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1. What Is the History of Civilization? The history of civilization is a long and complex one, stretching back thousands of years. Civilization is generally defined as a complex society characterized by urban areas, social stratification, specialized labor, and the development of writing, art, and complex religious and political institutions. The earliest civilizations appeared around 3500 BCE in the Middle East, in the area now known as Iraq, and soon spread to the surrounding regions. By 1000 BCE, civilizations had developed in the Americas, India, and China, and by 500 BCE, civilizations had sprung up throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. Over the centuries, civilizations rose and fell, and new ones emerged in their place, often influenced by their predecessors. Today, there are roughly 200 civilizations in the world, each with its own unique culture and history.