre of war prisoners and human sacrifice were still on the rise, suggests that slavery had not been established.
The investigation above demonstrates that human sacrifice and massacre of war prisoners appeared much earlier in history than slavery, and declined rapidly after the introduction of slavery. This has effectively demolished the first hypothesis. A related conclusion is that slavery was not the earliest hierarchal system in human history. Equally obvious is the fact that the pre-civilized EBA cultures represented here by Erlitou and Erligang (early Shang Dynasty) is not at the same stage of social development as the civilized Iron Age cultures represented by Athens and Rome, which has been the model of the slave society per definition of Marx.
Now, we shall turn our attention to the second hypothesis.
In contemporary China, slavery is still officially regarded as the earliest form of class society or civilization based on the Marxist theory of human history devised in the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, European history at that time could only be traced backed to the "ancient world" of Greece and Rome; Minoa was unknown. Similarly, there were little understandings on the prehistory of other civilizations; e.g., Mesopotamia was only traced back to Old Babylonia. The Greek civilization had its root in Minoa, which was the earliest civilization in this region. Hence, understanding Minoa is vital for tracing the outline of the historical development in this region. Hence, the connection between the "primitive society" (the pre-civilized tribal society) with the slavery system of Athens and Rome is an arbitrary one and inevitably produced distortions. Any attempts to apply the theoretical system, which is already outdated even for Europe, to a totally unrelated socio-economic environment of East Asia are quite laughable.
Field studies in Crete were focused on the palaces; the residential area of the cities received much less attention. On the other hand, the writings of Minoa have not been deciphered. Limited by these factors, our brief investigation on the Minoan society will be focused on the Minoan burials of EM and MM.
During the late Neolithic Period (more than 5000 BP), Crete especially in the east, north, and the west, a primitive form of cave burials involving multiple inhumations was common. The skeletons were cremated and pushed aside to make room for the later burials.
The house tomb appeared in the east from 4700 BP (EM) and the tradition continued until 3700 BP (MM). It was a surface structure with the entrance facing the east. The altar was located on the east side. The interior of the tomb was divided into multiple burial cells. The largest house tomb was found in Mallia with an area of 1150 square maters. Interestingly, the house tomb was also designed for multiple inhumations; the early skeletons and burial goods were periodically swept out and piled up in certain location to make rooms for the later users. It could be regarded as the natural development of the cave burial. In the south, the tholos tomb was in use during the entire Bronze Age. The circular tholos tomb also belonged to a surface structure, with a diameter between four and thirteen maters, facing the east. The interior was divided along the wall. In a tholos tomb, hundreds of inhumations and burial goods were randomly deposited. Layers of sand could be used to separate burial strata. Alternatively, the bones could be periodically burned or removed to subsidiary structures. Larnax burials and pithos burials appeared in the EM period and became popular in the MM period, reflecting the economic prosperity accompanied by rising individualism. In time, both the house tombs and the tholoi evolved into depositories for larnakes and pithos. Other forms of Minoan tombs included the cist tomb of the EM period and the chamber tomb of MM/LM periods. Both types were of marginal significance and will not received further attention.
Near the end of the MM period (ca. 1700 BC), Temple Tomb was built near the palace in Knossos. The tomb consisted of two levels: the upper was the space for ceremonial worshipping while the lower level consisted of cells for burial. This tomb was also for multiple inhumations, and was probably used by the rulers residing in the palace. There is no elaborate decoration or display of wealth in this tomb.
After 1500 BC, in the LM period, a new archaeological culture appeared in Crete with the mainland characteristics including single, subterranean burials and the use of precious metals as the burial goods. This sudden break with the old tradition could be attributed to the Mycenaean invasion of Crete.
Before the Mycenaean invasion, the Minoa burials, from the cave burial till the Temple Tomb, belonged to a collective type of surface burials. This tradition was distinct from the single or family type of subterranean burials practised in the Cyclades and the mainland. The large numbers of inhumation in the larger tombs demonstrate that they belonged to the communities rather than individual families. Obviously, the ownership did not change when larnakes and pithos were deposited in such tombs. These archaeological findings suggest that the Minoan society emphasized collectivism and economic equality, even though a political hierarchy already existed.
There are indications that some people in Minoa might live a communal life. The plastic arts delineated sport activities and worshipping of the female rulers (possibly queens) by the youth. The society undoubtedly put much emphasis on training and indoctrination of the youth, and we should not be surprised if certain form of youth training camps or dormitories once existed (4).
