Before you skip down to look at the answer, read this quote and see if you can guess which outstanding advance in human history took place under the following conditions:
X was invented “within the framework of a rapidly expanding urban environment, social stratification, technological specialisation, the emergence of a politically powerful nobility, large-scale community labour projects and commodity distribution, and intercity and international exchange networks.”
The question is: Has anything that’s ever been invented, not been invented in a context like this?
Just for the record and so I’m not guilty of plagiarism, this is the scholar Margaret W Green talking about the invention of cuneiform – the earliest ever writing script, developed by an ancient people called the Sumerians over five thousand years ago. Rapid urban expansion, social stratification, technological specialisation … it seems so contemporary, but it seems like you can use the same terms to describe virtually any period of human history there’s ever been. Unless you can think of something I can’t?
MW Green (1989), ‘Early cuneiform.’ In WM Senner (ed), The Origins of Writing. University of Nebraska Press, p43.