Institute of Archaeology


A history of true civilisation

18 October 2018

David Wengrow argues that a history of true civilisation is not one of monuments in an article this month in Aeon, the magazine of ideas and culture.

David Wengrow

According to David, civilisation is a way of talking about human history on the largest scale but it is still the stuff of galleries, museums and UNESCO World Heritage sites; of prized images, objects and structures, rather than of living humanity.

He feels there is something wrong here and indicates that the word 'civilisation' stems from a very different source and ideal. In ancient times, civilis meant those qualities of political wisdom and mutual aid that permit societies to organise themselves through voluntary coalition.

As David states:

  • "Mutual aid, social cooperation, civic activism, hospitality or simply caring for others: these are the kind of things that actually go to make civilisations. In which case, the true history of civilisation is only just starting to be written."

Aeon was established in 2012 and is a unique digital magazine, publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. They ask the big questions and find the freshest, most original answers, provided by leading thinkers on science, philosophy, society and the arts.

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