In Minoan murals and other form of plastic arts, the images of "goddess" appeared repeatedly. Some of them (e.g., "Mistress of Animals") should be interpreted as the female rulers of Minoa because the secular nature of the female images is obvious compared to the female deities of the time, such as the Snake Goddess. In Minoa, the sacred images were mostly non-anthropomorphic, including the celebrated double axe, horns of consecration, the snake tube, etc. Without exception, the images from Minoan art were female-centered, a situation that was reversed after the Mycenaean invasion. It suggests that Minoa during the EM-MM period was a female-centered society. It is not clear whether the Minoan ruler were hereditary rulers, but there is certainly no evidence for a luxurious court life or extravagant royal tombs; the palaces were primarily administrative centers. The Minoan cities and palaces were not fortified during the peak of the civilization. Apparently, the island was not facing any serious threats. The Minoan fleet suggested by certain fresco was presumably used to protect the trade routes; there is no evidence of a Minoan Empire after all. Among all the ancient civilizations, the Minoan civilization was the only one that was not based on military conquers, and it was unique in its female-dominance (possibly a matriarchy) and collectivism. The maintenance of the social stability perceivably depended on indoctrination under a collective lifestyle rather than cohesion. The Egyptian pharaoh called Minoa a sacred land, which seemed to indicate a theological character of the Minoa state. Taken together, the Minoa state was peaceful, egalitarian, collectivist and female-centered, and slavery played no part in its history (5).
The apparent lack of slavery was caused by its unique geographic environment of Crete. As an isolated island, it was not involved in wars and had no prisoners of war. Deprived of the major source of slaves, Minoa would have to generate its slaves by internal class differentiation. This process would be totally incompatible with its culture and would destabilize the female-dominated social structure. The Minoan ruler would never allow this to happen. Fortunately, the Minoan economy was believed to be based on marine trade of the Bronze Age, as compared to other economies based on local agriculture and industry. This theory would render slavery irrelevant to the power and prosperity of Minoa. The earthquakes and volcanic eruption of the late sixteen century BC, which presumably destroyed the Minoan fleet and ruined its economy, was followed by Mycenaean invasion of Crete. Minoa might not be a typical early state of the Bronze Age, but it nonetheless demonstrates that slavery was not necessarily associated with the earliest form of state.
Analyses on the early burials seem to support the existence of slavery in Mesopotamia and Egypt in the early history of the states. But it is difficult to confirm the hypothesis due to the lack of historical records. Slavery could only be confirmed for the Old Babylonia, the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom of Egypt, more than a millennium after the earliest states. The source of the slaves was mainly prisoners of wars, and the numbers were increasing. In Egypt, the slaves mainly worked in the mines, stone quarries, or as servants and soldiers; their contribution to agriculture, handicraft industry and construction was probably marginal. The successful strike by the builders of Pharaoh's tomb in the New Kingdom triggered by the delayed payments proved that they were waged workers rather than slaves. In Mesopotamia, debtors became slaves for three years. Only war prisoners were permanent slaves. The percentage of the slave economy in the total GDP is hard to estimate. In general, the slavery systems of Mesopotamia and Egypt were different from the slavery of ancient Greece and Rome; there is no evidence to prove that the economies of Mesopotamia and Egypt were dependent upon the surplus of the slave production. Therefore, labeling the early states in Mesopotamia and Egypt as "slave societies" is unwarranted and arbitrary.
For the same reason, it is difficult to classify the pre-historical states in China based on the mode of production. On the other hand, it is impossible to rule out any forms of slavery in the prehistory. The key issue, however, is that to what extent the slavery contributed to the economic activities. Generally speaking, a society with slavery was not the same as a slave society. Otherwise, the US before the Civil War would be considered a slave society as well.
The prehistory of China more closely resembled that of Mesopotamia and Egypt than Athens and Rome. There is reason to believe that Athens and Rome belonged to a more advanced stage of social development than those primary civilizations. Jian Bozan's theory that Western Zhou was a feudal state was more on the mark than the notion of a slave society. In any event, the Chinese society, which was in its early stages of the state formation, experienced dramatic changes in the second and the first millennia BC, and could not possibly fit into any single theoretical framework, either with or without slavery.
Some historians in China try to prove their theory of slave society with slavery in certain ethnic minorities. This approach is theoretically unsound since different ethnic groups do not go through the same historical process. Ethnological studies merely provide a possibility, but cannot eliminate other possibilities.
