What exactly does culture mean? Is it something material you can touch? Or is it something immaterial, such as values and beliefs? Or is it our customs and traditions, our festivals and celebrations? Today most of us would agree with a more inclusive definition of culture: the thoughts, behaviors, languages, customs, the things we produce and the methods we use to produce them. It is this, the human ability to create and transmit culture that differentiates us as humans from the rest of the animal world.
In order to understand what the definition of culture is you need to understand how cultures formed in the first place? Groups of people living in specific ecological niches interacted with their environments over long periods of time. Given a certain degree of isolation, they developed adaptations to their environment, methods of survival, and ways of organizing themselves socially, and came to share beliefs and symbols that explained their world. They also developed a language they used to communicate with each other that enabled them to transmit learning to future generations.
Over time, increasing communication between early human groups broke down geographic isolation. Gradually, through cultural diffusion, linkages were formed and many different specific cultures evolved into larger groupings called culture areas; regions with shared cultural traits. An example of culture area is sub-Saharan Africa. While there are many different tribal groups speaking many different languages, and today many nation-states, there are features such as social structures that most of the tribes share.
The essential feature of culture, that it is learned and transmitted from one generation to the…