COSTP World History Project/Civilizations of Ancient Times

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In the western world, ancient history is generally thought to encompass the period of time when writing and historical records first appear. This is roughly 7,500 years ago (5,500 BC). For some, the discovery of agriculture, roughly 6,000 BC is the beginning of ancient history. The most common date for an end of ancient history in Europe is 476 AD (the fall of the Western Roman Empire), however the exact date is still disputed among various historians. In Europe ancient history was followed by Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000-5,500 years, with cuneiform possibly being the oldest form of writing. Genetic evidence, however, points to the first appearance of human beings about 150,000 years ago. There is also a growing body of evidence that Homo sapiens first left Africa about 60,000 years ago.


The 1st millennium BC encompasses the Iron Age and sees the rise of successive empires. The Neo-Assyrian Empire, followed by the Achaemenids. In Greece, Classical Antiquity begins with the colonization of Magna Graecia and peaks with the rise of Hellenism. The close of the millennium sees the rise of the Roman Empire. In South Asia, the Vedic civilization blends into the Maurya Empire. The early Celts dominate Central Europe while Northern Europe is in the Pre-Roman Iron Age. The Scythians dominate Central Asia. In China, Spring and Autumn Period sees the rise of Confucianism. Towards the close of the millennium, the Han Dynasty extends Chinese power towards Central Asia, where it borders on Indo-Greek and Iranian states. The Maya civilization rises in Central America, while in Africa, Ancient Egypt begins its decline and Ethiopian civilization its rise. The religions of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism (Vedic religion and Vedanta), Jainism and Buddhism develop. Graeco-Roman Europe, India and China see the rise of literature. World population triples in the course of the millennium, reaching some 170 million people at its close.