Alternate Cradles of Civilisation

In OTL, there were 6 cradles of civilisation (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus Valley, North China Plain, Mesoamerica and Peru). Great Bronze Age civilisations such as the Akkadians, Hittites, Ancient Egypt, Indus Valley Civilisation, Ancient China, the Olmecs and the Norte Chico civilisation emerged in these regions. All of these areas had a major water source - either a river (Tigris-Euphrates in Mesopotamia, Nile in Egypt, obviously Indus in the Indus Valley and the Yellow River in China) or the sea (Mesoamerica and Peru), and had a warm, but not scorching, Mediterranean-type climate. Using these as prerequisites, let's take a tour of potential sites.

Europe
Loire valley
  • Pros - plenty of farmland, warm summers and mild winters, vineyards
  • Cons - potential lack of trade partners, lack of mountains to quarry, lack of natural borders, lack of natural ports

Rhone valley
  • Pros - very warm summers, mild winters, Alps offer some protection, lots of natural ports, farmland, vineyards
  • Cons - open to invasion from north and east, limited room to expand

Po valley
  • Pros - warm (but not too warm) summers and mild winters, farmland, vineyards, Alps offer natural protection, can easily trade with Greeks when they appear
  • Cons - lack of natural ports, winters can get a bit cold, river isnt that long

Lower Danube
  • Pros - plenty of room to expand, Carpathians offer some protection, warm summer, can easily trade with Greek and Anatolian civilisations, river very navigable, farmland.
  • Cons - winters are very cold, very vulnerable to steppe invasions (that happened lot in history).

Middle Danube
  • Pros - mild summers, navigable river, mountains on three sides, natural ports on the Adriatic, farmland
  • Cons - Pannonian plain vulnerable to invasion, very cold winters, less fertile land than other potential sites (?)

Dneiper valley
  • Pros - Extremely good farmland, good grazing areas too, natural ports, warm summers
  • Cons - very cold winters, very little natural borders, many cases of historical migratory invasions

Volga valley
  • Pros - good farmland, warm summers, long and navigable river, ideal situation to form a home-based empire
  • Cons - extremely vulnerable to invasion from all directions, very cold winters, lacks access to freshwater

Don valley
  • Very similar pros and cons to the Dneiper

Elbe-Oder-Vistula region
  • Pros - all three rivers are nearby making canals feasible, warmish summers, good farmland, central location
  • Cons - situated on the North European Plain, cold winters, no warm water ports

Rhineland
  • Pros - farmland, vast mineral deposits, very navigable river, Alps offer some protection from the south, temperate summers
  • Cons - lacks sea access, very vulnerable from east, west and south, cold winters, potential lack of trade partners

Maas-Rhine system
  • Pros - farmland, natural ports, very navigable river, temperate summer
  • Cons - cold winter, no natural defences, potential lack of trade partners

Seine valley
  • Similar to the Loire but with better sea access and colder winters

Thames valley
  • Pros - navigable river, access to Bristol Channel and River Severn via canal, good sea access, farmland, mild winters
  • Cons - coldest summers of all the European options, British Isles are an isolated location in the Ancient World, lacks natural defences.
  • Most other rivers in southern Britain have similar pros and cons, but none (not even the Severn) are as good for a civilisation as the Thames.

Valencian coast
  • Pros - great ports, easy sea access, mild winters, warm summers
  • Cons - lack of farmland, lack of natural defences

Central Portugal
  • Pros - Lisbon is one of the best ports in the world, mild winters, warm summers
  • Cons - farmland isn't great, little natural defences, difficult to access Mediterranean trade network, isolated location

Greece
  • Pros - easy to access Med trade networks, warm summers, mild winters, good ports, mountainous terrain makes it difficult to conquer, Bosporus
  • Cons - close to major powers, will never have a good population, lack of fertile land, boring

Africa
Lower Nile
  • Pros - very navigable river, easy access to Congo basin or eastern ports, mild winters, good for grazing
  • Cons - too close to Egypt (if in Sudan), lacks natural defences, extremely hot summer, land not great

Senegal-Gambia
  • Pros - two basins very close together, sea access
  • Cons - potential for entire region to be very dense with possible enemies, loads of rainforest, lack of land for all purposes, isolated from near east trade network

Niger valley
  • Very similar to Senegal-Gambia

Juba valley
  • Pros - grazing land, Ethiopian Highlands offer some defences, easy access to both Red Sea and Indian Sea, can trade with Egypt without fearing invasion
  • Cons - lack of arable land, lack of natural defences, lack of natural ports, arid

Congo basin
  • Pros - massive basin with a very long river, very close to Nile system and African Great Lakes, decent sea access
  • Cons - massive rainforest severely limits land, lack of natural defences, diseases make it unpleasant for human habitation though natives would develop immunity, civilisation would likely collapse in the wake of the Bantu migrations

African Great Lakes
  • Pros - lots of fresh water, decent farmland and grazing land, easy access to both Nile and Congo basins, fairly isolated so not at too high a risk from invasion, cradle of humanity so would be poetic to have civilisation arise there
  • Cons - lack of sea access, isolation works against them too, civ would fall to Bantus

Orange River
  • Pros - isolated location so little risk of invasion, long river, good grazing land, okay farmland
  • Cons - Arid, sea access isn't great, heat could get too much, Bantus

Asia
Bengal
  • Pros - good navigable river, sea access, well situated for trade, protected by Himalayas and Ganges
  • Cons - Ganges delta is so big that there's little land, plenty of enemies even though there are some defences

Ganges
  • Similar to Bengal, except there's way more land and way less natural borders. Also fairly close to the IVC. No Sea access.

