Agriculture: The Most Important

When reviewing the primary and secondary characteristics that apply to all states, it seems to me that agriculture is the most important.  Others such as specialization, stratification, and state authority all seem to come much later in the general development of a complex society, more “icing on the cake”, if you will.  Apart from agriculture, I also closely considered the factors urban and complex economy.  Deciding was not only a matter of figuring out which characteristic had what the others did not, but also what is fundamentally most crucial to the building of a state.  While complex economies foster technological growth from learning from other cultures, make previously unavailable resources available (trade), and lead to competition and expansion into an empire, it is not the most important factor.  I asked myself if complex economies could offer everything agriculture could: could you simply trade for enough crops to supply a growing state?  While technically I suppose it is possible, it is not very reliable.  As a general rule complete dependency on another state does not a successful state make.  Any state which attempted to do this probably wouldn’t be around long enough for us to need to learn about them.  I also considered the characteristic “urban”.  It could be argued that this is the most fundamentally important thing as a state is constructed.  After all, if you don’t have enough people in one place, not only is it not easy to build a state, it is not necessary.  I agree that you need the numbers first and foremost.  However, where that large population grows – where the first of its people choose to settle down – depends on the land being fertile.  The ancient Egyptians depended completely on the water of the Nile, and the Indus Valley states have become known as the “Cradle of Civilization” and the “Fertile Crescent” for its crop nurturing environment.  Without the means to supply them with food there would be no large and dense population and no urban type of settlement.  Another way to look at the question of which characteristic is most important to ancient states is to ask which one could they not do without?  The removal of which one led to their collapse?  In writing the first question to the take home exam, I noticed that many of the ancient states we studied experience catastrophic environmental changes just before their fall.  Many of these were droughts, while some were floods or storms, but they all disrupted the most important characteristic to ancient states: agriculture.

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