Hitherto, several conclusions regarding the early states could be reached: (1) They were hierarchical societies, but not necessarily class societies; (2) the early rulers possessed significant power, but not necessarily enormous personal wealth or the power to appropriate the state treasury for personal glorification by construction of royal tombs; (3) the early states and religions were closely associated, and the early ruler could be the religious leader, but different faiths could coexist; (4) patriarchal society based on nuclear family was the main stream, but matriarchal society based on clan structure cannot be ruled out. In general, the pathway of social development is plural, affected by the environment and the cultural tradition.
Slavery was not necessarily associated with the early state, and much less with the early civilization. This is self-evident. Outside China, no one try to equate slavery with the early state or the early civilization. But the official historians in China (e.g., Jiang Linchang) insist on labelling the early Chinese civilization as "Asian slavery civilization". The phrase "slavery civilization" has its special academic implication; the slavery became the core element and the very foundation of the civilization. In other words, it is the civilization of the whip. Indeed, this has gone beyond the Marxist theory since neither Marx nor Engels had ever used this kind of terminology in their works. It is not unreasonable to suspect that the official Chinese historians were using this terminology in order to label themselves as Marxists and to suppress academic criticism(6). Interestingly, they do not even correctly understand the theory of Engels, who never considered slavery and civilization as synchronized events. Engel proposed that slavery appeared with the division of labor and peaked in the ancient society, by that he meant ancient Greece and Rome, of course. Now, it is becoming clear that slavery came into being much later than the division of labor. It was closer to the time of the earliest civilization, but there is no cause-and-effect relation between slavery and civilization.
Did "You-Xia Shi" Represent a State?
For the moment, we can leave alone more difficult issues such as the authenticity of Xia, and assume that the historical records are authentic. Then, we will find ourselves facing another issue, namely, did Xia (You-Xia) possess the matured form of the state structure?
In China, the process of the formation of the nation state differed from the process in the west. The economy in the west has been formed in the environment of mercantilism; the social structure of the west has been city-center to serve the commercial need; the history of the west has been defined by trade, competition and wars. This situation is not unique to the era of modern industrial capitalism; instead, it is originated from prehistory, and its origin is undoubtedly located in the Aegean, where the mode of socio-economic development has been dictated from the beginning by the lack of natural resources. To an extent, this region resembled modern-day Hong Kong and Singapore. In contrast, China, contained by the geographic factor and yet abundant in resources, has formed a self-sufficient agrarian economy and a unified and totalitarian political system. Many larger historical sites in China were "palatial cities" where residents were essentially the royal family, the aristocracy, and their servants, with little economic independence or functionality. They were power centers rather than economic centers. These cities were parasitical to the system, and rose and fell with the rise and fall of each dynasty. This differences between the early western cities and their Chinese counterparts explains why many early Chinese political centers frequently moved around and left no trace behind while the western cities from Uruk to Rome have generally shown remarkable stabilities and longevities, and typically requires little effort to identify their location. Mr. Gu Zhun pointed out the independent character when he studied the history of the early Greek city-states. What is still to be said is that this character, as displayed in the arenas of the culture and the politics, was based on their economic independence. Obviously, it is impossible to identify anything equivalent to the early Greek city-states in the Chinese history. Consequently, it would be a futile exercise to impose the theory of the formation of the western nation-state on the Chinese history, which also underscores the theoretical poverty regarding the formation of the oriental nation-state.
Of course, this is not to deny any kinds of comparability between the early states of the east and the west. The degree of power concentration is comparable and quantifiable. And yet, the formation of the power centre was not necessarily associated with any kinds of familiar power symbols. For example, dragon has been traditionally regarded as a royal symbol in China, which embodies the power of the Chinese state. However, the discovery of the so-called "first dragon of China" at Xishuipo has virtually demolished this common view unless we could extend the history of the Chinese state to Hougang I culture of more than 5000 BP. The logical conclusion is that dragon, as a symbol of the later kings and emperors, was nothing more than a natural extension of the symbol of the earlier, more primitive type of power structure from the Neolithic Age. For the same reason, dings and zongs (rectangular jade blocks with round holes) cannot serve as proofs of the formation of matured state structure or any particular earlier stages of its forerunners.
