he universal nature of the hunter-gatherer mode of existence makes geographic distinctions between hunter-gather groups of limited value. It is only with the advent of centres of domestication and civilization that analytical categories like ‘West’ and ‘East’ become meaningful.
After the last Ice Age and across limited latitudes and regions certain conditions arose in combination – the presence of fertile soils, domesticable plants and animals, and suitable bioclimatic conditions – the circumstances were now available for the uptake of agriculture.
Given these conditions, it would appear that certain general paths of social organization were probable outcomes across the world (agriculture, writing, improved technology, urbanization, state organization) while the form that these developments took in each civilization depended on their worldview and mode of adaptation to local conditions. It is these independent, though broadly similar, patterns of social organization and material culture that make the distinction between ‘West’ and ‘East’ meaningful, before the Mediterranean and Asian worlds were linked, over 2000 years ago, by the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean that propelled the first ocean-going ships.
The ‘West’ included interconnected civilizations derived ultimately from the Mesopotamian core. By 4500 BCE this encompassed most of Europe, extending over the last 500 years to include the Neo-Europes created by European colonial expansion. The ‘East’ then becomes those civilizations descending from the core of plant domestication in China that began around 7500 BCE. To these may be added traditions emerging from Africa, South Asia, New Guinea, and the New World.
There is also an important distinction to be made between primary civilizations (those of independent origin) and secondary civilizations (derived from other civilizations which is discussed elsewhere.
The settled communities of Agraria could support larger families, increasing in both population number and the land surface that they occupied. New cities, sometimes with tens of thousands of citizens, were surrounded by a zone of urban civilization, beyond which was a trading hinterland, then wild nature.
This development of Agraria resulted in a new physical and psycho-linguistic distinctions: a general distinction between nature and culture and more specific distinction between wild and cultivated plants. We see the emergence of functional physical spaces (often bounded) now discernable as gardens, parks and fields and the urban spaces we still recognize today. Domestic, or urban, gardens were a development of Bronze Age trade, diplomacy, and military conquest in the third to second millennium BCE in the cities of Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Aegean.