Amur
  • Pros - warmish summers, sea access, trade with China and Korea is easy, plenty of land
  • Cons - few natural defences, massive threat from China, Korea and Mongolian steppes, cold winters

Huai
  • Only reason I'm mentioning it is because the flooding could allow it to be used like the Egyptians used the Nile.

Mekong
  • Pros - ideal location for rice farming, sea access, trade all over East Asia is possible
  • Cons - river is tricky to navigate, jungle and big delta limit land, will eventually be forced into a confrontation with China that it will struggle to win

Persian Gulf
  • Pros - mild winters, great sea access, amazing trade location, Zagros Mountains, Baluchistani desert and Arabian desert offer some protection, Persia is proven to be a good foundation for large empires
  • Cons - extremely hot summers, arid and infertile land, enemies in every single location

Indonesia
  • Pros - good sea access, excellent trade location, mild winters
  • Cons - sticky, humid summers, jungle greatly limits land, isolated by bronze age naval technology, expansion is tricky

North America
Upper South
  • Pros - Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee are all very navigable, plenty of fertile farmland, warm summers, mild winters
  • Cons - absolutely no natural defences, somewhat isolated from a trade perspective, a fair bit from the sea, no horses

Mississippi delta
  • Pros - Mississippi is very navigable, Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico is manageable with Bronze Age technology, trade with Mesoamerica is easy, fertile farmland, warm summers and mild winters
  • Cons - close enough for Mesoamericans to attack, few natural defences, humidity, no horses

Upper Mississippi-Missouri valley
  • Pros - Mississippi-Missouri is very navigable, great plains, the Rockies protect the Upper Missouri, great farmland, temperate summers
  • Cons - few natural defences, no sea access, no horses, very cold winters

Potomac valley
  • Pros - fairly navigable river, close to Chesapeake, sea access, Appalachians offer protection, fertile land, warm summers
  • Cons - cold winters, vulnerable from north and south, no horses

California
  • Pros - Sierra Nevada and desert offer protection in the east and south, resource rich, great ports, warm summers, mild winters, big enough to have multiple civs
  • Cons - lacks a central river system for civilisation to emerge, big enough to have multiple civs, vulnerable from the north, no horses

St Lawrence valley
  • Pros - Very navigable river, sea access, easy access to the Great Lakes, warm summers, fertile land
  • Cons - no natural defences, very cold winters, non cheval

Great Lakes
  • Pros - multiple points for civilisation to emerge, massive lakes ease trade, natural ports, fertile land, warm summers
  • Cons - lacks natural borders, very cold winters, dim cefal

Caribbean
  • Pros - islands are close together, trade with Mesoamerica easy, islands are hard to invade, mild winters, fertile land
  • Cons - summers are very humid, diseases, only Cuba, Hispanoila, Jamaica and Puerto Rico could really support a civilisation, would be hard for a civ to arise, no horseys (less of an issue with a seafaring island culture though)

South America
Lower Amazon
  • Pros - navigable river, sea access, mild winters
  • Cons - humid summers, rainforest makes it difficult to do anything with the land, no horses

Upper Amazon
  • Same issues as above but a thousand times worse. No sea access.

Orionoco Delta
  • Pros - river, access to the Caribbean sea and trading networks, arable land, mild winters
  • Cons - rainforest, isolation, humidity, horsey horsey no no

Parana/Rio de la Plata
  • Pros - large, navigable river and ensuing channel, good ports, mountains offer some protection, average winters and warmish summers, good grazing land
  • Cons - land isn't great for farming, isolation, still lacks defences, hotel? trivago. horses? nope.

Australasia
Murray-Darling basin
  • Pros - very large river basin, good sea access, good grazing land, okay winters
  • Cons - summers can get too hot, Australian land isn't the best for crops in general, isolation from trade networks, no natural defences


Why did I make myself write so much. The quality definitely went downhill later on so sorry bout that.
 
There's of course the Gironde system too.
The mouth of it is in Bordeaux, so it's definitely got potential, but Atlantic trade is of course more difficult.
Otherwise, the land is rockier to the South, but it can easily expand to the neighboring Loire and then Seine systems for better farmland.
 
How about Transcaucasia, including the valley of the Rioni in the west and the valley of the Kura in the east?
Fertile, ample natural resources, good ports (or at least decent ones) on each coast, and somewhat protected by the Greater Caucasus on the north and the Lesser Caucasus on the south...
 
