Civilization, culture, and cultural diffusion are the offshoots of a larger concept of cultural hearth. Historyplex strives to understand the definition and meaning of the same with the help of a few examples from a new perspective.
Across the banks…
In the past, civilizations always harbored near a water body owing to high fertility of the land.
With teeming millions on the face of the world, there was also barbarism which loomed large. Slowly and steadily, mankind crept in baby steps towards a better world, where man drifted away from barbarism and made an effort to invent and discover. These efforts eventually culminated into mighty, lasting civilizations that ripened with the passage of time, and were effaced one fine day, with the coming of newer civilizations in their place. One interesting characteristic of these civilizations was that they were not stagnant. They got passed on across landmasses through the various channels of transmission. The culture which was the mother, remained in the center of the sphere, and the rest on the periphery adopted the mother culture. Thus came into effect, the concept of cultural hearth. There are several concepts which are related to cultural hearth, and the entire process of civilizations, which will be discussed in the later parts of this article.
Cultural Hearth – definition
In the simplest of terms, a cultural hearth is the hub from where a culture has originated, thrived, flourished, and disseminated across. It doesn’t limit itself only to its place of origin, rather it becomes influential enough to be adopted and practiced by many. Before going deeper into understanding the concept, let us also first understand the essence of culture. Culture implies the many set of activities which are practiced on a day-to-day basis, by a group of people belonging to a particular geographical area, at a particular time in history.
Going back to cultural hearth, the core from which a culture is born, and then spreads over to the rest of the world is a cultural hearth. One distinguishing characteristic of cultural hearth is that it has to be prominent. There have been, and still are many cultures across the world which are existent, but that doesn’t qualify them as a cultural hearth. A cultural hearth ought to have attributes which can attract and engulf people within its purview.
Cultural Hearths of The Ancient Times
With the wake of humanity, change has been the driving factor that has given birth to civilization. With the changing trends in the lifestyle of man, several new things emerged, some sustained, some got modified, and some got denounced. Amongst those that remained and passed the test of time, have been able to build a cultural hearth. They influenced through their path-breaking features of agriculture, social structure, religion, armory, machinery, and the like. Some notable ones which were born thousands of years back, and still garner attention are the civilizations that started in various corners of the world at different times in history. They are all the prominent examples of cultural hearths in their own right. They are as under:
The Old World Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization
# This civilization is one of the earliest born civilizations. It sprouted in Asian countries of Afghanistan, parts of India, and Egypt. It flourished near the Indus river. The use of handicrafts and metals was very active during this civilization. The civilization is also popular as Harappan Civilization.
The Egyptian Civilization
# This civilization is famous for many things, one of them being the fascinating pyramids, and also the Pharaohs. This civilization was present for around 3000 years. It stretched in Africa, on the banks of the Nile river. The civilization was largely benefited by the practice of agriculture. They are also credited for their unique writing system.
The Chinese Civilization
# This civilization originated near the Wei river. Irrigation was pronounced during this civilization. It is one of the main tributaries of the Yellow river.
The Mesopotamia Civilization
# This ancient civilization blossomed in the areas now comprising, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. The place is at the juncture of the two river systems, namely, Tigris and Euphrates. They are renowned for their invention of wheel.
The New World Civilizations
# This civilization originated in Mexico and stretched over some parts in Central America. This civilization is treated as a new world civilization hotspot, like the earlier civilizations of the old world. The Aztecs flourished during this time.
South American Civilization
# Before the coming of Spanish colonies, it formed one of the civilizations which grew independently. Man shifted from being hunters to agriculture and domestication of animals. They are also responsible for developing their own writing system. The culture succumbed after the Spanish attack.
Types of Cultural Diffusion
# This is the natural way of diffusion of two cultures. Two regions which have two independent cultures, share between themselves trade, and economic relations, or there are marriages going on amongst their inhabitants. This results in the intermingling of two distinct cultures.
# This diffusion takes place through the external agents. The agents can be carriers or even other cultures. In today’s world, media plays an integral part in transmitting culture. For example, the growing popularity of Japanese animes in America, or the world at large is the influence of media.
# This is the result of making the minority cultural group to adopt the cultural practices of a more dominant group through exertion rather than free will. This usually happened in the previous times when countries invaded and conquered over other weaker countries and forced them to adopt their way of life.
Modern Cultural Hearth
As it is now evident from the aforementioned paragraphs, for a culture to be a cultural hearth, it has to be advanced in all round development, so that it is capable to motivate others to accept its doctrine. In the present times, countries which top the list of advancement are the US, China, Japan, England. Therefore, they are the modern cultural hearths of the world. They are world leaders in the fields of technology, literacy, nutrition, employment, and the overall standard of living. Therefore, they are exemplary, and are thus the cultural hearths of the modern times.
The parameters of becoming a cultural hearth changes according to the requirements of one civilization of its time. In the precious times, concepts such as agriculture and farming were stepping stones. Now, these stepping stones are replaced with technical ‘know-how’ and advancement. Therefore, the country abounding with these parameters are the newest cultural hearths.