There are similar examples in the prehistory of the west. Worship of bulls has existed in the west and south Asia, North Africa and the Mediterranean area. Bullheads and bull tails belonged to the royal symbols of the ancient Egypt since the Old Kingdom, as evidenced by the celebrated Triad of Mycerinus. The tradition could be dated back to the early Neolithic. Catal Hoyuk levels corresponding to 8400-7900 BP have yielded numerous worshipping units decorated with bullheads and bullhorns, manifesting the supremacy of the animal worship in this culture. Related forms of worship were found in later dates in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Aegean, India, Indonesia, etc. Bull worship was the most widespread form of cultural symbol in the early agrarian societies in the Afro-Eurasia: its earliest form was an embodiment of a primitive religion, which was transformed into a symbol of royal power. When it arrived in China, it already became associated with the religion again. Hence, bull-related icons can never serve as indicators for the formation of the state structure.
In general, the precise meaning of the cultural symbols evolved with the historical process, and varied with the geographic locations. Correct interpretation of such symbols requires comprehensive understanding of the cultural history. Any attempts to graft the modern meaning of such symbols onto the prehistory without a rigorous investigation on the social structure and its evolutionary course will inevitably lead to erroneous conclusions.
Unlike the cultural symbols, the scale and the architectural standard of the site is more directly related to the degree of the power concentration. Based on limited information on Xinzhai, which has been proposed as the first capital of Xia under King Yu, there is an outdoor platform for worshipping and a semisubterranean building. All in all, it more closely resembles a Neolithic site than a palace of a mature state. Erlitou, on the other hand, did possess a palace-like building and a tripartite structure (the so-called "Palace Two", possibly a temple); the scale and standard is not comparable to the structures in Uruk from the Uruk period. Both the palace-like structure and the presumed temple have large foundations but relatively small upper structures in the range of 200-300 square meters. The palace-like structure consists of a single undivided indoor space. In contrast, the Eanna Temple complex (Eanna IV period) of Uruk occupied and area of approximately forty thousand square meters, with the main building of more than four thousand square maters, featuring elaborate division of the inner space and surface decoration with multi-coloured mosaic cones. In a sense, it has given us a suggestion of what is to follow later in Egypt and Greece. The Erlitou site has to be placed more than one magnitude below the Uruk site. If Uruk of the Uruk period represents an early stage in the formation of the nation-state due to its lack of formal civilization, it becomes highly questionable whether Erlitou should be considered a capital of the early state.
Should anyone raises an objection to the argument above because Uruk's brilliance was unparalleled among the early states, we could compare Erlitou with Kot Diji of the Hindus River, where the residential area for the elite class reached sixteen thousand square meters, or the old palace of Knossos and Phaistos, and we would still find it has something to be desired. To the category of the early states, we could undoubtedly admit Uruk as the leader, followed by Memphis/Abydos, Kot Diji, Harrapa, Moenjo-Daro, Knossos, Phaistos, among others. Erlitou, on the other hand, is a marginal case at the best, and will do little credit to the Chinese civilization.
Even if we admit Erlitou as one of the late Xia capital, we still have to find the Xia capitals of the early and the middle periods. Xinzhai with its semisubterranean structures is very unlikely to represent an early state, pre-civilization state included. The discovery of the city wall does not change the overall picture. Similar residential sites with city walls but without a palace have been found in Crete (e.g., Kouphota) around the time when the Minoan civilization started; i.e., near the boundary of the EBA and MBA. It seems that Xinzhai, as well as Pingliangtai, Haojiatai IV, Wangchenggang main site, Mengzhuang, Xueguo, Bianxianwang, Dinggong, Chengziya (the last three being in Shandong) are also of similar types. However, there is at least one difference: Wangchenggang main site, Xinzhai and Erlitou, the three sites which have been proposed as the Xia capitals, actually belong to different archaeological cultures, which becomes another difficult issue for those who wish to reconstruct the history of Xia from available sites.
The fact that the Erlitou site consists of semisubterranean and surface structures is out worth noting. Semisubterranean structure was originated from the Palaeolithic Period and was a main feature of the UPP sits in Anatolia and Levant (e.g., the Natufian sites). The coexistence of semisubterranean and surface structures are well known among PPN-A and PPN-B sites of the Near/Middle East (e.g., Jerf al Ahmar, 10000 BP and Ramad I, 8000 BP, Cayonu Tepesi I, 9000 BP), and still could be found in the middle Neolithic Period (e.g., Catal Hoyuk, 8000 BP, Can Hassan, 7000 BP, Sabi Abyad, 7000 BP, Naqada I, 6000 BP, Baden-Vucedol and Globular Amphora sites in Europe, 5000 BP), but virtually unknown since EBA. In the Yellow River area, the situation continued from the Yangshao culture, the Longshan culture into the Erlitou culture (presumably BA), and requires some explanation. This further complicates the issue regarding the status of the Erlitou culture.