Well, how about the three/four great Siberian rivers (Ob', Yenisei, Lena and/or Kolyma)?
images
 
California has the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers which flow into the San Francisco bay as a unifying river system. I think California's mediterranean climate would make it an ideal candidate. You could have city states between the mountains in the west and larger kingdoms and empires inland, perhaps with the city states eventually rising to conquer the hinterland, with some large empire being based out of San Jose or San Francisco.

You also seem to be sleeping on the American Southwest. The lower Colorado was home to a massive green delta before all of the water was diverted. The upper Colorado and Rio Grande was home to the highly advanced OTL Pueblo peoples. The Colorado and Rio Grande offer pretty similar situations to the Near Eastern cradles, albeit with more mountainous terrain and no horses.
 
I'm reminded of LORAG's explanation on founder crops- and assuming the real challenges for alternate cradles would be- not being nigh inhospitable (so Artic regions, and to a lesser extent any of the tropics in the old world are likely out) and being both suitable enough of an environment, and otherwise far away enough from other comparable cradles, that agriculture can develop independently before others can introduce it. (and of course, a founder crop either present or mutating)

With that in mind, and assuming getting invaded isn't "too bad" provided there's incentives for raiders to simply assimilate/take over residence (and whoever it is isn't going to ruin things by introducing agriculture or being the conduit to do so themselves)- I suppose I'd place my bet on the Orange River. It's a race for time against the Bantus, but presumably once sufficient civilization emerges it'll do just fine. A "China in the south" in terms of size and relative isolation (but far more isolated) perhaps, with the same issues of northern nomads/migrations to handle.

Meanwhile, it's far from any of the Afro-Eurasian cradles but any civilization spreading outwards from there could hypothetically get connected soon enough to benefit mostly...ish from the influx of new ideas, technologies, and crops.
 
The Niger River Valley is recognized domestication center.

I’d argue with the information that we have the desiccation that occurred after the Neolithic Subpluvial is the basis of a multitude of pan-sahelian domestication events.

full-acrefore-9780199389414-e-165-graphic-001.gif

Proposed-areas-of-domestication-of-African-plants-after-Harlan-1971-1-Guinea-millet_Q320.jpg
 
The Guadalquivir valley would probably qualify, IIRC there are some fairly good mineral deposits there and Tartessos did manage to arise on its own, although that was late enough that the Phonecians/Greeks/Romans outcompeted them.
 
Well, how about the three/four great Siberian rivers (Ob', Yenisei, Lena and/or Kolyma)?
images

Siberia is way too cold, especially in Little Ice Ages. Permafrost is also an issue, as is lack of trade networks.


How likely are the ones in Europe, specifically the Loire and the Po valleys?

I would say Po is more likely than the Loire. The most likely European locations in my opinion are the Po, Lower Danube or one of the Russo-Ukrainan rivers. The Thames valley would be the most fun location though.

How about Lake Chad/ Kanem Bornu? Also, Yemen hasnt been mentioned

Wouldn't Yemen be too arid?
 
I think that horses and sea access are superfluous things when thinking about possible craddles of civilization.

No sea access.

For all intents the Amazon River is a sea by itself.

mild winters
kinda true, but an understatement, there are only two seasons in the equator, wet and dry.

Cons - land isn't great for farming,

Nah, I think you are wrong, in fact it is one of the best soils in the world, on par with Ukraine and the Mississippi Basin.

Dneiper valley
  • Pros - Extremely good farmland, good grazing areas too, natural ports, warm summers
  • Cons - very cold winters, very little natural borders, many cases of historical migratory invasions
Cucuteni–Trypillia: give them a king, a writing system and some temples, boom, you have Uruk in Europe.
 
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Nah, I think you are wrong, in fact it is one of the best soils in the world, on par with Ukraine and the Mississippi Basin.

But you can't plant anything when there's a rainforest in the way.


I think that horses and sea access are superfluous things when thinking about possible craddles of civilization.

Horses are very helpful, but not a requirement, that is true. Sea access greatly facilitates trade and makes establishing a civilisation much easier,
 
But you can't plant anything when there's a rainforest in the way.
It wasn't very easy to understand what I was quoting, but I meant the soil around the Parana-Paraguay-Plate River Basin, the area in present day Argentina is one of the best soils in the world and it is in a temperate climate, no rainforest there.

Horses are very helpful, but not a requirement, that is true. Sea access greatly facilitates trade and makes establishing a civilisation much easier,
Well, I can't speak for all early cultures, but at least the patterns of trade of Uruk and Egypt were mostly land trade, sea access would become important in the bronze age though, but I think that early civilizations didn't have the naval capacity to keep a sea route either for lack of knowledge or lack of trade partners.
 
How about Lake Chad/ Kanem Bornu? Also, Yemen hasnt been mentioned
Lake chad was part of the Sahelian agricultural complex along with the the Niger valley and Senegal.

Although a third rice domestication zone is viable at lake chad as wild rice was gathered there into the 1970s all while domesticated African rice was also being grown.
 
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It wasn't very easy to understand what I was quoting, but I meant the soil around the Parana-Paraguay-Plate River Basin, the area in present day Argentina is one of the best soils in the world and it is in a temperate climate, no rainforest there.

Oh yeah, that would make more sense. My knowledge of South American geography is limited so I'll take your word for it.
 
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