In the book,"By The Waters Of Babylon," is John's settlement a civilization? If so, how? 

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The following is from National Geographic.

All civilizations have certain characteristics. These include: (1) large population centers; (2) monumental architecture and unique art styles; (3) written language; (4) systems for administering territories; (5) a complex division of labor; and (6) the division of people into social classes.

Using those characteristics, I'm going to have to say that John's settlement is not a civilization.  His settlement certainly has some of those characteristics, but not all of them.  This is one of those lists in which all items must apply in order for it to be true.  

"Large population centers" is a bit relative.  But even if you were to use a number as small as 15,000 people, Benet's story does not indicate that John's tribal settlement is anywhere near that number.  

John's settlement doesn't have any monumental architecture.  No pyramids, no towers, etc.  At least none that are indicated.  I would tend to agree too, because John is shocked at seeing the City of the Gods.  He doesn't understand how anything that big could have been created.  

John does receive training for how to read, but he is in the minority.  He is taught to read, because he is a priest in training.  

I was taught how to read in the old books and how to make the old writings—that was hard and took a long time.

That tells me that the rest of the people do not know how to read; therefore, no written language for the general population.  

"Systems for administering territories" sounds like rudimentary government.  It's more than that though.  You can divide places into territories, but if you don't have the infrastructure to support those territories, they fall apart and act independently.   John's tribe exists as a tribe.  Other tribes are completely separate and even avoided.  There is no rule over territories other than the immediate surrounding area.  

I do think John's settlement shows signs of the last two items.  There is a small division of labor.  John is training to be a priest.  That is a certain societal role that he will fill.  That means other people have other labor roles.

—our women spin wool on the wheel, our priests wear a white robe.

 Lastly, because John is a priest in training, he gets special privileges.  That's definitely a social class division.  

So he knew that I was truly his son and would be a priest in my time. That was when I was very young— nevertheless, my brothers would not have done it, though they are good hunters. After that, they gave me the good piece of meat and the warm corner of the fire.

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By the Waters of Babylon

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