Another symbol of the formation of the state power is the social morphology in relation to clans. It is necessary to briefly survey the name of "You-Xia Shi", where "shi" means the clan. Besides You-Xia Shi, there were also You-Miao Shi, You-Hu Shi, You-Qiong Shi, You-Rong Shi, etc. These were political organizations, but probably not at the state level, as suggested by "shi". They were most likely clan-based organizations, but not necessarily equivalent to clans. The prefix-like "you" should be considered an affirmative adjective (not unlike "grand" in "the Grand Tang" or "the grand Ming"); it should not be considered an auxiliary word as proposed. Shi preceded by "you" suggests an extended clan structure or alliance of clans. By the time of Shang and Zhou Dynasties, the word "shi" was already dropped; it was merely "You-Shang" and "You-Zhou". The difference is subtle but significant, indicating a divorce of power structure from the clan organization, and much closer to nation-state. More research is needed on this subject matter in the future.
In summary, the transitional point in the Yellow River area during the BA period is located between "You-Xia Shi" and Shang. Firstly, Shang, at least in its later period, as well as Zhou were in control of a large area north of the Yangtze River, whereas "You-Xia Shi" merely controlled a part of Henan. Secondly, late Shang and Zhou are more typical kind of BA culture, while "You-Xia Shi" still bored marks of primitive cultural conditions. Thirdly, the political power of the late Shang and Zhou were no longer vested in the clan-based structure while the power of "You-Xia Shi" still was. Finally, the late Shang and Zhou were civilized whereas "You-Xia Shi" was still in the pre-civilization stage. In conclusion, "You-Xia Shi" cannot be regarded as a civilized state, and a very limited probability even as a pre-civilized state based on available evidences.
What Could the Historical Tradition Tell Us?
The proofs of the legendary Xia actually amount to deduction of its location and chronology based on the later history books, screening of the corresponding archaeological cultures, gluing them together, and labeling them as "the Xia culture". This kind of proofs has taken the presumption that the records regarding Xia are reliable, and the existence of the "Xia Dynasty" proved. Indeed, none of the cultures corresponding to Xia in time and space has produced any writing, which make it impossible to establish their historical identities. Wangchenggang (main site), Xinzhai, and Erlitou are claimed to match the location and time frame of the Xia capitals(7), but actually belong to different cultures. Xinzhao is said to be a transitional type between Longshan culture and Erlitou culture, could be more appropriately called Xinzhai culture. Instead, it was named "the Xinzhai period of Erlitou culture", presumably as an effort to accommodate the "Xia culture" centered at Erlitou(8). In any event, the history of kingdom that lasted merely four centuries has to be reconstructed by connecting different archaeological cultures or even part of it (only the final phase of Longshan culture was included) is hard to find a precedence and logically unconvincing. Indeed, the discovery of Wangchenggang and Xinzhai could be viewed as counterevidence for the existence of Xia. Those who wish to prove the existence of Xia owe us an explanation.
The earlier record of Xia is found in Shang-Shu. The debate about Xia is also the debate about the authenticity of Shang-Shu.
The challenge to the Confucian classics in the past millennium has reached the peak in the early twentieth century. However, this challenge was very much an affair of the elite class, and did not fundamentally alter the popular perception of the history. The so-called "Age of the Nonbelievers", which is currently under fire, could never apply to the nation as a whole. This was partly caused by the stubborn resistance put up by the defenders of the status quo, and partly from complexity of the methodology used in the studies, which often show its inadequacy in the modern time. Here, the issue will be tackled by a new approach comparing the cultural development of different nations, which will produce by its own rule useful information.
The early power structures that existed in central China, such as the early Shang and possibly Xia belonged to the pre-civilized societies, where formal laws never existed. This is not to be equated with a complete lack of legal concept. Ethnological studies have demonstrated what might be called primitive laws in pre-agricultural societies (e.g., the Australian aboriginals). Such laws were undocumented, and constituted part of the custom and belief system. The authority of the primitive laws was typically sustained by the public opinion, religious organizations, the elders and the tribal chieftains. With the consent of the elders, for example, the victim's family was allowed to extract revenge from the victimizer. The process could result in tribal wars where the dead may not be the victimizer, a process that embodies the logic of guilt by association. In Indonesia and the Oceania, death sentences could be secretly given and implemented under the disguise of accidental deaths. The ancient Babylonians did not invent the law but merely engraved it on the stone. The law codes requires writing for its existence, the pre-civilized (pre-literate) societies could not possibly possess formal law codes, a general rule that has been demonstrated in earlier investigations on other ancient civilizations. The alleged codes of Yao and codes of Shun mentioned in Shang-Shu are inconsistent this general rule. Neither could these "law codes" be interpreted as the primitive laws, since the primitive laws were in general highly stable and did not change with every new chieftain. This demonstrates that the author of Yu-Shu section was ignorant of the general social conditions at the time that would correspond to the legendary kings of Yao and Shun, and must be the counterfeit of the later Confucian scholars.
