A cradle of civilization is a location where civilization is understood to have emerged. Current thinking is that there was no single "cradle", but several civilizations that developed independently, with the Fertile Crescent (Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia), Ancient India, and Ancient China understood to be the earliest.

The extent to which there was significant influence between the early civilizations of the Near East and those of East Asia (Far East) is disputed. Scholars accept that the civilizations of Mesoamerica, mainly in modern Mexico, and Norte Chico, in the north-central coastal region of Peru, emerged independently from those in Eurasia.

Scholars have defined civilization using various criteria such as the use of writing, cities, a class-based society, agriculture, animal husbandry, public buildings, metallurgy, and monumental architecture. The term cradle of civilization has frequently been applied to a variety of cultures and areas, in particular, the Ancient Near Eastern Chalcolithic (Ubaid period) and Fertile Crescent, Ancient India and Ancient China. It has also been applied to ancient Anatolia, the Levant and Iranian plateau, and used to refer to culture predecessors—such as Ancient Greece as the predecessor of Western civilization.

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