|Norte Chaco panorama: where civilization began in the New World.|
At first glance, this seems odd. Why would settled agriculture have developed here? Deserts are relatively infertile areas. They are hard to farm. They are impoverished areas in agricultural terms. These places where agriculture first developed are far from the best farming areas today.
Some have theorized that the need to work together to develop irrigation works was the impetus to create the first complex communities. But this does not quite work. When you don't have much in the way of weaponry, hunting big game can also often require coordination. Mastodons will not stand still to be beaten with sticks. Indians like the Beothuk constructed and maintained miles of high fencing to channel caribou or buffalo into traps. Buffalo hunts required great coordination. Yet they never developed cities, or writing, or complex forms of government. Surely there are other circumstances that require social coordination; yet the civilizations arose specifically along these dry river valleys.
|Mohenjo-Daro, Where civilization began in India.|
I see another possible factor. Among hunter-gatherer societies, constant war was the norm. Constant total war allows little leisure to develop new ideas or technologies.
A community surrounded by desert would, in the course of things, have relatively little contact with hostile neighbours; there was little game nearby to hunt. Granted, people passing through a desert might want to fight for a water source, but if they have to cross a desert to get to it, they would be few in number, easy to see coming, and unlikely, as hunters, to see a compelling reason to stay around. You could probably bargain with them rather than having to fight. If you had to fight, you would probably win.
|Ur: Where civilization began in Mesopotamia.|
And so those people along the river valley, although poor, might have had the tranquility to work out those irrigation works in the first place, and the ability to preserve them intact, and the time to develop writing systems, architecture, and all that followed.