Similar to the law codes, written history also depends on writings and its beginnings always lagged behind the invention of writings. The lag was substantial, as the inventions of writing were not driven by the need of historical records but more practical motifs, such as the financial and taxation records of Uruk and Minoa. The first historical record (Sumerian King List) lagged behind the invention of writing by a millennium. Palermo Stone, the first known historical record of the ancient Egypt was from the Fifth Dynasty (more than 4400 BP), which lagged behind the invention of the writing by about seven centuries. In contrary, the alleged earliest history of China (Yu-Shu and Xia-Shu), if admitted, would have led the invention of the writing by several centuries. This bizarre situation can only be explained if these records are counterfeits.
As matter of fact, the creators of these myths were fully aware of these obvious defects in their stories, and thus created another story of the invention of the writings by Cang-Jie. Unfortunately, for the believers, Cang-Jie and his "writings" were never materialized; instead, archaeologists found the mature form of writing only in the late Shang period.
Also relevant to our discussion is the fact that the records of Shang-Shu cannot be reconciled with the records of Zhu-Shu-Jinian. Zhu-Shu mentioned that Shun ascended the throne and imprisoned Yao, while Shang-Shu described the ancient succession by demise. Zhu-Shu also mentioned that Qi murdered Yi, Yiyin usurped the throne, and Dajia killed Yiyin. All these descriptions differ substantially from Shang-Shu, which might have been purged to glorify the early kings as the Confucian models. Considering the later history, the records on Zhu-Shu appear more credible than those on Shang-Shu and should be given priority of consideration. From this perspective, the authenticity of all the Shang-Shu chapters until Jian-You-Yi-De could be called into question.
Even the description of Shang-Shu on the Zhou ancestral kings cannot be accepted on the face value. There are two points to be discussed here. Hou-Ji, the alleged ancestral king of Zhou was said to be a contemporary of King Yao and King Shun. This possibility could be statistically eliminated since it mandates an extraordinary long mean generation span of 66.67 years as compared to the more realistic number for Western Zhou (24.70 years) and Shang (29.12 years based on Zhu-Shu). When using the mean of the entire Zhou Dynasty, we can estimate the possible range of Qi's reign to be 1538-1313 BC (alpha = 0.05) or 1573 –1278 BC (alpha = 0.01), with the peak at 1426 BC (most likely during the reign of King Xiaojia of Shang).
Another evidence against the author of Shang-Shu is none other than the alleged "brutality" of King Dixin, the last king, against his subjects. Archaeologists has calculated based on field excavations that King Dixin used far fewer war prisoners and/or slaves in human sacrifice than his predecessors; if the estimate is right, he had cut the number of the victims to almost 1% of the level under the more benevolent King Wuding. Obviously, the author of Shangshu was merely trying to provide an excuse for the Martial King's conquer of Shang and his killing of the last Shang king.
Interestingly, the modern crusaders against the "Nonbelievers" have deliberately chosen to ignore the evidences against Shang-Shu. In order to maintain the authority of the Confucian classics, they try to find some incidental "evidences" to back it up.
Jiang Linchang has quoted Tang Lan, who believed that the matching of the "Yao calendar" of 366 days based on Shang-Shu with the calendar of the Shang King Wuding proves the authenticity of the former. In reality, there are at least two possible explanations: (1) the calendar did not change for an entire millennium; (2) the "Yao calendar" was a counterfeit based on the Wuding calendar. The official scholars including Jiang and his mentor Li Xueqing have accepted the first possibility without eliminating, or even mentioning the second. Obviously, the proof is invalid.
Objectively the first possibility is virtually negligible considering the speed of evolution of the ancient calendar. In any event, a calendar of 366 days, if consistently implemented in a course of more than eight centuries, would have caused an accumulated error of more than 600 days, or two seasonal reversals, rendering the calendar totally meaningless. In ancient Egypt, the solar calendar of 365 days was of no value for the agricultural activities, which was solely based on the lunisolar calendar. Sustained use of the sola